— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Wednesday, December 18, 2002
Atlanta’s 2-time MVP centerfielder steps up to the chopping block.
Using the "Keltner Test" developed by Bill James in the 1980s, here are my answers to a set of 15 subjective questions to determine whether Dale Murphy should be on the outside looking in.
1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?
Dale Murphy certainly would have merited consideration as the best player in baseball from 1982-1987. He won consecutive MVP awards (1982 and 1983), which is a pretty rare feat. Murphy was also in the top 10 the next two years. He had a huge 1987 (like everyone else) and would have been a better choice than Andre Dawson, but finished 11th.
Winning two consecutive MVP awards, however, does mean that he was regarded as one of, if not the, best players in baseball. He was never incontestably the best player in a Barry Bonds/Babe Ruth sense, but he was up there.
2. Was he the best player on his team?
Certainly. He played for the Braves back when they stunk, really stunk.
3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?
He was a gold glove winning centerfielder and an MVP candidate. He was the best centerfielder with the bat and one of the best with the leather.
4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?
One. He played on some terrible teams, but in 1982 he was the best player on a Braves squad that squeaked out the NL West by one game.
5. Was he good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime?
This is where Murphy falls apart. His game fell apart in 1988 at the age of 32 and never recovered. He left the 900+ OPS range of the past and settled in at about 700. Even a trip to Mile High Stadium as a 37 year-old could not resuscitate his career.
6. Is he the very best baseball player in history who is not in the Hall of Fame?
No. In my mind Gary Carter is. Because Murphy?s career collapsed so completely, he doesn?t really get serious consideration.
7. Are most players who have comparable statistics in the Hall of Fame?
Only Duke Snider, his second best comp, is in the hall. His comp group is primarily a bunch of all star corner outfielders/DH/1B types (Joe Carter, Don Baylor, George Foster, Lee May, Bobby Bonilla, Darrell Evans). He was highly similar to Reggie Jackson every year from age 28-35, which tells you that he was on the right track.
8. Do the player?s numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?
The Hall of Fame Standards test shows Murphy with 34.3 points, and the average HOFer with 50.
The Hall of Fame Monitor shows Carter with 115 points, and the likely HOFer has more than 100.
Murphy has 294 career Win Shares. But from 1980-1987 they run 28, 11, 32, 32, 33, 31, 22, 29. A pretty good peak, but not Hall of Fame.
9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?
His home park was one of the best hitters parks in the pre-Denver days. His home stats were 284/373/508 and his away stats were 252/329/447.
10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?
He is probably the best CF not in the hall, but he would be surpassed by the retirement of Ken Griffey Jr., who is on his own Murphy-like decline.
11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?
He won twice, finished in the top 10 twice. He also got votes in 1980, 1986 and 1987.
He had 4 seasons in his career in which he earned 30 or more win shares. Seasons with more than 30 win shares denote an MVP level of performance.
12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the players who played in this many All-Star games go into the Hall of Fame?
He was an All-Star 7 times. It?s an intermediate number, but in general, players that sustain that long a run are Hall of Famers.
13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?
Without a doubt. He was a slugging, gold glove winning centerfielder.
14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?
Not that I am aware of.
15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?
A high peak, but with such a poor finish! Dale Murphy passes all of the peak questions with flying colours, but his career accomplishments work strongly against him. If his career had ended in 1987 in a Kirby Puckett-esque manner, then we might be considering him, but I don?t think that Dale Murphy is a Hall of Famer.