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Friday, May 27, 2011

Most Meritorious Player: 1961 Ballot

Here are the specific rules for this election:

Candidate Eligibility: Any North American professional baseball player is eligible for the Most Meritorious Player (MMP) award including players in the top Negro Leagues or independent teams. Voters should consider the player’s on-field contribution to MLB team(s) in that season only. If part of the season was spent outside MLB, that value may be considered as well. However, the player’s on-field contribution should be judged in relation to the highest level major league, not relative to a minor league. A season may include playoff or World Series games but does not include spring training or exhibition games. No credit will be given for games not played due to injury, wartime service or contract holdouts.

Ballot Length: For 1961, each voter should rank 10 players.

Voter eligibility: All voters must post a preliminary ballot in the ballot discussion thread at least 2 days before voting ends. All voters must fill out a complete ballot. Voters must briefly explain their ballot choices. One person, one vote; anyone determined to have voted with multiple accounts will be banned and their votes will be disallowed. The MMP ballot committee has authority to exclude any ballot that does not meet these requirements.”

Scoring: Points will be given in descending order with the highest-ranked player receiving 15 points, the second highest 14 points, and so on until the last player on the ballot receives 6 points. The player with the highest point total will be named the MMP for 1961. In case of a tie, the tiebreaker will be number of 1st place votes. If the first tiebreaker does not determine a winner the players will share the title of Most Meritorious Player.

Balloting will close at 8pm EDT on 6 June 2011.

Anyone can vote, even if you haven’t said a word yet in any of the MMP threads. Just post a preliminary ballot in the discussion thread by 4 June 2011.

fra paolo Posted: May 27, 2011 at 07:38 PM | 40 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: May 29, 2011 at 11:01 AM (#3840340)
1961 MMP Ballot

I am using my own numbers for batting runs, positional values, and "base" pitcher numbers. I am borrowing and subjectively adjusting the baserunning runs, team defense, and pitcher leverage from CHONE, and the aggregate defensive numbers from Alex King's work on the discussion thread.


1. Mickey Mantle. 9.7 BWAA1, 0.4 BRWAA1, 0.2 FWAA1, -1.4 Rep1, .92 LgAdj = 10.8 WARP2
2. Hank Aaron. 6.4 BWAA1, 0.3 BRWAA1, 1.8 FWAA1, -1.1 Rep1, .962 LgAdj = 9.2 WARP2
3. Norm Cash. 8.7 BWAA1, 0.0 BRWAA1, 0.6 FWAA1, -0.3 Rep1, .92 LgAdj = 8.8 WARP2
4. Willie Mays. 6.1 BWAA1, 0.1 BRWAA1, 0.7 FWAA1, -1.5 Rep1, .962 LgAdj = 8.1 WARP2
5. Eddie Mathews. 6.4 BWAA1, 0.0 BRWAA1, 0.2 FWAA1, -1.7 Rep1, .962 LgAdj = 8.0 WARP2
6. Frank Robinson. 5.8 BWAA1, 0.4 BRWAA1, 0.8 FWAA1, -0.7 Rep1, .962 LgAdj = 7.4 WARP2
7. Rocky Colavito. 5.7 BWAA1, 0.0 BRWAA1, 1.5 FWAA1, -0.7 Rep1, .92 LgAdj = 7.3 WARP2
8. Vada Pinson. 4.1 BWAA1, 0.3 BRWAA1, 1.4 FWAA1, -1.5 Rep1, .962 LgAdj = 7.0 WARP2
9. Jim Gentile. 6.9 BWAA1, -0.1 BRWAA1, 0.4 FWAA1, -0.3 Rep1, .92 LgAdj = 6.9 WARP2
10. Don Drysdale. 4.6 "raw" PWAA1, +1.0 for park, +0.7 for defense, +0.5 for hitting, .962 LgAdj = 6.6 WARP2
   2. Nate the Neptunian Posted: May 29, 2011 at 05:38 PM (#3840448)
My system is based on a consensus ranking of players across 5 uber systems (rWAR, BP's WARP1, Baseball Gauge's WAR, Baseball Gauge's WSAB, and my own WAA system), but I have made some subjective adjustments. I'm using a 4.4% league strength adjustment for NL players (except for rWAR which has its own adjustment), which I stole from DanR's spreadsheet. I gave catchers a 15% bonus, but haven't applied it systemically, so only Howard benefits, as he was the only one close to the top 10. For more details, see my last uber system chart in the discussion thread.

1) Mickey Mantle (Consensus Rank: 1 -- #1 in every system other than WAA, where he barely loses out to Cash. Easy choice.)
2) Norm Cash (Consensus Rank: 2 -- A fluky year, but also a very valuble one. Even with the NL being stronger, none of Aaron, Robinson, or Mays can catch him.)
3) Hank Aaron (Consensus Rank: 3 -- Aaron didn't hit as well as Mays or Robinson, but his great defensive year pushes him past them.)
4) Willie Mays (Consensus Rank: 5 -- I think WAA is undervalueing Mays a little, and that's what has him below Robinson, so I've swapped them.)
5) Frank Robinson (Consensus Rank: 4)
6) Eddie Mathews (Consensus Rank: 8 -- Gentile, Mathews and Colavito are all extremely close with the current league strength adjustment. Since I'm not 100% sure that's the right percentage, I'm giving Mathews the benefit of the doubt and moving him to the top of the group.)
7) Jim Gentile (Consensus Rank: 6)
8) Rocky Colavito (Consensus Rank: 7)
9) Ken Boyer (Consensus Rank: 9 -- Good defensive year for Boyer, but not quite good enough to catch the guys above him.)
10) Elston Howard (Consensus Rank: 14 -- Settled on a 15% C bonus, which landed him here.)
11) Al Kaline (Consensus Rank: 10)
12) Vada Pinson (Consensus Rank: 11)
13) Orlando Cepeda (Consensus Rank: 12)
14) Frank Lary (Consensus Rank: 17 -- Lary moves ahead of Spahn because Spahn's FIP was below league average, suggesting he benefited from his defense quite a bit.)
15) Roger Maris (Consensus Rank: 15)
16) Warren Spahn (Consensus Rank: 12)
17) Howie Koplitz (Consensus Rank: -- Was going to look into him more, including trying to calc a park factor for Birmingham, but didn't get around to it. Using the PRAA I figured for him, and assuming he was a completely average hitter and fielder for a P (which was not true for his brief stint in the majors this year), he'd end up 10th in my WAA system. Given the uncertainty of a 2 level jump and his real value, I couldn't pull the trigger on an actual vote for him, so he ends up down here.)
18) Harmon Killebrew (Consensus Rank: 16)
19) Roberto Clemente (Consensus Rank: 17)
20) Jim O'Toole (Consensus Rank: 19)
21) Juan Pizarro (Consensus Rank: 20)
22) Whitey Ford (Consensus Rank: 21)
23) Don Drysdale (Consensus Rank: 22)
24) Jim Landis (Consensus Rank: 23)
25) Bob Gibson (Consensus Rank: 24)
26) Stu Miller (Consensus Rank: 25)
   3. sunnyday2 Posted: May 31, 2011 at 02:41 AM (#3841290)
Mine is also a composite of several different rating/rankings.

1. Mickey Mantle. Easy choice even with a 5 percent discount in the expansion year. I plan to reduce it to 2.5 percent next year and then no discount. (Next year, of course, the NL will get the 5 percent and so on.)

2. Norm Cash. I have been a Norm Cash skeptic but on closer examination I couldn't come up with anybody else who didn't have a question mark of their own.

3. Willie Mays, for example. I had him #2 in my prelim but the consensus is #4, so he ends up here.

4. Frank Robinson. Maybe Aaron was better, I am influenced by the pennant and the MVP. I also think Aaron is overrated by WAR, well, and every other system.

5. Roger Maris. A great ball player if only for a short time.

6. Hank Aaron. #3 consensus but I ain't buyin.' Mays in particular was still a more valuable player.

7. Vada Pinson. Also a great ball player if only for a short time.

8. Rocky Colavito. History has underrated the Rock. A genuine superstar in his time.

9. Eddie Mathews. Still better than Boyer.

10. Whitey Ford. Could easily be Boyer or Cepeda or Ellie Howard. I am sorry that we are only going 10 deep, 15 would be a lot better. But my personal rule is that a pitcher should at least be in the top 10 if not higher if it is humanly possible to get 'em there. Pitching is too important. And we will have to disagree about who the best pitcher was in the MLs this year. I say Ford. Say what you want about his offensive support, the defense and Arroyo, 25-4 is an accomplishment.

They Also Ran

11. Ken Boyer
12. Orlando Cepeda
13. Ellie Howard
14. Jim Gentile
15. Al Kaline
16. Roberto Clemente
17. Harmon Killebrew
18. Joey Jay
19. Don Drysdale
20. Frank Lary
   4. lieiam Posted: May 31, 2011 at 03:16 AM (#3841298)
My method consists of baseball reference WAR, win shares above bench, baseball gauge WAR, baseball prospectus WARP, win shares, Dan R's WARP2, and fangraphs WAR. I have applied a schedule adjustment and a league strength adjustment where appropriate. I wanted a catcher bonus but was hesitant so went with a what I think is a conservative 10%. I had no pitcher in my top 10 so I ended up ignoring pitchers... my list goes down to 15 and I suppose it's possible a pitcher might squeeze in there, but since the ballot is only 10 I haven't bothered to see if any pitcher squeezes into my top 15.

1- Mickey Mantle 700 (no doubt)
2- Norm Cash 630 (I was hesitant to have him this high, especially since that makes my top 2 from the weaker league, but decided against messing with my results).
3- Hank Aaron 581
4- Willie Mays 538
5- Frank Robinson 526
6- Eddie Mathews 493
7- Jim Gentile 473
8- Rocky Colavito 464
9- Vada Pinson 461 (Oh so very close to Colavito).
10-Roger Maris 451

11-Ken Boyer 447 (Just misses making the top 10).
12-Elston Howard 425
13-Al Kaline 420
14-Orlando Cepeda 410
15-Roberto Clemente 365
   5. DL from MN Posted: May 31, 2011 at 02:10 PM (#3841465)
Just to remind people - I'd like to see a prelim ballot in the discussion thread by June 4 if you want your ballot counted. I'm going to recommend leniency to anyone who has a ballot in early on this thread or anyone who has been involved at all in the discussion thread. If new people pop up at the last minute I will recommend the ballot is not counted.
   6. DL from MN Posted: May 31, 2011 at 02:26 PM (#3841469)
1961 MMP ballot

I use Dan R's WAR numbers as a start and then adjust from there.

1) Mickey Mantle - Separates himself from the pack this season by an obvious margin
2) Norm Cash - Not really a fluke as much as everything going right for one season
3) Henry Aaron - defense in CF gets him the nod for #3 as things get crowded
4) Frank Robinson - played well in postseason also
5) Willie Mays - down year defensively
6) Eddie Mathews
7) Jim Gentile
8) Elston Howard - catcher bonus and postseason bonus. His rate stats were terrific.
9) Vada Pinson
10) Ken Boyer - good defensive seasons for Pinson and Boyer

11-15) Colavito, Maris, Spahn, Cepeda, Kaline

Does anyone have a ballot counter I can steal?
   7. Nate the Neptunian Posted: May 31, 2011 at 03:08 PM (#3841501)
Kralick and Drysdale were 9 and 10 on your prelim, but look to have dropped out of your top 15 now. I don't disagree, as neither made my top 20, but I was just curious what changed your mind on them.
   8. DL from MN Posted: May 31, 2011 at 03:25 PM (#3841509)
Spahn dropped down also. I stopped using Dan R's Salary to inform my voting after he dismissed the numbers.
   9. DanG Posted: May 31, 2011 at 03:29 PM (#3841512)
You might want to make a post at the HOM Yahoo site that this thread is open, that the MMP project is taking off. You might also want to publicize it through other baseball blogs and promote it to baseball bloggers.
   10. DL from MN Posted: May 31, 2011 at 04:04 PM (#3841544)
I had pinging the Yahoo site again this week on my priority list. Publicity is a double edged sword.
   11. Nate the Neptunian Posted: May 31, 2011 at 06:16 PM (#3841634)

Spahn dropped down also. I stopped using Dan R's Salary to inform my voting after he dismissed the numbers.


Fair enough.

So it looks like the real question this year isn't who's the MMP (a foregone conclusion), but whether a pitcher will somehow manage to creep into the top 10? From the prelimns I thought we'd have at least one pitching friendly ballot, but seems that isn't so (not that I disagree at all).
   12. DL from MN Posted: June 01, 2011 at 07:54 PM (#3842755)
Don't expect immediate turnaround on ballot counting for me. That ballot close time (evenings) is awful in terms of my schedule.
   13. Rob_Wood Posted: June 04, 2011 at 01:04 AM (#3844834)
1. Mickey Mantle
2. Norm Cash
3. Hank Aaron
4. Willie Mays
5. Frank Robinson
6. Al Kaline
7. Ken Boyer
8. Vada Pinson
9. Jim Gentile
10. Eddie Mathews
   14. Chris Fluit Posted: June 04, 2011 at 01:37 PM (#3845037)
1961 Preliminary Ballot

Hall of Merit voter for ~40 years, back for more. I worked with an 80% adjustment because of the expansion in the American League.

1. Mickey Mantle, New York Yankees:
206 OPS+, 174 Runs Created, +1 fielding runs in CF, 11.9 WAR (adjusted to 164.8, 139.2, +1 and 9.5)- the expansion adjustment narrows the gap between Mantle and Mays but the Mick still comes out ahead
2. Willie Mays, San Francisco Giants: 159 OPS+, 130 RC, +14 in CF, 9.4 WAR
3. Hank Aaron, Milwaukee Braves: 161 OPS+, 132 RC, +23 in CF/RF (53.8% CF), 9.2 WAR
4. Frank Robinson, Cincinnati Reds: 163 OPS+, 137 RC, +8 in RF, 7.6 WAR- Robinson had the best offensive year in the NL and he was a plus defender as well, but Mays and Aaron were even better defensively while spending time at more demanding positions
5. Norm Cash, Detroit Tigers: 201 OPS+, 178 RC, +9 at 1B, 10.0 WAR (adj.: 160, 142, +7, 8.0)
6. Ken Boyer, St. Louis Cardinals: 135 OPS+, 126 RC, +13 at 3B, 78 WAR- Offensively, Boyer is outside of the top ten, but a big defensive number from a primarily defensive position pushes him to just behind the big bats
7. Eddie Mathews, Milwaukee Braves: 153 OPS+, 128 RC, -1 at 3B, 7.0 WAR- The lack of defensive value cost him, but the expansion adjustment to AL players keeps him in the top ten
8. Jim Gentile, Baltimore Orioles: 187 OPS+, 138 RC, +8 at 1B, 7.2 WAR (adj.: 149.6, 110.4, +6.4, 5.8)
9. Roger Maris, New York Yankees: 167 OPS+, 138 RC, +1 at RF, 7.2 WAR (adj.: 133.6, 110. 4, +!, 5.8): The down year defensively holds Maris back quite a bit, but I don't think the plus outfielders have quite enough to catch him
10. Vada Pinson, Cincinnati Reds: 130 OPS+, 116 RC, +18 CF, 7.4 WAR

11. Rocky Colavito, 157 OPS+, +19 LF
12. Al Kaline, 138 OPS+, +29 RF
13. Orlando Cepeda, 155 OPS+, 0 1B
14. Jim O'Toole, 132 ERA+, 252 IP
15. Warren Spahn, 123 ERA+ in 262 IP
   15. Rick A. Posted: June 04, 2011 at 02:34 PM (#3845065)
1961 MMP Ballot

Nice to be voting again

I use a combination of Baseball-Reference WAR, Win Shares above Bench, Fangraph WAR, FRAA, OPS+, ERA+, and FIP with an adjustment for schedule length and league strength.

1. Mickey Mantle - Clear #1
2. Norm Cash - League adjustment doesn't move Aaron or Mays above Cash
3. Hank Aaron - Mays and Aaron are very close, but Mays had a somewhat down defensive year, so Aaron ends up ahead of him.
4. Willie Mays - see Aaron comment.
5. Frank Robinson - Slightly behind Aaron/Mays
6. Ken Boyer - Defense moves him up.
7. Jim Gentile
8. Elston Howard - Slight catcher bonus puts him here.
9. Eddie Mathews - Would be above Boyer, but I like Boyers defense.
10 Al Kaline - Solid player.

11-15 Frank Lary, Rocky Colavito, Roger Maris, Warren Spahn, Vada Pinson
16-20 Sandy Koufax, Whitey Ford, Camilo Pasqual, Jack Kralick, Orlando Cepeda
21-25 - Bob Gibson, Don Drysdale, Roberto Clemente, Harmon Killebrew, Don Cardwell
   16. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: June 04, 2011 at 03:35 PM (#3845091)
Chris Fluit, you really want to use a 20% league adjustment? My stdev research suggests 4% is right. 20% suggests that the AL was, like, below AAA quality, right?
   17. lieiam Posted: June 04, 2011 at 05:46 PM (#3845169)
Chris Fluit:
Your ballot is here as "1961 Preliminary Ballot". I'm assuming you mean this to actually be your final ballot or is it truly a preliminary ballot?
   18. Chris Fluit Posted: June 04, 2011 at 08:42 PM (#3845380)
#16 and 17- both good catches

#17- I copied my prelim ballot but forgot to change the title when I moved it over

#16- I started out that high but realized it was too much before finalizing my ballot; if I hadn't brought it down (about 8% now, still higher than yours but not near what I started with), Cepeda and Clemente would have been on the ballot instead of Gentile and Maris and Cash might have fallen below the two third basemen. The amazing thing is that Mantle was first even with the excessive 20% discount.

As it stands, those are clerical errors held over from earlier incarnations. The actual ballot order, however, is correct.
   19. Alex King Posted: June 05, 2011 at 06:48 AM (#3845810)
1961 MMP Ballot

1. Mickey Mantle. A clear #1 this year, even with league strength concerns. Mantle’s 1961 was a historically great season, checking in at well over 10 WAR in all systems.
2. Hank Aaron. A surprising #2, but his strong defense and league strength concerns push him ahead of Cash.
3. Willie Mays. An even more surprising #3: I expected to have Norm Cash lower than any other voter before Chris Fluit submitted his ballot. Mays and Aaron actually start off fairly close to Cash in initial schedule-adjusted rWAR, with Cash at 10.0, Mays at 9.9, and Aaron at 9.7. Aaron gains 0.5 WAR by replacing TZ with AFR, while Mays loses 0.2 WAR and Cash loses 0.3 WAR. Mays and Aaron then gain a further 0.4 WAR from the expansion adjustment. Put it all together, and Aaron is almost a win ahead of Cash, while Mays leads Cash by 0.3 wins.
4. Norm Cash. See #2 and #3.
5. Frank Robinson. Very close to Boyer and Kaline, but Robinson rises to the top of the group when postseason credit is factored in.
6. Ken Boyer. Outstanding defense and good offense get Boyer into the middle of the ballot.
7. Al Kaline. Kaline was actually ahead of Robinson and Boyer before I dinged the AL for expansion. These 3 are almost interchangeable, though.
8. Eddie Mathews. There’s a fairly big gap between Kaline and Mathews, leading me to be more confident in my placement of Mathews than in my placements of Kaline, Boyer, and Robinson.
9. Rocky Colavito. Outstanding defensive year, with an AFR of 15.
10. Vada Pinson. Pinson would be ahead of Colavito, but he’s hurt by a miserable postseason that almost dropped him off the ballot.
11. Orlando Cepeda. Cepeda just misses the ballot, by 0.1 WAR.
12. Jim Gentile.
13. Roger Maris.
14. Warren Spahn. The first pitcher in my rankings; I didn’t feel that Spahn’s season was good enough to justify a ballot spot.
15. Elston Howard. I don’t give a catcher bonus, although I do give Howard credit for his excellent World Series performance.
16. Whitey Ford. Even an outstanding World Series performance can’t get him on the ballot, as Ford starts with just 3.7 WAR.
Howie Kopplitz––I’m not really sure where to put Kopplitz, but I’m pretty confident he was worse than Spahn and Ford and, as a result, is not ballot worthy.
   20. bjhanke Posted: June 05, 2011 at 12:58 PM (#3845845)
Most Meritorious 1961 Final Ballot
Brock Hanke

Just looking at the ballots already here, it seems that I am far from alone in using a “consensus of uberstats” as the starting point for my analysis, and then adding in anything else I happen to know or look up. And so, on behalf of all here, I want to reiterate my thanks to Alex King and Nate the Neptunian for their work in putting up the uberstat comparison charts. If they keep doing that, this project will keep being a joy, not a chore.

As usual, first I’ll just list the top ten, and then write essays. Makes it easier for DL to tally.

1. Mickey Mantle
2. Norm Cash
3. Willie Mays
4. Hank Aaron
5. Ken Boyer
6. Eddie Mathews
7. Frank Robinson
8. Vada Pinson
9. Roger Maris
10. Jim Gentile


1. Mickey Mantle

Growing up in the 1950s in St. Louis, I thought ”Damn Yankees” was the National Anthem. So I twisted and turned the analysis any way I could to get Mickey out of the top spot here. But it was futile. Mickey Mantle (sigh) was the best player in baseball in 1961.

Actually, of course, I did no such thing, although that was an accurate record of my opinion of the Yanks when I was a little kid. But I did do a little analysis that I think is interesting, Using BB-Ref, I looked up Mickey’s homer splits for 1960, 1961, and his career, for reasons that will make sense in the Norm Cash comment. I normalized these to 500 AB (not PA), and got the following results:

Year as RHB as LHB
1960 50 33
1961 33 62
Career 29 35

I found three things interesting. First, Mantle had a complete switch of “strong side” from 1960 to 1961. In 60, he had much more power righty; In 61, it was lefty. Second, his career splits bear no resemblance to either year. And third, the people, back in 1961, who were sure that Mickey, not Roger, would have hit record homers if he had stayed healthy were wrong. He would only have done that if he had only hit lefty against righty pitchers. With normal pitching splits, he would have been in the high 50s, but, just in 1961, Roger Maris was, indeed, the greater homer force, and Mickey took too many walks to pile up more than 500AB.

2. Norm Cash

I do remember 1961. I was 13, but I had been heavily into baseball since 1954. I had also started getting interested in what we now call “sabermetrics”, although I was just a kid. (That story is too long to repeat here, but mostly involves a game called “Cadaco’s All-Star Baseball”, devised by 1930s player Ethan Allen. I still play this game, as does Grandma Murphy, who posts here.)

Anyway, knowing that expansion was coming, I expected to see a sort of small general jump in stats from veteran players and pitchers, balanced by really lousy stats for all the AAA players who would make up the expansion teams. But that’s not what happened. What happened, essentially, was that a selection of lefty homer hitters had career power years, headed by Roger Maris. Cash, Maris and Gentile are the big ones, and they are the ones on the ballot here. So none of that was a surprise when I started looking at this season in detail. What was a surprise was that Cash outranks Maris and Gentile by so large a margin. But if you think about it, it makes sense. In general, for his career, Cash was a better player than Maris or Gentile. So, when he had his 1961 surge, it started from a higher platform than the other two did, MVP awards or not.

The reason that I looked up Mantle’s splits was that I wanted to see if he, too, had had a power surge batting lefty. As you can see in the table in his comment, he did. The oddity is the 1960 season, where he had a power surge hitting righty. I have no idea where that came from. It is not supported by his career numbers. But the 1961 splits do make sense, and are completely consistent with Cash, Maris and Gentile.

It may be worth noting here that, except for Mantle, Cash, Maris and Gentile, everyone on this list was in the National League. I’m pretty sure that Mantle would have made the top ten even without the ‘61 lefty surge. But I also think that it is very possible that the rest of the top ten would have been all NL, although I imagine that Cash and Elston Howard would have competed for spots. That’s just for anyone who doubts that there was still a league differential 14 years after Jackie first hit the bigs.

3. Willie Mays

Once again, I want to thank Tom H for pointing out that Willie Mays may have had defensive difficulties in 1961 caused by moving to Candlewind Park. Without his note, I would have moved Willie ahead of Norm Cash, because I would have trusted Willie’s career numbers and reputation over the numbers from just 1961. Defensive sabermetrics are not yet at a point where I will trust them over a solid reputation without some sort of reason beyond the numbers.

Does anyone else remember Stu Miller, who was actually pitching for the Gants at the time, getting blown off the mound in the All-Star Game? That’s my main memory of Candlestick.

4. Hank Aaron

The other side of the Mays coin is having him ahead of Hank here. The various uberstats vary seriously in ranking these two against each other, but if you look at everything and try to balance, you get just about as even a call as even can be. But the ones that rank Hank higher think a lot of his defense in center field, where he only played half a year, and where he did not remain for his career. I discounted that a bit, and so have Hank below Willie.

The story of Hank Aaron in center field is very odd, but then, a lot of what the Braves did during this period was odd. As everyone from Bill James on down has noticed, the Braves churned out a whole lot of talent in the 50s and 60s for a team that only won two pennants. The weaknesses of Fred Haney as a manager are well known, although the manager in 1961 was mostly Chuck Dressen. But the GM position fared no better, when you look at it. Consider, for example, Hank Aaron in center field. Here’s the story:

The Braves finished 1960 with a hole at second base, and that terrified them. They believed very strongly that the acquisition of Red Schoendienst from the Cardinals was what had completed their two pennant winning teams. Red had still been with them in 1960, but had played badly after missing almost all of 1959. The Braves let him go back to St. Louis, and inserted the 24-year-old Chuck Cottier, who failed even worse than Red. So they were desperate to get a top keystone man for 1961. After all, they had an aging team and were in win-now mode.

Their idea of trade bait was the 34-year-old Billy Bruton, their center fielder. Bruton was getting long in the tooth, but was still a respectable CF. Not an All-Star, but not someone they needed to replace. Well, it turned out that the Detroit Tigers were willing to part with their second baseman, Frank Bolling, but they wanted more than just Bruton. They also wanted Cottier, to fill Bolling’s spot. The trade was made.

In terms of simple player value, the Braves made a good trade. Bolling didn’t have a great career, but he was the best second baseman in the game in his day, and 1961 was his day. So that was fine, but it doesn’t mention that the Braves had no replacement for Bruton. Essentially, they had traded their hole at second for a hole in center.

I am not completely sure that the Braves started out 1961 with Hank Aaron in center; I didn’t go looking through box scores for that. But I think they probably did, because the other guy who played center for the Braves in ’61 was Gino Cimoli, whom they acquired from the Pirates in mid-61. Gino was, really, a desperation move. He wasn’t a real center fielder, although he had started out as one, and he wasn’t a real hitter, either. They also tried a 22-year-old named Mack Jones, but he wasn’t any better than Cimoli. So, essentially, they played Hank Aaron in center field because they had no other options.

So what I want to know is why, if Hank Aaron was playing center field at a top-glove level, the team could not see that he was a much better option than Cimoli or Jones, and not just for 1961. As I see it, either the Braves management completely missed Hank’s defensive capabilities, which is certainly possible, or Hank just hated center, which is unlikely, given Hank’s personality, or the systems that rank Hank so highly in CF defense are wrong. Which it is, I do not know. I’m just pointing out the problem.
   21. bjhanke Posted: June 05, 2011 at 12:59 PM (#3845846)
5. Ken Boyer

I worked through two issues here: Ken Boyer ahead of Eddie Mathews, and the two of them ahead of Frank Robinson. Here’s Boyer ahead of Mathews:

The consensus of methods is that Mathews was a bit ahead of Boyer, although it is close and some methods have Ken before Eddie. But I have an odd piece of information that feeds my main sabermetric obsession. Ken Boyer, in 1961, was playing in an old ballpark that dated back to the dead ball era; one of the first concrete and steel parks. I’m calling it Sportsman’s Park, which was its first name, to differentiate it from Busch Stadium, which is what Gussie Busch renamed it when he bought it in 1953, but is also the name of its replacement in 1966.

Sportsman’s Park was, essentially, a mirror image of Fenway Park. In general, it was a hitter’s park, and all the methods I have seen treat it as such for both lefty and righty hitters. This is wrong. Instead of a Green Monster to prevent excessive homers in a small left field, it had a big ol’ screen, like the ones in back of home plate in all parks, to prevent excessive homers in a small RIGHT field. The effect of the screen was to turn homers into doubles, but also to turn fly balls into doubles. There was no skill involved in playing the screen like there is with the Monster, because, being a screen, it didn’t bounce balls back past outfielders. Balls hit off the screen just dropped down to the base of the fence for doubles. This is the park that Stan Musial played in, and his doubles totals owe a lot to the park. But, then, those doubles would have been homers without the screen. I have no doubt that Stan would have won the ubercrown (every batting stat) in 1948, instead of falling one homer short, if he had been in a normal park. Of course, in a pitcher’s park, he might not have been in contention for any such thing.

Anyway, with that configuration, there is NO doubt that the ballpark effects for Sportsman’s were very different for lefty hitters (and pitchers) than for righties. Lefties were favored; righties were not. An old controversy over Rogers Hornsby in the first Bill James Historical Abstract ended up revealing that the park was most likely neutral for righties and its entire hitter’s park effects fall on lefty hitters. When someone eventually works out the effects, lefties like (sigh) George Sisler and (gulp) Stan Musial are going to drop down a bit in rankings.

But Ken Boyer hit righty. And all the uberstats apply a hitter’s park adjustment to him that is inappropriate. That is, all uberstats underrate Boyer, relative to whatever other quirks they may have. So I gave Ken a boost that put him ahead of Eddie.

This is dicey to do. I have NO idea whether the Milwaukee park favored lefties, righties, or was neutral in platoon splits. I also have NO idea just how big this effect is: no idea of what the actual ballpark effects for righties in 1961 in Sportsman’s might be. I have worked here on the assumption that the Milwaukee park was neutral. I haven’t had to quantify the Sportsman’s actual numbers, because any advantage for Boyer puts him ahead of Mathews in 1961. But if I had such platoon ballpark effect splits, I would absolutely use them. And, in my humble opinion, cranky old man that I am, so should everyone else.

6. Eddie Mathews

Mathews and Boyer ahead of Frank Robinson is the result of separate positional replacement rates. My attempt to balance the various uberstats had the three players all in a tight group, although I think Frank would have won out in the end. But when I looked at third basemen in 1961, Boyer and Mathews totally dominated the position. Neither Robinson alone, nor any pairing involving him, dominated right field anything like it. So I have Eddie and Ken ahead of Frank based, essentially, on positional adjustment. This is not firmly settled in my mind. I’m just not sure yet about the current fashion for separate adjustments for separate positions. But it’s certainly a defensible position and, in this case, it gave me a reason to rank players when my original methods had them very very close.

7. Frank Robinson

As I noted in my prelim, I find myself in the position of writing about Frank Robinson when I’ve already said everything I have to say about him. MVP, although the rankings say Mays or Aaron. Best player on the pennant winner. Played right at par in the World Series. Ho Hum.

8. Vada Pinson

This was the biggest surprise in this year’s analysis to me. Defense. The stronger league. It adds up. My balancing methods not only have him here at #8, but he’s solidly ahead of the #9 Gang and solidly behind Robby. It turned out to be an easy call, even though he stank up the World Series like few others. A pity, really. It was the only one he ever got into. The only oddity was that WARP1 has him ranked well below this. The other systems pretty much agree that he’s about here. In cases like that. I tend to rank the outlier lower than the consensus. Given my consensus scores in the Hall of Merit, some of you may find that amusing.

9. Roger Maris

So, what’s the “#9 Gang” in the Vada Pinson comment? It’s Roger here, Jim Gentile, Rocky Colavito and Al Kaline. My balancing methods simply could not separate them out. A few people mentioned a 20% adjustment for catchers (the first mention I found was Dan in comment #94 in the Discussion Thread, although I was skimming and someone else may have been first). I think that’s a bit high (Dan seems to have his doubts, too), but I tried it on Elston Howard , and he ended up right smack in the middle of the Gang, too. I’ll be honest. If you took those five names, put them in a hat, and made me draw two out and list them as #9 and #10, I would not complain, no matter who I drew. They are that close in my methods.

Desperate, I picked Roger for #9 because he set a record and, apparently, had to do that while enduring media treatment that nearly drove him insane. Sabermetrically, that’s next to nothing, but this group is so close in my methods that next to nothing will raise you up to Gang Leader. I certainly didn’t give him a bonus for his World Series play, although he wasn’t as bad as poor Vada Pinson.

10. Jim Gentile

I said I was desperate. I picked Gentile for #10 because he is left handed. There are fewer lefties than righties, so maybe the same value is worth more left than right. I don’t know. I was desperate. Also, Gentile has little chance of appearing in any other year’s top ten, while Rocky and Al might. And on top of that, Jim’s rankings are based almost entirely on his bat, whereas Rocky and especially Al and Elston, had defensive value. Right now, sabermetric evaluations of offense are more trustworthy than those for defense. I discarded Elston because I do think that 20% is too much adjustment for catchers. Like I said, put the names in a hat….

Oh, I suppose I should mention where Whitey Ford went to. I had him in my prelim at #10 because I am having a disagreement over in the Hall of Merit with the people who object to my not voting for David Cone and Kevin Brown, when I do vote for Deacon Phillippe and Sam Leever. I’m not voting for them because my methods indicate that the relative value of a pitcher to a position player has declined since the beginnings of pro ball, and has gotten serious. I apparently have modern pitchers, in general, ranked below many other methods. When I found that my system did not have a pitcher in the top ten and maybe not the top 15, I thought that might be a problem with my system. Since then, I have seen several comments and ballots that show that this problem, at least in 1961, is not some idiosyncracy of mine. So I quit using a World Series bonus to force a pitcher into the top ten, and Whitey disappeared, with or without the bonus.

And, since several HoM people are doing this project as well, I want to say this, because it’s the first chance I’ve had: I didn’t vote for Kevin Brown for the HoM last year, but I think the BBWAA vote was just idiotic. If I had been forced to choose between agreeing with those voters and putting Kevin Brown #1 on my ballot, I would have put Brown in at #1. Just didn’t want to get accused of agreeing with that nonsense. My methods aren’t THAT crazy.
   22. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: June 06, 2011 at 12:44 AM (#3846167)
Mostly a c/p from the discussion thread, with one change:

1961 ballot:

1. Mickey Mantle -- easy choice. Just too good at the plate for other factors to water down his advantage.
2. Willie Mays -- League and position differences are enough to move him ahead of Cash for me.
3. Norm Cash
4. Hank Aaron -- Spent more than half the season in center, and played it well by most accounts.
5. Frank Robinson -- League & versatility bonuses move him ahead of . . .
6. Roger Maris
7. Eddie Mathews -- I felt that his offensive advantage was too big to place him behind Boyer.
8. Ken Boyer -- Great player, great season.
9. Vada Pinson -- Defensive & league bonuses move him above other men who had better hitting seasons.
10. Rocky Colavito -- Discussion of his defensive abilities in the other thread changed my mind. Originally I had Elston Howard in this slot, but I reconsidered based on playing time, and people's feeling that I wasn't giving Colavito enough credit, especially as compared to Maris. While I don't accept that Maris was a poor fielder in 1961, I do think I was underrating Colavito's glove.
   23. Howie Menckel Posted: June 06, 2011 at 04:35 PM (#3846556)
1961 ballot

Expansion year in AL, and NOT NL. NLers played a 154-game sked, AL played 162. Plus AL segregation style had nearly all of the best black/Hispanic players in the NL, making it easier for white AL players to dominate categories. I agree that pretending that defensive metrics are completely on par with offensive ones is silly, but certainly I take the numbers under advisement at least as well as factoring in position.

1. MICKEY MANTLE – All caveats factored in, and he just had a monster year. 206 OPS+, CF, 153 games (last time he played more than 144, alas). I don’t think any system could not have him first.
2. WILLIE MAYS – VERY close here, but played a great CF and all 154 games, has just enough of the all-around package.
3. HANK AARON – Played a lot of CF, but I don’t buy him killing Mays in defense in 1961. Played 155 games, would be a very reasonable No. 2 pick.
4. NORM CASH – Funhouse expansion AL stats led by this one, but the value was high of course anyway. Still, he took advantage of a rare situation – he gets the non-expansion league and stands out extra with no Mays-Aaron types to compete against. 1B play beats out lesser-fielding sluggers.
5. EDDIE MATHEWS – Don’t believe he played a great 3B in the field, but at least adequate and that’s a big help to his team. Close, but his usual durability and all-around offense slides him in here.
6. FRANK ROBINSON – What’s not to like about this skillset, which would be closer to the top in other years. 3rd African-American NLer.
7. ROCKY COLAVITO – Needs lots of fielding credit and better be durable (155 G) and gets both to sneak in here.
8. JIM GENTILE – Missed some games and not much help defensively, but a 187 OPS+ can’t be ignored any longer on this ballot.
9. KEN BOYER – Wonderful across-the-board season, his 3rd in a row, really. I agree that he’s right up there with Mathews; it’s amazing how close this ballot is, 2-4 and 5-10.
10. ROGER MARIS – Not quite sold on the defensive dings he’s being hit with, and a 167 OPS+ and plenty durable.

They also served: Pinson, Cepeda, Clemente, Killebrew. Not one pitcher dazzled me this year.
   24. fra paolo Posted: June 06, 2011 at 07:11 PM (#3846704)
Owing to some issues related to non-HoM life, the ballot will be extended until

Wednesday, 8 June, at 4pm (EDT)

Preliminary ballots can therefore be cast today, if someone missed the last deadline.
   25. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: June 06, 2011 at 07:16 PM (#3846713)
I'll post my prelim here, though I think us old-time HoM voters shouldn't need to suffer such indignities, sir! :-)

A Hall of Merit voter since the inaugural election of 1898 and have never missed one in all those years, I hope to continue that tradition as a MMP voter. :-)

My analysis uses Win Shares at its core, though (as with my HoM ballots) I have tweaked it here and there to correct for problems with Bill James' system.

For this year, I am deducting roughly 4% off the numbers of all AL players.

1) Mickey Mantle - So far ahead of the pack that it's silly to consider anybody else at the top of the heap.

2) Norm Cash - Comfortably seated in the #2 spot, expansion year or not (or even cheater or non-cheater).

3) Willie Mays - Looks like the cream of the crop among NL players, though he has serious competition for that honor with Aaron, Mathews and Robinson in the mix.

4) Eddie Mathews - The best NL third baseman of '61 and it's not really close (sorry, Ken).

5) Hank Aaron - Close enough to be the best NL player. Not 100% sure he wasn't.

6) Frank Robinson - Maris' deduction allows Robby to place as the second-best right fielder of that season.

7) Roger Maris - Didn't deserve the AL MVP, but he certainly had a season most players would sell one of their kidneys for.

8) Elston Howard - Third-best Yankee to make it on my ballot. An argument can be made he was even better than Maris.

9) Vada Pinson - For a short time, he truly was a great player.

10) Warren Spahn - Pitchers are so hard to place, but I think I got it right here with Spahnie (barely knocking off Rocky Colavito, FWIW).
   26. fra paolo Posted: June 06, 2011 at 07:38 PM (#3846736)
CORRECTION

That's

Wednesday, 8 June, at 12 noon (EDT)
   27. lieiam Posted: June 07, 2011 at 12:01 AM (#3846992)
Regarding John (YCCMG) Murphy:
I assume this is your final ballot and not your prelim?
   28. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: June 07, 2011 at 12:27 AM (#3847025)
I assume this is your final ballot and not your prelim?


Yes. I should have removed that when I cut-and-pasted my ballot.
   29. bjhanke Posted: June 07, 2011 at 03:21 PM (#3847399)
A quick fix to my Ken Boyer commentary. I have Red Schoendienst traded from the Cardinals to the Braves. That misses the Giants. The Cards traded him to them in mid-56, and the Braves picked him up from the Giants in mid-57. The Braves were loud about calling him the final piece on the pennant puzzle, and were described by the press as desperate when he failed in 1960. - Brock
   30. DL from MN Posted: June 07, 2011 at 07:11 PM (#3847605)
13 voters so far, 4 full prelims in the other thread plus a couple others who had enough discussion of their methods that I'd let them vote (though it isn't up to just me). I think we can all guess who places first.
   31. Al Peterson Posted: June 07, 2011 at 07:21 PM (#3847612)
1961 MMP Final Ballot - like most of the others I'm looking at WAR, WARP, WS, OPS+/ERA+, some traditional stats. I've added some fluff stats to player comments just for general interest.

1) Mickey Mantle - he did alright :) Best year of career for GDP - only 2.
2) Norm Cash - the AL discount brings him back to Aaron/Mays but not below. His .361 average was highest for career, followed by a .286 the year prior.
3) Hank Aaron - burner who finished 4th in the NL in stolen bases
4) Willie Mays - Aaron and Mays may be 3 and 3A, tiebreaker to Hammerin Hank. In 10 games at Milwaukee County Stadium he hit 8 HRs.
5) Frank Robinson - hey, an MVP. How about 3rd in the league in SB to go along with league lead in IBB.
6) Rocky Colavito - what an OF arm. Only 18 of 45 HR's were at Tiger Stadium.
7) Jim Gentile - not a lot of hitting help on the O's team. Love the Orioles 1961 schedule. Started with a 12 game homestand followed by a 17 game roadtrip. Anyone know a reason for being out of B'more for so long?
8) Vada Pinson - Gold Glover hit .395 in Aug, .395 in Sep. That helps win a pennant.
9) Eddie Mathews - debated him vs Boyer, going to lean to Eddie. Hit .351 in day games, .267 in night games.
10) Roger Maris - something about 61 HR...
11) Elston Howard - minor C bonus, had a very good year. 5th of 9 straight All-Star selections.
12) Ken Boyer - how is this for a day. All-Star game #1 in 1961: 0-2 with 2 K's, picked off 1st after he reached base on a walk, 2 errors at third.
13) Don Drysdale - pitchers struggle to make the ballot, none on mine.
14) Orlando Cepeda - HR and RBI crowns for Baby Bull
15) Warren Spahn - spun his 12th 20 Win season at age 40.

Others: Al Kaline, Whitey Ford, Frank Lary, Roberto Clemente, Jim O'Toole
   32. fra paolo Posted: June 08, 2011 at 02:50 AM (#3848141)
1961 MMP Final Ballot
Method: I used Win Shares and BB-ref WAR to make a list. Then I looked at some WPA/LI stuff. Finally, I tweaked the numbers by adjusting the NL numbers up by about 10 per cent on the basis that a difference in quality and length of season worked out to about that much.

1) Mickey Mantle — Even with a league adjustment, he is so much better than anyone else.
2) Norm Cash — On the preliminary, I could see making a case for one of the NL OF greats being #2, but that became less clear as I decided I had been a bit too extreme in my adjustment (originally 16 per cent). Cash still looks good under Win Shares, but his WAR gets beaten easily by any one of Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. However, Cash also has a great WPA/LI tally for the year, and that secured him second place.

The next three I had as level pegging. So I dug a bit deeper into WPA/LI. The key moment for their teams came in the last third of August and the first three weeks of September. And the final tally came out as follows, adding a new name to the list:

3) Hank Aaron — Between 20 August and 19 September, the Braves went 12-18. They had been 8 games out, so had a mountain to climb, but they did not really bother. However, that wasn't Aaron's fault. He was by far the best of this trio at this stage of the season, putting up an OPS of .932 and his WPA/LI adding up to .702.
4) Vada Pinson — In terms of total value for the season, Pinson may seem a bit of a lightweight here (he's two Win Shares behind team-mate Frank Robinson), but during this crucial period he was clutch. The Reds managed 14-11 during 20 Aug-19 Sep, and Pinson's hitting played a much bigger role than Robinson's. He put up a 1.035 OPS. Between 24 August and 6 September, which the Willie Mays' comment will show as a key period to derailing the Giants, Pinson's slash line was 426/446/722, and his WPA/LI .588.
5) Willie Mays — I put Mays ahead of Robinson solely because Mays has a higher WAR total. They are tied on Win Shares. Mays' Giants on 23 August won their third in a row over the Reds, and stood only five games back. A good run could have brought them to the brink of the title. Instead, between 24 August and 6 September they faded badly, going an appalling 2-11 when the Reds managed a pedestrian 7-6. Mays was part of the problem, with a slash line of 212/317/269 and a WPA/LI of -.412.
6) Frank Robinson — Frank Robinson was immensely valuable to his team for the first part of the season, but faded badly in the last few weeks. This cost him three spots on my ballot.
7) Eddie Mathews — He creeps ahead of Roger Maris on league-quality adjustments. Like Aaron, he kept going through the Braves' swoon in late August and early September: 310/401/466, but a meagre .272 WPA/LI
8) Roger Maris — Well, after a doubleheader on 30 July, the Yankees were a game and a half ahead of the Tigers. Maris played 60 more games, and the Yankees went 44-16. Maris added 21 homers, a 933 OPS and a WPA/LI of 2.131. That's Meritorious.

The last two spots saw a battle between Ken Boyer, Rocky Colavito, Orlando Cepeda and Jim Gentile.

9) Ken Boyer — He beats out the opposition through having the highest WAR of them all.
10) Rocky Colavito — Second best in Win Shares, second best in WAR, gets him the last spot. Cepeda has an adjusted Win Shares advantage, but he was even worse than Mays during that 2-11 stretch, going 157/214/314, with -.679 WPA/LI.
   33. Esteban Rivera Posted: June 08, 2011 at 04:16 AM (#3848193)
Thanks for the extension. I just plain forgot about the deadline. Some slight tweaks from my prelim. Here goes my final MMP 1961 ballot:

1) Mickey Mantle
2) Norm Cash
3) Frank Robinson
4) Hank Aaron
5) Willie Mays
6) Roger Maris
7) Rocky Colavito
8) Vada Pinson
9) Eddie Mathews
10) Jim Gentile
11) Elston Howard
12) Ken Boyer
13) Orlando Cepeda
14) Warren Spahn
15) Roberto Clemente
   34. DL from MN Posted: June 08, 2011 at 02:01 PM (#3848318)
Paging Mark Donelson.....
   35. DL from MN Posted: June 08, 2011 at 04:32 PM (#3848483)
The election is closed
   36. Nate the Neptunian Posted: June 08, 2011 at 05:24 PM (#3848532)
16 ballots isn't horrible. I would have liked to have seen 20+, and there were some people who were active in the discussion, or the rules discussion, that didn't post a ballot (OCF, 'zop and DanG, for instance), but it's a start. I suspect as these keep going and it gets into more of a regular event, the participation will increase. That happened for the HOM, it seems like, from seeing the number of ballots cast per year. Though the HOM seemed to hit a ceiling in the low to mid 50s (number of voters, not years) it never broke through and has declined with the (inevitable) move to yearly votes.
   37. DanG Posted: June 08, 2011 at 08:58 PM (#3848686)
Not a terribly compelling race; the #1 and #2 spots were almost preordained.

1962 may not be much better (Say Hey).

The 1962 discussion thread should be rolling by now.
   38. Mark Donelson Posted: June 09, 2011 at 11:45 PM (#3849608)
Sorry, work just killed me this week, never got back to post again. Shouldn't be a common thing, just a strange confluence of things. Sorry about that.
   39. Howie Menckel Posted: June 10, 2011 at 12:44 AM (#3849640)
results? not sure who got saddled with that

:)
   40. ronw Posted: July 15, 2011 at 05:37 PM (#3878428)
1961 ballot for fun, I know it doesn't count.

1. Mickey Mantle
2. Norm Cash
3. Willie Mays
4. Hank Aaron
5. Frank Robinson
6. Ken Boyer
7. Al Kaline
8. Vada Pinson
9. Eddie Mathews
10. Roger Maris

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