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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Womack: Why getting a lot of Hall of Fame votes matters

Womack: More than he can stand.

I logged into my Google Analytics account this morning and was surprised to see that I got a bunch of traffic yesterday from a Web site called Baseball Think Factory.

...I looked at every Hall of Fame ballot from 1936 to 1980 this evening. Out of the 104 men who received at least 30% of the vote at least once from the Baseball Writers Association of America in those years, 97 are now in Cooperstown (the seven players who aren’t enshrined are: Phil Cavarretta, Gil Hodges, Marty Marion, Hank Gowdy, Allie Reynolds, Johnny Sain, and Maury Wills.) The honorees aren’t just guys who made the Hall of Fame in a walk. The writers inducted 61 men (some, like Duke Snider, past their 10th ballots), the Veterans Committee enshrined another 24, and an Old-Timers Committee tabbed the remaining dozen.

Basically, if a player gets at least 30% of the vote at any time he’s on the Hall of Fame ballot, there is a better than 95% chance he will eventually get a plaque. It may take a long time, like it did with Tony Lazzeri who was enshrined 35 years after the first time he cracked 30 percent of the BBWAA vote, but it’ll happen. The longer it takes for a guy to get enshrined, the more he rises in the Hall of Fame +/- rankings.

I stand by my “made-up stat.”

Repoz Posted: May 25, 2010 at 12:06 PM | 16 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hall of fame, history, site news

Reader Comments and Retorts

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Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: May 25, 2010 at 12:18 PM (#3542084)
Basically, if a player gets at least 30% of the vote at any time he’s on the Hall of Fame ballot, there is a better than 95% chance he will eventually get a plaque


Players who get lots of votes for the Hall of Fame often get elected.

Womack isn't wrong, but I just don't see anything illuminating here. And really, this would all be better if it was Tony Womack.
   2. There are a lot of good people in alt-Shooty Posted: May 25, 2010 at 12:31 PM (#3542093)
I stand by my offer to bet just about anything that Maury Wills, Gil Hodges and all the rest won't make the HOF in the next 30 years.
   3. Dan The Mediocre is one of "the rest" Posted: May 25, 2010 at 12:46 PM (#3542106)
I still don't see what this stat is supposed to tell us. The Veteran's Committee sucked? A few players got a lot of votes despite not deserving it? I just don't see why we should care.
   4. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: May 25, 2010 at 01:11 PM (#3542120)
Hodges might, and Santo will, but not the rest. Certainly not Wills nor Kuenn nor Maris.

I wrote in the other Womack thread that he is making a classic logical fallacy with his "at least 30% of the vote" obsession, of having a minimum qualification of belonging to the group but no maximum. Yes, the vast majority of players to achieve at least 30% are in the hall, because the vast majority of players to achieve 30% got far more than 30%. It's like my analogy of the 2500 hit club. Just because the vast majority of players with at least 2500 hits is in the hall doesn't mean that Garrett Anderson or Steve Finley or Luis Gonzalez or Bill Buckner have a good chance.

The other thing he overlooks, in trying to promote his prediction tool, is the circumstances of a players vote totals. 2 cases:

Luis Tiant. Tiant broke the magical 30% barrier, once, in his debut in 1988 on a very weak ballot. He quickly lost support, nearly falling off at one time, and only once in his 15 years on the ballot got as much as half the 31% he got in his debut.

Harvey Kuenn. Harvey languished in the mid teens until getting a bump into the 20's in 1983. What could have happened in 1982 to bring his name to national attention? I have no idea. He then stayed in the mid 20's-low 30's until getting another big bump to almost 40% in 1988. Again, another spike not related to his Hall worthiness. He then fell back to the mid 20's for his final 3 years on the ballot.

These aren't the resumes of Orlando Cepeda, Nellie Fox, or Jim Bunning, guys who blew through the 30's on their way to the 50's, 60's, and 70% range before falling off. Their (Tiant, Kuenn) level of support is even less impressive than that of Bill Mazeroski or Phil Rizzuto, guys who define the borderline/bottom level of support that the VC is willing to honor.
   5. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: May 25, 2010 at 01:40 PM (#3542137)
What could have happened in 1982 to bring his name to national attention? I have no idea.

I see what you did there
   6. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: May 25, 2010 at 01:40 PM (#3542138)
What could have happened in 1982 to bring his name to national attention? I have no idea.

I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or not here.

Edit: Okay, good. My faith in the BTF portion of humanity is restored.
   7. There are a lot of good people in alt-Shooty Posted: May 25, 2010 at 01:46 PM (#3542146)
I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or not here.

Then you need to adjust your sarcasm meter. He's not being subtle!
   8. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: May 25, 2010 at 01:50 PM (#3542148)
I was. The only reason he got out of the teens is because he gained notoriety for leading the Brewers to their first pennant. And the only reason he got close to 40% is because he died that year and got a sympathy bump. Otherwise, he never gets out of the low 20's, and possibly falls off the ballot before his 15 years is up. Because he's nowhere near a HOFer on merit. As a singles hitter with little defensive value and a short career, he's a poor man's George Kell, a not very good HOFer in his own right. There's dozens of more qualified players not in and not receiving consideration.
   9. JPWF13 Posted: May 25, 2010 at 01:57 PM (#3542152)
The honorees aren’t just guys who made the Hall of Fame in a walk. The writers inducted 61 men (some, like Duke Snider, past their 10th ballots),


Duke Snider was a CF who hit .295/.380/.540 (OPS+ 140, 407-1333 HR-RBI)
Hodges was a 1B playing for the same teams, and hit .273/.359/.487 (OPS+ 120, 374-1274 HR-RBI)

there is a reason one is in and the other isn't
   10. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: May 25, 2010 at 01:58 PM (#3542154)
I wrote in the other Womack thread that he is making a classic logical fallacy with his "at least 30% of the vote" obsession, of having a minimum qualification of belonging to the group but no maximum. Yes, the vast majority of players to achieve at least 30% are in the hall, because the vast majority of players to achieve 30% got far more than 30%.

Right. If you take out all the guys who got in on the first or second ballot (the no-brainerS), then how valuable is it?
   11. sunnyday2 Posted: May 25, 2010 at 02:06 PM (#3542161)
Or to put it another way: Guys who get 30 percent of the vote (at some point) are more likely to get elected to the HoF than players who don't. Wow. Stop the presses. I mean, you can stand by that stat as long as you want, it doesn't make you smart.

But wasn't there also an element in his column that said that these guys should get into the HoF? I'm too lazy to go back and look it up. Which goes to the same point. Your made-up stat bears no relationship to value.

If it's a predictive tool, it's pretty obvious. If it's normative, it's stupid.
   12. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: May 25, 2010 at 02:09 PM (#3542164)
he gained notoriety for leading the Brewers to their first pennant. And the only reason he got close to 40% is because he died that year and got a sympathy bump.


Hodges got a pennant bump and a death bump, also
   13. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: May 25, 2010 at 02:18 PM (#3542170)
Hodges got a pennant bump and a death bump, also


Good point. He went from 24% to 48% for the 1969 WS, and 40.7% to 57.4% in his death year. He also hit on the trifecta, the final year bump, going from 49.9% to 63.4% his final year.
   14. jwb Posted: May 25, 2010 at 04:36 PM (#3542297)
A better statement might be, "Players in the past who achieved a maximium in the BBWAA voting of between 30% and 40% stood about a 50% chance of being selected by the Veterans' Committee." The VC isn't doing much of anything now and who knows what they will be in the future.

Marty Marion, Harvey Kuenn, *Al Lopez, *Phil Rizzuto, *Hack Wilson, *Wilbert Robinson, *Hughie Jennings, *George Kell, Edgar Martinez, Hank Gowdy, Phil Cavaretta, *Burleigh Grimes, Johnny Sain, *Kiki Cuyler, Allie Reynolds, *Tony Lazzeri, *Jim Bottomley, *Hugh Duffy, Tommy John, *Red Faber, Luis Tiant, *Frank Baker, Tim Raines
   15. Walt Davis Posted: May 25, 2010 at 08:48 PM (#3542584)
To pile on some more ...

a further point is that this sort of stuff has been studied to death! You don't need some stat to tell you who's amassed good HoF vote totals without being elected, just go read some stuff. Are there people who take the HoF seriously who don't know that if you crack the 40% barrier early, you're almost guaranteed election? Are there people who take the HoF seriously who don't know that the VC tends to elect guys who did well in the BBWAA voting but didn't make it? Do we need a stat to show that friends of Frisch tend to make the HoF?

Hodges is not a forgotten name. One thing he's known for is that he's got one of the highest percentage of HoF votes without being elected. Now that Bunning's in, I think he's the leader (assuming Alomar gets elected). Every time a VC vote comes up, there are articles promoting him for election. I can't imagine anybody who takes the HoF seriously doesn't know this -- so having a stat (especially one that goes beyond % of votes received) to point it out is like inventing a stat to show that Babe Ruth was pretty good.

Lumped in with all this is that the VC regularly changes format. Even if there was a point in predicting future VC votes, a stat based on past VC behavior isn't likely to be of much use because the current VC is very different and the immediately previous VC was extremely different (and didn't elect anybody). It could be that at one point the VC will elect Hodges -- stranger things have happened in VC history.

Hodges is simply the Jack Morris of hitters. He was a very good player on some very good teams who got a reputation for clutchiness (deserved or not I can't say) and leadership. He has two points of black ink -- both for leading the league in games played. He is below average (which is really bad for a 1B) on gray ink, HoF standards and HoF Monitor. He made lots of AS games but never came close to an MVP.* If he'd played in Cincinnati, he'd probably have been off the ballot in a couple years.

*He got votes in lots of seasons but remember -- a 10-man MVP ballot in an 8-team league with a bias towards players on winning teams. In 1949, Hodges finished 11th in MVP voting but 5th on his own team. In 1950, he was the Dodgers' top vote-getter although Snider clearly had the better year (Campy has an argument too). In 51 he was again 5th on his own team. In 52 he was 6th. In 53 he was 7th (but 14th overall). 3rd in 54 and didn't even get votes in 55. In 57, he was the top vote-getter again and in 59 he was 4th on his team.

Weird, in 59, Willie McCovey got some MVP votes for just 52 games played. Granted, he hit 354/429/656. :-)
   16. Best Dressed Chicken in Town Posted: May 25, 2010 at 09:21 PM (#3542624)
In '53 Ted Williams got a vote with 37 games played.

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