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Monday, December 02, 2019

The Hall of Fame Case for Steve Garvey

In contrast, both why Garvey isn’t a good candidate, and part of other factors that have affected his candidacy:

Most of it has to do with the general change in thinking about what makes a player valuable we’ve seen since the late 90s and into the 21st century.

Yes, Garvey hit .300 and he hit 20 dingers and he drove in a hundred a bunch of times, but he hardly ever walked. He never walked more than 50 times in a season and he only walked more than 40 times once. That’s pretty astounding for a guy in the middle of a deep and talented lineup on a team that was always in contention. As such, that superficially impressive .294 career batting was matched by a pretty poor .329 on-base percentage.

It also meant that he never scored 100 runs in a season. And while he hit 20 homers a lot, he only once topped 30, which isn’t all that great for a first baseman who doesn’t get on base. He had a pretty 1970s stat line but a pretty lacking late 1990s-on stat line, philosophically speaking. Even if you’re not the most sabermetrically-oriented person, I’d guess you’d agree that Garvey’s case is not as good as it might’ve seemed back in the day.

There’s also some stuff about Garvey that, while I don’t personally think is legitimately part of the case against him, is probably an explanation for why voters soured on him beyond just the baseball analysis. It’s tied up in his image as a player vs. his image following his career and a healthy amount of schadenfreude.

 

QLE Posted: December 02, 2019 at 09:35 PM | 58 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hall of fame, steve garvey

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   1. Howie Menckel Posted: December 02, 2019 at 09:58 PM (#5905076)
the thing to know, for those too young to remember, is that achieving 200 hits in that era was a major milestone - and Garvey was obsessed with it. every walk was just another missed opportunity.

here are some of his games and hit totals:

1974 - 156 and 200
1975 - 160 and 210
1976 - 162 and 200
1977 - 162 and 192
1978 - 162 and 202
1979 - 162 and 204
1980 - 163 and 200

and then he got a little worse, so even still playing in every game didn't get him close to the hits milestone anymore (was short of the pace in strike-shortened 1981, too).

doesn't show up in WAR totals, but that's who he was - and why he was.
   2. Kiko Sakata Posted: December 02, 2019 at 10:39 PM (#5905089)
If your standard for "Is a guy a Hall-of-Famer?" is "How much cool and impressive stuff can we find to write on his Hall-of-Fame plaque?", Steve Garvey is a really strong candidate. I wrote about this here - which, ironically, is an article about Lou Whitaker (and how kind of unimpressive the bullet points of his career are compared to Steve Garvey (and others)).
   3. Rennie's Tenet Posted: December 02, 2019 at 11:10 PM (#5905095)
played in five World Series — four of which came for one of baseball’s marquee franchises


A fair rundown would state that he batted .338 in postseason, in about a third of a season's at-bats.
   4. Zonk Has Two Faces, Both Laughing Posted: December 02, 2019 at 11:39 PM (#5905100)
I will burn Cooperstown to ground, salt the earth and start a terrorist organization dedicated to infecting every 5th baseball with the Ebola virus.

Is it really worth the risk?
   5. Eric L Posted: December 03, 2019 at 12:06 AM (#5905105)
He was overrated and obviously unworthy of the HOF but as a San diegan in 1984 he had a truly memorable moment.
   6. Zonk Has Two Faces, Both Laughing Posted: December 03, 2019 at 12:08 AM (#5905106)
So did Rudolph Hess...
   7. Alex Vila Posted: December 03, 2019 at 12:20 AM (#5905107)
He’s not even the best HoF candidate in that Dodgers infield.
   8. Zonk Has Two Faces, Both Laughing Posted: December 03, 2019 at 12:24 AM (#5905108)
Amen, says Ron Cey...

If the HOF wants to maybe have an exhibit sponsored by Occulus where you get to do an alternate 1984 and put a fastball in the Nazi child molester’s ear rather hangin a #$%#! A slider, I might be able to get behind that.
   9. The Duke Posted: December 03, 2019 at 08:42 AM (#5905131)
You’d go off the deep end of this were your personal life

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1989-09-24-tm-88-story.html?_amp=true
   10. Rough Carrigan Posted: December 03, 2019 at 09:35 AM (#5905138)
He was also a mediocre fielding first baseman who had a phobia about throwing the ball his whole career.
   11. puck Posted: December 03, 2019 at 10:39 AM (#5905168)
He was also a mediocre fielding first baseman who had a phobia about throwing the ball his whole career.


But that again goes against the perception of the time. He was a smooth scooper so despite his well-known throwing issues, he was thought of as a good 1st baseman. (He was so bad at throwing, if a pitcher picked off the runner and the runner was going to 2nd, I swear Garvey had less than even odds of throwing the guy out at 2nd.) People overrate the value of a good scooper ("he saves Russell 15 errors a year!" sort of stuff).

The other oddity was he bunted a fair amount for a middle of the order hitter. Some of that was because he was a constant GIDP threat. So I wonder how many of the sacrifices were in those situation. Looks like the San Diego manager wasn't having any of that (31 SH for LA, 2 for SD).

The famous infield:

bWAR in Dodgers' career:

47.7 Cey
36.7 Garvey
32.3 Lopes
31.3 Russell
   12. SoSH U at work Posted: December 03, 2019 at 10:53 AM (#5905177)

He was also a mediocre fielding first baseman who had a phobia about throwing the ball his whole career.


It's really remarkable that he played his entire career in the National League, given just how uncomfortable he was throwing the baseball.
   13. Tom Nawrocki Posted: December 03, 2019 at 12:15 PM (#5905201)
What evidence is there that he was a mediocre fielding first baseman?
   14. Zonk Has Two Faces, Both Laughing Posted: December 03, 2019 at 01:03 PM (#5905243)
What evidence is there that he was a mediocre fielding first baseman?


dWAR pegs him at -11.6.

Chris Chambliss, a contemporary who also won a couple GGs (deserved or not), amassed -7.5.

Bill Buckner was at -11.5.

Looking at the other advanced defensive metrics -- I don't see a lot of daylight between him and Buckner... and Buckner was nobody's idea of anything better than "mediocre".
   15. SoSH U at work Posted: December 03, 2019 at 01:04 PM (#5905246)

What evidence is there that he was a mediocre fielding first baseman?


That was my immediate reaction, but the numbers aren't very kind.

   16. Zonk Has Two Faces, Both Laughing Posted: December 03, 2019 at 01:09 PM (#5905249)
Plus, there's the evil....

Evil people don't usually field very well.
   17. Kiko Sakata Posted: December 03, 2019 at 01:12 PM (#5905251)
dWAR pegs him at -11.6.


dWAR includes the positional adjustment - which is negative for a first baseman. If you're just comparing first basemen, you're better off just looking at their fielding numbers. Actually, Garvey's Rfield for his career is exactly zero, which is kind of remarkable and also basically precisely one definition of "mediocre".

Bill James wrote a lot about Garvey and Buckner when he was developing his Win Shares, noting that Buckner had huge numbers of assists because he had bad knees and didn't like to run to first base, whereas Garvey had freakishly low numbers of assists because he had a bad arm and didn't trust himself to throw the ball unless absolutely necessary, but if you controlled for that Garvey was actually better than Buckner (whose career Rfield is +12). But James wrote that almost 20 years ago now, so I would have assumed that fielding metrics all knew how to adjust for that by now.

For what it's worth, I have Garvey at +2.8 wins (so, ~ 28 runs) for his career and Buckner at -1.8 (so, ~ -18 runs), both of which feel about right to me.
   18. Zonk Has Two Faces, Both Laughing Posted: December 03, 2019 at 01:19 PM (#5905255)
Your insistence on defending Satan is giving me a lot of pause here, Kiko...

A minor demon like Will Clark or Josh Beckett? Maybe I could let it slide.... but the prince of darkness? Really?
   19. Rough Carrigan Posted: December 03, 2019 at 01:30 PM (#5905261)
#11. Bill James said that Steve Garvey had this whole set of goals that he patterned his game to try to achieve. Part of it was the 200 hits but another part was trying to get a certain number of bunt hits every month.
   20. Tom Nawrocki Posted: December 03, 2019 at 01:30 PM (#5905262)
Actually, Garvey's Rfield for his career is exactly zero, which is kind of remarkable and also basically precisely one definition of "mediocre".


Garvey had 20 Total Zone fielding runs from age 25 through 33, then went into the toilet when he joined the Padres at age 34. He was a good defensive first baseman through most of his career, then was a horrible one at the end of it.
   21. Rally Posted: December 03, 2019 at 01:31 PM (#5905263)
Actually, Garvey's Rfield for his career is exactly zero, which is kind of remarkable and also basically precisely one definition of "mediocre".


He was above average for the Dodgers - +27, and equally bad for the Padres. That's just aging.

Totalzone definitely handles the assist/putout issue that Kiko mentions in #17. I remember that article in Win Shares which came out a few years before I devised TZ. I look at plays in Retrosheet where the first baseman fields the ball, it's a ground ball, and an out is recorded. Doesn't matter if he takes it himself or flips to the pitcher.

Slight correction on Buckner - he was -13 at first base. +12 overall because in his youth he was an above average left fielder. Looks like he ran fairly well before he hurt his knees.
   22. Kiko Sakata Posted: December 03, 2019 at 01:32 PM (#5905264)
Your insistence on defending Satan is giving me a lot of pause here, Kiko...


I apologize that this comes across as a defense of Steve Garvey. He is, of course, a terrible Hall-of-Fame candidate and a worse person. I assumed it went without saying that all good and decent people felt this way.
   23. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: December 03, 2019 at 02:38 PM (#5905303)
He was so bad at throwing, if a pitcher picked off the runner and the runner was going to 2nd, I swear Garvey had less than even odds of throwing the guy out at 2nd.)


Maybe there was someone as bad as Ryan Howard with a baseball in his hand. I swear non-athletic girls had better throwing form than Howard's sling shot.
   24. alilisd Posted: December 03, 2019 at 02:49 PM (#5905307)
Of course he went in the toilet when he moved to San Diego, pretty much everyone does. The horrendous thing is Joan Kroc , per my understanding although details are hard to come by and facts are murky, decided to retire his number as a Padre. This led to The Curse of The Garvey for which the Padres are still paying. I maintain we will never win a World Series until we take number 6 down from Petco Park and admit it was a mistake
   25. gef, talking mongoose & vexatious litigant Posted: December 03, 2019 at 03:14 PM (#5905319)
I maintain we will never win a World Series until we take number 6 down from Petco Park and admit it was a mistake


That should be 666, no?

Bill James said that Steve Garvey had this whole set of goals that he patterned his life to try to achieve. Part of it was the 200 kids but another part was trying to get a certain number of puppies & kittens eaten every month.


Fixed.
   26. Sunday silence Posted: December 03, 2019 at 03:32 PM (#5905328)
Really sorry I brought up the whole: Its not Crazy to Make a Narrative based case for Steve Garvey.

I heartily apologize to the whole primate community.
   27. Ziggy is done with Dominican discotheques Posted: December 03, 2019 at 04:14 PM (#5905344)
I will burn Cooperstown to ground, salt the earth and start a terrorist organization dedicated to infecting every 5th baseball with the Ebola virus.


So, basically, you'll become Steve Garvey.

Its not Crazy to Make a Narrative based case for Steve Garvey.


As narrative cases go, Garvey's is pretty good. But it's still crazy to make it.
   28. alilisd Posted: December 03, 2019 at 05:07 PM (#5905364)
25: gef, yes, it goes without saying that it’s simply an abbreviation
   29. AndrewJ Posted: December 03, 2019 at 08:32 PM (#5905413)
As good a time as any to link to Pat Jordan's takedown of Steve and Cyndy's marriage...
   30. Zonk Has Two Faces, Both Laughing Posted: December 03, 2019 at 09:19 PM (#5905420)
Despite the fact that he’s Satan, I’ve always hated reading pieces about his personal travails.... I mean, sure, everybody loves a nice dose of schadenfreude - especially when it comes at the expense of a Nazi child molester that forever traumatized an 11 yo boy... and especially when said war criminal was squeaky, self-righteous Mr Clean....

Because when you do, you inevitably cannot help but feel pity for a guy that did have duty drilled into him and took it upon himself to do right things not necessarily for the glory but because it was a rigid responsibility to sign the autographs and plaster on a smile, certainly devote more than his share of time to charitable endeavors, and be that Mr Clean ideal... not fake it, but really and truly BE it... until the structure in his life: baseball; ended... and as he himself said - rather than a midlife crisis, he had a midlife disaster.

Then, I close my eyes and remember that he used puppies to beat kittens, probably has some culpabIlity for the Armenian genocide, and has never provided any closure to the Lindberghs regarding what happened to their baby....
   31. Zonk Has Two Faces, Both Laughing Posted: December 03, 2019 at 09:20 PM (#5905421)
Cripes... I’m getting soft in my old age.
   32. . Posted: December 04, 2019 at 09:06 AM (#5905452)
As if it’s not way cooler and a way more admirable athletic feat to get 200 hits in a major league baseball season than it is to walk a bunch of times. Saber fanatics continue to turn the whole enterprise into an eat your vegetables and take your cod liver oil travail.
   33. Rally Posted: December 04, 2019 at 10:01 AM (#5905477)
Are you going to keep up this anti-walk crusade until we have a Rob Picciolo HOF thread?

Even if you ignore walks entirely Garvey falls way short. He didn't reach any kind of milestones, especially considering he's a first baseman and needs better hitting stats to be worthy than any other position. He's a poor man's Al Oliver, or the original Garret Anderson.

On the field of course, would not want to slander Mr. Oliver or Mr. Anderson, who to my knowledge have never drowned puppies or kittens.
   34. PreservedFish Posted: December 04, 2019 at 10:06 AM (#5905479)
I'm not anti-walk, but I think 200 hits is cool.

In another thread someone stated that Garvey's 200 hits, All-Star nods and so on were "not real accomplishments," suggesting, I guess, that anything that's not subsumed by WAR isn't a real accomplishment? Which is nonsense.
   35. Rally Posted: December 04, 2019 at 10:11 AM (#5905481)
I guess, that anything that's not subsumed by WAR isn't a real accomplishment? Which is nonsense.


I don't have a problem with saying All-Star selections are accomplishments. 200 hits though falls under the WAR umbrella. You get a single in your last at bat for a round 200 hit season, you'll be about 0.1 WAR ahead of where you would be if you grounded out to short in that last AB.
   36. Mefisto Posted: December 04, 2019 at 10:21 AM (#5905485)
I took that comment to refer to All-Star selections and MVP voting, not actual performance (e.g., hits). I wouldn't call the voting results "accomplishments" per se because they aren't something Garvey himself (or anyone) did. They're recognition for perceived accomplishments, and the whole issue with Garvey is that the perceptions of the time didn't match real performance.
   37. PreservedFish Posted: December 04, 2019 at 10:35 AM (#5905490)
200 hits though falls under the WAR umbrella.


So the shape of the performance is irrelevant? 60 WAR is 60 WAR is 60 WAR?
   38. Zonk Has Two Faces, Both Laughing Posted: December 04, 2019 at 10:39 AM (#5905491)
I'm in a good mood, so I suggest the subject should turn to the best Dodger IF of the 70s - Ron Cey and while he's probably short of the HoF, why was he so underrated?

Is it an anti-Penguin bias?
   39. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: December 04, 2019 at 10:43 AM (#5905493)
Even if you want to give Garvey credit for all his counting stats and upside....

He is 83rd all time in hits. 109th in RBI. 192nd in HR. 122nd in doubles. None of those portray a HOFer.

His highest all time ranking may be 38th in GIDP.

   40. Traderdave Posted: December 04, 2019 at 11:02 AM (#5905503)
Garvey was directed to get those hits, and rewarded for it. Those were the times. Not that those times were perfect -- Bill Buckner had a loooong career with an empty batting average -- but it's what was considered important.

The interesting question to me about Garvey is could he have succeeded in a more sabremetric era and I believe he could have. If he'd been coached to work on OBP and OPS, he'd have done so, and he was disciplined enough and skilled enough that he'd have been successful. Ultimately I think he still ends up in the Hall of Pretty Decent but sneering at him for doing his job as directed is a bit wrong headed.
   41. PreservedFish Posted: December 04, 2019 at 11:02 AM (#5905504)
I'm certainly not arguing Garvey for the Hall, and I think walks are terrific. I loved them before it was cool. I just dislike the idea of "oh that's already included in WAR so we should ignore it."
   42. Mefisto Posted: December 04, 2019 at 11:04 AM (#5905505)
Is it an anti-Penguin bias?


If you're asking this Giants fan.... why yes. He ####### killed the Giants over the years.
   43. Baldrick Posted: December 04, 2019 at 11:14 AM (#5905516)
He is 83rd all time in hits. 109th in RBI. 192nd in HR. 122nd in doubles. None of those portray a HOFer.

The guys tied at 81st in hits (Maranville and Raines) and the guy at 84th (Delahanty) are all in the HOF. Seven of the ten players from 80-89 in hits are in the HOF.

Garvey's 1308 RBI tie him with Sam Thompson (HOF), is one behind Paul Waner's (HOF) 1309, and is one ahead of Paul Molitor's (HOF) 1307.

He's obviously not a HOFer, but he absolutely does have some HOF-ish stats.
   44. Mefisto Posted: December 04, 2019 at 11:23 AM (#5905526)
Using placement on lists of achievements is fine, but shouldn't they be based on placement at the time of election or retirement? I'm sure that, say, Maranville was much higher on the list at the time of his election than Garvey was when he retired. That surely would be true for Thompson and Waner in RBIs.
   45. Kiko Sakata Posted: December 04, 2019 at 11:30 AM (#5905533)
That surely would be true for Thompson and Waner in RBIs.


Apropos of nothing, I think MLB would take the position that Sam Thompson's official RBI total is zero. This came up when A-Rod was chasing Ruth's RBI total. I think MLB considers A-Rod to have more "official" RBI than Ruth, because the RBI didn't become an official stat until 1920, so MLB ignores the first 224 RBIs of Ruth's career.
   46. Rally Posted: December 04, 2019 at 11:39 AM (#5905537)
The interesting question to me about Garvey is could he have succeeded in a more sabremetric era and I believe he could have. If he'd been coached to work on OBP and OPS, he'd have done so, and he was disciplined enough and skilled enough that he'd have been successful. Ultimately I think he still ends up in the Hall of Pretty Decent but sneering at him for doing his job as directed is a bit wrong headed.


Maybe Ron Cey didn't get the same direction, or maybe there was a language barrier - the hitting coach may not have been fluent in Penguin. Maybe Cey was stubborn and just didn't listen. It's hard to find two players matching up so well time wise. Garvey debuted 2 years earlier. Cey had his first full season in 1973, Garvey in 1974. Garvey left the Dodgers in 82, Cey one year earlier. Both retired after the 1987 season.

Cey didn't hit for as high an average, .261 to .294, but beat Garvey in OBP .354 to .329. Dead even in slugging, .446 to .445. Cey put more runs on the scoreboard than Garvey did. Since he was a solid third baseman, it's clear he had more defensive value and thus was clearly the better player of the two. I'll give Garvey baserunning - he wasn't fast but at least he didn't waddle around the bases.

Maybe the sportswriters of the time mistakenly thought Garvey was the better player. Not everyone did though. Bill James had his early Abstracts out, he knew better. Now we all know better. I don't see any reason to give preference to an opinion that was clearly wrong.
   47. Zonk Has Two Faces, Both Laughing Posted: December 04, 2019 at 12:17 PM (#5905564)
Cey's big problem is that the best 3B of all-time, Mike Schmidt, is a direct contemporary... and he had another one who is probably top 3 - George Brett.... AND a pretty nice group of 3B who were also damn good, perhaps a smidge better than Cey in guys like Craig Nettles, Darrell Evans, and I'm probably forgetting a few others.

1B, OTOH, was a fairly dead period from the early 70s through mid-ish 80s... Who's the best 1B of that period? Rod Carew probably? And he spent half his time at 2B. Bill Buckner... Keith Hernandez...
   48. Kiko Sakata Posted: December 04, 2019 at 12:21 PM (#5905566)
1B, OTOH, was a fairly dead period from the early 70s through mid-ish 80s... Who's the best 1B of that period? Rod Carew probably? And he spent half his time at 2B. Bill Buckner... Keith Hernandez...


The answer to your question is Eddie Murray. But your point is well taken.
   49. Zonk Has Two Faces, Both Laughing Posted: December 04, 2019 at 12:27 PM (#5905571)
The answer to your question is Eddie Murray. But your point is well taken.


Yeah, I should have mentioned Murray... I guess I always considered him more of an "80s centric" player than a 70s guy, but he debuted in 77 and hit the ground running as steady Eddie from the get go.
   50. SoSH U at work Posted: December 04, 2019 at 12:33 PM (#5905577)
perhaps a smidge better than Cey in guys like Craig Nettles, Darrell Evans, and I'm probably forgetting a few others.


Buddy Bell, for sure.

And it's Graig Nettles. Though it's all right if you misspell it, since he does.
   51. Zonk Has Two Faces, Both Laughing Posted: December 04, 2019 at 12:41 PM (#5905580)
And it's Graig Nettles. Though it's all right if you misspell it, since he does.


Heh... yeah.... I know... and here I thought I did so well not calling him "Greg"
   52. Sunday silence Posted: December 04, 2019 at 12:44 PM (#5905582)
Also Sal Bandon, and few years prior DIck ALlen. THere's a huge logjam at 3b and all those guys match up to one another very closely. its kind of a shame because while the HoF is clearly short 3b, there's no clear favorite among them. So none of them gets in which is kind of sh!tty. I would also put Ken Boyer in that group, he's very close to.
   53. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: December 04, 2019 at 01:08 PM (#5905599)
There's only a shortage of HOF 3B because there were few stars there before the war. It's been a bit since I've looked at it, but there are about the same number of post-war 3B in the HOF as 2B and SS.
   54. Rally Posted: December 04, 2019 at 02:21 PM (#5905628)
Re: Eddie

Murray debuted a full 8 years after Garvey, but he was a full time player from the start. Garvey’s first full season was only 3 years before Eddie.
   55. Howie Menckel Posted: December 04, 2019 at 03:56 PM (#5905672)
   56. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: December 04, 2019 at 04:33 PM (#5905692)
Come on, in 1981 Fleer could barely spell Ed Ott.
   57. alilisd Posted: December 04, 2019 at 06:56 PM (#5905733)
40: Come on, that’s absurd! Garvey wasn’t directed to be anything other than the best hitter he could be. He chose his approach (and he had his skills and limitations, same as every player does) and his career reflects it. Had he been able to hit more HR, he would have and he would have been a better hitter in the end. Had he been more disciplined he’d have fewer hits, but he’d have more walks and fewer GDP, and he’d be a better hitter. You can’t say Garvey was directed to be the player he was, the hitter he was, when there are plenty of other players from the same time who didn’t take that sort of approach and were much better hitters
   58. Howie Menckel Posted: December 04, 2019 at 07:30 PM (#5905735)
If you're asking this Giants fan.... why yes. He ####### killed the Giants over the years.

pretty much. his .899 career OPS vs SFG was his best vs NL teams except .925 vs CIN.

and I forgot Cey was in the loooooooooooooooooong line of vets to utter their last active-player breath in OAK togs. he DH'd his way in 1987 into a silly 22 BB in 128 PA, to salvage a 107 OPS+ - but he was released at midseason anyway (speaking of walks not being valued).

Cey had Reggie, Steve Henderson, Johnnie LeMaster, Gary Lavelle, Rick Honeycutt, Joaquin Andujar, Moose Haas, and Dennis Lamp as teammates on that team on one end of the spectrum - and McGwire and Canseco plus Polonia and Jose Rijo on the other end...

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