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Hall of Merit
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Sunday, November 14, 2010

2011 Hall of Merit Ballot

Sorry guys, I started a new job this week, and I thought this had been posted, my apologies for the late start.

OK, it’s time to start the voting. There is no rush . . . please read through the discussion thread to work through the candidates.

The election closes November 29 December 6 at 8 p.m. EST. We welcome newcomers, but require that you are willing to consider players from all eras. Voters also must comment on each player they vote for, a simple list is not sufficient. If you haven’t voted before, please post your ballot on the discussion thread linked above first.

********
This was an issue last year, so I’ll repeat it now for clarification . . . the posting of the ballot to the discussion thread for new voters is not just a formality. With the posting of the ballot you are expected to post a summary of what you take into account - basically, how did you come up with this list? This does not mean that you need to have invented the Holy Grail of uber-stats. You don’t need a numerical rating down to the hundredth decimal point. You do need to treat all eras of baseball history fairly. You do need to stick to what happened on the field (or what would have happened if wars and strikes and such hadn’t gotten in the way). You may be challenged and ask to defend your position, if someone notices internal inconsistencies, flaws in your logic, etc.. This is all a part of the learning process.

It isn’t an easy thing to submit a ballot, but that’s by design. Not because we don’t want to grow our numbers (though we’ve done just fine there, started with 29 voters in 1898, and passed 50 eventually), not because we want to shut out other voices. It’s because we want informed voters making informed decisions on the entire electorate, not just the players they remember.

So if you are up for this, we’d love to have you! Even if you aren’t up to voting, we’d still appreciate your thoughts in the discussion. Some of our greatest contributors haven’t or have only rarely voted.

Back to your regularly scheduled programming . . .
********

Please take a look at the 2010 election results, and don’t forget the top 10 returnees must be commented on, even if you do not vote for them. They are, in order: David Cone, Phil Rizzuto, Gavy Cravath, Hugh Duffy (back in the top ten), Bucky Walters, Luis Tiant & Rick Reuschel (first time in the top ten).

Voters should name 15 players, in order. Thanks!

Newcomers on the 2011 ballot.

2011 (November 8, 2010)—elect 3
WS W3 Rookie Name-Pos
395 137.4 1987 Rafael Palmeiro-1B
388 135.4 1991 Jeff Bagwell-1B
301 115.2 1990 John Olerud-1B
311 106.6 1990 Larry Walker-RF
241 106.0 1989 Kevin Brown-P
230 78.3 1987 BJ Surhoff-LF/C
250 67.1 1990 Marquis Grissom-CF
216 73.9 1991 Tino Martinez-1B
208 74.2 1993 Bret Boone-2B
182 79.9 1984 John Franco-RP
183 57.9 1994 Raul Mondesi-RF
150 67.7 1988 Al Leiter-P
160 56.0 1990 Carlos Baerga-2B
153 46.5 1991 Jose Offerman-SS/2B
105 52.5 1991 Wilson Alvarez-P
101 46.4 1996 Ugueth Urbina-RP
100 44.9 1990 Hideo Nomo-P
114 37.5 1986 Terry Mulholland-P*

Thanks, Dan!

Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: November 14, 2010 at 08:39 PM | 223 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   201. jimd Posted: December 07, 2010 at 02:16 AM (#3704491)
I count 39 ballots. What a difference a week makes (15 ballots).
   202. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 07, 2010 at 02:17 AM (#3704494)
The election has been over for 17 minutes now.

I should be able to post the results thread tonight.
   203. user Posted: December 07, 2010 at 02:51 AM (#3704513)
NAME IP ERA+ WAR
George Bradley 487 88 -3.0
Harry Salisbury 89 113 -1.1
Harry adj. 487 113 -6.0

Again, how? How can Salisbury be much worse than Bradley, pitching for the same team, with a 25-point ERA+ advantage?


I'm fairly confident this is entirely a function of ERA versus RA. I've made a post with slightly more detail on the Chone Warp thread.
   204. SWW Posted: December 07, 2010 at 07:22 AM (#3704628)
I feel compelled to point out that the middle section of my discussion of Larry Walker is completely false. It's a couple sentences held over from the formatting that I used to compose the ballot, and they should have been deleted. His nearest comp is not Derek Jeter (it is Vladimir Guerrero), he did not finish in his league's Top 10 in Win Shares seven times (he did that twice), and his Monitor score is not near 200, but actually just shy of 150. I think all those erroneous stats actually apply to Roberto Alomar, although I'd want to check to be sure.

None of this affects Walker's ranking on my ballot, but to paraphrase Mark Twain, I thought it best to call out my own error and look stupid, rather than say nothing and remove all doubt.
   205. bjhanke Posted: December 07, 2010 at 11:29 AM (#3704664)
Well, it does appear that I have some explaining to do. First, for user, comment 203, I responded over on the Chone Warp thread. What you said makes good sense, but it led me to a place I didn't think was right. Could you look over there and respond there? The discussion doesn't belong here.

Next, I apologize to all David Cone fans. What I did was bad. Running short on time, I just copied over last year's comment without thought. That was wrong. I checked the results thread, and fortunately for me, David would not have been elected even if I had voted him #1. But still, I should have done better. On the other hand, you have the motivation all wrong. I've lived in STL all my life except for three years at Vanderbilt U. The Mets are Pond Scum. ESPNY stands for Every Sports Personality in New York. I'm not a fan of New York in baseball. What happened to my analysis of Cone was this:

1. I think that "clutch play" is bunk. Joe Carter fanatics make my head hurt. But, trying to balance things, I will try to make at least some adjustment for things I don't really believe in, if a lot of other people do believe in them.

2. Living in a NL city, I see a LOT more Mets games than Yankee games. I personally saw Cone melt down once and heard about it a few more times. He admitted he'd done it, if I remember right. When he left the Mets, I assumed, stupidly, that he remained the same person, and I didn't see him pitch enough to correct the memory.

3. Combining the two problems above, I tried to make a "clutch" adjustment of some sort to Cone, precisely because I DON'T believe in it. I will always make at least some effort to give the other side its say. I don't apologize for that at all. But when the overwhelming consensus is that no adjustment is needed, and I don't really believe in it anyway, it's time to stop making it. I absolutely promise to work up David Cone strictly by the numbers next time. Both his fans and his high placement in the ballot tallies deserve that.

- Brock
   206. bjhanke Posted: December 07, 2010 at 12:17 PM (#3704665)
This next one is a response to Zop and his thought that I might be "reverse timelining" on Kevin Brown et al. This is a complicated issue, and you lack, I think, some of the context, so this will be a long post. I'll try to keep it as short as possible, but I can't be sure what you do and do not know about this or about my methods. This started when we were ranking the pitches who were already in the HoM, and I put almost all the 1880s guys in the top third. Paul Wendt, who REALLY knows his early baseball, noticed this, and said that if I thought that, I should also think that there were more 1800s pitchers that should go in. This was unquestionably true, so I spent a lot of the last year working up the 1880s pitchers. That's why the obsessing. It wasn't that I think that 1880s baseball was the best ever; it was a response to a valid challenge.

As to my methods, there are three difficult facts about 1880s pitchers; they are the foundation of my ranking the guys so high in the positional list. First is this thing that Bill James noted in his Historical Abstract and Win Shares. If you evaluate by value, as Win Shares does, you will conclude that all the best seasons ever were posted up by 1880s pitchers throwing over 500 innings. There's just no way for a position player to overcome the impact of that many IP. If you look through Win Shares' list of teams with shares for all their players, you will find that it is rare for a very early team's highest WS total to NOT be by their pitcher. That's each team, much less the whole league. The effect is THAT strong.

Second, Bill also noted that immature versions of baseball, like high school and amateur play, drift towards having the best player be the pitcher. The best pitcher on a high school team is often the cleanup hitter as well. Now, I do not timeline, in the sense of thinking that the game has "improved." But it certainly has evolved and matured. Rules changes are smaller by far than in the 19th century, and there are fewer of them. The game has matured, so there IS a "maturation of the game" line. This is NOT a quality line. It's more of a stability line. But it is there. And one of its implications is that a higher percentage of the best 19th c. players were pitchers than is true now. I think that pitchers are underrepresented in the HoM. But I also think that 1870s-1880s pitchers are the most underrepresented, because they are disproportionately likely to be the best players in their leagues. Thus the obsession over 1880s PITCHERS, instead of all players.

Third, and another related fact first noted by Bill, it has become less and less common over time for a pitcher to deserve to win the MVP award. The reason is that the number of innings that a pitcher can handle has dropped almost continually over time, while the number of plate appearances for hitters has increased, due to longer schedules and higher percentages of schedules played, due to modern medicine. The drop in IP is another function of the maturation of the game. You can easily track it by making a chart of IP for the top three or ten or whatever number of pitchers in a league. You'll get a reasonably smooth curve, starting when the 80-game schedule comes in, that drops quickly through the 1880s and 1890s, "turns the corner" at about the turn of the century, and then flattens out but never turns completely horizontal. This effect is still happening, although it's now advancing very slowly. Old fogies complain about it all the time now, but they treat it as if it were a recent effect. It's not. It's been happening ever since the 80-game schedules, which were the first ones so long that no one pitcher could handle the entire workload.

Anyway, the result of all this is that the time period when an individual pitcher had the highest value per season is the 1880s, when the 80-game schedules first appear. That doesn't affect career value, because these guys' arms burned out and they have ten-year careers with huge seasonal IPs, rather than 20-year careers with 200-IP seasons. But it does affect their peaks and primes, because so much value accrues in so little time. Consider Radbourne's 1884 season. It's 679 IP at a tremendous rate. Well, that's equivalent, in IP, to a modern three-year peak. Three, or even two, of these seasons can amount to a pitcher's entire prime, with just as many IP as you'd want in a modern prime. And on top of that, most of these guys hit better than modern pitchers do, and some are Bob Caruthers and Guy Hecker, who were mid-lineup hitters on top of their pitching values.

And right now is the weakest period for pitcher in-season value, so I end up thinking that Kevin Brown was a worse pitcher than Sam Leever, much less Jim McCormick.
   207. bjhanke Posted: December 07, 2010 at 12:49 PM (#3704667)
Sorry. The site has a limit on post length, so I thought I should make a break here. Anyway, I have two more points to try to make.

First, all this is about value, not rate. Rate has not changed. Kevin Brown's ERA+ is not something I adjust for due to time period, nor is David Cone's. The only adjustments I make for rate are for times of very low scoring, when it's just hard to really separate your shutouts from the other guy's one-run games. But rate doesn't care how many years it took to accumulate your career IP. But peak and prime value do. If I could just forget about value, peak, and prime, and focus only on career length and rate, I'd never be in this pickle. But peak, prime, and value all do count, so here I am, obsessing over Will White and all the other 1880s pitchers, because they are the ones with the ungodly peak and prime values.

Second, this messy problem may be a-changin', due to modern medicine (by which I do NOT mean PEDs, although I do mean Tommy John surgery). Clemens, Maddux, Unit, Schilling, and Glavine all look real good to me. When Roger shows up, I will certainly have him in my top three, and probably #1, unless it's the same year as Barry Bonds or someone. Pitcher MVPs may yet return, but they are not there now.

Well, that's about as short as I can make this. If you need more detail, I can ALWAYS write longer. I'm real good at that. But if you were wondering where my stuff about early pitchers comes from, that's it. Three related observations by Bill James and a challenge by Paul Wendt. At least I START with reliable sources, even if I wander off into who knows where.

Oh, shoot. One more thing. If you want to see what I think the "maturation curve" looks like (it's a curve, not a line), just chart up league fielding percentage over the years. In applied math, there's a concept called a "tracking stat." That's a stat that doesn't directly measure what you're looking at, but does mirror it. There's no real way to quantify "maturation", and so no way to directly graph it. But fielding percentage, IMO, is the best tracking stat there is for maturation. And it's lots easier than trying to count up all the top three workloads for every season.

Man. Thanks for reading. - Brock
   208. bjhanke Posted: December 07, 2010 at 12:56 PM (#3704668)
Oh, right. Alex King (comment 200) -

THANKS! I'm glad you were disturbed by something I also found disturbing, and VERY happy to have an offer of help. But it's just possible that "user" actually already knew this one. Please navigate on over to the thread called "Chone's WARP and the Hall of Merit" and look at the posts around #140. It looks, just from his few calculations, like the whole issue is that WAR uses total runs allowed instead of earned runs allowed.

Thanks again! - Brock
   209. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: December 07, 2010 at 03:02 PM (#3704695)
"But fielding percentage, IMO, is the best tracking stat there is for maturation. And it's lots easier than trying to count up all the top three workloads for every season."


I've counted up the top X in IP for each league/season. The is X is based on the total number of teams in the league. It's what I use to normalize IP across eras. Let me know if you want the data . . .

Actually the X stops at 3/4 of the teams in the league. I basically use the middle half of teams in the league as the baseline. So in a 16 team league, the 5-12 pitchers in IP are averaged.
   210. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: December 07, 2010 at 03:46 PM (#3704731)
brock, I don't dispute that much or all of what you're saying could be true.

There are counter arguements, of course. You could argue that pitching was a less specialized skill in the 1880s, using the batting value of pitchers as a proxy for pitching specialization. You could argue that since teams just put their best athlete at pitcher, rather than identify the best pitchers at pitcher (indeed, I would argue that pitchers are, in many cases, the WORST athletes on a modern baseball team), 1880's pitchers were worse than modern pitchers. You could argue that replacement level for pitchers in early baseball was higher than it is today.

You could argue those things, and many more, but... I wont. I wont because I don't have to.

For the purposes of voting in the HoM, we have to submit to a few fictions. We don't, for example, allow people to acknowledge the obvious truth that baseball was less professional in the 1880's and the players probably of lesser quality than players from later eras. We don't allow people to consider that the population/players ratio is not constant with time, meaning that it is certain that average players from certain eras were much stronger than others.

And one of those fictions is that you have to be fair to all eras. Meaning, you can't argue that pitchers from the 19th century are vastly superior to those in the 20th century. Each player must be evaluated based upon the opportunities they were given; a player born in the 1860's is evaluated in the 500IP context; a player born in the 1920's gets war credit; and a player born in 1980's may have to get tweaked for lower seasonal IP totals (if we ever come to a consensus on the relationship b/w seasonal IP and career IP).

Kevin Brown is among the top 10 pitchers of his generation. Because of our constitutional mandate to treat all eras equally, you must, in essence, imagine as if he were born in 1860 and say, "if he were born then, how would he have compared to the pitchers of that era". If you're not asking that question or something similar, you have an unconstitutional ballot.
   211. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: December 07, 2010 at 05:57 PM (#3704866)
Brock, would your PHoM be Ruth, Williams, Bonds, Cobb, Wagner, Mays, and 230 1880s pitchers? Were there even 230 pitchers in the 1880s?
   212. bjhanke Posted: December 07, 2010 at 08:14 PM (#3705027)
Dan - No, and no, and I know what you're doing with the questions, and it's a legitimate thing to do. You're asking me if I mean to treat the 1880s unfairly by wanting to have a normal number of position players in there but a large number of pitchers, or a number of pitchers so huge that it would dwarf the normal number of total players expected from the period. That's what Zop is also questioning, and it's a fair question. That would, indeed, not treat the era fairly. It would favor it. But it's not what I'm trying to do.

While there are several pitchers who benefit from the high peaks and primes, they still have to have something to offer that has value; this approach is value-based. If I decide that whatever WAR is doing to Will White, it's correct and he really was a replacement rate pitcher, then his rate becomes zero, and it doesn't matter how many seasons of that he put up, they have no value, and I start looking real hard at Guy Hecker, who I have next in line. So, what I'm using this for is to account for the distribution of talent in the era, not the amount of it. About numbers, I'm being cautious. I have exactly two 1880s pitchers on my ballot, and they are in the middle and in the bottom half. I have three guys from early 1900s Pittsburgh.

What I'm doing is more like voting for five center fielders from the 1950s: Mays, Mantle, Snider, Doby, and Ashburn. That's way above the average for center fielders in a decade, but this decade just happened to have a lot of talent concentrated there. The last decade (the 2000s) seems to have a lot of good shortstop candidates - ARod, Jeter, Tejada, et al. I assume this is because modern medicine has allowed larger players to have more agility, so they can play shortstop and still hit for power, but it doesn't matter why to the ballot. For every extra 1950s CF, you should be able to identify a position where there are one fewer than normal HoM guys. The same, I think, will be true of this current crop of shortstops, when they become eligible. The total number of players from each decade should balance out, but the distribution can - and always will - be skewed within that number. So what I think is that there should be a few more 1880s pitchers in the hall, but FEWER position players than normal. Actually, I think that there is a current shortage of 1880s position players, but I'm very OK with that because they SHOULD be underrepresented. You notice that I have no 1880s position players on or near my list of 15 except Ed Williamson, who has support here and who I have never worked up because he only played 13 seasons. He's not on the ballot this year, and he's going to have to put up a hell of an argument to get on my ballot. He's an 1880s position player. John Clarkson and Cap Anson are the clear HoM guys on his great teams.

In short, I think that the 1880s are underrepresented, and we've not treated that time period completely fairly. We have a low number of position players, particularly high up in the internal positional rankings, and we have a normal number of pitchers. So we look like we have a small shortfall of position players, but what we really have is a shortage of pitchers, because the distribution of talent is so odd in that decade.

This is where I think I'm well within the limits of the constitution. As I read the thing, it says to do what I'm doing. As long as each time period has a proportional number of total players, it doesn't matter which position they play. I have no intention of flooding the Hall with 1880s pitchers PLUS the normal number of position players. The total number of players altogether is what I think matters. The 1880s just happen to have a larger percentage than normal of pitchers WITHIN that total number. As long as the total number of 1880s players in the Hall is proportional, I'm pretty sure I'm OK with the constitution. On the other hand, the commissioner is here to read this. If he says I'm wrong, I'm going to ask some questions about how to proceed, but I'm also going to take his word for it.

Does that make sense? I can see why you would question. If I only talk about 1880s pitchers, it's fair to start out by assuming that I mean to put them all in along with a normal number of position players. That would certainly be unconstitutional, and I'm aware of it. But, as long as the total number is proportional, I think the constitution wants us to distribute the talent however the talent happens to distribute in that time period.

Thanks for a good question that, I think needed to be asked of me right about now. - Brock
   213. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: December 07, 2010 at 09:16 PM (#3705116)
Sure, if you think the 1880s slice of the HoM should be 80% pitchers but that the 1880s shouldn't crowd out any other time period, I think everyone would be OK with your voting on that basis.

But that doesn't account for your voting for all the aughts guys, like Leever, over Kevin Brown, for which the logic still remains baffling to all of us. You talk about ERA+ "compression" in the deadball era--have you counted how many standard deviations above the mean Brown was during his peak/prime versus Leever's number? I guarantee you Brown will blow him out of the water. Using a quick ink test, Brown's best ERA+ finishes were 1-3-3-4-4-4 in the 14-team NL, while Leever only cracked the top 10 in the 16-team majors three times, going 1-4-8. And you inexplicably say that Leever's "2660 IP are not, in context, worse than Brown's 3256." But...but...pitchers throw FEWER innings today than they did in the 1900s, not more! If you're going to account for contextual usage norms, that favors Brown in the comparison with Leever, not the other way around.

None of this wound up mattering, since Brown rightly sailed in and the Leever bandwagon fortunately remains empty. As long as we count the ballots of the yests of the world, you can do whatever you want. But I think virtually everyone would agree you've left the reservation on this one.
   214. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: December 07, 2010 at 10:24 PM (#3705178)
I have three guys from early 1900s Pittsburgh.

If your system is telling you 3x more pitchers from a single team are worthy of induction than in the entirety of baseball over the last 50 years, then that's a ringing sign that your system isn't fair to all eras.
   215. Mike Emeigh Posted: December 07, 2010 at 11:04 PM (#3705212)
If your system is telling you 3x more pitchers from a single team are worthy of induction than in the entirety of baseball over the last 50 years, then that's a ringing sign that your system isn't fair to all eras.


This probably isn't the best place to carry on this conversation, but since it IS being carried on here...

Does *being fair to all eras* require you to take the same number of pitchers from each era? Isn't it also possible that to *be fair to all eras* you need to recognize the possibility that a particular role (starting pitching, relief pitching, fielding at 1B or 3B) is more important in one era than it is in another, and therefore you need give that particular role more weight when evaluating candidates from that era than you would when you evaluate candidates from a different era? If you have an evaluation method which indicates that it was more critical to team success to have quality starting pitching in the 1900s than it was in any other era before or since, then I submit that it is entirely possible to recommend more starting pitchers for induction from the 1900s than it is today, while still being fair to both eras. What you are doing there is recognizing the importance of the role in winning pennants then, vs the importance of the role in winning pennants today.

I'm not saying that's what Brock is doing, mind you - but I don't think it's necessarily the case that a system which suggests that three pitchers from the same team in the 1900s are among the top 15 players not yet in the Hall of Merit is being unfair. Perhaps a system which looks at all eras through the lens of what's important today is actually being more unfair than a system which attempts to account for changes in the way the game has been played over the years.

-- MWE
   216. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: December 07, 2010 at 11:33 PM (#3705245)
Isn't it also possible that to *be fair to all eras* you need to recognize the possibility that a particular role (starting pitching, relief pitching, fielding at 1B or 3B) is more important in one era than it is in another, and therefore you need give that particular role more weight when evaluating candidates from that era than you would when you evaluate candidates from a different era?


The problem with this reasoning is that if Kevin Brown or any other modern pitcher had been active in the earlier era, he presumably would have accrued similar value to a pitcher from that era. Era-dependent changes in positional value are a function of context. To penalize post-1950's pitchers because of their year of birth violates the fair-to-all-eras mandate of the HoM.

Everyone knows that a pure peak voter, not applying any era correction, would have a ballot full of 19th C and early deadball pitchers. Same is probably true for shorter-term (3yr or 5 yr) prime voters. That such ballots don't exist, outside of brock's, is indicative that unadjusted voting of deadball pitchers has been resoundly rejected by the HoM electorate.
   217. lieiam Posted: December 07, 2010 at 11:52 PM (#3705270)
I wouldn't say i agree with all of Brock's ballot (although I do like to see support for some of those old pitchers) but I think the criticisms of his ballot here seem to be going too far...
   218. Best Dressed Chicken in Town Posted: December 08, 2010 at 12:04 AM (#3705281)
if Kevin Brown or any other modern pitcher had been active in the earlier era, he presumably would have accrued similar value to a pitcher from that era. Era-dependent changes in positional value are a function of context. To penalize post-1950's pitchers because of their year of birth violates the fair-to-all-eras mandate of the HoM.

If Juan Pierre had been active 100 years earlier, he presumably would have accrued similar value to, I dunno, Willie Keeler. But because of when he was born, his skills are not as useful. Is he being penalized? I think your questioning of Brock's ballot is legitimate, but this interpretation of being "fair to all eras" seems to go too far.
   219. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: December 08, 2010 at 12:32 AM (#3705294)
If Juan Pierre had been active 100 years earlier, he presumably would have accrued similar value to, I dunno, Willie Keeler. But because of when he was born, his skills are not as useful.

Whoa, whoa. Different thing entirely. brock's arguing that the magnitude of the value that pitchers created was greater in the 19th century and they should be rewarded for it. You're giving an example where a style is more effective in a different era.

My understanding of the HoM rules is:
-if pitchers as a whole earned more value in 1890 than 1990-- this must be adjusted out to ensure fairness to all eras (examples: election of Roger Bresnahan, extreme war credit cases, the large proportion of voters who look at ranking among cohort)

-if a player's "style" was particularly effective or ineffective in a given era-- you're in theory allowed to correct for this, but it's certainly not required and all or nearly-all voters do not.

I'm saying that Brock is not doing the former correction, and that is not allowed.

Look, its very simple: if another voter had 10 of his top 11 pitchers from 1980-2000, people would be screaming bloody murder about timelining. Just b/c brock has chosen 1880-1900 to be the ones he's overweighting doesn't make it any less illegal under the HoM constitution.
   220. Mike Emeigh Posted: December 08, 2010 at 12:35 AM (#3705297)
The problem with this reasoning is that if Kevin Brown or any other modern pitcher had been active in the earlier era, he presumably would have accrued similar value to a pitcher from that era.


And the problem with that reasoning is that it's based on a faulty presumption - that he would rank in (roughly) the same position relative to the pitchers of the earlier era as he does relative to the pitchers of his own. It's just as possible that Kevin Brown is a rare commodity today, but common in 1900, no different from Sam Leever or Deacon Phillippe or Vic Willis, et al, and that he stands out more in today's context precisely because he IS so much rarer today than he was in 1900.

Being fair to all eras, in my judgment, means that you take into consideration what it took to win a pennant, in each era, and reward the players who contributed the most toward that end. That means not just overly penalizing players for the context in which they played, but also not overly rewarding them for the context in which they played, either - and I am of the opinion that the high regard for Kevin Brown and some of the other modern pitchers comes close to the latter.

-- MWE
   221. Rob_Wood Posted: December 08, 2010 at 02:37 AM (#3705346)
I think there are two separate but related points being discussed here. First is being fair to all eras. My simple take on that is summed up in the phrase "a pennant is a pennant". A pennant in 1895 is worth as much to the HOM as a pennant in 1975.

I do not take it to mean that we need to "adjust out" any differences among eras. If first baseman were more valuable to a team winning in 1895 than in 1975 (due to tiny gloves or whatever), then it is perfectly justified to give an 1895 first baseman more "credit" than a 1975 first baseman. Or a 1970's centerfielder being more valuable than an 1870's centerfielder due to the many more (tough) chances he faced.

However, related and partially at odds to the "be fair to all eras" principle is the "equal opportunity" principle. This dictum suggests that one should consider how a particular player would have fared in other eras/styles. Gavy Cravath, say, would presumably have had more value had he played in the live-ball 1930s than in the dead-ball 1910s. Some voters give Cravath "extra credit" for this type of reasoning.

(to be continued on the next post)
   222. Rob_Wood Posted: December 08, 2010 at 03:06 AM (#3705355)
(continuing my two cents)

The 1880's pitching value issue started, as do many things, with Bill James. Bill crafted a pretty decent set of formulas for ascribing value to each player on a team, essentially divvying up the credit for each team win among its players. These formulas were based upon many crude estimates and approximations that worked well for much of baseball history. However, applying these formulas to the 1880s suggested that by far the greatest single seasons ever turned in throughout basebal history were by 1880's pitchers.

Bill rejected this using his substantial common sense. He essentially threw up his hands and said that cannot be correct, so he discounted these seasons by half, or something like that.

But it is true, by the reasons that Brock and others have posited, that 1880's pitchers were tremendously valuable, especially compared to 1880's position players. Exactly what the correct split is nobody knows, though James's discount is probably in the right ball park.

So using the interpretation that being fair to all eras is tantamount to "a pennant is a pennant", these 1880's pitchers should be given very serious consideration by HOM voters. But there are reasons why most voters have not gone as far as Brock has gone.

First, these pitchers generally speaking had short careers. They were over-used during their hey-day and could not sustain their peak performance for very long. So only the very most peak-value voters would have many 1880's pitchers on their ballots.

Second, any voter who pays any credence to the "equal opportunity" principle would discount these 1880's pitchers for the very fact that they were a small subset of all baseball pitchers who were given this special opportunity to be so valuable. Many, many other pitchers throughout baseball history, so the argument goes, would have performed as well (or better) than these "lucky" 1880's pitchers.

This last argument dovetails nicely with this tenet of looking at how well a pitcher does vs his contemporaries (ERA+, IP ranking, etc.). Wilbur Wood, to take perhaps a silly example, could well have been the Hoss Radbourn of 1884 had he been born 100 or so years earlier. So maybe Wilbur deserves a little "credit" for (hypothetically) being a great pitcher of the 1880's. And maybe Radbourn deserves a little "discount" for being given a unique opportunity which (hypothetically) hundreds of other pitchers could well have taken advantage of at least as well as Old Hoss did.

Constitutionally each voter must abide with the "be fair to all eras" principle. And given my simple "a pennant is a pennant" interpretation, I think we all do a pretty good job with this. No timelining, per se, no reverse timelining, etc.

However, I think each voter can use personal judgment as to how much of the "equal opportunity" koolaid they must drink. Personally, I find this argument persuasive in small doses, so I use it on the margins. Others undoubtedly use it a lot more, and presumably others a lot less, than I do. But I don't think we can legislate the "right" amount to apply.

Bottom line: if Brock sincerely believes that his ballot reflects his reasoned view of the players' true contributions to winning pennants, though I disagree wholeheartedly with it, then I think it is a fine and appropriate ballot.
   223. bjhanke Posted: December 08, 2010 at 08:52 AM (#3705483)
First, thanks to Rob Wood for his comments, particularly if this is the Rob Wood who collaborated with me (was co-author) on the 1989 Baseball Abstract.

The rest of this comment is in reply to Dan R.'s comment #213, "Sure, if you think the 1880s slice of the HoM should be 80% pitchers but that the 1880s shouldn't crowd out any other time period, I think everyone would be OK with your voting on that basis."

The question of how to apply "fair to all eras" does not strike me as simple when applied to the HoM. Does it mean that each year - decade is a better example - should have (roughly, I'm not talking hard quotas here) the same number of HoMers as every other decade, which will skew the results heavily in favor of the 1870s, when there were sometimes only 6 full-schedule teams in a league season and never more than 8? Does it mean that the number of HoMers should be proportional to the number of Major League team/seasons during the decade, which will skew the numbers in favor of the modern game and its 30 teams? Or something else?

What I've been using is closer to option 2, but not quite so extreme. I'm still not comfortable with the 2000s having twice as many HoMers as the 1920s because it has twice as many teams, but I don't think that people who do believe that are off the reservation. I sort of anchor my proportions to the idea that there are 243 players in the HoM, and 140 seasons of play, the last decade or so of which don't count because the players aren't eligible yet. This gets me to about 2 HoMers per year, for a year with a "normal" number of teams. Actually, there have been enough expansion years that the number is a bit under 2 per year, but it's a fraction. Right now, the "normal" number of teams through the 125 or so seasons of eligibility is close to 16, the canonical two 8-team leagues, although it is creeping up year by year now. So I use that as my benchmark or guideline (NEVER a quota).

Well, the 1880s, or the American Association decade from 1882-1891, just happen to have those convenient two 8-team leagues. So I would expect the HoM to eventually end up with a bit under 2 x 10 = 20 HoMers for the period. Somewhere in the range of 16-20, since these are NOT hard quotas. I went to the Plaque Room and counted. There are 12 guys who I think are definitely 1880s: Keefe, Caruthers, Clarkson, Galvin, Radbourne, Bennett, Ewing, Stovey, Browning, Kelly, Richardson, and Glasscock. I also include Cap Anson there but Bid McPhee seems to have more value in the 1890s. Paul Hines and Jim O'Rourke are really too evenly divided to assign to one clear decade, so I counted each of them as a half. That gets me to 14 HoMers from the 1880s, when I think the range ought to be 16-20. So I think the HoM could stand to add a couple or three HoMers. I have 2 1880s guys on my ballot, McCormick and White.

As it now stands, 5 of the 14 are pitchers, or 36%. Since I think the decade is dominated by its pitchers more than any other, I think that's too low. I want to raise it to 7 pitchers out of 16 HoMers. That's 44%. I think that's being fair to the era.

Some of you may not be comfortable with using anything like this interpretation of "fair to all eras" because it's uncomfortably close to a quota system, or for some other reason. If the consensus or the commissioner rules that this is wrong and the concept means something else, then that's OK by me. But as of now, this is how I interpret the phrase, because it allows me to plausibility-check the various periods to see which are over or under represented. My plausibility checking led me to the idea of two 1880s pitchers. Does that help anyone figure out how I am trying to think here? Criticism is fine, or I wouldn't write all these words. But I would like to be criticized for what I actually believe. It's 44%, not 80%. And I do think the decade is short 2 or 3 guys.

- yet even more from Brock
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