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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Hardball Times: McLaughlin: Rice, Belle, and Dawson in Context

Take an interesting trip with the Baseball Crank into the “grey area” fields surrounding the Hall of Fame…

This essay is an effort to look systematically at the Hall of Fame candidacies (or former candidacies) of Jim Rice, Albert Belle, and Andre Dawson, among others, by putting their batting stats in a common context with other players with similar types of credentials.

There’s a bit of explanation up front, but bear with me. As long time readers of my blog know, I’m dead-set against putting Dawson in Cooperstown, while I’ve gone back and forth repeatedly but leaned towards thinking that Rice just misses the cut. My initial gut reaction was that Belle should go in, but I wanted to lay the cases for and against each of these guys together on a common basis rather than keep having one-off discussions that ignore the broader question of where you draw a consistent line among candidates who seem to inhabit the grey area around the Hall’s standards.

Repoz Posted: January 31, 2006 at 03:15 PM | 25 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hall of fame

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   1. LSR Posted: January 31, 2006 at 04:20 PM (#1845143)
I admit to being a lukewarm Dawson supporter - but head says probably no, but my heart shouts yes.

With that in mind I read McLaughlin's article with interest. The fact is that he does make a pretty convincing case against Dawson ... but there are a couple of flaws in his logic. First, while he did come up with a pretty nifty weighted average replacement for OPS, his sorted list ignores the other factors that he lists, namely SBs and defense where Dawson has a clear advantage vis-a-vis most of the other players on the list. Secondly, his arbitrarily assigned defense rating of just "good" for Dawson seems a bit miserly when you consider that Dawson won 8 gold gloves during the course of his 11 year prime. Yeah, I know that GGs are political and tend to reward good offensive players for past defensive prowess ... but still, it's hard to believe that Dawson doesn't rate as a "very good" defensive outfielder.

Do these flaws invalidate his conclusion? Probably not .. but my heart shouts ... Maybe!
   2. Ron Johnson Posted: January 31, 2006 at 04:39 PM (#1845161)
As I said in a private email, a useful method (though it could stand fine tuning, the concept is what's important)

Seems to me you could use the basic logic to come up with prime lists by position -- a useful counterpoint in HOF discussions for Dale Stephenson's peak lists.
   3. KevinApps Posted: January 31, 2006 at 05:00 PM (#1845193)
I can see both sides on Dawson.

My main problem with that article was that it just felt like he was trying to find a system which would show that Dawson was undeserving of the Hall rather than trying to find a system which generically tells which players belong.

I also agree with the comments regarding his listing (but then ignoring) pieces of information which would help to strengthen Dawson's case. He lists steals, but doesn't give them any value. He gives Dawson a G on defense (where he likely deserved a VG -- after all 8 GGs in the OF is 5th-most all-time). He also makes sure to list him as a RF. I realize he played more games there than in CF, but it's somewhat unfair to just say RF with no clarification.

Knowing that OBP was one of Dawson's weaknesses, he purposely created a system which rates OBP heavily. Further, he decides to compare him only to slugging 1B's and OF's, notes that good centerfielders provide different value than weak defensive first basemen, but then chooses not to make any adjustments based on that info. Someone with a pro-Dawson bias may have listed him as a VG CF rather than as a G RF, but even as a G RF, he should get SOME credit vs a P 1B, IMO.

Anyway...for a more straightforward view of determining which player's should make the Hall, here's an article from Michael Hoban from just over a year ago (http://baseballtruth.com/fielders_choice/choice_122804.htm). It also comes to the conclusion that Dawson would not be a HoFer, but does it without starting with that as its premise....

Kevin
   4. Lou Patterbrock Posted: January 31, 2006 at 06:44 PM (#1845366)
Dude OBVIOUSLY never saw Dawson throw the ball. His assists traveled along a trajectory unlike that of any other outfielder. This is why numerical standards for HOF merit are just bogus. Your performance on the field is what makes you *famous*. Why don't you just try to argue that Ozzie Smith was never *famous* enough to make the Hall based on findings from your home-brew weighted average replacement formula?
   5. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: January 31, 2006 at 06:56 PM (#1845397)
I have to agree with the others; it looks like he went in trying to find a system where Dawson would score poorly.
   6. Baseball Crank Posted: January 31, 2006 at 07:20 PM (#1845439)
Thanks for the comments.

First, no, I didn't stack this to knock Dawson. My main interest was in taking a fresh look at Rice and Belle, about whom I've legitimately agonized; I know where I stand on Dawson anyway (see here and here). The comps were mainly drawn to get a good feel for who would be comparable to Rice or Belle. And it did force me to rethink my view of a few of the other guys on the list, notably Dick Allen and Chuck Klein.

Second, I thought I was clear that the ranking isn't a final verdict but rather just a metric to help organize how we think about all that data; obviously you have to look at defense, steals/CS, and GIDP among other things. But I made OBP more important than it is in the OPS ranking because it is important. One point of OBP is worth more than one point of slugging. Dawson not only gave away too many of his team's precious outs (as I point out in one of the links above, no 1B or OF in the Hall now has a career OBP anywhere near as bad as Dawson's), but his Cubs teams underachieved because they had too many younger guys who followed his lead.

Third, yes, I saw Dawson play, quite a lot. I saw him when he was a great young CF, but also for many years after that (including his MVP year) when his knees were shot (there's more to outfield defense than a good arm). I would have rated him better defensively if I'd stopped at 1983.
   7. jmac66 Posted: January 31, 2006 at 07:28 PM (#1845462)
the HOF should just elect Garvey/Dawson/Joe Carter as an entry

drive the SABRs friggin insane
   8. xfactor Posted: January 31, 2006 at 07:43 PM (#1845486)
Good point on Dawson's knees. They went quickly. Maybe the years in Montreal took their toll, but the Hawk labored in the outfield. Isn't that why he became a Cub, so he'd have to run less? No question, he was a very good OF when he came up, but I daresay some of his later GG were reputation gains and gave more weight to his throwing arm than was quite right.
I enjoyed the article. The author approached it with humility, realizing that the whole truth isn't within his grasp (or our grasp). That's refreshing in these kind of articles.
   9. Baseball Crank Posted: January 31, 2006 at 07:46 PM (#1845495)
Also: of the 61 guys on that chart, 43 of them went to a World Series in the years I counted as their primes. Dawson did not, in large part because of his dismal performance in two shots in the NLCS.
   10. thedad01 Posted: January 31, 2006 at 07:56 PM (#1845516)
I agree with most of the critical comments of this analysis. There seem to be a considerable number of players eliminated essentially because they don't fit the rubric of this exercise. From what I can see this is essentially an analysis of power hitters not in the HOF.

That's OK.
   11. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: January 31, 2006 at 07:58 PM (#1845520)
"...his Cubs teams underachieved because they had too many younger guys who followed his lead."

There isn't any real evidence supporting this claim in either this article or the two linked in your post #6. It's not even supported by Occam's razor, since the simplest explanation would be that the Cubs' scouts and player development personnel were not particularly interested in OBP (which would also explain why they offered Dawson a contract in the first place).
   12. Baseball Crank Posted: January 31, 2006 at 08:24 PM (#1845574)
Well, Vlad, there were certainly a surfeit of free-swinging youngsters on those teams. I'll concede that Dawson had no impact on them if you concede that Dawson gets no points for leadership - after all, if Dawson was the Cubs' leader, to where did he lead them?
   13. Shalimar Posted: January 31, 2006 at 09:12 PM (#1845654)
Dawson did not, in large part because of his dismal performance in two shots in the NLCS.

In large part? Dawson played poorly but you're giving him way too much of the blame. In any 5-game stretch some players on both the winning and losing teams are going to end up with dismal numbers. You don't like Dawson. We get it.
   14. KevinApps Posted: January 31, 2006 at 09:15 PM (#1845659)
In one of the other links you posted, you make the claim that Dawson (and a couple others) was helped by lasting into the offensive boom starting in 1994. How exactly was the 39-41 year old Dawson helped by playing in that era?

I'm not arguing that Dawson should be in the Hall. He is a borderline candidate who should be the subject of healthy debate. I just think that your arguments against him are somewhat underwhelming (much like Peter King's arguments against Art Monk, but that's neither here nor there).

I do agree with you on a few points, though.
One point of OBP is more valuable than one point of SLG.
Dwight Evans was a great player who deserved more credit than he received.

Note: Even if you just go with OPS*PA, Dawson still doesn't score very well.
   15. LSR Posted: January 31, 2006 at 09:39 PM (#1845696)
It's not even supported by Occam's razor, since the simplest explanation would be that the Cubs' scouts and player development personnel were not particularly interested in OBP (which would also explain why they offered Dawson a contract in the first place).
Uh, actually they didn't really offer him a contract. Effectively locked out of a free agent windfall by collusion, Dawson handed them a blank contract and told them to fill in whatever amount they wanted to. He really really wanted to play on natural grass because of his knees.
   16. Devin has a deep burning passion for fuzzy socks Posted: January 31, 2006 at 09:41 PM (#1845702)
Just to compare this to Hall of Merit voting, we haven't gotten to most of these guys yet, but here's the breakdown:

In easily: Waner, Simmons, Goslin, Doby
In but took a while: Medwick, Averill, Terry*
(*Got in on first ballot, but largely due to timing - if he'd played a couple of more years, he'd have had to wait 20 years to make it.)
Chance of future election: Kiner (14th last ballot)
No real chance of future election: Johnson (32nd), Klein (55th)
Not getting any votes currently: Cuyler, Manush, Bottomley, Herman, Combs

There are those (myself included) who argue that Bob Johnson was just about as good as Joe Medwick, and while you left Johnson's wartime years out (and I agree for your purposes), when you consider that Medwick was playing those years as well (and only had 1 good year), AND was 6 years younger than Johnson, I think that might well bridge the gap.
   17. KevinApps Posted: January 31, 2006 at 09:42 PM (#1845704)
One point on using PA as one of the factors, though.
Dawson played in an era with a relatively low league OBP when compared to many of the other on the list (his lgOBP for his career was .332, I believe, while most of the others I checked had lgOBP's in the mid-.340's).
You adjusted the OBP and SLG to one single environment, but did not adjust PA's based on the new offensive environment.

For example, Ralph Kiner averaged 651.8 PA in his 9 seasons for your study. Given the shorter season in that era, you adjust that up to 685. However, the league OBP for his career was .347. Adjusting to an environment with a .326 OBP should decrease his PA's. You shouldn't still give him credit for 685 PA when he (and his teammates) would be making more outs than they did in his real era.

Plate Appearrances are in part a function of the environment in which you played AND the lineup of which you were a part. If you are using them to determine durability, you should adjust them as well.
   18. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: January 31, 2006 at 10:31 PM (#1845765)
"Effectively locked out of a free agent windfall by collusion, Dawson handed them a blank contract and told them to fill in whatever amount they wanted to."

And because that was the offseason of collusion, they would've just said "no" if they weren't really excited about the prospect of adding him. I fail to see how this impacts my larger point.

"I'll concede that Dawson had no impact on them if you concede that Dawson gets no points for leadership - after all, if Dawson was the Cubs' leader, to where did he lead them?"

I think that giving veterans extra credit for 'leadership' is generally a load of sportswriters' hooey, so that's more than a fair trade.
   19. Baseball Crank Posted: January 31, 2006 at 10:32 PM (#1845767)
1. Shalimar - Yes, I understand that postseason involves a lot of luck. But those games do count, quite a bit, and I do think that postseason performance should be a factor for close candidates. The 1981 NLCS in particular went down to the wire, and Dawson didn't drive in a single run.

All I'm really saying is, (a) Dawson's raw or translated stats aren't that impressive and (b) if you look at Dawson's postseason record and the record of his teams, you realize that there's just nothing there to support overcoming his statistical deficiencies with a lot of extra points for leadership.

Dawson was a great player for 3-4 years and a good one for many others. But he had one huge flaw - he didn't get on base much - and just doesn't have enough other positives to wipe that away.

2. KevinApps - Dawson's numbers in that period were helped, just as everyone else's were. It's not a big deal but it did kick in a little assistance to his career numbers that Rice didn't get. Oh, and Art Monk does belong in the NFL Hall of Fame, for what that's worth; I don't even begin to understand how anyone could argue otherwise.
   20. Baseball Crank Posted: January 31, 2006 at 10:46 PM (#1845786)
Plate Appearrances are in part a function of the environment in which you played AND the lineup of which you were a part. If you are using them to determine durability, you should adjust them as well.

Agreed. File that under "things I would have done if I had more time to do the study," along with stuff like adjusting GIDP for numbers of men on base. I don't think it's a large-order effect (and opens the debate - do you adjust Ralph for the league or for his own crummy teams?), but it's there.
   21. bookbook Posted: January 31, 2006 at 10:52 PM (#1845796)
I'd be curious to see where Edgar Martinez falls on this metric. (Yeah, I know, he was a DH. But also a slightly-below Average defensive 3B before the injuries knocked him off the field.)
   22. Dr. Vaux Posted: February 01, 2006 at 01:21 AM (#1845983)
The blank contract thing had gotten out into the media, and if the Cubs had turned it down there would have been hell to pay, both for them locally and for the owners nationwide; it would have been blindingly obvious that something was afoot. The Cubs wanted badly to say no, but they logistically couldn't.
   23. fracas' hope springs eternal Posted: February 02, 2006 at 06:36 AM (#1847362)
But he had one huge flaw - he didn't get on base much - and just doesn't have enough other positives to wipe that away.

How "huge" is a flaw that couldn't keep him out of the top 100 in history in times on base? He's 87th. I know some will dismiss that as a "padded" statistic but -- damn -- you've got to be able to actually play to keep accumulating those numbers.
   24. The Bones McCoy of THT Posted: February 02, 2006 at 02:21 PM (#1847585)
Dan:

During the Expos' contending years (say 1979-82) how did Dawson fare in September? I remember dreading Dawson AB in September those years. It always seemed that his bat went into the tank at the end of August.

Do the facts line up with my memories?

Best Regards

John
   25. Misirlou was a Buddhist prodigy Posted: February 02, 2006 at 03:02 PM (#1847601)
1979 - .283/.329/.478 Just about the same as his seasonal line

1980 - .319/.342/.560 + 4 games in Oct .357/.375/.643 Much better than his seasonal line

1981 - .261/.338/.426 + 3 Oct games .167.231/.417 Much worse than his seasonal line

1982 - .269/.319/.481 + .667/.643/1.083 in 3 Oct Games BA and OBP well below seasonal numbers, slugginh about right on

Overall, ot too bad. One same, one much better, one much worse, one mixed, say a little worse. Not great, but not the line of a choker. In 1980 when they lost to the Phils on the last day of the season, he hit like an MVP in the last month+. His worst performance was in 1981 when they won anyway, albeit by a half game. In 1982 they lost by 6, and I don't think there's anything he could have done to overcome that.

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