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Friday, June 18, 2010

Furman Bisher Unleashed: Chipper and the HOF

Chipper Jones ain’t no Red Smith...and neither am I!

Since I’m merely an observer, I have no serious conflict with Chipper Jones and his retirement. It is apparent that he has lost some agility around third base, that some swing power has gone with it, and if, as he has said, that when he is not the Chipper who once led the league in hitting—and that was only two seasons ago—it would be time to go. I don’t care to get into a spitting fight over his ticket to Cooperstown, but I don’t foresee him as a first-ballot inductee. Nor a second, but somewhere down the line. If he had hit 500 home runs, that might have been the decider. Sorry, but he’ll come in somewhere behind Griffey Jr.

Repoz Posted: June 18, 2010 at 01:48 PM | 129 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: braves, hall of fame, history

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   101. Kiko Sakata Posted: June 19, 2010 at 11:16 PM (#3564562)
third base, anyway, isn't a premium defensive position like ... centerfield.

... Since he was no hotshot at third, comparing him only to thirdbaseman is misleading. There's nothing that says, and nothing should say, that a certain number of players at X position should go into the HOF, especially when, as here, the position isn't all that treasured defensively, anyway

Quoting myself from comment #14 of this thread: "3B and CF are pretty close on the defensive spectrum. In terms of batting lines, both CF and 3B tend to be right around league average. AROM shows Griffey with a positional adjustment of +2 for his career versus +1 for Jones." To expand a little bit, there are two ways to judge the relative defensive value of positions. The first is to compare average offensive lines by position. Doing this, 3B and CF tend to show up as comparable and right around average. The other is to compare how players do when playing multiple positions. My understanding is that this is how AROM calculates his positional values, and, as you can see by looking at Griffey, Jr. and Chipper's numbers, you end up drawing the same conclusion: CF and 3B are comparable and right around average.

Your argument is precisely why 3B is under-represented historically in the Hall of Fame. People judge 3B offense against corner outfield and 1B offense and conclude that Ron Santo and Darrell Evans were nothing special. The general sabermetric view is that this is mistaken and third basemen don't need to hit as well as corner outfielders and first basemen to be equally (or more) valuable.
   102. Morty Causa Posted: June 19, 2010 at 11:28 PM (#3564565)
So, as a hitter, how does he stand with his contemporaries?

How would you judge him for the Hall of Fame?

Do third-basemen hit as well as centerfielders? These are the top centerfielders in history: Cobb, Speaker, DiMaggio, Mays, and Mantle. Where do the top third-baseman rank among them?

And as for Jones, remember the consensus is that he isn't anything more than a mediocre third-baseman.
   103. Ron J Posted: June 19, 2010 at 11:33 PM (#3564569)
#103 Another way to look at this. There's a long history of attempts to stuff an extra bat in the lineup by converting a corner outfielder to third base. There's a very low success rate.
   104. Morty Causa Posted: June 19, 2010 at 11:44 PM (#3564575)
To my mind, Hall of Fame candidates should be judged by their value in context of their time and their competitors, not based on some sort of positional tokenism across the baseball cosmos. If the players who are most valuable are outfielders (even corner outfielders), tough cookies: that's who should go in. There shouldn't be some sort of quasi-affirmative action quota/handicap system mentality based on position. The best players of their times should go in. How does Jones rank on this basis?
   105. Kiko Sakata Posted: June 20, 2010 at 12:26 AM (#3564587)
So, as a hitter, how does he stand with his contemporaries?

He's broadly similar to Edgar Martinez, I'd say. Chipper has a 142 OPS+ in 9,494 PAs, 528 batting runs above average in his career; Edgar's at 147 in 8,672, 559 batting runs above average.

How would you judge him for the Hall of Fame?

I think Edgar Martinez defines the Hall of Fame's borderline reasonably well. Given that Chipper's comparable to Edgar offensively and better defensively, I think that puts him over the line fairly easily. AROM ranks him 60th in career WAR (39th among position players). Off the top of my head, that seems a little bit on the high side, perhaps, but I think he's probably one of the 100-150 best players of all-time, which puts him into the Hall of Fame fairly comfortably.

Do third-basemen hit as well as centerfielders?

Yes. In 2009, centerfielders hit .267/.334/.414 in 21,278 PAs; third basemen hit .265/.335/.421 in 20,797 PAs.

These are the top centerfielders in history: Cobb, Speaker, DiMaggio, Mays, and Mantle. Where do the top third-baseman rank among them?

Bill James argued that 3B and 2B swapped positions on the defensive spectrum in the 1930s or so. So, prior to that, it might make more sense to compare centerfielders to second basemen. That brings guys like Rogers Hornsby (career OPS+ 175 - 5th alltime), Eddie Collins (career OPS+ only 142, but 19th in career batting runs (629)), and Nap Lajoie (career OPS+ 150) into the conversation.

More recently, Mike Schmidt (career OPS+ 147 in 10,062 PAs) is in the same general ballpark as Joe DiMaggio (155 in 7,671) (Schmidt's OPS+ was 151 through his first 8,826 career PAs).

And as for Jones, remember the consensus is that he isn't anything more than a mediocre third-baseman.

I think his hitting is enough to get him into the Hall of Fame as a mediocre third baseman, but if you read the first page of this thread (e.g., Chris Dial, Sam Hutcheson), you'll see that, at least here, this is anything but a consensus view.
   106. Cod Guy Posted: June 20, 2010 at 01:39 AM (#3564602)
just put our fingers in our ears and yell "range factor' (which I haven't mentioned)

You haven't, but the raw amount of plays made, which you have mentioned, is how range factor is determined.

Where did all the balls go that weren't near Chipper?

From 1995-2001, Braves pitchers had above-league average assists totals each year and were often in the top three (their putouts were all over the place, but assists totals for everyone are greater than putout totals are). In 1996 and in 1997, Braves center fielders had below-average putout totals, but, from 1997-2001, they were in the top four in the league in CF putouts each year.

I don't know if the differences between the Braves and the league average in these two categories make up for Jones's deficit, but they might explain some of it. In those years, Atlanta was known for the defense of its pitchers and its center fielders.

Regardless, although I don't completely trust play-by-play data, I suspect that they're more accurate than raw totals are.
   107. Srul Itza At Home Posted: June 20, 2010 at 03:25 AM (#3564634)
just put our fingers in our ears and yell "range factor' (which I haven't mentioned)

counting outs IS range factor.

But thanks for playing.

EDIT: Coke to Cod Guy. That's what I get for posting before I turn the corner.
   108. Ron J Posted: June 20, 2010 at 04:38 AM (#3564659)
counting outs IS range factor.

As is totalzone. Well it's an adjusted range factor. As I've said before it's a well thought out set of adjustment and generally speaking the results overlap well with contemporary reputations.

Speaking of raw range factot though, it's worth noting that the man who did more than anybody else to promote RF (Bill James) has abandoned it.

Quoting from the New Historical Abstract:

"Let me say this before we go any further: I am as much responsible for the spread of poor and inaccurate defensive rating schemes as anyone in the world. [...] That which I now denounce as "traditional," I am as much as anyone responsible for creating."

And while I never got around to checking 3rd base, I can tell you that the standard error of range factor is at least .4 chances per 9 innings for middle infielders (because that's the standard deviation of ZR chances) and that's large enough that about all you can do with range factor is break players down into three categories. Good, bad and the rest.

The newer adjusted range factor systems are substantially better but I don't think you can aspire to more than letter grades. With the understanding that they're all going to miss players who actually got unusual distributions of balls in play.

EDIT: Come to think of it, the problems with raw range factor are worse at first and third since putout totals are heavily influenced by the amount of foul territory in the home park. James doesn't even count putouts for 3B in his new system.
   109. Honkie Kong Posted: June 20, 2010 at 09:08 AM (#3564697)
Couple of things. Chipper wasn't forcibly moved off 3B., he volunteered so that the Braves could sign Vinny.
He had multiple hamstring issues in 2003 and 2004, which led to his return to the IF, and he was certainly well above average on his return.

Boggs might be a close case if you factor defence in, but Brett , given the number of games he played at DH, is definitely below Chipper.
   110. GuyM Posted: June 20, 2010 at 11:05 AM (#3564705)
I looked only at Chipper's assist totals, not his range factor, to avoid the problem Ron mentions (and others). And not once have I suggested that Chipper's assists by themselves are a good defensive metric. My point was simply that:

1) IF you looked only at his plays made on GBs, Chipper would appear to be a very poor fielder;
2) The advanced metrics say he is close to average;
3) Therefore, his actual value depends on how accurate those metrics are, much more than is true for most players. The extent to which he actually faced an extremely unusual distribution of BIP matters.
I can't imagine that even Srul is ignorant enough to disagree with any of these propositions.
Which makes the angry response so very odd.

Dial (or anyone else): I'm still interested in hearing evidence on the BIP distribution (other than just quoting me TZ or UZR totals). For example, how many singles have been fielded by the LF, and how many IF singles has Chipper handled -- compared to average 3Bman?

Ron: What's the standard error of ZR chances over 10 seasons? That's what matters here.
   111. BDC Posted: June 20, 2010 at 12:50 PM (#3564751)
There's nothing that says, and nothing should say, that a certain number of players at X position should go into the HOF

There isn't, I agree: that's been the basis of my scorn for the Davey-Concepcion argument, which boils down to a kind of tallest-midget fallacy, suggesting that the best at a position in a given league/era must always be in the Hall even if he wasn't a very great player.

But I don't think that Chipper's is a tallest-midget case. Two pretty similar hitters to Jones, for instance, are Jason Giambi (.282/.405/.525, 143 OPS+) and Mike Piazza (.308/.377/.545, 142 OPS+). (For reference Chipper's at .306/.406/.537 142). I don't think that Giambi will stay on the HOF ballot for more than one round, I would imagine he'll be outside the HOM looking in, and I don't think he'd have had a viable HOF case even if he'd been unjuiced; he's just another slugger, a Norm Cash or a Jack Clark or Rocky Colavito or somebody like that. Piazza is an obvious Hallworthy. This is not because there's a quota for catchers and Piazza makes a cut that Giambi among the 1B/DH types doesn't; it's because he provided a lot more actual value than Giambi.

Chipper's in between them in terms of the defensive value he provided (also considerably ahead in playing time), one would have to say, given that Piazza caught and Giambi was fairly useless. Just on very basic VORPy principles, his holding down 3B allowed the Braves to put a better lineup together than if he'd been a LF or 1B his whole life. (Remember that Piazza wasn't exactly Roy Campanella behind the plate either, yet he sails into all Halls with a career well shorter than Chipper's and otherwise very similar offensively.) I don't think that this is a borderline case; I think Chipper is pretty clearly one of the superior players of his era, well within the HOM/HOF range
   112. Scott Lange Posted: June 20, 2010 at 01:58 PM (#3564787)
Chris: as I keep asking you, please produce the evidence.

If their evidence is the advanced metrics while your evidence is range factor, and there is a unanimous (or near-unanimous) consensus that the advanced metrics are more accurate than range factor, isn't it you that needs to come up with some evidence? Put another way, why should the value of advanced fielding metrics have to be re-justified every time they produce a different result than range factor?
   113. GuyM Posted: June 20, 2010 at 02:31 PM (#3564835)
Scott: Three reasons (at least). Frist, there are some good reasons to think the play-by-play data may be biased in the direction of making very good fielders appear less good than they are, and poor fielders appear less bad than they are. Second, some metrics (particularly TZ) are designed in a way that ensures a similar effect, even if the underlying data is perfect (although the magnitude of this effect may not be that large at 3B). Third, it's not near-unanimous (although it may be here at BTF).

I don't expect to figure that all out in this thread. I'm just interested in knowing if the more general BIP distribution for Chipper is consistent with the story being told by the metrics. For example, how many total GBs were hit to all zones to the left of 2B while Chipper was on the field? That number is not likely to be very biased. If it was substantially fewer than is typical, in roughly the same proportion as Chipper's below-average assist totals, then that's strong evidence in his favor. But if not, then the question is whether the distribution of those SS-3B GBs was really difficult for him. And that's where the potential for scorer bias becomes pretty big.
   114. The Interdimensional Council of Rickey!'s Posted: June 20, 2010 at 02:32 PM (#3564837)
Don't forget, the reason Chipper was moved to left wasn't because they thought he sucked was because they thought they liked Vinny Castilla. Yeah, that's pretty funny, but if you're established that you actually like Vinny Castilla as a hitter, he was the better defensive 3B.

Interestingly enough, that move worked out well. Castilla actually hit one of his years in Atlanta.

Regardless, as others have pointed out, Chipper volunteered to move *if they could sign Castilla*, did exactly that, popped his hammies playing LF (late 2003, again in 2004) and then moved back to 3B (where he put up a couple of fantastic mid-career defensive seasons.

If my observations were out of line with the better defensive metrics that have come along in recent years, I'd reassess my observations. As it stands, my personal observations align pretty well with the better defensive metrics. It is only the out-counting/range-factor based metrics - initially popularized by BPro - that generate outlier results. As such, it is the person touting those outlier results who have the burden of proof.

In the '90s, the Braves got their outs by Ks (the big three were always underrated as strikeout pitchers), lazy cans of corn to CF, pop-ups on the IF (including foul territories) and weak rollers to 2B. Now, granted, according to certain ways of thinking nothing in that list but strikeouts are "something pitchers can control" but, well, anyone who thinks that is smoking crack.

Chipper Jones is a first ballot, no-doubt HOFer. He was a monster offensively and an adequate defender at 3B. Quick hands toward the line, slow first step into the hole at SS, charged balls as well as anyone in baseball. Was extremely good at barehanding bunts and throwing out runners at 1B. Strong arm, reasonably accurate (if not of the same league as Vinny "chest high throw" Castilla.)

Guy, it's sad that you never got to see those teams play. They were very good and very much fun to watch.
   115. The Interdimensional Council of Rickey!'s Posted: June 20, 2010 at 02:41 PM (#3564851)
And to follow up, Chipper wasn't a particularly rangey player. He didn't have quick feet and he didn't cover a lot of ground. That is, in fact, why he was moved from SS to 3B in the minors. At 3B his natural quick hands and the speed of plays at "the hot corner" made his slow step left essentially meaningless. Chipper always benefited from having a range-eating SS like a young Furcal or Escobar next to him defensively.
   116. GuyM Posted: June 20, 2010 at 03:05 PM (#3564868)
Sam: You think I lived someplace without TBS? WTF?

I just don't believe your (or my) observations are worth squat in terms of answering this question. The difference between being average and a poor fielder is about 12 plays a season. That would mean that once every 12-13 games, a fielder lets one get by to LF, or knocks down a GB but can't quite get the runner at 1B, or charges a slow roller but can't quite make the play. Once in every 12 games. That's like claiming you could estimate whether Chipper his .290 or .310 in a season just by watching him hit (and no fair reading boxscores). I don't believe anyone could do that, and that's without worrying about fan bias.

At 3B his natural quick hands and the speed of plays at "the hot corner" made his slow step left essentially meaningless. Chipper always benefited from having a range-eating SS like a young Furcal or Escobar next to him defensively
Dial is quite insistent that there's very little overlap between 3B and SS, and I think that's right. So if Chipper was slow to his left, as you claim, that would hurt the team.
   117. base ball chick Posted: June 20, 2010 at 03:13 PM (#3564878)
i am surprised that anyone would think that chipper does not belong in the hall of fame. why on earth are people comparing him to DHs and 1B and LF? (and what is the difference what ballot it is? HOF is HOF and it doesn't say on the plaque what % of the vote or how many ballots neither)

and he certainly was NOT a bad fielder at 3rd. harvey had it exactly right - average range and an excellent and accurate arm. and he was very good with bunts, too.

as for balls supposedly not being fielded by him, we don't have a chart of where every ball in play went, or who got it, but maddux and gang did not give up lots of hits/E5 on balls to 3rd. seems to me that because they threw 2" off the lower outside corner that a whole lot of GB went to first and second.

guy M,
you could check the number of grounders that the 1B and 2B got compared to other 1B and 2B - but then again, for a long LONG time, maddux and glavine and smoltz were not exactly giving up TONS of hits you know. hard to field balls that don't come your way. and you could see if actual hits - when chipper was playing 3rd) were ones that were grounders to left.

oh yeah -
and since when is defense (besides being a DH) keeping guys OUT of the hall?
   118. GuyM Posted: June 20, 2010 at 03:50 PM (#3564921)
and since when is defense (besides being a DH) keeping guys OUT of the hall?

Do you mean good defense can help a player qualify for the Hall, but poor defense shouldn't count against him?
   119. CrosbyBird Posted: June 20, 2010 at 04:00 PM (#3564939)
and since when is defense (besides being a DH) keeping guys OUT of the hall?

Exactly. You have to either be pretty borderline offensively for HOF voters to care about defense, or you have to be pretty awesome defensively (like "best in the history of the sport") and then the voters will overrate you.
   120. base ball chick Posted: June 20, 2010 at 04:07 PM (#3564952)

well, unless you are a SS, basically it has always been that way whether or not it is fair. what 1B/LF has been voted into the Hall who was an ozzie smith with the glove and bat?

and yes, i DO know that brooks robinson/bill mazeroski were voted in based only on glove for being the best who ever played that position.

but you know that reggie jackson was a lead lump in the OF basically after 74 or 75 and HE got in. and ted williams could barely catch a cold out there and HE got voted in. and you know that if mcgwire hadn't done drugs, HE would have been voted in - i watched the guy and he was barely adequate (as a cardinal, i mean). and you know that fred mcgriff, who was an EXCELLENT glove man at first won't get so much as 1 bonus point for his glove work - just docked for missing 2 or 3 career homers
   121. CrosbyBird Posted: June 20, 2010 at 04:15 PM (#3564967)
Do you mean good defense can help a player qualify for the Hall, but poor defense shouldn't count against him?

I think exceptional defense can help a player qualify for the Hall, and terrible defense probably doesn't matter if you have a position. I could speculate that voters believe that the threshold for bad defense mattering is below the threshold for "this player becomes a DH (or would clearly be a DH outside of playing in the NL)." Poor to good defense is meaningless outside of what position you play; once you are good enough to handle a key defensive position for most of your career without being moved, that's an overwhelming large percentage of the defensive "analysis" that goes into HOF voting.

That's why I think the offense+defense WAR is a really lousy way to make a case for actual MVP/HOF voting. The voters don't even give position enough attention, so they're not getting close to an advanced defensive metric.

I'm not up on the latest out-counting metrics, but do they account for the difference between a blown play in the OF (usually amounting to several extra bases) and a blown play in the infield (usually leading to one extra base)?
   122. Tom Nawrocki Posted: June 20, 2010 at 04:18 PM (#3564971)
Two pretty similar hitters to Jones, for instance, are Jason Giambi

When Giambi pinch-hit in last night's Rockies game, I noticed he came out and took a couple of practice swings right-handed, before turning around and preparing himself to hit lefty. I've never seen anyone do that before.
   123. Scott Lange Posted: June 20, 2010 at 08:50 PM (#3565174)
since when is defense (besides being a DH) keeping guys OUT of the hall?

I'm not buying the argument that Chipper as anything other than an easy HoF choice, but I'll take issue with this argument. As long as we're talking about what voters should do and not what voters will do, defense certainly should be evaluated on equal terms with any other identifiable contributions to the team's chances of winning. I think what we've been discussing is what the voters should do, so defense certainly should matter. Heck, since the essential question has been a debate between range factor and advanced metrics, we're obviously talking "shoulds," since half the voters have never heard of either.
   124. SteveM. Posted: June 20, 2010 at 09:56 PM (#3565204)
Given that Bisher tried to slander Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, why anyone should care what he thinks is beyond me.
   125. Graham Womack Posted: June 22, 2010 at 03:31 PM (#3566536)
To anyone still reading, this discussion inspired a post on my blog.
   126. Morty Causa Posted: June 22, 2010 at 05:18 PM (#3566674)
I think agonizing over whether someone is first-ballot-worthy or not is taking the HOF way too seriously. It's just another organization, a club, and it's composed of mostly fuKktards (at least when it comes to assesing the relative values of players). What a player has accomplished is there for all to see, in the records and recordations of media--HOF induction (whether first or last) adds nothing at all to that. I still hope for a legitimately super-great player to give it a good dissing--to say what we all know really--that it really isn't an honor, I don't need you to legitimate or validate my accomplishment, so thanks, but no thanks.
   127. Graham Womack Posted: June 22, 2010 at 05:30 PM (#3566692)
In 75 years, has that happened?
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