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Friday, April 18, 2014

RB: Carlos Beltran: more of a center fielder than Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb or Duke Snider. So what?

Well, a-beat the drum and hold the phone call from Jack O’Connell.

Brain Kenny led a panel discussion on MLB Network yesterday about whether Carlos Beltran has a shot at the Hall of Fame.  The consensus was yes.  My immediate reaction was that Beltran was benefiting from having his hitting compared to center fielders, that if he were compared to right fielders like Hank Aaron then Beltran would have more difficulty.

While Beltran have may a few years to go, right now he is included among players who played at least 75% of their games in center.  Review the two lists above.  The number of center fielders shrinks from 25 to 15 when the criteria changes from 50% to 75%.

Who are dropped?

Mickey Mantle
Ty Cobb
Duke Snider
Ellis Burks
Cesar Cedeno
Torii Hunter
Vada Pinson
Max Carey
Johnny Damon
Willie McGee

Wow.  Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb, Duke Snider.  Mantle and Cobb don’t need the extra credit of playing center field to be considered all time great players.  It turns out that Aaron did not play 75% of his games in right.  Among right fielders using the 50% criteria, Snider would have the same ranking OPS+: number six.  Babe Ruth is not included because he split his outfield games between right and left.

Carlos Beltran ranked 13 out of 25 on the first center field list and 9 of 15 on the second list.  For some perspective Bernie Williams ranked 11 and 7.  Jim Edmonds missed the 2,000 hit cut with 1,949; he hit 393 homers and had OPS+ 132.  That would have ranked Edmonds 9 and 6, above both Beltran and Williams.  Among those three I would pick Edmonds number one, Williams three.  Bernie was not nearly as good a fielder and Betran was a great base stealer and outstanding tournament hitter.

...What if Kaline, Aaron, Bonds, Clemente, and Henderson had played center for at least half their careers?  How much more value would they seem to have had?

And what if Beltran, Williams and Edmonds had played corner outfield positions instead of center?  Would there be any serious discussion of them as Hall of Fame players, especially Williams who was erratic in center and had a weak arm?  In the corners they’d be mixed in with the big boppers: Ruth, Williams, Bonds, Musial, Aaron.  Stolen bases and flashy fielding would add only so much.

Repoz Posted: April 18, 2014 at 09:58 AM | 44 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, hof

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   1. John Northey Posted: April 18, 2014 at 10:23 AM (#4688402)
Beltran right now...
2245 hits, too low to make a difference, needs 255 more to shift to mild benefit, 755 to make a big difference
362 HR, enough to get voters eyes open. 38 to get to 400 which will open them more (passes Dale Murphy then), 138 to stand out
1336 RBI, doesn't help yet, 164 more to reach a number that voters like (1500), no shot at 2000 which would get voters very excited.
308 SB, enough to be a plus, no shot at 400 (400/400 club potential) thus minimal story out of that
283 lifetime average - too low to be a plus, but high enough to avoid being a big negative
Awards: only rookie of the year, no MVP's (4th his best, 9th next best). 8 ASG is a positive, 3 Gold Gloves helps a bit but not enough.

Black ink of just 1, big time negative. Guys without black ink tend to get ignored by voters.
Grey ink of just 85 vs average HOF'ers 144. So rarely on leaderboards vs normal HOF

Played well in the playoffs (333/445/683) but just once in World Series and had a sub 700 OPS while his team lost.

Beltran really is one of those guys who the voters don't like. Very good at a lot of things but not a 'wow' at any one thing. No rings, no signature moments I can think of. I don't see him getting in unless he gets at least one WS ring or reaches some major milestones (3000 hits, 500 HR).
   2. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: April 18, 2014 at 10:25 AM (#4688405)
What a strange post. If someone like Clemente had played center he'd have had a lot more value. If Beltran had played right he'd have less. Is there something I'm missing?
   3. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: April 18, 2014 at 10:27 AM (#4688407)
I don't see him getting in unless he gets at least one WS ring or reaches some major milestones (3000 hits, 500 HR).


I'm hoping for all of those.
   4. cardsfanboy Posted: April 18, 2014 at 11:11 AM (#4688444)
I don't see him getting in unless he gets at least one WS ring or reaches some major milestones (3000 hits, 500 HR).


By the time he becomes eligible, the writers will (hopefully) be smarter and have a better grasp of positional adjustments. There is the possibility of centerfielder fatigue by that time as Griffey will have gone in easily, and Edmonds will be still on the ballot with several people pushing his campaign, and fringe element pushing the no longer eligible Lofton.

He has several memorable post seasons, he has a reputation as a good clubhouse presence, and with a three year contract on the Yankees, he'll be given a lot more national exposure, than he even had as a Met.

I don't think he's a lock, but he should remain on the ballot for several years.
   5. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq. Posted: April 18, 2014 at 11:37 AM (#4688469)
Mantle played over 75% of his defensive innings in CF.

I don't think it's fair or rational to take the 124 times he had the day off, and went in to pinch-hit, as making him less of a CF.
   6. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: April 18, 2014 at 11:40 AM (#4688474)
According to baseball reference, Mantle played a defensive position in 2290 games, and played center field in 1742 of them. That's 76%. By innings, he's over 77%. Snyder is well over 80% either way. Obviously, I can see counting games at DH against someone, but pinch hitting? Even with the PH games, these guys are at 73% and 74% respectively. Seems even worse for Cobb, where it's likely a matter of assuming that he didn't play CF in games for which we don't have the data.

EDIT: OK, what fraction of a coke is that?
   7. BDC Posted: April 18, 2014 at 11:41 AM (#4688475)
If someone like Clemente had played center he'd have had a lot more value. If Beltran had played right he'd have less

Exactly. It's kind of another way of asking what if a guy had had more or less fielding value – i.e. been a better or worse ballplayer to begin with.

There are a few great RFs, notably Clemente and Ichiro, where you do think, sure, that guy could have been a competent ML center fielder, at least for a while, given how outstanding they were in right. But then again, they wouldn't have been as outstanding defensively in CF, and their careers might have been shorter. Clemente wasn't exceptionally durable anyway, and CF might have worn him down quicker.
   8. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq. Posted: April 18, 2014 at 11:42 AM (#4688477)
NO COKES FOR FACTUAL RESPONSES!
   9. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: April 18, 2014 at 11:45 AM (#4688481)
Sorry, I thought that only applied to answering a direct question. Too many damned rules.
   10. cardsfanboy Posted: April 18, 2014 at 11:45 AM (#4688482)
The article talks about Mantle and not making the 75% cutoff. The writer was unclear why he didn't make the cutoff per bb-ref, but he did mention it.

Personally I don't see a purpose of using a percentage cutoff. Just use a baseline of raw number of games played at that position.. A guy plays 1900 games at the position, it doesn't really matter whether it's 75%, 90% or 50%...he has played enough there to be on the list as a player of that position. If you are doing something like this...figure out the number of guys you want to look at, figure out how many games it would take at the position for you to get that many guys, and go from there.

   11. bobm Posted: April 18, 2014 at 12:02 PM (#4688501)
If Beltran makes it, maybe Dwight Evans will make it in one day...

Carlos Beltrán age-based similar players (through age 36)

 Sim  Player              From  To Yrs  WAR   G    AB    R    H   2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB   SO    BA   OBP   SLG   SB   CS OPS+ 
+---++-------------------+---------+--+-----+----+-----+----+----+---+---+---+----+----+----+-----+-----+-----+----+---+----+
      Carlos Beltran      1998-2013 16  67.7 2064  7868 1346 2228 446  77 358 1327  934 1427  .283  .359  .496  308  48  122
 924* Dave Winfield       1973-1988 16  59.2 2269  8421 1314 2421 412  74 357 1438  936 1224  .287  .357  .481  209  86  135
 922* Andre Dawson        1976-1991 16  64.0 2167  8348 1199 2354 417  92 377 1335  522 1279  .282  .327  .489  304 104  124
 905  Carlos Lee          1999-2012 14  28.2 2099  7983 1125 2273 469  19 358 1363  655  984  .285  .339  .483  125  47  113
 902  Dwight Evans        1972-1988 17  62.3 2236  7761 1287 2114 429  66 346 1183 1171 1486  .272  .368  .478   70  49  128
 889* Billy Williams      1959-1974 16  61.6 2213  8479 1306 2510 402  87 392 1353  911  934  .296  .364  .503   86  47  135
 881  Bobby Abreu         1996-2010 15  59.3 2105  7626 1358 2257 524  57 276 1265 1341 1650  .296  .400  .488  372 121  131
 880  Bernie Williams     1991-2005 15  49.8 1945  7449 1301 2218 420  55 275 1196 1036 1159  .298  .384  .480  145  87  126
 873  Dale Murphy         1976-1992 17  47.1 2154  7918 1196 2105 349  39 398 1259  981 1733  .266  .347  .471  161  68  122
 873* Jim Rice            1974-1989 16  47.4 2089  8225 1249 2452 373  79 382 1451  670 1423  .298  .352  .502   58  34  128
 871  Luis Gonzalez       1990-2004 15  48.5 2008  7187 1129 2057 458  63 292 1172  911  971  .286  .370  .489  117  81  123
      Carlos Beltran      1998-2013 16  67.7 2064  7868 1346 2228 446  77 358 1327  934 1427  .283  .359  .496  308  48  122
+---++-------------------+---------+--+-----+----+-----+----+----+---+---+---+----+----+----+-----+-----+-----+----+---+----+
 Average of all 10 Players          15  52.8 2128  7939 1246 2276 425  63 345 1301  913 1284  .287  .364  .487  164  72  124
 Avg of all 9 Retired Players       15  52.0 2131  7974 1234 2278 414  63 353 1305  865 1243  .286  .359  .486  141  67  126
   12. bobm Posted: April 18, 2014 at 12:06 PM (#4688506)
Center Field JAWS Leaders

                                                                                                
Rk                                       WAR WAR7  JAWS Yrs ASG    H  HR  SB   BA OPS+       Pos
1                      Willie Mays HOF 156.2 73.7 115.0  22  24 3283 660 338 .302  156  *83/9765
2                          Ty Cobb HOF 151.0 69.0 110.0  24   0 4189 117 897 .366  168   *O/3145
3                     Tris Speaker HOF 133.7 62.1  97.9  22   0 3514 117 436 .345  157     *O/31
4                    Mickey Mantle HOF 109.7 64.7  87.2  18  20 2415 536 153 .298  172 *8397/645
5                          Ken Griffey  83.6 53.9  68.8  22  13 2781 630 184 .284  136   *89D/73
6                     Joe DiMaggio HOF  78.2 51.1  64.7  13  13 2214 361  30 .325  155      *O/3
7                      Duke Snider HOF  66.5 50.0  58.2  18   8 2116 407  99 .295  140      *897
     Avg of 18 HOFers at this position  70.4 44.1                                           57.2
8                       Carlos Beltran  68.1 44.3  56.2  17   8 2245 362 308 .283  123  *8*9D/73
9                         Kenny Lofton  68.2 43.3  55.7  17   6 2428 130 622 .299  107    *87/D9
10                        Andruw Jones  62.8 46.4  54.6  17   5 1933 434 152 .254  111   *897D/3
11                  Richie Ashburn HOF  63.4 44.2  53.8  15   6 2574  29 234 .308  111    *879/4
12                    Andre Dawson HOF  64.5 42.5  53.5  21   8 2774 438 314 .279  119    *9*8D7
13                  Billy Hamilton HOF  63.3 42.6  53.0  14   0 2164  40 914 .344  141        *O
14                         Jim Edmonds  60.3 42.5  51.4  17   4 1949 393  67 .284  132   *8739/D
15                        Willie Davis  60.5 38.8  49.6  18   2 2561 182 398 .279  106    *89/7D
16                            Jim Wynn  55.6 43.2  49.4  15   3 1665 291 225 .250  129 *8*97D/65
17                         Vada Pinson  54.1 40.0  47.0  18   4 2757 256 305 .286  111  *8*97/3D
18                        Cesar Cedeno  52.7 41.2  47.0  17   4 2087 199 550 .285  123     *8397
19                          Chet Lemon  55.5 37.1  46.3  16   3 1875 215  58 .273  121 *8*9D/547
20                      Larry Doby HOF  49.5 39.6  44.6  13   7 1515 253  47 .283  136  *89/7436
21                        Johnny Damon  56.0 32.8  44.4  18   2 2769 235 408 .284  104 *8*7*D9/3
22                   Kirby Puckett HOF  50.9 37.5  44.2  12  10 2304 207 134 .318  124 *89D/7456
23                           Fred Lynn  49.9 38.2  44.1  17   9 1960 306  72 .283  129     *897D
24                         Dale Murphy  46.2 41.0  43.6  18   7 2111 398 161 .265  121   *8*9372
25                       Max Carey HOF  54.2 32.9  43.5  20   0 2665  70 738 .285  108        *O
26                     Bernie Williams  49.4 37.5  43.5  16   5 2336 287 147 .297  125    *8D9/7
27                    Earl Averill HOF  48.0 37.3  42.7  13   6 2019 238  70 .318  133       *O7


Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/18/2014.
   13. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: April 18, 2014 at 12:10 PM (#4688508)
Cobb falls short of 75%, but I'm CFB, so what? Cobb has more CF games than Beltran has games. He' a CF regardless of %ages. And it's more than a bit disingenuous to exclude all the guys who fall short of 75% when Beltran himself will drop below in about 2 weeks.
   14. zack Posted: April 18, 2014 at 12:28 PM (#4688517)
If only there were a stat that gives CF value for playing CF value and RF value for playing RF and didn't require determining a primary position...

(Not that I suggest WAR should be the end all of HOF discussions).
   15. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: April 18, 2014 at 12:29 PM (#4688519)
Carlos Beltrán age-based similar players (through age 36)


As a hitter he's kind of low middle of that group (he's got more defensive value than his comps, but not enough of the BBWAA voters know or care about that to make a difference).

What he's got going for him is that he's still hitting well, if he ages like Winfield he's got a shot, if he ages like Bernie Williams he doesn't.
   16. shoewizard Posted: April 18, 2014 at 12:39 PM (#4688528)
I'm with Johnny. I think I'll wait until he is actually done playing before I evaluate if he is a HOF worthy player. He keeps adding value. May as well wait till he stops.
   17. valuearbitrageur Posted: April 18, 2014 at 01:14 PM (#4688553)

Carlos Beltran ranked 13 out of 25 on the first center field list and 9 of 15 on the second list. For some perspective Bernie Williams ranked 11 and 7.


What kind of perspective ranks solely by OPS+ and ignores the fact that Beltran has been 250 more runs better than Bernie on defense and base-running?

In almost the same number of games, Beltran has been 40% more valuable than Bernie Williams and 10% more valuable than Jim Edmonds.
   18. Russlan is fond of Dillon Gee Posted: April 18, 2014 at 01:24 PM (#4688562)
I think Beltran is going to get in. He's going to hit a fair number of homers playing in Yankee Stadium and he's probably going to in the top-50 in both runs scored and rbi in his career. .280ish ba, ~425 homers, 1600+ runs scored, 1600+ rbi, 2700+ hits, multiple GGs, excellent baserunner. I think those counting stats are going to make him a hard guy to keep out.
   19. valuearbitrageur Posted: April 18, 2014 at 01:32 PM (#4688567)
Played well in the playoffs (333/445/683) but just once in World Series and had a sub 700 OPS while his team lost.


Beltran has a strong claim to being the best playoff hitter of all time. He has the third best OPS of all time above a 100 PA cutoff. And you could argue that his playoff hitting was very close to Ruth/Gehrig adjusted for offensive context. And he has had more defensive value than those two, so he may be the all time position player leader in playoff WAR, if that is calculated anywhere.

His playoff HR rate is the 2nd best all time behind Ruth.

And while he had a bad World Series, he's now a Yankee. Derek Jeter had a .450 OPS vs. Arizona and .650 vs Atlanta, that's not keeping him out is it?

Jokes aside, Carlos has a good shot at 80 WAR, he would be the first position player with that much value ever passed over for non steroid reasons. I think his lack of ink will be overcome by sabermetric lobbying.
   20. Heinie Mantush (Krusty) Posted: April 18, 2014 at 01:38 PM (#4688574)
no signature moments I can think of.


Wainwright. Curveball. Looking.

Alternatively, the 04 postseason. Do these things cancel each other out?

My own feeling is that while the current voter pool probably won't love Beltran, he's aging about as gracefully as one could hope to and he's now doing it in a very favorable park. I suspect that he might hang around the ballot for a while, but that he'll get in. Moreover, he'll deserve it, as he was a really wonderful combination of everything positive a position player can do.

...except for taking the damned bat off his shoulder when he needed to.
   21. Russlan is fond of Dillon Gee Posted: April 18, 2014 at 01:56 PM (#4688589)
I also think Carlos will get a bump for playing a very aesthetically pleasing game. In his prime, he was a very graceful guy to watch.
   22. Karl from NY Posted: April 18, 2014 at 02:18 PM (#4688604)
Beltran is Hall of Merit worthy already. He'll have an uphill Hall of Fame case though. His value is too fragmented among different categories (not enough ink), his counting stats are eclipsed by others from the steroid era, he's not quite Beloved enough with frequent franchise changes, and he doesn't have enough of a narrative with no rings. He'll need a Blyleven campaign from the saberists, but let's make it happen.
   23. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: April 18, 2014 at 03:04 PM (#4688633)
no signature moments I can think of.

Wainwright. Curveball. Looking.


As far as some of my fellow Met fans are concerned that moment utterly defines him, they wouldn't vote for him even if he did somehow reach 3000 hits/500 home runs (of course none of them have a vote)
   24. Hysterical & Useless Posted: April 18, 2014 at 03:39 PM (#4688651)
I hope Carlos has a great season but that the Yankees are doing so horribly that they'll trade him to a contender and he'll get that ring. He should've won an MVP while he was with the Mets (well, he certainly should've finished higher than 4th in 06), and the failure of the BBWAA to vote the dang awards sensibly shouldn't be used by the writers as justification to then not vote for the HoF sensibly. [I know, I know, why should sense enter into it?]

   25. toratoratora Posted: April 18, 2014 at 04:40 PM (#4688692)
Beltran lifetime postseason:
51 games, 180 AB, 45 runs, 60 hits,13 2b, 16 hr, 40 RBI, 11 S (0 CS), 35 BB, a cool .333/.445/.683/1.128

I'm not the biggest Beltran fan, but I'd say he's had some signature moments. That 04 postseason was one for the ages. To do it after being traded midseason, and on the cusp of being the top free agent in the game, yeah, that was memorable.
   26. John Northey Posted: April 18, 2014 at 05:09 PM (#4688726)
My problem with memorable moments in the post-season for Beltran is he has yet to be on a World Series winner. Without that it is extremely hard for writers to go 'oh yeah, he was great in the clutch'. Sometimes they still get it (Carlton Fisk's famous home run for example) but it isn't easy and with more and more playoff series it will get harder still for single moments to stand out to anyone who isn't a fan of that particular team.

Peak is becoming more important to voters it seems lately, guys like Rice, Glavine, Maddux, Thomas, Larkin, Alomar, Dawson. Not accumulators (although Maddux sure did in wins) but guys who had peaks that stood out, guys thought of at one point or another as the best around or at least seriously in the argument (early 80's Dawson & Rice were viewed as among the best around for example). Players like Biggio who seem to have held on forever are not getting in (or at least not as easily as their overall traditional totals suggest). Defense and overall skills are undervalued drastically which hurts Beltran (and hurt Lofton).

Hopefully guys like Beltran get noticed more soon, and he does have 8+ years before getting to the HOF vote so we'll see how it all changes.
   27. BDC Posted: April 18, 2014 at 05:10 PM (#4688728)
Beltran is Hall of Merit worthy already. He'll have an uphill Hall of Fame case though

Yes. He's not quite as good a hitter as Bobby Abreu, in a shorter career so far – with a few more WAR thanks to being a somewhat better defender, but a similar profile as an all-round talent, no rings, no MVP seasons. Beltran may get more HOF votes than Abreu, but like others here I don't see him breaking through unless he plays quite a bit longer at a high level, or stars on a World Champion or two.

But hey, there's nothing wrong with cruising into the HOM. It beats languishing in the wholly imaginary HOVG :)

   28. Walt Davis Posted: April 18, 2014 at 06:01 PM (#4688763)
#1 pretty much nails it. But it will depend a lot on how much of the ballot has cleared out. Given his current contract, he's not even hitting the ballot for 8 years probably. His best recent HoF comps are Dawson (power, speed, defense) and Puckett (same with some playoff clutchiness), along with the 2B (Sandberg, Alomar, Biggio ... and Larkin). The low number of GG and the lack of much MVP love suggest he might have a harder time than those folks.

It will depend a lot on how healthy and productive he is the next three years. He's been a good not excellent hitter the last couple of seasons and the defense seems to have finally faded (-1.5 dWAR in 2013 and below average defense in RF so far this year).

#21: the problem with that is "nobody" was watching him in KC and his Mets tenure was "disappointing."

What a strange post. If someone like Clemente had played center he'd have had a lot more value. If Beltran had played right he'd have less. Is there something I'm missing?

That's not the way WAR sees it, in theory. A player's value is theoretically constant, all that changes is their mix of offensive and defensive value. In CF, Clemente's oWAR goes up but his Rfield (on average) goes down by that same amount. Or more precisely, Clemente's Rbat stays the same, his Rfield goes down and his Rpos goes up by that same amount. In plain words, Clemente was a ridiculously great RF but likely would have been only a very good CF.

When it comes to OF, I suspect the "dWAR theory" holds pretty well. How well a player does in CF relative to LF/RF has little to do with the player's abilities, it has to do with whom he's compared with. Say a player is the 15th best CF and 20th best OF overall. In CF, he's being comped with 30 of the 40 best OF; in LF he's being comped with 30 of the 40 worst. But in LF, he is now also being comped with 30 of the, ohhh, 90 best hitters while in CF he's being comped with average hitters.

On games vs. innings -- the issue is the way that the Play Index allows you to search by position. It's % of games or total games. % of innings might be nice (as long as we include DH innings) but that's not available for the whole history I don't think (at least for separate OF positions). For HoF purposes, total games is probably better than % but you might miss some peak candidates.
   29. cardsfanboy Posted: April 18, 2014 at 06:09 PM (#4688771)
Peak is becoming more important to voters it seems lately, guys like Rice, Glavine, Maddux, Thomas, Larkin, Alomar, Dawson. Not accumulators (although Maddux sure did in wins) but guys who had peaks that stood out, guys thought of at one point or another as the best around or at least seriously in the argument (early 80's Dawson & Rice were viewed as among the best around for example). Players like Biggio who seem to have held on forever are not getting in (or at least not as easily as their overall traditional totals suggest). Defense and overall skills are undervalued drastically which hurts Beltran (and hurt Lofton).


I'm not sure how pointing to 9 + year on the ballot players like Dawson or Rice can be used as evidence for peak guys against Biggio who will most likely go in on his third year. (he missed going in on his 2nd ballot by tw votes) (Especially when you consider that Biggio is probably getting dinged by a percentage of the writers because they are morons...I mean, because of Ped association...not much, but I imagine it has reduced his vote total by about 5-10%)

And that list of peak guys, has very few people who are a strictly peak candidate. Some people might refer to Larkin or Alomar as Prime candidates as their "peak" was longer than what most people consider peak length to be. Saying Glavine, Thomas or Maddux are "peak" guys really redefines the definition of peak to a new term that nobody has used for it previously.

Defense and overall skill has historically been undervalued, nobody is denying that(evidence number one of many is Tim Raines...but you can pull a Trammel, Grich, Whitaker etc.out of the thin air and have an example of that) , but as Blyleven has shown, the writers are more willing to listen to stat based arguments (something Bill James said happens generally when player languish on the ballot, the stats become a deciding factor more than the narrative...obviously Rice and even Morris contradict this point)
   30. cardsfanboy Posted: April 18, 2014 at 06:25 PM (#4688785)
That's not the way WAR sees it, in theory. A player's value is theoretically constant, all that changes is their mix of offensive and defensive value. In CF, Clemente's oWAR goes up but his Rfield (on average) goes down by that same amount. Or more precisely, Clemente's Rbat stays the same, his Rfield goes down and his Rpos goes up by that same amount. In plain words, Clemente was a ridiculously great RF but likely would have been only a very good CF.


I think the voters see it differently, and that they look at centerfield historically and see the greatest of all time players there (Cobb/Mays/Mantle/Dimaggio/Speaker---)guys who with their bat would have still been elite corner outfielders while playing the most difficult outfield position. And the up and comers are going to pale in comparison to the norm established there.

If you look at the corners, you have the elite, also but you have a history of accepting the less than elite into the hof at those positions. Meanwhile Duke Snider had to wait 11 ballots to go in, and he's probably the 6-9th best centerfielder in MLB history.
   31. toratoratora Posted: April 18, 2014 at 07:21 PM (#4688819)
I think the voters see it differently, and that they look at centerfield historically and see the greatest of all time players there (Cobb/Mays/Mantle/Dimaggio/Speaker---)guys who with their bat would have still been elite corner outfielders while playing the most difficult outfield position. And the up and comers are going to pale in comparison to the norm established there.

True, but, and this is purely guesswork here, how much of that was dictated by the fact that back in the day parks were often much larger. Especially as you go back to Cobb and Speakers time. The fields they played in had much more cavernous CF areas than those today.Fenway originally was 488 feet. In 1914 Navin Field was 479.In 1951 the Polo grounds were 505 and Yankee stadium was a mere 461. Driven by need, often the best athletes ended up at CF, whereas now I suspect most of those guys end up at SS.
   32. cardsfanboy Posted: April 18, 2014 at 07:39 PM (#4688839)
True, but, and this is purely guesswork here, how much of that was dictated by the fact that back in the day parks were often much larger. Especially as you go back to Cobb and Speakers time. The fields they played in had much more cavernous CF areas than those today.Fenway originally was 488 feet. In 1914 Navin Field was 479.In 1951 the Polo grounds were 505 and Yankee stadium was a mere 461. Driven by need, often the best athletes ended up at CF, whereas now I suspect most of those guys end up at SS


Outside of Arod, when has the best athlete ended up at shortstop?

I don't think it was need as much as they could handle it. Prior to the 20's(explaining Cobb and Speaker on this list) All the players needed to be relatively in overall good shape, as speed and power was the component for getting extra base hits and runs. After the "discovery" of the homerun, players could be more plodding type of players, and still contribute to the team, so offensive value drifted from best overall athletes, to strongest athlete. So Cobb/Speaker more or less created a nearly unreachable standard for centerfielders, as the shifting standards changed how offense was created. You still needed speed in center, but no longer needed speed for offense at first and to a lesser degree the corners.

Mays/Dimaggio/Mantle was an aberration, of timing, but they fall into the best athletes of their time argument. I think naturally speaking if you are the best overall athlete, centerfield is where you are going to end up, but I think a lot of players/coaches etc train players to effectively make a decision more power or more speed, if they are like Mays/Mantle/Dimaggio, they have enough power that they don't lose the speed, but more often the players get slotted into a role/position and have to physically develop to handle that position.
   33. bjhanke Posted: April 18, 2014 at 11:18 PM (#4688994)
"Outside of Arod, when has the best athlete ended up at shortstop?" The obvious one is Honus Wagner; I don't know exactly what to say about Yount. The Ozzie Smith type of SS (Belanger, Maxvill, Aparicio, etc.) may well have been the best pure athletes on their teams, unless you place a very high value on raw strength or a very low value on agility. The odd thing about the original comment is that, while it's certainly true that older outfields could be very large, and also VERY asymmetrical, right field was where you tried to hide someone. This starts with the Change Pitcher being in RF, and continues at least until the days of Harry Heilmann. The most common reason given for why the major leagues didn't pick up people like Buzz Arlett and Gavvy Cravath for their whole careers is that they were lousy on defense. And, if you check, you'll find that, mostly, when they did get MLB chances, they ended up in RF. Until about 1930, 1B was a more difficult spot to play than RF, largely because of all the bunts. So Babe Herman was a lousy outfielder then, whereas now, he'd be a lousy 1B or, more likely, a DH.

My memory of Clemente does not suggest that he had the raw range to play center. Even Kaline seemed faster. Also, in CF you don't get the full value of his arm. I doubt that any decent manager would have put him in CF unless he just didn't have a real CF on the roster.

Cobb, on the other hand, was certainly a CF who played whole seasons in LF because he and Crawford just could not get along, and then corner OF at the end of his career with the As, who also had Speaker. - Brock Hanke
   34. Walt Davis Posted: April 19, 2014 at 04:54 AM (#4689028)
I think the voters see it differently

I can't disagree with that.

And the up and comers are going to pale in comparison to the norm established there.

Sure but Puckett had little problem and Dawson made it eventually (and his time in CF helped a good bit). Griffey might remind them of the good ol' days and that could hurt Beltran.

how much of that was dictated by the fact that back in the day parks were often much larger

Actually ... back in the day, there was very little offensive difference among LF/CF/RF suggesting there was little defensive difference as well. I recall seeing a neat table once, maybe in a HoM thread, that looked at the positions by decade and the average OPS+. You see the real shift from offense at 2B and defense at 3B in the bunting era to the positions becoming roughly equal (usually more power at 3B). And you saw a shift in the OF from equality to CF being distinctly worse hitters -- I want to say it was after Mantle/Mays/Snider but maybe it had started before that.

Seems PI defensive splits don't separate OF until sometime in the 40s. Not ideal but ...

OPS LF/CF/RF

48-57 805/777/776 (1B 778)
58-67 775/748/781 (1B 776)
68-77 758/731/755 (1B 772)
78-87 763/736/768 (1B 778)
88-97 769/739/778 (1B 806)
98-07 813/767/817 (1B 840)
08-13 759/741/779 (1B 802)

That's far from ideal given the early numbers might be due primarily to Mantle/Mays/Snider. The gap grows a bit over time in raw OPS terms, probably abut the same from 58 on in relative terms. We see 1B pull in front over this period. I'd guess the current LF-RF gap is just randomness caused by Juan Pierre and his ilk. :-)

   35. cardsfanboy Posted: April 19, 2014 at 11:10 AM (#4689058)
The obvious one is Honus Wagner;


Oops, should have clarified my comment, the original post implied that in todays game, the best athletes are ending up at short and not center, and outside of Arod, I can think of only one shortstop(Hanley) in the past 20 years that would meet that requirement, but can find plenty of centerfielders or corner fielders, capable of playing center, depending on team. (Trout, Harper, McCutchen, Kemp, JD Drew, Beltran, etc.)

Note: Jeter/Tejada/Nomar might loosely have fit that definition as best athletes, so I guess I see a small window where that might have been happening..


(just did a pi for players since 1994 who have 20+ hr, 20+ stolen bases and at least 110 games played at the position.)

Numbers we get for each position.
C 1 (Irod)
1b 7 (Bagwell, Klesko)
2b 9 (Soriano, Biggio, Alomar)
SS 13 (Arod, Hanley)
3b 9 (Arod, Wright)
LF 18 (Bonds, Braun, Carlos Gonzalez)
CF 39 (Sizemore, McCutchen, Lankford?, Beltran.)
RF 30 (Abreu)


(basically everyone who appears more than once on the list is listed , with the exception of centerfield and right, where you had to appear three times to be listed....this missed out on Brady Anderson, Cameron, Granderson, Griffey, Kemp, Trout in center and Werth, Justin Upton, Sosa, Vlad, Green, Choo, in right)

I realize that this is arbitrary, but just looking for something that would indicate 'best' athlete and power/speed is a pretty decent proxy for that. Possibly the arbitrary numbers I chose isn't the best mix, maybe it should be 15 steals and 30 homeruns or something else, but it seems to lineup mostly with where I think the best athletes would be... with the exception of how strong right field does)
   36. Walt Davis Posted: April 19, 2014 at 08:12 PM (#4689366)
#35 ... good list. But we still don't have defense in there.

20+ HR, 20+ SB, 110+ games, dWAR > 1 ... that reduces the list to just 48 players. But CF still wins this handily. The only 3 time winners are Beltran and Andruw.

C 1
1B 0
2B 9 (Kinsler, Phillips)
3B 3
SS 7 (ARod, Rollins)
LF 3
CF 21 (Andruw, Beltran, Cameron, Granderson, C Young)
RF 4 (Sosa)

And two of the LF seasons were by CF types -- Erstad, Shannon Stewart.

Most surprising names are probably Soriano (in LF, a tough position to get >1 dWAR), Corey Patterson and Aaron Boone. And it's easy to forget how awesome John Valentin was.

I expected the criterion that really killed SS is 20+ HR but it turned out not to be the case. Over these 20 seasons, there were only 81 where a SS hit 20+ HR but it was only 146 for CF so the ratio does broaden as you add more criteria. So maybe 20+ HR isn't such a damning criterion. So a bit over 25% of 20+ HR CF added 20+ steals and a bit over half of those added +1 dWAR.

So finally, I suppose one could argue that hitting a baseball isn't what we normally think of as an "athletic skill" -- it's a rather unique skill, the closest Olympic equivalents are things like shooting and archery which are not particularly "athletic." So limiting it to 20+ steals and 1+ dWAR -- 60 seasons in CF, 60 seasons at SS.

Alternatively, SS are required to throw RH which means most are also RHB. But interestingly, 18 of the 21 20+, 20+, 1+ seasons were by RH-throwing CF.

So finally, we swap out 20+ HR for 3+ triples and we get 50 SS seasons to 40 RH-throwing CF seasons. Shortstops win! :-)
   37. cardsfanboy Posted: April 19, 2014 at 09:04 PM (#4689387)
20+ HR, 20+ SB, 110+ games, dWAR > 1 ... that reduces the list to just 48 players. But CF still wins this handily. The only 3 time winners are Beltran and Andruw.


I would have done war defensive runs, not dWar. Not that it would have made much of a difference.
   38. toratoratora Posted: April 19, 2014 at 09:30 PM (#4689397)
Oops, should have clarified my comment, the original post implied that in todays game, the best athletes are ending up at short and not center, and outside of Arod, I can think of only one shortstop(Hanley) in the past 20 years that would meet that requirement, but can find plenty of centerfielders or corner fielders, capable of playing center, depending on team. (Trout, Harper, McCutchen, Kemp, JD Drew, Beltran, etc.)

Note: Jeter/Tejada/Nomar might loosely have fit that definition as best athletes, so I guess I see a small window where that might have been happening..

I was thinking of the Jeter/Arod/Nomar/Tejada/Larkins when I made my comment. Since the 80's when Cal and Trammel broke the long standing archetype, the position has all the defensive demands it always has coupled with many of these guys being the best hitter on their team. That's a large shift from most of history when the most talented player (The legendary five tool guy) often played center.
Now, admittedly, I'm being a bit behind the times in my comment as baseball seams to be shifting back to a more athletic game than that played in the "steroid era." Most of the CF (Trout, McKutchen, Kemp) you named are pretty recent players and they all certainly are multi tool threats.
   39. Walt Davis Posted: April 19, 2014 at 11:21 PM (#4689448)
I would have done war defensive runs, not dWar.

That doesn't make sense comparing across positions. The whole idea behind Rpos is that some positions require more "athleticism". A +10 CF simply isn't as good a defender as a +10 SS.
   40. LargeBill Posted: April 20, 2014 at 01:06 AM (#4689486)
And what if Beltran, Williams and Edmonds had played corner outfield positions instead of center? Would there be any serious discussion of them as Hall of Fame players, especially Williams who was erratic in center and had a weak arm? In the corners they’d be mixed in with the big boppers: Ruth, Williams, Bonds, Musial, Aaron. Stolen bases and flashy fielding would add only so much.


Maybe I missed it, but has there been serious discussion of Bernie Williams as a Hall of Famer? He was very good major league player and contributed to a great Yankee run, but he lasted just two years on the HOF ballot.
   41. cardsfanboy Posted: April 20, 2014 at 09:42 AM (#4689551)
That doesn't make sense comparing across positions. The whole idea behind Rpos is that some positions require more "athleticism". A +10 CF simply isn't as good a defender as a +10 SS


If you don't do it by rField, you completely eliminate some positions from the discussion. For example, since 1901 there have been 8 first baseman to put up a 1.0 war...not even talking about the other requirements. At that point in time, you aren't really looking for good athletes, you are looking for people who are slotted into the "athletic" positions. Maybe that is what you are going for, but I don't think the list of catchers is a list of people more athletic than first baseman on average.


Maybe I missed it, but has there been serious discussion of Bernie Williams as a Hall of Famer? He was very good major league player and contributed to a great Yankee run, but he lasted just two years on the HOF ballot.


Bernie was a good outfielder, overrated in the media, and properly evaluated by the hof voters. There were just too many other centerfielders clearly better than him in his era (Edmonds, Beltran, Lofton, Griffey, Andruw, Damon---with guys like Hunter, Cameron and Finley being in the conversation)
   42. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: April 20, 2014 at 11:22 AM (#4689575)
There's no way in hell Damon is clearly better than Williams. Bernie had a better peak and prime, but obviously cliff dived. Damon was able to keep putting up decent numbers longer.
   43. BDC Posted: April 20, 2014 at 11:46 AM (#4689587)
I reckon that Williams, Posada, and Pettitte will eventually be in the HOF along the lines of Lazzeri, Combs and Hoyt - not sure how long it will take, though.
   44. cardsfanboy Posted: April 20, 2014 at 03:43 PM (#4689734)
There's no way in hell Damon is clearly better than Williams. Bernie had a better peak and prime, but obviously cliff dived. Damon was able to keep putting up decent numbers longer


Probably should have listed Damon as in the conversation, instead of clearly better, Damon has the better career argument, as he had several more seasons of being an average or better player than Bernie.

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