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Saturday, August 04, 2012

Poll: Should Pacifica Baseball Legend Keith Hernandez be in the Hall of Fame?

I won’t say that brothers don’t belong in the article, but they don’t belong in the poll! Only *3* people answered the poll…but one of them was Keith Hernandez’s brother, Gary!

Gary Hernandez

12:34 pm on Friday, August 3, 2012

I agree completely, but I am biased a little, as he is my brother. He played in the cavernous ballpark of Busch Stadium, which hurt his hr production, but he had the most game winning hits in history, when they kept that statistic. He was a Barysnikoff at first base, but his clutch hitting is very underrated. He came through when it mattered, and provided great leadership, as is often mentioned by anybody who ever played with him. He deserves to be in there. Barry Larkin was a great plalyer, but hurt often. Keith, until much later in his career, was on the lineup card every day. Ron Santo was good, but I will take Keith any day over him. Bruce Jenkins of the SF Chronicle is a staunch supporter of Keith for the HOF.
Thank you for the nice article.

Repoz Posted: August 04, 2012 at 01:30 PM | 84 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, hof

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   1. Dale H. Posted: August 04, 2012 at 02:27 PM (#4200546)
Michayul Barysnikoff, I'm guessing.
   2. tjm1 Posted: August 04, 2012 at 02:35 PM (#4200551)
I would guess that a lot of his game-winning RBI were in the first inning, but the point that he was a really underrated hitter stands. He was a tremendous on-base percentage guy. His WAR total of 57 is certainly respectable for a HOFer, and you can find plenty of quotes from managers that say that he stopped them from bunting, even with their pitchers. I can't figure out how to verify this, but if it's true, he was probably better defensively than his stats. Bunting may be a bad strategy with real hitters, but with pitchers it makes sense a lot of the time. He also probably took bunting for a hit off the table at a time when a lot of guys tried it. I'd imagine that this all might be worth 2-3 runs a season - maybe another 3 wins over his career.
   3. Mike Emeigh Posted: August 04, 2012 at 02:46 PM (#4200554)
you can find plenty of quotes from managers that say that he stopped them from bunting, even with their pitchers.


I looked at Hernandez's fielding stats about 10 years ago using what was available from Retrosheet, and while I don't remember the exact advantage I do recall that he was at the top of the list in nailing the lead runner on bunts. He was also outstanding at turning 3-6-3 DPs.

-- MWE
   4. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: August 04, 2012 at 03:15 PM (#4200563)
I looked at Hernandez's fielding stats about 10 years ago using what was available from Retrosheet, and while I don't remember the exact advantage I do recall that he was at the top of the list in nailing the lead runner on bunts. He was also outstanding at turning 3-6-3 DPs.

Yes.
Basically, any play that involved Hernandez throwing was a good play for Hernandez' team.
Now that we've got the "advanced fielding stats" on BB-Ref we can see things like this:
KH had 1671 assists in his career. 1033 of those were at 1b, and most of those were probably pretty routine, flip-to-the-pitcher type plays.
However, this means he had 600+ assists at 2b, 3b, and home... NOT routine.
Accompanied by just EIGHT throwing errors, in his entire career.
He shut down his side of the infield in a way that's actually kind of difficult to describe, if you didn't see it yourself. Just amazing.
   5. Sunday silence Posted: August 04, 2012 at 03:23 PM (#4200568)
can someone tell me which fielding metrics are proprietary? I guess specifically with respect to UZR and total zone or whatever its' called. Are these the ones you go to most?
   6. bobm Posted: August 04, 2012 at 05:53 PM (#4200614)
I admit I am quite biased in favor of Keith Hernandez's case. Not only can you make a reasonable case for his candidacy, I think you can actually make a far more reasonable case for him than for his mustachioed contemporary Jack Morris. (You do not have to search very hard to find praise of Keith Hernandez for his hitting, fielding, leadership and baseball knowledge during his career.)

Leaving aside Hernandez's 7 times being in the top-3 OBP, his career .384 OBP (compare Schmidt at .380, Will Clark at .384, Tim Raines at .385 and Tony Gwynn at .388) and his 6 times being top-10 OPS+ and top-10 WAR (position players), just the non-sabermetric basics are impressive:

* 6 seasons batting .300, 1 batting title, 7 times top 10 in BA, and a lifetime .296 BA.
* top 5 in runs scored or RBI in 4 seasons, and top 10 in 7 seasons
* 5 all-star selections
* 1 MVP, 1 2nd place finish, 1 4th place finish and 2.09 career MVP shares overall
* Key, season-long contributor / leader on 2 world series winners

AND...

* 11 Gold Gloves at 1B - more than any other first baseman and more than any other player except Maddux, Kaat, Ivan Rodriguez, Brooks Robinson, Ozzie Smith, Vizquel, Clemente and Mays.

From looking at PBP data, I have previously posted:

For example: Hernandez is third on the all-time leaderboard for assists as a 1Bman, behind Eddie Murray and Jeff Bagwell; however, I figure Hernandez's rate of assists to bases other than 1B (i.e. plays excluding the typically routine 3-1 putout at 1B) per defensive PA is roughly 25% better than either Murray or Bagwell, and 40% better than Mark Grace at No. 4 on the all-time assists list.


Also there was this post from 2009:

104. Hecubot Posted: September 04, 2009 at 09:51 PM (#3314959)
Sean Smith used some interesting methodology to approximate UZR historically in this piece for Hardball Times which rates individual defense back to 1956.

Here are his top defenders at first since 1956.

      Last First pos Chances Runs
 Hernandez Keith 1b 3515 120
    Scott George 1b 3645 95
       Power Vic 1b 1804 54
    Skowron Bill 1b 2123 52
Yastrzemski Carl 1b 1486 45
   Upshaw Willie 1b 1736 44
 Chambliss Chris 1b 3876 43
      White Bill 1b 2593 42
    McCraw Tommy 1b 1333 42
    O'Brien Pete 1b 1229 39
    Murray Eddie 1b 2494 35
   Evans Darrell 1b 1234 35
       Cash Norm 1b 3065 33
     Mincher Don 1b 1884 32
     Cater Danny 1b 1185 28
    Pepitone Joe 1b 1582 25
      Hegan Mike 1b  714 25
      Parker Wes 1b 1651 24
       Carew Rod 1b 2500 22
    Solaita Tony 1b  545 21
  Biittner Larry 1b  688 19
    Bergman Dave 1b  596 16
  Jorgensen Mike 1b 1386 15
     Cabell Enos 1b  966 14
      Fairly Ron 1b 2002 13
   Revering Dave 1b  815 13
  Cunningham Joe 1b  774 12
      Hodges Gil 1b 1163 12


Hernandez is clearly in a class by himself, saving more than twice as many runs as anybody else except George Scott.

Interestingly, Bill James uses a comparison of Hernandez and Scott in his Historical Abstract while noting how many more assists Hernandez has to other bases than any other first baseman. I think there is clear statistical evidence of Hernandez's defensive preeminence.

Per year, Hernandez was +12 and Dick Stuart was -13, so there's your 25 run difference.


Even looking at play-by-play statistics, you had to see Hernandez in the field to know how good a first baseman he really was, how he made unbelievable outs at other bases and just shut down opponents' use of the bunt in a lower-scoring era when the bunt was a key weapon. Those videos are still hard to find. I've posted these links before:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cU-5le51RhE - Starting at 2:00 - Keith Hernandez starts an unbelievable DP in the late innings versus the Reds by charging a pitcher's routine sac bunt towards the 3rd base side of the infield. Even the Reds' announcers describe him as the "best at charging in situations like this" before this play takes place.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyABg5WIRHg - Starting at 24:00 - Here's Hernandez talking about the same play

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=3532893 - At 0:04 and 0:32 - Here's a short video clip from mlb.com which includes 2 other typical outstanding Hernandez defensive plays as a Met.

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=20040799&c_id=mlb - starting at 1:00 - Here's Bob Costas on Clubhouse Confidential, talking over 2 other Keith Hernandez defensive plays

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=7143493&c_id=mlb - at 0:07 - a Hernandez 3U while playing in
   7. PreservedFish Posted: August 04, 2012 at 06:37 PM (#4200623)
Thank you for those videos Bob.
   8. tjm1 Posted: August 04, 2012 at 06:38 PM (#4200624)
I looked at Hernandez's fielding stats about 10 years ago using what was available from Retrosheet, and while I don't remember the exact advantage I do recall that he was at the top of the list in nailing the lead runner on bunts. He was also outstanding at turning 3-6-3 DPs.


Right - but this sort of stuff should all be incorporated into WAR. It's the reason his statistics are so good, not a reason he might be better than his statistics. If other teams wouldn't bunt for a hit against Hernandez, or wouldn't have their pitchers sacrifice against him, those things wouldn't show up in the statistics.
   9. The District Attorney Posted: August 04, 2012 at 06:47 PM (#4200626)
this sort of stuff should all be incorporated into WAR.
If only it were that easy.

Hernandez' Hall of Merit thread does a good job of getting into his defense. (Hint: They elected him.)
   10. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: August 04, 2012 at 07:34 PM (#4200637)
The definition of a Strat-O-Matic "1" fielder.
   11. Moeball Posted: August 04, 2012 at 08:01 PM (#4200645)
I always thought Hernandez was an interesting case. Whether he's HOF-good or not mostly seems to depend on which defensive metric you use. If you think he was worth 20 extra wins in his career defensively, he might be over the borderline overall, but if a system sees him as only 10 or so extra wins defensively then maybe he doesn't get there. Looks like WAR doesn't see that much value from him - only 0.6 dWAR for his career. That looks low to me.

Hernandez is also an interesting case from the standpoint of team leadership type stuff. He was a key factor in STL winning the WS in '82 and yet Whitey still wanted to get rid of him at almost any cost. When the trade with NY was made, about the only reason I heard from anyone for the trade was that Whitey wanted the drugs/bad influence out of his clubhouse. From the standpoint of the actual players on the field coming and going in the trade, virtually everyone said the Mets were committing highway robbery. I couldn't believe the Cardinals were asking for so little in return. As it turned out, the contributions Hernandez made with NY sure made it look like the Mets took the Cardinals to the cleaners on this deal. It was an absolutely horrible trade for STL. The Mets got about 25 WAR out of Hernandez and the Cardinals actually got negative WAR from Allen and Ownbey. I also don't recall anyone saying during Hernandez' years with the Mets that he was a bad influence in the clubhouse, either, so maybe there was just something between him and Herzog. Wouldn't be the first time that happened, either, as Whitey couldn't wait to get rid of Simmons, either.
   12. The District Attorney Posted: August 04, 2012 at 08:13 PM (#4200647)
Looks like WAR doesn't see that much value from him - only 0.6 dWAR for his career. That looks low to me.
Gee, ya think?

As for the trade... look, Hernandez was (and still is) a difficult personality, and even when he was clean, he was a chain-smoker who didn't work out. If you then found out he was on drugs on top of that, it wouldn't be too difficult to imagine a trainwreck coming. Obviously, you wouldn't deal him if you knew he was going to get his act together, but c'est la vie (and, as Bill James so vociferously argued, it at least made a statement.) The funny thing is that Hernandez' statline doesn't show the slightest indication that anything ever changed. Absent one down (but not terrible) year that occurred four seasons before the trade, he essentially had the same season 11 straight times.

   13. McCoy Posted: August 04, 2012 at 09:24 PM (#4200661)
Looks like WAR doesn't see that much value from him - only 0.6 dWAR for his career. That looks low to me.

That's the positional adjustment killing him. He racked up 119 runs above average as a first basemen in 17,280 innings. Olerud is second all time in defensive runs for a first basemen at 100 runs in 17,230 innings. So when you think about it Keith's 119 runs on defense is adding 8 to 9 wins or more to his total WAR when compared to other full time first basemen that had long careers. That sounds about right.
   14. GuyM Posted: August 04, 2012 at 09:25 PM (#4200662)
this sort of stuff should all be incorporated into WAR.

No it isn't. We know that for a good fielder like Hernandez, the WAR defensive rating (TZO only captures about half of his real defensive value. So adjusting for that would mean Hernandez should have about another 12 WAR. As it happens, Michael Humphreys' DRA credits Hernandez with 12 more fielding wins.
   15. McCoy Posted: August 04, 2012 at 09:57 PM (#4200674)
DRA also sees Jeff King's 1997 as the greatest fielding season by a first basemen since 1905. It credits him with 45 runs saved at first that year. Pujols in 2009 saved 39 runs. Keith best season (24 runs) comes in tied for 22nd all time. Keith has 6 seasons in the top 100.

Keith is number 1 all time with 212 runs followed by Fred Tenney at 195 and Pujols at 138 runs. Albert's # only go through 2009. By comparison there have been only 3 SS in history who have saved more runs than Keith according to DRA. Joe Tinker (283), Art Fletcher (275), and Bill Dahlen (254). Mark Belanger is 4th and the first modern SS at 197 runs.

Players that have more runs saved than Keith:
Joe Tinker
Art Fletcher
Bill Dahlen
Tris Speaker
Frankie Frisch
Jimmy Sheckard
Fred Clarke
Roberto Clemente



Possibly Ivan Rodriguez. He was at 209 after 2009 though he'd been at 0 for the last two seasons.

Basically DRA sees Keith Hernandez as the greatest non-deadball fielder or a close second (Clemente and Clemente played through the second deadball era)
   16. PreservedFish Posted: August 04, 2012 at 10:48 PM (#4200712)
Looks like WAR doesn't see that much value from him - only 0.6 dWAR for his career. That looks low to me.


Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe this means that he's basically an average fielder - when compared to all players at all positions.

What position would Keith Hernandez have played if he were not left-handed? Third base?
   17. Walt Davis Posted: August 04, 2012 at 11:41 PM (#4200729)
(Hint: They elected him.)

Which, alas, doesn't tell us much. The HoM doesn't play by anything close to the BBWAA's voting rules and the primary achievement of the HoM is to replace bad VC selections with players many of us consider HoVG or borderline HoF. It's not as if he had overwhelming support or anything. He received 50% on "points", appeared on 40 of 54 ballots but only 31 of those in the top 10.* A better sense of what the HoM really thinks might be in their 1B ballot where Hernandez came in 16th, behind Will Clark and Mule Suttles, ahead of Sisler and Terry. By BBWAA standards** I don't see any reason to think he "should" have been elected to the HoF (although I have no problem with it).

*He went in with Jimmy Wynn in his ?? year of eligibility. Wynn appeared on 32 of 54 ballots, only 20 of them in the top 10. The HoM is a perfectly worthy project but its rules vary so radically from BBWAA rules that it's pretty pointless to compare the two. If the HoM required 75% in the top 10 I'm not sure we'd have more than 100 HoMers. Edgar Martinez was elected in his first year of eligibility but appeared in the top 10 on only 19 of 41 ballots and only 26 of 41 ballots (15 spots) overall. Top 10 on 19 of 41 ballots is about the same as his BBWAA percentage.

** Which admittedly have been all over the place the last 10-15 years so it's harder to figure out what the historical BBWAA standard is.
   18. Swoboda is freedom Posted: August 05, 2012 at 12:27 AM (#4200741)
When the trade with NY was made, about the only reason I heard from anyone for the trade was that Whitey wanted the drugs/bad influence out of his clubhouse.

One time, Hernandez asked Whitey to help him move. Turned out he has a non-elevator building and a sectional couch. Next day he was on the way to the Mets.
   19. bjhanke Posted: August 05, 2012 at 08:57 AM (#4200780)
As far as I can tell from my sources (I live in STL), the reason that Hernandez was traded was that he had just completely stopped listening to Whitey Herzog at all, and pretty much stopped paying any attention to the games he played in, except when it was his play to make. He was into cocaine at the time, but that didn't surface until he came out of the closet, so to speak, with the Mets. Whitey covered for him on that one, taking all the heat for Neil Allen's failures while never saying the one little sentence that would have completely shifted the blame: "I traded Keith because he was doing coke." Score one big one for Whitey, and a minus for Hernandez.

As a bat, Keith wasn't hurt much by Busch. The stadium suppressed homers, but enabled doubles and triples. Keith's homer numbers didn't jump up when he moved to New York. As a glove, Keith was possibly the very best I ever saw, up there with Wes Parker and Vic Power, ahead of even Bill White. But there is one hole in the bunts argument. If you don't want to bunt at Hernandez, which you don't, you can always bunt toward the third baseman. I remember a Mets playoff game, Ron Darling pitching and Gregg Jeffries, if I remember right, at third, runners on first and second. Jeffries was a lousy bunt fielder. The normal play in that situation is for a righty pitcher, like Darling, who falls towards the first base side, to handle bunts toward first, while the third baseman charges, the shortstop covers third, the second baseman covers second, and the first baseman stays at first. To my surprise, Hernandez charged. Then, in the middle of the charge, he stopped cold. And then looked confused. Meanwhile, Darling was trying to right himself and move towards the third base line. Jeffries didn't charge.

What I realized was that the Mets had changed the normal play to adjust for the different qualities of defender. Darling was supposed to do what he could to get to the third base side, and Hernandez was supposed to charge, because Jeffries was a lousy bunt fielder and Keith was great at it. That worked fine until Keith saw Darling's body in front of him and pulled up, his instincts being to go back to first, because that was the normal play. But the Mets had changed the play because Keith was so good at bunts. I've forgotten which way the bunt actually went, but if I had been the bunter (assuming that I could bunt major league pitching), I would have bunted at Jeffries. Hernandez would never have had a chance at that play.

Walt is, BTW, generally accurate about the Hall of Merit. The big feature that keeps the HoM from being like the HoF is that we are voting people in as they become eligible, starting in 1871. That means that we have only a very small backlog of real candidates sitting around unrecognized, like the HoF missed out on Billy Hamilton for years. This means that we are, mostly, dealing with players within their own time context, instead of trying to compare someone from the 1890s with a bunch of guys who retired in the early 1950s (Hamilton was elected to the HoF in the early 1960s). That makes the comparisons much easier, and it also leaves us with a group of borderline backlog candidates, none of whom gets the traction to get elected with great percentages, because different HoM voters think differently about the backlog guys, and there are a lot of them, and they are hard to tell apart. On the other hand this makes for a great learning experience. The HoM is the third time I have voted for a fan Hall decade by decade (The Baseball Maniacs and an article for a magazine called Gravengood's), and I've learned a lot each and every time. I recommend the exercise to anyone willing to put in the work, simply because of the extra perspective you get.

- Brock Hanke
   20. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 05, 2012 at 09:06 AM (#4200783)
Anyone have a sense about why Hunphries' defense system doesn't get more play? It seems more rigorous than zone-rating-based systems and appears to map well to historical data.
   21. Scott Fischthal Posted: August 05, 2012 at 10:13 AM (#4200798)
Keith's homer numbers didn't jump up when he moved to New York.

Yes, but at the time, Shea was a worse hitter's park than Busch -- similar for home runs, and worse for everything else. I recall most analysts thought that Hernandez was hurt by Shea quite a bit, hitting better on the road every year in New York except 1984. From 85-89, he hit 20 HR at Shea and 36 on the road (1984 seems like a weird anomaly; he didn't hit at all on the road that year, with an OPS 273 points lower than at home -- even with it included, it's 30/41).
   22. tjm1 Posted: August 05, 2012 at 10:23 AM (#4200805)
Whitey covered for him on that one, taking all the heat for Neil Allen's failures while never saying the one little sentence that would have completely shifted the blame: "I traded Keith because he was doing coke." Score one big one for Whitey, and a minus for Hernandez.


Did Whitey actually even know Hernandez was doing cocaine? Or did he just know that Hernandez had lost focus and wasn't playing as well as he could have?

All this talk about Whitey being old school on drugs ignores the Darrell Porter issue. Herzog loved Porter, and brought Porter to St. Louis. The impression I have is that Whitey was old school on being a team player and focusing on the game, which Porter always did, and Hernandez didn't do.
   23. DanG Posted: August 05, 2012 at 10:54 AM (#4200818)
Firstbasemen leading in WAR, debut 1964-85:

Rk             Player WAR/pos OPSRfield    PA From   To
2        Eddie Murray    63.4  129     61 12817 1977 1997
3     Keith Hernandez    57.1  128    117  8553 1974 1990
4          Tony Perez    50.1  122     14 10861 1964 1986
6       Don Mattingly    39.8  127     34  7722 1982 1995
7          Kent Hrbek    35.7  128     16  7137 1981 1994
8        Steve Garvey    34.4  117      1  9466 1969 1987
9        Cecil Cooper    32.6  121     18  7939 1971 1987
10       George Scott    32.0  114     84  8269 1966 1979
11     Pedro Guerrero    31.7  137    
-73  6115 1978 1992
12   Andres Galarraga    28.4  119    
-22  8916 1985 2004 
   24. tjm1 Posted: August 05, 2012 at 11:30 AM (#4200845)
What's notable about the list in #23 is that Hernandez had a lot fewer at bats than Murray or Perez. I see that as a point in Hernandez's favor. He either had a better peak than Murray, or he's just missing the value from hanging around as a below average, but above replacement level player for another 7 years. Looking at Murray's numbers, it's the latter. Murray had only one good year after age 34, but hung around until he was 41. Hernandez actually ranks higher than Murray in wins above average, according to BBREF.

OK - I'm completely sold now. He rates out as the probably being best first baseman in a 20 year span just from the statistics, and the general consensus is that he was better than his statistics because the stats understate how good he was defensively.
   25. McCoy Posted: August 05, 2012 at 11:41 AM (#4200851)
Anyone have a sense about why Hunphries' defense system doesn't get more play? It seems more rigorous than zone-rating-based systems and appears to map well to historical data.

It isn't on FG or BRef.
   26. Steve Treder Posted: August 05, 2012 at 12:14 PM (#4200868)
The definition of a Strat-O-Matic "1" fielder.

Oh yeah.
   27. CrosbyBird Posted: August 05, 2012 at 12:16 PM (#4200870)
I think you can consider three things in a very broad sense for Hernandez that make a strong HOF case without specific numbers:

1) He was clearly a well-above-average offensive player.
2) He was clearly an exceptional defensive player, and arguably the greatest defensive player at his position in history.
3) His career was, at worst, average length.

I'm hard-pressed to imagine any player that fits this profile that wouldn't be a HOFer.
   28. McCoy Posted: August 05, 2012 at 12:18 PM (#4200872)
So John Olerud and Mark Grace would be HoF'ers if there defense was just a smidge better? I find that hard to believe. Voters don't really care about first base defense.
   29. Steve Treder Posted: August 05, 2012 at 12:25 PM (#4200876)
Voters don't really care about first base defense.

Is the issue whether they do, or whether they should?
   30. Chris Fluit Posted: August 05, 2012 at 12:35 PM (#4200879)
Walt Davis, you shouldn't place too much emphasis on HoM top ten voting as a comparison to the HoF. As you note, the HoM operates by a different set of rules than the HoF. One of those changes is permanent eligibility. Players don't fall off of the ballot after 15 years (or after receiving less than 5% of the vote). Keith Hernandez and Edgar Msrtinez would have received significantly more top ten votes if they weren't competing against 100 years worth of eligible players and may very well have received more than 75% of the vote under those circumstances.
   31. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: August 05, 2012 at 12:44 PM (#4200883)
Did Whitey actually even know Hernandez was doing cocaine? Or did he just know that Hernandez had lost focus and wasn't playing as well as he could have?

I heard rumors of Hernandez having a much worse cocaine problem than Lonnie Smith at the time of the trade to the Mets. If I heard about it, Herzog had to have had some idea.
   32. CrosbyBird Posted: August 05, 2012 at 12:46 PM (#4200886)
So John Olerud and Mark Grace would be HoF'ers if there defense was just a smidge better? I find that hard to believe. Voters don't really care about first base defense.

I think it takes more than "just a smidge" to put Olerud in Hernandez's class, but even so, he already is certainly a good enough player to be in the discussion. If you rate Olerud as one of the top 5 defensive 1B of all time, I think he's a HOFer.

Mark Grace isn't what I'd call above-average, let alone well-above-average offensively. We're talking about a player that was about 3 wins above average offensively for his position for his entire career.

Putting Grace and Olerud in the same sentence shows both how underrated Olerud is and how overrated Grace is.
   33. bobm Posted: August 05, 2012 at 01:03 PM (#4200898)
[23],[24]

RBI Percentage [100*(RBI-HR)/Runners On]

          Player  Runners On  RBI  HR  RBI Pct.
Andres Galarraga  5869       1425 399 17.48
   Cecil Cooper*  4989       1109 238 17.46
 Keith Hernandez  5190       1063 160 17.40
   Don Mattingly  5085       1099 222 17.25
  Pedro Guerrero  3988        898 215 17.13
    Steve Garvey  5538       1195 247 17.12
     Tony Perez*  4004        836 168 16.68
      Kent Hrbek  4792       1086 293 16.55
    Eddie Murray  8651       1917 504 16.33
   George Scott*  2263        466 122 15.20


*starting 1974
Source: "Baseball Musings Day By Day Database"
http://www.baseballmusings.com/cgi-bin/RBIPCT.py
   34. Walt Davis Posted: August 05, 2012 at 07:16 PM (#4201127)
Walt Davis, you shouldn't place too much emphasis on HoM top ten voting as a comparison to the HoF. As you note, the HoM operates by a different set of rules than the HoF. One of those changes is permanent eligibility. Players don't fall off of the ballot after 15 years (or after receiving less than 5% of the vote). Keith Hernandez and Edgar Msrtinez would have received significantly more top ten votes if they weren't competing against 100 years worth of eligible players and may very well have received more than 75% of the vote under those circumstances.

Not a chance. :-) The permanent eligibility plays a role but not nearly as big a role as requiring 15 votes per ballot and 3 inductees per year (something the BBWAA has only done rarely but, again, different circumstances). If the BBWAA required their voters to list 10 names, Edgar might make it by the BBWAA. Similarly if the HoM let voters submit only 2-3 names when they felt appropriate, you'd see much lower vote totals for most of these guys.

As to Hernandez -- looking at "career" 1B always skews things. For whatever reasons, there are not a lot of career 1B -- probably because to be at 1B at 23 usually means you're an oaf. A list of 1B/LF/RF/DH (at least 1000 games at one of those) who debuted 1964-1985 and Hernandez ranks 13th in WAR, just behind Winfield just ahead of Bobby Bonds and Darrell Evans. He's also behind Dawson, Smith and Dw Evans.

Dawson and Smith played a good chunk of CF and Da Evans a ton of 3B, Bobby Bonds almost surely could have played CF in his youth and Dw Evans was an excellent RF. Hernandez doesn't really stand out defensively in that group.

Alternatively, there were 5 2B (at least 1000 games) who debuted 1964-85 who had more WAR than Hernandez. Only 2 of them made the HoF and one of those is Carew who's already on my 1B list (although we would put in at least 2 of the others I think). There are 6 3B with more WAR of whom 3 are in the HoF (and I don't think the HoM has added Nettles, Bell or Bando). All told of position players who debuted 1964-85, Hernandez ranked 28th in WAR. I think the only players with fewer WAR who made it are Perez and Rice. He is (duh) still just behind Winfield and Dawson who made it but also a staggering 9 players who haven't (although Raines still has a decent chance and Trammell will go in by VC eventually probably).

Career WAR is, of course, not the be-all and end-all but I didn't put together the list in #23. Hernandez amassed his WAR in fewer PA than many of the people ahead of him (esp Winfield and Dawson). Unfortunately PI still hasn't added WAA and Hernandez would rank substantially higher by that measure. But he's still behind Randolph and even slightly behind Nettles and Bell so he might not move up as far as I thought.

As I said, I'm fine with him going in and I might even vote for him myself (since 1B was always my position and I was "known" for my glove :-). But even from a WAR perspective, he's clearly at best borderline by BBWAA standards. Perez and Rice (and Puckett but he's a different case) always throw these things off but there are 11 players who debuted 64-85 with 55-63 career WAR and only 2 have been elected. Yes, cherry-picking a bit as Randolph is right at 63 and Murray (63.4) and Fisk (63.7) are in ... but then Hernandez is at 57.1. Anyway, if Hernandez is _clearly_ in for any of you then (by WAR or WAA) Chet Lemon, Jose Cruz and Ron Cey are at least borderline and you should really be pushing the HoM on Nettles, Bell and Bando.
   35. CrosbyBird Posted: August 05, 2012 at 09:18 PM (#4201165)
Anyway, if Hernandez is _clearly_ in for any of you then (by WAR or WAA) Chet Lemon, Jose Cruz and Ron Cey are at least borderline and you should really be pushing the HoM on Nettles, Bell and Bando.

That's only if you think career WAR is the reason Hernandez should be in the HOF.

I basically put Hernandez as borderline by the numbers alone (considering career and peak), with a healthy boost for "best defensive 1B of all time." To me, that puts him in easily. While I don't use only WAR to make or break a case, here are few non-catcher position players that I consider HOF-worthy that aren't over 55 WAR, and most of those are peak candidates and/or taking serious positional penalties (Sammy Sosa comes to mind).

I'm surprised there's not more argument for Nettles, because if he's really that good defensively, he's got a case. That said, there's not much peak.
   36. Lassus Posted: August 05, 2012 at 09:54 PM (#4201181)
So John Olerud and Mark Grace would be HoF'ers if there defense was just a smidge better? I find that hard to believe. Voters don't really care about first base defense.

Saying Olerud and Grace were just a smidge worse than Hernandez is ridiculous. Coke to C-Bird.
   37. Howie Menckel Posted: August 05, 2012 at 10:11 PM (#4201187)

"He shut down his side of the infield in a way that's actually kind of difficult to describe, if you didn't see it yourself. Just amazing."

That is completely accurate. Hernandez pouncing on a bunt or squib with runners on base was like watching a hungry lion taking down a hapless prey. I'm a little surprised that no one since has at least been able to do a decent imitation of same. Maybe they just don't bunt enough anymore, or maybe nobody else could see the field like that. Not as valuable as extraordinary skills at SS or CF, but I think it was more fun to watch.

And yes, we Hall of Merit voters elected him basically as one of the "if we replace 40-50 dopey HOF selections, which guys ought to get in instead."
He was not at the very bottom of that list, but not near the top, either...

   38. Ray (RDP) Posted: August 05, 2012 at 10:29 PM (#4201194)
I would guess that a lot of his game-winning RBI were in the first inning, but the point that he was a really underrated hitter stands. He was a tremendous on-base percentage guy. His WAR total of 57 is certainly respectable for a HOFer, and you can find plenty of quotes from managers that say that he stopped them from bunting, even with their pitchers. I can't figure out how to verify this, but if it's true, he was probably better defensively than his stats. Bunting may be a bad strategy with real hitters, but with pitchers it makes sense a lot of the time. He also probably took bunting for a hit off the table at a time when a lot of guys tried it. I'd imagine that this all might be worth 2-3 runs a season - maybe another 3 wins over his career.


I am quite serious when I ask whether Hernandez taking bunting off the table - if true - isn't actually a net negative. If I'm a manager, I want my opposing manager ordering bunts early and often - sac bunts, bunt-for-hits...
   39. tjm1 Posted: August 05, 2012 at 10:32 PM (#4201197)
That is completely accurate. Hernandez pouncing on a bunt or squib with runners on base was like watching a hungry lion taking down a hapless prey. I'm a little surprised that no one since has at least been able to do a decent imitation of same. Maybe they just don't bunt enough anymore, or maybe nobody else could see the field like that. Not as valuable as extraordinary skills at SS or CF, but I think it was more fun to watch.


He basically had the defensive skill of a great shortstop - in the Boudreau/Ripken mold, not the Smith/Aparicio mold, but he was left-handed, so he couldn't play short. That's rare enough. But to see another 1B like that, you'd need to find a guy with those characteristics who is also an above average major league hitter, or he won't be able to play 1B in the majors. With a great shortstop, they just need to be able to put up an OPS+ of 85 or so to have long careers. The other issue is that the guy would have to be slow enough that he wouldn't be more valuable as an outfielder than as a 1B. Hernandez even was put in left field for a while, but it's easy to imagine a guy with Hernandez's skill set who was just a little faster being put in center or right. I don't find it at all surprising that we haven't seen anything like Hernandez since he retired.
   40. Kiko Sakata Posted: August 05, 2012 at 10:43 PM (#4201201)
I am quite serious when I ask whether Hernandez taking bunting off the table - if true - isn't actually a net negative.


I had this exact same thought. It strikes me as similar to Johnny Bench's ability to eliminate a team's running game. Most fielding statistics have trouble finding Johnny Bench as head-and-shoulders great because basestealing tends to be fairly close to a break-even strategy so completely eliminating the opponents' bsaestealing isn't all that different than being an average catcher. Cutting down the lead runner on a bunt (or on a non-bunt) is a huge plus for Hernandez, obviously, but if teams just don't bunt, I'm with Ray: not bunting is often the right thing to do anyway.

And yes, we Hall of Merit voters elected him basically as one of the "if we replace 40-50 dopey HOF selections, which guys ought to get in instead."
He was not at the very bottom of that list, but not near the top, either...


I think Hernandez was the guy who convinced me that I'm a "smaller" Hall guy. I read the HoM discussion of him and I pretty much agreed with their view of him - very good hitter, great fielder at a hitting position - and I thought they more or less got it right in terms of where he belonged on the ballot where he was elected. But I just couldn't convince myself that that was enough to deserve to actually be in the Hall of Fame. Given the Hall of Fame that we have now, I think Hernandez belongs - he's one of the top 250ish players in history; but I think my personal Hall would be enough smaller that Hernandez would be just outside of it.
   41. Ray (RDP) Posted: August 05, 2012 at 10:44 PM (#4201202)
I think you can consider three things in a very broad sense for Hernandez that make a strong HOF case without specific numbers:

1) He was clearly a well-above-average offensive player.
2) He was clearly an exceptional defensive player, and arguably the greatest defensive player at his position in history.
3) His career was, at worst, average length.

I'm hard-pressed to imagine any player that fits this profile that wouldn't be a HOFer.


Of course, the elephant in the room that you guys never seem to want to talk about with Hernandez is that he had relatively little power for his position. If he'd had more power he'd be an easy HOFer, but without it he is, in my view, rightfully on the outside looking in. I mean, he never hit 20 home runs. He slugged .500 once. Come on. It shouldn't be that surprising to people why he's not in and why there aren't more people supporting his case. Defense at first base simply doesn't sell, and it's really not that hard to see why.
   42. bobm Posted: August 05, 2012 at 11:02 PM (#4201213)
[34] Alternatively, there were 5 2B (at least 1000 games) who debuted 1964-85 who had more WAR than Hernandez. Only 2 of them made the HoF and one of those is Carew who's already on my 1B list (although we would put in at least 2 of the others I think). There are 6 3B with more WAR of whom 3 are in the HoF (and I don't think the HoM has added Nettles, Bell or Bando). All told of position players who debuted 1964-85, Hernandez ranked 28th in WAR. I think the only players with fewer WAR who made it are Perez and Rice. He is (duh) still just behind Winfield and Dawson who made it but also a staggering 9 players who haven't (although Raines still has a decent chance and Trammell will go in by VC eventually probably). ... Hernandez amassed his WAR in fewer PA than many of the people ahead of him (esp Winfield and Dawson). Unfortunately PI still hasn't added WAA and Hernandez would rank substantially higher by that measure. But he's still behind Randolph and even slightly behind Nettles and Bell so he might not move up as far as I thought.

As others note, WAR and WAA are not everything, but career WAA puts Hernandez ahead of Dawson, Murray, Darrell Evans and Winfield. On WAA as % of WAR, Hernandez moves up to 19 on this list.

WAR Rk WAA Rk WAA% Rk           Player  WAR/pos WAA WAR-WAA WAA% From To   Age   G    PA     Pos
     2      1       1     Mike Schmidt 103.0   73.8   29.2  72% 1972 1989 22-39 2404 10062 *53/64
     1      2       5 Rickey Henderson 106.8   68.9   37.9  65% 1979 2003 20-44 3081 13346 *78D/9
     4      3       2       Wade Boggs  88.3   57.5   30.8  65% 1982 1999 24-41 2440 10740 *5D/317
     3      4      13       Cal Ripken  90.9   53.5   37.4  59% 1981 2001 20-40 3001 12883 *65/D
     5      5       8     George Brett  84.0   50.7   33.3  60% 1973 1993 20-40 2707 11625 *5D3/796
    10      6       4     Johnny Bench  72.3   46.7   25.6  65% 1967 1983 19-35 2158  8674 *253/798
     6      7       9        Rod Carew  76.6   46.2   30.4  60% 1967 1985 21-39 2469 10550 34/D657
    13      8       3      Bobby Grich  67.3   43.6   23.7  65% 1970 1986 21-37 2008  8220 *46/35D
    11      9      11     Lou Whitaker  71.4   42.8   28.6  60% 1977 1995 20-38 2390  9967 *4/D
     7     10      14      Ozzie Smith  73.0   42.0   31.0  58% 1978 1996 23-41 2573 10778 *6
    14     11      10    Alan Trammell  67.1   40.4   26.7  60% 1977 1996 19-38 2293  9376 *6/D5478
    15     12       7      Gary Carter  66.4   40.1   26.3  60% 1974 1992 20-38 2295  9019 *29/375
    18     13      12    Ryne Sandberg  64.9   38.4   26.5  59% 1981 1997 21-37 2164  9282 *45/6D
     8     14      25     Paul Molitor  72.5   37.7   34.8  52% 1978 1998 21-41 2683 12167 D543/6879
    25     15       6     Reggie Smith  60.8   37.5   23.3  62% 1966 1982 21-37 1987  8051 983/5D47
     9     16      27      Robin Yount  72.4   37.4   35.0  52% 1974 1993 18-37 2856 12249 *68D/73
    17     17      18       Tony Gwynn  65.3   36.7   28.6  56% 1982 2001 22-41 2440 10232 *98/7D
    21     18      15  Willie Randolph  63.0   36.2   26.8  57% 1975 1992 20-37 2202  9461 *4/D5
    16     19      21       Tim Raines  66.2   35.4   30.8  53% 1979 2002 19-42 2502 10359 *78D/49
    12     19      26   Reggie Jackson  68.4   35.4   33.0  52% 1967 1987 21-41 2820 11418 *9D8/7
    19     21      20     Carlton Fisk  63.7   35.3   28.4  55% 1969 1993 21-45 2499  9853 *2D/735
    23     22      23     Dwight Evans  62.8   33.0   29.8  53% 1972 1991 20-39 2606 10569 *9D3/78
    22     23      24    Graig Nettles  62.8   32.8   30.0  52% 1967 1988 22-43 2700 10228 *5/739D68
    29     24      17        Sal Bando  57.1   32.7   24.4  57% 1966 1981 22-37 2019  8287 *5/D36471
    24     25      22       Buddy Bell  61.6   32.6   29.0  53% 1972 1989 20-37 2405 10009 *5/986D374
    30     26      16      Bobby Bonds  55.7   32.0   23.7  57% 1968 1981 22-35 1849  8090 *98/D7
    28     27      19  Keith Hernandez  57.1   31.9   25.2  56% 1974 1990 20-36 2088  8553 *3/79
    26     28      28     Andre Dawson  60.6   29.3   31.3  48% 1976 1996 21-41 2627 10769 98D/7
    20     29      30     Eddie Murray  63.4   27.4   36.0  43% 1977 1997 21-41 3026 12817 *3D/57
    31     30      29    Darrell Evans  55.1   24.3   30.8  44% 1969 1989 22-42 2687 10737 *53D/76
    27     31      31    Dave Winfield  59.4   24.0   35.4  40% 1973 1995 21-43 2973 12358 *97D8/35
   43. bobm Posted: August 05, 2012 at 11:18 PM (#4201216)
[41] Of course, the elephant in the room that you guys never seem to want to talk about with Hernandez is that he had relatively little power for his position. ... Defense at first base simply doesn't sell, and it's really not that hard to see why.

Never mind the relative value of OBP and SLG, Hernandez's home ballparks weren't exactly home-run hitter friendly.

         Player  SLG lgSLG (park adj) Ratio
   Eddie Murray .476   .399            119%
Keith Hernandez .436   .390            112%
      Rod Carew .429   .386            111%


As for defense at 1B, IMO the numerical data and formulas do not convey Hernandez's superiority and impact at first base the way watching him play did.
   44. The District Attorney Posted: August 05, 2012 at 11:32 PM (#4201221)
James, Guide to Baseball Managers, p. 133:
with a runner on first and no one out, there are more situations in which one should not bunt than situations in which one should bunt. Teams should bunt less than 50% of the time. Since teams do bunt less than 50% of the time in that situation, this is hardly a revelation.
So yes, given a standard infield alignment against you, it will be the case more often than not that bunting is not the right play. But, sometimes it will be the right play. And if you never bunted, and your opponents knew you would never bunt, then those opponents would start putting their infields farther and farther back. They would eventually put it back far enough, in fact, that continuing to refuse to bunt would now become extremely stupid. It's game theory. Being utterly predictable is bad, and having an option taken away is bad.

As for the shape of Hernandez' offense, I don't care about it at all, and don't know why anyone would. I only care about its value. Of course, it is highly relevant to his actual chance of being elected that he doesn't have many career HR. But I don't think anyone thinks he has a realistic shot to be elected any time in the foreseeable future, so I assume no one is discussing that.
   45. CrosbyBird Posted: August 05, 2012 at 11:37 PM (#4201225)
Of course, the elephant in the room that you guys never seem to want to talk about with Hernandez is that he had relatively little power for his position.

I don't see why it matters; it's built into his overall offensive profile. Hernandez is well-above average offensively for a 1B. He's didn't hit a lot of HR, but he did hit a lot of doubles (enough to put him 9th in the league in SLG three years running). He was one of the top three players in his league in OBP seven times. He was one of the top 10 offensive players by OPS+ 6 times, by oWAR 5 times, by RC 7 times, and by adjusted batting runs 8 times.

The shape of Hernandez's offense is different that your typical strong offensive player, but he was one of the better offensive players in baseball over his career nonetheless. His numbers look pretty weak compared to players from the 1990s and 2000s, especially since he played a good part of his career in parks that depressed offense.

For some perspective, the 1986 Mets outscored the rest of the league by a healthy margin (and scored more runs than 8 AL teams). Hernandez led the team in doubles with 34; the next highest total was 27. Only 2 players on the team broke 20 HR (Carter and Strawberry). It was a remarkably different offensive environment.
   46. Ray (RDP) Posted: August 05, 2012 at 11:44 PM (#4201228)
Never mind the relative value of OBP and SLG, Hernandez's home ballparks weren't exactly home-run hitter friendly.

Player SLG lgSLG (park adj) Ratio
Eddie Murray .476 .399 119%
Keith Hernandez .436 .390 112%
Rod Carew .429 .386 111%


What is the argument? That he didn't have middling power for a 1B, and poor power compared to a HOF 1B?

He also had a short career, which makes a comparison with Eddie Murray look like a fair fight, when in actuality the useful part of Murray's career -- the first 2100 games -- blows Hernandez away on power.

Not sure what Carew is doing here, as he was a 2B for the first half of his career.
   47. bobm Posted: August 05, 2012 at 11:52 PM (#4201232)
Sacrifice Bunts Allowed in 1976-1983, NL:

SDP 689
CHC 661
NYM 656
LAD 653
ATL 641
SFG 639
WSN 618
PIT 572
CIN 563
HOU 549
STL 530
PHI 524


Sacrifice Bunts Allowed in 1984-1988, NL:
ATL 408
SFG 396
SDP 394
CIN 380
CHC 376
HOU 372
WSN 358
PIT 341
PHI 340
STL 336
LAD 332
NYM 307


Source: B-R PI Event Finder
   48. SoSH U at work Posted: August 05, 2012 at 11:54 PM (#4201236)
I had this exact same thought. It strikes me as similar to Johnny Bench's ability to eliminate a team's running game. Most fielding statistics have trouble finding Johnny Bench as head-and-shoulders great because basestealing tends to be fairly close to a break-even strategy so completely eliminating the opponents' bsaestealing isn't all that different than being an average catcher.


There should be a way to make that great arm work for a team. If the Reds (or any team with a great throwing catcher) weren't getting the full value of a catcher's arm because teams wouldn't run, then their first basemen should be playing further off the bag rather than the conventional method of holding the runner. That would give the first baseman more range.

Similarly, if teams are truly afraid to bunt against a team with a Hernandez-like first baseman, that should also him and the third baseman to play deeper.
   49. bobm Posted: August 06, 2012 at 12:10 AM (#4201244)
[46] He also had a short career, which makes a comparison with Eddie Murray look like a fair fight, when in actuality the useful part of Murray's career -- the first 2100 games -- blows Hernandez away on power.

I think Hernandez blows Murray away on defense in a more meaningful, valuable way than Murray blows Hernandez away on power. We disagree.
   Player     Years   Age    G   PA  SLG lgSLG Ratio
   Murray 1977-1990 21-34 2135 9125 .494  .394  125%
Hernandez 1975-1988 21-34 1956 8123 .443  .391  113%


It's not like Murray had the power relative to league and park of McGwire (career ratio 144%) or Pujols (145) or McCovey (133) or Frank Thomas (132).
   50. bobm Posted: August 06, 2012 at 12:32 AM (#4201255)
I have noted before that Bill James in the Historical Baseball Abstract (the section on Keith Hernandez) wrote about these metrics for first baseman defense:
1. unassisted putouts;
2. assists on putouts not made at 1b, e.g., excluding the (routine) 3-1 putouts; and,
3. ground ball DPs started.

Despite Murray playing 20% more games and 23% more PA at first base than Hernandez (with apparently similar ground ball in play opportunities), Murray had only 17% more unassisted putouts; 6% fewer assists on putouts not made at 1b, and 19% fewer groundball DPs started. That kind of data begins to clarify the runs saved differential between the two.

From B-R:

        Stat HERNANDEZ MURRAY  MURRAY:HERNANDEZ
        G@1B      2014   2413    120%
       PA@1B     72626  89416    123%
        RHB%        60     58     97%
       GBIP%        29     29    100%
    
         3UA      1690   1984    117%
      Anot1B       638    601     94%
GIDP started       127    103     81%
   51. DanG Posted: August 06, 2012 at 12:37 AM (#4201263)
From 1969-93, playing 80+ G at 1B.

Most 7 WAR seasons:
Rk                   Yrs From   To   Age
1        John Olerud   1 1993 1993 24
-24
2         Will Clark   1 1989 1989 25
-25
3      Don Mattingly   1 1986 1986 25
-25
'4   Keith Hernandez   1 1979 1979 25-25'
5          Rod Carew   1 1977 1977 31-31
6         Dick Allen   1 1972 1972 30
-30
7   Carl Yastrzemski   1 1970 1970 30
-30
8     Willie McCovey   1 1969 1969 31
-31 


Most 6 WAR seasons:
Rk                  Yrs From   To   Age
1     Don Mattingly   3 1984 1986 23
-25
'2  Keith Hernandez   3 1979 1984 25-30'
3      Fred McGriff   2 1988 1989 24-25
4        Will Clark   2 1988 1989 24
-25
5      Eddie Murray   2 1983 1984 27
-28
6         Rod Carew   2 1976 1977 30
-31
7    Willie McCovey   2 1969 1970 31
-32 


Most 5 WAR seasons:
Rk                  Yrs From   To   Age
'1  Keith Hernandez   5 1979 1986 25-32'
2      Fred McGriff   3 1988 1990 24-26
3     Don Mattingly   3 1984 1986 23
-25
4      Eddie Murray   3 1983 1985 27
-29
5   8 other players   2 


Most 4 WAR seasons:
Rk                  Yrs From   To   Age
'1  Keith Hernandez   8 1979 1986 25-32'
2      Eddie Murray   7 1979 1990 23-34
3      Fred McGriff   4 1988 1992 24
-28
4        Will Clark   4 1987 1991 23
-27
5     Don Mattingly   4 1984 1987 23
-26
6         Rod Carew   4 1976 1982 30
-36
7      Steve Garvey   4 1974 1978 25
-29 
   52. tjm1 Posted: August 06, 2012 at 07:18 AM (#4201295)
I am quite serious when I ask whether Hernandez taking bunting off the table - if true - isn't actually a net negative. If I'm a manager, I want my opposing manager ordering bunts early and often - sac bunts, bunt-for-hits...


We're talking about the National League here. Sacrifice bunts by position players are usually negative strategies, but by pitchers they probably aren't.

As for bunting for a hit - the league hit .438 when bunting for hits last year. Most of the attempts were by guys for whom that makes bunting for a hit an excellent strategy. It ignores the effects of failed attempts putting guys in a hole in the count, but for a lot of the guys who bunted for hits a lot, if they come out at .340, it's a net gain. In Hernandez' era, there were a lot more fast guys with no power, especially in the NL East. Taking away the bunt for a hit was potentially a big deal then.
   53. bjhanke Posted: August 06, 2012 at 07:59 AM (#4201299)
First, Keith was not taking bunting off the table. He was taking bunting towards first base off the table. Unlike with Johnny Bench, where if you don't steal on Bench, you can't steal on anyone else on the Reds, if you can't bunt on Keith, you can bunt on the third baseman. And I appreciate the info that the Mets ballpark was no better than STL for homers. Keith was never meant to be a 30-per-year guy, but he probably would have hit more in better parks. Still, his hitting rests on line drive power and taking walks. That's what he was good at.

As for the cocaine thing, I am hamstrung here by having some insider info that I can't reveal the source of (I was in the STL press box for 7 years in the 1990s, and learned some odd stuff that has a lid on it). But I can say that Whitey Herzog, without question, knew that Keith Hernandez was into cocaine. Both of them have admitted as much, at least by implication. That takes the lid off. BTW, I was NOT in the press box when Whitey was managing. I was in there a couple of years later. My info does NOT come from Whitey. Or Keith. I've actually never met either man.

Second, Keith Hernandez was almost certainly not the best defensive first baseman ever. That honor would go to someone from the dead ball era, when everyone bunted, so defense at first was at its highest value of all time. Actually, I am willing to argue that the defensive spectrum in the DBE should have 1B higher than RF. Probably not LF, because there were some parks with huge LF territories, but RF. In any case, by reputation Hal Chase was the best defensive 1B ever, but there's the issue of how many chances he gave away in the process of selling ballgames. Aside from Chase, George Sisler was probably the best 1B glove in baseball up through 1922, but he was not the same player in any way after 1923. For a whole career, George Kelly is probably the right answer, and that may have a lot to do with why he is in the HoF. Up through 1930, people still looked at 1B as a glove position first; the changeover that started with Lou Gehrig didn't fully settle in until about '30. That is, basically, why Sisler was considered for so long to be a candidate for best 1B ever, including bat and glove. People were still transitioning from the Sisler kind of 1B to the Gehrig model, and the Sisler they had legends for was the Sisler of 1915-1922.

Also, Walt is right again about the HoM and perpetual candidacy. That's why the backlog is so hard to sort out. There are lot and lots of candidates, and no one stands out. If he had stood out, he would have been elected when his time came. That is, the HoM does a very good job of what the BBWAA is supposed to be doing, but bogs down when confronted with the Veteran's Committee players. - Brock Hanke
   54. Lassus Posted: August 06, 2012 at 08:15 AM (#4201306)
Second, Keith Hernandez was almost certainly not the best defensive first baseman ever. That honor would go to someone from the dead ball era, when everyone bunted, so defense at first was at its highest value of all time.

Brock - Your certainty here is a little strange to me. Are you saying that because Hernandez didn't get as many bunt plays, he couldn't have been the best defensive 1B of all time? Wouldn't the best 1B of the dead-ball era been bunted on far less than some regular schmo? How does that figure in? Out of curiosity, do we have good figures or extrapolated data for bunts attempted on Chase, Sisler, or Kelly vs. bunts attempted in the 70s and 80s?

I am biased, certainly, having watched Hernandez and others in my own era, but some of this argument is slightly reminiscent of "there's no way the players of these days are as good as they were in the old days".

(BTW, I am willing to be convinced, I do find your posts to be among the ones I trust most and take to heart.)
   55. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 06, 2012 at 08:18 AM (#4201307)
brock

i don't know why you feel the need to qualify the whity/keith/coke stuff. i was just an avid fan around the game back then and everyone within 100 miles of st louis knew why whitey dumped hernandez. whitey didn't exactly bite his tongue about the topic. nobody was surprised when keith's name came up in the drug trials. most figured that whity fingered him.

and i don't know why circumstance would equate to a player from that era having to be the best. just because someone had many more chances due to the conditions of the time does not equate to the era generating a player who would be considered the best defender of that position for all time. that logic makes no sense to me. if it did that would make jimmy collins the best defensive third baseman of all time and nobody has written that statement for 80 years.
   56. CrosbyBird Posted: August 06, 2012 at 08:37 AM (#4201319)
Second, Keith Hernandez was almost certainly not the best defensive first baseman ever. That honor would go to someone from the dead ball era, when everyone bunted, so defense at first was at its highest value of all time.

I'm not sure if that means Hernandez is worse or better. One of the reasons that he is so dominant defensively is because his peers were generally so poor. If 1B isn't a dump-position defensively, the best defensive player might not be able to stand out as much as Hernandez did.

Also, just because there were more opportunities doesn't mean that they were handled more effectively. In fact, the physical conditions of the field, quality of the gloves, and general physical health might well have prevented the best defensive players from being as good as modern defensive players. Not to mention the ability of modern players to learn from tape.
   57. Ray (RDP) Posted: August 06, 2012 at 11:46 AM (#4201455)
I don't see why it matters; it's built into his overall offensive profile. Hernandez is well-above average offensively for a 1B.


That seems to be damning him with faint praise. HOF 1B are typically great offensive players, not "well-above average."

Yes, I know I need to deal with his defense.

He's didn't hit a lot of HR, but he did hit a lot of doubles (enough to put him 9th in the league in SLG three years running). He was one of the top three players in his league in OBP seven times. He was one of the top 10 offensive players by OPS+ 6 times, by oWAR 5 times, by RC 7 times, and by adjusted batting runs 8 times.

The shape of Hernandez's offense is different that your typical strong offensive player, but he was one of the better offensive players in baseball over his career nonetheless. His numbers look pretty weak compared to players from the 1990s and 2000s, especially since he played a good part of his career in parks that depressed offense.


I can look at EqA to get a quite accurate assessment of his offense. His career EqA is .297 and his five peak seasons are between .315 and .320. That's very good offense and a nice peak, but it's not great by either count. Hernandez's problems are:

1. Middling offense for a HOF 1B.
2. Short career.
3. Not a great peak.

He's selling OBP and great defense, but the OBP is offset to some degree by his relative weakness in SLG, and the great defense is offset by the fact that it came while playing 1B, which is the position furthest to the right (or left, or whatever it is) on the defensive spectrum.

I like to ask myself what the player's HOF case is missing, given his overall skill set. And he was missing some combination of longevity and power. Don't get me wrong: he was an excellent player, and I wouldn't really complain if he were in. He has a decent case based on defense and OBP and prime, and durability during his prime. But I don't think he belongs.

   58. PreservedFish Posted: August 06, 2012 at 11:57 AM (#4201464)
I'm with Ray. I think Hernandez probably falls short, unless you give him a special best defender ever at his position vote.
   59. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 06, 2012 at 12:02 PM (#4201468)
assume that hernandez is the best defensive first baseman ever in baseball history. it's a plausible stance

is he the only 'best ever defender' at a position not in the hall of fame?

i think the answer is yes unless one believes barry was the best defensive left fielder ever

(not meant to make a hof case. just an observation followed by the question)
   60. Ray (RDP) Posted: August 06, 2012 at 12:31 PM (#4201500)
Also, people like CB are pushing Hernandez's OBP, but his OBP, while of course excellent (.384), does not really stand out among HOF first basemen. We need to remember who we are comparing him to.

If OBP is the main thing that Hernandez is selling on offense, it really needed to be in the .400s.
   61. JJ1986 Posted: August 06, 2012 at 12:51 PM (#4201508)
Also, people like CB are pushing Hernandez's OBP, but his OBP, while of course excellent (.384), does not really stand out among HOF first basemen. We need to remember who we are comparing him to.

If OBP is the main thing that Hernandez is selling on offense, it really needed to be in the .400s.


Are we just abandoning park and era adjustments now? Raw OBP is not fair to Keith.
   62. JJ1986 Posted: August 06, 2012 at 12:54 PM (#4201510)
is he the only 'best ever defender' at a position not in the hall of fame?


Andruw Jones?
   63. PreservedFish Posted: August 06, 2012 at 01:05 PM (#4201523)
Bench, Hernandez, Mazeroski, Ozzie, Brooks, Mays/Speaker, Clemente. I don't think LF has a "greatest ever defender," which is fine, because it doesn't really have a unique identity as a position.
   64. SoSH U at work Posted: August 06, 2012 at 01:08 PM (#4201527)
Best defender being defined by accumulation of value, rather than skill, I presume. I wonder how frequently the best-ever defender at a position couldn't hit enough to stick.
   65. Kiko Sakata Posted: August 06, 2012 at 01:14 PM (#4201533)
I think there's a little bit of a chicken-and-egg thing with Mays/Speaker, and maybe Bench and Ozzie, where they're viewed as the greatest fielding XX in history because they're (very deserving) Hall-of-Famers. On a rate basis, I think you can make a case for Mark Belanger as a better SS than Ozzie, for example (BB-Ref has Ozzie at +13/yr v. +19/yr for Belanger, and Belanger had 6 straight seasons of +26,+20,+35,+24,+24,+26, vs. Ozzie having a +32, two +21's, and a +20 non-consecutively). But Belanger was always thisclose to falling out of the lineup because of his lack of offense and he was (deservedly) one-and-done in HOF voting, so he doesn't even make the conversation for "best defensive SS ever" with most people. It's conceivable that Devon White or Andruw Jones were a better defensive CF than Willie Mays, but they weren't WILLIE MAYS, so their argument doesn't really gain any traction. But certainly 1B is the one position where there are probably no Hall-of-Famers even in the conversation for best fielder ever (Hal Chase, Keith Hernandez, maybe Vic Power).
   66. PreservedFish Posted: August 06, 2012 at 01:15 PM (#4201534)
#64 - of course. Well, I wasn't thinking about value vs skill, I was just thinking about the most obvious answers, the players that most fans would name. That isn't to say that Pokey Reese couldn't have gone down in history as the best 2B ever, or that there wasn't some other guy that was even better than Pokey Reese who couldn't hit his way out of junior college.

#65 - agreed, mostly.
   67. SoSH U at work Posted: August 06, 2012 at 01:17 PM (#4201537)
#64 - of course. Well, I wasn't thinking about value vs skill, I was just thinking about the most obvious answers, the players that most fans would name. That isn't to say that Pokey Reese couldn't have gone down in history as the best 2B ever, or that there was some other guy that was even better than Pokey Reese who couldn't hit his way out of junior college.


I'm not taking exception to any of the guys you listed. I'm more curious how many of the established bests (many of whom _ Bench, Maz, Ozzie, Keith _ are overwhelmingly noted as such) were actually the greatest defenders at their positions (while recognizing there's probably no way of knowing the answer).

   68. JJ1986 Posted: August 06, 2012 at 01:19 PM (#4201538)
Who would be the best catcher if it's not Bench?
   69. Kiko Sakata Posted: August 06, 2012 at 01:26 PM (#4201545)
Who would be the best catcher if it's not Bench?


Baseball history is littered with guys who hung on inexplicably long as terrible hitting catchers because they had a reputation as being brilliant defenders. Bill Bergen (career OPS+ of 21, career batting line of .170/.194/.201) is probably the most glaring example of this. If Bergen's managers were right in the amount of playing time they gave him, he had to have been at least twice the defensive catcher that Bench was.

More recently, Bill James, when talking about Bench's ability to shut down the opponents' running game, said that there were two guys who stood out when he started compiling data from box scores in the 1970s: Bench and Steve Yeager. I don't think it would ever occur to somebody to bother to construct an argument that Yeager was actually better than Johnny Bench because, well, Steve Yeager was no Johnny Bench even if he was a slightly better defensive catcher (BB-Ref shows Yeager as slightly better than Bench on a rate basis, +9/yr v. +8/yr).
   70. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: August 06, 2012 at 01:33 PM (#4201549)
Age 22 (or 23 if first major year) through age 33:

Keith Hernandez -- 133 OPS+, 10 Gold Gloves, 1 MVP
Don Mattingly -- 130 OPS+, 9 Gold Gloves, 1 MVP
Tony Perez -- 131 OPS+, 0 Gold Gloves, peak of MVP-3
Rafael Palmeiro -- 132 OPS+, 2 Gold Gloves, peak of MVP-6
Eddie Murray -- 140 OPS+, 3 Gold Gloves, peak of MVP-2 -- extra credit for being a very effective regular at age 21.

As noted in the Morris thread, sports medicine, facilities, conventional wisdom regarding training, roids, amps, and all the rest make performance after age 33, over the sweep of history, a crapshoot having more to do with luck than anything else, and it should be treated as such.

By way of comparison:

Mark McGwire -- 157 OPS+, 1 Gold Glove, peak of MVP-4.

Hernandez would be a very worthy Hall of Famer.
   71. GuyM Posted: August 06, 2012 at 01:35 PM (#4201550)
It's conceivable that Devon White or Andruw Jones were a better defensive CF than Willie Mays, but they weren't WILLIE MAYS

Good point. In fact, it's not just conceivable, it's highly likely they were better than Willie. Probably Pettis and a few others too. I mean, what's the probability that no better center fielders have arrived in the past 60 years, while the overall level of talent and athleticism has been rising? And what are the odds that the best ever also happens to be one of the best hitters of all time? Vanishingly small, in both cases.

We have to remember who the young Mays was being compared to when he arrived. I don't know if he and Doby were the only African-American CFs at the time, but there can't have been many others. By the end of Mays' career, probably 75% of CFs were black. I think it's fair to conclude that Mays was able to establish a whole new standard of play in CF in a way that simply wasn't possible twenty years later, or since. Contemporary evaluations of Mays, when his reputation was established, have to be understood in their context.
   72. Tom Nawrocki Posted: August 06, 2012 at 01:40 PM (#4201558)
Who would be the best catcher if it's not Bench?


Back in the 1970s, Jerry Grote was considered roughly the defensive equal of Bench.
   73. bobm Posted: August 06, 2012 at 01:41 PM (#4201560)
[61] Hernandez OBP = .384 and lgOBP = .330, for an OBP+ of 116.
   74. PreservedFish Posted: August 06, 2012 at 02:03 PM (#4201580)
In my youth I was in awe of Charlie O'Brien's defensive abilities. But, it wouldn't surprise me if Bench had equals or superiors that time has forgotten. Just since I began watching baseball, Henry Blanco jumps out as a fellow that was almost as good as Ivan Rodriguez, but never hit enough to start. Charles Johnson won the GG in his rookie year, starting only 97 games - he was kind of a phenomenon there for a while, and he was known to do everything well, not just throw out runners.
   75. SoSH U at work Posted: August 06, 2012 at 02:12 PM (#4201593)
BB-Ref shows Yeager as slightly better than Bench on a rate basis, +9/yr v. +8/yr).


Jim Sundberg was the guy I thought of as a candidate, and he matches Yeager at +9/yr in more PT.

   76. Chris Fluit Posted: August 06, 2012 at 05:13 PM (#4201780)
left fielders by fielding runs (may be incomplete)

1. Carl Yastrzemski: +183 (includes 1B and CF)
2. Barry Bonds: +175 (171 games in CF)
3. Luis Gonzalez: +91
4. Fred Clarke: +90
5. Jose Cruz: +77 (277 games in CF)
6. Jimmy Sheckard: +77
7. George J. Burns: +70 (239 games in CF)
8. Al Simmons: +67
9. Rickey Henderson: +65 (446 games in CF)
10. Zack Wheat: +54
11. Goose Goslin: +50
12. Tom York: +50
13. Stan Musial: +50 (includes 1B and RF)
14. Monte Irvin: +47 (from age 30 on)


   77. Chris Fluit Posted: August 06, 2012 at 05:19 PM (#4201802)
The best defensive left fielder is either Bonds (+175) or Yaz (+183) depending on what you want to do with Yaz's time at first base. So the best defensive left fielder is either in the Hall of Fame already (Yaz) or would be next year if not for PED allegations (Bond).
   78. Chris Fluit Posted: August 06, 2012 at 05:30 PM (#4201826)
Joe Hornung's actually 14th with +48 and Irvin is 15th but I wasn't able to edit my earlier post.
   79. CrosbyBird Posted: August 06, 2012 at 06:20 PM (#4201857)
1. Middling offense for a HOF 1B.
2. Short career.
3. Not a great peak.


1) I think you're strongly underselling Hernandez's offense. Hernandez has a career 128 OPS+, which is tied for 189th. He's 150th in runs created and 109th in adjusted batting runs. He's 87th in walks all-time, and 132nd in 2B; more impressive considering the poor offensive parks he played in. He's 203rd in career offensive WAR. Offense alone won't get the job done, but Hernandez was an excellent offensive player and a very good offensive 1B.

2) Hernandez played 2088 games, which is about 65 games behind the average HOFer. That's not a short career at all even by HOF standards; a half-season below the average is not a short career. He's 19th all-time in games at 1B.

3) His peak is not great, but it is solid.

Then again, I'm not really sure that we're in much disagreement. I think Hernandez is the greatest defensive 1B of all-time, and I don't think there's been anyone particularly close in the past 50 years. With all that, he's a borderline HOF that I'd put just in. It sounds like you think he's a borderline HOFer that's just out. I'm giving him just a tiny bit more credit for "greatest of all time" than you are.
   80. Ray (RDP) Posted: August 06, 2012 at 06:47 PM (#4201881)
CB, Hernandez doesn't fit with your already established small-hall tendencies, unless you're now changing those.
   81. Jittery McFrog Posted: August 06, 2012 at 06:57 PM (#4201888)
He's 19th all-time in games at 1B.


I'm not sure that's such a good measure. 1B is a position lots of guys end up at but didn't start at.
   82. Ray (RDP) Posted: August 06, 2012 at 07:13 PM (#4201897)
I'm not sure that's such a good measure.


Right. Every argument CB makes, other than 1B defense and to an extent OBP, screams HOVG.

19th all-time in games at 1B? "One of the better offensive players over his career"? 2088 games is not a short career for a HOFer? Really?
   83. CrosbyBird Posted: August 06, 2012 at 08:13 PM (#4201926)
Right. Every argument CB makes, other than 1B defense and to an extent OBP, screams HOVG.

19th all-time in games at 1B? "One of the better offensive players over his career"? 2088 games is not a short career for a HOFer? Really?


I'm responding to you; these are not my justifications for why Hernandez should be in the HOF but my rejection of some of your criticisms. You said he's a middling offensive player for a HOF 1B, which is an incredibly narrow distinction I reject. 2088 games isn't a short career for a HOF, but an average one.

Don't distort my position. Hernandez is a very good (not great) offensive player with all-world defense that makes him a borderline HOF candidate. If you don't think he's one of the greatest defensive players in baseball history, he has a very poor case. If you think he's the Ozzie Smith of 1B, then I think he's got a reasonable case.

That's the argument. HOVG offense, career that is long enough not to be a problem, and greatest of all time defense at his position. It's not at all inconsistent with my stance on the HOF, which (oversimplified) is that a player must have:

1) peak and/or numbers that qualify him for the discussion (they don't need to prove the case outright)
2) something spectacular about his career that makes him particularly memorable (the "feels like a HOF" test)
3) an argument for being one of, say, the 10 or 15 best players for the period in which he played

Hernandez is no exception:

1) His 57.1 career WAR* puts him in the discussion
2) His defense was every bit as remarkable as Ozzie Smith's, and perhaps more so, since we've seen players that were every bit as good defensively as SS (like the aforementioned Belanger) but we've never seen anyone in our lifetimes as good as Hernandez defending 1B.
3) He was a top 10 position player in his league around 6 times (maybe a little more, maybe a little less depending on which numbers you look at) over his career.

*Just to be perfectly clear, I'm not suggesting that WAR is anything close to perfect. It's just good enough to start a conversation for anyone in the mid 50s.
   84. Tubbs & Minnie Miñoso don't fear Sid Monge Posted: August 06, 2012 at 08:41 PM (#4201949)
I'll be interested to see how the Expansion Era Vet Committee treats Keith, he'll be eligible the next time they vote in Dec 2013. His old mgr Whitey was on the last Exp Era panel. I feel like he's a much better candidate than the holdovers from the last election (Dave Concepcion, Al Oliver, Rusty Staub, Steve Garvey, & Ted Simmons) with Simmons being the only one close in career value.

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