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Hall of Merit
— A Look at Baseball's All-Time Best

Friday, July 11, 2003

Stovey and Browning

The two best hitters of the AA, how much do we discount them?

I think the AA was kind of like the USFL. The USFL had Jim Kelly, Herschel Walker and a few other legit stars (although they were young), and some decent retreads like Brian Sipe, but it wasn’t anywhere near the NFL, yet it was a major league, better than what we’d call AAA and they had really good players. Look at the AFL in the early years, it took them quite awhile before they were able to be truly competitive with the NFL. Even to this day, the AFL squads have won just 10 of 36 Super Bowls (28%), despite making up 38% of the teams from before the merger (not counting TB’s win, which is the only one from a post-1970 expansion team). Almost all of the really big stars were in the NFL/NL. It’s an interesting debate.

Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: July 11, 2003 at 04:08 PM | 177 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. OCF Posted: July 11, 2003 at 06:54 PM (#515543)
Many of the players we're talking about on this and the adjacent threads were active in 1890. Both Stovey and Browning were in the PL that year. For 1890, how should we think of the relative strengths of the NL, AA, and PL? No modern football analogy is likely to work here - we've never seen anything quite like it in our lifetimes. Anyone?
   2. User unknown in local recipient table (Craig B) Posted: July 11, 2003 at 07:42 PM (#515544)
Look at the AFL in the early years, it took them quite awhile before they were able to be truly competitive with the NFL. Even to this day, the AFL squads have won just 10 of 36 Super Bowls (28%), despite making up 38% of the teams from before the merger (not counting TB's win, which is the only one from a post-1970 expansion team). Almost all of the really big stars were in the NFL/NL.

The NFL had the better markets.
   3. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 12, 2003 at 03:48 PM (#515546)
OCF -- I'd rank them PL, NL, AA . . .

Without a doubt.
   4. Marc Posted: July 12, 2003 at 04:56 PM (#515547)
Among those whose position was "hitter:"

1. Sam Thompson 146 OPS+ in 6500 "PA" (not really PA but AB+BB), peaks in 170s and 180s. MVP for Detroit's pennant winning team 1887, and a team by the way that went from laughingstock to champion in about 4 years with Sam as the cornerstone. Clean up for the best hitting OF in ML history. Made a mark.

2. Pete Browning 164 OPS+ in 5300 not-PA. Even with AA discount this is a big big hitter. Peaks >200.

3. Cal McVey, who is the answer to the question "which of these is not like the others?" He was more than a "hitter," as you know, played key defensive positions, yet is still the #3 hitter in this group. Maybe moves ahead of Browning (heck, maybe Thompson too) considering his defensive value.

4. Harry Stovey 141 OPS+ in 6850 not-PA. How can a 141 in the AA be better than Thompson's 146 in the NL in a mere 375 extra not-PA?

5. Dave Orr massive peak, short short career 3400 not-PA. 162 OPS+, 3 years 185+, but just 5 really productive seasons.

6. Charley Jones ditto--OK not as massive a peak (182) but a little longer career. Overall 150 OPS+ with 8 productive years.

7. Mike Tiernan career 138, peak = 2 years in 150s and 160s out of 7 pretty productive seasons. You'd want a longer career from a "hitter" at 138, I think. Seriously Thompson slugged .505, Tiernan .463. Not a good comp.

8. Tip O'Neill OPS+ 140 with just 5 truly productive seasons. One year at 205 but nothing more much over 150.

The idea that Sam Thompson had a short career misses the fact that there is no other "hitter" on the board today who did. We should apply the demand for a long career to all of these guys or forget about it.
   5. OCF Posted: July 13, 2003 at 05:58 AM (#515549)
Both Browning and Stovey played "hitter" - they both played all over the outfield and at 1B, but their value was mostly offensive. Browning has an advantage in OPS+, but:
   6. Brent Posted: January 29, 2007 at 04:51 AM (#2287886)
The Estimating league quality thread provides estimates of the AA-to-NL conversion factors for batters during 1882-89. Using these factors to convert Browning’s AA record to the NL equivalent, the following table presents his actual record and the estimate of what he would have hit had he played in the NL.

Year Age Tm     Lg   PA Relative to Lg   Relative to NL
                         OBP
SLGOPS+  OBPSLGOPS+
1882 21 LOU     AA  314  159  163  222   131  123  153
1883 22 LOU     AA  381  136  141  177   119  125  143
1884 23 LOU     AA  462  128  144  173   111  120  131
1885 24 LOU     AA  506  132  157  190   118  134  152
1886 25 LOU     AA  504  123  131  154   120  124  144
1887 26 LOU     AA  610  134  143  177   131  137  168
1888 27 LOU     AA  424  127  136  163   118  120  139
1889 28 LOU     AA  358   97  101   98    94   96   90
1890 29 CLE     PL  571  132  137  169   132  137  169
1891 30 PIT
/CIN NL  473  119  120  138   119  120  138
1892 31 CIN
/LOU NL  436  117  115  132   117  115  132
1893 32 LOU     NL  266  132  119  151   132  119  151
1894 33 STL
/BRO NL   10  104   75   80   104   75   80
Total              5315  127  135  162   121  124  145 
   7. DavidFoss Posted: July 27, 2007 at 07:43 PM (#2457914)
Hardball Times Article on baseball's first "100 HR Man":

Harry Stovey at HardballTimes
   8. DanG Posted: August 03, 2007 at 02:02 PM (#2469000)
Titanic Disaster or DanG Contemplating a Bust of HoMer

“I'm sorry that I didn't build you a stronger ship, young Rose.” - Thomas Andrews, Chief Architect, Titanic
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A sampling of 18 comments from the 2002 Ballot thread:

55) Pete Browning - A superior masher, but a horrible person to have on your team. No defensive value whatsoever and very very poor durability.

43) Pete Browning - crappy defender

53. Browning

Pete Browning Brent/Daryn’s AA projections show he wasn’t a historic hitter, and he also had some playing time issues. Basically confirms what I’ve believed for a while: excellent hitter, mediocre defence, injury problems, same resume’ as a number of other OFers.

42-PETE BROWNING: When you think about it, he's equivalent to a poor-fielding, short career corner outfielder with a 140ish OPS+. His peak is still good, but he needs more.

Pete Browning - would be by far our biggest mistake. Hack Wilson would be an equivalent electee. Please don't do this.

Pete Browning – cover up his seasons before age 25, when he was in a very weak AA, and he looks like Babe Herman. Do we want to elect a guy based on dominating a minor league? Van Haltren had as good an offensive career from age 25 on, and was better with the glove.

Browning—after his great season in the 1890 PL at age 29, not much. Not in my top 100.

His position and era are well-represented, and I’m not entirely convinced that he’s outstanding enough to move up.

Pete Browning: In my PHOM (’27), and I now think that was a mistake (Beckley wasn’t). Monster hitter, monstrous on defense. That he was dominant despite in-season durability problems says quite a bit about the league.

Not voting for …, Pete Browning (around 100th),

When you adjust Browning for league quality, you get a guy with a mid 140's OPS+ and roughly 9-plus years of playing time with limited defensive value. I have him somewhere between 45 and 60th.

Pete Browning: see recent entry on Browning thread for translated stats giving him an estimated 145 OPS+. Like Hack Wilson with the bat, not durable, terrible defense, terrible baserunner. His election will be viewed as the HoM's biggest mistake.

…his eye-popping years were all in the weakest major leagues of all time (excepting the UA), he was not an asset on defense, he was not durable within seasons, and his career was short. He is not near my top 50 eligibles. My system sees him as having a case similar to Frank Howard and Rocky Colavito. They have arguments, but they are nevertheless clearly on the outside looking in…The only two choices we have made that I see as clear “mistakes” are Bill Terry and Sam Thompson, with Thompson being the bigger of the two. Browning is distinctly less qualified than Thompson. All three players were overrated, I think, because they have very gaudy batting statistics that aren’t as meritorious as they appear.

…I have to say I favor his election less than anyone who has previously been on the cusp of induction.

Pete Browning—I have voted for him in the past, but right now I’ve got him falling farther and farther behind the real ballot contenders.

Looking at 1888-89 and 1891-92, clearly Browning's 1890 was a fluke year, meaning it should not be used as an indicator of the general quality of his play nor of the league that year.

PETE BROWNING, …Much better hitter than any eligible outfielder, but only around 6th best CF in 30 year period.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Hall of Merit is a titanic achievement, a groundbreaking endeavor in the quest to “get it right” in discerning players’ worthiness for immortality. As one of its chief architects, I know its workings as well as anyone. In mid voyage the potential for disaster came to my realization. I tried to warn others to slow down, and adopt prudent precautions, but it fell on deaf ears. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” Now, the Good Ship HoM has collided with an iceberg named Pete Browning and is foundering. Like Mr. Andrews, I am left in my despair, offering only this wistful apology to my fellows: I'm sorry that I didn't build you a stronger ship.

When a Randolph or Stieb is elected with low ballot support, there is little outcry because they’re not very far off the ballots of their non-supporters. OTOH, a player like Browning, nowhere near the ballot of most of his non-supporters, simply cannot be accurately measured by our system. The original design never anticipated this maelstrom of 50 different player evaluation systems coming to such widely divergent conclusions on a player’s value.

After initial enthusiasm for his candidacy, by the 1920’s he had sunken to the nether regions of the backlog. For more than six decades, Browning lurked harmlessly beneath the surface. About a dozen staunch supporters kept the flame alive. In the late 1980’s, during a severe “candidate gap” from 1984-88, he began accruing mass and started a surge to the top which now has him on the cusp of election.

From my point of view, the stalwart Browning advocates have systems that are, in some way(s), not properly calibrated. There appears to be three primary maladies: 1) An overemphasis on offense; 2) An overemphasis on peak years; 3) Insufficient discounting of early AA performance. Minor effects include overemphasis on batting average and overemphasis on his 1890 performance.

The BFOPB includes these voters:
 2002   1972   1942
Rick A.  2   3   2
Got Melky?  2
Sean Gilman 3   2   1
Esteban Rivera 3   3   3
Ronw  3   4
mulder & scully3   4   3
Howie Menckel  4   12
Adam Schafer   4
'zop  5
Mark Donelson  6
Karlmagnus  7   6   5
Yest  8  10   7


The EOPB includes these voters: rawagman, DL from MN, AJM, favre, Juan V, Joe Dimino, TomH, DanG, Jim Sp, Don F, Rob Wood, Andrew siegel, EricC, Chris Cobb, Andrew M, and Thane of Bagarth.

This little screed will likely bring out his defenders in force. Good. His case should have a final airing before he gets his plaque.
   9. DanG Posted: August 03, 2007 at 02:03 PM (#2469002)
2002   1972   1942
Rick A
.  2   3   2
Got Melky
?  2
Sean Gilman 3   2   1
Esteban Rivera 3   3   3
Ronw  3   4
mulder 
scully3   4   3
Howie Menckel  4   12
Adam Schafer   4
'zop  5
Mark Donelson  6
Karlmagnus  7   6   5
Yest  8  10   7 
   10. sunnyday2 Posted: August 03, 2007 at 02:18 PM (#2469011)
>When a Randolph or Stieb is elected with low ballot support, there is little outcry

Here's the alternative take. When a Randolph or a Stieb is elected, there is little outcry because 1) there is no time and 2) their particular weaknesses have barely been presented, discussed, understood. In the elect 3 era, there's no guantlet to run, borderliners/backloggers get elected quickly, and it's all over with.

The borderliners/backloggers of yore ran a hell of a gauntlet. Pete Browning has been running it for 100 years. His faults are well known and discussed. Ditto the Dickey Pearces and Bob Caruthers and Lip Pikes and even the Elmer Flicks of days gone by. When we elected 1 or 2, worthy candidates always had another chance, but they got raked over the coals again and again and again.

Just because Browning's weaknesses are better understood doesn't make them more significant than those of modern borderliners/backloggers.

I'm not one to say that this or that pick is a mistake, that would be disrespectful of people who honestly and in good faith support them. I will only say that I didn't happen to support some guys--long-career pitchers mostly but also long-career players generally who had no obvious peak. A certain recent choice who played 2B comes to mind. Mistake? How the hell would I know. Did I support him/them? No.

But if there's a mistake that's been made in this process, I would guess that it was that we have ever had an elect 3 format. In hindsight I would elect 2 and then have a mechanism to elect a third if and only if they reach some threshhold like 50 percent support. That would of course almost surely DQ Pete Browning, whom I support. But I would rathered to have erred on the side of "out" than of "in."

All of that said, it is especially galling to be told that it is a mistake to support somebody who has been discussed for 100 years and about whom much is known. I would say the average voter here knows more about Pete Browning than about Willie Randolph or Kirby Puckett.
   11. DanG Posted: August 03, 2007 at 02:52 PM (#2469040)
But if there's a mistake that's been made in this process, I would guess that it was that we have ever had an elect 3 format. In hindsight I would elect 2 and then have a mechanism to elect a third if and only if they reach some threshhold like 50 percent support.

Good point.

it is especially galling to be told that it is a mistake to support somebody who has been discussed for 100 years
Well, Browning hasn't really been continually discussed for that entire time. Most voters made up their minds on him 80 years ago and haven't given it much thought recently.

The point of the article is our system can't place him accurately. All we can do is ask his supporters to consider how he's viewed by his detractors. To try and see where this "biggest mistake" stuff is coming from. To how his election could detract from the institution. That the great divergence of opinion might give them pause. That if there is any doubt to leave him just off your ballot rather than just on the end of it. Remember, once we elect a guy we're stuck with him forever.
   12. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: August 03, 2007 at 03:18 PM (#2469069)
DanG--

As a Browning supporter, in order:

1. Overemphasis on offense? Well, none of us know what the "true" standard deviation of outfield FRAA was in the 1880's. According to BP, Browning's defense was about -6 runs per 162 games, negating 8-9% of his offensive value above average. DanG, do you have any compelling evidence to suggest that Browning's fielding hurt his teams by substantially more than that amount? If so, speak now or forever hold your peace.

2. Overemphasis on peak years? That's a matter of voter preference, isn't it? I could just as easily say you don't value peak years enough. That said, I don't see much of an argument that Browning is pushing some new frontier of peak-heaviness. He's got about 11 years in the majors as an above-average player, which is far more than the "pure" peak candidates (Jennings, Kiner, Koufax etc.) can say. Browning has just as much appeal to the prime voter, who would see him as consistently one of the premier hitters of the 1880's, than to the peak voter only looking at his MVP-caliber seasons.

3. Insufficient discounting of early AA performance? I don't think there's anyone in this group who doesn't take a big bite out of his 1882, a slightly smaller chunk out of the '83, a piece of '84, and a nudge off '85-'87. But Browning doesn't *need* this "greatness can't take full advantage of weaker competition" argument. In fact, Browning (along with Fred Dunlap) is the best *counter*example to that idea--when faced with weak competition, he didn't just take advantage of it, he obliterated it. Browning's 1882 is, by BP WARP1, 69 BRAA + FRAA in 69 games. At second base. Think about that--that's INSANE. One BP run above average per game is like Ruth '20-'23 level, and the Babe was no middle infielder.

Now, of course BP's fielding metrics are unreliable for that era. But the point is that virtually no matter how much you discount it, the performance was so dominating that it's a monster season in any league. Look, Browning played in 69 of 79 games, so 69*162/79 = 141 BP RAA in a 162-game season. Replacement 2B (real replacement 2B, not goofy BP/WS rep level) were about 2 wins below average per 162 games in the 1890s--I haven't calculated it for the 1880's, so I'll use 2. 2*10*69/79 means that a replacement 2B would be a further 17 runs below average in Browning's playing time, making him 158 runs, or nearly 16 wins, above replacement per 162 games. If SIXTEEN WINS ABOVE REPLACEMENT isn't taking advantage of weak competition, I don't know what is. OK, how much do you want to deduct from that? AAA is supposed to be 15% weaker than MLB, I think the 1882 AA was more like a double-A level, so you want to say 30%? 35? Let's go with a 40 percent discount for that season, which is harsh by any measure. That still leaves him with 9.6 wins above replacement for 1882. Real wins, not BP rep level-inflated wins. That's one of the top 20 2B seasons in history, behind a bunch of Morgans, Collins, Hornsbys, and Lajoies--it's about as valuable as Rogers Hornsby's 1925.

The same is true, to a lesser extent, of Browning's '83 and '84. By 1885 the AA is already approaching the NL in difficulty level, and Browning rings 73 BP RAA in a 112-game season, or 106 RAA in a 162-game season, plus 1.5 wins for CF rep level, is about twelve wins above replacement. How much do you want to dock the 1885 AA? 20%? Seems steep to me, but OK, 20%. Then 1885 is another 9.6 wins above replacement, which at CF is the same level as Mays in 1955 or DiMaggio in 1941--the greatest years of some inner, inner circle Hall of Meriters.

The point is, it's not that Browning's backers (at least not this one) "forget" to penalize him for playing in the weaker league. It's that he made that weaker league his #####, and virtually no matter how big of a bite you take out of it, he shows up as a Grade A NL-translated superstar.
   13. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: August 03, 2007 at 03:20 PM (#2469072)
Wow, I typed b-!-t-c-h and it still bleeped it out. There must be some Enemy of Pete Browning controlling BTF's profanity filter.
   14. Mark Donelson Posted: August 03, 2007 at 03:28 PM (#2469080)
From my point of view, the stalwart Browning advocates have systems that are, in some way(s), not properly calibrated.

Well, duh. From our point of view, yours is, in some ways, not properly calibrated. You know—we disagree.

There appears to be three primary maladies: 1) An overemphasis on offense; 2) An overemphasis on peak years; 3) Insufficient discounting of early AA performance. Minor effects include overemphasis on batting average and overemphasis on his 1890 performance.

1) This would seem to be dependent on your following #3. That is, if we are discounting the AA performance enough as things stand, his offense remains so strong that, rather obviously, we don't think we're overemphasizing it.

2) Well, I'm a peak voter, so this goes back to your "not properly calibrated" comment. I imagine you didn't support Hughie Jennings or Dobie Moore, either. (Maybe I'm wrong there.) Peak is no longer the be-all end-all for me these days, but I still value a dominant one, all on its lonesome, quite a lot. Dizzy Dean is high on my ballot, after all.

Up to this point, we're really just talking about differences in philosophy. You don't like Browning; I didn't like Beckley. Or Randolph, for that matter.

3) This, however, would appear to be the heart of the matter. If you're right here, Browning would drop significantly, even in my system. If you're wrong, he deserves his place on my ballot (given my philosophy).

And we've been over and over this, but I've looked at the numbers again. I'm comfortable with my opinion that Browning would in fact have been a dominant player in any league in his prime. I of course discount his AA numbers immensely, but I think that still leaves him with plenty to offer a peak voter.

I probably should only speak for myself, but I'd say if you really want to convince those of us who have been voting for Browning not to do so, you need to address point 3, pretty much exclusively. Why do you feel we're not discounting the AA seasons enough? Just because you feel that Browning's obviously not worthy, so if we were, we'd reach the same sensible conclusion you did? Or is there something more specific you can point to here? Because as far as I know, I'm looking at the same numbers you are, both the raw ones and the estimates of how inferior each year of the AA was.

But really--if you like, break it down. Take Browning's OPS+ and WS and WARP numbers, or any of them, for each year, and show me how you'd discount each of them. I'm open to be convinced, but that's how you're going to convince me, not just by telling me you think my system isn't properly calibrated. Because frankly, I knew that already.

I'd like to hear Dan R and 'zop chime on on Browning, as well, since their systems seem significantly more thought out than mine and yet they, too, support Browning. (I think Dan R does, anyway? I'm sure about 'zop.)

Also, not that it matters a ton, but on the "estimating league quality" thread, Brent revised the above numbers after some methodology questions, resulting in a slight bump for Browning's OPS+, up to 147. For some reason that never got cross-posted over here.

All we can do is ask his supporters to consider how he's viewed by his detractors. To try and see where this "biggest mistake" stuff is coming from.

I do see where it's coming from. I disagree. I'm not voting for him by accident, you know.

To how his election could detract from the institution.

Oh, please.
   15. Mark Donelson Posted: August 03, 2007 at 03:29 PM (#2469081)
Ah, I see Dan R is already here. :)
   16. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: August 03, 2007 at 03:38 PM (#2469083)
Also, DanG, I really don't appreciate your saying that my system is "not properly calibrated," or that the election of a candidate I strongly support would "detract from the institution." You know what? I think *you* "detract from the institution." I think your "system" is s-h-!-t. I would probably puke if we elected half the guys on your ballot--any institution including Tony Pérez and Rusty Staub would be a Hall of Mediocrity in my book. And no, the fact that Pérez happens to have the second-most total bases by a first baseman between 1949 and 1998, or that Staub had the eighth-highest OBP among players with 3,500 plate appearances between 1967 and 1976, as you ever-so-helpfully include on your ballot, doesn't sway me one bit. I mean, are you F-ing kidding me? Where the hell do you unearth these pseudo-statistics? If I told you that David Concepción had the most triples by a National League shortstop under a full moon between the 1974 and 1977 All-Star breaks, would that get him onto your ballot?

But I don't say a word about your system being "not properly calibrated," because this project demands that I respect the opinions, analysis, and ballots of people who seem to me to be complete morons. And I'm more than happy to do so. It would be nice if you offered the rest of the group the same respect--particularly since more of us support Browning than any other backlog candidate.

PS--is DanG's plea for Browning supporters to leave him off the end of their ballots constitutional? Just checking.
   17. DanG Posted: August 03, 2007 at 03:51 PM (#2469086)
1. According to BP

I'm very skeptical they have an accurate handle on defense in this era.
of course BP's fielding metrics are unreliable for that era.

Which you agree with.
2. Overemphasis on peak years? That's a matter of voter preference, isn't it?

There has been quantitative analysis that peak years are not as extra-valuable to teams as is often believed.
3. "greatness can't take full advantage of weaker competition" argument. In fact, Browning (along with Fred Dunlap) is the best *counter*example to that idea

Right. I think there are good reasons to believe the "greatness can take extra advantage of weaker competition" argument.
he shows up as a Grade A NL-translated superstar.

Solely as a hitter. And only 73.1 career WARP3, reaching 8.0 in only three years.
I imagine you didn't support Hughie Jennings or Dobie Moore,

Actually, I did. They had really great peaks in really major leagues.
   18. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 03, 2007 at 03:58 PM (#2469089)
Just my opinion. My system loves Pete Browning as much as it can without putting him over the in/out line. My system makes very few adjustments for QoP, and that's the biggest issue here. In reality, I think the Hack Wilson comparison is apt. Wilson's not far off, but he's on the wrong side of the line for me. Puckett is in some ways an interesting comparison: more defense, less batting, more durability, same basic type of candidate (prime-oriented OF) with same essential level of electability in my system. Wally Berger and Dale Murphy are two others whom he is probably closer to (that is below where my system currently ranks him) whose careers are a reasonable point of comparison.

Hey, let's line 'em up, huh? Everyone's Best->>>-worst OPS+ (min 250 PA or equivalent for short seasons), but with the above translations substituted for the bb-ref ones in Pete's case. The number on the other side of the slash is his career 162eqPAs.
PB (145/7050169 168 153 152 151 144 143 139 138 132 131 90
HW 
(144/5833178 160 158 155 151 141 130 117 112 104  92
WB 
(138/5946172 147 144 142 140 137 131 128 120 107
KP 
(129/8115152 140 138 132 132 131 129 120 119 118  91 79  
DM 
(121/9259156 151 150 149 142 135 120 113 105 103 100 98 88 80   
LEADER   HW  PB  HW  HW W
/B  PB  PB  PB  PB  PB  PB DM .. .. 


So here Browning looks like a winner with Hack second.

Pete's got some durability on his side over Wilson or Berger, but he's well behind Kirby and Murphy. That said, given his chronic condition, I'm skeptical that a straight-line proration is as accurate as it would be for virtually any other player.

Pete's defense is wicked bad. How do the other guys stack up? Here's the career FRAA of our quintet
FRAA1   SCALED TO EQ PA   FRAA3   
-----------------------------------
PB -42 -56  -82   
HW 
-82 -86  -81  
WB 
-59 -62  -53  
KP 
+48 +50  +46  
DM 
-24 -25  -19 


Make of the BP fielding numbers what you choose. They suggest that either Wilson's by far the worst defender, or else he and Browning are both equally rotten (adjusted for BP's quality and sked factors).

Puckett's got ten to 13 wins ABOVE AVERAGE on Browning on defense. Wow. That's how he draws even with Browning's tremendous offensive advantage (and passes Wilson when durability is accounted for). Think about that. That means his defense is probably worth something like two to four seasons' worth of top 10-15 batting RCAA in Puckett's leagues. Even Murph's got 3 to 6 wins on D. Berger, our third-place finisher in OPS+ above, nets a few wins on Wilson and maybe on Browning too.

But here's the trick for me. None of these guys is above my in/out line. I'm not voting for any of them. I used to vote for Browning back before my overhaul, now I don't. And this analysis helps buttress that POV. If I'm not sure Browning can claw his way out of this thicket of prime-oriented borderliners that I don't see above the line, he's not a good candidate for my vote.
   19. Juan V Posted: August 03, 2007 at 04:09 PM (#2469103)
Words of an enemy of Pete Browning:

I wouldn't think he would be our biggest "mistake" or anything like that. Recently we elected a guy who I liked even less (Nellie Fox), and they are both well over the lowest ranked HOMer on my system (Max Carey).

As my ballot comment say, I think he has a nice peak. I can even understand the arguments his friends make. It's just that the AA discount takes him from "With a peak like this, who cares about career?" to "The peak is good, maybe even HOMable, but by itself isn't enough".

And while the "Player X would be our biggest mistake" comments could be interpreted as a deliberate attempt to spark more debate on a backlogger about to make it in, I would trust that all of our systems are properly calibrated to each voter's interpretation of Merit. The result is a Hall that is about to induct Pete Browning.

Although, could his friends just take another look at Cravath? Or Charley Jones? Pretty please?
   20. sunnyday2 Posted: August 03, 2007 at 04:11 PM (#2469107)
>To try and see where this "biggest mistake" stuff is coming from. To how his election could detract from the institution. That the great divergence of opinion might give them pause. That if there is any doubt to leave him just off your ballot rather than just on the end of it. Remember, once we elect a guy we're stuck with him forever.

No disagreement.

I'm just saying that at least with Browning we know there's a divergence of opinion and why, how much that affects anybody's ballot is anybody's guess. But when we elect a modern borderliner on the first or second ballot, we have no clue about any of that.
   21. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: August 03, 2007 at 04:12 PM (#2469109)
1. OK, but if you want to argue that Browning was -30 with the glove every year, you have to show some evidence!
2. You're looking at Gassko's Pennants Added study; I'm looking at Wolverton's. We can debate their methodologies if you'd like. That said, I don't consider Browning a pure peak candidate--he was a great player for a whole decade.
3. OK, and are you suggesting that Browning *didn't* take extra advantage of weaker competition in the early AA? He was Babe Ruth against those guys!
4. No, he shows up as a Grade A NL-translated superstar adding his offense and the uberstats' take on his defense. In fact, his NL-translated offense is so superb that he would have to be a *historically* poor defender--worse than Frank Howard or Greg Luzinski, like -25-30 per season--to not meet our established standards of induction. As a matter of fact, I'm not sure if it's even possible for him to have been a bad enough fielder to disqualify him, given the number of chances outfielders got in those days, but I'll have to double-check that.
5. Oh, now all of a sudden we're using BP numbers. Besides the fact that WARP3 doesn't straight-line adjust for season length, which gyps all short-season guys, its league quality adjustment is so opaque and gives such strange results that I myself haven't found it particularly useful. Some guys from 1887, the peak of the AA's strength, lose 27% of their value above average in the translation, while others lose over 60%. Until someone can explain to me what in God's name BP is doing and why it makes sense, I prefer to use the simple season-adjusted numbers and then make my own adjustments for difficulty and season length.
   22. sunnyday2 Posted: August 03, 2007 at 04:13 PM (#2469112)
>There has been quantitative analysis that peak years are not as extra-valuable to teams as is often believed.

Of course, this is the Hall of Merit, not the Hall of Value. I happen to prefer to elect players who are great players at some time or place, who concentrate that value a little more, maybe, even if the total value over the entire career is not so great. IOW merit is more analogous to greatness than to "mere" or "raw" value. No way that's unconstitutional.
   23. Willie Mays Hayes Posted: August 03, 2007 at 04:15 PM (#2469114)
Juan,

No credit for Browning's prime? The peak is phenomenal, but the prime is nearly as good.

I see Browning as a rich man's Edd Roush with the bat. That, to me, indicates he's above the in/out line.
   24. sunnyday2 Posted: August 03, 2007 at 04:17 PM (#2469118)
>Although, could his friends just take another look at Cravath? Or Charley Jones?

Or Frank Howard or Orlando Cepeda for that matter. No question there's lots of hitters who look like Pete Browning. That's why they're in the backlog. The idea that a backlogger should dominate his competition is an oxymoron.
   25. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: August 03, 2007 at 04:18 PM (#2469121)
I vote for Jones ahead of Browning, precisely due to more time spent in the tougher league and better defense. Cravath just doesn't do it for me--I give him full minor league credit starting in 1906, and he still isn't there. His defense looks *much* worse than Browning's to me, he wasn't a star hitter for nearly as long (5 years in the majors and one in the minors), and he was never the offensive beast that Browning was, or really close to it. Plus I suspect the difference in quality between the teens AL and NL was bigger than the difference in quality between the 1885-87 AA and NL! Although I don't actually incorporate that into my voting.
   26. Juan V Posted: August 03, 2007 at 04:19 PM (#2469122)
Peak... Prime... I sometimes get my terms mixed up :-)
   27. Juan V Posted: August 03, 2007 at 04:24 PM (#2469130)
Actually, looking at it, Browning seems to have had 8 really good seasons. That straddles the difference between a peak and a prime, for me.
   28. OCF Posted: August 03, 2007 at 04:39 PM (#2469149)
One problem with evaluating 1870's-1880's base ball is that events directly attributed to hitters (H, XBH, BB, SB) do not account that well for run scoring. Becuase of deficient (gloveless) defense, many more runs scored than you'd think looking only at individual offensive statistics. One of the ways I compensated, way back when all of these guys were on the front burner, was to look at individual runs scored. And yes, that is subject to lineup effects - I'm not suggesting that we induct Abner Dalrymple. But I wound up deciding that Stovey's individual runs scored totals were extraordinary, while Browning's were not - and that's part of why, long ago, I supported Stovey and not Browning.

At this point, my favorite 19th century outfielder is Van Haltren. Yes, I know he's not Hamilton, Burkett, or Delahanty, or even Kelley or Keeler, but the 1890's NL was a tough league. I don't vote for Duffy, but I don't thumb my nose at Duffy supporters either, and I'm aware of having "lost" Ryan somewhere in there. I think any of GVH, Duffy, or Ryan would have been better than Sam Thompson, but I think Thompson - whose election I didn't support - was properly ranked ahead of Browning.
   29. DanG Posted: August 03, 2007 at 04:50 PM (#2469159)
Of course, this is the Hall of Merit, not the Hall of Value. I happen to prefer to elect players who are great players at some time or place, who concentrate that value a little more, maybe, even if the total value over the entire career is not so great. IOW merit is more analogous to greatness than to "mere" or "raw" value. No way that's unconstitutional.

This is an important point, maybe you can clarify. How does a player gain Merit, by accruing value or by being "great"? What is greatness if it's not having value?

I say that the Hall of Merit is all about value. What value? Beyond average? No, then you’re ignoring some of a player’s real value. It’s value beyond the level of Freely Available Talent or Replacement Level. Yes, that's an intangible, but there seems to be general agreement about what it means.

It comes back to the old issue: Peak-centered voters are claiming extra value is accrued by having Big Seasons. Can someone please show me this adds great value to a player, such that a player with a great peak and, say, 73 WARP3 can be more value than a player with a good peak and 88 WARP3? (OK, yeah, I think a Browning-Van Haltren comparison could be very useful.)

Or if peak-centered voters are not claiming that Big Seasons add extra value, then their Merit stems from a perception of greatness and not a measure of value, right? And that's constitutional? Maybe, maybe not; but is it logical?
   30. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: August 03, 2007 at 04:52 PM (#2469160)
Whatever you think of Browning, I seriously doubt the average person persusing the HoM is going to look at him as a serious mistake, as we do with Kelly, Marquard, etc. in Cooperstown. If you like prime (and I do), he has to be a strong candidate.

BTW, as long as Browning, Bresnahan or Jones go in this year, that's all I care about. :-)
   31. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: August 03, 2007 at 04:55 PM (#2469163)
Peak-centered, prime-centered and career-centered systems are all constitutional. This shouldn't even be arguable after 105 elections. In fact, if there had been some sort of restriction in that department, I doubt I would be here today.
   32. Sean Gilman Posted: August 03, 2007 at 05:00 PM (#2469168)
Aside from Browning, those Louisville teams were pretty bad. I imagine the lineup effect on his runs scored would be pretty large.
   33. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: August 03, 2007 at 05:00 PM (#2469169)
DanG, if this is just going to devolve into peak vs. career, just look up Michael Wolverton's piece on Pennants Added in the 2002 BP annual. He goes through all the math to show why 10 + 0 wins more pennants than 5 + 5. Moreover, read Nate Silver's piece on Cristian Guzman (look it up on BP) to see the legitimate statistical and economic reasons why teams today pay far more to one player producing 6 WARP than they do to two players producing three each.

That said, again, I don't see Browning as a pure peak candidate by any stretch, nor do I think he needs some Pennants Added bonus to justify his induction. If you use a real FAT/replacement level--not the goofy low BP/WS ones (Clay Davenport himself says that BP's replacement level is around an AA level of performance, and WS's is even lower)--then you'll see that a lot of what you're calling value for guys like Van Haltren (or Pérez, or Staub) is not really value, because it's below replacement, strengthening the relative credentials of guys who produced at higher rates like Browning or McGraw. I'm not going to say again that your ballot is "not properly calibrated," but if you are actually interested in objectively determining empirical value above replacement, I'd refer you to Nate Silver's study of Freely Available Talent, which shows the average production (summing offense and defense) of major leaguers over age 27 earning less than twice the minimum salary at every position (and to my WARP system which uses his findings as the basis for its replacement level). I suspect that if you "recalibrate" your system to reflect the true MLB replacement level rather than the 1899 Spiders level (BP) or the 52% of average "background" level of Win Shares, you'll see guys like Pérez, Staub, and Dawson fall off your ballot in a hurry.
   34. Mark Donelson Posted: August 03, 2007 at 05:06 PM (#2469178)
Although, could his friends just take another look at Cravath? Or Charley Jones? Pretty please?

I have all three on my ballot. I aim to please. :)
   35. Mark Donelson Posted: August 03, 2007 at 05:10 PM (#2469183)
I say that the Hall of Merit is all about value. What value? Beyond average? No, then you’re ignoring some of a player’s real value. It’s value beyond the level of Freely Available Talent or Replacement Level. Yes, that's an intangible, but there seems to be general agreement about what it means.

I think nearly everything you say here would be disputed by at least a significant minority of the electorate. (Maybe differently composed minorities for each sentence!)
   36. sunnyday2 Posted: August 03, 2007 at 05:14 PM (#2469188)
>hat is greatness if it's not having value?

Greatness is being the best player on your team and/or the best player on the field. It is having the most value at a given time (in a given season, over a given period of three seasons). It is having a peak, basically.

My point in saying so is in response to the notion that pennants added debunks this. Well, if career value is your holy grail then of course it debunks this. So to put it another way, it would be a question of who has the best 3 year peak on pennants added, since even PAs are accrued on an annual basis.

I'm just saying that the preference for career value, whether measured in WS, or WARPies, or PAs, or OPS+ for that matter, is a preference, not a requirement, and I prefer to look at the shape of the career, and especially at the top of the curve.
   37. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 03, 2007 at 05:16 PM (#2469189)
But why another OF and not Bresnahan? I'm not especially partial to any of Bres., Cravath, Jones, Browning (some are over my line, some aren't, all are very, very close to it), but IIRC in a thread a couple weeks ago, someone pointed out that we've got corner OFs aplenty. Are corners really that good? Or are we becoming less sensitive to positional differences among older backloggers? I'm not saying Bresnahan's a lot better or necessarily actually better than the corners, but he's better at HIS position than the other guys rank at theirs in large part because good-hitting catchers were scarce in the early 1900s. (And it's possible that his positional movement inhibits him in my system, so there's a wee bit of upward wiggle room for him as well.)

Why an OF and not Raj?
   38. sunnyday2 Posted: August 03, 2007 at 05:17 PM (#2469193)
And if Pete Browning gets elected after all of this, I don't see how it could be called a mistake. As I said earlier, a mistake is electing somebody without fully understanding the pros and cons, strengths and weaknesses. We do not have that as an issue on Pistol Pete.
   39. DL from MN Posted: August 03, 2007 at 05:20 PM (#2469198)
Dan R - I like your replacement level as the "offseason" replacement level - what a team could do to improve itself given time and limited resources. However I think the in-season replacement level is actually a whole lot lower. A guy from AA is often the "replacement" for an injured player. There are an awful lot of plate appearances and innings given to players below your "replacement" level every year.
   40. ronw Posted: August 03, 2007 at 05:23 PM (#2469202)
We also don't have that issue with Sam Thompson, who is often mentioned as a mistake, but ran the gauntlet for decades (1902-1929) before being elected. Of course, we do have that issue with Bill Terry (elected in his first year), but I believe that Terry might have been elected by now and Stieb would have had to wait a year. I don't know that we have the issue with anyone else.

This is coming from someone who had Terry 15th in 1942, and Thompson 14th in 1911, 11th in 1912, 7th in 1913, 9th in 1914 and never voted for him again. I don't think there are any mistakes.
   41. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: August 03, 2007 at 05:43 PM (#2469218)
DL from MN--major league teams do have benches, last I checked. When a guy gets hurt, the bench guy replaces him, and an AA guy may replace the bench guy--on the bench. This is similar to the "chaining" argument against measuring relievers against replacement *and* crediting them for leverage (a replacement pitcher would never be a closer; if the closer goes down, the setup man becomes the closer, the middle man becomes the setup man, etc.). Furthermore, you'd expect most below-replacement play to occur in low-leverage situations, either within games (bringing in the mopup man) or within seasons (September callups on bad teams).
   42. DanG Posted: August 03, 2007 at 05:55 PM (#2469234)
I checked and you're right: the Constitution allows for assignment of merit that is not value based. OK, I should've realized that when designing the system, because it was inevitable that we would reach a point where we would have wide disagreement over players' rankings.

In a way, that makes ranking guys a whole lot easier, because "merit" can mean just about anything, as long as it's within the bounds of the Constitution. Nobody can really dispute anybody else's system, it's all in how an individual decides to define "merit".
   43. Juan V Posted: August 03, 2007 at 06:01 PM (#2469245)
Something I just thought of: Wouldn't it be interesting to see Browning and Belle side by side? Although Browning isn't likely to last that long.
   44. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: August 03, 2007 at 06:24 PM (#2469284)
2 points:

1) Browning's contemporaries thought he was an all-time great, a clear Hofer if such an idea existed back in that day. All the critiques levelled at him (bad defense, alcoholism, baserunning) are true, and reflected in the sports journalism of his time. But they also frequently refer to him as the greatest hitter of his time.

Browning died young enough that his obituaries were written by those who had his career fresh in their minds...and I challenge anyone to go back and read those obituaries and not think that they describe an HoM caliber player.

Granted, contemporary opinion only takes you so far. Jim Rice's contemporaries thought he was a surefire HoFer. But given that his peers THOUGHT he was a great, we need compelling statistical evidence to disprove what they believed. For the peak and prime voter, where Browning is either borderline or "in", I don't think there's evidence to disprove his peers. If you're a career guy, well, keep on keeping on with Tony Perez.

2. People keep on talking about Bresnahan as if he needs some "catcher" bonus or a boost because he was "the greatest catcher in 30 years". I'm feverently against such arguments, and I'm worried my recent post in the ballot thread left the impression that that's the rationale for a Bresnahan vote.

Thats NOT it. Bresnahan gets extra value because you can QUANTIFY the averaged games played and average OPS+ of the catchers of his time, and adjust, accurately, to measure Bresnahan against his peers and determine his "true" value. Judging Bresnahan without any adjustment against, say Elston Howard is as bonkers as judging a 154 game season against a 162 game season without adjusting the former; you're just short changing the guy. The reason we have a catcher "drought" b/w say, Ewing (or Bennett?) and Cochrane/Dickey is because people's systems are crude and dont adjust for the changing quality of the average (or replacement) starter and the durability of the average starter. This is a weakness of the system, not the player. Bresnahan is overqualified in any peak/prime system that accounts for changing conditions.
   45. Mark Donelson Posted: August 03, 2007 at 06:25 PM (#2469289)
Nobody can really dispute anybody else's system, it's all in how an individual decides to define "merit".

Yest hadn't clued you in to this some time ago? ;)

(I kid because I love, yest...)
   46. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: August 03, 2007 at 06:26 PM (#2469291)
DanG, yep, that's right. That's why my vote doesn't count any more than yours, or yest's, or karlmagnus's. This is an exercise in the wisdom of crowds. And the group as a whole is inexplicably more convinced by Browning's 13th all-time career OPS+--AA, defense, career length and all--than by the fact that George Van Haltren was second in stolen bases between 1891 and 1900, which apparently is how you have chosen to define "merit." Like you said, it can mean just about anything.

As for Belle, Juan V., while I don't think he'd be an awful selection, Browning seems to me a clear cut above. Even after AA discounts, Belle just wasn't the same hitter that Browning was at his best, except in the strike year which has to be regressed, and he only had four years at a superstar level, while Browning had about six. Browning was a worse fielder but spent time in CF and at 2B, while Belle was a corner/DH, so that probably washes out.
   47. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: August 03, 2007 at 06:27 PM (#2469295)
In a way, that makes ranking guys a whole lot easier, because "merit" can mean just about anything, as long as it's within the bounds of the Constitution. Nobody can really dispute anybody else's system, it's all in how an individual decides to define "merit".


Not really correct, Dan. We can still dispute anybody's system beyond peak, prime and career concerns, as well as inconsistencies within a voter's system.
   48. Mark Donelson Posted: August 03, 2007 at 06:28 PM (#2469298)
But why another OF and not Bresnahan?

I like them all! I've been convinced by 'zop's posts to push Bresnahan back up a few spots, so all four players you mention will be there this coming election.

I've also had all four players you mention in my pHOM for some time.
   49. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: August 03, 2007 at 06:31 PM (#2469305)
As for Belle, Juan V., while I don't think he'd be an awful selection, Browning seems to me a clear cut above. Even after AA discounts, Belle just wasn't the same hitter that Browning was at his best, except in the strike year which has to be regressed, and he only had four years at a superstar level, while Browning had about six. Browning was a worse fielder but spent time in CF and at 2B, while Belle was a corner/DH, so that probably washes out.


Browning's era also had a much higher attrition rate than Belle's, too.
   50. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: August 03, 2007 at 06:33 PM (#2469310)
But why another OF and not Bresnahan?


Since I have Roger higher than Pete, I would be more than happy to see the Duke go in instead.
   51. OCF Posted: August 03, 2007 at 06:49 PM (#2469350)
As for Belle, Juan V., while I don't think he'd be an awful selection ...

I don't think Belle makes a very good arguing point. While he was arguably the 3rd best outfielder of the 1990's, that's also an exercise in selective endpoints. Correct for the differing win value of runs in different times, and I find Belle to be a significantly weaker candidate than Ken Singleton. (For me, Singleton is in my top 30 but not on my ballot.) If you want to use a modern "bat" as a foil for Browning, why not use Singleton? Or Frank Howard, or Jack Clark?
   52. karlmagnus Posted: August 03, 2007 at 06:56 PM (#2469374)
I was around for Rice, and never thought he was a HOF'er -- one of those influriating players like Mo Vaughan who always struck out or GIDP when you needed him. Browning was one of about 5 19th century players I had heard of before starting this (so my early votes, and long support for Caruthers/Beckley, neither of them among the 5, were unbiased, right?) He's less overwhelming as a hitter than I mentally had him, but dammit they named a bat after him as though he was the Babe.

I have him 7th in '03, behind 1 newbie and 5 favorite toys, all of whom I genuinely consider better. But I definitely think he deserves to go in, and would be VERY disappointed if anyone who played after 1920 (yes YOU, Dawson and Smith) went in ahead of him.
   53. DanG Posted: August 03, 2007 at 07:21 PM (#2469438)
We can still dispute anybody's system beyond peak, prime and career concerns, as well as inconsistencies within a voter's system.

And I can dismiss you saying, Hey, that's just how my system works.
   54. DanG Posted: August 03, 2007 at 07:30 PM (#2469459)
This is an exercise in the wisdom of crowds. And the group as a whole is inexplicably more convinced by Browning's

Except, IMO, the crowd's wisdom cannot be accurately measured at this point in the project. This creates the false idea that the group as a whole is more convinced by the cut of Browning's jib or something.
   55. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: August 03, 2007 at 07:33 PM (#2469466)
Which, DanG, is in fact is exactly what you do when other voters demonstrate that much of the so-called value above replacement accumulated by many of your pet candidates is actually well below replacement.

Sorry to keep singling out your ballot, but your comments about "proper calibration" and "detriment to the institution" really rubbed me the wrong way, and clearly a number of other voters weren't too enthralled by them either. I think you owe the group an apology.
   56. DanG Posted: August 03, 2007 at 07:34 PM (#2469468)
more convinced by Browning's 13th all-time career OPS+--

Where's the love for David Orr and Levi Meyerle?
   57. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: August 03, 2007 at 07:36 PM (#2469480)
How does one measure the widom of the crowd except by voting, which is precisely how we measure it every three weeks. If you've devised a better system for measuring the wisdom of crowds than voting, I look forward to reading your political science textbook.
   58. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: August 03, 2007 at 07:38 PM (#2469487)
Well, if you added Orr and Meyerle and a bit more together into one player's career, you'd get a Meritorious candidate named Pete Browning.
   59. DanG Posted: August 03, 2007 at 07:38 PM (#2469491)
your comments about "proper calibration" and "detriment to the institution"

I singled out nobody's ballot or system in this entire discussion. There was no intent to offend.

In an effort to spur discussion, sometimes you have to shake the hive.

is exactly what you do when other voters "demonstrate" ...


I read that with quotes around it, I'm not convinced.
   60. DanG Posted: August 03, 2007 at 07:41 PM (#2469506)
How does one measure the widom of the crowd except by "voting"

Again, quotes around the word. There's a million ways to run an election, to measure the wisdom of the crowd.
   61. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 03, 2007 at 07:54 PM (#2469562)
Wow, who knew Pete Browning could get a bunch of guys all riled up?

All he did was hit a lot---it's not like he got the country into a senseless war or was named Hillary....
   62. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: August 03, 2007 at 07:57 PM (#2469575)
You singled out the ballots and systems of the plurality of voters who support Pete Browning. Which includes mine.

OK, well, by demonstrate I mean that at corner outfield positions in the 1970s and 80s there were hitters with better than 80 OPS+ talent and average defense in the high minors or in MLB free agency willing to sign for less than twice the league minimum salary. That I can demonstrate, empirically. I can give you their names and their contracts. Is that enough to convince you? If not, what would be? Would anything, or are you really just not interested in listening?

Other than giving DanG and/or those who agree with him super-voting rights, what voting system would you be advocating? And isn't it a bit late to be reviewing this? The voting system *was* established by consensus at the beginning of the project, if I'm not mistaken...
   63. Mark Donelson Posted: August 03, 2007 at 07:59 PM (#2469579)
In an effort to spur discussion, sometimes you have to shake the hive.

Whatever. Call me crazy, but I think you could have raised your concerns about Browning and started the same discussion civilly, and without using terms like the ones Dan R mentioned just above.

I read that with quotes around it, I'm not convinced.

Nor are we by your arguments. So there we are. Is there any point to continuing this particular branch of the discussion?
   64. Mark Donelson Posted: August 03, 2007 at 08:00 PM (#2469587)
All he did was hit a lot---it's not like he got the country into a senseless war or was named Hillary....

You're such the diplomat, Doc. ;)
   65. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 03, 2007 at 08:08 PM (#2469611)
You're such the diplomat, Doc. ;)

Mark, you should have been there when I settled the Angolan civil war in the 1980s....
   66. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: August 03, 2007 at 08:12 PM (#2469628)
You're such the diplomat, Doc. ;)


I must be a good influence on Eric. ;-)
   67. Esteban Rivera Posted: August 03, 2007 at 08:26 PM (#2469694)
Well, since I'm on the list of 12 voters DanG was questioning, I'll just ask where was all the anti-advocacy when Stieb got elected last week (a candidate who received basically the same support as Browning). I can understand why Stieb got elected though I don't agree with it. I do have my PHOM to reflect that choice, though. There have been electees I have not been crazy about supporting at the given moment that they have been elected, but I understand why. All candidates have had supporters and arguments presented on their behalf that, while I don't agree with, I can see the validity of their viewpoints and understand that from that point of view, the election makes sense. In the end, I honestly believe that we as a whole have done an excellent. I don't see any candidate that you can say is a mistake under any well-constructed viewpoint, which is what the term mistake should apply to. There are candidates that there are disagreements about, but I don't see any "mistakes". Depending on what lens you use is where the disagreements will be.
   68. Esteban Rivera Posted: August 03, 2007 at 08:28 PM (#2469704)
In the end, I honestly believe that we as a whole have done an excellent.


That should say "excellent job" at the end.
   69. DanG Posted: August 03, 2007 at 08:35 PM (#2469740)
you could have raised your concerns about Browning and started the same discussion civilly

No, if it had been namby-pamby my meaning would not have been clear. I actually believe, that Browning's election is a great misfortune, and I regret it. It's not really an argument about Browning; it's that I believe that the system is about to fail us, to the delight of the Browning-lovers. That those we've elected, and will elect, with less than 30% support may or may not deserve it; our system cannot give reliable results in these cases. If I have not convinced you of this, well then I can't. Sorry. Hate the message, not the messenger,
   70. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: August 03, 2007 at 08:37 PM (#2469753)
It's not really an argument about Browning; it's that I believe that the system is about to fail us, to the delight of the Browning-lovers.


Dan, I am really hoping that you didn't mean what you typed there.
   71. Mark Donelson Posted: August 03, 2007 at 08:49 PM (#2469792)
That those we've elected, and will elect, with less than 30% support may or may not deserve it; our system cannot give reliable results in these cases.

That's because there's no right-or-wrong answer from on high to what "deserve it" even means! Who are you, or who am I, or who is anyone in particular, to say that Pete Browning, or Jake Beckley, or Dave Stieb, or anyone is the horrible mistake that undermines this entire process?

It's not really an argument about Browning; it's that I believe that the system is about to fail us

Oh, so it's not about Browning now. So what was all that above about not discounting his AA stats enough?

Look, a voting system was set up at the start to do this. It may not be perfect, but what system is? I'm not convinced any of the alternatives suggested would do a demonstrably better job. And anyway, it's a little late now, no?

This is where that process has taken us. You may not be happy about that, but to start telling those of us who actually do believe Browning is deserving that we should consider dropping him from our ballots because electing him with low support would be some kind of desecration of the HOM is both patronizing and insulting. Go create your own small-hall version of the HOM when we're done, if you want.
   72. Mark Donelson Posted: August 03, 2007 at 08:53 PM (#2469805)
By the way, DanG, I presume that if this really isn't about Browning, but about the system failing us, that you would feel the same way about, say, Tony Perez getting elected? He's not going to get in, if he does, with any more support than Browning--and there are quite a few of us who have him as low in our systems as you have Browning in yours.
   73. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: August 03, 2007 at 08:56 PM (#2469818)
By the way, DanG, I presume that if this really isn't about Browning, but about the system failing us, that you would feel the same way about, say, Tony Perez getting elected? He's not going to get in, if he does, with any more support than Browning--and there are quite a few of us who have him as low in our systems as you have Browning in yours.


The ironic thing is that Perez is considered a HOF mistake by many.

Personally, I don't see his case as overwhelming, but I can understand a career voting supporting him. I certainly wouldn't say he would be an egregious mistake.
   74. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 03, 2007 at 09:00 PM (#2469830)
I think there's two ways to look at the voting system.

-One is that we're in an experiment to get the HOF idea right. To see the experiment to its logical conclusion, you establish the methodology and you stick to it and you see what comes out of the crucible when you're done.

-The other way to see it is that there's a right answer to the question of who the "correct" 230 homers are, and each time we deviate from that group, we lessen our viability/credibility.

If you take the first as your premise, then there is no right answer, but only reasonable answers. Part of the fun is trying to understand why the answer that comes out is the one that does among all the possible reasonable answers.

If you take the second as your premise, you will be always searching for what's wrong with the system or what's wrong with the result.

I posit that we are really engaged in the first type of experiment. We have a reasonable methodology, if we didn't the HOM would have folded already. We are getting reasonable answers. I know this because I go into plenty of the BTF newsblog threads, and posters out there actually refer to the HOM and ask for HOM points of view on related matters. Really, check out the 933 post Ichiro thread of July 17th for an interesting example. In addition, many lurkers come into the HOM and talk with us, in reasonable ways, about our process and our results. We have a reasonable method, we have reasonable results. Outliers? Sure. But not so many.

So confusing methodology with results is apples/oranges; let's get to 2007 or 2008 before we pronounce the body dead or alive, a success or a failure.
   75. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: August 03, 2007 at 09:01 PM (#2469832)
I actually believe, that Browning's election is a great misfortune, and I regret it. It's not really an argument about Browning; it's that I believe that the system is about to fail us, to the delight of the Browning-lovers.

You know what's funny? I feel the same way about Rusty Staub. I furthermore think that the following logic, quoted directly from your ballot, is manifestly stupid.

"8) Rusty Staub (7,7,9) – He’s the Grimes of position players. Ranks #36 all-time in Times On Base; #59 in Total Bases, just ahead of some guy named Jake. Edges Brock in win shares, blows him away in WARP3. Players with OBP of .380+, 1967-76, 3500+ PA:"

Lets go over all the fallacies in this blurb, shall we? First off, you compare him to Grimes who, even for most careerists, is a borderline HoMer, thats the "as good as the the worst guy in the HoF" fallacy. Then you use a counting stat, when everyone knows that rate is infinately more important (even the educated careerists aren't voting against rate, they just want rate sustained over many seasons). You then compare his total bases # to Jake Beckley, failing to note that Beckley played in a 154 game era, and Staub mostly (entirely?) in the 162 game era. Then you compare him to Brock, who is not Meritorious (so being better than him proves nothing), and use unadjusted WARP3 and Winshares, both systems of which have been shown, quantitatively, by participants in this project to have definable, correctable flaws. (But, you don't want to "reinvent the wheel" [your words], so when it comes to improving the uberstats you put your fingers in your ears and shout LA-LA-LA.) Then you provide a list with conveniently chosen endpoints; the ol' multiple endpoints fallacy. Mark Grace has the most hits in the 90's, he's a sure fire HoMer. Jack Morris: king of the 80's.

So I take great issue with your claim that I, and voters like me, are the problem with the HoM, when I take great care to vote in a systematic, clear fashion, and I don't engage in the kind of flawed reasoning you've demonstrated in your ballots.
   76. vortex of dissipation Posted: August 03, 2007 at 09:03 PM (#2469840)
Does Perez have his own thread? It would seem that he polarizes the electorate as much as anybody, and it seems logical that he be worthy of a thread just for his proponents and detractors to make their cases.

As an outsider, I do have a dog in this fight - Perez was my favorite player as a teenager, and is still probably my all-time favorite player. He's the only player I've ever bought a piece of memorabilia for...
   77. user Posted: August 03, 2007 at 09:39 PM (#2469947)
A few Questions re post 12:

1. Should not the discount for Quality of play be applied before BRAA + FRAA calculations are made? Your post seems to imply that the hypothetical 40% discount reduces 16 wins to 9.6 , but this would imply that a 0 win player would be discounted to a 0 win player, when clearly he should be negative.

2. What are the actual discounts you make for quality of play - the table posted in 6 implies a 153 OPS+, which while impressive seems somewhat less sothan you imply.

Apologies if I've misunderstood anything.
   78. mulder & scully Posted: August 03, 2007 at 09:40 PM (#2469949)
Did the system fail us with Dave Stieb - 27% of vote?
Did the system fail us with Willie Randolph - 28%?
Did the system fail us with Rollie Fingers - 26%?
Did the system fail us with Jake Beckely - 25%?
Did the system fail us with Edd Roush - 29%?
Did the system fail us with Charlie Keller - 34%?
Did the system fail us with Jimmy Wynn - 32%?

Those are just from the last 7 elections. DanG, where was your outrage then? Voters have been posting that the backloggers elected at the end of the election would be least supported for at least 40 "years." If you don't like it, don't vote.
And I can certainly hate on the method the messenger uses to deliver his message.

As to why I vote for Browning, if you read my ballot each year, it defines the many factors I use. Browning has peak and prime to spare even after deducting for early AA. DanR's comments more fully encapsulate the reasons why I consider Browning Meritorious.
   79. jimd Posted: August 03, 2007 at 09:41 PM (#2469951)
A note on calibrating the 1882 AA:

There were three, and only three, players that were regulars in the 1881 NL and in the 1882 AA (define regular as someone whose GP is more than half of the league schedule length). The AA did not actively recruit/raid from the NL, as opposed to other new leagues that came after.

EQA NL / AA
1879 1880 1881 / 1882
.196 .238 .200 / .325 3B Hick Carpenter - Wor NL -> Cin AA
.231 .217 .196 / .278 SS John Peters - Buf NL -> Pit AA
.189 .245 .211 / .283 Ca Pop Snyder - Bos NL -> Cin AA

or if you prefer, by
OPS+ NL / AA
79 80 81 / 1882
50 80 52 / 155 3B Hick Carpenter - Wor NL -> Cin AA
74 65 51 / 113 SS John Peters - Buf NL -> Pit AA
43 84 61 / 117 Ca Pop Snyder - Bos NL -> Cin AA

All 3 were sub-replacement level hitters that were good to excellent fielders in the NL; probably would be in the DanR replacement level sets at their position, hanging on with their glove (except they didn't wear one).

Move them to the AA and they became star players. All 3 made my list of the 8 best position players in the 1882 AA; Browning being an easy #1. But Browning was only about 2.5 wins above Carpenter, about 4.5 wins above the other two. You decide how valuable that was in the 1882 NL.

I'm not cherry-picking here. There are no other players to include by this screen. Other players that might be considered either were NL part-timers in 1881 or AA part-timers in 1882 (small samples), or did not play in the NL in 1881, but were regulars in some earlier season (not many of any of these either).

The 1882 AA was weak. That said, BP still says that Browning would have had an All-Star season in the NL. But Browning's season was not Ruthian; Dan Brouthers would still have been the best hitter in the league. I give Browning credit for that season; he just doesn't have enough All-Star seasons to move ahead of the OF pack; in my system, he's solidly HOVG along with a lot of other OF's.
   80. jimd Posted: August 03, 2007 at 09:49 PM (#2469959)
I should have mentioned ages. Peters was 32 in 1882, clearly sliding away. Snyder and Carpenter were in their prime, 27 and 26 respectively.
   81. jimd Posted: August 03, 2007 at 09:56 PM (#2469966)
Errata:
about 5.5 wins above the other two.
   82. EricC Posted: August 03, 2007 at 11:02 PM (#2470021)
One potential pitfall with OBP/Slug based methods for assessing offensive value is that they ignore the value of baserunning. While it is not possible to fully assess the effects of individual baserunning from eras in which play-by-play is not available, some hints of baserunning success or failure at the team level can be found by comparing team runs scored with expected runs scored based on team OBP and Slug.

I went through Browning's career, took all the teams in the leagues in which he played, and made a least-squares fit of teams runs per game to the formula:

(Runs/game) = A + B*OBP + C*Slug + D*OBP*Slug .

(As an aside, park effects can safely be ignored assuming that they affect both sides of the above equation equally.)
(A complete quadratic form would include Slug^2 and OBP^2, but then the number of unknowns starts to approach the number of equations, reducing the predictive power of the fit.)

By comparing the actual team runs per game to the expected value, we can see which teams overperformed or underperformed, whether due to baserunning, bad managing, or whatever.

Here are the results for team seasons where Browning played at least half the team games:

 
Year Lg Team Exp R/G  Act R/G  Diff  Act/Exp  Rank/# Teams in league
1882 AA LOU   5.85  5.54   -0.31 0.95 5/6
1883 AA LOU   5.63  5.76   +0.13 1.02 3/8
1884 AA LOU   5.67  5.21   -0.46 0.92   12/13
1885 AA LOU   5.05  5.04   -0.01 1.00 6/8
1886 AA LOU   6.32  6.04   -0.28 0.96 8/8
1887 AA LOU   7.18  6.88   -0.30 0.96 8/8
1888 AA LOU   5.12  4.96   -0.16 0.97 8/8
1889 AA LOU   4.67  4.51   -0.16 0.97 6/8
1890 PL CLE   7.02  6.48   -0.54 0.92 8/8
1892 NL CIN   4.98  4.94   -0.04 0.99 7/12


Browning's teams consistently score 3 to 4 percent runs fewer than would be expected based on OBP and Slug, and were consistently among the worst in their league. (Paradoxically, when a team underperforms in runs scored, standard sabermetrics will attribute it in part to a low park factor and will "compensate" by increasing the OPS+ of its players!)

The extent to which Browning is responsible, as opposed to teammates, managers, etc., is not known without futher evidence, but note that the trend continued after Browning changed leagues. The only anecdote that I've found about Browning's baserunning is in Wikipedia, which states that "Browning's baserunning was also considered sub-par, exacerbated by his refusal to slide."

Based on the preponderance of the evidence, I put forward the hypothesis that Browning gave back on the bases some of what he produced at the plate, and that his batting stats overestimate his net offensive value. I will not attempt to quantify the effect in this post, and will merely note that this hypothesis has large implications on his viability as a HoM candidate.
   83. OCF Posted: August 03, 2007 at 11:12 PM (#2470024)
EricC: what would the same analysis show about Stovey's teams?
   84. Mongo Posted: August 04, 2007 at 12:11 AM (#2470067)
In the first edition of his Historical Baseball Abstract, Bill James provided two 'top-100' lists, one roughtly equivalent to a peak/prime top 100 list, and the other a career top 100 list.

If this project is ever redone, it might make sense to have three separate HoM lists: one peak, one prime and one career (or one peak/prime and one career). People could vote for one or more lists, using list-specific metrics in each case.

Just an idea.

Bill
   85. Howie Menckel Posted: August 04, 2007 at 01:03 AM (#2470108)
"In an effort to spur discussion, sometimes you have to shake the hive."

I guess you'll think it worked.

I'm not biting, though - anyone who seems to start with an assumption that he knows all the right answers - well, what's the point of a discussion?
You're already done.

I hope you'll reconsider your approach here.
I find it hard to believe that you don't think some of your statements are hyperbole...
   86. sunnyday2 Posted: August 04, 2007 at 01:55 AM (#2470143)
>Did the system fail us with Dave Stieb - 27% of vote?

Yes.

>Did the system fail us with Willie Randolph - 28%?

Yes yes yes.

> Did the system fail us with Rollie Fingers - 26%?

No.

>Did the system fail us with Jake Beckely - 25%?

Yes.

>Did the system fail us with Edd Roush - 29%?

No.

>Did the system fail us with Charlie Keller - 34%?

No.

>Did the system fail us with Jimmy Wynn - 32%?

Yes.

Does that help?

;-)
   87. sunnyday2 Posted: August 04, 2007 at 02:03 AM (#2470154)
I disagree with DanG re. Pete Browning whom I have been voting for for many years. But I will defend to the death his right to shake the hive. Well, not to the death exactly, that may have been a slight exaggeration. To great bodily harm...well, scratch great. To some bodily harm. Make that to slight bodily harm. But not actually to any vital organs, only slightly bodily harm to, you know, arms and legs maybe. Well, maybe not arms and legs, I do use them an awful lot now that I think of it. Maybe just to some slight brain damage, how would that be? God knows I don't use my brain any more often than absolutely necessary. As long as you're sure it will be slight or, well, how about very slight, can we all agree on very slight. Or how about this, I will defend his right to shake the hive up to and including the threat of bodily harm. Yeah, there, I think maybe that works for me. Does that work for you?

Okay forget it. DanG, cut it out. No more hive shaking. It pisses off the bees.
   88. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: August 04, 2007 at 03:18 AM (#2470288)
User--Good points, both. I was taking a shortcut. It is much easier to translate raw stats (eg a .300 BA in the easy league is a .250 BA in the hard league or whatever) and then calculate value above replacement than it is to translate value above average/replacement in one league to another (which, as you correctly suggest, requires first addition/subtraction for the change in rep level, and then multiplication for the change in difficulty of accruing value above/below said rep level).

If the 153 OPS+ translation is right, then I've probably been a bit too generous with Pete's 1882. A 153 OPS+ in 69 of 79 games translates to about 4.8 offensive wins above average in a 162-game season, plus say 0.3 for the baserunning (judging by his later SB totals), plus say .9 for the fielding (BP has him at 1.6 adjusted for season length), plus 1.7 for 2B replacement level in his playing time, comes to 7.7 WARP, insetad of 9.6. That's still extremely impressive--it's enough to win an MVP most years, and wouldn't affect my take on his overall candidacy by much--but it's not historically great. That said, that's a much harsher translation than BP's, which credits him with a .347 all time-adjusted EqA for 1882. That's better than Roger Connor's .343 all time-adjusted EqA in 1882, and he had a 185 OPS+. If you follow BP's lead and say Browning's 1882 was roughly equal to Connor's, then you get 10.1 WARP, closer to my 9.6 estimate.

There have been two good points recently raised. Those 1881-1882 translations *are* pretty stark, even if it's only three data points. That said, it just goes to show how much Browning obliterated the 1882 AA. The average OPS+ gain in those three translations (from the 1879-81 average to the 1882 level) is 66 points. If we subtract 66 points from Browning's 222 OPS+, we get...a 156, similar to the result posted by Brent in #6. Again, a 156 OPS+ 2B is an *extremely* valuable player, an MVP in most seasons. There's just no reasonable deduction you can apply to Browning's 1882 that doesn't make it come out looking like a very high All-Star season, *at least*.

As for the baserunning, EricC, thanks for looking into it. That said, where do you get that standard sabermetrics attributes run scoring underperforming component stats to a park factor?? Run park factors are derived by comparing real run scoring at home and on the road, with no attention paid to component stats. Moreover, the effect you find seems pretty small, and difficult to attribute solely to Browning. I find it hard to believe his manager would have let him run enough to steal 103 bases in 1887 if he were really such a poor baserunner. However, the Wikipedia comment is interesting; I hadn't heard that. Browning is clearly over my in/out line, so none of this pushes him far back enough to make me question his spot on my ballot, but it is definitely useful for the group.

sunnyday2, no one questions DanG for sparking debate. I personally just took offense at his suggestion that my system, which I have devoted an unhealthy amount of time to developing, evaluating, and refining, and which, regardless of whether you agree with it, has provoked a number of new and healthy discussions among the group, is "not properly calibrated." I think I've "calibrated" it exquisitely, thank you very much, particularly compared to his system which appears to be a direct parroting of unadjusted career WS/WARP mixed with some utterly baffling categories with absurd selective endpoints. I'm just waiting to see his next ballot pop up with the leaders in sacrifice flies among AL catchers playing in hitter's parks between 1914 and 1922 with less than 18 hit by pitch as an indicator of the Merit of one of his selections. Oh yeah, and his insinuation that the election of Browning by a plurality of the electorate would be a "detriment to the institution" was pretty inexcusable. I repeat--I think his ballots are a "detriment to the institution," but until now, I've kept my mouth shut about everything but the arguments on the merits. You "shake the hive" by introducing a new idea or making a convincing argument about a candidate--I hope I "shook the hive" by introducing historically contextual replacement levels and standard deviations--not by making unsupported blanket attacks on large chunks of the electorate.

'zop, I think you mean "selective endpoints," not "multiple endpoints." Everything has multiple endpoints...typically two.
   89. rawagman Posted: August 04, 2007 at 03:53 AM (#2470364)
To be fair to DanG, I have questioned him on his use of extremely selective endpoints for highly speculative counting stats in his ballots and he answered back that they hold no actual weight in his ranking but are merely "fun" facts.
That said, his recent rant was uncalled for.
I "support" Browning just as he does. But as I told John Murphy, I will still help out on his plaque just as I would if and when Duffy finally gets the call.
   90. Chris Cobb Posted: August 04, 2007 at 05:19 AM (#2470492)
To continue to be fair to Dan G, I will note that he has been shaking the hive about the limitations of our voting system for a long time: he has been campaigning regularly for reforms since the 1960s. If his efforts are reinvigorated by his sense that the shortcomings of the balloting are about to lead to a particularly problematic result, who among us can always deal with the process completely disinterestedly?

I haven't been contributing to this discussion because I don't have anything new to add about Pete Browning. I will say that I share Dan G's concerns about the reliability of results when we elect candidates with below 30% of total vote count. I don't press the issue, however, because I think that (1) the majority of the electorate has shown little concern for the problem, so change isn't happening, (2) it's now too late in the day to be making changes in the voting system (though such might be entertained when we move to annual elections after the 2007 vote), and (3) I am not convinced that a system that more accurately reflected voter sentiments at this degree of ballot fragmentation would be implementable, as it would require either very large ballots or multiple rounds of voting, each of which carries significant logistical problems. I'm also not certain that, when dealing with the level of player that we are now, we _can_ make better choices without become better sabermetricians in the aggregate. We do improve, but slowly, and we have a tendency to get set in our ways.

On the subject of Browning, Dan R's analysis has been helpful and has challenged me to reconsider my assessment, and jimd's and EricC's comments have been suggestive. It _would_ be helpful to see how Stovey's teams compared to Browning on the overperformance/underperformance issue, because Stovey was a player whom we suspected had considerable hidden baserunning value -- the reverse of Browning on this point.

Despite the rancor this discussion has occasionally shown, I find it very satisfying to think seriously about the 1880s game again, because there is always so much to learn about it and so much opportunity for fresh insight. It has been 98 years since Browning last appeared on my ballot (he was 15th on my first ballot in 1903 and 14th in 1904, if my records from that distant era are correct), and I have long been on record as doubting his merits. But I am trying to take a fresh look, and see if I can find any new insights that will challenge or confirm my longstanding assessment of him.
   91. Howie Menckel Posted: August 04, 2007 at 01:44 PM (#2470643)
Given Chris Cobb's constructive post, I will respond to that.

What do people think fielding was like at varying positions in the 1880s?
How did Browning get assigned 2B in 1882 if he was so awful at fielding?
How far were batters hitting the ball back then, and how much impact did a bad OF have vs a good OF, compared to today?
How much bunting was involved (that popularity varied a lot in different years, iirc)?
Were OFs probably constantly chasing down liners in the gaps - or were they standing around like Little League OFs behind the big kid who was pitching? (I kid, but you get the point).

Sometimes I wonder if we're trying to overlay modern senses of the game too neatly on prehistoric eras.
1880s AA - what kind of gloves, if any, were used? How hard could the ball be hit?

That sort of thing would be helpful to me and others, as Browning's defensive 'merit' is key.

I'm also not sure I've seen an actual attempt to adjust Browning's OPS+ by a discount that lands him way off a ballot. Does someone actually deduct 50-60 pct from those years, even the competitive ones?
Thanks in advance..
   92. sunnyday2 Posted: August 04, 2007 at 02:43 PM (#2470675)
Howie, this is sort of off the top, once upon a time I had this in my head...but following are my AA discounts, Browning's actual OPS+ and his adjusted OPS+ (according to me).

1882 65%* 229 149
1883 25% 183 137
1884 15% 176 148
1885 10% 190 180
1886 -0- 151 151
1887 -0- 178 178
1888 5% 164 158
1889 15% 98 84

1890 -0- 175 175
1891 -0- 139 139
1892 -0- 133 133

Total 164
(Mean) 12.5% 175 149

* This is equal to my discount for the 1884 UA so yes they were bad

I didn't just make up the discounts, they are based on studies by Cramer and (was the second one by?) Davenport. Obviously simply deducting his OPS+ directly by the discount number is very gross but it has the feel of being pretty reliable. As I noted, I do the same for the 1884 UA and guess what Dunlap's OPS+ that year comes out pretty much exactly where he is the years before and after.

So, I see Pete as an OPS+ 149-150 hitter which as you know is Lajoie, Wagner, Cravath, Flick, Heilmann, Kiner, McCovey, Keller, Delahanty, Schmidt, Stargell territory. And I don't consider him to have had a short career in the context of his day, not that career length is a big deal for a peak/prime voter anyway. His was an 11 year prime, plenty long though with one obvious off year. And you can pretty much call as much of that a peak as you want. Leave '90 out because of the weak '89 (which would be a harsh judgment, but if you did) and even if you want to say '88 is not a peak year (his GP fell from 134 to 99, his BA from .402 to .313 (but his putative OPS+ only from 178 to 164, 1887 is a bad year to compare anything to). But if you want to say his peak ended in '87, he still had a 6 year peak with a mean BA of .351, putative OPS+ (relative only to his league) of 180, or an adjusted OPS+ (my version) of 150.

Probably a better (and fairer) view is to just write of '89 as an injury year and define his peak as 1885-88, 90, 5 years with a mean putative OPS+ of 177.5 (adjusted to 166.5) against tougher competition. This is approx. equal to Willie McCovey's 5 year peak and better than everybody else listed above, including Mike Schmidt, if a pennant is a pennant. If you want to apply a "timeline" then who knows. Your mileage may vary. But note that I'm already applying the competition discount (vs. the contemporaneous NL).

Bottom line: For a peak/pennant is a pennant/fair to all eras voter, he is in a cluster of big hitters (so big that the glove sort of doesn't matter) with modestly long careers that would include Keller and Kiner and Cravath (again, for peak voters, I don't care if you use the real Cravath or the adjusted) and Flick. Oh, and Charley Jones. That to me is his case. Once you get past the inner circle, he is among the next tier of hitters, all-time.
   93. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: August 04, 2007 at 05:16 PM (#2470814)
I "support" Browning just as he does. But as I told John Murphy, I will still help out on his plaque just as I would if and when Duffy finally gets the call.


Hey, how many plaques have I helped create for players who never made any of my ballots? Many, including Stieb. But, like Ryan would with the Louisville Slugger, the Hall of Merit as a whole had spoken and I respected that, and will continue to do so in the future.

As long as we don't elect a player who didn't have an impressive peak, prime or career, we're fine.
   94. Mark Donelson Posted: August 04, 2007 at 10:12 PM (#2471114)
If his efforts are reinvigorated by his sense that the shortcomings of the balloting are about to lead to a particularly problematic result, who among us can always deal with the process completely disinterestedly?

Actually, Chris, it seems you always manage to! I aspire to your ability to express even the strongest concern about someone's ballot or arguments with grace and diplomacy--in fact, it was your posts I was thinking of when I was telling DanG he could have expressed his opinions more politely and still gotten his point across. If you can manage it, why can't we all? (I realize that's a bit idealistic...)

Despite the rancor this discussion has occasionally shown, I find it very satisfying to think seriously about the 1880s game again, because there is always so much to learn about it and so much opportunity for fresh insight.

Couldn't agree more, and I hope my angry posts above aren't misinterpreted as opposing discussions and rediscussions of any player or era. I found the conversation specifically concerning Browning's numbers and AA discounts here most enlightening (though they served more to justify than to harm his place on my ballot), and we do have DanG to thank for bringing it up. I do wish we could have similar (but more civil) discussions of every player who seems to have a good chance of getting elected imminently, in fact.

I guess I just still feel he could have done so more gently. One can agitate a hive gently as well as vigorously.
   95. Chris Cobb Posted: August 05, 2007 at 12:52 AM (#2471231)
Actually, Chris, it seems you always manage to!

Thank you, but that's not the really the case.

I guess I just still feel he could have done so more gently.

Quite likely true, but even at the Hall of Merit, where there are many highly attentive readers, gentle statements sometimes fail to provoke discussion. It's a continual challenge to provoke enough to spark debate but not so much as to provoke hard feelings. Since our projecct thrives on lively debate, it seems likely that we will spill over into hard feelings from time to time, cool off, and resume. I'm a _lot_ calmer about the swings in the tone of debate than I was in my first year of involvement because I've gotten used to how the tone of debates shift, so I don't react personally myself nearly as much as I used to. In fact, I'm not even sure if there was more hard feelings and ad hominem rhetoric in the early years than there is now, or if I just don't react to it as much as I did. I _think_ there's less, that we as a group have gradually gotten better at finding the line between provoking debate and provoking hard feelings, but I'm not entirely sure.
   96. sunnyday2 Posted: August 05, 2007 at 01:15 AM (#2471247)
I'm sure there's less and I'm not sure that's a good thing. I am sympathetic to DanG's frustration which is that as we wind down toward the end of this process, and as we have elect 3 year after elect 3 year after elect 3 year, the last 50 HoMers have on average been subjected to less discussion than the first 50 or the second 50 or the third 50. Browning, about whom I happen to disagree with DanG, has at least been debated. Not so some others among recent inductees.
   97. DanG Posted: August 05, 2007 at 04:21 AM (#2471685)
Why Browning? Why now? Cuz I had time this week. OK, that’s not the main reason. It’s because he seems the most divisive – having as many very strong supporters as he does very strong detractors, as I tried to show in the quotes in post #8. And, no, I haven’t gone back and checked the elections of Stieb/Randolph/Fingers/Beckley and counted their very strong detractors, so it’s possible that Browning will not be the most reviled HoMer.

Actually, it was probably Joe Dimino’s comment in post #46 of the 2002 Ballot thread that really got me motivated:

“Pete Browning - would be by far our biggest mistake. Hack Wilson would be an equivalent electee. Please don't do this. [emphasis mine] Stieb or Charley Jones would be light years better as choices.”

(As an aside to Dan R, I suggest your time would be better spent critiquing the systems of Joe Dimino, Chris Cobb and other Browning-downers who’ve put a lot of time into their systems, rather than continuing to lob grenades in my direction.)

So, again, the argument isn’t really about Browning; he was more the fuse that lit my passion. Sorry, John, but I do see the system as failing us. A couple “years” back somewhere, I mentioned my affection for this project. Heck, I was a signer on the Declaration of Merit, a founding father of our system. The intent was for it to be bullet-proof, to be seen as producing excellent results both by insiders and outsiders to the project. I’m not so sure that’s happening. It will be all too easy to look at the elections from the late 90’s on and question how some of those 3rd place finishers snuck into the HoM. (My thanks to Chris; it’s nice to know this isn’t a completely isolated position: “I share Dan G's concerns about the reliability of results when we elect candidates with below 30% of total vote count.”)

Is it too late to make changes in the voting system? Practically speaking, yes; heck, it was too late 70 years ago when we should’ve gone to a 20-man ballot for the 1934 election. IMO, it’s never a bad time to make improvements to the system, but I realize that nobody agrees with that. If I thought there was enough concern to deviate from the status quo I would offer some ideas; maybe another time.

The Browning crowd has demonstrated itself to be a feisty bunch, weighing in strongly; it’s been a long, hard road for them. The other side hasn’t done quite as good a job, maybe because Browning’s election is seen is inevitable. Maybe so, but I have a general aversion to the “done deal” mentality. As I wrote: “His case should have a final airing before he gets his plaque” – and this wasn’t happening. A thread entitled “Stovey and Browning” should contain more than seven posts.

Finally, thanks to Marc for understanding. He also raised this point: the last 50 HoMers have on average been subjected to less discussion than the first 50 or the second 50 or the third 50. Yes, the elections of Stieb and Randolph, in particular, did lack requisite scrutiny, IMO. Again, it’s system failure. More than 2-3 weeks is needed; more like 2-3 months. Somewhere along the line we should have begun requiring preliminary ballots, and also tallying them, to question the impending results before being stuck with them forever.
   98. Mark Donelson Posted: August 05, 2007 at 05:08 AM (#2471802)
I don't disagree with very much of this last post of yours, DanG; had you made it clearer from the start (in this thread) that your concern was as much structural as about Browning, I doubt the firestorm would have erupted. The Browning defenders would still have defended him, but I think the vitriol would have been minimized.

In the Browning camp's defense, a post entitled "Titanic Disaster" that focuses almost entirely on Browning, not on the structural issue (which you mentioned, but almost in passing) is pretty easy to misread the way we apparently did. :) But I guess we did miss this:

When a Randolph or Stieb is elected with low ballot support, there is little outcry because they’re not very far off the ballots of their non-supporters.

Personally, I think that's incorrect; Randolph was definitely light-years from the ballots of many of the peak voters (the non-DanR variety, anyway), including mine and Sunny's. Stieb may or may not be less divisive; I'm not sure (I know I like him better than Randolph, but that's not much evidence of anything).

More generally, I heartily disagree that the vehemence of some of the electorate AGAINST a certain candidate should count for, well, anything. Why is it better to elect someone everyone is tepid about than to elect someone at least a portion of the electorate likes a lot? (I'm not saying the latter is definitely better either--it's debatable--but I'm really not seeing the former as in any way clearly the best option.)

And it does seem strange to me that this is all coming to a head now. I mean, we've known for a really long time that these elect-3s at the end were going to be full of backloggers and borderline new-eligibles, and that this most likely meant a bunch of electees who were going to get under 30 percent approval. Perhaps the reason I find it hard to get too upset by this is that I'm not the least bit surprised by it. Were you expecting things to be otherwise at this point? (Based on your occasional attempts to change the system in the past, I guess not.)

Finally, I definitely agree with Sunny that I wish you'd brought this issue up a few elections ago, about one of the more recent arrivals like Randolph or Stieb. Frankly, even Tony Perez, who's been around a little while, hasn't really gotten as much discussion as I'd like. I believe you support him, but he'll be at least equally divisive as Browning if he makes it--he's certainly not remotely in my top 50, and I don't think I'm by any means alone there. Relative to those folks, I feel guys like Browning, Beckley, and Bresnahan have gotten a pretty fair grilling, even before this.
   99. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: August 05, 2007 at 01:46 PM (#2471815)
A thread entitled “Stovey and Browning” should contain more than seven posts.


Dan, they were discussed extensively in many discussion threads.
   100. sunnyday2 Posted: August 05, 2007 at 01:47 PM (#2471819)
Just to clarify, as a Browning supporter I was nevertheless not all that offended by DanG's screed. The structural part of his argument after all is correct. The Browning part is misguided ;-)

And when I said (Mark says I said it, so I probably did) that I wish DanG had brought this up sooner, well, I know that he did.

So anyway, my points were 1) to agree that it's too bad we are electing guys at <30 percent, 2) it is too late to change the rules, and 3) so if we can't really address this "structurally," then therefore this is really about Pete Browning, and if Browning gets elected he is by definition no worse a "mistake" than Willie Randolph. Anybody who continues to equate Browning with "mistake" is having no affect whatever on my ballot any more than my issues with Randolph affected yours.
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