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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Balancing Peak Value vs. Career Value

It’s the eternal question when it comes to evaluating players for the Hall of Fame: peak or career? Are a few years of true greatness worth more than a long, consistent career? One even occasionally hears those who enjoy debating such matters describe themselves as “peak” or “career” guys.

There are many metrics available for gauging the value of a player’s career that use a bar of replacement level (like Baseball Prospectus’s WARP3) or lower (like Bill James’s Win Shares). Yet many, including myself, feel that these statistics give too much weight to a long period of mediocre performance and not enough to a superstar-level peak—in fact, it’s fairly common for people to compare players’ peak years along with their overall career numbers when using these stats. A stat with a bar of average will give more weight to a great peak, but it will (in my view, unfairly) penalize a player like Rickey Henderson, who stuck around for a number of years after he was no longer a very good player.

There have been several attempts to find some middle ground between peak and career, the most notable probably being Jay Jaffe’s JAWS. However, I recently thought of an approach to the question that I haven’t seen implemented elsewhere: to use a metric with an average base—and then only include those seasons in which a player was above average.

For this exercise, I didn’t use the most sophisticated metrics: I simply calculated Runs Created Above Position (RCAP) for hitters and Runs Saved Above Average (RSAA) for pitchers. (Both park-adjusted, of course.) I then used James’s

Pythagorean Formula to convert these runs into wins above or below average for the average team each season. Then I added together the win values for each year of a player’s career that this value was positive, ignoring the years when it was negative. I christened the resulting career total Net Wins Above Average, or NWAA.  It’s a pretty colorless name, except for a few potential NWA jokes, so feel free to suggest a better one.

(As an aside, I’m well aware of the flaws of both RCAP and RSAA. Probably RCAP’s biggest flaw is that, while it adjusts for position, it does not include defense; it also has that same problems as a run estimator that regular Runs Created does. But they’re both easy to calculate and accurate in the broad strokes, and I don’t think that anyone has a lot of confidence in any of the available fielding metrics, at least for years before the most recent. Besides, it’s more the approach that I’m interested in demonstrating here, rather than the stats themselves. It would be great if someone were to use this methodology with some more sophisticated average-based stats.)

I don’t have the league positional averages needed to calculate RCAP for years prior to 1972, so I only calculated NWAA for players whose careers began in or after this year, or for players whose careers began earlier but still had rookie eligibility in 1972, most notably Carlton Fisk and Bobby Grich. (For these players, I did a rough estimate of their wins above average for their cups of coffee prior to 1972; this should have a very small effect on their career stats.)

Of the players in this group, fourteen have been elected to the Hall of Fame:


name              nwaa

Mike Schmidt      54.09
George Brett      53.89
Wade Boggs        47.59
Robin Yount       43.62
Paul Molitor      41.97
Eddie Murray      36.79
Carlton Fisk      35.66
Dave Winfield     35.39
Ryne Sandberg     30.69
Kirby Puckett     28.45
Gary Carter       26.71
Dennis Eckersley  26.13
Ozzie Smith       17.35
Bruce Sutter      14.13

The only thing I’d note here is that the reason Ozzie Smith scores so low is because, as I said, RCAP doesn’t include defense, and there are very few players in history who would suffer more from such an omission than Ozzie.

With a stat like this, the question now becomes: where do we draw the line between players who are qualified for the Hall of Fame and those who are not? Since there are really no objective criteria to determine Hall of Fame worthiness, all we have to go on are the players who have already been deemed worthy of the Hall. But if we simply were to let in all the players better than the Hall’s weakest member, we’d end up with a Hall far too big by anyone’s standards. I like the approach used by the

Hall of Merit, where they keep their Hall essentially the same size as the actual Hall of Fame, but fill it with the players they believe to be the most deserving. So, since there are fourteen players in the post-1972 class in the Hall, let’s look at the fourteen Hall-eligible players in this group with the highest NWAA scores:


Mike Schmidt    54.09
George Brett    53.89
Wade Boggs      47.59
Robin Yount     43.62
Paul Molitor    41.97
Eddie Murray    36.79
Carlton Fisk    35.66
Dave Winfield   35.39
Alan Trammell   33.97
Albert Belle    33.91
Lou Whitaker    33.22
Bobby Grich     32.76
Ryne Sandberg   30.69
Pedro Guerrero  28.74

(Players not in the Hall of Fame in italics.)

Nine of the fourteen players—as well as the top eight—are the same on both lists (and Kirby Puckett just misses the second). There are some surprising names on this list: Pedro Guerrero, despite being among the most dominant hitters of the 1980s, is rarely thought of as a Hall of Famer: he received only 1.3% of the vote his only time on the ballot. Guerrero’s Hall of Fame case is based almost completely on his excellent peak—his career was quite short, with only 6115 plate appearances.

But before deciding that Guerrero’s inclusion on the list means that this metric is overrating peak as compared to career value, take a look at the high score for Lou Whitaker. Like Guerrero, Whitaker only lasted a single year on the Hall of Fame ballot, although his candidacy has gained some support in sabermetric circles. Whitaker’s career profile is almost the exact opposite of Guerrero’s: he gained most of his value from a long, consistent career, but his peak was comparatively quite low—he only cracked the league’s top ten in Wins Above Average (WAA) once in his career (a fifth-place finish in 1983). The list has Albert Belle, another player with a dominant peak and short career, but also Carlton Fisk, who played for an extremely long time but only had a couple of really great years. It’s a very small sample of players, but from this list it doesn’t look to me like the stat is placing too much weight on either peak or career. You can decide for yourself when you’ve seen a few more lists.

These players represent a very small slice of Hall of Fame history, but, just for now, why don’t we think of Pedro Guerrero’s 28.74 score as representing the dividing line for Hall of Fame worthiness when it comes to NWAA? Here are all the players in the post-1972 group—including those not yet eligible for the Hall—with NWAA scores through 2005 above the “Guerrero bar”:  (Players active in 2005 are in bold.)


Barry Bonds        120.27
Roger Clemens       69.27
Greg Maddux         61.70
Mike Piazza         58.90
Frank Thomas        54.17
Mike Schmidt        54.09
George Brett        53.89
Rickey Henderson    53.43
Ken Griffey Jr.     52.55
Randy Johnson       51.61
Gary Sheffield      51.23
Alex Rodriguez      51.20
Edgar Martinez      50.81
Jeff Bagwell        48.12
Wade Boggs          47.59
Manny Ramirez       47.35
Pedro Martinez      46.99
Barry Larkin        46.58
Cal Ripken Jr.      45.39
Tony Gwynn          44.94
Mark McGwire        44.01
Robin Yount         43.62
Paul Molitor        41.97
Craig Biggio        39.67
Tom Glavine         37.60
Chipper Jones       37.06
Roberto Alomar      36.93
Eddie Murray        36.79
Jim Edmonds         36.53
Kevin Brown         36.38
Carlton Fisk        35.66
Tim Raines          35.54
Dave Winfield       35.39
Bernie Williams     35.18
Larry Walker        34.90
Jeff Kent           34.42
Alan Trammell       33.97
Albert Belle        33.91
Jim Thome           33.26
Lou Whitaker        33.22
Bobby Grich         32.76
Curt Schilling      32.27
Jason Giambi        31.30
Fred McGriff        31.28
Ivan Rodriguez      31.21
John Smoltz         31.20
Sammy Sosa          30.70
Ryne Sandberg       30.69
Vladimir Guerrero   30.64
Derek Jeter         30.45
Brian Giles         30.44
Albert Pujols       30.26
Mike Mussina        29.32
Pedro Guerrero      28.74

A few points of interest about this list:

  - There were thirty-one players active in 2005 above the Guerrero bar. Astoundingly, eight of these players spent the year with the Yankees. (And that doesn’t even include Mariano Rivera [19.69 NWAA], who is generally considered a lock for the Hall.) No other 2005 team had more than three players on the list.

  - The bar will probably be raised higher in coming years, as there are a number of not-yet-eligible players above the line who seem unlikely to be elected to the Hall, and very few below the line who have a good shot at induction. This could represent a flaw with the stat, that it’s overrating more recent players—but, even though there have been a handful of historically great performances over the past decade or so, the number of Wins Above Average needed to rank among the league leaders in any given year has essentially remained stable since the 1970s. The other possibility is that the voters are simply becoming more strict. It seems to me that there are only two active players below the Guerrero bar that (based on their statistical records to date) have a really strong possibility of being elected to Cooperstown:

    - The aforementioned Mariano Rivera: even though relievers fare better on an average-based metric than one with a replacement-level base, they still do not score very highly on RSAA. Applying some sort of leverage index to a reliever’s stats might be called for, but I think that in that case one should also adjust for the fact that the average ERA of relievers tends to be significantly lower than that of starters, so I question how much of a difference the adjustment would really make. Also, a great deal of Rivera’s Hall of Fame case—perhaps more than any other candidate’s in history—rests on his postseason performance, which of course is not accounted for here.

      - Rafael Palmeiro (26.81 NWAA): his case for the Hall is now in serious jeopardy due to some recent events, the details of which I don’t seem to recall, but, even though there was some cursory examination of his credentials around the time of his 3,000th hit, there is little doubt that Palmeiro would have easily sailed into Cooperstown if his statistical record were the only thing in question. Yet his comparatively low NWAA score rather starkly illustrates the shape of his career: he was a pretty good player who played for a very long time (and played most of his best seasons in very good hitters’ parks), but who could rarely be thought of as a superstar. Whether this makes him a deserving Hall of Famer is up to you—although it is interesting to note how his overall score stacks up against other career-over-peak guys like Whitaker or Schilling, or even how it compares to Palmeiro’s close contemporary, Fred McGriff.

- Barry Bonds: damn. It’s true that RCAP tends to overrate players with very high OBPs and SLGs, so this list probably overstates Bonds’s dominance somewhat, but still—damn. And since I know it will come up, even if you take away everything Bonds did after 1998, he still comes in with an NWAA of 62.84, second only to Clemens on the list. The top five (and six of the top seven) WAA seasons since 1972 are all held by Bonds.

And finally, one last table: it’s a little late, but here are the NWAA scores for all the players on the last Hall of Fame ballot. Now, there are four players on the ballot whose careers began prior to 1972: Tommy John (debuted 1963), Steve Garvey (1969), Dave Concepcion (1970), and Bert Blyleven (1970). Neither Garvey or Concepcion were full-time players before 1972,  and neither was likely enough above average in those early years to have much of an impact on their overall scores: after three PAs as a pinch-hitter in 1969, Garvey put up OPS+ numbers of 81 and 95 as a third baseman in 1970 and 1971, while Concepcion was at 73 and 43 (!) as a shortstop those same years. As for John and Blyleven, I can calculate their RSAA for their early years, just not their offensive numbers, so that shouldn’t make a great deal of difference in their career scores either.

Without further ado, the ballot:


Bert Blyleven    41.88*
Alan Trammell    33.97
Albert Belle     33.91
Tommy John       27.61*
Will Clark       27.38
Jim Rice         25.76
Dale Murphy      24.98
Andre Dawson     24.80
Orel Hershiser   24.03
Rich Gossage     22.62
Dave Concepcion  21.48*
Dave Parker      20.94
Don Mattingly    19.87
Dwight Gooden    18.88
Jack Morris      17.14
Steve Garvey     14.50*
Doug Jones       14.33
Lee Smith        14.20
Bruce Sutter     14.13
Alex Fernandez   12.56
John Wetteland   12.17
Rick Aguilera    11.15
Willie McGee     10.77
Gregg Jefferies   9.36
Gary Gaetti       6.44
Hal Morris        5.96
Gary DiSarcina    1.75
Walt Weiss        1.30
Ozzie Guillen     0.00

(* = estimated. Bold = elected to Hall. Italics = dropped off ballot.)

It’s almost enough to make you feel a little sorry for Ozzie.

 

Daniel Wind Posted: May 09, 2006 at 12:36 PM | 41 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: May 09, 2006 at 01:12 PM (#2010802)
I've maintained for a while the Sheffield was HOF-quality. More evidence. I wonder how that's going to go over.

I'm amazed by how low Will Clark's number is. Thought he would come off better on such a list.
   2. Misirlou has S.C.M.O.D.S Posted: May 09, 2006 at 01:22 PM (#2010812)
although it is interesting to note how his overall score stacks up against other career-over-peak guys like Whitaker or Schilling,

I assume this is a typo, as just about all Schilling has going for him is peak; 3-4 CYA caliber seasons, a few post season heroics, and little else.
   3. More Indecisive than Lonnie Smith on 2nd... Posted: May 09, 2006 at 01:43 PM (#2010823)
you mentioned that the NWAA required to be among the league leaders has remained essentially stable since 1970...but has the peak values attained by those leaders increased? something has to account for the considerably higher scores of the modern players. a few guesses:

--longer careers (due to modern medicine, training methods, nutrition and contracts)
--performance enhancing drugs (I have a feeling this actually plays minimal role, given some of the names on the list)
--expansion
--smaller parks

it's also worth noting that your metric *seems* to undervalue relief pitching to some degree (which, admittedly, isn't a bad thing). Note that Smoltz and Glavine share similar career numbers per season as starters (Smoltz having better K/IP, WHIP), yet Glavine is 6+ pts higher.

finally, look at that Pujols guy. Already past 30. What a machine (did anyone catch the interview with him on FSN?).
   4. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: May 09, 2006 at 02:19 PM (#2010854)
finally, look at that Pujols guy. Already past 30.

LOL, when I read this I thought you were taking a shot at his reported age.
   5. TDF, situational idiot Posted: May 09, 2006 at 02:43 PM (#2010884)
although it is interesting to note how his overall score stacks up against other career-over-peak guys like Whitaker or Schilling,

I assume this is a typo, as just about all Schilling has going for him is peak; 3-4 CYA caliber seasons, a few post season heroics, and little else.


Schilling's career, in my opinion, is what's impressive. Almost 3000 IP at 128 ERA+. Never won a CYA, but 3 2nds and a 4th (voters don't remember "CYA caliber seasons", they remember the award winners). Never won an ERA title, but 9 seasons in the top 10. If he stays healthy, he'll pass 3000 strikeouts this season, but only lead the league twice.

Certainly sounds like a "career-over-peak" guy to me.
   6. Andrew Edwards Posted: May 09, 2006 at 03:56 PM (#2010956)
Schilling is a sure thing for the Hall because of the bloody sock.

I actually like this approach as a compromise between peak and career stats, it seems to come out roughly right. I'd love to see it applied backwards in history, to examine guys like Koufax who are at the heart of the peak-versus-career debate.
   7. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili(Teddy F. Ballgame) Posted: May 09, 2006 at 04:15 PM (#2010977)
Interesting how closely bunched A-Rod, Griffey, RJ and Edgar are.
   8. bunyon Posted: May 09, 2006 at 04:17 PM (#2010979)
I like this piece and think it is an interesting effort toward balance. But I've always thought the "peak vs. career" debate was more about "greatest ever" titles than HOF worthiness. That is, a guy might get in the Hall with either a fabulous peak (Koufax) or a long, productive career (Sutton), but only be considered for "greatest ever" if he has both (Clemens). At least that is how I view it. I think both Koufax and Sutton are worthy of the Hall, but wouldn't put either in the discussion of greatest pitcher ever (I know some will with Koufax).
   9. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: May 09, 2006 at 04:19 PM (#2010980)
Well put, bunyon.
   10. Russ Posted: May 09, 2006 at 04:43 PM (#2011013)
(I know some will with Koufax).

They'd be wrong. There is some argument to be made for Koufax (and Pedro for that matter) as the *best* pitcher ever. There is no argument for either right now for the title of *greatest*. Best is more what you could have done had you been able to do more, greatest is what you exactly did.
   11. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: May 09, 2006 at 05:03 PM (#2011045)
As a Hall of Merit voter and an avowed 'peak' voter I find this interesting. I just wonder what these might look like with defense involved as there are some players who would greatly benefite (Ozzie) or be lowered somewhat (Pedro Guerrero is a good case here) if defense were included. Maybe pitcher hitting shoudl also be included, not as big of a deal in today's game as pitcher's pitch fewer innings and fewer innings per game and thus get pinch hit for more often, but there are guys like Wes Ferrell, whose hitting makes him HOF worthy (and a HOMer by the way) instead of another peak centered contender.

In my HOM a player's value by something somehwat higher than average AND average, in order to seperate those players who play at an MVP level (say, a Charlie Keller type, maybe Jason Giambi today?) with those that play at an all-star level (maybe Bernie Williams?) for longer. Could be something to tinker with. Nice article though.
   12. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: May 09, 2006 at 05:06 PM (#2011053)
That should read HOM system, the HOM isn't mine.
   13. More Indecisive than Lonnie Smith on 2nd... Posted: May 09, 2006 at 05:22 PM (#2011073)
finally, look at that Pujols guy. Already past 30.

LOL, when I read this I thought you were taking a shot at his reported age.


well read. I intended both meanings, for as much as I enjoy watching him play, I have serious doubts that he's only 26. Then again, I didn't think that was Rafael Furcal speeding past me straddling the lane line a few years back, so I could be wrong.
   14. bookbook Posted: May 09, 2006 at 05:35 PM (#2011087)
This is a very good article. A good reminder of just how good Edgar was.
   15. bunyon Posted: May 09, 2006 at 05:41 PM (#2011091)
So, Curt doesn't have any great peak years and his career comes up short. Without the bloody sock, he's in no conversation about the HOF.
   16. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: May 09, 2006 at 06:29 PM (#2011155)
nice to know you're in all their heads

Ooh, sounds a challenge. I bet any baseball fan could name 60-90% of the CYAs, but close to 0% of the second-place men. I take it you're significantly different? Or perhaps you think the HOF voters are?
   17. TDF, situational idiot Posted: May 09, 2006 at 06:46 PM (#2011182)
(voters don't remember "CYA caliber seasons", they remember the award winners).

nice to know you're in all their heads


Actually, Toilet, it is Bill James in their heads, not me.

James' Hall of Fame Standards (which, according to bbref, "attempts to assess how likely (not how deserving) an active player is to make the Hall of Fame" (emphasis mine). The Standards awards points for winning MVP, CYA, and ROY, but only for winning.
   18. TDF, situational idiot Posted: May 09, 2006 at 06:47 PM (#2011185)
That's HOF Monitor, not Standards.
   19. DCW3 Posted: May 09, 2006 at 07:24 PM (#2011246)
Thanks for the comments. To address a few points:

I assume this is a typo, as just about all Schilling has going for him is peak; 3-4 CYA caliber seasons, a few post season heroics, and little else.

Schilling has only ranked among the top ten in WAA once in his career--a ninth-place finish in 2004, with 3.61 WAA. That's the lowest peak of any player in the sample with such a high career score. That's why I considered him a "career" guy.

it's also worth noting that your metric *seems* to undervalue relief pitching to some degree (which, admittedly, isn't a bad thing). Note that Smoltz and Glavine share similar career numbers per season as starters (Smoltz having better K/IP, WHIP), yet Glavine is 6+ pts higher.

I don't really know if that's because of undervaluing relief pitching. First of all, the metrics I'm using don't consider things like K/IP or WHIP, but it's true that Smoltz does have better career rate stats in terms of ERA+ as well. However, Glavine's career rates are dragged down by his first four seasons, in which he ranged from below-average to god-awful. Smoltz, outside of his first half-season, has been above average every year of his career. That's exactly the thing this metric is designed to adjust for. Glavine also has a higher peak, by the numbers I'm using--he's had six seasons over 3 WAA (versus three for Smoltz) and three over 4 WAA (Smoltz only has one).

Maybe pitcher hitting shoudl also be included, not as big of a deal in today's game as pitcher's pitch fewer innings and fewer innings per game and thus get pinch hit for more often, but there are guys like Wes Ferrell, whose hitting makes him HOF worthy (and a HOMer by the way) instead of another peak centered contender.

I did include pitcher hitting (except for the early years of Blyleven and John's career), although I don't think it's going to have a real big impact on a pitcher's career stats.
   20. Jose Canusee Posted: May 09, 2006 at 07:36 PM (#2011263)
Also interesting to see how far Bonds and also McGwire rate ahead of Sosa, who as a fellow HR record chaser may have seemed to be even with them in terms of name recognition. Possibly he will be seen from a distance the way I might look at Duke Snider-a great player, but whom only Dodger fans of the Brooklyn era could have said was as good as Mays or Mantle.
   21. TDF, situational idiot Posted: May 09, 2006 at 07:38 PM (#2011265)
By the way, look at Barry Larkin's score! And that doesn't include defensive value, which would put him in that "4 M's" range of HOF worthiness, no?
   22. MKT Posted: May 09, 2006 at 07:39 PM (#2011269)
Nice idea and article. My one suggestion: I wouldn't call it NET Wins Above Average; it's more like GROSS Wins Above Average.

You are not subtracting the negative seasons, you're looking only at the positive ones -- and therefore you're looking at a gross figure. If you did subtract the negatives, you'd then have a net figure.

The discussion has some interesting points, about "best" player vs "greatest" player vs "Hall of Fame" player and the differing criteria that we might use. If indeed it is correct to say that one can make the Hall of Fame via either a high peak career (Koufax) or a long career (Sutton), I wonder how NWAA (better to call it GWAA I think) compares to those criteria; from the lists it looks like it might lean a little bit towards being more similar to a long career criterion than a high peak one.
   23. DCW3 Posted: May 09, 2006 at 07:46 PM (#2011280)
Schilling has only ranked among the top ten in WAA once in his career--a ninth-place finish in 2004, with 3.61 WAA. That's the lowest peak of any player in the sample with such a high career score. That's why I considered him a "career" guy.

Just to clarify--2004 isn't Schilling's best year (2001 is), but it's the only year he ranked in the league's top ten. The point about him having a very low peak for such a high career score stands, though.

Nice idea and article. My one suggestion: I wouldn't call it NET Wins Above Average; it's more like GROSS Wins Above Average.

Heh. You're probably right, now that I think about it--finance is not my strong point. And "GWAA" has the advantage of being easier to pronounce as one syllable.
   24. Dizzypaco Posted: May 09, 2006 at 07:57 PM (#2011299)
I think the stat is fun, but I wouldn't use it to try to determine how good someone really is. The stat has a number of ranking that I think are just plain wrong. For example, it has Mike Schmidt as marginally better than Edgar Martinez, and worse than Frank Thomas, when he was substantially better than both of them.

There's something about the list that overrates players that played the last ten years, while underrating the stars from the 80's.
   25. DCW3 Posted: May 09, 2006 at 08:09 PM (#2011306)
For example, it has Mike Schmidt as marginally better than Edgar Martinez, and worse than Frank Thomas, when he was substantially better than both of them.

With regard to those specific examples--the problem, I think, can be chalked up to the lack of defensive adjustment. The stat treats Schmidt as if he were an average defensive third baseman, when he was considered to be one of the best defenders ever at his position. (Also, Schmidt's peak is rather low for such a great player--it doesn't help that what would have been his best season was interrupted by a strike.) As for DHs, RCAP compares them to the average hitter at their position, but doesn't include any further adjustment for their lack of defensive value. I didn't get into that because it's hard to find any agreement on how such an adjustment should be carried out, but most people would lop some value off the numbers for Thomas, Martinez, and Molitor.
   26. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: May 09, 2006 at 08:16 PM (#2011316)
"GWAA" has the advantage of being easier to pronounce as one syllable.

If you did it over replacment, GWAR is an excellent name.

I bet any baseball fan could name 60-90% of the CYAs, but close to 0% of the second-place men. I take it you're significantly different? Or perhaps you think the HOF voters are?

I bet a significant number of HOF voters actually look up, like in a book or online, a player's stats and award finishes.
   27. DCW3 Posted: May 09, 2006 at 09:41 PM (#2011432)
Some people were wondering how Koufax would score on this system--I took a look at his numbers, and Koufax comes out with only 29.06 GWAA (if that's what we're calling it now). I didn't include his offense, and he was a poor hitter, so that would probably bring his numbers down a little further.

Maybe someday I'll try this looking at pitchers before 1972--but it would be a lot of work to collect all the data.
   28. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: May 09, 2006 at 09:59 PM (#2011443)
What would a Gross Wins Above Median list look like? Substantially different?
   29. DCW3 Posted: May 09, 2006 at 10:21 PM (#2011462)
What would a Gross Wins Above Median list look like? Substantially different?

I wouldn't expect so--but I might not be the best person to ask that question. I don't know where one would find the median data for a league.
   30. dcsmyth1 Posted: May 09, 2006 at 10:23 PM (#2011467)
I personally prefer a career WAR, with adjustments for "pennants added" (which is sorta like peak) and postseason performance. Unlike some other people, I would be super-impressed by a player who was able to last 40 years (age 20 to age 60) as an avg regular every year, and would vote him into the HOF in a heartbeat...

But what I really want to say is that I completely support the "voting" system for the HOF, in which one guy looks more at "peak", while another guy looks more at "career", and yet another guy might over or undervalue fielding (relative to some hypothetical unbiased measure). This is the "wisdom of crowds" perspective. The only problem is that the actual people who get to vote for real do not appear to have any better qualifications than a below-avg primate poster.

The only "real" problem with the HOF is who is permitted to vote. It's not a matter of which stats to look at.
   31. DCW3 Posted: May 09, 2006 at 10:32 PM (#2011477)
But what I really want to say is that I completely support the "voting" system for the HOF, in which one guy looks more at "peak", while another guy looks more at "career", and yet another guy might over or undervalue fielding (relative to some hypothetical unbiased measure). This is the "wisdom of crowds" perspective.

Oh, I agree, and I wouldn't suggest that this stat, or this approach, would be the be-all and end-all of the discussion. People are going to have different things they value when determining greatness. I just thought that this was a method that was worth looking at, and takes into account several different things that people look at.
   32. Michael Posted: May 10, 2006 at 11:51 PM (#2013444)
Nice to see a studies article, it has been too long.

Anyone know what happened to primer numbers? It seemed to disappear.

For how many potential HOF caliber players do they have many years above replacement level but below average?
In otherwords how many seasons of data are actually being dropped?

Or is it more a case of you don't want a guy who has 20 years of 10 runs above replacement to look like a guy who has 10 years of 20 runs above replacement? In which case this is more like career WAR - (years_played * difference_between_replacement_and_average).

I agree with looking at the pennants won system which does represent a good way to go.

And I also think this does drive home just how much Bonds is one of the best players ever and one of the greatest players ever. Bonds has played 20 seasons so far (including the 14 games last year) and has averaged more than 6 wins above average per season. There are generally only about 15 position players in both leagues to make that many wins above replacement in any given season.
   33. MKT Posted: May 11, 2006 at 05:39 AM (#2014345)
#33:
Anyone know what happened to primer numbers? It seemed to disappear


Despite the fact that I'm reading this thread, that's a big reason why I read BTF.org a lot less than I used to (and most times of the year, I've stopped reading it completely).

The new look (well, it's many months old now) that BTF has is disastrously bad. The content gets squeezed into a hard-to-read column in the middle. The old pages that I used to go to (namely baseballprimer.com, although that's now an alias) have been changed or merged or something -- I don't know what it is, I only know that when I go to "baseballprimer.com" I don't get the content that I used to get, nor the content that I want. Usually some articles from BaseballCentrist will be prominently featured; I have nothing against the central division or whatever the heck it is that BaseballCentrist is about, but it doesn't have articles that I want to read. Plus other bizarre stuff: "Gonfalon Cubs" articles keep showing up; again nothing against the Cubs but I don't want to read about the Cubs (if that is indeed what "Gonfalon Cubs" is about; what the heck IS "Gonfalon Cubs"?).

A few months ago I discovered the "Primery numbers" link that Michael mentions; that at least was a link that I could click on and know what I was going to get and know that it would usually be pretty good. But as he says, that link has disappeared!! On a few pages (I can't even begin to tell you which ones) there IS a link labelled "sabermetrics" which takes one to a good page, probably the same as the Primery numbers page. But most of the time, I cannot find that sabermetrics link.

Summarizing: Links which appear and disappear, and even when they exist, only exist on some pages and not others. Impossible navigation -- I don't even know what page is where. Worse quality content -- the old baseballprimer.com type of discussions and threads are probably somewhere, but I don't know where.

If, as I claim, I don't read BTF anymore, why am I here? Because for the past month or two there have been occasional "Looking Forward to" articles. As a Mariners fan, I've been waiting/looking for one about the Mariners. So that's why I've been clicking over to BTF once every couple of days lately. But: not only have I not found a "Looking forward to: 2006 Seattle Mariners" article, I don't even know if there has been one. (Doing a search for, say "forward 2006 seattle" turns up hundreds of hits, most of which are "Looking forward" articles for other teams.) So again the ungainly navigation of the current website is a huge negative. I have no problem with there being blogs or forums for Cubs fans and centrists and what not; but what I as a reader do need is a navigational structure that lets me avoid those topics and find the topics that I do want. BTF doesn't have that, and that's why I hardly read it anymore.
   34. DCW3 Posted: May 11, 2006 at 08:53 AM (#2014365)
For how many potential HOF caliber players do they have many years above replacement level but below average?
In otherwords how many seasons of data are actually being dropped?


It's pretty variable, which is one reason why I wanted to take a look at this--it's not like you can apply some sort of constant percentage adjustment to all players to correct for their below-average years. Almost every player, even the true greats, has a few below-average years mostly at the beginning or end of their careers that pull their career rate stats down, but there are some with a lot more than that: Robin Yount had six below-average seasons, Rickey Henderson seven, Eddie Murray eight. Dennis Martinez, who has a very respectable 22.21 GWAA, drops down to 9.78 if you include all his below-average seasons. An average-based metric (like ERA+) sheds very little light on a player like that without taking a closer look.

One thing that does come through is that it's very, very unusual to find a player without at least a couple bad years. Tony Gwynn was above average every single year of his 20-year career, which is truly remarkable. Pedro Martinez, who played fourteen years before 2006, is the player with the second-longest career I've found in this group to never have a below-average year, and we haven't seen Pedro's decline phase yet. (Though Bonds comes as close as one can get to being above average every year of his career: he had a WAA of -0.01 in his rookie year, and has been above average every year since.)

Or is it more a case of you don't want a guy who has 20 years of 10 runs above replacement to look like a guy who has 10 years of 20 runs above replacement? In which case this is more like career WAR - (years_played * difference_between_replacement_and_average).

Eddie Murray vs. Rafael Palmeiro is an excellent example of this line of thinking. If you were simply to compare Murray's career stats to Palmeiro's, you'd probably conclude that Palmeiro was the superior player: he had only about 700 fewer PAs, and an OPS+ of 132 vs. Murray's 129. But Murray had a lot more really good years than Palmeiro did--he just happened to have some really crappy years at the end of his career as well. I might be wrong, but I think that most people would agree, even before the steroid revelations, would consider Murray the superior player. Yet an average-based metric won't capture this, and, while I don't have the numbers in front of me, I don't think a replacement-level one would either. Even JAWS ranks Palmeiro as the seventh-best first baseman ever--while I don't know where Murray ranks, that seems awfully high for a player who could rarely be considered among the game's best. And JAWS includes a peak adjustment--I think Palmeiro's raw WARP3 score would rank him considerably higher on the list.

As a Mariners fan, I've been waiting/looking for one about the Mariners. So that's why I've been clicking over to BTF once every couple of days lately. But: not only have I not found a "Looking forward to: 2006 Seattle Mariners" article, I don't even know if there has been one. (Doing a search for, say "forward 2006 seattle" turns up hundreds of hits, most of which are "Looking forward" articles for other teams.)

I'm not going to address the site's other issues, but the Mariners preview was supposed to be written by Dan Werr, who is a wonderful writer (my favorite on the site), but seems to have an issue with deadlines. If you'd been a fan of any other team, you'd have had some better luck finding a preview.
   35. DCW3 Posted: May 11, 2006 at 08:54 AM (#2014366)
I might be wrong, but I think that most people <strike>would agree</strike>, even before the steroid revelations, would consider Murray the superior player.

You probably got what I meant there, though.
   36.     Hey Gurl Posted: May 11, 2006 at 10:28 AM (#2014370)
It's going to make me so sad when the HOF voters snub the Big Hurt.
   37. bookbook Posted: May 11, 2006 at 07:51 PM (#2014938)
I completely agree that Mike Schmidt is far more valuable than Edgar or even Frank Thomas. There's the defensive adjustment, and the baserunning adjustment that needs to be made when you're looking at two of the slowest, lumbering sluggers of the past thirty years.

If you pressed me, I'd argue Schmidt had a more valuable career than Roger Clemens as well.

My point still stands (in my mind at least). Edgar had a heckuva career with the bat. Most casual fans don't realize it.
   38. cardsfanboy Posted: May 11, 2006 at 08:53 PM (#2015030)
I like the way this looks at it, I'm sure you'll get complaints about dropping subpar seasons or whatnot, but that is just a different way of looking at it. The only criteria I would have is that you have to have at least 10 seasons(even if a couple of them are subpar) this represents the minimum number of years you must have to qualify for the hof. (of course you would still want to include guys like Pujols on the list just to show them off)

This list seems to be somewhat intuitive with what I would think. (the palmiero murray comments being exactly what I'm talking about) of course you have to start out when reading this list is that defense isn't included at all. Obviously Schmidt, Larkin, Trammel, Sandberg, Whittaker get a mental nudge upwards, but I think the hardest one to nudge is going to be Piazza, do you nudge him upwards or downwards?

glad to see there is at least one metric out there that puts Edmonds ahead of Bernie.
   39. alilisd Posted: August 30, 2006 at 07:30 PM (#2161866)
Even JAWS ranks Palmeiro as the seventh-best first baseman ever--while I don't know where Murray ranks, that seems awfully high for a player who could rarely be considered among the game's best.

I have Palmeiro at #6 with a JAWS of 99.5 and Murray at #5 with 101.4. The WARP3 adjustments BP made recently raised Bagwell to #2, Thomas to #7 and kept McGwire at #11. JAWS does have a peak adjustment, but it simply isn't enough to offset someone with an extremely long career like Palmeiro or Yaz, #3.
   40. alilisd Posted: August 30, 2006 at 07:34 PM (#2161874)
Nudge Piazza up or down? Does it matter? You could cut his score in half and it would still be higher than the tentative cutoff mark of Guerrero. :-)

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