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— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Sunday, December 15, 2002
Mike takes a look at The Kid’s accomplishments.
You?ll note that Carlton Fisk is rated as only the third-best comp for Gary Carter on baseball-reference.com, which stuns me. How could there be two more similar players? The first comp is Johnny Bench, who was clearly a better player than Gary, the second is Lance Parrish, just as clearly not as good as Carter.
Their career value pattern is different, Carter was great as a young player, Fisk was injured a lot. Carter?s last season was at age 38, and Fisk, who was a workout fanatic, had 5 very good years past that age.
Other than that, they seem as similar as the Olsen twins. Both finished in the top 10 in the MVP voting 4 times. Both were selected to 11 all-star teams. Fisk career stats are little better because he did play longer, and he played in better hitting parks.
It took Fisk two attempts to enter the Hall, missing out the first year when the Brett-Yount-Ryan class went in. Carter went on the ballot in 1998 and has slowly crept up the list.
So why is Fisk in and Carter out? I?d hope it isn?t just because of the ball that Fisk waved fair in the 1975 World Series, but it probably is.
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 Carter 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?
Yes, in 1986 he received one 1st place vote in the NL MVP voting, while finishing third behind Mike Schmidt and Glen Davis. In 1980 he finished 2nd in the voting, but Mike Schmidt was a unanimous selection.
2. Was he the best player on his team?
At least a half dozen times he was the best player on his team.
3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?
From 1979 thru 1988 Carter was on every NL All-Star team, and twice won the MVP award for that game. Basically between Bench and Piazza he was the dominant catcher in the National League.
During the 1980?s Carter led all major league catchers in Runs Created per Game, and OPS. He won 3 Gold Gloves, an important consideration for such a key defensive position.
4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?
From 1979 to 1982 Montreal was within 6 games of winning the division every year, and all five seasons he was a Met they finished first or second in the Eastern division.
5. Was he good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime?
This is a tough test for any player but especially tough on a catcher. Carter played in over 130 games at age 33 and 34, and more than 90 games each season at ages 36 thru 38.
6. Is he the very best baseball player in history who is not in the Hall of Fame?
Among the eligible players (not counting the first time players on the ballot), who played in the 20th century, Carter may be the best. Carter, Dick Allen, Bert Blyleven, Ron Santo, the Evans brothers - Darrell and Dwight, are the best. Carter might be the best of that group.
7. Are most players who have comparable statistics in the Hall of Fame?
Of the ten players listed as the most similar on baseball-reference.com, 4 are in the Hall, Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, Yogi Berra and Gabby Hartnet and two more are likely are likely to eventually get in, Joe Torre and Ron Santo. The others are Lance Parrish, Ted Simmons, Ron Cey, and Brian Downing.
8. Do the player?s numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?
The Hall of Fame Standards test shows Carter with 41.3 points, and the average HOFer with 50.
The Hall of Fame Monitor shows Carter with 135 points, and the likely HOFer has more than 100.
Carter has 337 Career Win Shares. The only catchers with more than 250 win Shares who are not in are Ted Simmons with 315, Joe Torre 315, Bill Freehan with 267 and Mike Piazza with 255. Only 3 catchers have more career win shares than Carter and all three are HOFers.
9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?
Isn?t that a silly question for a Primer audience? Carter?s career Park Factor per the stats handbook is 98, he hit exactly the same number of homers at home and on the road.
10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?
Yes ? Joe Torre and Ted Simmons are probably also deserving, but he is the best of the trio.
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 finished in the top 10 four times, finishing 2nd, 3rd, and 6th twice and received votes in 7 different seasons. 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.
His biggest mistake was having his best years when Mike Schmidt was at his peak.
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?
Carter was selected to the All-Star team 11 times, but didn?t play in 1985 due to an injury. In ten of those seasons his production confirmed the selection.
Others who played in 10 All-Star Games, Mike Schmidt, Enos Slaughter, Kirby Puckett, Johnny Mize, Ryne Sandberg, Eddie Mathews, Joe Medwick, Steve Garvey, Carton Fisk, George Brett, Ken Boyer, and Luis Aparicio.
9 of 11 are in the Hall, removing Sandberg as an unknown.
13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?
Yes, but it never actually happened. In the three seasons his teams made the post season Carter was not the best player on the team, and they never did in any of the half dozen seasons that he was the top player.
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?
Of the 15 questions above, there the lone question that works against him is number 14, or what I think of as the Candy Cummings question. A few questions don?t promote his candidacy, 5,9, and 13. The rest all come down on his side of the ledger, including the big one, number 6, "Is he the best player in baseball history not currently in the Hall of Fame?"
Should he be in the Hall is a ridiculous question to me. Of course he should!
The better question is where he ranks all-time among the catchers.
I see the catchers this way. The first-tier guys, Berra, Bench, Campanella, and Piazza.
The second-tier guys who are all clearly Hall of Famers, Cocharne, Hartnett, Dickey, Fisk who are already in, and Gary Carter, Joe Torre, and Ted Simmons who aren?t. Ivan Rodriguez probably finishes into this group if he can put together a couple more solid if not spectacular seasons.
After that there are probably thirty guys who are hard to rank, but definitely aren?t in the first or second group. Some are in the Hall, and some are out. There seems to be no rhyme or reason why a player is in or out. Those that are include, Ernie Lombardi, Rick Ferrell, Ray Schalk and Roger Bresnahan. Those that are out include Thurman Munson, Bill Freehan, Wally Schang, and Bob Boone. I wouldn?t vote for any player in this group.
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