Robin Ventura

This very good post from Amazin' Avenue and some general thinking about the Hall of Fame has me concerned that, quite honestly, Robin Ventura's utter failure to register any real consideration this year (7 votes total, not even remotely enough to see another year on the ballot) might be a much bigger travesty than anyone seems to think.

The main reason, of course, is that the current standard for third basemen is almost insanely high, as has been documented. If you exclude Pie Traynor and George Kell and Freddie Lindstrom, three Jim Rice-esque poor choices, the current cutoff sits somewhere around Hall inductee Jimmy Collins, right about here:

Jimmy Collins: 58.5 career WARP3 (Baseball Prospectus), 52.9 career WAR (Baseballprojection.com), best 3 WARP3 8.0, 7.2, 6.5 (21.7 total), best 3 WAR 7.4, 7.1, 6.5 (21.0 total).

Career translated stats (for fair comparison): .279, .337, .455, 108 SB/54 CS, about 7-8 Gold Glove-caliber seasons.

Collins probably belongs; after all, the cutoff for 3B has been too low because of the notion that good hitters in the LF/RF/1B can play third (not true) and the notion that it's a less valuable defensive position than short or second (certainly not true about second).

Also, Collins' career WAR total makes him the 148th best position player of all time, and his peak was higher than many individuals on that list. His total has him hanging around with these individuals, none inner-circle types but all worthy of consideration especially when you account for defense (HOF and HOM mean Hall of Fame and Hall of Merit, respectively). Collins was right about as good as Enos Slaughter, Bill Dickey, Joe Gordon, and fellow 3B Stan Hack. Jimmy Collins: not a HoF travesty, pretty valid minimum standard for 3B. A guy with his career value and a decent peak tends to get into the Hall.

141 Joe Gordon 54.919381950HOFHOM
142 Stan Hack 54.819321947
143 Carlos Beltran 54.619982009

144 Bill Dickey 54.319281946HOFHOM
145 Enos Slaughter 54.119381959HOFHOM
146 Jim O'Rourke 53.918721904HOFHOM
147 Bob Johnson 53.419331945

148 Jimmy Collins 52.918951908HOFHOM
149 Norm Cash 52.919581974

150 Minnie Minoso 52.719491980
151 Jason Giambi 52.719952009

Robin Ventura was better.


Career WARP3 66.4, career WAR 55.1 (139th), top 3 WARP3 8.6, 7.8, 7.5 (23.9 total), top 3 WAR 6.7, 6.1, 5.8 (18.6 total).

He was worse than Collins only at their utter peak, and only then by WAR. Ventura too had many Gold Glove-caliber seasons (including two utterly insane years of 20+ defensive wins, by both metrics, in 1998 and 1999). His translated line: .280/.373/.472.

The best thing about allowing Ventura into the Hall would be finally fixing the issues surrounding third basemen. WAR and WARP3 heavily deviate on other 3Bs like Sal Bando, Buddy Bell, and Graig Nettles; both agree that Dick Allen, Darrell Evans, and Ron Santo are getting totally screwed.

Point is, look. There have been a lot of 3B not admitted to the Hall who deserve it. Ventura was one of the top few in the league over the course of his career (for the latter half he trailed the brilliant Scott Rolen, whose career one can only hope voters notice better than Ventura's despite similarly bad counting stats, and the great Chipper Jones, whose value will be easier to appreciate because it came from hitting and not defense). Ventura's also a near-perfect cutoff point for discussions; he bifurcates that group of 6 unadmitted 3B depending on which metrics you use, and it wouldn't be a travesty for all *6* of those individuals to gain entrance to the Hall.

Seven votes, and almost no outcry from the sabermetric folks?

Robin deserved better.


Votes for the Hall of Fame

Look. It's not my fault they aren't letting guys in. I have to vote for 10 people this year because I have no choice.

If I had a Hall of Fame ballot for 2010, I would vote for the following, in the order in which I think they deserve it.

1. Bert Blyleven
Look. Blyleven threw 4970 innings with an ERA+ of 117. His ERA+ is better than Phil Niekro's or Robin Roberts' or Steve Carlton's. Blyleven had 11 seasons with an ERA+ of 120 or better, and in 10 of those seasons he threw over 200 innings. I don't know what to say. This is just bare facts.

2. Barry Larkin
Barry Larkin might be something like the fifth-best shortstop ever. It depends on your estimation of his defense. Like a lot of players, Larkin won three Gold Gloves *after* his best defensive years earned him a good reputation. Unlike a lot of players, Larkin was the epitome of offensive efficiency. Seriously, look:

939 walks, 817 strikeouts
379 steals, 77 caught stealing (83.1% success)

3. Tim Raines
Career OBP: .386. 808 steals, 146 caughts. Not sure what the hiccup is here.

4. Roberto Alomar
Roberto Alomar was insanely consistent, in a way very similar to Derek Jeter except without the consistently bad defense. Alomar was a leadoff type, hanging out among the leaders in OBP and steals for most of his career, while also socking some homers and doubles. Second base was a very weak position in the 1990s, but Alomar would have stood out in any era.

5. Alan Trammell
This may take some work, because I am well aware that a career line of .285/.352/.415 doesn't immediately leap off the page and make you go "amazing!" But look, in 1980 Trammell's .300/.376/.404 with 12 SB and 12 CS (!) was good for FORTY (40) runs above the average shortstop of the time. Miguel Tejada's .308/.354/.508 in 2002 was only good for 30; A-Rod's .300/.392/.623 in Arlington in 2002 was good for 51. So Trammell's 1980, adjusted for era, was the equivalent of something between those two very good seasons by two very good shortstops. Maybe like .304/.376/.560, or something.

That was Trammell's seventh-best hitting season. His numbers are obscured by park and era, and he had the Bill James-identified problem of being good at a lot of things instead of amazing at one or two.

6. Edgar Martinez
So, okay, people. The rules of the game of baseball as played in the American League since 1973 allow teams to have a DH. As a DH, compared to other DHs--guys who are almost by definition good at hitting but not at defense--Edgar Martinez was worth about 30 or 40 more runs per season than your garden variety. When he played third base in '90-'92, Edgar was very bad in his first year (as is common), -7 in his second, and right about average in his third. At third base. You can't sincerely tell me that a guy like that, if moved to first base because he played in the NL or before 1973, would have damaged his career that much with defensive numbers.

And you can't discredit Edgar's offense, even compared to DHs. Hitting .312/.418/.515 for your career is insane (147 OPS+), and being in the top 10 in the AL in OPS from 1995 through 2001 is insane also. Edgar does not wow with HR or RBI totals. But he had the 22nd best OBP of all time, and it wasn't empty.

7. Robin Ventura
I have no idea if Robin Ventura is even going to get enough votes to stay on the ballot for 2011. But look. We know a few things about third base and the Hall. First of all, 3B is considered a good-hitting position because of guys like Mike Schmidt and "Home Run" Baker (it's in his NAME for God's sake!) and Eddie Mathews and George Brett and Wade Boggs. Only Brooks Robinson and Jimmy Collins really gloved their way into the Hall. This means that guys who aren't both good enough at D to compete with Robinson (who was legitimately amazing), and guys who aren't quite good enough hitters to compare to the insanely good people in the Hall at this position, get left out. This list includes famous HoF snub Ron Santo, Stan Hack, and Darrell Evans.

It is soon to include Robin Ventura.

Ventura suffers from a few unfortunate things.
1. He was a great defender who won 6 Gold Gloves, and was indeed identified as a great defensive third baseman by people in the know...but somehow never became synonymous with the position. His somewhat-contemporary Scott Rolen kind of did, but for their career both Rtot and FRAA agree that they were roughly similar in this regard. Ventura was probably one of the top 10 defensive 3B of all time, but does not seem to be particularly well-remembered for this.

2. Ventura was overshadowed for much of his career. When you play for the White Sox, and you are across the infield from -- and down the order from -- Frank Thomas, it is probably easy to see you as a role-player. The 1990s White Sox are remembered not as legendary series-winners or great offensive teams (which they often weren't), as much as the teams with Frank Thomas on them. Ventura doesn't get the murderer's row sort of boost that someone like Tony Lazzeri gets, either; the Sox made one LCS in his time there, and he's just a good player on those halfway-decent teams.

3. Ventura walked a lot. Much like Edgar Martinez above, a large percentage of Ventura's career value lies in OBP; he only hit .267 for his career, after all. What's weird about this is that Ventura's .267 and .362 OBP (which was usually about .375-.380 during his good years) both buck the sort of .250/.330/.480 trend one tends to see with pretty good third basemen: big dudes that whack at it. Ventura *sort of* had slugging tendencies, but not to a normal 3B degree. As a hitter, Ventura has had similar career value to Troy Glaus, but with a higher average and lower SLG (in a slightly less SLG-heavy era).

4. Robin Ventura got beat up by Nolan Ryan when Nolan Ryan was a very old man.

To me, Rolen defense plus Glaus offense is a Hall of Famer. Ventura just isn't recognized as either one.

This year, I am skipping Lee Smith (who is certainly at least close) and Mark McGwire (to let the PED issue continue to mature). I need a benchmark for closer/reliever types, and I just don't know where that should be.