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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Womack: An open letter to Baseball-Reference and the statistical powers that be

Womack introduces his Hall of Fame +/- system. (Bobby +...2009)

On the heels of a pair of great Baseball-Reference blog posts this week ranking the best pitchers and position players not in the Hall of Fame based on their Wins Above Replacement data, I may have created a new baseball statistic and found another way to gauge worthiness for Cooperstown.

This statistic is called Hall of Fame +/- and it measures how many future Cooperstown members a ballplayer finished ahead of in Hall of Fame voting compared to how many fellow non-inductees got more votes than them, divided by the number of years they were on the ballot. As I’ll explain momentarily, it’s a great tool for discovering forgotten players.

...Hodges doesn’t have the best Hall of Fame +/- ratio among all non-inducted players. I found at least three men with better ratios: Lefty O’Doul with 13.8, and a pair of Deadball Era catchers, Hank Gowdy with 14.59 and Johnny Kling with 13.11. Hodges also doesn’t have the record for most future Hall of Famers beaten out on one ballot, even though he bested 13 in 1970. I’m not sure of the record-holder, though it might be Gowdy. In 1956 — one of his record 17 unsuccessful tries at Cooperstown — Gowdy got more votes than 33 future members. Kling beat out 32 in 1937 and 31 the following year, while O’Doul got more votes than 27 in 1960. Gowdy, Kling and O’Doul weren’t bested by any non-Hall of Famers those years, either.

Repoz Posted: May 23, 2010 at 02:01 PM | 42 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hall of fame, history, sabermetrics, site news

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   1. jwb Posted: May 23, 2010 at 02:41 PM (#3540412)
I like "Across 110th Street" better.
   2. Steve Treder Posted: May 23, 2010 at 02:55 PM (#3540418)
Pimps trying to catch a woman that's weak.
   3. AndrewJ Posted: May 23, 2010 at 03:23 PM (#3540427)
Hank Gowdy had a great World Series in 1914 and I think he was the first MLB player to enlist in WWI, but I don't think he was ever a serious HOF candidate.
   4. AndrewJ Posted: May 23, 2010 at 03:23 PM (#3540429)
Haven't seen it mentioned here that BBRef now has photos for pre-1960s player pages. Very nice addition, Sean.
   5. Steve Treder Posted: May 23, 2010 at 03:38 PM (#3540431)
Gowdy was indeed the first MLB player to enlist in the military in WWI, and then saw extensive battle action. I believe he was decorated for bravery.
   6. Steve Treder Posted: May 23, 2010 at 03:40 PM (#3540432)
Haven't seen it mentioned here that BBRef now has photos for pre-1960s player pages. Very nice addition, Sean.

Yeah, every time you think the greatest website in the universe can't possibly get any better, it gets better.
   7. Sean Forman Posted: May 23, 2010 at 05:26 PM (#3540495)
Glad you like the photos. I'll announce it tomorrow. They sort of fell into my lap. We have post 1960 as well bit I need to run those past my attorney.
   8. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: May 23, 2010 at 07:25 PM (#3540608)
When I saw the headline, I wondered if the idea came from Tony Womack, but alas, it was written by someone else.
   9. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: May 23, 2010 at 07:30 PM (#3540610)
When I saw the headline, I wondered if the idea came from Tony Womack,

myself, I was thinking Dooley
   10. Walt Davis Posted: May 23, 2010 at 08:46 PM (#3540656)
Hmmm ... and nobody bothered to look at the thing?

1. Very strange to cook up a silly stat then publicly lobby for b-r to adopt it.

2. Somehow it comes out "discovering" Gil Hodges. The author doesn't even note that Hodges is miles down the WAR list of un-elected (but eligible) players that he links to. That's down the list as in 54th place ... just for position players. He's behind Staub, Butler, Lynn, Fregosi, Campaneris, Colavito, Burks, Phillips and Harrah and I'm not sure any of those guys lasted more than one ballot.

So the purpose of this stat is to uncover the guy who received more undeserved HoF votes than anybody else? That's just what we've been missing.
   11. God Posted: May 24, 2010 at 03:14 AM (#3541012)
We have post 1960 as well bit I need to run those past my attorney.

Hopefully you have the same attorney as Hunter S. Thompson.
   12. Accent Shallow is on swiftly tilting planet Posted: May 24, 2010 at 03:27 AM (#3541039)
Hopefully you have the same attorney as Hunter S. Thompson.

I disagree. Do you want to look up, say, how many career strikeouts Mariano Rivera has, and see this?
   13. Gold Star - just Gold Star Posted: May 24, 2010 at 03:39 AM (#3541042)
In Firefox, photos (and jersey numbers) show up as a broken link. This happening to anyone else?
   14. Good cripple hitter Posted: May 24, 2010 at 03:41 AM (#3541044)
It all works fine for my version of Firefox.
   15. Gold Star - just Gold Star Posted: May 24, 2010 at 03:46 AM (#3541046)
Now I wonder if it's a Mac thing.
   16. Best Dressed Chicken in Town Posted: May 24, 2010 at 03:52 AM (#3541050)
The author doesn't even note that Hodges is miles down the WAR list of un-elected (but eligible) players that he links to. That's down the list as in 54th place ... just for position players. He's behind Staub, Butler, Lynn, Fregosi, Campaneris, Colavito, Burks, Phillips and Harrah and I'm not sure any of those guys lasted more than one ballot.

So the purpose of this stat is to uncover the guy who received more undeserved HoF votes than anybody else? That's just what we've been missing.


Oh yes, WAR is always "right." There's no viable reason one might think someone who was the best player at his position for a time and a key member of several pennant winners might be deserving of the HOF.
   17. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: May 24, 2010 at 03:57 AM (#3541052)
Oh yes, WAR is always "right." There's no viable reason one might think someone who was the best player at his position for a time and a key member of several pennant winners might be deserving of the HOF.


Boog Powell?
   18. Walt Davis Posted: May 24, 2010 at 09:27 AM (#3541120)
Oh yes, WAR is always "right." There's no viable reason one might think someone who was the best player at his position for a time and a key member of several pennant winners might be deserving of the HOF.

No, you're welcome to make whatever argument you want. You just probably shouldn't start your article with "On the heels of a pair of great Baseball-Reference blog posts this week ranking the best pitchers and position players not in the Hall of Fame based on their Wins Above Replacement data ..." and then not even note (unless I missed it -- I admittedly skimmed) that your new stat doesn't line up at all with those "great" articles. You might want to discuss that and explain the differences.

His stat is a stat that essentially ranks the worthiness of the unelected based on the %age of votes received. His argument is that Hodges is deserving (and overlooked!) because he received (at times) more HoF support than some guys who later made the HoF. That's a measure of HoF-worthiness how? If anything, it's a measure of how weird HoF voting can get.

There's no viable reason one might think someone who was the best player at his position for a time and a key member of several pennant winners might be deserving of the HOF.

That, in itself, makes him about as worthy as Dave Concepcion and Jack Morris (who I think probably does reasonably well by this guy's measure too).

Did you read the article? The guy makes no case for Hodges whatsoever other than he received a lot of HoF votes. He doesn't mention the pennant winners, the all-star games, the MVP votes (which aren't impressive), the best at his position or anything. He mentions his made-up stat. His argument for Hodges' worthiness is essentially (although it's not clear he understands this) "the writers almost elected him, therefore he's the most deserving of the un-elected." You'd have a hard time coming up with a less interesting take on who deserves to be in the HoF that isn't there already.

Holy crap, Hodges was 0-21 in the 1952 WS.

Also, Gilbert Raymond Hodges was born Gilbert Ray Hodge.
   19. tjm1 Posted: May 24, 2010 at 11:50 AM (#3541140)
I think this metric is something of historical interest, but not a good way to look for hidden candidates for the HOF. These are largely going to be players who had strong cores of support, but whose cases didn't get stronger when people considered the merits of their careers more carefully.
   20. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: May 24, 2010 at 12:38 PM (#3541155)
Holy crap, Hodges was 0-21 in the 1952 WS.

in his first 3 WS, he was 4-39 with a slash line of 102/222/179

in his next 4, he was 31-92 and 336/402/456
   21. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: May 24, 2010 at 01:55 PM (#3541206)
When I saw the headline, I wondered if the idea came from Tony Womack, but alas, it was written by someone else.
Heh; that was my thought too, and I was hoping the metric was "most times participating in a walkoff WS victory over the Yankees." Disappointing.
   22. TDF, FCL Posted: May 24, 2010 at 02:00 PM (#3541211)
The guy makes no case for Hodges whatsoever other than he received a lot of HoF votes.
Actually, he makes no case at all. I read TFA twice, and as far as I can tell, the only case he makes is "it’s a great tool for discovering forgotten players." At no point does he say that those on his list were deserving, or more deserving than other players, of HOF induction.
   23. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: May 24, 2010 at 02:03 PM (#3541214)
Haven't seen it mentioned here that BBRef now has photos for pre-1960s player pages. Very nice addition, Sean.


The pictures are pretty nice but I hope it stops there. One of the things I love about BBRef is that it is relatively uncluttered. The pages open quickly and I find what I am looking for very easily compared to say MLB or Yahoo or any of those. I tend to be more minimalist in what I'm looking for in a webpage than most though, I know a lot of folks like that sort of thing.
   24. The Polish Sausage Racer Posted: May 24, 2010 at 03:13 PM (#3541248)

20. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: May 24, 2010 at 08:38 AM (#3541155)


Just so you know, I can no longer walk down the pasta aisle of the supermarket without thinking of your nick and snickering.
   25. Graham Womack Posted: May 24, 2010 at 03:48 PM (#3541276)
Whoa, feeding frenzy.

I actually write about the Hall of Fame a lot, and there's a Hall of Fame category with 20 posts on the "What I Write About" section on my site. Or, Google "Graham Womack Gil Hodges" which brings up an Ezine story I recently wrote on whether Hodges is a Hall of Famer.
   26. Best Dressed Chicken in Town Posted: May 24, 2010 at 04:37 PM (#3541347)
No, you're welcome to make whatever argument you want. You just probably shouldn't start your article with "On the heels of a pair of great Baseball-Reference blog posts this week ranking the best pitchers and position players not in the Hall of Fame based on their Wins Above Replacement data ..." and then not even note (unless I missed it -- I admittedly skimmed) that your new stat doesn't line up at all with those "great" articles.

Fair point...I barely even RTFE so I missed his reference to those posts. I was just responding directly to your comment without considering its context.


That, in itself, makes him about as worthy as Dave Concepcion and Jack Morris

And I'll be blasted for this, but I actually think that makes those guys worthy of consideration. Not saying I'd vote for them, but I don't immediately dismiss them.


Did you read the article?

Of course not!
   27. There are a lot of good people in alt-Shooty Posted: May 24, 2010 at 04:50 PM (#3541359)
Whoa, feeding frenzy.

Naw. This thread is gentle. No one has threatened to take away your children yet.
   28. Graham Womack Posted: May 24, 2010 at 06:10 PM (#3541460)
Here's why this stat matters: The Veterans Committee tends to honor players who fell just short with the writers, players like Jim Bunning, Nellie Fox and Red Schoendienst. A lot of recent Veterans Committee picks have positive Hall of Fame +/- ratios. So, if you want to predict future picks by the committee, use my metric.
   29. Gold Star - just Gold Star Posted: May 24, 2010 at 06:15 PM (#3541464)
Must be a Mac thing - I can see the photos and jersey numbers using FF on my work PC.
Sean, any idea what's going on?
   30. Graham Womack Posted: May 24, 2010 at 06:28 PM (#3541478)
Okay, post has been edited with your feedback in mind. Go ahead and read TFA again, I double dare you.
   31. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: May 24, 2010 at 06:33 PM (#3541482)
Here's why this stat matters: The Veterans Committee tends to honor players who fell just short with the writers, players like Jim Bunning, Nellie Fox and Red Schoendienst. A lot of recent Veterans Committee picks have positive Hall of Fame +/- ratios. So, if you want to predict future picks by the committee, use my metric.


Well, the VC in its current incarnation hasn't elected anybody. But in addition to Bunning, Fox, and Schoendienst (really, just missed with him? A peak of 42.6% of the vote is just missing?), the previous one elected Mazeroski (42%), Larry Doby (3.4%), Richie Ashburn (41.7%), Tony Lazzeri (33%), Hal Newhouser (42%), and Phil Rizzuto (38%), all since the Schoendienst election), while failing to elect Roger Maris (43%), Ron Santo (43%), Maury Wills (41%), Tony Oliva (47%), Harvy Kuenn (39%), Phil Cavaretta (36%).
   32. vortex of dissipation Posted: May 24, 2010 at 06:33 PM (#3541484)
Glad you like the photos. I'll announce it tomorrow. They sort of fell into my lap. We have post 1960 as well bit I need to run those past my attorney.


Hmmn.

Those photos remind me a whole lot of the Strat-O-Matic/OOTP player files...
   33. Graham Womack Posted: May 24, 2010 at 06:36 PM (#3541487)
If history is any judge, Maris, Santo, Wills, Oliva and Kuenn should all get in at some point in the next 20-30 years. Basically, if a player at any time receives close to 30-40% of the BBWAA vote for the Hall of Fame, one of two things happens: 1) If it's early in his eligibility with the BBWAA, the player builds up momentum with them and is enshrined; 2) Should the player exhaust his eligibility and fail to be enshrined, there's a good chance the Veterans Committee will call on him later. It sometimes takes 30-40 years (like Joe Gordon or Tony Lazzeri) but it happens.
   34. There are a lot of good people in alt-Shooty Posted: May 24, 2010 at 06:39 PM (#3541490)
Maris, Santo, Wills, Oliva and Kuenn will all get in at some point in the next 20-30 years, mark my words.

I will match whatever you want to bet on this.
   35. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: May 24, 2010 at 06:40 PM (#3541491)
Maris, Santo, Wills, Oliva and Kuenn will all get in at some point in the next 20-30 years, mark my words.


I mark thee.
   36. AndrewJ Posted: May 24, 2010 at 06:43 PM (#3541495)
Holy crap, Hodges was 0-21 in the 1952 WS.

And he carried that slump through April and May of 1953, which inspired hundreds of fans to send good-luck notes to him, and a Brooklyn priest to famously end a Mass by telling his parishoners, "Keep the Commandments, and pray for Gil Hodges."
   37. Graham Womack Posted: May 25, 2010 at 01:00 AM (#3541856)
To anyone still reading, I just checked every Hall of Fame ballot from 1950 to 1980. Of the 71 men who received at least 30% of the BBWAA vote at least one of those years, 64 are now in the Hall of Fame. The seven players not enshrined are: Hank Gowdy, Marty Marion, Allie Reynolds, Gil Hodges, Johnny Sain, Phil Cavarretta and Maury Wills.
   38. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: May 25, 2010 at 01:18 AM (#3541865)
Heh; that was my thought too, and I was hoping the metric was "most times participating in a walkoff WS victory over the Yankees." Disappointing.


Hey, that's why Bill Mazeroski is in the Hall.
   39. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: May 25, 2010 at 01:29 AM (#3541873)
To anyone still reading, I just checked every Hall of Fame ballot from 1950 to 1980. Of the 71 men who received at least 30% of the BBWAA vote at least one of those years, 64 are now in the Hall of Fame. The seven players not enshrined are: Hank Gowdy, Marty Marion, Allie Reynolds, Gil Hodges, Johnny Sain, Phil Cavarretta and Maury Wills.


That doesn't say much about the guys who peaked at 30% though. 95% is at least 30%, but the fact that Nolan Ryan, Mike Schmidt and Johnny Bench all got over 90% and got in their first try doesn't tell me much about Maury Wills's chances. The vast majority of those 64 got over 75% (eventually), not just 30%.

Look at that 1980 ballot. There are 11 guys who got at least 30% that year. 9 of them are in the hall. But 5 of those 9 got in by getting over 75%. That leaves 4 who got in by the VC. But 2 of them got over 74%. That leaves Hodges and Wills, the 2 not in, in a group Red Schoendienst and Richie Ashburn, not Al Kaline, Hoyt Wilhelm, and Jim Bunning.
   40. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: May 25, 2010 at 01:44 AM (#3541883)
Look at the career hits leaderboard. There are 91 players with at least 2500 hits. 73 of them are either in the hall, or will be as soon as they become eligible, or are Pete Rose or Rafael Palmeiro. 73 of 91 is 80%. But that 80% stat tells me diddly about the chances of Garret Anderson (2512 hits), Bill Buckner (2717), or Al Oliver (2743), in large part because 46 of the top 47 (2774 and higher) are in or will be.

Garret Anderson is not in a group with Hank Aaron any more than Maury Wills is in a group with Hank Aaron even though both of the lesser players share a place on some minimum standard list with Aaron.
   41. Graham Womack Posted: May 25, 2010 at 02:36 AM (#3541928)
Just did a follow-up post to my blog. Cheers.
   42. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: May 25, 2010 at 03:10 AM (#3541937)
I just noticed that Womack edited post #33.

If history is any judge, Maris, Santo, Wills, Oliva and Kuenn should all get in at some point in the next 20-30 years. Basically, if a player at any time receives close to 30-40% of the BBWAA vote for the Hall of Fame, one of two things happens: 1) If it's early in his eligibility with the BBWAA, the player builds up momentum with them and is enshrined; 2) Should the player exhaust his eligibility and fail to be enshrined, there's a good chance the Veterans Committee will call on him later. It sometimes takes 30-40 years (like Joe Gordon or Tony Lazzeri) but it happens.


Those are not the only 2 things which happen. You left out:

3) A player peaks early, then the writers realize he wasn't as good as the hype. See Steve Garvey for example, who peaked at 41.6% his first year on the ballot, and slowly lost support, finishing at 21.1%. Don Mattingly is another example, as is Wills and Luis Tiant, who debuted at 30.9% (on a very weak 1988 ballot), and then quickly lost most of his support, falling to 7% 3 years later before settling in the mid teens.

It's not unheard of for a player who got 21% (Garvey), 11.9% and falling (Mattingly), or 18% (Tiant) on their last go on the ballot to get elected by the VC, but I wouldn't bet on it.

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