My Totally Irrelevant Hall of Fame Ballot

Over at Baseball Prospectus, they're blogging ferociously about the Hall of Fame candidacy of one Mr. Tim "Rock" Raines. I like Tim Raines, and I basically like Tim Raines as a Hall of Fame candidate. I think BP's overdoing Mr. Raines a bit, so I won't talk about him too much; if he doesn't get in it is a miscarriage, far worse than some other famous miscarriages but not as bad as two others which are looming in the works.

I, like all stathead nutjobs, believe that I should be the sole arbiter of who gets into the Hall of Fame because I can look at numbers on a page and tell who was good. I don't think this is particularly fallacious; looking at numbers on a page is a legitimate profession engaged in across the business world, from insurance adjusters to stockbrokers. So who's actually good enough to earn my vote on this year's ballot?

Here are my insistent claims for three non-new players on the Hall of Fame ballot. The writers simply have to elect these players, or they will continue to make the Hall voting look like Oscar voting.

Rik Aalbert Blyleven has a stack of career comparable players that looks a-like-a-this
  1. Don Sutton (914) *
  2. Gaylord Perry (909) *
  3. Fergie Jenkins (890) *
  4. Tommy John (889)
  5. Robin Roberts (876) *
  6. Tom Seaver (864) *
  7. Jim Kaat (854)
  8. Early Wynn (844) *
  9. Phil Niekro (844) *
  10. Steve Carlton (840) *
(asterisk denotes Hall of Fame)

Need more? Should you? Okay. Rik Aalbert was worth 146 actual wins through his own individual performance. That is MORE than any of the top 5 guys on his comparables list; he's very similar to that list of mostly-hall-of-famers, but when he isn't it's because he's BETTER. Better than "duh, obvious" Hall inductees like Roberts and Perry. Blyleven did not have a large number of dominant seasons, but he had one 13-WARP season, one 10, two 9s, and three 8s. Tom Glavine (obvious first-ballot HOF when he retires) NEVER had a 13, just three 10s and a 9. Bert Blyleven was better than Tom Glavine. And Robin Roberts. At his peak, and over his career. According to the Baseball Prospectus stat JAWS, which takes the average of a player's total career and seven peak years to look at Hall of Fame value, Blyleven's got a 100.2; he is the best player since 1900 who is eligible for the Hall of Fame but not currently a member of it. I don't know what else anyone should have to say.

Rik Aalbert Blyleven will probably not make the Hall of Fame; this is for two reasons. First, people don't like the fact he only won 287 games...which is stupid because that's a lot of games. He's better than .500 for his very underrated career and his teams usually weren't, which is a pretty good indicator that he was helping his team A LOT when he was pitching. Second, Blyleven also has a career ERA that doesn't look that amazing, even relative to his time; he threw 3.31 ball for his career against a 3.90 league average, good for a 118 ERA+, 18% better than average. Career ERA is tough, though; a guy who wins his team a ton of games early in his career and then hangs around forever--even as a useful league-average pitcher who should by all rights be getting paid to throw balls in a direction--will see his ERA regress to league norms significantly. Blyleven's certainly did this over his last few years (minus 1989, when he was ridiculous). We can put the only-very-good ERA aside for a second, though. The reason Bert was so valuable, above everything else, were his INNINGS. Bert Blyleven was one of the greatest innings-eaters of his era. He threw 4970 innings in 692 career games; 7.18 innings per game. Tommy John, a somewhat similar pitcher on this year's ballot, threw 6.20 innings per game. Best contemporary Tom Seaver threw more (7.28), but most very good pitchers of today throw somewhere in the low 6's like Tommy John. This means that Blyleven stayed in games longer and played a more significant role in the games he pitched, throwing very strong long games for many, many years...even if they were for FIVE relatively unhip teams like the Twins, Rangers, Pirates, Indians, and Angels.

Blyleven is getting the shaft, and this needs to be rectified immediately.

2. Alan Trammell - IN.
Alan Stuart Trammell's third most comparable player all-time is Lou Whitaker. From the time he was 31 until he was 37, his most comparable player by age...is Lou Whitaker. I find that amusing. Lou Whitaker is getting the shaft as it is right now; he's got a 92.5 JAWS which puts him well ahead of many HOF second basemen.

Trammell is getting the shaft worse. It's easy to see why.

.285/.352/.415, in a vacuum, is a quite good but not special batting line. He hit 185 HR, got just 1003 RBI, scored just 1231 runs, and was 236-109 in steals and caught stealing. Alan Trammell's counting stats suck, from a Hall of Fame standpoint.

However, Alan is a heck of a lot better at the plate than recent inductee Ozzie Smith. Ozzie, of course, is in the Hall because he was a tremendous defender. Ozzie was worth 375 runs above a replacement SS at the plate; and 868 runs above a replacement SS in the field. His career value is over two-thirds defensive. He won his teams 139 games, and was in the end a better shortstop than Alan Trammell sheerly from his glovework. But he wasn't MUCH better.

Trammell crushes Ozzie at the plate; he's worth 529 runs above replacement there. He loses out in the field...but he's still 625 runs positive there. That makes him, probably, the third-most-valuable defensive SS of the 80s. Trammell's peak value is higher than Ozzie's, too, mostly from his .343/.402/.551 A-Rod-Like 1987 season, which is then bolstered by his very good defense. Trammell's JAWS score: 92.1. Ozzie's: 95.45. Pee Wee Reese's: 80.2. Trammell was a lot better than Pee Wee Reese, who was very good. Trammell was probably the 9th best SS of all time. SS is a good position. No-brainer.

3. Goose Gossage. IN.

Based on Baseball Prospectus' Wins Above Replacement Player and other statistics, it's hard for a reliever to have a very large impact on the game. The best almost-pure reliever of all time according to these metrics might be one Mariano Rivera, who is worth 94.2 wins over a replacement-level closer over the course of his 953 innings. Last year, for some reason, the writers saw fit to elect Bruce Sutter to the Hall of Fame. Bruce Sutter, who didn't have a very long career, finished with a 2.83 ERA, very sexy-looking. But he sure didn't last long. Gossage threw some 750 more innings than Sutter--and in 339 more games. In those games, Gossage performed a little bit worse on average than Sutter; he had a 1.25 WHIP to Sutter's 1.14, and saved only 10 more games than Sutter.

Saves are irrelevant. WHIP and ERA are not irrelevant. What is relevant, though, is this. Would you rather have a long career that gets worse at the end (like most do) but still manages to help a team win games, or a short career that artificially inflates your numbers because you never throw into your twilight years? Would you rather have signed Pedro Martinez in 1999, or Greg Maddux in 1991? The answer should be pretty obvious. What really drives the point home is Gossage's best years: 10.8, 10.3, 7.9, 7.6, and 7.2 wins, respectively; compared to Sutter's: 9.3, 8.5, 8.2, 5.4, and 5.2. Gossage was better than Sutter in his prime, too...at least relative to the league and in terms of useful innings thrown. Would you rather have 2 great innings or 1 slightly greater inning?

Gossage is right up there with the best relief pitchers of all time, and MUST get into the Hall to validate the inclusion of relievers. Even if they are the specialists of baseball...kickers still get into Canton.

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