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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Mitchell: Steroids Aren’t the Only Problem Facing the Hall of Fame

No, there’s also future Jill Painter ballots.

Fifteen out of the 39 8000/140 players, including Cabrera and Berkman, began their careers in the last 26 years, while only 24 began their careers between 1890 and 1985. This cannot all be attributed to steroids particularly given how widespread steroid use was and that OPS+ measures offensive production in a comparative context based way. Two other factors need to be considered. The first is simply expansion. With more teams, games and players, more players are going to reach more or less any threshold. Second, the game has changed, and not just due to steroid use. Power and patience, the two attributes which OPS captures so well have more recently begun to be recognized as among the most important skills, so players work on these skills more, get promoted for them more quickly and can continue to play once their other skills have declined, if they can still hit home runs and walk. This was less true a generation ago, and even less relevant half a century ago.

The combinations of expansion, prioritizing power and patience and, yes steroids, creates problems for how sluggers are compared across eras and, of course, for the Hall of Fame as well, but this problems is exacerbated by a voting system that is unwieldy and flawed. This year no players were elected to the Hall of Fame. The merits of that decision can be debated, but the impact it will have on future elections will be clear. In short, by 2014, there will be so many deserving players on the ballot that it is likely that a player with numbers that were good enough for the Hall of Fame a generation ago, and perhaps no demonstrated link to steroids, will be dropped from the ballot after one or two appearances after next year. Next year there will be five 8000/140 players on the ballot as well as a number of other standouts like Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Tim Raines.

This problem has been compounded because the last two sluggers to be elected to the Hall of Fame, Jim Rice and Andre Dawson, were clearly several cuts below people like Frank Thomas, Jeff Bagwell and others who despite no documented connection to steroids, are in danger of being overlooked, or overlooked again, in future ballots. Keeping people out of the Hall of Fame because of suspected or real connections to steroids may or may not be wise, but keeping people out because the voting rules have not changed to fully recognize expansion is not.

Repoz Posted: January 15, 2013 at 05:07 PM | 20 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hof

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   1. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 15, 2013 at 05:37 PM (#4347778)
The combinations of expansion, prioritizing power and patience and, yes steroids, creates problems for how sluggers are compared across era


This isn't new though. We went from a dead-ball era to an offensive era. Then we had the dead-ball era of the 60s followed by the DH-era. Offensive climates are always changing. Or heck, look at the NFL. Pos made this point a few weeks ago. Hall of Famers like Don Maynard and Raymond Berry are getting passed on the all-time receptions list by guys like Bobby Engram and Anquan Boldin. This is why we use a stat like OPS+, to compare players of different eras.

Here are the members of the 8000/140 club he references, since 1986:

Barry Bonds
Albert Pujols
Frank Thomas
Manny Ramirez
Jeff Bagwell
Jim Thome
Edgar Martinez
Alex Rodriguez
Jason Giambi
Chipper Jones
Larry Walker
Vlad Guerrero
Gary Sheffield
   2. The Anthony Kennedy of BBTF (Scott) Posted: January 15, 2013 at 05:41 PM (#4347787)
He forgot to include that the pipeline for player development is far more globalized and advanced than it was back in the day, thus increasing the number of talented players able to make it to the big leagues. But that only strengthens his point.
   3. NJ in DC (Now with Wife!) Posted: January 15, 2013 at 05:43 PM (#4347788)
8000/140?
   4. AROM Posted: January 15, 2013 at 05:48 PM (#4347794)
8000/140?


I am assuming that is the Cyberdyne model number of the android players.
   5. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: January 15, 2013 at 05:52 PM (#4347797)
What problem is this guy identifying? That recent players better than actual HOFers aren't making the HOF? If so, what does that have to do with 8000/140 or OPS+ or anything else in the article?
   6. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili(Teddy F. Ballgame) Posted: January 15, 2013 at 05:52 PM (#4347798)
AB/OPS+?

EDIT: PA/OPS+. 8000 seemed a mite low for a HOF threshold, which was why I guessed AB.
   7. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 15, 2013 at 05:59 PM (#4347800)
He forgot to include that the pipeline for player development is far more globalized and advanced than it was back in the day, thus increasing the number of talented players able to make it to the big leagues. But that only strengthens his point.

But, if anything, that should reduce outlier talents, not increase it. If the league is getting better overall, the league leading OPS+ and ERA+ should fall, not rise.

I would guess medical advances are a big contributor to the prevalence of guys reaching a career quantity milestone.

Edit: and also WW2. Mize, Greenberg and DiMaggio all would have made the list easily without the war. Shoeless Joe would have made it w/o the Black Sox.
   8. McCoy Posted: January 15, 2013 at 06:10 PM (#4347805)
I thought this article was going to be about how the Hall of Fame is in Bumblefudge, NY and that the Hall is losing money left and right.

Lost 2.36 million in 2010 and 2.08 million in 2011. I'm guessing with no induction class this year the losses will be steeper than that.
   9. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 15, 2013 at 06:10 PM (#4347806)
There are 24 members of the 3000 IP/120 ERA+ club. Seven pitched since 1986 (Clemens, Johnson, Maddux, Schilling, Brown, Smoltz, Mussina). So it seems like have more outliers overall both hitting and pitching.
   10. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 15, 2013 at 06:14 PM (#4347809)
There are 24 members of the 3000 IP/120 ERA+ club. Seven pitched since 1986 (Clemens, Johnson, Maddux, Schilling, Brown, Smoltz, Mussina). So it seems like have more outliers overall both hitting and pitching.

Which is very curious if we believe the league talent level has been getting better.

If that were true (especially to the extent the extreme timelining scenarios project), we should be seeing league leading ERA+ and OPS+ on a constant downward path.
   11. DJS and the Infinite Sadness Posted: January 15, 2013 at 06:17 PM (#4347810)
If that were true (especially to the extent the extreme timelining scenarios project), we should be seeing league leading ERA+ and OPS+ on a constant downward path.

Not if the innings were declining as well. Easier to hit your 1-chance-in-4 ERA in 200 than 300 innings.
   12. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 15, 2013 at 06:21 PM (#4347813)
Not if the innings were declining as well. Easier to hit your 1-chance-in-4 ERA in 200 than 300 innings.

But, we've been talking career numbers her (3000 IP, 8000 PA). That's not luck.
   13. Walt Davis Posted: January 15, 2013 at 06:25 PM (#4347821)
If you want to be serious about this stuff, the first issue is the essential flaw in OPS+ (and all the other + measures including wRC+ and such) -- they are measured against the mean but not the standard deviation. When offense goes up, the mean and the standard deviation of OPS both go up. Now I don't know what happens to the coefficient of variation (CV -- the SD divided by the mean) and that might stay pretty much the same. But, in general, you need to make sure that it's not just easier to be 10% above the mean due to a change in the underlying "random" distribution. When you are dealing with count data (runs) or rate data, the mean and the variance are always related.

Then expansion.

The thing about that list is that the "extras" are all in the lower range. The top of the list is quite varied, but pretty much always from high offense eras (debut years):

Ruth 1914
Williams 1939
Bonds 1986
Gehrig 1923
Hornsby 1915
Mantle 1951
Pujols 2001
Cobb 1905
Foxx 1925
Musial 1941
Speaker 1907
Thomas 1990
Mays 1951
Aaron 1954
Ott 1926

That's the top 15. Three debuted in the 20s, three debuted in the 50s, Williams & Musial debuted together, Ruth and Hornsby debuted together, Cobb and Speaker debuted together, Bonds and Thomas debuted together (Manny is next on the list). How much more "random" can you get.

Even if you extend it a bit you get Manny, FRob, Wagner and Lajoie and that's everybody at 150+ and you still have more debuting in the 50s and the 1900s than in the 86-95 period, expansion or no expansion.

It's in the 140-150 range where you get 9 moderns out of 19 players. Even so, it's only THAT lopsided because they take 5 of the last 6 spots. Set the cutoff at 142 (the top 31) instead of 140 (the top 39) and you get a much different picture:

00s: 6 players
10s: 3 players
20s: 3 players

40s: 2 players (putting Williams here)
50s: 7 players
60s: 1 player (or you could put McCovey 59 here)
70s: 1 player
86-94: 7 players
00s: 1 player

From 1951 to 1954, 5 of the top 31 debuted. They averaged 607 HR.

The top 5 HR hitters (among those 31) who debuted 86-94 averaged 619 HR.

Take the full 7 in the 50s and comp to the full 7 in 86-94 and the 50s crew averaged 588 HR while the roid crew averaged 551.

Yep, we've never seen anything like this before!

(Obviously it helps that neither Griffey nor Sosa is in this bunch due to lower OPS+)

Anyway, the roid era only stands out in the lower range of (arbitrary) 122 to 141 OPS+ -- 14 of 72 players debut from 1986-94. And that includes 4 guys over 500 HRs and 4 more guys over 450.

But you also had 14 guys debut in the 70s and 13 guys in the 60s but only 5 in the 50s, 4 in the 30s and 6 in the 20s.

I'm guessing that is a mix of expansion and the standard deviation issue. The 60s and 70s debuted almost nobody in the upper reaches but "catch up" to earlier eras here at the lower end. I'm pretty confident almost everything here is "era noise" not signal. That doesn't tell you anything about whether roids had an effect or not -- scoring and therefore the variance around it were higher during the sillyball era which could be roids shifting everybody (or enough) along.

If you want to point to roids and you want to believe that maybe only half or fewer players were doing them, you need to start by showing that the variance in the sillyball era was higher than you'd expect given the mean offensive level.
   14. Rennie's Tenet Posted: January 15, 2013 at 06:43 PM (#4347831)
It being Lance Armstrong's time in the spotlight, the lesson we should be taking is that the juicers are always ahead of the testers. I look at the list up at #1, and the pox-on-the-whole-generation voters don't seem quite so silly.
   15. Random Transaction Generator Posted: January 15, 2013 at 07:14 PM (#4347840)
Not if the innings were declining as well. Easier to hit your 1-chance-in-4 ERA in 200 than 300 innings.

But, we've been talking career numbers her (3000 IP, 8000 PA). That's not luck.


Well, if you have someone who has 15 seasons of 200 IP, compared to 10 seasons of 300 IP, I'm going to bet that the shorter seasons career will be better (in general) because the pitcher is less likely to wear down in the individual seasons (either at the end of each game if he only pitches 7IP, or at the end of the entire season because of less innings).
   16. Moeball Posted: January 15, 2013 at 08:47 PM (#4347875)
PA/OPS+. 8000 seemed a mite low for a HOF threshold


Well, 8000 PA is 15 seasons of over 530 PA/season (or 13 seasons of over 600 PA), clearly full-time league annual qualifying level for an extended period of time. The HOF's own guidelines specify players going at least 10 years to qualify for the HOF, so I don't think the founders figured players necessarily having to get 10,000 PA to be considered Hall-worthy.

Someone hitting at a clip 40% above league average - and maintaining that level of performance for 13-15 years - sounds like the very definition of a HOF hitter to me. Given that the author says only 39 players in 136 years of major league history have been able to accomplish this, it sounds like a pretty exclusive club.
   17. Walt Davis Posted: January 15, 2013 at 09:20 PM (#4347890)
GS >= 350, ERA+ >= 120 produces 34 names so roughly the same number.

00s: 5
10s: 2
20s: 2
30s: 3
40s: 0
50s: 3
60s: 3
70s: 1
1984: 3
1986: 3
1988: 3
1989: 1
90s: 4
00s: 1

That 80s run really stands out. Note, only 173 pitchers have ever made 350+ starts so this is about 20% of that total. 33 or about 20% started in the 80s -- probably an expansion effect, possibly also less usage in innings leading to longer careers in starts. So they're about 30% of the >120 ERA+ pitchers and about 20% of the "qualifying" pitchers.

Snapper's point about usage probably applies. Note that other high offense eras also produced a decent number of top pitchers.

For hitters there are 266 who have had 8000+ PA so the pitcher group is a bit less elite than the hitters. I was gonna do some more stuff but P-I ain't working for me right now.
   18. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: January 15, 2013 at 09:31 PM (#4347898)
I thought this article was going to be about how the Hall of Fame is in Bumblefudge, NY and that the Hall is losing money left and right.

Lost 2.36 million in 2010 and 2.08 million in 2011. I'm guessing with no induction class this year the losses will be steeper than that.


Dang. How is that possible? What could they be doing that makes it impossible to adjust to changing condition--overly ambitious capital projects, or...?
   19. McCoy Posted: January 15, 2013 at 09:48 PM (#4347904)

Dang. How is that possible? What could they be doing that makes it impossible to adjust to changing condition--overly ambitious capital projects, or...?


Well, in 2010 of the 2.36 million that the Hall lost they gave almost 1.4 million to 7 officers of the Hall, Idelson, Haas, . . . and they've written down 1.4 million in depreciation, depletion, and amortization.

Also, apparently it cost the HoF 1 million dollars to have HoF weekend. Don't know how much revenue they got from it.

   20. SandyRiver Posted: January 16, 2013 at 01:26 PM (#4348212)
For hitters there are 266 who have had 8000+ PA so the pitcher group is a bit less elite than the hitters. I was gonna do some more stuff but P-I ain't working for me right now.

Seeing that distribution by decade would be informative. While the percentage of players skillful enough to hold a starting job that long probably hasn't changed a whole lot, the proportion of suchly-skilled players remaining healthy enough to rack up 8,000 PA almost certainly is higher now.

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