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Monday, December 30, 2013

Dave Cameron:  The Hall of Fame’s Standard, and Its Biggest Problem

I don’t recall if this link was posted before, but I just read it and found it a good summary of how under-represented the current era may be in the current and future Hall of Fame voting.  Puts a lot of ideas in my head into perspective.

brutus Posted: December 30, 2013 at 02:37 AM | 25 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hall of fame

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   1. Mickey Henry Mays Posted: December 30, 2013 at 11:44 AM (#4626304)
"So, at the minimum, the BBWAA needs to elect something like 28 more guys from that decade. Let’s check off the names of the guys we’re fairly certain will get elected at some point in the not too distant future."

1. Greg Maddux, 1966
2. Ken Griffey Jr, 1969
3. Randy Johnson, 1963
4. Mariano Rivera, 1969
5. Tom Glavine, 1966
6. Craig Biggio, 1965

Thomas, Bagwell, and Piazza belong on the list which still leaves us at ~30-50% of any other decade except the 1911-1920 period which is obviously effected by the war.
On the other hand, it's a little early to make these comparisons considering we're not finished electing the guys born in the '60's. The way I see it, the absolute maximum amount of guys we can elect born in the 60's is 21. I suppose that's on the lower end considering the bigger talent pool. But, does a bigger talent pool really exponentially produce more HOF quality players?
   2. Random Transaction Generator Posted: December 30, 2013 at 12:55 PM (#4626392)
I'd prefer rolling 11-year periods centered around each year, but I don't have the freedom right now to do it myself. :)

So it "1900" would be 1895-1905, "1901" would be 1896-1906, etc.
It might identify peaks/troughs more easily, and see if there would be a similar peak/trough for the early 1960s or the late 1960s.
   3. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: December 30, 2013 at 01:16 PM (#4626414)
I suppose that's on the lower end considering the bigger talent pool. But, does a bigger talent pool really exponentially produce more HOF quality players?


Cameron isn't proposing a Hall of Fame that is a percentage of the talent pool, he's proposing a Hall of Fame that is a percentage of active players.

In other words, if Bud Selig announced tomorrow that he would be adding 100 more teams for 2015, Yuniesky Betancourt would be a Hall of Fame caliber player.

Conversely, if he cut the number of teams to 12, say goodbye to Cabrera's Hall of Fame chances.
   4. Mayor Blomberg Posted: December 30, 2013 at 01:19 PM (#4626421)
I don't believe he removed all the players elected by the VC, did he?
   5. Mike Emeigh Posted: December 30, 2013 at 01:22 PM (#4626423)
The main issue with Cameron's take is that he doesn't split out the players named by the BBWAA from those named by the incarnations of the VC. The players from the 60s haven't yet been considered by the VC, of course.

The way I see it, the absolute maximum amount of guys we can elect born in the 60's is 21. I suppose that's on the lower end considering the bigger talent pool. But, does a bigger talent pool really exponentially produce more HOF quality players?


Good question. I'm not sure that it necessarily does, and I'm not sure how you'd try to measure it.

-- MWE
   6. Mike Emeigh Posted: December 30, 2013 at 01:35 PM (#4626440)
Cameron isn't proposing a Hall of Fame that is a percentage of the talent pool, he's proposing a Hall of Fame that is a percentage of active players.


And that's not necessarily right. Some of the increase in the active player talent pool is a result of increasing role specialization, where the players involved would either have had no major league career or a significantly less valuable and/or shorter career. It's not completely illogical to assert that the percentage of players who should be considered for the HoF should be lower today than it was 20-30 years ago, simply because many of today's top players are being asked to do less than they would have been asked to do in earlier times.

-- MWE
   7. Mickey Henry Mays Posted: December 30, 2013 at 01:40 PM (#4626448)
Cameron isn't proposing a Hall of Fame that is a percentage of the talent pool, he's proposing a Hall of Fame that is a percentage of active players.

In other words, if Bud Selig announced tomorrow that he would be adding 100 more teams for 2015, Yuniesky Betancourt would be a Hall of Fame caliber player.

Conversely, if he cut the number of teams to 12, say goodbye to Cabrera's Hall of Fame chances.




"With 2,656 players in MLB born between 1961-1970, the smallest of small hall voters would favor electing 27 candidates from that decade, while the most aggressive big hall guy would favor up to 53 candidates from that 10 year period. We can basically round those numbers and say that the historical standard suggests that there should be something like 30 to 50 Hall of Famers born in those years, if we’re upholding the historical standard of election."


I didn't just pull out of my ass. Where he stands on the subject isn't entirely clear, but he did bring it up.

edit: I see the misunderstanding now. I was using "talent pool" as a stand-in for "active players". I owe you an apology.
   8. kthejoker Posted: December 30, 2013 at 02:19 PM (#4626487)
Also, all of Dave's numbers include VC picks, so it's definitely too early to tell.
   9. kthejoker Posted: December 30, 2013 at 02:43 PM (#4626511)
After the 1973 election, the only players born from 1921-1930 in the Hall were Warren Spahn, Yogi Berra, and Roy Campanella. They couldn't even elect Whitey Ford in! What a terrible dereliction of duty.
   10. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: December 30, 2013 at 03:04 PM (#4626525)
While this analysis has an aesthetic appeal (and I agree with Cameron's general point), it seems to me that analyzing HoF inductees by birth year is not much different then analyzing them by the era in which they played -- which has been done many, many times.
   11. PreservedFish Posted: December 30, 2013 at 03:33 PM (#4626544)
Apologies if the point has already been made, but I think the effect of expansion should be considered. 1% of 30 teams is quite different from 1% of 16 teams. That Cameron does not even address this is a major failure. Obviously the talent pool has also grown, but I am open to the argument that standards should be made loftier to compensate and that the rule of thumb of 1-2% can be chopped almost in half.
   12. PreservedFish Posted: December 30, 2013 at 03:35 PM (#4626547)
And now I see that the point was made immediately by multiple people. Nice going me!
   13. alilisd Posted: December 30, 2013 at 03:37 PM (#4626548)
Some of the increase in the active player talent pool is a result of increasing role specialization, where the players involved would either have had no major league career or a significantly less valuable and/or shorter career. It's not completely illogical to assert that the percentage of players who should be considered for the HoF should be lower today than it was 20-30 years ago, simply because many of today's top players are being asked to do less than they would have been asked to do in earlier times.


I'm not following you. Has any other position besides pitcher become more specialized? I'd agreee starting pitchers are being "asked to do less" but I don't see anyone else being asked to do much less. Well, to an extent DH contributes to this for position players as they can get a day off from the field here and there, but that seems pretty mild in its impact. I don't see anyone who wouuld "have had no major league career...", such that he would be considered for the HOF, playing due to increased "role specialization."
   14. Jim Wisinski Posted: December 30, 2013 at 04:10 PM (#4626582)
Also, all of Dave's numbers include VC picks, so it's definitely too early to tell.


To be fair, Cameron's point is that the writers ought to be electing all these worthy players themselves so the VC doesn't have to correct a lot of mistakes in the future.
   15. The District Attorney Posted: December 30, 2013 at 09:26 PM (#4626849)
Poz takes this article a bit further. He reasons that since 1.26% of MLB players born 1910-1960 are in the HOF, you could figure that there should be about 33 born 1961-1970 (when 2,656 players were born total.) So, what might that group of 33 look like?

You have Alomar and Larkin already elected, and the six sure things mentioned in post #1. Poz adds Smoltz as a sure thing¹, and Biggio, Bagwell, Piazza, Thome, and Hoffman as "very likely"s. That's 14.

Then he adds Schilling, Mussina, Vizquel², E. Martinez, L. Walker, McGriff, Kent, K. Brown, Lofton, Edmonds, Cone, Mattingly. Which is still only 26.

At that point, you could put in the six "PED guys" (Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Sheffield, Sosa, Palmeiro), or if you want to maintain PED opposition, you could put in six guys who are all worse than David Cone or Don Mattingly. Either one gets you to 32.

Poz's conclusion:
Still one more spot? Well, you might consider John Olerud, Will Clark, Robin Ventura, Bernie Williams, Bret Saberhagen, You say: Oh come on, those guys weren’t Hall of Famers. But this is the point: Historically, they were — or they were right on the brink. If you go back to those players before 1910 — when more than 2% of the players were elected — you would still have to find TWENTY more players for the Hall. You would start talking about Kevin Appier and Chuck Finley, Matt Williams and Darryl Strawberry, Steve Finley and Jamie Moyer, Mark Langston, Jimmy Key and David Justice.

See, the arguments we’re having — about whether a guy like Curt Schilling or Edgar Martinez is a Hall of Famer — having nothing at all to do with the Hall of Fame as it stands. They are not on the line. They are way, way above it. This has something to do with a new, tougher standard that we are instituting on the fly. Maybe the new tougher standard is the right one for a variety of reasons. But make no mistake: It is newer, and it is tougher. I hear from people all the time who want to throw players out of the Hall of Fame. They’ll never be able to do that, of course. This, I guess, is the next best thing.

Re: the VC: I don't see the relevance of this point. There is no suggestion anywhere that the BBWAA should be voting based on the prior BBWAA selections and ignoring the VC selections. Each group, as far as I can tell (or have ever heard), is supposed to be treating each Hall of Famer, however selected, as defining the standards on which they vote.

¹ For some reason. I'd consider him a "very likely."
² I think Poz is not necessarily saying that Vizquel belongs, but acknowledging that he will likely be elected.
   16. PreservedFish Posted: December 30, 2013 at 09:55 PM (#4626863)
Does Poz also ignore the expansion factor?
   17. Baldrick Posted: December 30, 2013 at 10:15 PM (#4626876)
Re: the VC: I don't see the relevance of this point. There is no suggestion anywhere that the BBWAA should be voting based on the prior BBWAA selections and ignoring the VC selections. Each group, as far as I can tell (or have ever heard), is supposed to be treating each Hall of Famer, however selected, as defining the standards on which they vote.

Well, maybe.

But since the VC is an institution with its own mandate now - you have to assume they're going to continue to induct people. They are unlikely to just say 'yep, the voters got it absolutely right' year after year after year. Which means if the voters actually DO induct all the 'right' people, the VC will start adding more on top of that. Beyond that, if the voters induct the 'wrong' people, you have a VC that might feel obligated to fill in the gaps which once again expands things. Those things are true even if everyone is behaving 'rationally.' That is: even if everyone basically agrees on the size of the Hall, the different functions of the different groups will tend to expand things.

Add in the fact that people obviously don't agree that there is a single rational size for the Hall, and I think it makes perfect sense for the voters to maintain a higher standard than the purely historical assessment. The bottom 15-20% of a generation's HOFers probably should be treated more skeptically by the voters.

Which is not to say that the recent trend of refusing to induct the bottom 60% of the field, while simultaneously voting in an assortment of non-qualified candidates, makes any sense.
   18. Walt Davis Posted: December 30, 2013 at 11:39 PM (#4626912)
Whether the voters should adapt their standards to the VC standards or not is a bit irrelevant. The voters have never really adapted their standards to the VC standards.

Which is almost certainly a good thing since the VC standards are all over the place (for all sorts of reasons).

It doesn't seem difficult or radical to recognize that at least the Frisch-led VC had ridiculously low standards. Allowing the inclusion of the worst of the Frisch selections to influence future voting would have been a mistake.

On the broader question:

Pretty much by definition, expanding the talent pool increases the number of HoF-quality players (assuming some true "standard"). Expanding the number of jobs available of course does not.

Let's break it down:

1) The distribution of talent in the US population remains the same, the size of the population grows -- more HoF-quality players.
2) The distribution of talent in baseball-playing countries mirrors the US, MLB begins to employ players from those countries -- more HoF-quality players.
3) The size of the available labor remains the same, the number of jobs increases -- no increase in the number of HoF-quality players.

Those are the easy bits. The tough bits:

a) it's not the size of the total US (and Latin and increasingly Asian) population but those in the appropriate age ranges -- i.e. baby boom produces a ton of HoF-quality players, Gen X not necessarily as many (note, it is size not proportion though).

b) are the cultural differences sufficient to expect different distributions of talent? For example, the poverty of the DR would suggest that, even with the same distribution of "natural" talent, the distribution of "realized" talent might be sub-par -- i.e. the labor pool didn't grow in proportion to the DR population. So, for example, the early years of Latin integration into the game saw mostly pitchers and shortstops (or so it seems), the latter possibly due to poorer nutrition, etc. We have been seeing something similar with Asia where there has not been a major influx of quality position players (Ichiro and H Matsui).

c) Competition for athletic talent from the NBA and NFL.

But, in general, there's no reason to think "natural" baseball talent distribution should vary substantially by country and no obvious (to me) reason to think the "realized" baseball talent distribution should vary substantially across the baseball-playing countries, especially DR, Asia, etc.

That said, the relatively massive proportion of players from the DR/Latin America relative to their population size and, to a probably lesser extent, the recent substantial decline in African-Americans in MLB would seem more consistent with a "replacement" process than an "expansion" process ... possibly in reaction to losing talent to NFL/NBA and/or the demographic shift in the US towards an aged population.

For example, from the 2012 Stat Abstract, the number of 5-14 year-olds in different Census years (not sure if these are Census data or estimates but not likely to matter a lot):

1920 22 M
1930 25 M
1940 22 M
1950 24 M
1960 35 M
1970 41 M
1980 35 M
1990 35 M
2000 41 M

So, the talent pool in the US exploded during the 50s as we know but has remained fairly stable since. Those 5-14 in 1960 would have hit the majors during the 70s (mainly) and, yes, it would seem logical that there would be about 50% more HoFer's (in terms of talent) than in the previous two cohorts. It certainly makes at least superficial sense that the (roughly) 85-05 era of MLB would produce a relatively large number of HoFers.

The expansion of the 60s was, if anything, smaller than it should have been from an available talent perspective (i.e. African-Americans coming in post-war and not reaching full integration until the 60s plus the 50% increase in total young population plus the entry into Latin America in the 60s). The addition of Toronto and Seattle in the 70s probably evened that up. The expansion in the 90s however did not coincide with an increase in the US labor pool.

I'm not suggesting expansion is driven by available labor -- it's driven by available concentrated potential audience. It's just that some expansion coincided with labor pool increases and some didn't. We should have seen more HoFers debut from, roughly, 1970-1990 than we did from 1950-1970 -- i.e. the size of the labor pool expanded and no strong reason to expect the distribution shifted dramatically. But the players debuting from 1990-2010 on are being drawn from the same size US labor pool.

Now, how to adjust those for competition from NFL/NBA vs. the addition of DR, etc. would be a lot trickier. The entire population of the DR is only 9 M and, even with a younger age profile (I assume), we can't be talking more than 2-3 M more kids in any of those years ... maybe an 8% larger pool. MLB doesn't draw just from the DR of course but adding in the others won't have a big impact I don't think. (yes, Venezuela is 28 M people but they don't send that many to MLB) And the number of Asian MLBers is still quite small and can't impact the overall talent distribution.


   19. ptodd Posted: January 01, 2014 at 12:48 AM (#4627529)
Cameron isn't proposing a Hall of Fame that is a percentage of the talent pool, he's proposing a Hall of Fame that is a percentage of active players.


And coincidentally, players from the smallest talent pool are in the HOF at double the rates.

Apologies if the point has already been made, but I think the effect of expansion should be considered. 1% of 30 teams is quite different from 1% of 16 teams. That Cameron does not even address this is a major failure. Obviously the talent pool has also grown, but I am open to the argument that standards should be made loftier to compensate and that the rule of thumb of 1-2% can be chopped almost in half.


For much of the 16 team era players of color were banned and birth rates were 1/2 to 1/4 of what they were in the the modern era. Couple that with the flood of talent from integration, Latin America and to a lesser extent Asia your suggestion that 30 teams somehow has diluted the pool of talent today compared to in the 16 team era boggles my befuddled mind.

I would say players born in the 50's and later should be included at double the current rates. Not sure number of players is the best model though, perhaps it should be number of players with at least 10 full seasons which should be measured.
   20. Dr. Vaux Posted: January 01, 2014 at 01:05 AM (#4627530)
First post of 2014!
   21. PreservedFish Posted: January 01, 2014 at 11:55 AM (#4627582)
For much of the 16 team era players of color were banned and birth rates were 1/2 to 1/4 of what they were in the the modern era. Couple that with the flood of talent from integration, Latin America and to a lesser extent Asia your suggestion that 30 teams somehow has diluted the pool of talent today compared to in the 16 team era boggles my befuddled mind.


Oh, I'm aware of this. Although I have no way of measuring it (#18 is a nice shot at it). There's two points I want to make here:

1. I was really only noting my surprise that Cameron didn't even address the point. Maybe he thought it was self-evident? The idea that the number of Hall of Famers should remain a constant percent of the number of MLB jobs is entirely fallacious, as demonstrated above in #3. It's a really poor showing to write an article on the subject and not even note this problem.

2. There is another question, and that's whether or not an expanded talent pool demands an expanded Hall of Fame. I suspect that the quality of, say, the 10th best sprinter or swimmer or marathoner in the world is much greater today than it was 50 years ago - and yet the Olympics still only award medals to the top 3 guys. Cameron takes it for granted that percentage of inductees per total players should remain constant. But I find the idea that the total number of inductees per generation should remain roughly constant - regardless of the size of the league or talent base - more compelling. (Subject of course to fluctuations in the number of superstars)
   22. The District Attorney Posted: January 01, 2014 at 01:03 PM (#4627620)
I would say players born in the 50's and later should be included at double the current rates.
Heh. Okay, which 66 players born 1961-70 do you want? I gave you a bunch of names in #15. You'll still need more even if you take all of them, though ;)
   23. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: January 01, 2014 at 03:16 PM (#4627702)
I agree with you, PF.
   24. DanG Posted: January 02, 2014 at 12:27 AM (#4627986)
The HOF still has much work to do on players born in the 1940's and 50's to get them up to fair representation with previous decades. As mentioned, they've barely begun to elect 1960's born players.

Looking at the long stretch of history, all players born from 1880 to 1940. Including Negro leaguers, the Hall has enshrined 158 players born in that 61-year span, or 2.6 per year. They will no doubt add to that number, with Minoso, Hodges, Oliva and Kaat being the prime candidates.

Based on the 2.6 per year standard, I led a little project a year ago to identify the plausible HOF candidates born 1961-86. Here's the list we produced (A few clunkers, but a decent list overall. Personally, I favored Tulowitzki, Pedroia and Reyes over Konerko, Howard and Kemp.).

1961(1) - Don Mattingly
1962(1) - Roger Clemens
1963(4) - Randy Johnson, Edgar Martinez, Mark McGwire, Fred McGriff
1964(2) - Barry Larkin, Barry Bonds
1965(1) - Craig Biggio
1966(4) - Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Curt Schilling, Larry Walker
1967(3) - John Smoltz, Trevor Hoffman, Omar Vizquel
1968(8) - Roberto Alomar, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Frank Thomas, Jeff Kent, Mike Mussina, Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa
1969(2) - Ken Griffey, Jr., Mariano Rivera
1970(2) - Jim Thome, Jim Edmonds
1971(2) - Pedro Martinez, Ivan Rodriguez
1972(3) - Chipper Jones, Manny Ramirez, Andy Pettitte
1973(2) - Ichiro Suzuki, Todd Helton
1974(1) - Derek Jeter
1975(3) - Alex Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero, Scott Rolen
1976(2) - Lance Berkman, Paul Konerko
1977(3) - Roy Halladay, Carlos Beltran, Andruw Jones
1978(2) - Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins
1979(2) - Adrian Beltre, Ryan Howard
1980(3) - Albert Pujols, C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira
1981(1) - Josh Hamilton
1982(2) - Robinson Cano, David Wright
1983(5) - Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Joe Mauer, Joey Votto, Ryan Braun
1984(2) - Prince Fielder, Matt Kemp
1985(1) - Evan Longoria
1986(1) - Felix Hernandez

Since a year ago a few things have changed, of course. Andrew McCutchen may be the best candidate now for 1986. Buster Posey is probably the best for 1987. Clayton Kershaw has the early lead for players born in 1988.
   25. PreservedFish Posted: January 02, 2014 at 12:46 AM (#4627994)
Yes. That approach makes more sense to me than Cameron's does.

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