This question popped into my head after seeing that Luis Gonzalez smacked his 500th career double the other night. After heading over to Baseball Musings, I noticed that David Pinto had the same thought:
Of course, even if this was the case, I still prefer a more complete measure of offensive performance, and we can't forget defense when evaluating a player's worth. That said, doubles should certainly be included when evaluating a player's performance, since the voters seem to spend a great deal of time looking at the Triple Crown statistics, and when it suits the player, steals and defense. Of course, what the voters should use is JAWS, which is exactly what I plan to do with Luis Gonzalez today.
JAWS is JAffe WARP Score, developed by Jay Jaffe of Baseball Prospectus and Futility Infielder. It combines Career WARP3 and Peak WARP3 scores together, then divides them by two in order to find a figure that properly balances longevity with the high points of a career. WARP3 is Wins Above Replacement Level, adjusted for difficulty and playing time. Peak WARP is simply the total WARP3 of the players seven best seasons. After calculating the JAWS of all of the Hall of Famers at a particular position -- in this case, left field -- we can calculate the average Career and Peak WARP3 scores, as well as the JAWS. All except for the lowest rated player at each position are counted into the average; this is perfectly acceptable to do, because in more cases than not, the lowest rated player is a product of the Veteran's Committee and their irresponsible selections. Before I delve into those tables, let's take a look at Gonzalez's career.
Luis Gonzalez was drafted in the fourth round of the 1988 amateur draft by the Houston Astros. He debuted two seasons later, playing in 12 games for the 1990 'Stros. In 1991 he was given the left field job, and hit .254/.320/.433 in his first full season. His 1992 performance was disapointing, coming in at .243/.289/.385, but in 1993 he put up one of the best seasons of his career: a .300/.361/.457 with 34 doubles, 15 homeruns, 20 steals, and an 8.1 WARP3 score. He seemed to regress somewhat in his 1994 campaign, although it was still his second best season to that point. His 1995 started out disapointingly with Houston (1.7 WARP3 in 56 games is not a flattering figure) and he was shipped to the division rival Cubs along with Scott Servais in exchange for Rick Wilkins. LuGo would revive his career somewhat, posting 5.2 WARP3 in 77 games, for his second best season overall to that point. He re-signed with Houston for the 1997 season, but only stayed one season this time. He moved on to the Tigers (in all honesty, I assumed he was dealt to Detroit, due to the number of trades that occurred between Detroit and Houston in the 90's) and had a quality season with an OPS+ of 109.
That offseason, in what is now most certainly one of the more lopsided trades in history, Luis Gonzalez was dealt straight to the expansion Diamondbacks for Karim Garcia. Garcia amassed the grand total of 0.8 WARP3 in two seasons with Detroit; Luis Gonzalez has so far earned 54.9 WARP3 with the D'backs, essentially half of his career value, including a 2001 season where he amassed 12.6 WARP3, and won the World Series with a bloop hit that everyone reading can certainly picture.
So how does Luis Gonzalez stack up against the enshrined left fielders? Take a look at this table.
|Player||Career WARP3||Peak WARP||JAWS||BRAR||BRAA||FRAA|
BRAR is Batting Runs Above Replacement, while BRAA is Batting Runs Above Average. Those are exactly what they sound like they are; they are included to help differentiate peak versus career value even further. BRAA works for peak, while BRAR helps show longevity. FRAA is Fielding Runs Above Average, which is very self explanatory.
We see some of the greatest players in history adorning the top of the table, with Stan Musial and Ted Williams. Their presence on the list seems to skew the average, as only 6 of the 17 Hall of Famers are actually above that line. Luis Gonzalez comes in below the average, but much closer than one may expect:
- Luis Gonzalez
- Career WARP3: 100.7
- Peak WARP3: 58.3
- JAWS: 79.5
- BRAR: 584
- BRAA: 321
- FRAA: 88
Potentially, Luis Gonzalez is a worthy candidate for Cooperstown. Will he ever be enshrined? Considering that the voters have missed out on Bobby Grich, Lou Whitaker, Will Clark, Bert Blyleven and Ron Santo, I'd say not a chance in hell. Let's take a look at where Luis Gonzalez would rank all-time among left fielders in JAWS (including other active players).
|Player||Career WARP3||Peak WARP||JAWS||BRAR||BRAA||FRAA|
|Jose Cruz Sr.||92.3||53.2||72.75||582||313||18|
On Edit: I am a moron. I forgot Raines and Henderson, who fall in ahead of Gonzo. He is ranked 11th. After work I'll triple check this.
Among the top twenty left fielders, ranked by JAWS, Luis Gonzalez comes in at ninth. Among other active notables, we see Barry Bonds coming in first overall -- no surprise there, as he is battling Babe Ruth for the title of greatest player ever -- with Manny Ramirez coming in 13th overall, and Brian Giles coming in 17th. There is a very good chance that both Manny Ramirez and Brian Giles will enter the top ten before their careers are over, although that does not necessarily mean both will make it to Cooperstown. For those who want to know, Lance Berkman is ranked 39th overall among left fielders...ahead of Hall of Famer Heinie Manush. Manush was that Hall of Famer left out of the average calculations, with good reason it seems. Thank you Veterans Committee. One other thing to note is that Jim Rice comes in at 26th overall.
It seems as if Luis Gonzalez will have to settle for a place in the Ray Lankford Wing of the Hall of Fame, although he will be one of the highest ranked players in its virtual halls, most likely in the top ten. It is simply important to note that Luis Gonzalez's Hall-worthiness may not be something simply to be shrugged off, and that he does in fact make a case; he's one of the top ten left fielders of all-time, and there are only nine other guys in history who can lay claim to that -- until you take my lack of memory into account, then apparently there are 11 who can claim it.