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Friday, September 11, 2020

A Brief Note on Lou Brock’s Relatively Low Career WAR Total

To wit, of Brock’s 187 offensive runs above average, 75 were due to stolen bases. Unfortunately, this misses all of the other runs Brock created advancing on batted balls, which would likely give him somewhere between five to 10 wins above his current WAR. His peers have fewer potential issues in this regard because the majority of their runs come from hitting, meaning WAR misses little of their career production, while Brock gets uniquely penalized.

And while defensive metrics are still somewhat noisy today, the Total Zone metrics used for Brock’s era are further removed from the field. Those metrics would have you believe Brock was an above-average fielder in his 20s and then immediately became one of the worst left fielders in history in his 30s. Brock showed little sign of aging as a hitter and was a more prolific basestealer in his 30s, but he dropped nearly 10 wins in defensive WAR alone over his early 30s, two to three times as much as comparable left fielders. You don’t have to give Brock those five to 10 wins on defense, but we should at least accept the possibility that his value in the field is greater than he’s being given credit for in WAR.

Lastly, there’s Brock’s postseason performance. Brock played in three World Series that each went seven games, with the Cardinals winning two of those three championships. His .391/.424/.655 line resulted in a 213 wRC+ over 92 playoff plate appearances.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 11, 2020 at 11:23 AM | 88 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: lou brock

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   1. BillWallace Posted: September 11, 2020 at 01:03 PM (#5975763)
I suppose I'm part of the target audience for this article, and it worked. I have definitely seen Brock's WAR and dismissed him as a well below par hall of famer. The article hits on three points:

1) The base-running skills other than stealing are not factored into his WAR and he was amazing at those
2) He was great in the WS and that should count
3) It's hard to believe his defense could have been as bad as the (known to be flawed) metrics say


I agree with all three points. For (1) I thought these were factored in, but I guess it must be only after a point in time and Brock is before that time. His WAR is clearly depressed by not including that part. The author noted that Brock was substantially better than even Tim Raines at avoiding DPs and going first to third. That's amazing.

For (2) I've always thought that narrative does and should play a role in HoF. He was great in the playoffs and contributed directly to championships, so he gets that bump.

(3) is the most interesting to me. It does seem almost inconceivable that someone so fast and otherwise skilled could be one of the worst left fielders of all time. I guess his defense was known to be weak and he made errors, but could it really be that bad? Was Lou Brock literally worse than Mark Trumbo in the outfield over a 10 year stretch? I don't buy it. Anyone who watched his career have any insight?

Make Brock merely a mediocre fielder and give him the baserunning credit he deserves, and he becomes easily on the border by straight WAR, with narrative to spare to make him a comfortable hall of famer.
   2. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: September 11, 2020 at 01:37 PM (#5975777)
worst dWAR between 1969-79 (Brock's 30s)
   3. RJ in TO Posted: September 11, 2020 at 01:38 PM (#5975778)
Is there any reason to suspect his defense was better than measured, other than just assuming it should be because he was fast? The numbers show him as being slightly above average when he was young, declining to slightly below average when he was old, which is a fairly normal pattern - for his career by B-R, he was -51 runs over 2616 games, or about -3 runs a season. It's not like its showing him as being a nightmare or otherwise unplayable out there, and it doesn't seem to be a park effect, as other players with the Cards were putting up above average numbers defensively in the outfield. The only thing I could guess would be that, because he had the chance to play behind some good to excellent CFs (Flood, Cruz, McBride), perhaps his numbers are getting slightly suppressed by them taking balls he would normally have caught.

Also, like Bill in the post above, for whatever reason, I thought the baserunning component of WAR generally did include extra base advancement, for periods where the PbP is available, which it should be for the entirety of Brock's career.
   4. Mefisto Posted: September 11, 2020 at 01:53 PM (#5975780)
I sure thought non-SB baserunning was included.
   5. Rally Posted: September 11, 2020 at 01:57 PM (#5975782)
As someone who is a little bit familiar with WAR, I think this is wrong on both counts.

Brock stole 938 bases and was caught 307 times. Using linear weight values of +.19 for a steal and -.44 for CS, that comes out to +43 runs. The extra 35 runs (bbref has him at +78) is all the other baserunning stuff he did. BBref also gives him +25 runs for avoiding double plays.

All of this comes from Retrosheet game logs. We have reasonably complete Retrosheet accounts for games during Brock's career. If I remember correctly, they are missing a few games in the late 60s/early 70s, but 100% complete from about 1974 on. Without looking it up, I'm fairly sure we have game accounts for at least 90% of Brock's career.

Comparing him to Tim Raines, Timmy is at +115 baserunning, but with his better success rate (808/146) comes out to +89 on steals, +26 on everything else.

As for fielding, there are players that TZ has wrong. It's not the precise measure that we can get out of Statcast today. But skepticism on Brock really comes down to "he was so fast, I can't believe he was a bad fielder". It's people who are too young to have watched him play being skeptical of the numbers. As far as I know, this skepticism does not come from those who actually watched him play. Bill James saw him play, and he knows Brock was not a very good outfielder.

Brock Hanke saw him play, here's what he wrote recently in the obituary thread:

"I think the Brock for Broglio trade is generally misunderstood. Racism aside, the Cubs had a problem - they had no place to play Lou Brock. He didn't have the arm for RF, nor the glove for CF. The Cubs had Billy Williams in LF. They couldn't move either Williams or Brock to 1B, because they had Ernie Banks there. They couldn't move Banks to 3B, which was probably where he belonged, because they had Ron Santo. They just had no position for Lou. But they needed pitching. The Cards, on the other hand, had pitching, but were looking very hard for a LF. Stan Musial had retired after the 1963 season, and the farm system was not cranking out outfielders at the time. It was producing pitching. So, the Cards were willing - actually eager - to take a gamble on a young LF. I got a chance to ask Bing Devine (Cards GM at the time) about the trade, and he told me that I essentially had it right. As to the racism aspect, the Cards were also very willing, at the time, to add black players - it was a high priority for owner Gussie Busch - so taking a gamble on a black kid with obvious defensive weaknesses was not a problem for them. I didn't ask Devine about that, because it was common knowledge at the time. But the main point is that the Cubs really needed to trade Lou Brock for something of value, and they needed pitching, and the Cards were desperate for a LF, and had pitching."

"obvious defensive weaknesses" - does not seem like something you'd say about a fast, good defensive outfielder who inexplicably rates low by some nerd's computer formula developed long after Brock retired.
   6. Rally Posted: September 11, 2020 at 02:03 PM (#5975783)
As for Brock's defense falling off in his 30s, yeah, that's a normal pattern for just about every outfielder ever.

to age 29: +3 per year
30+: -7

But Lou kept his speed! He set the record when he was 35! Surely that pattern can't apply to him.

How about Rickey?

to age 29: +8 per year
30+: -1

Same decline, Rickey just started from a higher defensive level.
   7. Mefisto Posted: September 11, 2020 at 02:09 PM (#5975785)
Thanks Rally.
   8. The Duke Posted: September 11, 2020 at 02:12 PM (#5975787)
I watched him for years in the 70s. He was every bit as bad as the metrics say. But, he was a left fielder, so left field defense is really not that important. He made routine plays and played a pretty conservative style, recognizing his own weaknesses. He had an inaccurate arm, ran bad routes, was a lefty playing LF so he struggled on balls hit into the corner, and generally did not get good reads on fly balls, especially line drives. He was fast so he was able to cut off balls in the gap. There were not many worse than him but like I said, it largely didn’t hurt given the minimal consequences of bad defense there and his very conservative playing style out there.
   9. RJ in TO Posted: September 11, 2020 at 02:17 PM (#5975788)
worst dWAR between 1969-79 Brock's 30s)
That Brock shows up at the top of this list mostly just demonstrates he was a durable old guy. He was at -63 for the positional adjustment, and -74 for the actual defensive performance, over 1557 games. So from age 30 to 40, he was about -8 runs per 162 games in the field against the average left fielder, which is well within the range of believable.
   10. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: September 11, 2020 at 02:31 PM (#5975791)
That Brock shows up at the top of this list mostly just demonstrates he was a durable old guy. He was at -63 for the positional adjustment, and -74 for the actual defensive performance, over 1557 games. So from age 30 to 40, he was about -8 runs per 162 games in the field against the average left fielder, which is well within the range of believable.


yes, if you calculate dWAR/game, he ends up in the middle of the list. Frank Howard has, by far, the worst dWAR/game (-1.63)
   11. Rally Posted: September 11, 2020 at 02:33 PM (#5975793)
Bill James wrote this in the original Historical Abstract:

"Historical revisionists of today, not satisfied with...have begun arguing that Lou Brock was a good outfielder. This, gentlemen, is going too far. There are too many of us still alive who saw the man play. Lou had no arm and a tendency to freeze up on balls hit right at him."

That was published in 1988.

   12. Ron J Posted: September 11, 2020 at 02:35 PM (#5975794)
#5 I don't want to hold up Stratomatic fielding ratings as anything other than a representation of the player's reputation, but it is worth noting that Brock was usually rated a 3 or 4. He was not a highly regarded defensive player when active.
   13. BillWallace Posted: September 11, 2020 at 02:47 PM (#5975798)
Great counterpoints, thanks.
I guess the author was wrong about the baserunning? but that's weird.
And good perspective on the D
   14. Darren Posted: September 11, 2020 at 02:59 PM (#5975805)
But Lou kept his speed! He set the record when he was 35! Surely that pattern can't apply to him.

How about Rickey?

to age 29: +8 per year
30+: -1

Same decline, Rickey just started from a higher defensive level.


Not that I'm signing onto it, but I thought the point of the article was that Brock was stealing 118 bases at age 35, so it's unlikely he lost his speed. Rickey's biggest SB numbers came when he was young.
   15. Rally Posted: September 11, 2020 at 03:11 PM (#5975807)
Despite the record, I think the chances of Brock actually being faster at 35 than he was at 30 or 25 is virtually zero. The SB record is a product of his desire to chase the record.

Both players were great base stealers throughout their careers. Rickey stole 66 bases in 79 attempts when he was 39 years old. I see them as fast guys who maintained their speed into old baseball age better than just about anyone. I don't think Brock's age 35 season means his speed actually peaked at that age.
   16. Rally Posted: September 11, 2020 at 03:19 PM (#5975810)
Now I actually don't know that much about why the record happened when it did. I was around but too little to follow the game. For some reason Lou stole about double his usual SB total, then the next year he was back to normal.

Looking at splits, he was ahead of his normal pace early in the year but not by that much. 30 steals (and only 2 CS!) through the end of May. 65 by the end of July. That was already a normal Brock total, and he had 2 months to go. His highest single month total that year was 18 at that point. Then in August he stole 29, in 41 attempts. In September 24 more in 32 attempts.

I guess he was just having a better SB season than normal, and then decided to up his efforts when it looked like he had a shot at the record.
   17. Harmon "Thread Killer" Microbrew Posted: September 11, 2020 at 04:39 PM (#5975824)
Now I actually don't know that much about why the record happened when it did. I was around but too little to follow the game. For some reason Lou stole about double his usual SB total, then the next year he was back to normal.


From the obit thread:https://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/newsstand/discussion/cardinals_legend_lou_brock_dies_sunday_afternoon_at_81

cardsfanboy: That season is one of Brock's go to stories. He's in New York a few days after Hank Aaron passes Babe Ruth and get's called to the NL front office, he goes in and says that was a mighty fine feather for the league to celebrate Hank's accomplishment. According to Brock, the NL and AL were fierce rivals in those days for press attention, and the league president tells Lou that he wanted Lou to set the record for steals in a season. Lou is like "me, can't it be someone younger?" and the league says no, it needs to be you... he's like "man I'm old... I don't know about this." The league tells him that from this day forth it is going to make sure that every newspaper article is about his attempt to set the single season record, every day they will publish whether Lou has a stolen base or not.
   18. Walt Davis Posted: September 11, 2020 at 05:58 PM (#5975831)
So Vince Coleman musta been a gold-glover!

On Brock's piece that Rally quoted: he's correct about the Cubs at the time but the Cubs moved Williams to RF for two seasons the year after trading Brock. He had 106 starts in RF and 29 in CF (!) in 65 and 152 in RF in 66. FWIW, TZ puts him as average in RF those two years. In the first half of 64, the Cubs were putting Brock in RF and Billy in LF which suggest it's possible the Cubs thought Billy would have been even worse in RF but maybe they just didn't want to mess with him. Regardless, Brock's playing time ended up taken by Len Gabrielson (81 OPS+) and Doug Clemens (a nice 117 OPS+ in the best 160 PA of his career). In 65, Billy moved to RF to create playing time for the badly-aging George Altman, (not that one) Jimmy Stewart (65 OPS+) and the back-to-earth Clemens. In 66, he ceded it to Byron Browne, more Altman, John Boccabella (career 62 OPS+), Clemens ...

(On the racism/quuta thing ... the rumor mill in the early 70s certainly had Wrigley in that basket but in this particular case, trading Brock and replacing him mostly with Altman and Browne would have been an odd way to reduce the number of black players on the team.)

On baserunning -- b-r has detailed baseruning stats available for all of Brock's career. (Go to "finders and advanced stats tab" and click "advanced batting" and you'll find the table far down that page. He was CS 306 times (263 at 2B), he was picked off 40 times. He made some other out on the bases 192 times with 73 at home (that seems like a lot but I have no idea). There were 537 times he was on first when a single was hit -- he stopped at second on 294 of those singles; made it to third (or scored) 230 times which leaves him with 13 times thrown out. On first for a double 107 times, scored a bit under half the time. He was on second for a single 493 times, scored 322 of those, seems to have gotten thrown out 23 times. To get him up to 192 outs on the bases, he seems to have either been really bad on fly balls or really bad on trying to stretch base hits. (Or I'm reading the table wrong somewhere or the OOB data is more complete than the advancing data.)

Raines was CS just 146 times and PO'd only 16 (he usually took off for 2B so captured in the CS) and OOB'd only 107 times. Looks like Brock was better going 1st to 3rd, about the same on first to home on doubles and second to home on singles. Ichiro was CS 117 times, PO'd just 12 times and OOB'd just 91 times. He did not go 1st to 3rd particularly often (partly the sillyball era), nor 1st to home and 2nd to home less than either Raines or Brock. I just noticed that b-r also has "bases taken" (on flyballs, wild pitches, etc.) Ichiro had 304, Raines 351, Brock 331.

Add it all up and Brock is credited with 78 Rbase and 25 Rdp; Raines is credited with 115 Rbase but only 8 Rdp; Ichiro just 62 Rbase but a whopping 56 Rdp. So Brock is getting 103 runs total; Raines 123; Ichiro 118 ... even if we think WAR's baserunning stats are under-valuing Brock, it's hard to argue it could be more than a couple of wins. In contrast the excellent Beltran gets just 65.

On fielding ... Beltran might be handy here. A CF for 21-29, he had 44 Rfield, 6.8 dWAR. He stayed in CF through 33 and was excellent with 24 Rfield and 3.3 dWAR. But after 2 years of injuries he shifted to RF at 34 and started DH'ing more: -29 Rfield, -8 dWAR through age 40. All of that enough to bring his career dWAR total down to 2 WAR.

There are obviously lots of things that affect the number of put-outs a OF gets in a season (which DRS, statcast, etc. try to correct for ... not sure how much correction gets built into TZ) but ... In his early years in StL, Brock tended to have about 270-275 putouts each year. This falls to around 250-260 for his early 30s, the years where TZ dings him especially hard. It jumps substantially to 310 and 280 at ages 34-35 and his TZ is still bad but better. After that it's a bit hard to tell given the reduced playing time but there are years (35, 39, 40) where his RF/9 is well below league average.

But for his career, his RF/9 is pretty much dead-on league average for a LF so it's reasonable to think his Rfield might have been around zero rather than -51. So maybe he deserves 5 wins back there, add it to the 2 wins we might miss in base-running and ... 7 WAR brings him to 52. Even if you brought him up to Rickey's 147 Rbase+Rdp that's only another 3 wins and we still need to give him yet 5 more defensive wins to get him to 60 WAR which, coincidentally enough, would make him about equal to Rickey there too.

No I can't guarantee that Brock wasn't as good as Rickey on the bases and in the field ... but we have no good reason to believe that he was and the people who have put a ton of work into trying to figure these things out tell us it's not even partciularly close. So he wasn't really at 60 WAR, he probably wasn't really at 52 WAR. But hey, he was a 1st ballot HoFer and clearly belongs in a HoF that has Puckett, Perez, Rice and (good lord) Baines.
   19. Walt Davis Posted: September 11, 2020 at 06:23 PM (#5975836)
Going back to the baserunning #s ... we have a tendency to over-rate baserunning. Look at that -- for his entire career, there were only 537 times Brock was on 1st when a single was hit. That's only about once every 5 games, about once every 6 times he reached first base safely. He went 1st to 3rd on a single less than half the time (but a better rate than Raines or Ichiro) so that's about once every 12+ times he reached 1B safely. And going 1st to 3rd is really nice when there's one out but doesn't have a huge impact on your chances of scoring with 0 or 2 outs (especially if you're fast). Getting thrown out attempting to do so has a hugely negative impact of course.

By the way, the baserunning table also has RoE which is also a function of speed, handedness and GB and contact rates (somewhat like Rdp). Brock had 163 in over 11,000 PA; Raines had just in over 10,000 PA; Ichiro 129 in 10,700 PA (about halfway between Raines and Brock). Brock appears to have been more of a GB hitter than Raines but about the same as Ichiro; Brock and Raines had similar IP% but Ichiro put it in play about 10% more than either; Raines of course sometimes batted RH which probably cost him a few RoE but not many, he's probably more hurt by being more of a FB hitter. (To be clear, we don't have GB/FB for Brock or only half of Raines. I've poked around a bit and GO/AO, which we do have, seems a good proxy but it would be great if somebody could do that formally -- if it's a strong enough correlation for the period we have both, it would allow us to estimate GB/FB for everybody. Anyway, I am using GO/AO here.)

I don't think we know how many IF singles Brock had, those are also a function of speed, handedness, GB and contact. When I poked around ages ago, Ichiro seemed to have a ton thanks to his batting style but there's a good chance Brock had more than Raines.
   20. puck Posted: September 11, 2020 at 08:51 PM (#5975877)
Can judging fly balls be taught to any extent? Should Brock have been able to learn to be a decent OF given the advantage of his speed?
   21. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: September 11, 2020 at 10:23 PM (#5975922)
I read TFA, and it felt like an apology to old timers for not corroborating Brock’s reputation. If your brand is based on creating strong stats that help readers see past the noise and get under the hood of player performance, this article goes against the brand. It’s not that it’s bad to be conscientious about the estimation aspect of WAR, but that’s not what they are doing. Did they get a lot of bad tweets/emails this week that they felt the need to respond to? Kinda feels like the author drew the short straw on who would reply to any flak they caught.
   22. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 12, 2020 at 12:30 AM (#5975977)
Craig Edwards is a Cardinals fan, FWIW.
   23. Walt Davis Posted: September 12, 2020 at 12:45 AM (#5975978)
I didn't notice this was from fangraphs. I have no idea what baserunning data they may have access to.

#20 ... I have no idea but I'd imagine experience is the best teacher. There might be some tricks they can teach you but if you haven't figured it out after 5000 innings in the majors (Brock through 26), there's probably nothing anybody can do.

I see Brock wasn't signed until he was 22, spent a single season at class C then was in the majors for good ... that's unusual. I assume he was playing ball in college but with the NeL gone, he may not have gotten to play much ages 18-21 ... and no idea how much he would have gotten to play in AR high school in the late 50s. So it is possible that he simply didn't get anywhere near the amount of coaching a 23-year-old would normally have had before reaching the majors. That might have happened to other black players of that era but it contrasts with Billy Williams whom the Cubs signed at 18 and he progressed in a standard fashion through AAA before making the majors for good at 23.

Another possibility ... some saber nerd did a good amount of digging into Tim Raines. Raines also wasn't a great LF and didn't get to as many FB as you might expect. That research suggested though that once Raines got going, he closed ground quickly (makes sense) and so held a lot of hits to singles or doubles that would normally have gone for an extra base and/or held a runner from taking 3rd. That might have been true of Brock. But just as opportunities to go from 1st to 3rd when you're on base don't come up that often, opportunities to hold a runner from the OF aren't that common either so it seems unlikely it would have added a substantial number of wins.

It is weird but it's not uncommon. Rickey was rated as good in CF but got shunted off to LF (Dwayne Murphy) where he was really good in his 20s then became pretty ordinary. Vince Coleman and Lonnie Smith were plenty fast and lousy fielders. Ron LeFlore was apparently terrible in CF and got shoved to a corner at 30 where he was below-average. Miguel Dilone could fly but was sent to LF almost immediately where he was mediocre in limited PT. Same with Dave Collins who had a couple of big defensive years but was otherwise average in LF. I mean wome of these guys were being comped to Luzinski or Frank Howard or Brian Downing (perfectly solid) or Ron Kittle or John Kruk or Willie Stargell who they could absolutely run circles around and were still coming up average.
   24. Sweatpants Posted: September 12, 2020 at 12:48 AM (#5975979)
As someone who is a little bit familiar with WAR, I think this is wrong on both counts.

Brock stole 938 bases and was caught 307 times. Using linear weight values of +.19 for a steal and -.44 for CS, that comes out to +43 runs. The extra 35 runs (bbref has him at +78) is all the other baserunning stuff he did. BBref also gives him +25 runs for avoiding double plays.

All of this comes from Retrosheet game logs. We have reasonably complete Retrosheet accounts for games during Brock's career. If I remember correctly, they are missing a few games in the late 60s/early 70s, but 100% complete from about 1974 on. Without looking it up, I'm fairly sure we have game accounts for at least 90% of Brock's career.
The author is talking about Fangraphs WAR, though (it's a Fangraphs article). It looks like Fangraphs doesn't include non-SB baserunning runs from seasons prior to 2002. It's curious that they give him +75 baserunning runs to B-R's +78, when Fangraphs' total comes from SB/CS only and B-R counts all baserunning plays.
   25. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: September 12, 2020 at 10:23 AM (#5975993)
It is weird but it's not uncommon. Rickey was rated as good in CF but got shunted off to LF (Dwayne Murphy) where he was really good in his 20s then became pretty ordinary. Vince Coleman and Lonnie Smith were plenty fast and lousy fielders. Ron LeFlore was apparently terrible in CF and got shoved to a corner at 30 where he was below-average. Miguel Dilone could fly but was sent to LF almost immediately where he was mediocre in limited PT. Same with Dave Collins who had a couple of big defensive years but was otherwise average in LF.


And Bo Jackson was basically a god among men, with a career -4.5 dWAR. (Isn't it pretty much a cliche now that fast guys usually aren't good fielders...?)
   26. RJ in TO Posted: September 12, 2020 at 10:59 AM (#5975996)
Another possibility ... some saber nerd did a good amount of digging into Tim Raines. Raines also wasn't a great LF and didn't get to as many FB as you might expect.
Raines was drafted as a SS, played mostly 2B through the minors, and only really started playing LF once he got to the majors. Under such a development path, it wouldn't surprise me if he wasn't quite as good a LF as his tools would suggest.
   27. Jay Z Posted: September 12, 2020 at 11:22 AM (#5975999)
The leadoff hitter who can't field is a more recent development in baseball, I think.

Prior, to Brock, the top base stealers were Aparicio and Wills. Shortstops.

Dale Mitchell would be about the first leadoff hitter who really couldn't field, I think. Earlier you had your all around hitters, could win the triple crown, like Williams and Joe DiMaggio. The lesser outfielders just did less of those things. If there was a player more known for speed, like Dom DiMaggio, they nearly always played CF.

With Brock, even the leadoff types who are better, like Rose, Henderson, Molitor, Jackie Robinson, all had more defensive value. Brock was more of a prototype for guys like Ralph Garr. Garr won a batting title, Brock didn't, but Garr couldn't get 10 years in as a regular because he fell off. Brock never came close to a batting title, but he just kept hitting .300 year after year, at a time where that was probably more valued than any other time (see Steve Garvey.) His power and defense fell off, but the leadoff skills did not. So Brock was kind of an epitome, the absolute best case scenario for a player with his limitations.
   28. The Honorable Ardo Posted: September 12, 2020 at 11:31 AM (#5976000)
Great discussion. I'd say it justifies the Hall of Merit's decision to exclude Brock.
   29. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 12, 2020 at 11:47 AM (#5976003)
I read TFA, and it felt like an apology to old timers for not corroborating Brock’s reputation. If your brand is based on creating strong stats that help readers see past the noise and get under the hood of player performance, this article goes against the brand. It’s not that it’s bad to be conscientious about the estimation aspect of WAR, but that’s not what they are doing. Did they get a lot of bad tweets/emails this week that they felt the need to respond to? Kinda feels like the author drew the short straw on who would reply to any flak they caught.
Completely agree, and I’m glad I’m not the only one who picked up on this. Seems to me that in the last several years the saber community has developed an apologetic and even self-flagellating streak in response to what it perceives as its excesses in the Moneyball/Fire Joe Morgan era.
   30. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 12, 2020 at 12:35 PM (#5976007)
I also find it disturbing that saying someone shouldn't really be in the HoF is now taken as saying they weren't any good.

Brock was a very good, accomplished ballplayer, who doesn't really rise to HoF levels. There's no shamin that. being one of the 500 best to ever play baseball, rather than the top-250, is still pretty special.
   31. BDC Posted: September 12, 2020 at 01:02 PM (#5976012)
One thing that Brock took some criticism for in real time, as well, was striking out a lot. He was usually among the league leaders in batter strikeouts and had nine seasons of 100 or more.

In that respect, later analysis would be kinder to him, not caring how he made his outs. But the old-timers would have had something of a point because Brock didn't walk a great deal, especially in his younger years.
   32. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 12, 2020 at 01:49 PM (#5976017)
One thing that Brock took some criticism for in real time, as well, was striking out a lot. He was usually among the league leaders in batter strikeouts and had nine seasons of 100 or more.

In that respect, later analysis would be kinder to him, not caring how he made his outs. But the old-timers would have had something of a point because Brock didn't walk a great deal, especially in his younger years.


I think it's still an open question if a guy with his speed, and moderate power, should have been trading weaker contact for more contact. Especially in an era when pitchers were happy to let you put the ball in play.
   33. Ron J Posted: September 12, 2020 at 01:58 PM (#5976018)
#26 He also played very conservatively.

One thing we did find looking at total zone was that he was extremely good at preventing extra bases -- to the point that he's slightly underrated if you only judge him by plays not made. And that's consistent with playing things safe and trying to not get out of position.
   34. Ron J Posted: September 12, 2020 at 02:01 PM (#5976019)
Dupe
   35. Jay Z Posted: September 12, 2020 at 03:52 PM (#5976027)
One thing that Brock took some criticism for in real time, as well, was striking out a lot. He was usually among the league leaders in batter strikeouts and had nine seasons of 100 or more.

In that respect, later analysis would be kinder to him, not caring how he made his outs. But the old-timers would have had something of a point because Brock didn't walk a great deal, especially in his younger years.


Brock struck out a lot, but he hit .300 anyway. Plus, strikeouts were considered less costly for a leadoff hitter, because nobody was on base. That's part of the reason Bobby Bonds kept getting moved back into leadoff, not only to take advantage of his speed, but because they didn't like the strikeouts with men on base.

Plus Brock was never judged against the sluggers of his day, anyway. Not against Reggie Jackson and Bonds. It was always "He hit 21 HR in 1967! That's a lot for a leadoff hitter!" Sure, but it's not a lot for a left fielder.

Brock always had some position player on his team that was better. In 1968, he was the best one. Otherwise, there was Ken Boyer (MVP), Orlando Cepeda (MVP), Joe Torre (MVP), Ted Simmons, Reggie Smith, Keith Hernandez (MVP.) They all waited longer to get in the HOF than Brock, or aren't there yet.

Brock never really had the critical eye cast upon him that other stars did. They didn't look at him like Reggie Jackson, see all of the strikeouts. Even though Reggie won an MVP and Brock didn't. Brock had a lot of favorable publicity. Boyer won the MVP in 1964, but he'd been on the team for years. Brock got traded for, and they won, so Brock likely gets more credit, subconsciously. Then you've got the SB record and 3000 hits, and even Bill James didn't question Brock's election. But Brock was never really judged against his peers until after he'd been elected to the HOF.
   36. SoSH U at work Posted: September 12, 2020 at 04:03 PM (#5976030)
The Hall of Fame and Hall of Merit both got it right on Brock.
   37. John DiFool2 Posted: September 12, 2020 at 04:06 PM (#5976031)
Look at that -- for his entire career, there were only 537 times Brock was on 1st when a single was hit. That's only about once every 5 games, about once every 6 times he reached first base safely. He went 1st to 3rd on a single less than half the time (but a better rate than Raines or Ichiro) so that's about once every 12+ times he reached 1B safely. And going 1st to 3rd is really nice when there's one out but doesn't have a huge impact on your chances of scoring with 0 or 2 outs (especially if you're fast). Getting thrown out attempting to do so has a hugely negative impact of course.


If he's still on 1st that of course means that he didn't steal, likely because it was a non-steal situation with a power hitter up. Or he had a slow guy on 2nd who had to stop at 3rd more than half the time and also blocked him from stealing in the first place (absent a double steal of course).
   38. BillWallace Posted: September 12, 2020 at 06:34 PM (#5976048)
I enjoyed this discussion very much, thanks all.

The Hall of Fame and Hall of Merit both got it right on Brock.


I like this
   39. cardsfanboy Posted: September 12, 2020 at 06:52 PM (#5976050)
The Hall of Fame and Hall of Merit both got it right on Brock.


I 90% agree with this post.... I don't disagree, but I think both institutions are wrong on their 'final' assessment. I think he's more valuable than the hom gives him credit, even though he's still not worthy of being a hom guy, and I think he's less valuable than the hof gives him credit (meaning he shouldn't have been a slam dunk first year guy... there really should have been more discussion of him for many of the reasons people in here are talking about)

It's going to always be hard to convince me that we have an accurate break even point at this point in time on stolen bases, it's a per pitch decision, being evaluated based upon a per event outcome. I don't think we will ever get a system that makes me comfortable, you would almost have to combine a wpa table, with a modified wpa based upon lineup,(since steals is a decision and not a random factor as much as putting a ball in play) combined with pitch selection and pitch states.
   40. BDC Posted: September 12, 2020 at 07:04 PM (#5976051)
I think it's still an open question if a guy with his speed, and moderate power, should have been trading weaker contact for more contact. Especially in an era when pitchers were happy to let you put the ball in play

Exactly. Though of course it's more a question about how Brock was evaluated: his skills were his skills and he might not have been able to morph them into different skills.

Brock did, as you say, have decent power for a '60s leadoff man, and that was a plus both then and in retrospect.
   41. Ron J Posted: September 12, 2020 at 07:10 PM (#5976053)
#39 That's true, but there is kind of an indirect test of the significance. If it really mattered you'd expect it to manifest in one of two ways. Either Brocks teams would score more runs than expected given their stats or they'd win more games than you'd expect given their runs scored and allowed.

And yes, silly to attribute any deviations to a single player. But if you don't find evidence of either then it weakens the case that it matters a lot.

And for the record I know there are studies that have looked at the game state in evaluating both base stealing and baserunning in general. I don't think anything of interest showed up for Brock but it's been a while since I checked.
   42. cardsfanboy Posted: September 12, 2020 at 07:12 PM (#5976054)
Brock did, as you say, have decent power for a '60s leadoff man, and that was a plus both then and in retrospect
.

Brock had exceptional power at times. He just didn't translate it often, but hit some long ass homeruns when given a chance

hitting a home run over the center-field fence at the New York Giants' quirky ballpark was a Herculean feat. It was 483 feet to dead center, and only four people ever did it — Luke Easter in a Negro Leagues game, Hank Aaron, Lou Brock and Adcock.



Brock was Brock, a guy who was a plus player for 8 years and an average player for another 8 (roughly), with some great moments, some singular moments, incredible post season series, but never truly a great player in any single year. He may or may not be under/over rated, but even if he is, it's on the edges of the ratings, not within the full evaluations.

His best stretch was immediately after the trade from the Cubs to the Cardinals and he kicked butt for 104 games... making a lasting and noticeable impact on the scribes and the league at the time.
   43. cardsfanboy Posted: September 12, 2020 at 07:31 PM (#5976056)
And yes, silly to attribute any deviations to a single player. But if you don't find evidence of either then it weakens the case that it matters a lot.


Not mattering a lot, doesn't matter as much when talking about a 20 year career...When we are talking about the candidates on the margins. Now there is good argument that Brock isn't on the margins, that he's clearly on the out side of the argument .2 runs a year difference is another 2 war, .3 3 war etc. For these long career players who aren't quite fully in, you have to look at the margin argument. Is is arguable that they are helped by potential margin arguments or not... not even if they are, but is it a real possibility. It's why the Ortiz fanboys keep pushing that the war penalty for the DH is too excessive. (and they could have a point) it's why there are fans of catchers arguing that even now the catcher bonus is not enough... etc...


If you can make a good faith argument that stolen base break even point for everybody is too high, then you can start arguing those who steal a lot provide more value relative to those who didn't.... Brock isn't going to gain ground on guys like Rickey, Raines, Beltran or Coleman in this argument, but he might make up some ground on Rice or others. If you can provide a good faith argument that his defense is not being properly evaluated, because he played in one of the worst offensive parks in baseball, and that playing a more conservative game made more sense, then maybe he picks up a few more runs for a decade plus as a defender... etc...

Brock is almost the definition of a margin candidate, and there could be reasons why the hof elected him so easily, when the numbers don't really match up other than the career.... I don't make those arguments to be honest... I list them simply because I don't feel comfortable saying he's a hofer, at the same time, my birth as a Cardinal fan, makes it impossible for me to argue against it.... so I just look for ways to solidify either argument/discussion.
   44. Walt Davis Posted: September 12, 2020 at 08:04 PM (#5976062)
Turns out Lou Brock and Lou Whitaker make an interesting comparison. Brock has about 1300 more PAs but that's almost entirely his last 3 years of hanging on when (from a baseball-only perspective) he probably shouldn't have. Whitaker was even more consistent but neither player had bad seasons (once we set aside those late Brock seasons). Whitaker a better hitter (better OBP) but Brock makes up for it with his baserunning edge so offensively pretty much a wash.

The biggest factor in the massive WAR difference is position -- that's about 18 WAR right there (-108 for Brock, +71 for Whitaker) -- and that's pretty much the entire difference in their oWARs. Whitaker then picks up another 13 wins on TZ.

Brock, Clark, Reggie Smith, Holliday, Edmonds, Lankford -- the Cards are like a HoVG OF clearinghouse. (I'm sure I'm forgetting some.)
   45. The Duke Posted: September 12, 2020 at 08:25 PM (#5976064)
All these discussions lead me to the question, is there any way a player makes 3000 hits and doesn’t get in the Hall? Let’s say Nick Markakis has a strong finish and makes it to 3000 (which would imply 2-3 more good years). Does he get an automatic in? He’s at 2400 ish. Everyone over 2800 is in (PED exceptions of course ) and vizquel will likely go in. So in theory markakis really only has to get to 2800-2900.

   46. cardsfanboy Posted: September 12, 2020 at 08:28 PM (#5976065)
Brock, Clark, Reggie Smith, Holliday, Edmonds, Lankford -- the Cards are like a HoVG OF clearinghouse. (I'm sure I'm forgetting some.)



Obviously Flood,
A few others of course... but that seems like a fairly famous one.
   47. SoSH U at work Posted: September 12, 2020 at 08:30 PM (#5976066)
Let’s say Nick Markakis has a strong finish and makes it to 3000 (which would imply 2-3 more good years). Does he get an automatic in?


Nick Markakis has no chance of making the Hall of Fame, unless he gets to 3,000 hits with three MVP-caliber seasons. If he just Nick Markakisis his way across the mark, he'll be lucky to see a second ballot, but he won't get anywhere near election.
   48. cardsfanboy Posted: September 12, 2020 at 08:33 PM (#5976068)
All these discussions lead me to the question, is there any way a player makes 3000 hits and doesn’t get in the Hall? Let’s say Nick Markakis has a strong finish and makes it to 3000 (which would imply 2-3 more good years). Does he get an automatic in? He’s at 2400 ish. Everyone over 2800 is in (PED exceptions of course ) and vizquel will likely go in. So in theory markakis really only has to get to 2800-2900.


I think the fact that many people over the past decade have made it a point of discussion, has kinda proven that it will get you in. Johnny Damon won't go in, but if he reached 3000 he would have made it in I'm sure he makes it, but he still ended up 200+ hits short and was one and done.

It's not a magical number by itself, but it often does two things, proves that the player did have a peak, and proves he's good enough to not be bad enough to not get a job. As it stands, with a larger reliance on obp over average, it's going to be nearly impossible for any player going forward, to not be an arguable candidate that reaches 3000 hits.
   49. Howie Menckel Posted: September 12, 2020 at 08:33 PM (#5976069)
co-sign
   50. cardsfanboy Posted: September 12, 2020 at 08:41 PM (#5976070)
Nick Markakis has no chance of making the Hall of Fame, unless he gets to 3,000 hits with three MVP-caliber seasons. If he just Nick Markakisis his way across the mark, he'll be lucky to see a second ballot, but he won't get anywhere near election.


Markakis is 600+ hits away from 3000(as a starter he averages close to 170 if he is healthy), he is in his age 36 season.... it would take him being something special to reach 3,000 hits, and he's not showing the ability to be worth giving everyday playing time.

If he has a renaissance where he is able to get 170 hits a year for the next 4 seasons, meaning he's worth starting everyday, then he becomes the Johnny Damon argument.... but it really doesn't seem like it's possible he'll enter that discussion. He's a free agent after this season, no team has a particular passion for him, meaning he's not going to be able to Molina/Wainwright himself into a new contract... he's going to be signed for league minimum with an option the next four years, and will have to prove himself every one of those years to have a chance..... it's unlikely that will happen, and if it does, then he will have probably produced another 10 or so war, putting him at least over 40 war...
   51. SoSH U at work Posted: September 12, 2020 at 08:42 PM (#5976071)
I should add. He won’t get in through the writers. I couldn’t say what some future Vets committee might do.
   52. cardsfanboy Posted: September 12, 2020 at 08:42 PM (#5976072)
(Howie, you need to quote what you are co-signing so people know who you are agreeing with... :) )

I assume you are agreeing with 47.... which is a good agreement, but I'm not sure he needs even 1 mvp caliber season to make it, if he crosses 3000 hits.
   53. Booey Posted: September 12, 2020 at 08:52 PM (#5976075)
All these discussions lead me to the question, is there any way a player makes 3000 hits and doesn’t get in the Hall? Let’s say Nick Markakis has a strong finish and makes it to 3000 (which would imply 2-3 more good years). Does he get an automatic in? He’s at 2400 ish. Everyone over 2800 is in (PED exceptions of course ) and vizquel will likely go in. So in theory markakis really only has to get to 2800-2900.


We had this discussion recently (and WRT Markakis specificially), and I still believe the answer is a clear no. The reason that all the other non-snubbed 3000 hit players - and even the ones who came close - got elected (or will be) is because they all had something else to offer in addition to the hits. Brock had 3000 hits AND the stolen base record. Vizquel had almost 3000 hits AND 11 gold gloves. Markakis has nothing else, and that's not enough.

Major milestones like 3000 hits, 500 homers, and 300 wins FEEL like automatic numbers because it's really hard to last that long without putting up HOF caliber value (or at least the perception of it, in the cases of guys like Brock), so the vast majority of players who reach these numbers will indeed be HOF worthy. But it is possible not to be, and someday a one dimensional specialist like Markakis will prove it.
   54. cardsfanboy Posted: September 12, 2020 at 08:53 PM (#5976076)
I'm looking at Markakis stats, and I have no idea wtf happened in 2008... I'm not an AL guy, and I get his team finished in last place, but he should have been MVP that year....and he got zero votes. That is a crime.. didn't make the All star team, didn't get a single vote for MVP and was the best player in the league.
   55. cardsfanboy Posted: September 12, 2020 at 09:02 PM (#5976077)
We had this discussion recently (and WRT Markakis specificially), and I still believe the answer is a clear no.


I don't think it's a clear no.... well not exactly... I think if you make it to 3000 hits, you will almost have to have something to do it... Again I don't see Markakis doing it, but if he does, that means he's more or less has pulled a Jaime Moyer... if Moyer could have reached 300 wins... I think he eventually gets into the hof, we are talking about 31 wins short, but he would have to be an average pitcher for 2-3 years to reach that milestone at his age.... etc... the point is that in order for Markakis to be given a legit chance to reach 3000 hits, he's going to have to be a decent player past a point where everyone has assumed he is not good enough, that will have value to the voters... even with the changing demographics of the voters, it's going to be hard to keep a guy like that out.


The thing is, that there is no chance he reaches 3000 hits... that is the thing, if he does he puts himself into the Jim Rice/Lou Brock area, you have the ripped off MVP award, you have the long career etc... and he then gets in... any time you look at hypothetical like this, the hypothetical that created this situation needs to also be factored in.
   56. SoSH U at work Posted: September 12, 2020 at 11:26 PM (#5976131)
'm not an AL guy, and I get his team finished in last place, but he should have been MVP that year....and he got zero votes. That is a crime.. didn't make the All star team, didn't get a single vote for MVP and was the best player in the league.


The reason he didn't win the MVP that year is because absolutely no one, in the BBWAA or at BTF or anywhere else, thought Nick Markakis was an MVP contender in 2008. His status at the top of the WAR leaderboard today is not reflective of how anyone viewed him in 2008. He was a player having a nice season with a crappy team. It's only through retroactive analysis that Nick Markakis was the best player in the AL that year.

By the way, a flaw of your "becomes a Johnny Damon argument" is that Johnny Damon doesn't really help your case. Yes, he came up 250 hits short of 3K, but even whatever talk there was ultimately yielded less than 2 percent of the vote, and Damon actually had some things going for him (key role on two WS teams, popular player) that Markakis does not.

Now, sadly, this lost 2020 season ends the slight chance Markakis had of getting to 3,000. I was really hoping he would spend the last 4-5 years of his career signing one-year deals with tanking teams, putting up 160-170 hits per year while delivering near-replacement level value.

   57. Cooper Nielson Posted: September 12, 2020 at 11:39 PM (#5976134)
We all agree that Markakis is unlikely to reach 3,000 hits (I suppose you could say that about anyone active today except Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera, and Cabrera has turned into something less than a slam-dunk), but at the same time, it wouldn't take an unprecedented performance to get there.

For example, Raul Ibanez, a similar offensive player (more power, less OBP) and much worse defensively, got 664 hits from his age-37 season to the end of his career, for five different teams, despite batting only .248 over that span. He played until he was 42, aged well, and was famously a good guy.

If Markakis has the desire to play until he absolutely can't, is perceived as a good teammate, and can maintain his baseball value/slow his decline to the degree Ibanez did (that's the hard part, of course), he can keep piling up hits on cheap, one-year contracts for teams who need outfielders.

Even with this abbreviated season, he'll end up well ahead of "Ibanez pace" and will probably be about 600 hits shy entering his year-37 season. In the Ibanez scenario, he could get to 3,000 hits without really adding any other notable accomplishments to his resume. He might reach 600 doubles (~Top 20 all-time) but that's not a glory stat, but his other career totals would be quite pedestrian for someone with a long career. He hasn't even passed 200 HR yet.

Looking back on his career, this 3,000-hit Nick Markakis who played until he was 41 or 42 would end up with, barring any surprising "renaissance" seasons:

2 Seasons over .300 AVG (best: .306 in 2008)
1 Season over .400 OBP (.406 in 2008)
0 Seasons over .500 SLG (best: .491 in 2008)
0 30 HR seasons (best: 23 in 2007)
2 100 RBI seasons (2007, 2009)
1 100 run season (2008)
0 200 hit seasons (best: 191 in 2007)
0 20 SB seasons (best: 18 in .2007)
0 100 BB seasons (best: 99 in 2008)
1 All-Star Game
1 Season receiving MVP votes

So he's a guy with basically no peak, and the peak he did have was very early in his career. Even in the 3,000-hit scenario he will probably be below 40 WAR (33.8 at the moment -- he might not even reach Harold Baines' 38.7). In four postseason series (three losses), he's hit .188/.246/.266, so he doesn't get any bonus points from that.

There's no HOF argument outside the 3,000 hits, is there? I don't think "He played better in his late 30s and 40s than we expected" is going to carry so much weight.

My opinion is that the chance of Markakis reaching 3,000 hits is actually higher than the chance of a 3,000-hit Markakis getting elected to the HOF (by the writers).
   58. The Yankee Clapper Posted: September 12, 2020 at 11:47 PM (#5976135)
All these discussions lead me to the question, is there any way a player makes 3000 hits and doesn’t get in the Hall?
A hypothetical Mr. Consistency who hits .275 with 150 hits for 20 years would be a novelty, but not really a Hall of Famer, and would likely fall short. 3,000 hits is difficult, and even though the rare Johnny Damon or Nick Markakis may come close, they don’t make it. Not every 3,000 hit guy is inner circle, but I don’t have a problem with any of them being in the Hall, and I don’t think that’s going to change.
   59. cardsfanboy Posted: September 13, 2020 at 12:22 AM (#5976138)
A hypothetical Mr. Consistency who hits .275 with 150 hits for 20 years would be a novelty, but not really a Hall of Famer, and would likely fall short. 3,000 hits is difficult, and even though the rare Johnny Damon or Nick Markakis may come close, they don’t make it. Not every 3,000 hit guy is inner circle, but I don’t have a problem with any of them being in the Hall, and I don’t think that’s going to change.


That is the thing, there has never been that guy, and there is more than likely never going to be that guy... 3000 might seem arbitrary, but it's a decent enough starting discussion to look deeper.

There's no HOF argument outside the 3,000 hits, is there? I don't think "He played better in his late 30s and 40s than we expected" is going to carry so much weight.

My opinion is that the chance of Markakis reaching 3,000 hits is actually higher than the chance of a 3,000-hit Markakis getting elected to the HOF (by the writers).


And I disagree... if Renteria, Damon or Markakis reached 3000 hits, I think they make the hof... I don't think it's an absolute number to be honest... I do think the fact that they were able to make it, would indicate they added enough to their hof case to put them in... at least to the writers... sure some would be searching for reasons, others would be voting on the milestones... but I don't think there is ever going to be a 3000 hitter who doesn't rate the writers vote as of now..... 30 years from now that might be different.

   60. cardsfanboy Posted: September 13, 2020 at 12:24 AM (#5976139)
Or to put it another way... if Brock only had 2800(replace those other hits with walks so his value stays relatively the same) hits when his career ended, with everything else he had, he might have required a second vote before he goes in (he's going in either way.... just saying he doesn't cross that 75% threshold on the first ballot without that 3000 hits)
   61. SoSH U at work Posted: September 13, 2020 at 01:19 AM (#5976142)

Or to put it another way... if Brock only had 2800(replace those other hits with walks so his value stays relatively the same) hits when his career ended, with everything else he had, he might have required a second vote before he goes in (he's going in either way.... just saying he doesn't cross that 75% threshold on the first ballot without that 3000 hits)


That's not the same argument. Reaching 3,000 hits absolutely greases the skids for the qualified ballplayer. Craig Biggio, for instance, likely takes a lot more than three ballots (even empty ones unlike the ones he was on) without 3,000 hits. But Biggio was a legit HoFer without 3K. It was just the kind of highlight his otherwise sublime case would have lacked. The milestone brought out what was otherwise a Cooperstown-worthy career

But a non-entity such as Renteria or Markakis, or to a lesser extent Damon, wasn't that ballplayer. They were never perceived as Hall worthy, and hanging around just to reach a milestone wouldn't change that. Damon got 1.9 percent of the vote. Do you really think there would be 73 percent of the remaining writers* who weren't convinced of his Hall bona fides would have suddenly had a change of heart had he hung around as a replacement player long enough to creep over the line?

The milestone figures have always served as shorthand to a Hall career, since only the worthy reached them (and I count Brock as worthy - as you say, even without 3K, he's still getting in). But I've never yet read of a single writer, let alone 75 percent of them, who felt beholden to vote for someone just because a milestone has been reached. Have you?

* Yes, the math isn't that simple, but it's still a shitload more.
   62. Booey Posted: September 13, 2020 at 01:25 AM (#5976143)
People keep mentioning Damon, but as "non-HOFey" as he may feel, he actually finished with 56 WAR. He wouldn't be a terrible selection as is, and to get to 3000 hits, he would've needed 2 more full seasons, which probably puts him right around 60 WAR. Throw in the "key player on 2 WS series winners" thing (and he hit .326 in those 2 WS), plus a couple other counting stats that wouldn't look out of place on a HOF plaque (1668 runs, 408 SB), and yeah, I could see a sizable percentage of the writers giving his career a longer look if he'd reached 3000.

But again, none of the above would apply to Markakis, who really does have remarkably little else going for his case. Johnny Damon was a significantly better player.
   63. Cooper Nielson Posted: September 13, 2020 at 05:02 AM (#5976149)
And I disagree... if Renteria, Damon or Markakis reached 3000 hits, I think they make the hof...

If a player reaches 3,000 hits, he'll get a thorough review/reconsideration of his career, while someone with 2,700 hits is more easily dismissed without a second look. But looking at these three hypothetical cases, I think that Markakis's "second look" is going to leave him far behind Damon and Renteria, and still almost certainly outside the HOF (writers' vote).

Booey made a good argument for Damon above -- with the extra games to get to 3,000 hits, his HOF case is actually reasonably strong, clearly better than Markakis's based on WAR, other counting numbers, reputation, and narrative, and at least borderline by current standards. I think he'd probably get in after a few ballots.

Renteria's reassessment would also be considerably more favorable than Markakis's, though not as good as Damon's, even if he sputtered to 3,000 with 80 hits a year into his early 40s. Renteria was done a few weeks after his 35th birthday, stalled at 2,327 hits. Through his age-34 season, however, he had already made 5 All-Star teams and had a couple of Top 20 MVP finishes. He hit over .300 four times, including .332 and .330 (HOF voters who value 3,000 hits probably also value hitting .300); he stole almost 300 bases including four seasons over 30, had two 100-run seasons and one 100-RBI season, and did this all as a shortstop -- winning two Gold Gloves, though I don't think his defensive reputation at his position was as good as Markakis's (3 Gold Gloves) in RF. He was arguably the best NL shortstop for a decade (when all the best shortstops were in the AL), and had four seasons over 4.0 WAR, a reasonable "peak."

Renteria also played for two World Series champions, and played in 66 postseason games. His overall postseason performance wasn't great, but he had some big series, including a World Series MVP in 2010. (He struggled horribly in the LCS, but was fine in the LDS and great in the World Series -- he hit .333/.391/.508 in 16 games over three World Series.)

So here's a case where he wasn't really considered a future HOFer when he played, but the reassessment would lead to some "He was better than I thought" conclusions, and the 3,000 hits and additional counting numbers might push him over the top. Maybe.

I'm still not convinced that this 3,000-hit Renteria makes the HOF, but I'm confident his case is much stronger than Markakis's, who, again, would really have nothing on his resume but 3,000 hits and a pretty good defensive reputation.
   64. BDC Posted: September 13, 2020 at 07:49 AM (#5976150)
The basic principle is that career counting milestones usually correlate with peak greatness. But most principles have a few exceptions. 3,000 Hits would have been a tap-in for Sam Rice, but he is not in the HOM either because he was never a great player.
   65. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 13, 2020 at 10:49 AM (#5976158)
ut most principles have a few exceptions. 3,000 Hits would have been a tap-in for Sam Rice, but he is not in the HOM either because he was never a great player.

What is it with these HoFers named Rice?
   66. The Duke Posted: September 13, 2020 at 11:11 AM (#5976160)
Markakis seems to have one more attribute in that he played almost every game every year except for a couple seasons. Now he had two seasons in a row where he won’t come anywhere near 162.

His best bet is to sign on with a team like the pirates or royals or tigers who can guarantee him every day play. Staying on the Braves will reduce him to being a swing outfielder
   67. Rally Posted: September 13, 2020 at 11:42 AM (#5976162)
“ The author is talking about Fangraphs WAR, though (it's a Fangraphs article). It looks like Fangraphs doesn't include non-SB baserunning runs from seasons prior to 2002. It's curious that they give him +75 baserunning runs to B-R's +78, when Fangraphs' total comes from SB/CS only and B-R counts all baserunning plays.‘

I provided the data to both Fangraphs and BBref for historical WAR. Looking at my site, I had Brock at +79, so they are both a bit different, but in the same ballpark. I can’t keep track of what changes each site makes over time, but given that it’s easy to calculate SB runs, it is obvious to me that all of these figures are giving Brock credit for more than just SB/CS.
   68. sunday silence (again) Posted: September 13, 2020 at 02:07 PM (#5976176)

But for his career, his RF/9 is pretty much dead-on league average for a LF so it's reasonable to think his Rfield might have been around zero rather than -51. So maybe he deserves 5 wins back there, add it to the 2 wins we might miss in base-running and ... 7 WAR brings him to 52.


One thing you're not mentioned here is his error rate which is well above normal. I'm not sure it changes your conclusion in any way but just to be sure.

He seems to be averaging about 14 errors/season in his age 24-32 seasons. Im going to assume all of these are throwing errors since dropped balls seems quite rare, 0.5% Im pretty sure is the rate. Assuming there are two base runners on in these cases, and they each advance 1 base, Im going to assume 0.6 runs/error which may be conservative. This suggests he's about 4 runs below average due to throwing errors.

His range seems about average for LF'ers
His assist rate seems about average
He is good at preventing runners from advancing which is not negligible, Going from memory as I looked at this last week: I think he was about 4% better than avg Lf, so make it about 8 bases a year, maybe 2 runs?

So if you want to make a case he's an average LF, I guess that's possible. He's more likely to be a smidge below but he's not terrible.

That's about all I had to add on that.

Do most folks think that the TZ ratings are questionable? I know it was suggested somewhere above. The last time we got into this I guess Walt was sort of agnostic on the whole thing. Any new ideas on that? Their numbers seems to deviate quite a bit from BIS, but that's my memory and not everyone even agrees on that.
   69. The Yankee Clapper Posted: September 13, 2020 at 04:23 PM (#5976214)
Getting back to WAR perhaps not measuring everything about Brock’s base running, I wonder to what degree, if any, his presence on the base paths helped the following hitters. It’s often said that elite base stealers get in the pitcher’s head, but I don’t suppose there is any way to easily measure how the hitters did with Brock on base. If hitters did do better than whatever their comparable split was, Brock would would deserve a bit more credit than just his runs scored total.
   70. sunday silence (again) Posted: September 13, 2020 at 07:11 PM (#5976241)
I should mention in the above calculation. I dont really have an average error rate for LFers but I looked at a sample of NL LFers and figured about 7 errors a year is avg. Then I took 14 -7 so Brock's 7 errors per year above avg That's why I multiplied 7 x 0.6.
   71. cardsfanboy Posted: September 13, 2020 at 07:21 PM (#5976242)
Getting back to WAR perhaps not measuring everything about Brock’s base running, I wonder to what degree, if any, his presence on the base paths helped the following hitters. It’s often said that elite base stealers get in the pitcher’s head, but I don’t suppose there is any way to easily measure how the hitters did with Brock on base. If hitters did do better than whatever their comparable split was, Brock would would deserve a bit more credit than just his runs scored total.


It's said, it's not documented, we don't really know to be honest, and objectively speaking it's hard to know... With what we know about babip and pitch counts, there is an argument to be made that pitchers who are afraid of baserunners are more likely to throw pitches that the batter can put in play, and the batter knows it, but considering that ultimately babip is fairly consistent, and that pitch counts is probably negative to a pitchers career longevity, that a hyper active runner on base might ultimately help a team. it's also arguable the other way around... you can see multiple angles of looking at this situation with 30 years of advance mathematical knowledge, while at the same time you can't ignore the thought process going on at the time.



I'm a Brock fan(had his poster on my wall for a few years until I saw Heather Thomas... his poster got moved but remained) , and will look for any argument that helps him, but at the same time, I'm not going to ignore the full argument. I mean it's arguable that playing in a pitchers park, like Brock did for most of his career, might have a higher value on base runners and speed, I can probably make the argument, but again we are just talking arguments that are more or less marginal arguments in a players value... Win shares, a stat that we don't have really easily to work with data, starts from the premise that everything is categorized and work from there and will include phantom data that we can't fully understand, but it accounts for everything, even if it's not accurate counting... vs war says we'll come up with a system that we hope gets everything right based upon our knowledge but refuse to accept that there is things we can't account for. Both systems have error bars (along with warp and others) but ultimately they all reach the same conclusion, based upon his in season career, Brock is a weak hofer... no matter how you cut it.

   72. sunday silence (again) Posted: September 13, 2020 at 08:50 PM (#5976255)
I would have a hard time believing that his SB were affecting the pitcher/batter stats. Almost all the stats you look up you wind up coming back to the conclusion that everyone bats as an individual; its basically a one on one interaction: the batter vs the pitcher. THey used to say that you had power hitters hitting behind other guys and that would help their ba or something, but there's not been any correlation that's been showed. And I dont think you'll find it here.
   73. sunday silence (again) Posted: September 13, 2020 at 08:51 PM (#5976256)
double post
   74. Mefisto Posted: September 13, 2020 at 08:57 PM (#5976257)
Players at the time believed that the active baserunners -- Robinson, Mays, Wills, Brock -- distracted the pitcher, and they spent a lot of time trying to come up with solutions.* They don't seem to have accounted for the possibility that the runner also distracted the batter.

*The Giants once, insanely, tried to walk Sandy Koufax intentionally in order to clog the bases for Wills. Equally crazy, given how bad a hitter he was, Koufax foiled the attempt by deliberately striking out.
   75. Sweatpants Posted: September 13, 2020 at 11:15 PM (#5976265)
I provided the data to both Fangraphs and BBref for historical WAR. Looking at my site, I had Brock at +79, so they are both a bit different, but in the same ballpark. I can’t keep track of what changes each site makes over time, but given that it’s easy to calculate SB runs, it is obvious to me that all of these figures are giving Brock credit for more than just SB/CS.
The number FG gives for baserunning runs is the same as the one that it gives for basestealing runs. This is from the site's own glossary:
In other words, prior to 2002, BsR is based only on SB and CS (wSB) and prior to the 1950s that data may not be accurate. Use BsR with caution as you move back into history.
Just doing the math by hand, the number they have for Brock's baserunning runs in 1974 matches up with the formula they give for basestealing runs (I'm not doing it for every season of his career).
   76. Rally Posted: September 14, 2020 at 08:40 AM (#5976280)
The number FG gives for baserunning runs is the same as the one that it gives for basestealing runs. This is from the site's own glossary:


I stand corrected. I did provide the data, whether they use it or calculate some other way is not up to me.

The values for 1974 are +0.2 and -0.381. The CS seems too low, as it implies a 66% break even rate.
   77. Rally Posted: September 14, 2020 at 08:44 AM (#5976281)
I think if there was a documented, repeatable positive effect for hitters with a big base stealing threat on it would have been found by now. I'll check later but this seems like something Tom Tango and his co-authors might have looked at in The Book.

Besides the distraction aspect, batters hitting behind a base stealer have to take more pitches than they would like too.
   78. Ron J Posted: September 14, 2020 at 09:32 AM (#5976282)
#77 There was a big study on the matter on RSB. One of the first major uses of retrosheet data. Can't find the study now.

At the time the data for Brock wasn't available, but players batting behind Rickey! hit spectacularly worse when he was on first (consistent with the need to take pitches that they might have been able to drive).

Over-generalizing but there was one type of hitter that seemed to do a fair amount better with a big base stealer on. Doubles power and patient. And the guys who did really badly tended to be guys who didn't walk a lot. Don Mattingly had an utterly terrible time in his first year batting behind Rickey!

When I mentioned that study Tango (or somebody else involved with The Book -- don't recall who) did take a look (and reported the results here) and found that the effect wasn't as pronounced, but that hitters as a group did hit worse with a big base stealing threat on. Consistent with the notion that players are less likely to be given a straight take sign than they used to be.
   79. John DiFool2 Posted: September 14, 2020 at 10:01 AM (#5976287)
Bill James also noted that the hitter tended to walk, a lot, after the steal, esp. if successful.
   80. Ron J Posted: September 14, 2020 at 11:10 AM (#5976306)
#79 That was the interesting thing with Herzog's Cardinals. They had a lot of guys for whom walking wasn't a big part of their game, but were smart enough to see their walk rates go up in plate appearances with Vince Coleman on first. Memory says the only Cardinal player who had a rough time with Coleman on first was Terry Pendleton.
   81. Rally Posted: September 14, 2020 at 11:34 AM (#5976313)
Don Mattingly had an utterly terrible time in his first year batting behind Rickey!


I'll take your word for it since I'm not looking at specifically Don batting with Rickey on base. But this surprises the hell out of me. That was his 145 RBI, MVP season.

Don hit 2nd in 58 games, hit 355/414/674, quite a bit better than hitting 3rd. With a runner on 1st only, Don hit 329/356/657. Similar BA/OBP to his overall numbers, much better slugging. I don't know how much of that was with Rickey on first as opposed to Randolph or someone else.
   82. Ron J Posted: September 14, 2020 at 12:00 PM (#5976319)
He and Griffey were quite terrible in PAs where in PAs where a SB (usually Rickey!) was attempted. 70 PAs 3 singles and 18 walks

Name          TM  SBPA  PA  AB   H  2B  3B  HR  BB      BA    OBP    SLG
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Mattingly D   NYA   36 727 652 211  48   3  35  56   0.324  0.371  0.567
                        36  23   2   0   0   0  10   0.087  0.361  0.087
Griffey K     NYA   34 487 438 120  28   4  10  41   0.274  0.331  0.425
                        34  25   1   0   0   0   8   0.040  0.265  0.040 


I found the study. It was by Doug Drinen and covered all PAs between 1980 and 1987 with either a SB or CS (Doug did some follow up studies too). The post was titled: More on hitting and the running game (long). And includes data for players with a fair number of PAs in the study plus league wide results.

Here's the league wide results for 1980

AL 1980
NSA   85211  76303  20640  3443   538  1823   6936   0.271  0.332  0.401
SBA    1933   1585    318    46    15    21    285   0.201  0.319  0.288

Profile of an SBA hitter
:  0.270  0.336  0.399
League average hitter
:     0.269  0.331  0.399 




NL 1980
NSA   71688  64362  16828  2808   509  1221   5605   0.261  0.321  0.378
SBA    2354   1910    358    48    14    22    364   0.187  0.313  0.262

Profile of an SBA hitter
:  0.267  0.329  0.384
League average hitter
:     0.259  0.320  0.374 



   83. Ron J Posted: September 14, 2020 at 12:09 PM (#5976321)
Oh. And as usual, Tony Gwynn is an exceptional case. In 1984 he hit .420/.540/.500 in the 65 PAs where a stolen base was attempted.
   84. DL from MN Posted: September 14, 2020 at 12:23 PM (#5976325)
Stolen base attempts move the fielders around out of their natural position also. Gwynn might have been able to take advantage of that
   85. Ron J Posted: September 14, 2020 at 12:29 PM (#5976327)
#84 Yeah. That's always been the theory -- that the defense has to react and the hitter can take advantage.

And Gwynn did ( this was something Bill James noted at the time -- how well Gwynn could take advantage of the way the defense had to adapt when Wiggins was on first).

But Gwynn is a special case in anything to do with making contact.
   86. SoSH U at work Posted: September 14, 2020 at 01:15 PM (#5976342)
83-85


I'm a little confused. Isn't this measuring what happens in a PA that concludes after a SBA? Are stolen base attempts recorded on balls that are put in play recorded as SBA, or ignored.

Because I can see how Tony would benefit from the threat of an SB, or a runner going that becomes a hit and run, but after the attempt the defense would go back to playing more straight up than when the runner was on first.
   87. Ron J Posted: September 14, 2020 at 02:41 PM (#5976361)
#86 Yeah you're right. Didn't think that one through. All that it shows is that Gwynn could take pitches and not worry if he ended up behind in the count.
   88. . Posted: September 14, 2020 at 02:58 PM (#5976365)
At some point, we get into trying to "explain" good art territory, but here goes anyway: Stealing a base in a major league baseball game is a cool thing. Stealing a bunch of them in a season is a cool thing. Being the best over roughly a decade in one of the leagues at doing it is a cool thing. Getting 3,000 or more hits in the major leagues is a cool thing. Playing in a bunch of World Series, particularly in the old setup, is a cool thing.

It's simply not the case, in life generally or otherwise, that knowingness is better than unknowingness or ambiguity. That's the premise fail to all of this ... effort. Life's better when we don't know for sure when we're going to die, baseball was better when the computers hadn't crunched the data on the "value" of the stolen base. The idea that running would put pressure on the defense, etc., never hurt a single soul and didn't really need to be "countered," except perhaps among the highly anally retentive. And now we have highly anally-retentive baseball on display every night, and on display in the main narrative outlets of the sport every day and night, and it all sucks on toast compared to the not-fully-knowing era. (And everyone with even the slightest bit of taste understands this perfectly, if not necessarily this explicitly or exactly, which is why they're desperately searching for ridiculous things like bat flips (*) to replace what's been lost.)

(*) LOLOL.

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