Saturday, December 31, 2016

The HOF Case for (Almost) Every Player on the 2017 Ballot

The title's misleading: I've made a case for 19 players, and there's 34 players on the 2017 ballot. And I haven't really "made a case" for any of them (other than Barry Bonds, who I consider a no-brainer).

All I've done is listed each player's career ranks within his generation. There are two generations of players on the ballot, Boomers (two) and Gen-Xers (thirty-two). Players who don't rank in the top 10 in their generation in any reasonably-meaningful statistical category aren't listed.

A couple more caveats: players' ranks are by generation, not by position. So even though Pudge Rodriguez is probably the greatest catcher of Generation X, he only ranks in the top 10 of a couple categories, and then just barely, because he's competing with all batters in his generation.

Also, pitchers need 1,000 innings to qualify for rate statistics, which is a total only a handful of career relievers reach anymore. So even though Billy Wagner only pitched 186 fewer innings than Trevor Hoffman, Wagner is on the wrong side of the 1,000-inning threshold, and thus doesn't qualify for rate stats (even though many of his rate stats are better than Hoffman's).


Tim Raines - 1st in SB% (84.7%), 2nd in Stolen Bases (808), 6th in Triples (113), 8th in Runs (1,571), 8th in Walks (1,330), 10th in OBP (.385)

Lee Smith - 1st in Saves (478), 2nd in FIP (2.93), 2nd in K/9 (8.73), 4th (tied) in ERA+ (132), 10th in ERA (3.03)

Generation X

Barry Bonds - 1st in Runs (2,227), 1st in Homeruns (762), 1st in Walks (2,558), 1st in Intentional Walks (688), 1st in OBP (.444), 1st in Slugging (.607), 1st in OPS (1.051), 1st in OPS+ (182), 1st in Total Bases (5,976), 1st in Extra Base Hits (1,440), 1st in Times on Base (5,599), 1st in WAA (123.5), 1st in WAR (162.4), 2nd in RBI (1,996), 2nd in Isolated Power (.309), 3rd in Stolen Bases (514), 4th in Doubles (601), 7th in Hits (2,935)

Gary Sheffield - 4th (tied) in Sac Flies (111), 6th in Walks (1,475), 6th in Times on Base (4,299), 9th in Runs (1,636), 10th in RBI (1,676)

Ivan Rodriguez - 9th in Hits (2,844), 10th in Doubles (572)

Sammy Sosa - 5th in Homeruns (609), 10th in Isolated Power (.261)

Manny Ramirez - 2nd in OPS (.996), 3rd in Slugging (.585), 4th in Isolated Power (.273), 5th in RBI (1,831), 5th in Intentional Walks (216), 5th in OBP (.411), 5th in OPS+ (154), 6th (tied) in Batting Avg. (.312), 7th in Extra Base Hits (1,122), 8th in Total Bases (4,826), 9th in Homeruns (555)

Jeff Bagwell - 6th in OBP (.408), 6th in OPS+ (149), 6th in WAA (51.8), 7th in Walks (1,401), 7th in WAR (79.6), 9th in OPS (.948), 10th (tied) in Sac Flies (102)

Vladimir Guerrero - 1st in Batting Avg. (.318), 3rd in Intentional Walks (250), 10th in Slugging (.553)

Jeff Kent - 8th (tied) in Sac Flies (103)

Larry Walker - 3rd (tied) in Batting Avg. (.313), 5th in Slugging (.565), 5th (tied) in OPS (.965), 7th in WAA (48.2), 10th (tied) in OBP (.400), 10th in WAR (72.6)

Edgar Martinez - 3rd in OBP (.418), 6th (tied) in Batting Avg. (.312), 7th (tied) in OPS+ (147)

Magglio Ordonez - 9th (tied) in Batting Avg. (.309)

Roger Clemens - 1st in Complete Games (118), 1st in Shutouts (46), 1st in WAA (94.5), 1st in WAR (139.4), 2nd in Wins (354), 2nd in Innings (4,916 2/3), 2nd in Strikeouts (4,672), 3rd in ERA+ (143), 4th in W-L% (.658), 4th in ERA (3.12), 4th in FIP (3.09), 9th in HR/9 (0.66), 9th in H/9 (7.66)

Mike Mussina - 5th in Wins (270), 5th in WAR (82.7), 6th in Shutouts (23), 6th in Innings (3,562 2/3), 6th in WAA (48.6), 7th in W-L% (.638), 7th in Strikeouts (2,813), 10th (tied) in Strikeouts per Walk (3.58)

Trevor Hoffman - 2nd in Saves (601), 2nd in ERA (2.87), 2nd in H/9 (6.99), 3rd in FIP (3.08), 3rd in WHIP (1.058), 4th in K/9 (9.36), 5th in ERA+ (141), 6th in Strikeouts per Walk (3.69)

Billy Wagner - 3rd in Saves (422)

Curt Schilling - 1st in Strikeouts per Walk (4.38), 4th in Complete Games (83), 5th in Strikeouts (3,116), 5th in WHIP (1.137), 5th in WAA (54.1), 6th in FIP (3.23), 6th in WAR (80.7), 9th (tied) in Shutouts (20), 10th (tied) in K/9 (8.60)

Arthur Rhodes - 8th (tied) in K/9 (8.73)

Friday, December 30, 2016

Hall of Fame Players by Generation

The below table shows the eight (semi-)retired MLB-playing generations. For each generation, I have listed the number of members with 10-year MLB careers (who ended their careers by 2010), the number enshrined in the Hall of Fame as players, and the percentage of eligible players enshrined. (Addie Joss is the only Hall-of-Fame player with less than 10 years.)

GenerationBirthyears10 yearsHOFHOF%First Members Inducted
National1835-18565459.3%Cap Anson & Old Hoss Radbourn (1939)
American1857-18731822714.8%Cy Young (1937)
Dead-Ball1874-18922643513.3%Cobb, Johnson, Mathewson & Wagner (1936)
Live-Ball1893-19113405014.7%Babe Ruth (1936)
G.I.1912-1928308299.4%Joe DiMaggio (1955)
Silent1929-1944434317.1%Sandy Koufax (1972)
Boom1945-1961686294.2%Catfish Hunter (1987)
Generation X1962-1980621111.8%Roberto Alomar (2011)

As you can see, the Hall of Fame is suffering from a severe anti-recency bias. Over 14% of players born from 1857 to 1911 are enshrined, but the percentage then plummets with each successive generation, down to less than 2% of eligible Gen-Xers (players born from 1962 to 1980).

Overall, 7.5% of eligible players are enshrined in the Hall of Fame. (This table considers banned players eligible). To get up to that 7.5%, the Silent Generation would need two more players to get inducted (how about Pete Rose and Dick Allen?), the Boom Generation would need 23 more players, and Gen X would need 36 more currently-eligible players. (But of course, the number of Gen-Xers eligible for enshrinement is increasing every year as well.)

Gen X was also relatively late breaking into the Hall. Starting with Babe Ruth's generation, the age of each generation's firstborn cohort when its first player was enshrined was 43, 43, 43, 42, and 49. (For instance, firstborn Gen-Xers like Darren Daulton and Kevin Mitchell were 49 years old when Robbie Alomar became the first of their peers to be inducted into the Hall.)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The All-Time, All-Generations Team

I identified the baseball generations and the best player of each generation. But it didn't occur to me until I was almost finished with the leaderboards that there are exactly nine MLB-playing generations. Nine positions, nine innings, nine generations. This wasn't intentional, I promise; it just sort of worked out that way. Also, from the first National cohort (1835, birthyear of Harry Wright) to the last Millennial cohort (1996, birthyear of Julio Urias) there are 162 birthyear-cohorts: exactly 18 birthyears per generation. (162 games per season, 18 half-innings per game...)

Anyways, what if we made an all-time team, where we have not only one player for each position, but one player for each generation?

Using Adam Darowski's Hall Rating as a guideline, I assembled the best possible all-time starting line-up that represents all nine generations (one player from each generation). I even sorted them into a batting order:

PosPlayerGenerationHall Rating
CFWillie MaysSilent336
SSHonus WagnerDead-Ball284
RFBabe RuthLive-Ball399
LFTed WilliamsG.I.279
3BAlex RodriguezGeneration X245
1BCap AnsonNational215
2BRobinson CanoMillennial123
CJohnny BenchBoom181
PCy YoungAmerican336

The Hall of Fame Case for Barry Bonds

Barry Bonds (photo credit)
I place Barry Bonds (born 1964) in Generation X...also known as the Steroid Generation because many (most, according to Jose Canseco) of its members used (or were accused of using) performance-enhancing drugs.

This generation includes all players born between 1962 and 1980 - 3,600 players with MLB experience. You could call these 3,600 players the peers or contemporaries of Barry Bonds.

Out of those 3,600 players, Bonds ranks 1st in runs scored, 1st in homeruns, 1st in walks, 1st in on-base percentage, 1st in slugging %, 1st in OPS, and 1st in OPS+. He's his generation's all-time leader in runs created (by over 600), even though he's only 8th in outs. He leads his peers in total bases, extra-base hits, times on base, Wins Above Average, and Wins Above Replacement.

He's also 2nd in runs batted in, 3rd in stolen bases (but 8th in caught stealing), 4th in doubles, and 7th in hits.

Let's compare Bonds' accomplishments to those of one of his more-likable peers: Ken Griffey Jr., who was just inducted into the Hall of Fame with the highest-ever percentage of votes from the BBWAA.

Among Gen-Xers, Griffey ranks 3rd in homeruns, 3rd in RBI, 4th in total bases, 4th (tied) in XBH, 7th in runs created, 7th in outs, 8th in runs scored, and 9th in times on base. He's not in the top 10 in hits, OBP, slugging, or stolen bases. He ranks 8th in WAA and 6th in WAR, so he's arguably not even the best position player in his generation who's untainted by steroid allegations.

For sheer performance, Generation X might have been the best generation of baseball players ever, and Barry Bonds was the best player of that generation.

Yeah, he was almost certainly using PEDs, and Griffey almost certainly wasn't. But, as I said, Bonds was far from the only player using; he belonged to a PED-enhanced generation. But between the surely PED-enhanced (Bonds, McGwire, A-Rod) and the surely natural (Griffey), there's the vast majority of this generation's players, and they're stuck in a murky limbo of allegations and uncertainty about whether or not they used and to what extent using improved their performance.

The only thing we know for sure is the record book. And we know two things about Bonds: he was a first-ballot Hall of Famer BEFORE he (allegedly) started using (in 1999) (400 homers, 400 steals, .400 OBP, 8 Gold Gloves), and once he started using, for about five years he was the greatest (and most feared) hitter the game has ever seen.

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Leaderboards are Finished

...for now. I may add some (although I doubt it). I may delete some. There're currently 76 statistical categories, and each has a page both for single-season and for career leaders.

After some more spottiness, the Play Index Finder started working great, and allowed me to fly through most of the pitching leaders. I owe a big thanks to Sean Forman and baseball-reference.

At some point I started using the Strauss & Howe names for a couple of the generations, and restored the "Steroid Generation" to Generation X. While Integration and Expansion are important things that happened during the respective careers of the 1912-1928 and 1929-1944 cohort-groups, I decided that they just weren't very good names for the groups themselves. I didn't go back and change the pages I had already completed, though, which is something I'll do once I've settled on names. So currently, some generations are called different names on different pages.

Observations on record-setting (mostly Millennial) pitchers:

Chris Archer and James Shields BOTH tied Jeremy Bonderman's 13-year-old Millennial record for losses with 19. Bonderman's teammate on the '03 Tigers, Mike Maroth, holds the Gen X record, and is the only pitcher since Brian Kingman in 1980 to lose 20 games.

Shields had a rough year - he also set a new millennial record with 40 homeruns allowed. Jered Weaver and Josh Tomlin cracked the top 5.

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Jose Rijo is 7th among Gen-Xers in career ERA, at 3.24.

Johnny Cueto is 7th among Millennials in career ERA, at 3.23.

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Why was 1988 the a-Balk-alypse??

The top nine seasons for balks by Boomers all occurred in 1988 (including an all-time record 16 by Dave Stewart). So did six of the top ten Gen X seasons (and three of the other four occurred in 1987 or 1989). Apparently a "subtle" rule change caused an explosion in the amount of balks called. The MLB record was broken... six weeks into the 1988 season. After the season ended the baseball rules committee wisely changed the rule back to its former wording, and this insanity was never spoken of again. Indeed, I had no idea the a-balk-alypse was a thing until I saw the leaderboards. This blog post goes into great detail about it.

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In his final season (sadly), Jose Fernandez set a Millennial single-season record for K/9.

The baseball community lost an incredible young man. He will be missed.

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Noah Syndergaard broke Jon Lester's Millennial record (set in 2015) for stolen bases allowed. Surprisingly, Lester is the career leader for caught stealing, with 74. I guess it makes sense - Lester's complete lack of ability to hold runners tempts more runners to steal. Sometimes they get gunned down.

With leaderboards complete, I can start on some more interesting work: generational biographies.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Leaderboards are Being Uncluttered...

I have most of the batting leaderboards done; after they're finished I'll start on the pitching leaders. It's a slow process, made more so by the occasional lack of cooperation by the Play Index Finder (maybe it's a problem with my pc or internet, who knows).

Some observations thus far:

Bryce Harper's epic 2015 season set Millennial records in OBP, SLG, OPS, OPS+, and runs created. It's already looking like a fluke season... or, more likely (as Bill James opined), like Reggie Jackson's 1969 season: a performance he will never top even if he goes on to a long Hall-of-Fame career.

Mike Trout crossed the 3,000-PA threshold in 2016, meaning he now qualifies for career leaderboards (Harper is still 230 PA short). Among Millennials, Trout ranks 7th in BA, 2nd in OBP (to Joey Votto), 2nd in SLG (to Miguel Cabrera), and 1st in OPS. In OPS+ (which adjusts for league and ballpark effects), Trout is way ahead; Votto is a distant 2nd, followed by Miggy.

The Reds' Billy Hamilton ignominiously set the Millennial caught stealing record his rookie year, with 23. He's been a much more efficient base-stealer since then (he currently ranks 8th among his peers in career SB%), but he still has yet to crack the Millennial top 10 in stolen bases, simply because he hasn't played a full season since his rookie year of 2014. The only thing keeping him from 80 steals and the Millennial single-season record is durability.