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Sunday, December 08, 2019

Lou Whitaker snubbed from the Hall of Fame again

Long time Tigers second baseman Lou Whitaker has long been one of baseball history’s most underrated players. He and Hall of Fame shortstop Alan Trammell formed one of the best up-the-middle combos ever, teammates since Whitaker’s debut in 1977 to his final year in 1995.

Trammell is actually a great jumping-off point to support Whitaker’s candidacy. Here are their career counting stats:

Whitaker: .276/.363/.426, 420 doubles, 65 triples, 244 homers, 1084 RBI, 1386 runs, 143 stolen bases, 1197 walks (9967 plate appearances)
Trammell: .285/.352/.415, 415 doubles, 55 triples, 185 homers, 1003 RBI, 1231 runs, 236 stolen bases, 850 walks (9376 plate appearances)

Whitaker also had slightly more Wins Above Replacement over his career according to Baseball Reference, besting Trammell 75.1 to 70.7. FanGraphs’ version of WAR puts both players slightly lower but with Whitaker still in the lead, 68.1 to 63.7.

On the bright side, this does give us an idea as for who to campaign for in three years’ time, particularly given the nature of who was inducted this time around.

 

QLE Posted: December 08, 2019 at 11:26 PM | 150 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hall of fame, lou whitaker

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   101. ajnrules Posted: December 10, 2019 at 10:22 AM (#5907392)
Huh. I didn't realize there was a difference. My apologies.

Flip
   102. Tom Nawrocki Posted: December 10, 2019 at 10:49 AM (#5907399)
Peak - a player at his absolute best, typically 3-5 years. You have to have a really high peak to warrant election on peak alone - Koufax.

Prime - Sustained excellence for slightly longer. 6-10 years. With nothing else, you can have a little lower quality of play, but for longer. Kiner.


Ideally, these are both consecutive. It doesn't make much sense to me to say that Darrell Evans' peak was 1973-74 and 1983.
   103. Rally Posted: December 10, 2019 at 10:51 AM (#5907402)
How about 70 WAR over 35 seasons (Julio Franco reference here)?


What does Julio Franco have to do with a short career lasting only 35 seasons? Dude played professionally in 1978, and 2014.

2 seasons: >28 WAR


Worked for Old Hoss
   104. SoSH U at work Posted: December 10, 2019 at 11:00 AM (#5907406)
Ideally, these are both consecutive. It doesn't make much sense to me to say that Darrell Evans' peak was 1973-74 and 1983.


That's always grated on me as well. If you want to call those non-consecutive high points something else and factor them into your Hall evaluation, fine. But you definitely shouldn't call them "peak."

   105. alilisd Posted: December 10, 2019 at 11:36 AM (#5907411)
WAR 7 is not the best way to measure peak, as several have pointed out, but it is a decent shorthand method, IMO. I agree it’s longer than I would like, I prefer five years, and some people don’t like non consecutive years, I think. But it’s a decent, quick, convenient way to look at it. If you need to get more granular, by all means do so.

On Koufax, I don’t care how you look at it, he’s a borderline candidate at best. I understand why he was elected when he was, but with the perspective we have now, he only squeaks by with his postseason contribution, as always IMO. You can look at his peak as six years rather than seven if you like, but when someone mentioned he’s in the discussion for greatest peak ever, you’d have to reduce it to just four as the first two seasons of his peak are rather pedestrian when you’re talking GOAT peak. And whether you use four or six it becomes quickly evident that he’s not remotely in the discussion for greatest peak. Really he’s not significantly different than a number of guys who were his contemporaries such as Gibson, Marichal and Perry
   106. Misirlou gave her his Vincent to ride Posted: December 10, 2019 at 11:49 AM (#5907418)
I would argue that there are no players that meet some of these.

1 season: >20 WAR (or some other theoretical number)
2 seasons: >28 WAR
3 seasons: >35 WAR
4 seasons: >40 WAR
5 seasons: >45 WAR
6 seasons: >48 WAR


Not sure what you are saying here, but babe Ruth meets most of these.

3 seasons - 39.4
4 seasons - 51.3
5 seasons - 63
6 seasons - 74.5

he also just misses the 2 season mark with 27
   107. alilisd Posted: December 10, 2019 at 11:51 AM (#5907421)
Curious if you guys could expand on why you have an issue with non consecutive peak? To me a player’s peak is how well he played at his very best. It seems unreasonable to constrain that to consecutive seasons. Injuries happen, variables in performance happen. Are you saying if a player has two great seasons, then is injured and has a poor season followed by a second lower level season, then two more great seasons, their peak is only two seasons? Pick one or the other set of two great seasons?
   108. Tom Nawrocki Posted: December 10, 2019 at 11:58 AM (#5907429)
Because "non-consecutive peak" is an oxymoron. I have no issue with evaluating a player that way, but you should call it something else.
   109. SoSH U at work Posted: December 10, 2019 at 12:26 PM (#5907448)

Because "non-consecutive peak" is an oxymoron. I have no issue with evaluating a player that way, but you should call it something else.



My thoughts exactly.
   110. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: December 10, 2019 at 01:04 PM (#5907467)
Are you saying if a player has two great seasons, then is injured and has a poor season followed by a second lower level season, then two more great seasons, their peak is only two seasons? Pick one or the other set of two great seasons?
Twin Peaks.
   111. flournoy Posted: December 10, 2019 at 01:05 PM (#5907468)
I think non-consecutive peaks and primes work, but you treat the intervening years as something to be ignored, rather than two separate peaks or primes. (Though a player could certainly reach two separate peaks. Two separate primes doesn't really make sense.)

For example, you could say that Chipper Jones' prime was 1998-2008 and just allow that he had something of a down year in 2004, rather than say his prime was 1998-2003 and 2005-2008.
   112. Graham & the 15-win "ARod Vortex of suck" Posted: December 10, 2019 at 01:10 PM (#5907470)
Not sure what you are saying here, but babe Ruth meets most of these.


Sorry if I was unclear, but what is the threshold across X seasons that merits induction? Player A gets called up, reels off seasons of 11 WAR, 12 WAR, and 13 WAR before a freak injury ends his career. Ignoring the Hall's ten-year requirement, are those three seasons enough to merit induction? Alternately, he reels off seasons of 11 WAR, 12 WAR, and 13 WAR and then becomes a 2 WAR player for seven more seasons. Is that a Hall of Fame career? If not, are seasons of 13 WAR, 13 WAR, and 13 WAR enough?
   113. Rally Posted: December 10, 2019 at 01:30 PM (#5907479)
On Koufax, I don’t care how you look at it, he’s a borderline candidate at best. I understand why he was elected when he was, but with the perspective we have now, he only squeaks by with his postseason contribution, as always IMO. You can look at his peak as six years rather than seven if you like, but when someone mentioned he’s in the discussion for greatest peak ever, you’d have to reduce it to just four as the first two seasons of his peak are rather pedestrian when you’re talking GOAT peak. And whether you use four or six it becomes quickly evident that he’s not remotely in the discussion for greatest peak. Really he’s not significantly different than a number of guys who were his contemporaries such as Gibson, Marichal and Perry


Koufax is one of a small handful of pitchers to have 40+ WAR over a 5 year span. Looking at post 1920 pitchers who had to deal with the live ball, I see:

Robin Roberts
Roger Clemens
Pedro Martinez
Sandy Koufax
Greg Maddux
Lefty Grove
Bob Gibson
Randy Johnson

Among this group you can argue for which peak is the best, but they are not all that different from each other, at least in value. Certainly the shape of the value is different, with Pedro and Maddux having the best ERA+ numbers while Roberts handled the biggest workload.

On the hitting side people say a guy like Parker or Murphy had a great peak, but their peaks are not any better than non-inner-circle HOFers like Reggie Jackson, and nowhere close to the inner circle guys like Ruth, Wagner, and Mays. On the pitching side it does not get any better than the guys listed above for peak value, so I have no problem seeing Koufax as a slam dunk.
   114. alilisd Posted: December 10, 2019 at 01:31 PM (#5907482)
I’m with flournoy it seems. Does this capture it? SoSH and Tom think of peak as a noun, it is a specific thing/period of time, ergo it must be consecutive; I, and I think flournoy, look at it as an adjective, something which describes what a player was at his very best regardless of when it took place within their career?
   115. bbmck Posted: December 10, 2019 at 03:50 PM (#5907544)
Walter Johnson beats Babe Ruth essentially on playing time by WAR, Ruth takes and keeps the lead at 11 seasons:

Walter Johnson vs Babe Ruth vs Willie Mays vs Barry Bonds vs Mike Trout

1 season: 16.4 vs 14.1 vs 11.2 vs 11.9 vs 10.5
2 seasons: 30.7 vs 26.6 vs 22.2 vs 23.7 vs 21
3 seasons: 43.4 vs 39 vs 32.8 vs 34.3 vs 31.2
4 seasons: 55.8 vs 50.8 vs 43.4 vs 44.2 vs 40.6
5 seasons: 67.4 vs 62.5 vs 53.9 vs 53.9 vs 49.6

6 seasons: 78.2 vs 74 vs 64.2 vs 63.6 vs 57.9
7 seasons: 88.9 vs 84.5 vs 73.7 vs 72.8 vs 65.5
8 seasons: 99.6 vs 94.9 vs 82.8 vs 81.8 vs 72.1
9 seasons: 108.4 vs 105.2 vs 91.8 vs 90 vs 72.6
10 seasons: 116.4 vs 115.3 vs 100.5 vs 98.1

Peak argument is pretty simple, at which point in Trout or Kershaw or whoever's career would you induct them if they had a severe injury and played out a long term contract as a replacement level player to reach 10 years.

47 WAR for Trout's first 5 full seasons, non-HoF not named Mike Trout, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez or Albert Pujols with the highest WAR over 5 consecutive seasons (not necessarily years), position player WAR only:

1st-5th: Mookie Betts 35.2, Charlie Keller 30.0, Ichiro Suzuki 29.9
2nd-6th: Mookie Betts 39.7, Chase Utley 33.7, Josh Donaldson 32.8
3rd-7th: Chase Utley 39.7, Josh Donaldson 36.3, Bobby Grich 35.0
4th-8th: Chase Utley 38.2, Todd Helton 37.4, Shoeless Joe Jackson 34.4
5th-9th: Jason Giambi 34.8, Chase Utley 34.7, Robinson Cano 34.6

6th-10th: Robinson Cano 36.5, Ken Boyer 31.7, Chase Utley 30.0
7th-11th: Miguel Cabrera 33.6, Robinson Cano 31.7, Pete Rose 30.8
8th-12th: Miguel Cabrera 33.7, Robinson Cano 33.2, Jim Edmonds 32.1
9th-13th: Miguel Cabrera 32.4, Jim Edmonds 30.1, Larry Walker 30.1
10th-14th: Sammy Sosa 33.0, Pete Rose 31.4, Mark McGwire 29.8

11th-15th: Adrian Beltre 29.5, Sammy Sosa 29.3, Mark McGwire 28.5
12th-16th: Adrian Beltre 29.5, Sammy Sosa 25.7, Gary Sheffield 24.9
13th-17th: Adrian Beltre 33.0, Gary Sheffield 25.9, Lou Whitaker 24.7
14th-18th: Adrian Beltre 31.1, Gary Sheffield 23.9, Lou Whitaker 21.9
15th-19th: (Barry Bonds 51.2), Adrian Beltre 31.9, Gary Sheffield 20.0, Lou Whitaker 19.6

16th-20th: Adrian Beltre 28.1, Gary Sheffield 18.6, David Ortiz 18.5
17th-21st: Adrian Beltre 24.8, David Ortiz 15.4, Darrell Evans 11.6
18th-22nd: Adrian Beltre 18.0, David Ortiz 11.0, Lave Cross 9.2
19th-23rd: Adrian Beltre 12.2, David Ortiz 8.4, Lave Cross 5.4
20th-24th: Adrian Beltre 5.7, David Ortiz 5.2, Rick Dempsey 3.3

So if it's averaging 8 WAR for 5 consecutive years it's only been done by Trout, Barry, A-Rod and Pujols outside the HoF and Betts needs 6.2 WAR in 2020. When Mike Trout makes his first 2020 appearance he's a HoF lock presumably to most people, when Josh Donaldson makes his first 2020 appearance does he already have a decent HoF case?

Averaging 6 WAR over 5 consecutive seasons adds: Dick Allen, Evan Longoria, Ryan Braun, Kenny Lofton, Bobby Bonds, Andruw Jones, Vada Pinson, Andrew McCutchen, Ken Boyer, Cesar Cedeno, Dave Parker, Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Joey Votto, Derek Jeter, Sal Bando, Jose Altuve, Ben Zobrist, Al Rosen, Scott Rolen, Carlos Beltran, Jose Bautista and Buddy Bell

Dave Parker: 31.1 WAR in 5 consecutive years, 4.7 in another year, 4.3 WAR and 1572 Hits for the rest of his career.

Josh Donaldson: 36.3 WAR in 5 consecutive years, 6.1 in another year, 2.4 WAR and 117 Hits for the rest of his career so far.

Does Josh just need a 10th season? to have more excellent seasons? to have a bunch of replacement level seasons to reach 2000 or 2500 Hits?
   116. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: December 10, 2019 at 04:01 PM (#5907550)

All else being equal, I'd rather have a guy with a consecutive peak as he's more predictable and allows you to plan your roster better. But consecutive peak vs. non-consecutive peak is unlikely to be the difference for me in terms of whether a guy does or doesn't deserve to be in the HOF.

That being said, it probably does help from a narrative standpoint to say that Player A was the best 3B in the game over a 5-year or 7-year period, rather than saying he was the best in the game from 1993-94 and again from 1999-2000 or something like that.
   117. flournoy Posted: December 10, 2019 at 04:21 PM (#5907558)
I think multiple peaks can be a big help for a player from a narrative perspective. Think about players who re-invented themselves mid-career. John Smoltz and Dennis Eckersley, for example.
   118. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: December 10, 2019 at 04:44 PM (#5907575)
I think multiple peaks can be a big help for a player from a narrative perspective. Think about players who re-invented themselves mid-career. John Smoltz and Dennis Eckersley, for example.

Then again, Mark McGwire.
   119. flournoy Posted: December 10, 2019 at 04:50 PM (#5907578)
Well, yes, the nature of the re-invention is also part of the narrative.
   120. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: December 10, 2019 at 04:58 PM (#5907584)
True. Although I would say that the reinvention and ability to play two different roles at an elite level helped their narratives. And it helped a lot that Eck spent 5 years as an elite closer, not just 2. Or that Smoltz came back and had 6 excellent years post injury (3 as a closer, 3 as a starter). I don't think that simply coming back and being a 4-5 WAR starter for a couple of years would have gotten Eck in.

McGwire is a PED case. He's irrelevant to discussing other players, IMO.
   121. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: December 10, 2019 at 05:04 PM (#5907587)
But most of the other players are also on PED.
   122. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: December 10, 2019 at 05:59 PM (#5907601)

But most of the other players are also on PED.

McGwire would be in if not for his PED use, so I'm not sure how he's relevant to discussions of career shape. None of the guys on the Modern Era ballot are being kept out for PED use. I thought that's what we were discussing.
   123. bbmck Posted: December 10, 2019 at 06:06 PM (#5907603)
5+ position player WAR seasons the furthest apart among players not in the HoF (Ages reached 5+ WAR):

17 - Barry Bonds (22-33, 35-39)
16 - Bill Dahlen (22, 26, 28, 33-35, 38)
12 - Ellis Burks (23, 31, 35), Derek Jeter (23-25, 27, 32, 35), Mark McGwire (23, 26, 28, 31-35), Adrian Beltre (25, 27, 29, 31-37), Alex Rodriguez (20-22, 24-29, 31-32)
11 - Gary Sheffield (23, 27, 31, 34), David Ortiz (29-31, 40), Scott Rolen (23, 26-27, 29, 31, 34), Pete Rose (24, 27-28, 30-33, 35)
10 - Andres Galarraga (27, 37), Jimmy Sheckard (22, 24, 32), Jack Fournier (25, 33-35), Bob Johnson (28, 31, 33, 38), Willie Davis (22, 24, 31, 32), Larry Walker (25, 30-32, 34-35), Manny Ramirez (26-27, 29-31, 36), Miguel Cabrera (22-23, 26-32), Albert Pujols (21-31)
   124. John DiFool2 Posted: December 10, 2019 at 07:27 PM (#5907613)
Koufax is one of a small handful of pitchers to have 40+ WAR over a 5 year span. Looking at post 1920 pitchers who had to deal with the live ball, I see:

Robin Roberts
Roger Clemens
Pedro Martinez
Sandy Koufax
Greg Maddux
Lefty Grove
Bob Gibson
Randy Johnson

Among this group you can argue for which peak is the best, but they are not all that different from each other, at least in value. Certainly the shape of the value is different, with Pedro and Maddux having the best ERA+ numbers while Roberts handled the biggest workload.


I've always wondered what kind of correlation I'll see if I were to plot (post-1920) best ERA+ seasons against the average runs scored in the league in question. I'd
bet I'll see an r around .90, as in it is easier to have a high ERA+ in an offensive era than it is in a defensive one, or, more to the point, it is harder to really drive the base ERA down below a certain point no matter when you pitch. A quick check of

https://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/earned_run_avg_plus_season.shtml

would seem at first glance to correlate with my hypothesis, as the list (top 100) is dominated by pitchers who played in big offensive seasons:

20's 2
30's 8
40's 4
50's 2
60's 7
70's 5
80's 3
90's 11
00's 8
10's 11

Note that most of the ones in the 60's were in the bottom half: top only had Gibby '68 and Dean Chance '64; Koufax was 66th and 82nd. IOW I'm not sure you can say that half of the best pitching rare seasons of all time were in the last 3 decades. [maybe they were, and the lessened pitching loads mean they can throw harder for a higher % of their innings, but that in fact bolsters my hypothesis]

The assumption that pitching talent scales perfectly linearly with the offensive environment may not be true.
   125. Zonk didn't order a hit on an ambassador Posted: December 10, 2019 at 07:49 PM (#5907616)
Anyone know how to get a highest single season WAR (and WAA if possible) number NOT in the HOF out of pi? Hunting around, I get mostly PED guys... plus pitchers like Score and Santana (tbd, I guess).
   126. Misirlou gave her his Vincent to ride Posted: December 10, 2019 at 08:11 PM (#5907618)
Do a PI search for highest WAR, and exclude HOFers and active players
   127. Jack Keefe Posted: December 10, 2019 at 08:13 PM (#5907619)
Just look at this page you knuckle head and scrope down. It is Al Rosin and after him Ricco Petrojelly. This page here.
   128. Misirlou gave her his Vincent to ride Posted: December 10, 2019 at 08:13 PM (#5907620)
I get Al Rosen at 10.1, followed by Rico Petrocelli at 10.0. Ahead of them are Bonds, Sosa, and ARod.
   129. Misirlou gave her his Vincent to ride Posted: December 10, 2019 at 08:15 PM (#5907621)
On the pitching side, it's Gooden at 12.2, followed by Wilbur Wood at 11.7. Post 1920 only.
   130. SoSH U at work Posted: December 10, 2019 at 08:17 PM (#5907622)
Hunting around, I get mostly PED guys... plus pitchers like Score and Santana (tbd, I guess).


Teddy Higuera had a 9.4 in 1986 (the year Clemens was the unanimous choice for the Cy Young).

Dean Chance nearly matched Santana with an 8.7 in 1964, and only because his hitting dragged down the 9.4 WAR he posted as a pitcher.

   131. Hank Gillette Posted: December 10, 2019 at 10:00 PM (#5907639)
I usually add WAA to WAR to get a rough estimate of HoF worthiness. I think a long career as a contributor has value but I wouldn't induct anyone who was never above average.


What is the number that crosses the line for you from that? Whitaker was above average every season except his 11 game cup of coffee in 1977.
   132. Hank Gillette Posted: December 10, 2019 at 10:02 PM (#5907640)
Because "non-consecutive peak" is an oxymoron. I have no issue with evaluating a player that way, but you should call it something else.


Twin peaks.

Coke to Billy Ripkin Elroy Face.
   133. Howie Menckel Posted: December 10, 2019 at 10:04 PM (#5907641)
132, meet 110 and arrive with his beverage of choice.

GUH
I guess I owe two beverages now
   134. Hank Gillette Posted: December 10, 2019 at 10:13 PM (#5907642)
I guess I owe two beverages now


Not to worry. I vacillate between reading all the posts first, or posting something before I forget it.
   135. alilisd Posted: December 10, 2019 at 10:59 PM (#5907648)
Koufax is one of a small handful of pitchers to have 40+ WAR over a 5 year span. Looking at post 1920 pitchers who had to deal with the live ball, I see:

Robin Roberts
Roger Clemens
Pedro Martinez
Sandy Koufax
Greg Maddux
Lefty Grove
Bob Gibson
Randy Johnson


Let's begin by recognizing some of the assumptions used. First is that Dead Ball pitchers need to be left out presumably because of their larger IP totals. That's fine, it is tough to compare across eras, but then it needs to be recognized that the great pitchers of the last 20-25 years, roughly, need to be given some consideration for working in a 5 man rotation with vastly different bullpen usage. In some instances I'll include IP versus total WAR to help with this. Second, by limiting it to 5 consecutive years you discount those pitchers who had peaks longer than that, and arbitrarily, I would say, remove pitchers who had legitimately great peaks, comparable or better peaks than Koufax, but who might have had an injury shortened season or two within those peaks, or who were hurt by strikes in 1981, 1994 and 1995. This should be considered, and I'll attempt to do so. For reference, Koufax 40.7 WAR, 1,377 IP, led the league in WAR twice.

I'll try to go more or less chronologically, and start with guys who didn't make the 40 cutoff. Then I'll discuss the more recent pitchers who deserve consideration although they don't amass the same sort of totals due to 5 man rotations and bullpen usage, before finishing with some discussion of the other pitchers who do make the 40 cutoff. Feller, IMO, deserves an Honorable Mention as he has 32.4 from 1938-1941, then a 10 in 1946, his first full year back from the war. You missed Newhouser from 1944-1949 when he had 40.9, though I could understand if you wanted to discount him for pitching some of those years against a lower level league due to the war (although maybe that is reflected in the WAR calculation already?). So there's, perhaps, two more to consider though I'd say they're only comparable to Koufax, not better.

Vance from 1924-1928, which includes and injury shortened 1926 season of 2.5 WAR, totaled 36.6, and followed with seasons of 5.2 and 7.3. If we use 1924-1929, leaving out 1926, he'd have 39.4 in 1,359.2 IP. Led the league 3 times in that span, and again in 1930. I'd say comparable to Koufax with more bulk. Spahn from 1947-1953 has 46.7 WAR. His 5 best seasons in that span are 38.1, although he threw 81 more IP than Koufax, too. Pretty comparable, but maybe slightly lower peak, but a LOT more bulk to the peak as well. Although he only led the league in WAR once, he finished second 3 times in that span.

Just from Koufax's own era, and direct contemporaries we have 3 guys who should be considered, plus Roberts and Gibson who made the 40 cutoff (does this indicate an era effect which diminishes Koufax's peak? I don't know, but maybe some of the more savvy posters here could comment). You missed Niekro from 1974-1978 with 40.1 (also with 39.7 from 1975-1979); in fact, from 1971-1973 his seasons are 5, 5.4, and 4.4 (same as Koufax's 1962), so you might say his peak is from 1971-1979 totaling 62.4 and averaging 6.9, led the league twice. This is a much better peak than Koufax, IMO. Marichal just misses with 38.5 from 1963-1968, subtracting 1.8 for his off season in 1967, and then he tacks on another big season of 7.8 in 1969. This seems pretty darn comparable to Koufax, and has a bit more bulk. Perry just misses from 1969-1974, but his best 5 in that span are 41.2, he had an off year in 1971. From 1966-1976 he has 71.1, with the 1971 season being the only one below 5 WAR; that's a massively better and longer peak than Koufax. Jenkins is lower at 36.5 from 1968-1972, with 1967 being 5 WAR, and has another season of 7.7 in 1974, so again pretty comparable at least given the extra bulk, IMO.

Seaver, same era though not a direct contemporary, I get his 1971-1975 at 40, from 1967-1976 is never lower than 5, has two seasons of 10, and a total of 71.2, including leading the league 3 times. I'd say that is a much better peak.

Wilbur Wood had 39.1 from 1971-1975, though he only led the league once. If only someone had figured out he could be a starter sooner.

More recent pitchers who have great peaks, but don't meet the 40 in 5 seasons cutoff: Brown has 36.7 in 1,209.2 IP, led the league twice, from 1996-2000. I'm not trying to argue his peak is as good as Koufax, but given changes in pitcher usage it's not far off.

Schilling from 2000-2004 has 36.3, 1,121 IP. He also four 5 to 6 WAR seasons just prior to 2000, from 1996-1999 (two of those seasons are "just" 4.9, so I'm rounding to call them 5 WAR seasons). He did not lead the league at any time from 2000-2004, but did finish second twice. Clearly Schilling's peak is lower, but this is partly due to pitcher usage as mentioned above, and then he adds so much more length to his than Koufax has. I wouldn't necessarily say Koufax has the better peak, a bit higher, but nowhere near as long.

Santana, who I think is the 5 man rotation/Closer bullpen "era" equivalent of Koufax, has 35.6 from 2004-2008 in 1,146.2 IP, and led the league 3 times. Pretty darn comparable given differences in pitcher usage.

Kershaw from 2011-2015 is "just" 36.3, but led the league 3 times (1,128 IP), and has seasons of 5.6 and 5.8 on either side of that period (including those would be 47.7 WAR in 1,418.1 IP). I'd give the nod to Kershaw as the best left handed dodger for peak, and probably Vance second, with Koufax a close third.

Verlander's peak is really from 2011-2019, to date, with two injury shortened seasons in the middle of it. In total it's 51.7 WAR in 1,917.2 IP, but 48.5 with 1,578 IP without those injury seasons, and led the league 4 times. Given differences in pitcher usage I'd say that's as good, if not better, than Koufax.

Scherzer's last 5 seasons have been 34.9 in 1,050.2 IP, while leading the league twice, and the 2 seasons immediately prior add another 12.1 (7 year peak of 47 in 1,485.1 IP). So a slightly lower 5 year peak, but basically due to era differences, as he also led the league in IP and GS twice, and CG three times, with more bulk, and still pitching.

Now let's look at the guys on your list who made the 40 in 5 years cut: Grove 1926-1930 = 38, 1927-1931 = 40.9, 1928-1932 = 44.7, 1929-1933 = 46. He was injured in 1934 pitching only 109.1 innings at -0.4 WAR, but 1930-1934 = 39.3. 1931-1935 = 37.3. 1932-1936 = 38.1, 1933-1937 = 38.3, 1934-1938 = 35. 1935-1939 = 42.5. 1926-1939 108.4 for an average of 7.7, no seasons below 5 besides 1934, led the league 8 times. Enough said.

Roberts 42.6 from 1950-1954 in 1,632.2 IP. I'd say he's the only guy on your list Koufax stacks up to.

Gibson 42.5, led league 3 times from 1968-1972. He also had 3 straight seasons of 6 from 1964-1966 while being injured in 1967, which would be a 9 year run of 63.4, averaging 7 per season. Clearly better than Koufax.

Clemens 1986-1990 = 41.4, 1987-1991 = 40.5, 1988-1992 = 39.9. 1986-1998 = 96.3 for an average of 7.4 (only 1993 and 1995 below 5 WAR), led the league 6 times in that span. Clearly better than Koufax.

Maddux 1992-1996 = 40.3, 1993-1997 = 39, 1994-1998 = 39.8, 1995-1999 = 34.5 (he had a down year in 1999), but 1995 was a strike year, and he led the league in WAR, as well as 1992 and 1994. Total from 1992-2000 is 64.4, an average of 7.2, and only one season below 5, the aforementioned 1999 of 3.2. Clearly better than Koufax.

Big Unit 43.8 from 1998-2002, and led the league 4 times. 2001-2005 36.7 in 1,095.7 IP. He was hurt in 2003, but led the league in 2004. 1997-2005, leaving out the injury season, he has 66, average of 8.2 in 1,958.2 IP while leading the league 5 times. If insisting on consecutive years, 1997-2002 51.8 for a 6 year peak, average of 8.6 in 1,487.1 IP. Clearly better than Koufax.

Pedro 1997-2001 = 42.8, 1998-2002 = 40.3, 1999-2003 = 41.1, and 1997-2005 69.7, average of 7.7 in 1,842 IP, led the league 3 times in the 1997-2001 period (also has a second and 2 third place finishes between 1997-2005). Clearly better than Koufax.

Sure, you can put Koufax on a short list if you define it closely as a consecutive 5 year peak with at least 40 WAR from 1920 forward (I think your list of 8 is short, and should be 12 with Feller, Newhouser, Seaver, and Niekro added, or at least the latter 3), but it's also clear that if you look beyond 5 years, nearly everyone on your list is better than Koufax, as are Seaver and Niekro. There are also a number of guys who don't make a 5 consecutive year 40 WAR cutoff who have better or comparable peaks if bulk/length of peak, and/or changes in pitcher usage are considered. He may be on the short list for greatest peak, but he's well down it.

Wes Ferrell makes an interesting footnote. He suffered 2 injury shortened years in the middle of his peak, but has 36.4 from 1930-32 plus 1935-36, and if you add his Batting WAR to the 36.4, he ends up with 43.3. He also had 6 WAR season in 1929 with another 0.5 Batting WAR. Thanks for engendering this search! It included lots of other names (I just did 5 WAR seasons from 1920 forward sorted by Name) who were really interesting, guys I'd never heard of who had quite nice, short peaks of 3-4 years, other names I was familiar with where it was fun to review and reminisce on. Super fun to look through!
   136. Rally Posted: December 11, 2019 at 09:40 AM (#5907705)
Good post. You're right, I missed Seaver, Newhouser, and Niekro. Feller is a good add considering the circumstances. I did a search by age, age 21 to 25, then 22-26, etc. as this kind of search is not straightforward on PI.

Grove, at 46 from age 29-33, has the highest 5 year peak value in the live ball era. Koufax does not match Grove, but he's not that far off, 88% there.

The other guys have multiple spans of 5 years and 40+ WAR, and longer stretches where they are clearly better than Koufax. Sure, I never said otherwise. Their careers are greater. But looking at everyone's best consecutive 5 years, Koufax is reasonably close to everyone.

On the hitter side, these guys have great 5 year peaks (no complete search, may be others): Ruth 57, Mays 52, Bonds 51, Mantle and Wagner 48, Trout 47.

I don't think there's anyone remotely close to the greatest in hitter peak value who didn't also have a great career, counting Trout as an incomplete.
   137. alilisd Posted: December 11, 2019 at 10:06 AM (#5907721)
136: Thanks again Rally. It’s my anti dodgers bias coming through, but I can definitely see why you or anyone would put Koufax in the discussion now. Cheers!
   138. Mefisto Posted: December 11, 2019 at 10:17 AM (#5907728)
For reference, Koufax 40.7 WAR, 1,377 IP, led the league in WAR twice.


Excellent comment. This sentence confuses me, though. It's not you, it's BBREF. The BBREF leaderboard shows that Koufax never led the league in WAR. However, his player page gives different WAR totals for 1963 and 1966. The player page total for 1966 would have led the league, but for some reason that's not reflected on the leader board.

@136: I would include Williams in that group with wartime credit. He's at 50.5 even if you skip from 1942 to 1946.
   139. Rally Posted: December 11, 2019 at 10:23 AM (#5907734)
1 season: >20 WAR (or some other theoretical number)
2 seasons: >28 WAR
3 seasons: >35 WAR
4 seasons: >40 WAR
5 seasons: >45 WAR
6 seasons: >48 WAR


I like this way of looking at things. It would be possible to set up some kind of uniform standard, based on standard deviations, that can compare different combinations of rate vs playing time to measure greatness.

I would argue that it would be possible to look at sub-seasons as well. Eric Davis for the first 2 months of 1987 was the most amazing player I have ever witnessed, so put him on the scale. How about if a player only had 50 MLB at bats, but hit 40 homers before divinely ascending to baseball heaven?

Who's more amazing among old-time Dodger phenoms? Karl Spooner or Koufax? Koufax obviously. But Spooner or Billy Loes? Loes had a lot more value, 10 WAR and a 100 ERA+ over 1190 innings, but nobody remembers him. I think you could quantify extreme short peak greatness in a way to rank Spooner ahead of him.

   140. Rally Posted: December 11, 2019 at 10:27 AM (#5907739)
The player page total for 1966 would have led the league, but for some reason that's not reflected on the leader board.


I think it's the addition of pitcher batting that drops Koufax below Marichal for 1966. I get 9.7 for Koufax, same as what the leaderboard has for Marichal, so it's just going beyond the first decimal place.
   141. Mefisto Posted: December 11, 2019 at 11:02 AM (#5907762)
Thanks. I didn't think of that.
   142. Howie Menckel Posted: December 11, 2019 at 11:38 AM (#5907773)
Koufax had a not irrelevant -26 OPS+ career at a time when some rival pitchers could hit a little.

Gibson, for example, had a 50 OPS+ - including a 100 in his 1970 Cy Young season when he hit .303 with 2 HR and 19 RBI. he had "backing" from the keystone combo of Julian Javier (57 OPS+ in 552 PA) and Dal Maxvill (38 OPS+ in 466 PA).

Koufax had a career OBP of .145, SLG of .116, AVG of .097 in 858 PA.

his only OPS+ above 0 came in 1965, when he had a +29 off a .177 AVG plus a mystifying 10 BB in 127 PA.
   143. DanG Posted: December 11, 2019 at 12:06 PM (#5907778)
Koufax had a not irrelevant -26 OPS+ career at a time when some rival pitchers could hit a little.
Yes, his bat was hurting his team. This is another chink in the Koufax armor and more fuel for the anti-Dodgers among us. I don't know if he couldn't bunt or that Alston shunned it, but he has far fewer SH than his contemporaries.

From 1962-66 there were 45 pitchers with 300+ PA. Here are the weakest hitters:

Player          BtWins OPSWARSH   BA  OPS  PA
Sandy Koufax      
-8.0  -20 -1.7 15 .101 .272 529
Bob Friend        
-7.7  -49 -2.8 43 .081 .180 407
Dean Chance       
-7.4  -38 -2.5 35 .083 .210 437
Dick Ellsworth    
-7.1  -19 -1.1 27 .101 .285 469
Bob Buhl          
-6.8  -45 -2.5 24 .071 .192 371
Ken Johnson       
-6.5  -29 -1.9 31 .097 .251 389
Dave Wickersham   
-6.3  -45 -2.4 26 .083 .197 335
Milt Pappas       
-6.3  -14 -1.3 22 .106 .312 415
Bill Monbouquette 
-6.1  -24 -1.5 37 .095 .271 392 
   144. Rally Posted: December 11, 2019 at 01:33 PM (#5907818)
My first thought was how did I miss Bob Friend, when considering the worst hitting pitchers of all time?

It’s the end points. Friend was actually a good hitting pitcher in 1954. I think on a career basis Dean Chance has a reasonable claim to worst hitting pitcher of all time. Not only did he not hit (.066, 0 homers in 660 AB) he also struck out 2/3 of the time.
   145. bbmck Posted: December 11, 2019 at 02:47 PM (#5907868)
[124] There logically would be since excluding the son of Jor-El a "perfect" pitcher would strike out half the batters, in 20+ IP seasons that has only accomplished by 2012 Craig Kimbrel and 2014 Aroldis Chapman. So a "perfect" game without relying on luck is something like 32 BF, 16 K, 16 BIP which results in 4 Hits even adjusting for weak contact. 54% chance to have 2 hits in the same inning (1 x 8/9 x 7/9 x 6/9 = 46% to be in separate innings) so around 0.54 is a "perfect" ERA or to use a round number 0.50.

1968 Bob Gibson 100*(2.99/1.12) is 267 ERA+ so his park effect divides it by 1.035 then add in the "perfect" standard:
1968 Bob Gibson 100*((2.99-0.50)/(1.12-0.50)) / 1.035 = 388 ERA+

2000 Pedro Martinez 100*(4.91/1.74) is 282 ERA+ so his park effect multiplies it by 1.032 then add in the "perfect" standard:
2000 Pedro Martinez 100*((4.91-0.50)/(1.74-0.50)) * 1.032 = 367 ERA+
   146. bbmck Posted: December 11, 2019 at 03:33 PM (#5907884)
Single seasons of 70%+ games at the position, HoF includes Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Adrian Beltre, Mike Trout, Barry Bonds, Ichiro Suzuki and David Ortiz:

7.5+ WAR at C: 5 HoF, 3 Non-HoF: Joe Mauer 7.8, Buster Posey 7.6, Darrell Porter 7.6
9+ WAR at 2B: 22 HoF, 1 Non-HoF: Chase Utley 9
9+ WAR at 3B: 8 HoF, 3 Non-HoF: Al Rosen 10.1, Scott Rolen 9.2, Darrell Evans 9
9+ WAR at SS: 15 HoF, 2 Non-HoF: Rico Petrocelli 10, Terry Turner 9.4

9+ WAR at 1B: 12 HoF, 2 Non-HoF: Jason Giambi 9.2, Norm Cash 9.2
8.5+ WAR in CF: 37 HoF, 2 Non-HoF: Lenny Dykstra 8.9, Fred Lynn 8.9
9+ WAR in LF or RF: 26 HoF, 7 Non-HoF: Mookie Betts 10.9 and 9.7, Sammy Sosa 10.3, Bryce Harper 10, Larry Walker 9.8, Shoeless Joe Jackson 9.5, Cody Bellinger 9
5.5+ WAR at DH: 9 HoF, 2 Non-HoF: Travis Hafner 5.9, Victor Martinez 5.5

Whole bunch of seasons missing mostly split between LF and RF as there isn't an option to do 70% of games at LF/RF combined by PI. The HoF and statistical locks in the first line combine for 126 seasons of 9+ WAR and everyone else combines for 16 seasons, the 15 above and Shoeless Joe Jackson also has a 9.2 WAR season.

9+ pitching WAR seasons, HoF includes Roger Clemens:

19th century: 29 HoF, 56 Non-HoF
1901-1910: 19 HoF, 5 Non-HoF: Russ Ford 11.4, Jack Coombs 9.5, Irv Young 9.3, Jack Taylor 9.2, George McQuillan 9.1
1911-1920: 14 HoF, 4 Non-HoF: Eddie Cicotte 11.4 and 9.5, Smoky Joe Wood 10.1, Dutch Leonard 9.4
Since 1921: 46 HoF, 21 Non-HoF: Wilbur Wood 11.7 and 10.7, Zack Greinke 10.4 and 9.1, Dwight Gooden 12.2, Dolf Luque 10.6, Aaron Nola 10.5, Dick Ellsworth 10.2, Bret Saberhagen 9.7, Jacob deGrom 9.6, Mark Fidrych 9.6, Ron Guidry 9.6, Rick Reuschel 9.5, Dean Chance 9.4, Ewell Blackwell 9.4, Teddy Higuera 9.4, Dizzy Trout 9.3, Kevin Appier 9.3, Jose Rijo 9.2, Jon Matlack 9.1, Vida Blue 9
   147. alilisd Posted: December 11, 2019 at 05:24 PM (#5907930)
It's not you, it's BBREF. The BBREF leaderboard shows that Koufax never led the league in WAR. However, his player page gives different WAR totals for 1963 and 1966.


It might be a little bit me. I almost never look at Batting WAR for pitchers because although I know as DanG says above they may be hurting, or helping their team, I want to know how they stack up against other pitchers as a pitcher, not as a hitter. So the numbers I used are all pitching WAR and did they lead the league in pitching WAR (except for the little bit about Ferrell at the end).
   148. alilisd Posted: December 11, 2019 at 05:34 PM (#5907932)
Gibson, for example, had a 50 OPS+ - including a 100 in his 1970 Cy Young season when he hit .303 with 2 HR and 19 RBI. he had "backing" from the keystone combo of Julian Javier (57 OPS+ in 552 PA) and Dal Maxvill (38 OPS+ in 466 PA).


Wow, that's incredible! I knew Gibson could hit, and he was a great athlete (played for or was sought by the Globetrotters, didn't he?). But how awful Javier and Maxvill were! Gibson had that OPS+ in 124 PA's, too!
   149. alilisd Posted: December 11, 2019 at 05:39 PM (#5907935)
5.5+ WAR at DH: 9 HoF, 2 Non-HoF: Travis Hafner 5.9, Victor Martinez 5.5


David Ortiz 5.8 and 6.4
   150. blueshaker Posted: December 11, 2019 at 07:59 PM (#5907962)
Flipping it back a page for a second, since we are still using WAR as the go-to:

Both Dave Parker and Brian Giles had a clear 5 year peak. Just to emphasize the point made by others earlier in the thread, it's quite easy to see the difference in the leaderboards between the late 70s and late 90s/early 2000s:

wRC+ leaders 1975-1979:
https://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=bat&lg=nl&qual=2000&type=8&season=1979&month=0&season1=1975&ind=0&team=0&rost=0&age=0&filter;=&players=0&startdate=1975-01-01&enddate=1979-12-31&sort=17,d

wRC+ leaders 1999-2003:
https://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=bat&lg=nl&qual=2000&type=8&season=2003&month=0&season1=1999&ind=0&team=0&rost=0&age=0&filter;=&players=0&startdate=1999-01-01&enddate=2003-12-31&sort=17,d

Parker's 147 wRC+ was good for second in the NL during his 5 year run. That 147 would only be 9th from 99-03. Jeff Bagwell shows up at 10th in the latter timeframe with 146. In Parker's time, Dave Winfield only needs 134 to to end up with the same 10th-best wRC+.

George Foster led all batters with 152 from 75-79, the only player to top 150. There were *eight* players over 150 from 99-03. And so on... Comparing OPS+,wRC+,WAR,etc. across these eras is simply not an apples-to-apples comparison.
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