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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Schoenfield: The problem with the Hall of Fame

I guess my point is this: It was easier to elect guys such as Drysdale or Perez because they still managed to stand out among their peers; there were fewer great players simply because there were fewer teams. As the talent level in baseball gets more compacted (17 of the 31 players with 100 career WAR began their careers before World War II), it’s more difficult to put up numbers that separate you from your peers.
...
I’d like to see more Hall of Famers. I have to assume that’s what most of the people wanting change desire, as well.

In the end, it shouldn’t really be an argument about whether it’s a big Hall of Fame or a small Hall of Fame—it’s already a big Hall. Let’s make it bigger.

DanG Posted: January 18, 2014 at 10:26 AM | 21 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: bbwaa,, hall of fame, war

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   1. Rennie's Tenet Posted: January 18, 2014 at 01:09 PM (#4641539)
I'm as big a Big Hall guy as there is, but I don't get the twice-the-teams-twice-the-inductees argument.
   2. Hippo Vaughn is my hero Posted: January 18, 2014 at 01:24 PM (#4641553)
I am as passionate a Small Hall guy as is possible and I have a (long) list for those willing to wade through it of players who should not be there. More teams, more replacement level players, not more potential hall of famers.
   3. John DiFool2 Posted: January 18, 2014 at 02:27 PM (#4641578)
Twice the population twice the inductees.
   4. ThickieDon Posted: January 18, 2014 at 02:40 PM (#4641582)
It was a lot easier for a borderline guy to get in years ago, whereas today, similar guys get less than 5% of the ballot and never have a shot at all.

EXCEPT Jack Morris. That guy flat out sucked yet he still got votes.
   5. PreservedFish Posted: January 18, 2014 at 03:24 PM (#4641599)
Twice the population twice the inductees.


I've made this point before, but I disagree. With a larger population I prefer to heighten the standards.

When the Olympics was contested only by well-off white European guys, they gave 3 medals. Now that virtually the entire population of the earth is able to compete in this contest, they still only give out 3 medals.

   6. Ulysses S. Fairsmith Posted: January 18, 2014 at 03:39 PM (#4641613)
. . . Jack Morris. That guy flat out sucked . . .

This is easily the most ridiculous thing I've ever read here.
   7. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: January 18, 2014 at 03:47 PM (#4641618)
Actually, it's not particularly more ridiculous than anything else ThickieDon posts. Troll's gotta troll.
   8. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: January 18, 2014 at 05:03 PM (#4641641)
Let’s make it bigger.


Johnny Pesky for the HOF!!
   9. Srul Itza Posted: January 18, 2014 at 05:12 PM (#4641646)
That guy flat out sucked


No, he didn't.

He is not a Hall of Famer, but 3,800 IP at a 105 ERA+, and 43 Career bWAR is a fine career.
   10. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: January 18, 2014 at 06:19 PM (#4641661)
I've made this point before, but I disagree. With a larger population I prefer to heighten the standards.

When the Olympics was contested only by well-off white European guys, they gave 3 medals. Now that virtually the entire population of the earth is able to compete in this contest, they still only give out 3 medals.

1) Why is this good?
2) They now have many more events

The bigger problem is that being a HOF player doesn't mean that you're better than non-HOF players -- the odds are about 25% that you're not among the Top 2xx or 3xx players or however many are in the HOF. It means you won a lifetime achievement award determined by a few people of widely varying degrees of respect from the general baseball public...with the level of respect declining fast.
   11. DanG Posted: January 18, 2014 at 07:59 PM (#4641698)
The "HOF line" for career WAR is around 55. 14 players active in 2013 have reached that mark. Together with the 211 hall of fame MLB players comes to 225. A total of 229 MLB players have reached 55 WAR. Look at the list of guys nearest that mark:

218. Bill Dickey+ (1755.9
  Robin Ventura 
(1655.9
220. Luis Aparicio
+ (1855.7
  Jim Whitney 
(1055.7
  Jim Wynn 
(1555.7
223. Joe Medwick
+ (1755.5
224. Eppa Rixey
+ (2155.4
  CC Sabathia 
(133255.4
226. Chet Lemon 
(1655.3
227. Jeff Kent 
(1755.2
228. Enos Slaughter
+ (1955.1
229. Bobby Mathews 
(1555.0
230. Kevin Appier 
(1654.9
231. Miguel Cabrera 
(113054.6
232. Billy Herman
+ (1554.5
233. Jose Cruz 
(1954.3
  Bill Terry
+ (1454.3
235. Vada Pinson 
(1854.2
  Bucky Walters 
(1954.2
237. Willie Keeler
+ (1954.1 

Setting aside the five guys with no relevant HOF voting history (Whitney, Sabathia, Kent, Mathews and Cabrera) leaves us 15 players. Eight are in the HOF, seven are not.

So the line is somewhere around 55 WAR. YMMV. The point is, a lot more players these days are reaching that mark than did 50 or 100 years ago.

Position players reaching 55 WAR + players with 55 pitching WAR

Debuting 1901-20: 11 + 11 = 22
Debuting 1941-60: 22 + 6 = 28
Debuting 1981-00: 38 + 17 = 55

(Almost) Nobody wants the HOF to induct twice as many players from this generation as they did from past ones. A fine article six years ago by Bill James has a good explanation of what's happening: "Hall of Famers Among Us"

Here are a few excerpts:

I have to begin here by making a very fundamental admission. To a large extent, the way that I have always looked at the Hall of Fame debate no longer works, or no longer can be expected to work.

On a certain fundamental level this approach either
a) no longer works, or
b) never actually worked, or
c) will need to be radically re-calibrated.

The real standards for Hall of Fame election - the de facto standards - have always been much, much more liberal than the public thought they were or wanted them to be. People have always had the idea that the standard for selection to the HOF was Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle. In reality, almost from the day the institution was built, the real standard was more like Johnny Damon or Bernie Williams. Richie Ashburn is in the HOF, as are Larry Doby, Earle Combs, Earl Averill, Kiki Cuyler, Ed Rousch and Lloyd Waner. Those guys are much closer to Johnny Damon, Bernie Williams and Steve Finley than they are to Willie, Mickey and the Clipper.

In order to carry the past standards forward, the HOF would have to start inducting twice as many people, or it's not going to get around to Damon and Bernie. My opinion is there will not be sufficient pressure to open the doors wider, because
1) most of the public doesn't really understand what the historic standard has been, and
2) those people who do understand by and large don't like it.

Absent a massive adjustment by the selection process, which I don't think will happen, there is going to be a very significant shift in the standards for selection to the HOF. There's a new sheriff in Cooperstown. Most sportswriters will interpret that shift as resulting from the inflated scoring numbers of the modern era, but that's really not what is causing it; it's actually expansion.

Let's assume that the HOF in the future will continue to induct two or three players per year. That means that there will be room for two or three players from each year of birth - five in one year, none in the next, but two or three on average. The standard I will use in this article, to try to figure out which active players have a chance to go into the HOF, is "is this player one of the two or three best-qualified players from a typical birth year?"
   12. John DiFool2 Posted: January 18, 2014 at 08:12 PM (#4641701)
So (going reductio ad absurdum for a moment) if the other 7 planets in the solar system were inhabited by humanoids (of essentially equal potential to humans), and the majors were opened up to citizens of each planet (each of which had about the same population pools that baseball on Earth does), you'd still hold to the 3 electees/year standard (one reason I dislike the Hall of Merit-why should I have to cowtow to some rigid yet completely arbitrary standard like that?)? Really? Even if we now had a 100 team league?

I just think it is funky as hell to tighten the standards at the same time that the pool of valid Hall candidates is exploding. Yet I am even more amazed that there's people on this site are putting forth this exact viewpoint. But that is apparently why players the caliber of Sosa and Palmiero are falling off so quickly now-and before I get it, if roids was never an issue players as good as them would be falling off anyway (Whitaker and Brown cough).
   13. kthejoker Posted: January 19, 2014 at 01:42 AM (#4641776)
From a kind of ecological standpoint, 30 or teams is the most a league can really handle if it wants to be able to fit its entire season (including training, postseason, and some form of "offseason" for negotiations, rehabilitation, and the like) into one year and basically eliminate randomness from the season's outcome.

There's probably a nice research paper on the topic, but there's essentially a formula there involving the number of teams, number of leagues, and desired amount of offseason that says you for a 32 teams in a 2 team league it takes X number of days to declare a champion.

ANy more than that, and you'd have to have some sort of relegation / tiering, which we currently already have in the form of the minor leagues.

   14. bobm Posted: January 19, 2014 at 02:35 AM (#4641782)
From a kind of ecological standpoint, 30 or teams is the most a league can really handle if it wants to be able to fit its entire season (including training, postseason, and some form of "offseason" for negotiations, rehabilitation, and the like) into one year and basically eliminate randomness from the season's outcome.

There's probably a nice research paper on the topic, but there's essentially a formula there involving the number of teams, number of leagues, and desired amount of offseason that says you for a 32 teams in a 2 team league it takes X number of days to declare a champion.



Journal of Statistical Physics
May 2013, Volume 151, Issue 3-4, pp 458-474
Randomness in Competitions

E. Ben-Naim, N. W. Hengartner, S. Redner, F. Vazquez

Abstract

We study the effects of randomness on competitions based on an elementary random process in which there is a finite probability that a weaker team upsets a stronger team. We apply this model to sports leagues and sports tournaments, and compare the theoretical results with empirical data. Our model shows that single-elimination tournaments are efficient but unfair: the number of games is proportional to the number of teams N, but the probability that the weakest team wins decays only algebraically with N. In contrast, leagues, where every team plays every other team, are fair but inefficient: the top N^(1/2) of teams remain in contention for the championship, while the probability that the weakest team becomes champion is exponentially small. We also propose a gradual elimination schedule that consists of a preliminary round and a championship round. Initially, teams play a small number of preliminary games, and subsequently, a few teams qualify for the championship round. This algorithm is fair and efficient: the best team wins with a high probability and the number of games scales as N^(9/5), whereas traditional leagues require N^3 games to fairly determine a champion.


http://cnls.lanl.gov/~ebn/pubs/competerev/competerev.pdf
   15. PreservedFish Posted: January 19, 2014 at 04:07 AM (#4641788)
When the Olympics was contested only by well-off white European guys, they gave 3 medals. Now that virtually the entire population of the earth is able to compete in this contest, they still only give out 3 medals.
1) Why is this good?


I think it's kind of cool. It's not the only way to do things, but it's a good way. It's tradition, and it recognizes that best is best, regardless of the talent pool. Wouldn't it be lame if they started giving out medals for 4th and 5th?

To take it in an entirely sentimental direction ... I do think there's something to the "felt like a Hall of Famer" thing. (Not saying that this ought to be the defining factor or that it should easily override real analysis) And there's probably a limit to the number of active players that you're going to feel that way about.

So (going reductio ad absurdum for a moment) if the other 7 planets in the solar system were inhabited by humanoids (of essentially equal potential to humans), and the majors were opened up to citizens of each planet (each of which had about the same population pools that baseball on Earth does), you'd still hold to the 3 electees/year standard (one reason I dislike the Hall of Merit-why should I have to cowtow to some rigid yet completely arbitrary standard like that?)? Really? Even if we now had a 100 team league?


Well, that certainly is absurdus. But sure, let's say that the number of teams triples. So does the talent pool. I'm not going to get upset about the HOF becoming more expansive. But I don't think it would necessarily be right to triple the number of inductees.

(I too dislike the exactly 3 per year Hall of Merit thing. )

I just think it is funky as hell to tighten the standards at the same time that the pool of valid Hall candidates is exploding. Yet I am even more amazed that there's people on this site are putting forth this exact viewpoint. But that is apparently why players the caliber of Sosa and Palmiero are falling off so quickly now-and before I get it, if roids was never an issue players as good as them would be falling off anyway (Whitaker and Brown cough).


I think that everyone is probably tightening standards to some extent. On this site we often see people admitting that John Olerud or Bobby Abreu or Kenny Lofton or Johnny Damon would be a decent HOF inductee by historical standards, but almost nobody is really going to support these guys for induction.
   16. CrosbyBird Posted: January 19, 2014 at 04:37 AM (#4641790)
I just think it is funky as hell to tighten the standards at the same time that the pool of valid Hall candidates is exploding. Yet I am even more amazed that there's people on this site are putting forth this exact viewpoint.

Bear in mind that the BBWAA has generally been less permissive than the HOF in general. It seems to me that the appropriate size of the HOF in the past was fairly close to the BBWAA-sized HOF (although with some different choices), and the modern HOF should be putting players in at around the historical rate for BBWAA and VC, to account for expanding talent pool.

The idea that a player like Bret Saberhagen or Willie Randolph would, with a league-size adjustment, get into a HOF-analogue like the the HOM indicates to me that the historical standard has been too permissive, because these were good players that never felt like HOF-quality players when I was watching them play.
   17. cardsfanboy Posted: January 19, 2014 at 05:24 PM (#4642000)
I don't disagree with the argument that there are probably more hof quality players on a seasonal basis in todays game than there was in the past....but
As I've written before, the problem is this: The voters haven't adjusted for the fact that we now have nearly twice as many teams as in the 1950s and earlier. Logically, that should mean twice as many Hall of Famers.


Is a logical fallacy. Imagine if in 1930 we expanded the teams to 30...would that all the sudden require doubling of hof quality players? Of course not. Number of eligible players isn't what determines an increase in hof quality players. Expanding of the talent pool on the other hand, does account for more hof quality players. Integration should have led to an increase in the number of hof players. More foreign players led to an increase and of course realization of better income opportunities also lead to increase pool(and of course other sports popularity reduces the pool)

I absolutely believe there are more hof players playing today than in the 40's, but scaling it to the size of the league is not the proper way to look at it.
   18. Booey Posted: January 19, 2014 at 07:25 PM (#4642100)
They don't even need to increase the number of HOFers elected to include all these new guys hitting the historical HOF standards of the past. They just need to elect the same amount they always have. All it means is that they wouldn't have to induct as many mistake candidates to hit the same number. I don't see how that's a bad thing.

Say there are about 20 deserving candidates from each recent decade. In earlier decades there may have only been 10-15, but they were inducting 20 anyway. So the increased number of players surpassing the historical HOF threshold will just increase the quality of HOFers without increasing the quantity. Sounds like a winning formula to me.
   19. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 19, 2014 at 08:02 PM (#4642143)
They don't even need to increase the number of HOFers elected to include all these new guys hitting the historical HOF standards of the past. They just need to elect the same amount they always have.

But the culprit here is not the BBWAA, it's the Veterans committee. The BBWAA seems to be inducting about as many people as they always have. But, the Veteran's committee has become downright stingy.

   20. Booey Posted: January 19, 2014 at 08:20 PM (#4642164)
But the culprit here is not the BBWAA, it's the Veterans committee. The BBWAA seems to be inducting about as many people as they always have. But, the Veteran's committee has become downright stingy.


True, but the point of the VC was to correct the BBWAA's mistakes (of omission). If the BBWAA didn't make as many mistakes and inducted everyone who deserved it the first time around, there'd be no need for a VC other than to induct managers and other non players (which is mainly all they've been doing lately anyway). I certainly don't think the writers should be overly stingy just to make sure future incarnations of the VC have something to do.

And there are 37 current players in the HOF who put up the bulk of their value in the 70's and 80's, and all of them are BBWAA selections. And that's not counting Raines (who's still on the ballot and has a decent chance of getting elected), or some egregious omissions like Trammell and Whitaker. So saying we should have around 40 HOFers from the 90's and 2000's (combined) doesn't really seem excessive at all, even if we limit the size of our personal HOF to just the BBWAA selections. Like I said, it would just increase the quality of HOFers while sticking with the same quantity - the 37 HOFers from the 70's/80's includes Sutter, Gossage, Hunter, Rice, Perez, Puckett, Dawson, etc. The worst HOFers from the 90's/00's group would be guys like McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, Kent, etc. I'd take the 2nd group any day of the week.
   21. Mickey Henry Mays Posted: January 20, 2014 at 03:09 PM (#4642721)
I am as passionate a Small Hall guy as is possible and I have a (long) list for those willing to wade through it of players who should not be there. More teams, more replacement level players, not more potential hall of famers.


I'm not so sure about that. Not all guys are at the same stage of development when they're being scouted. It's a lot easier for these types of players to fall through the cracks when less players are needed. Maybe a guy like Mike Piazza wouldn't have been drafted if there were only 20 teams to fill. How many Mike Piazza's, Ryne Sandberg (20th rd.)or even a guy like Don Mattingly (19th rd.) would have been by passed in a 16 or 20 team league?

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