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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mitchell: Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera

It is likely that Pujols and Cabrera will be linked in the minds of many fans as they move through the next few years as aging and overpaid Hall of Fame-caliber sluggers. It is way too early to declare either of them finished or washed up, but it is equally clear that their best years are likely behind them.

Cabrera’s 2012 triple crown catapulted him to new level of fame and visibility, but by most measures he was never quite as good as Pujols in his prime. By conventional statistical measures, Pujols is the superior home run hitter, having topped 40 home runs in a season six times, compared to only twice for Cabrera. Through his age 30 season, Pujols had batted .331, compared to Cabrera who hit .321 through the end of last season when he was 30 years old. More advanced analytical numbers show Pujols, not least because of his superior defense, to be the better all around player. By the time he was 30, Pujols had 7 seasons of 9 or more WAR. Cabrera’s career high for WAR was 7.5, in both 2013 and 2011. Through his age 30 season, Cabrera had an OPS+ of 154, while Pujols’ was 172 through that age. It is hard to look closely at the two players’ numbers and not conclude that Pujols has been the superior player. It is possible that Cabrera will become the better older player and narrow the gap somewhat, but when both players are retired, and their enormous contracts are finally over, it is very likely that Pujols will have had the more impressive career.

Cabrera is a very good player, but he is also in danger of being defined by his most well-known accomplishment. Cabrera’s 2012 triple crown was the first by anybody in an astounding 45 years. The triple crown is perhaps the ultimate old school offensive accomplishment. It consists of leading the league in three categories, home runs, batting average and RBIs, the latter two of which are still taken seriously by some while seen as of secondary import to many more advanced quantitative analysts of the game. In 2012, Cabrera beat out Pujols’ teammate Mike Trout for the MVP award despite Trout having a much better year by more contemporary measures. That MVP vote was as much a referendum on methodology for evaluating players as it was a vote about who was the best player, but it elevated Cabrera just as Pujols’ decline was becoming most noticeable. That triple crown may also help distinguish Cabrera from Pujols who will probably never win one. In the eyes of many, he will be seen as the superior slugger of the era, but Pujols at his best was a better player, and hitter, than Cabrera ever was.

Thanks to Los.

Repoz Posted: May 10, 2014 at 07:41 AM | 57 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: angels, tigers

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   1. Ok, Griffey's Dunn (Nothing Iffey About Griffey) Posted: May 10, 2014 at 09:41 AM (#4703950)
7 times in his first 11 seasons, Albert was top 2 in the MVP votting, winning 3 times. The other 4 seasons were a 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 9th.

Cabrera, in his 11 seasons, has 2 firsts and 1 2nd, and has finished in the top 4 other times (1 4th, 3 5ths)

Anyone who knows anything about baseball, will know that Albert has been the greater player. It's not even particularly close
   2. TDF, situational idiot Posted: May 10, 2014 at 11:28 AM (#4704012)
You want to know what pisses off my Detroit friends? When I tell them Joey Votto has been as good of a hitter as Miguel Cabrera.

Votto: 154 OPS+, .410 wOBA, 156 RC+
Cabrera: 153 OPS+, .406 wOBA, 151 RC+

The big difference is the big difference in playing time (7262 PA Cabrera, 3944 Votto), but in terms of rate Votto's been at least as good.
   3. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: May 10, 2014 at 01:36 PM (#4704062)
Ah yes, the minor issue of 3000+ plate appearances.
   4. Booey Posted: May 10, 2014 at 01:55 PM (#4704070)
Cabrera is one of my favorite players and I love watching him hit, but all the talk about him being the greatest right handed hitter since Aaron or DiMaggio or Hornsby or whoever is really shortsighted and starting to get annoying (this article isn't one of them, FYI). Have people really forgotten that Pujols was just as good or better less than 5 years ago? Manny was just as good (though less durable) just 10 years ago. McGwire was a better hitter 15 years ago. And Thomas was just as good or better 20 years ago. That's 4 right handers in the last 20 years alone that were at least as good. 2 of them don't even have any roid connections, for those that care about such things.

Miggy is awesome, but I suspect people will remember him as being even greater than he was, at least in comparison to some of his contemporaries. Pujols especially - a clearly superior player - seems to be getting the short end of the historical greatness stick lately.
   5. gehrig97 Posted: May 10, 2014 at 02:53 PM (#4704106)
If Cabrera declines for a couple of years, all of "best right-handed hitter" talk disappears.
   6. alilisd Posted: May 10, 2014 at 04:14 PM (#4704168)
I have missed such talk. I do hear much talk of him as the best hitter in the game, and, as his putting up seemingly peak years the past four seasons in conjunction with Pujols struggling, this seems reasonable. It will be interesting to see how long he can maintain his peak.

McGwire had a couple of big seasons late in his career, heavily aided by the Silly Ball era, but Cabrera is a much better hitter, not to mention much healthier.
   7. Blackadder Posted: May 10, 2014 at 04:48 PM (#4704176)
Cabrera is at best McGwires's equal as a hitter; he is not better, and certainly not "much better", unless you want to debate aesthetics instead of productivity. Health obviously matters for assessing value, but "best" is not the same as most valuable. Someone whose entire career was Barry Bonds from 2001 to 2004 would probably be the best hitter ever, even though his total value would be comparatively lacking.
   8. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: May 10, 2014 at 04:59 PM (#4704183)
Miggy is awesome, but I suspect people will remember him as being even greater than he was, at least in comparison to some of his contemporaries. Pujols especially - a clearly superior player - seems to be getting the short end of the historical greatness stick lately.


Welcome to the 21st century. It's not "what have you done for me lately?" anymore; it's "what have you done for me today?" And in the Twitter generation, whatever just happened a minute ago is the greatest thing that has ever happened in history.
   9. Srul Itza Posted: May 10, 2014 at 05:09 PM (#4704185)
oWAR, McGwire vs. Cabrera, best years (over 5 oWAR):

M - 9.2, 6.6, 6.1, 6.0, 5.7, 5.6
C - 9.2, 7.9, 7.7, 6.9, 6.7, 5.6, 5.2, 5.1


Some of that is in-season durability, but even so, this looks like more than just "aesthetics".
   10. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: May 10, 2014 at 05:35 PM (#4704195)
Some of that is in-season durability, but even so, this looks like more than just "aesthetics".

Some of it is the positional adjustment, too. Cabrera gets credit in oWAR for playing a fair amount of 3B and OF. In terms of Rbat/PA McGwire is at .071 and Cabrera is at .064 for their careers. McGwire was, on a rate basis, a better hitter than Cabrera to date (both at their peaks and in aggregate), although he gave back some of that in the field and even more of that on the DL.
   11. GregD Posted: May 10, 2014 at 06:06 PM (#4704199)
That's fair.

By RBat, they go

M 87/63/60/51/47/45/39/31/31/22
C 65/64/55/52/52/43/40/37/27/23

McGwire wins (by a huge margin) the best season, 3rd, 6th, and 9th
Cabrera wins 2nd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th, 10th

McGwire's best season was staggeringly good so he ends up 20 Rbat ahead for their best 10 years.
   12. billyshears Posted: May 10, 2014 at 06:11 PM (#4704200)
What's interesting is that for the first half of Pujol's career I thought of him as being really great, but clearly not as great as Barry Bonds.
   13. alilisd Posted: May 10, 2014 at 06:22 PM (#4704201)
To expand on my comments, I did mention McGwire's big seasons later in his career. Depending on how you view them you may very well prefer him to Cabrera. I discount them pretty heavily. It was a silly time, and likely a silly ball. Also, Cabrera through age 31 has a higher OPS+ than McGwire, though not a huge edge, but Cabrera already has nearly as many PA's as McGwire had in his entire career. You may consider this simply a value difference, but I think that's something which makes him distinctly better. I do not buy the perspective which says McGwire is just as good, or better, as player X when McGwire only played 50-100 games while player X played 150-160. No way. When the playing time difference is that extreme, you can keep your rates, especially if the rates are comparable as they are with McGwire and Cabrera.
   14. alilisd Posted: May 10, 2014 at 06:30 PM (#4704206)
GregD, for now. However, Cabrera is at his peak right now, and that 20 run gap will likely disappear this season as a season of 43, or better, replaces the 23. But McGwire has 1998 so I suppose there will always be an argument about how great he was.
   15. Walt Davis Posted: May 10, 2014 at 06:46 PM (#4704212)
I do not buy the perspective which says McGwire is just as good, or better, as player X when McGwire only played 50-100 games while player X played 150-160. No way. When the playing time difference is that extreme, you can keep your rates, especially if the rates are comparable as they are with McGwire and Cabrera.

But what question are you asking? "Who is the better hitter?" does not have any obvious quantity/durability component to it, it sounds like a rate question -- one that ignores position, defense and baserunning too. Probably the closest you can come to bringing a durability component in is, say, if player A was better in the peak years but player B wins the off years, there's no obvious answer to who was the better overall hitter -- A was better then B was better.

"Who is the better player?" might at least contain the idea of durability as a skill or at least as a desirable characteristic ... and clearly includes all-around-ness.

"Who produced the most value?" is clearly a quantity question.

There's also the question of to what extent do we consider walks to be part of "hitting." They're clearly part of offensive production with the bat -- and that's what we usually mean these days by "hitter". I have often described McGwire as a one-dimensional player (pure power) and others argue for walks/eye as a second dimension. And obviously his batting eye was better than many but most of the time for McGwire the passive "he was walked" is more accurate than "he walked." Without the massive power, he doesn't walk nearly that many time.

That extra boost of massive power also helped push Cabrera and Pujols higher through increased walks but they'd have both been valuable hitters with more moderate power. Give McGwire a still robust 200 ISO and I bet he loses 40-50 points off his OBP.

Admittedly that's close to the aesthetics argument and relies on speculation rather than what actually happened. I'll say I'd have happily had any of these guys on the Cubs.
   16. GregD Posted: May 10, 2014 at 06:48 PM (#4704215)
GregD, for now. However, Cabrera is at his peak right now, and that 20 run gap will likely disappear this season as a season of 43, or better, replaces the 23. But McGwire has 1998 so I suppose there will always be an argument about how great he was.
I agree.

I would rather have Cabrera and expect some more good seasons going for.

I do think the McGwire comparisons suggests the silliness of "greatest right hand hitter since Hornsby" (which you didn't make.) Cabrera is a wonderful hitter; the fact that he is comparable to other wonderful hitters is not an insult to him.
   17. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: May 10, 2014 at 07:58 PM (#4704242)
oWAR, McGwire vs. Cabrera, best years (over 5 oWAR)

oWAR accounts for position, though, and Cabrera has spent a good chunk of time at third base or in the outfield; that's relevant to overall value, but not to the question of "best hitter."

Top seasons by Batting Wins (per B-R):

McGwire 8.9, 6.0, 5.8, 5.2, 4.9, 4.7, 4.7
Cabrera 6.9, 6.8, 6.1, 5.5, 5.2, 4.4, 4.2
Pujols 7.5, 7.3, 7.2, 6.2, 6.2, 6.0, 5.9
Thomas 6.8, 6.7 (short season!), 6.5, 6.4, 6.2, 6.1, 6.1

I would read that as Pujols being the best of the group based on top 7 seasons, depending on how you strike-adjust Thomas's ridiculous '94 and how much weight you give McGwire's '98, which is far and away the best of the bunch (and appears, in fact, to be the best score by a right-handed hitter since Hornsby in '24, although Foxx in '32 gets an 8.8 in a shorter schedule).
   18. alilisd Posted: May 10, 2014 at 08:04 PM (#4704247)
True, Walt, who is the better hitter doesn't have an obvious quantity component to it, but it is implied, IMO, by such conventions as a qualifying number of AB for the batting title. I don't think anyone would point to McGwire's 1993 as his best season, but it is his best OPS+.

Thank you for such a thought provoking post. I enjoyed it.
   19. alilisd Posted: May 10, 2014 at 08:18 PM (#4704253)
Wow, Eric, Thomas's 1994! What a season!
   20. Walt Davis Posted: May 10, 2014 at 11:48 PM (#4704297)
True, Walt, who is the better hitter doesn't have an obvious quantity component to it, but it is implied, IMO, by such conventions as a qualifying number of AB for the batting title.

Sure and were we comparing seasonal OPS+s without any such adjustment, that would be a definite no-no. But if you're talking 7000 PA vs. 10000 PA, quality and quantity become more distinct.

In the BatWins comparison above, for example, McGwire's top 7 comprise about 6.5 full seasons of PA and occur from an age range of 23-35. Cabrera's are all full seasons (and then some) and range from 22 to 30. Not a big difference there. I'll also note Cabrera led the league 4 times out of those 7 while Mac led the league only in the 8.9 year.

Per b-r from 22-30 Cabrera averaged about 6 batwins per 162 games, Mac averaged about 4 batwins per 162. Cabrera wins easily. If we take McGwire more at his peak from 28-36, then it's an average of about 7 batwins/162 and Mac is ahead. (Sorry, b-r doesn't total PA when you aggregate that table and it reports batwins to no decimals.

Not that I have a clue what batwins are but I assume they're close enough.
   21. bobm Posted: May 11, 2014 at 12:17 AM (#4704300)
Spanning Multiple Seasons or entire Careers, From 1985 to 2014, Not Older than 31, (requiring year_min>=1985), sorted by greatest WAA Position Players

                                                                                                     
Rk              Player WAA/pos From   To   Age    G   PA    H  HR  SB   BA  OBP  SLG   OPS        Pos
1       Alex Rodriguez    65.7 1994 2007 18-31 1904 8482 2250 518 265 .306 .389 .578  .967     *65/DH
2        Albert Pujols    64.3 2001 2011 21-31 1705 7433 2073 445  84 .328 .420 .617 1.037 *375/9HD64
3          Barry Bonds    62.1 1986 1996 21-31 1583 6713 1595 334 380 .288 .404 .548  .952     *78/H9
4          Ken Griffey    52.1 1989 2001 19-31 1791 7736 1987 460 175 .296 .379 .566  .945   *8/DH379
5         Jeff Bagwell    39.5 1991 1999 23-31 1317 5800 1447 263 158 .304 .416 .545  .961     *3/HD9
6         Andruw Jones    36.7 1996 2008 19-31 1836 7514 1716 371 138 .259 .339 .489  .828    *89/HD7
7          Scott Rolen    35.4 1996 2006 21-31 1393 5939 1454 253  99 .285 .375 .515  .890       *5/H
8          Chase Utley    35.2 2003 2010 24-31 1006 4324 1095 177  96 .293 .380 .514  .894     *4/H3D
9          Mike Piazza    32.6 1992 2000 23-31 1117 4620 1356 278  17 .328 .392 .580  .972     *2/HD3
10        Frank Thomas    32.2 1990 1999 22-31 1371 6092 1564 301  28 .320 .440 .573 1.013      *3D/H
11      Ivan Rodriguez    31.9 1991 2003 19-31 1623 6640 1875 231  90 .304 .344 .488  .832      *2/HD
12      Carlos Beltran    31.6 1998 2008 21-31 1481 6520 1605 263 275 .281 .357 .496  .853    *8/DH97
13         Todd Helton    31.6 1997 2005 23-31 1279 5427 1535 271  33 .337 .433 .607 1.040     *3/H79
14      Miguel Cabrera    31.5 2003 2014 20-31 1691 7262 2031 369  36 .320 .398 .566  .963    5379/DH
15       Chipper Jones    30.4 1993 2003 21-31 1405 6067 1588 280 116 .309 .404 .541  .946   *57/6H9D
16   Vladimir Guerrero    30.0 1996 2006 21-31 1457 6159 1786 338 166 .325 .390 .583  .972     *9/DH8
17        David Wright    29.0 2004 2014 21-31 1408 6100 1598 223 185 .301 .381 .503  .883     *5/HD6
18      Roberto Alomar    28.9 1988 1999 20-31 1722 7583 2007 151 377 .304 .375 .446  .820     *4/HD6
19        Barry Larkin    28.9 1986 1995 22-31 1176 4991 1322 102 239 .298 .364 .438  .802      *6/H4
20         Bobby Abreu    28.5 1996 2005 22-31 1329 5681 1432 190 241 .303 .411 .512  .923    *9/H87D
21        Larry Walker    28.0 1989 1998 22-31 1171 4744 1265 225 179 .305 .382 .552  .933 *9/38H7D45
22       Adrian Beltre    27.5 1998 2010 19-31 1835 7518 1889 278 113 .275 .328 .462  .791    *5/HD64
23           Jim Thome    27.5 1991 2002 20-31 1377 5723 1332 334  18 .287 .414 .567  .982     *35D/H
24        Kenny Lofton    27.5 1991 1998 24-31  976 4437 1216  56 408 .311 .382 .428  .810      *8/HD
25        Craig Biggio    26.8 1988 1997 22-31 1379 5949 1470 116 268 .288 .377 .426  .803  *42/8H79D
[...]
28       Manny Ramirez    26.1 1993 2003 21-31 1383 5912 1585 347  31 .317 .413 .598 1.010     *97D/H
[...]
39          Joey Votto    23.0 2007 2014 23-30  924 3944 1031 162  48 .312 .419 .538  .957      *3/H7
[...]
45        Fred McGriff    21.1 1986 1995 22-31 1291 5318 1284 289  48 .285 .386 .535  .921      *3/DH
[...]
55    Andrew McCutchen    18.7 2009 2014 22-27  769 3335  857 107 129 .297 .383 .490  .873      *8/HD
[...]
59        Mark McGwire    18.4 1986 1995 22-31 1094 4428  921 277   7 .252 .369 .523  .892    *3/H5D9


   22. Cooper Nielson Posted: May 11, 2014 at 12:35 AM (#4704302)
I'm one of the biggest Miguel Cabrera fans here, but even I think it's obvious that he's no Albert Pujols. Well, I mean right now he is, but his best (assuming we've already seen it) wasn't as good as Pujols' best. Cabrera could still end up having a better career, though, depending on how they age. I don't think it's likely.
   23. GregD Posted: May 11, 2014 at 12:55 AM (#4704304)
WAA could work for Cabrera as Pujols is getting close to giving back points via WAA which shows why it fails to capture peak
   24. bobm Posted: May 11, 2014 at 01:31 AM (#4704307)
[23] Pujols is getting close to giving back points via WAA

                                      
Year   Age  Tm  Lg    G   PA  WAA  WAR
2001    21 STL  NL  161  676  4.5  6.6
2002    22 STL  NL  157  675  3.4  5.5
2003    23 STL  NL  157  685  6.6  8.6
2004    24 STL  NL  154  692  6.5  8.5
2005    25 STL  NL  161  700  6.3  8.4
2006    26 STL  NL  143  634  6.6  8.4
2007    27 STL  NL  158  679  6.7  8.7
2008    28 STL  NL  148  641  7.3  9.2
2009    29 STL  NL  160  700  7.6  9.7
2010    30 STL  NL  159  700  5.5  7.5
2011    31 STL  NL  147  651  3.3  5.3
2012    32 LAA  AL  154  670  2.4  4.8
2013    33 LAA  AL   99  443  0.4  1.9
2014    34 LAA  AL   34  153  0.8  1.2

14 Seasons         1992 8699 67.9 94.4
   25. cardsfanboy Posted: May 11, 2014 at 02:10 AM (#4704312)
I still think it's too early to say Pujols is giving away WAA, the only evidence of that was a clearly injury plagued 2013, as 2014 seems to be showing, is that his bat is much closer to 2012 level than it is to 2013.
   26. bjhanke Posted: May 11, 2014 at 03:40 AM (#4704316)
There may well have been better players than Mark McGwire, and better hitters, but there is one thing wrong with many comments, including alilisd (who is not, in general, a bad analyst). Mark McGwire's home run records from 1997 onwards are almost entirely the product of two factors. The first, which applied to everyone in his time, was the general offensive level of the period, especially for homers. The second, and BY FAR the most important, was that McGwire, in mid-97, moved from a lousy home run park in Oakland to what was, essentially, a neutral park in St. Louis. That's why his homers went crazy. You could have seen it coming, if you'd had any idea, in 1987, what was going to happen to offensive levels. In 1987, Mac set the rookie record for homers - in OAKLAND. This almost never happens. If you set an offensive record, like Hornsby's .424 in 1924, or a pitching record, like Gibson's ERA in 1968, you will very very likely (well over 50%) set that record in both a time that favors what you're doing (offense or defense) and in a park (Sportsman's Park vs. Busch Stadium before they brought the fences in after Whitey Herzog's time) that favors what you're doing.

If you are an honest and thorough analyst, you are going to end up concluding that Mark McGwire was the best HOMER hitter in the history of baseball, including Babe Ruth. Mac did not hit for average like Ruth. He had a few missed seasons, or bad ones recovering from injuries, and he wasn't a very good fielder (perhaps not even a good one, even among 1B). But if you're just restricting the discussion to homer rate, Mac is the best in history, with or without steroids of whatever kind taken whenever. (One thing that people always seem to miss is that The Sainted Jose Canseco, on page 7 of his book, specifically EXcludes 1987 as a McGwire steroid year. So that rookie record is completely clean.) Yes, 1987 was a hitters' year - compared to 1986 and 1988. But by 1998, that was ancient history. Mark McGwire was, very simply, the best homer hitter ever. He was not Babe Ruth overall, but he was the best at that single skill of hitting homers. And he did take many walks, so his OBPs are high even when his batting averages are modest. Record-setting power. Tons of walks. Makes for a very large OPS, or possibly OWAR (although the various WAR systems are in such a mid-stage of development that I never know what I'm going to see), doesn't it? And the + factor in OPS+ shouldn't destroy that, because it should adjust for time period and ballpark, and one of those helps Mac, while the other one hurts him.

What I don't understand is why sabermetricians haven't stopped disagreeing with this long ago. It should be a long-since-decided issue, and we should have moved long past it. - Brock Hanke
   27. valuearbitrageur Posted: May 11, 2014 at 03:57 AM (#4704318)
Spanning Multiple Seasons or entire Careers, From 1985 to 2014, Not Older than 31, (requiring year_min>=1985), sorted by greatest WAA Position Players


Comparing Miggy to Mark McGwire by WAA up to age 31 is the most favorable comparison for Miggy you could make. Miggy came up at age 20, Mark wasn't in the Majors until he was 22 (18 games). By the start of Mark's official rookie season at age 23, he was already 4.5 WAA behind Miggy. End the comparsion at age 31 (which you have to since we don't know the future) also coincides with some of the worst years of Mark's career.

McGwire actually had more WAA after age 31 (18.6) than before it (18.5), he might be the only player in history to do that, at least who was a full time starter during the majority of his twenties. There isn't a chance in heck that Miggy accumulates anywhere near 18 WAA going forward. Due to Miggy's size, defensive limitations & contract he's likely to
a) be below average after age 35, and
b) will still continue to play a lot of games as a below average player till his retirement.

Miggy has 31.5 WAA in 1,691 games. McGwire finished with 37 WAA in 1,874 games. It's going to be hard for Miggy to reach 37 WAA by his 1,874th game. He needs to put up one of the best 183 game stretches of his career while already starting to show signs of decline. It's actually surprising Miggy doesn't have more WAA already because Miggy has had the luxury of far more games in his prime than Mark to pile up WAA. Mark accumulated very little WAA in his prime, he missed 300 games between the ages 29 & 31 due to injuries & strike, almost 2 full seasons.

Mark was clearly the better hitter when he was able to play (as others have pointed out, using WAA alone also gives Miggy extra credit for playing third). Miggy has been nearly as valuable as Mark because he's played more years (coming up at age 19) and far healthier, even his problems with alcohol never stopped him from playing 157 games a year.
   28. DavidFoss Posted: May 11, 2014 at 06:06 AM (#4704320)
McGwire actually had more WAA after age 31 (18.6) than before it (18.5), he might be the only player in history to do that, at least who was a full time starter during the majority of his twenties.


Roberto Clemente had more WAA after age 31 (31.0) than he did up to and including age 31 (25.9).

That's impressive on multiple levels. He was a full time player starting at the age of 20 and his career was tragically cut short after his age 37 season so there's 7031 PA before and 3180 PA after. Also, his MVP season was at age 31 so that's more WAA after the MVP than before and including it.
   29. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: May 11, 2014 at 08:08 AM (#4704325)
McGwire actually had more WAA after age 31 (18.6) than before it (18.5), he might be the only player in history to do that, at least who was a full time starter during the majority of his twenties.

The original great old player: Honus Wagner had 40.2 WAA through age 31, and 51.7 from age 32 on.
   30. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: May 11, 2014 at 09:21 AM (#4704341)
Miggy is better than the rest cuz he didn't do no steroids.
   31. Moeball Posted: May 11, 2014 at 10:49 AM (#4704381)
The thing that jumps out at me looking at bobm's list in #24 is Chase Utley.

He has the fewest PAs of anyone in the top 25 on the list yet he's 8th in WAA.

We often talk about how if Utley could just manage to stay healthy enough to have a few more good seasons he would be a good candidate for the HOF. In the eyes of the BBWAA that's probably true. But I've got news for you - in terms of actual performance helping his team win games, he's already there. Coming into 2014 he's already over 40 career WAA and he's going to add to that this season.

You know how many position players in history have had at least 40 WAA in their career? Only 54. Know how many pitchers? Only 25. That means only 79 players in history have managed to achieve this (excluding Negro Leaguers, of course - who knows how many they would add to the list?). Utley is part of a very select group of incredibly fine players. No old Frankie Frisch marginal player buddies on this list, only the cream of the crop.

There are over 200 players in the HOF and well under half of those have managed to play at this kind of level. If Utley was to retire right now he would arguably be among the best 100 players ever to play the game and, even for "Small Hall" people, that would probably be enough to put him in.
   32. alilisd Posted: May 11, 2014 at 11:32 AM (#4704415)
Brock, there's no doubt Mac was a great HR hitter. I'm still sceptical of your contention the change in park was BY FAR the biggest factor. It was a big factor, no doubt, but the change in offensive environment was big, too. Sosa, his cohort in 1998, went from hitting 35 per season in a HR friendly park to hitting 60! Bonds saw a big jump, too, with no change in home park. 1996-2000 he averaged 40, with 117 BB in 487 AB. Then from 2002-2004 it's 45, with 193 BB in only 389 AB. Not as dramatic a jump in HR by count for Bonds as for Sosa, but we can see by the dramatic increase in BB he was doing it with far fewer opportunities.

So no doubt park was a big factor for Mac, but the change in offensive environment on the whole was so dramatic I would hesitate to conclude park was so much more important than overall offensive environment. It seems a difficult thing to parse.
   33. bobm Posted: May 11, 2014 at 11:43 AM (#4704423)
Spanning Multiple Seasons or entire Careers, From 1901 to 2014, Played 50% of games at 2B, sorted by greatest WAA Position Players

                                                         
Rk              Player WAA/pos From   To   Age    G    PA
1       Rogers Hornsby    97.5 1915 1937 19-41 2259  9480
2        Eddie Collins    78.8 1906 1930 19-43 2825 12044
3           Joe Morgan    63.2 1963 1984 19-40 2649 11329
4           Nap Lajoie    57.9 1901 1916 26-41 1988  8257
5    Charlie Gehringer    45.4 1924 1942 21-39 2323 10244
6          Bobby Grich    43.4 1970 1986 21-37 2008  8220
7         Lou Whitaker    42.5 1977 1995 20-38 2390  9967
8          Chase Utley    42.4 2003 2014 24-35 1355  5814
9      Jackie Robinson    39.4 1947 1956 28-37 1382  5804
10      Frankie Frisch    39.1 1919 1937 21-39 2311 10099
11       Ryne Sandberg    38.1 1981 1997 21-37 2164  9282
12          Joe Gordon    37.1 1938 1950 23-35 1566  6537
13     Willie Randolph    35.7 1975 1992 20-37 2202  9461
14      Roberto Alomar    32.3 1988 2004 20-36 2379 10400
15        Craig Biggio    28.7 1988 2007 22-41 2850 12504
16         Bobby Doerr    27.0 1937 1951 19-33 1865  8028
17        Billy Herman    26.6 1931 1947 21-37 1922  8639
18           Jeff Kent    26.3 1992 2008 24-40 2298  9537
19       Robinson Cano    24.5 2005 2014 22-31 1410  5947
20        Johnny Evers    24.2 1902 1929 20-47 1784  7211
21      Dustin Pedroia    23.7 2006 2014 22-30 1051  4712
22        Tony Lazzeri    23.6 1926 1939 22-35 1740  7314
23         Larry Doyle    21.6 1907 1920 20-33 1766  7379
24        Eddie Stanky    20.3 1943 1953 27-37 1259  5436
25     Chuck Knoblauch    20.0 1991 2002 22-33 1632  7387


Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/11/2014.
   34. valuearbitrageur Posted: May 11, 2014 at 01:28 PM (#4704472)
Roberto Clemente had more WAA after age 31 (31.0) than he did up to and including age 31 (25.9)
The original great old player: Honus Wagner had 40.2 WAA through age 31, and 51.7 from age 32 on.


Being behind those two ain't no shame. Those were two amazing players, and learning this just makes them more so.
   35. valuearbitrageur Posted: May 11, 2014 at 01:35 PM (#4704474)
Holy smokes, how badly have Willie Randolph and Bobby Grich been ignored by HOF voters?
   36. Mendo Posted: May 11, 2014 at 02:30 PM (#4704498)
Bonds saw a big jump, too, with no change in home park.


1999 Candlestick
2000 Pac Bell Park

Or am I misunderstanding your meaning...?

   37. Walt Davis Posted: May 11, 2014 at 06:44 PM (#4704614)
McGwire actually had more WAA after age 31 (18.6) than before it (18.5), he might be the only player in history to do that, at least who was a full time starter during the majority of his twenties. There isn't a chance in heck that Miggy accumulates anywhere near 18 WAA going forward. Due to Miggy's size, defensive limitations & contract he's likely to
a) be below average after age 35, and
b) will still continue to play a lot of games as a below average player till his retirement.


Refuting both ...

Stargell 22-30: 21 WAR, 6 WAA in 4091 PA
Stargell 31-42: 36 WAR, 21 WAA in 4936 PA

The criterion of more in the 2nd half than the first will be hard to meet of course but Mac's 31+ WAA is impressive but hardly historic -- didn't have a very long career. Anyway, some contemporaries I found who roughly meet that criterion:

Walker -- half his WAA from 31 on (24 of 48)
Chipper -- 25 of 53
Edmonds -- 20 of 35

Walker and Chipper had more WAA than Mac in the post-30 period, Edmonds came up a bit short.

On "giving back to WAA" ... This is a problem more in theory than reality. Even Griffey (from 31 on) and Alomar (34-36) only gave back 5 WAA. In both cases that was primarily due to horrible defense and Alomar was replacement level in those years.

But of course career WAA isn't a perfect peak measure. I'm not aware of anyone who claimed it was. The claim is that it may be a better balancing of peak and career. If you want a peak/prime measure, pick a number of years (or PAs) and calculate WARx.
   38. alilisd Posted: May 11, 2014 at 06:50 PM (#4704615)
36: Ah, I saw the change from Candlestick to 3com in 1996 and thought that was when they moved into the new park. I still think the point may stand for Bonds though because he simply exchanged one pitcher's park for another.
   39. alilisd Posted: May 11, 2014 at 07:00 PM (#4704618)
Utley, for as good a hitter as he's been, really stands out via WAR for how much it loves him in every other category! In 2009 he had 25 runs for baserunning, DP, and fielding. The year before 36, though mostly fielding that year.
   40. valuearbitrageur Posted: May 11, 2014 at 08:02 PM (#4704632)

Stargell 22-30: 21 WAR, 6 WAA in 4091 PA
Stargell 31-42: 36 WAR, 21 WAA in 4936 PA


It's actually ages up to and including 31, ie


Stargell 22-31: 12 WAA
Stargell 32-42: 15 WAA


The criterion of more in the 2nd half than the first will be hard to meet of course but Mac's 31+ WAA is impressive but hardly historic -- didn't have a very long career.


McGwire actually totaled 37 WAA. Not sure how impressive because I don't have access to a career WAA list, but I'd bet that he ranks significantly higher on the career WAA list than he does the career WAR list.

Anyway, some contemporaries I found who roughly meet that criterion:


Again that one year makes a huge difference.

Walker -- half his WAA from 31 on (24 of 48)


Walker 22-31: 28 WAA
Walker 32-38: 20 WAA


Chipper -- 25 of 53

Chipper 21-31: 30 WAA
Chipper 32-40 23 WAA


Edmonds -- 20 of 35

Edmonds 21-31: 33 WAA
Edmonds 32-40: 16 WAA



On "giving back to WAA" ... This is a problem more in theory than reality. Even Griffey (from 31 on) and Alomar (34-36) only gave back 5 WAA. In both cases that was primarily due to horrible defense and Alomar was replacement level in those years.


Those guys actually had very strong defensive value before they declined, unlike Miggy, and weren't locked into huge contracts forcing teams to keep playing them full time when not plus performers. And still Griffey gave back over 6 WAA after age 35. Alomar gave back nearly 5 WAA after age 33, the same amount of WAA he finished behind Big Mac.

If Miggy becomes a 1 WAR player at age 37 I have trouble seeing the Tigers paying roughly $100M to have him retire 3 years early. Jeter is probably the most similar example of giving back WAA. Give the Yankees resources/his contract it's less the financial commitment than Jeters stature, but Miggy will likely have a similar stature to Detroit fans during his late 30s. If I'm wrong, it may be because DH Miggy simply can't be so far below average to give much WAA back. But I"m skeptical he'll accumulate any after age 35 either, given his body type and his contract.

But of course career WAA isn't a perfect peak measure. I'm not aware of anyone who claimed it was. The claim is that it may be a better balancing of peak and career. If you want a peak/prime measure, pick a number of years (or PAs) and calculate WARx.


The problem with the WARx approach it still favors the accumulators who played lots of complete seasons, and is biased against the peak performers who played partial seasons because they got hurt, or due to strikes, suspensions, military service, etc. I consider it a poor approach for measuring peak performers.

WAR already tells us who produced the most career value, our peak measurement should tell us who was most dominant when they played. HOF decisions should be based on a blend of those criteria anyways, so make each as "pure" a measure as possible.

Refuting both ...


The comment that Big Mac 'might' have been the only player with such a unique distribution of WAA has been clearly refuted. Though that a handful of other players with similar WAA distributions exist, out of the many thousands who have played in the MLB, clearly confirms Mac's WAA distribution is exceedingly rare.

But that offhand comment was made pursuant to a much larger point that remains completely unrefuted. Comparing Miggy & McGwire by WAA distribution is not useful since they have far different career types/shapes and Miggy is extremely unlikely to finish his career like McGwire did.
   41. cardsfanboy Posted: May 11, 2014 at 09:01 PM (#4704651)
The problem with the WARx approach it still favors the accumulators who played lots of complete seasons, and is biased against the peak performers who played partial seasons because they got hurt, or due to strikes, suspensions, military service, etc. I consider it a poor approach for measuring peak performers.


You keep saying that is a problem....I don't think you are going to get many converts for that. Health is a real skill, and players who miss seasons either because of their inability to stay in the lineup or selective managing(platooning) aren't providing the in season value. Teams win on a seasonal basis, there is no reason at all to think that a guy who plays 2 80 game seasons earning 5 war in those two seasons, is remotely equivalent to a guy who puts up a 10 war in 160 game played single season..even if that other guy doesn't play a single game in season two.
   42. Walt Davis Posted: May 12, 2014 at 04:05 AM (#4704736)
The problem with the WARx approach it still favors the accumulators who played lots of complete seasons, and is biased against the peak performers who played partial seasons because they got hurt, or due to strikes, suspensions, military service, etc. I consider it a poor approach for measuring peak performers.

It's a question of how much work do you want to do for minimal improvement. JAWS has already calculated WAR7 for every player (or at least everyone with 7 years). You want something "better", you've got to do the work. I'll choose lazy.

The difference between WAR7 and WAA7 for any HoF candidate is going to be trivial and the difference will usually be due to the more durable player accumulating WAA at the same pace but staying healthier. There simply aren't many HoF candidates whose 7 best WAR years aren't full or nearly full seasons. As I showed for McGwire, his WAR7 constitutes 6.5 full years of PAs.

Sure, there may be some 150 PA "seasons" where Mac was on a prolific WAA/PA pace ... and we have no reason to believe he'd have kept it up for the whole season. And how can a player be "dominant" if they are regularly getting only 450 PA a year?

I doubt we'll find a better exemplar than Larry Walker (maybe Larkin). I get his WAR7 as 44.6 and WAA7 as 32.5 with only 1 season better than 601 PA and 513 in his lowest season. My rough guesstimate of a player with the same WAR7 but in full playing time (4550 PA) would get a WAA7 of about 29.5.

If you're making your decisions based on 3 WAA over 7 years ... and that's probably the worst-case scenario.

Also technically by WAA7, Walker's 7th best is 1994 (3.3 WAA in 452 PA) not 95 (3.0 WAA in 563 PA) with the same WAR. That might make another half-WAA difference.

Anyway, nobody's stopping you from providing your own measure of what constitutes "peak" or "prime" years and how best to measure them.

And, yes, of course Mac does better by career WAA than career WAR. That doesn't tell us anything we don't know -- he was a peak guy with a short career. It avoids the question of how do you balance peak and career.

Still, his career WAA's not THAT impressive. It's 66th all-time. It's the same as Greenberg and Gordon except they did it in even fewer PA. It's the same as Reggie Smith who had just 400 more PA. It's just 2 ahead of Edmonds who had only 300 more PA. He's 5 behind Boudreau who had fewer PA. Edgar and Andruw had about 1000 more PA and are right there with him. He's 5 behind Utley who has 1800 fewer PA; he's a bit further behind Grich and Rolen who are under 8500 PA.

31 to 35 was about the only period McGwire was both consistently awesome and healthy -- 3000 PA, 30 WAR, 20 WAA. For just those age ranges, his WAA total is 19th. He's grouped roughly with the thoroughly un-Mac like Rose, Terry, Rickey, Larkin and Cobb. He had more PA than all of those last 3. He's a win behind Edmonds who had slightly fewer PA, he's about 1.5 wins ahead of Stargell who had slightly fewer and Walker who had 400 fewer PA. He had more PA than ARod and only 40 fewer than Edgar and is about 2 WAA ahead of them.

It just doesn't make him stand out nearly as much as you seem to think. And that's the best run of his career. Compare him to, say, the 25-29 WAA crowd and that total would be 48th, tied with Trammell, behind Lofton, just ahead of Braun, all in about the same PA range. He's about 1.5 wins behind Dawson in only about 50 fewer PA. He's well behind Bagwell and Utley in the same PA, 6 WAA behind Santo who had only 500 more PA.

From 23-36 (avoiding his beginning and end), Mac averaged 190 PA per WAA. Taking the list of all players who produced WAA at a rate of no more than 200 PA per WAA in those ages in at least 5000 PA, I get 59 of them. These are mostly all-time greats of course but those guys were also durable -- what's not to like. Many though did not have substantially more PA than Mac. Over these age ranges, he had 7238 PA. There are 14 other players in a range of 6700 to 7200. This includes the superior Pujols and Hornsby and just misses Mantle. The other names here include Santo, Larkin, Rolen, Walker (7 WAA ahead in just 53 more PA), Trammell (more WAA, fewer PA), Griffey (same/fewer), Edmonds plus Carter, Piazza and Bench who at least have an excuse for so few PA. Mize, Boudreau, Utley had as many or more WAA in fewer PA. Edgar is 6 WAA and 1400 PA behind.

And let's not overlook McGwire's main WAR "problems" -- defense, DPs, running and position. He loses about 17 WAR/WAA due to that. That's more than Murray or Palmeiro gave back in their entire careers; it's the primary reason he and Hernandez are about equal in WAR.

Anyway, nobody should read the above as critical of McGwire although you can feel free to read it as highly praising of Walker, Trammell, Larkin, etc. It's a comparison of WAA and WAR and a comment on just how much playing time players actually get. Mac was no different in playing time from 23-36 than Griffey, Walker, Trammell, Rolen, etc. He's only 500 PA behind Kaline for crying out loud, only 700 behind Brett, only 900 behind Rickey. Over a 14 season stretch, that's not a lot -- maybe 12.6 "full" seasons rather than 14. Jump his WAA total by 10% and he still only pulls even with Larkin and Rolen (unless you jump theirs by 10% too). He pulls just even with Kaline but is still way behind Brett, Rickey, Carew, Mathews and still 3 WAA behind Walker.

   43. bjhanke Posted: May 12, 2014 at 04:09 AM (#4704737)
alilisd - Like I said, I'm not normally inclined to argue with your analyses - you are a GOOD analyst. Personally, my opinion for Bonds' 73 in 2001 is that, in the 2000 off-season, the Lords told the Umpires to start enforcing the high part of the strike zone (which they announced publicly). The umpires did that. However, when you do that, one of the side effects is that you have made, for a guy with extreme strike zone judgment, like Barry Bonds, an environment where he will suddenly start actually swinging at the suddenly-it's-a-strike pitch. I have the advantage, which you can probably find, too, of having seen ESPN run through all 73 homers, back to back in one big fat clip. A large number of these seem to have been hit on high inside pitches that simply were not strikes in 2000, so Barry would never have swung at them. The whole "McCovey Cove" thing is, I think, due to the Cove being right down the RF line (I yield the floor to people who actually live in SF), which is just where you'd expect a guy who is suddenly creaming high inside pitches to cream them. I think that this phenomenon is completely sufficient to explain the 73. I have no idea whether Bonds was doing steroids, but even if he was, I don't think they were doing him any serious good. It was just a rules change that turned out to expose a Barry Bonds sweet spot, which people probably never thought they'd see any MORE of, but which Barry wasn't going to miss when he tried it. And say whatever else you want, Barry Bonds worked very hard and tried everything that was newly available.

Sammy Sosa I cannot explain. The only thing I KNOW he did was use a corked bat, once.

I ain't gonna get into any WAA debates, especially if Walt Davis is already involved. I also ain't gonna get into very many debates about how good Mark McGwire's career was. Too many illusions. Too many short seasons. Too many records. I just think he's the best home run hitter (taking notice of that skill and no other) of anyone in history. I vote for him in the Hall of Merit. Bill James had him ranked as the #3 1B of all time in the New Historical, behind only Gehrig and Foxx. I don't know if that ranking still holds up, but I can't see how he could possibly have fallen below the Hall Entry Level. - Brock
   44. Booey Posted: May 12, 2014 at 10:04 AM (#4704861)
Re: Mac vs Miggy -

Sorry, didn't mean to start a debate and then bail. My wife and mom expected me to acknowledge their existence on Mother's Day for some reason.

Anyway, my comment about McGwire being a better hitter was referring more to rate than overall value produced, similar to what #10 is describing. Cabrera was far more durable, so he probably did produce more overall value. If you add in positional adjustments, he almost certainly has. But sillyball era or not, when Mac played in his prime, he was just scary good (at the plate). Yes, a lot of guys hit well during this time, but OPS+ adjusts for all this and before Bonds had his late peak, no one had a stretch like McGwire's from 1995-2000.

OPS+
1995 - 200 (422 PA's)
1996 - 196 (548 PA's)
1997 - 170 (657 PA's)
1998 - 216 (681 PA's)
1999 - 176 (661 PA's)
2000 - 203 (321 PA's)

And this isn't even counting the 176 he posted in 1992 or the 164 in 1987. True, he missed a lot of time during that stretch, but we're not talking about 100 PA's like his 1993; he played half the season in 2000 and about 2/3 of the (strike shortened) season in 1995. It'd be hard to argue that these are small sample size flukes when they match up almost perfectly with what he was producing at the time during his full seasons too. If you want to combine 1995 and 2000 together and count them as one great season, that's fine. IMO it makes more sense than ignoring them both completely.

McGwire wasn't great at several other aspects of the game (including staying healthy), so there were lots of better players overall, but at his one greatest skill - hitting homers - he was the best I'd ever seen and the best I ever expect to see. I always thought of him and Tony Gwynn to be similar that way; Gwynn isn't one of the overall best we've seen either, but at pure high average hitting, no one who debuted in the last 70 years hit better than his career .338, and I don't expect to ever see someone who does.

One thing though, I DO think the benefit of his ballpark switch is a bit overstated. McGwire hit 39 homers in 317 at bats in 1995 and 52 in 423 at bats in 1996 with the A's, both rates of one HR per 8.1 at bats (records at the time). Give him as many at bats at this rate as he had in 1997-1999 (540, 509, 521), and he hits 67, 63, and 64 homers. In Oakland. Not a huge difference.
   45. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: May 12, 2014 at 11:00 AM (#4704923)
Holy smokes, how badly have Willie Randolph and Bobby Grich been ignored by HOF voters?


They both have the same main problem, they played in a low offense era- compounded by playing the bulk of their career in pitchers parks.

Randolph made a few all star squads but was never seen as a star, never scored 100 runs, batted .300 just once, had no power, never stole 50 bases (stole 30+ a few times), was a good fielder,- was regarded as a good fielder, but even playing in NYC never won a gold glove. Park neutralize his numbers to a 750 run context and he has 6 100 runs seasons and a .292 career batting average.

Grich OTOH was seen while playing as a star, made more all star teams than Randolph, won a few gold gloves (and possibly deserved them, though for his career was really not much better than Randolph), Grich even drove in a 100 runs once (just once), and lead the league in HRs once (A 4 way tie in a strike year, so no one ever really give shim credit for leading the league in HRs).
Grich's problem was that he was essentially a low average hitter in an era that was not kind to the stats of low average sluggers, and he never came close to the counting stats that a low average slugger needs to get serious HOF consideration- of course most low average sluggers are not good defensive 2Bs, at the tail end of his career he was still a reasonably productive player, but batting .260 with 15 home runs a few years doesn't get you HOF buzz, people seemed to forget he'd ever been seen as a star even before he retired.

Neutralize him to a 750 run context and you get 3 100 rbi and 4 100 run seasons, and a career that kind of looks like Biggio's- without the long drawn out walking dead last act.
   46. Ron J2 Posted: May 12, 2014 at 12:09 PM (#4705011)
Here's my peak list for 1B/DH. For Cabreara, Allen, Perez, Killebrew (and possibly others) the oWAR for years at positions have been adjusted. dWAR left as is. Best 5 years selected by adjusted offensive wins and sorted by same.

AOW = Adjusted offensive wins above average (batting runs, baserunning and DP avoidance converted to wins) in best 5 seasons
WAR = WAR in best 5 seasons by AOW
oWAR = offensive WAR in best 5 seasons by AOW -- value adjusted to 1B for players who spent substantial time at more demanding defensive positions.
dWAR = defensive WAR in 5 best seasons by AOW
OPS+ = OPS+ in 5 best seasons by AOW
Pos% = perecntage of time spent at 1B (or DH for players marked as DH)
WAR 7+ = Number of seasons with at least 7 WAR
WAR 5+ = Number of seaons with at least 5 WAR
Prime = War in best 7 year stretch with best and two worst years removed
Age = average age in prime years (in this case, same 7 year strectch 2 worst years removed)
Player             AOW   WAR  oWAR  dWAR  OPS+  Pos %  WAR 7+  WAR 5+   Prime  Age 
Lou Gehrig        41.8  49.7  50.1  
-3.6  203   99.7%    10      12      36.2   29 
Jimmie Foxx       35.2  44.5  43.6  
-1.7  192   93.5%     7      10      34.4   27 
Albert Pujols     32.6  44.3  38.3   1.4  184   85.1
%     8      12      34.9   27 
Frank Thomas      30.2  33.7  36.9  
-7.9  184   76.2%     2       8      26.4   25 
Jeff Bagwell      29.7  37.1  35.1  
-2.7  174   99.2%     4       8      28.9   29 
Jason Giambi      28.8  34.5  35.5  
-5.6  175   83.7%     3       4      19.6   30 
Johnny Mize       28.5  35.8  36.6  
-4.2  173  100.0%     3       9      27.9   29 
Dick Allen        27.9  35.6  35.3  
-4.5  173   41.0%     3       6      22.9   24 
Willie McCovey    27.7  34.0  34.4  
-5.4  178   82.2%     2       7      25.2   30 
Miguel Cabrera    27.6  34.4  34.6  
-5.2  173   39.1%     3       7      26.1   28 
Todd Helton       27.4  37.4  33.4  
-0.8  160  100.0%     3       5      28.5   28 
Hank Greenberg    27.4  36.0  34.7  
-2.0  169   80.2%     4       7      28.0   26 
Edgard Martinez   26.5  31.8  31.4  
-5.9  168   83.3%     1       8      25.3   31 DH
Jim Thome         25.7  30.6  32.1  
-5.9  168   78.3%     2       5      23.7   28 
George Sisler     25.6  37.3  34.2   0.3  166   99.4
%     2       6      27.5   26 
Mark McGwire      25.6  27.7  33.6  
-7.7  191   95.6%     1       8      23.5   32 
Harmon Killebrew  24.2  28.8  32.0  
-7.9  165   48.9%     0       4      21.6   31 
Joey Votto        22.9  30.5  28.1  
-2.4  162  100.0%     1       4      23.3   27 
Dan Brouthers     22.4  30.4  29.7   1.2  197   99.6
%     2      10      26.6   31 
Carlos Delgado    22.2  25.9  29.5  
-7.8  160   97.9%     1       3      20.7   29 
Roger Connor      21.9  33.6  30.6   3.3  181   93.5
%     3       8      26.9   29 
David Ortiz       21.4  26.0  26.0  
-6.7  159   92.4%     0       3      18.5   29 
Bill Terry        21.3  32.1  28.1   0.7  148  100.0
%     2       5      24.0   32 
Dolph Camilli     21.2  30.1  28.3  
-1.7  157  100.0%     0       5      23.4   32 
Will Clark        21.1  28.1  27.2  
-3.9  157   99.1%     1       3      19.8   25 
Don Mattingly     20.8  29.2  27.5  
-2.7  151   95.1%     1       4      22.0   28 
Orlando Cepeda    20.4  26.9  27.8  
-5.9  155   78.2%     0       3      19.2   25 
John Olerud       20.3  31.3  27.6  
-0.6  151   97.1%     2       5      20.5   27 
Fred McGriff      20.2  27.3  26.7  
-4.1  150   96.5%     0       4      21.1   27 
Cap Anson         20.0  29.2  28.3   1.3  180   96.6
%     1       8      23.9   34 
Eddie Murray      19.7  29.5  26.2  
-1.5  155   99.2%     1       5      22.3   27 
Rafael Palmeiro   19.2  28.0  26.4  
-3.0  150   76.8%     0       5      21.4   31 
Mark Teixeira     18.5  29.5  25.3  
-0.1  143   96.3%     1       2      21.7   27 
Keith Hernandez   18.2  31.5  24.9   0.6  143  100.0
%     1       5      23.4   28 
Frank Chance      17.8  29.3  24.6   2.7  151   99.5
%     1       4      22.0   28 
Tony Perez        17.7  27.2  23.3   0.3  145   37.5
%     1       4      21.9   28 

   47. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: May 12, 2014 at 12:59 PM (#4705064)
If you are an honest and thorough analyst, you are going to end up concluding that Mark McGwire was the best HOMER hitter in the history of baseball, including Babe Ruth.

Well, McGwire averaged 50 HR/162 to Ruth's 46, so strictly speaking you're correct.

But Ruth played his first 6 years in the dead ball era. And in his lively ball years (1920-35) he averaged 52 HR/162. It's a minor quibble, but I think it should be noted, even if you also note that Ruth's home parks during those years were a lot better for LH home run hitters than the Coliseum and Busch were for McGwire.
   48. alilisd Posted: May 12, 2014 at 04:15 PM (#4705297)
But sillyball era or not, when Mac played in his prime, he was just scary good (at the plate). Yes, a lot of guys hit well during this time, but OPS+ adjusts for all this


LOTS of hitters have been "scary good" in their prime, Cabrera included. Also, while OPS+ adjusts for park and league average, isn't there a possibility to more easily post higher OPS+ numbers in extreme offensive environments? I honestly don't know; I may be misunderstanding some things I've seen posted before, but I'm curious, and hopeful someone more knowledgeable may be able to address this. I did look at 1995 to 1999 and 2009 to 2013 to see what the top OPS+ number in their league's were, as well as what the 10th spot was. In 1998, McGwire's big year, the 10th place OPS+ in the NL was 155, that's 9 points higher than it was in any other of these seasons. In the other 9 seasons it ranged from 136 to 146. Also, during Cabrera's seasons it was distinctly lower than it was in McGwire's seasons. From 2009 to 2013: 136, 140, 138, 139, 137. From 1995 to 1999: 142, 146, 140 (same in both AL & NL), 155, 143. Was it easier to put up higher OPS+ during the peak of the Silly Ball era?

At any rate, McGwire's OPS+ form 1995 to 1999 (I disagree with including a half season of 321 PA's, I'd also note in 1995 he didn't qualify for Top 10 in OPS+ due to lack of playing time; playing time matters, as CFB noted above!) gives him a 191 OPS+ in 2,969 PA's, versus Cabrera's 170 (best peak to date) in 3,370 PA's. McGwire clearly enjoys an edge in peak OPS+. But does OPS+ simply favor McGwire's era, or is he really that much better even at peak levels?
   49. Booey Posted: May 12, 2014 at 09:23 PM (#4705473)
But does OPS+ simply favor McGwire's era


I don't know; I just know that even in an era when everyone was hitting, no one seemed to tower over their peers in the slugging categories like Mac did (until Barry's 2nd peak). In 1996 McGwire's .730 slg and 1.198 OPS (in a pitchers park) towered over the 2nd place finishes of .643 (Juan Gone, in a hitter park) and 1.085 (Thomas). In 1998, Mac's .752 slg and 1.222 OPS crushed 2nd place Sammy Sosa's .647 and Larry Walkers 1.075 (in Coors field). He easily beat peak Barry in OPS+ (216-178). He averaged a .700 slg for a 6 season span when most the other top sluggers of his era were in the .600-.650 range in their peaks. That's huge.

I disagree with including a half season of 321 PA's, I'd also note in 1995 he didn't qualify for Top 10 in OPS+ due to lack of playing time; playing time matters, as CFB noted above!


Playing time within an individual season matters more when talking about the value of that particular season itself than it does when you're talking about peak ability during a certain stretch of plate appearances. I absolutely wouldn't have given McGwire any MVP consideration for his great half season in 2000, for example, even though he was the best hitter in the league when he played. But if you're comparing the best, say 3300 PA's of McGwire's career to the best 3300 PA's of Miguel Cabrera's career, why does it matter if Miggy's came in 5 seasons and McGwire's took 6? The overall quantity is the same.
   50. DavidFoss Posted: May 12, 2014 at 09:51 PM (#4705495)
But if you're comparing the best, say 3300 PA's of McGwire's career to the best 3300 PA's of Miguel Cabrera's career, why does it matter if Miggy's came in 5 seasons and McGwire's took 6? The overall quantity is the same.

Sure, its value vs. ability. McGwire's backups had to play more. That affects the teams that he played for.
   51. Booey Posted: May 12, 2014 at 10:45 PM (#4705521)
Sure, its value vs. ability. McGwire's backups had to play more. That affects the teams that he played for.


Ability is more what I was talking about. It wouldn't surprise me at all if Miggy was more valuable. But I don't think he was a BETTER hitter at his best than McGwire was at his. In fact, I don't think any hitter in the last 40 years was save for Barry.
   52. alilisd Posted: May 13, 2014 at 12:23 PM (#4705851)
alilisd - Like I said, I'm not normally inclined to argue with your analyses - you are a GOOD analyst.


Thanks, Brock. You seriously overrate me.
   53. alilisd Posted: May 13, 2014 at 12:32 PM (#4705863)
Playing time within an individual season matters more when talking about the value of that particular season itself than it does when you're talking about peak ability during a certain stretch of plate appearances.


CFB explains it beautifully in #41. I would also add it's unreasonable to assume a player who misses half a season would maintain the same pace over a full season.
   54. Booey Posted: May 13, 2014 at 02:11 PM (#4705935)
CFB explains it beautifully in #41.


Depends on the argument. If you're talking about HOF cases, I'd agree. A 10 WAR season probably led the league in a few categories and made the player a serious MVP candidate for that season. I agree that that should have a lot more relevance to a HOF case than the injury prone player who produced two 5 WAR half seasons instead, since neither of those half seasons are likely going to be near the top of the league in value or anything else. I'd absolutely take an MVP season over two 20th place finishes any day.

With the discussion we're having though about peak hitting ability, though, I don't really see why McGwire's 321 plate appearances in 2000 wouldn't be just as relevant as any other span of 321 plate appearances in his career. It all counts towards the same clump of peak performance we're evaluating. I'd do the same for any other player, too. If we were talking about Frank Thomas' peak, I'd include all of 1990-1997, even though he was called up late in 1990 and had just 200+ PA's. It was still part of his 180 OPS+ peak and shouldn't be ignored.

I would also add it's unreasonable to assume a player who misses half a season would maintain the same pace over a full season.


Agree, but I'm not doing that. I'm not assuming Mac would have continued his pace and counting his 2000 season as a 200 OPS+ in 650 PA's. I'm counting it as exactly what it was; a 203 OPS+ in 321 PA's. It all adds to the same cumulative stretch we're talking about, but yes, it would add to it even more if it were a full season. He's already taking a hit for the missed time. I don't know how to run OPS+ for a stretch of seasons like this, but I'd guess McGwire is at something like 193 or so in his 3300 PA's from 1995-2000. He'd probably be like 195 or something in 3600 PA's if he'd been healthy in 2000. So the missed time discount is already accounted for in the numbers.
   55. alilisd Posted: May 13, 2014 at 05:10 PM (#4706085)
I don't know how to run OPS+ for a stretch of seasons like this, but I'd guess McGwire is at something like 193 or so in his 3300 PA's from 1995-2000.


Oh, I can help you with this! I think Walt taught me how to do it, and it's so cool! At B-R, click on the season you want to start with (not on anything hyperlinked, obviously, but within the row anywhere not hyperlinked), this should highlight that season/row, then move to the season/row you want to end with and click on it. This sums the seasons you selected, and gives you totals, average, and 162 game average. It's awesome!
   56. Booey Posted: May 13, 2014 at 05:51 PM (#4706113)
#55 - Sweet, thanks! I'm excited to play around with that tonight!

But if my wife divorces me for neglecting her and our son for the next few weeks or if I get fired for calling in sick to work multiple times during that span, I'm totally blaming you. ;-)
   57. alilisd Posted: May 13, 2014 at 06:21 PM (#4706122)
But if my wife divorces me for neglecting her and our son for the next few weeks or if I get fired for calling in sick to work multiple times during that span, I'm totally blaming you. ;-)


That's fair.

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