The Baseball Hall of Fame released the list of ten names on this year's Golden Era (Veteran's Committee) ballot. For me, this marks the beginning of "Hall of Fame season", one of my favorite parts of the game—and certainly my statistical focus.
Today, I'm going to skip talking about Buzzie Bavasi and Charlie Finley, the two executives on the ballot. I'm going to focus on the eight players up for induction and how they look through the lens of my wWAR framework. wWAR is a weighted version of Wins Above Replacement that attempts to determine how good of a Hall of Fame case a player has. Last year, I released a Hall of wWAR. But this year I've been working on a new version that's very close to being published.
For a sneak peek, here's how the players on the ballot fare:
Ken Boyer rates as the tenth best third baseman of all time by wWAR. What's crazy is that only six of the top ten are in the Hall. In fact, of the top seventeen third basemen by wWAR, just seven are enshrined as players (John McGraw is in as a manager but deserves to be in as a player). So, while I whole-heartedly support Ken Boyer for the Hall of Fame, I would actually focus more energy on Ron Santo and Deacon White first. The other non-Hall of Famer ahead of Boyer is Sal Bando (and they're not that far apart). Boyer is followed on the list by McGraw, Buddy Bell, Jimmy Collins (who is in the Hall of Fame), Graig Nettles, Ezra Sutton, Darrell Evans, and Stan Hack.
Gil Hodges actually rates as the 30th best first baseman by wWAR. This surprised me since Hodges is routinely listed among the best players not in the Hall of Fame. But WAR didn't love him, and wWAR actually thinks less of him. Of course, this does not include his managerial career—just his career as a player. He certainly was an excellent player, ranking in between Hall of Famers Tony Perez and Orlando Cepeda while finishing way ahead of questionable inductees like Jim Bottomley and High Pockets Kelly. Still, I've got twelve non-Hall first basemen ahead of him (led by Jeff Bagwell and Dick Allen).
Jim Kaat ranks 109th among pitchers. There are currently 63 pitchers in the Hall, so that doesn't look good for Kitty. Kaat ranks near pitchers like Dennis Martinez, Fernando Valenzuela, and Bob Friend. To be honest, that feels about right to me. Several Hall of Fame pitchers rank behind him—Chief Bender, Herb Pennock, Addie Joss, Catfish Hunter, Jack Chesbro, Jesse Haines, and Rube Marquard. These WAR numbers don't account for Kaat's fielding prowess, a skill that earned him sixteen Gold Gloves. But I don't think that would be enough to leapfrog him over the 56 non-Hall pitchers ahead of him with a better wWAR mark. That list is led by Al Spalding (who is in the Hall, but not as a player), Bob Caruthers, and Kevin Brown.
Minnie Minoso is the 18th best left fielder, according to wWAR. Considering how offensively stacked the corner outfield spots are, this is pretty significant. I most certainly advocate him for the Hall of Fame. He rates ahead of Hall of Fame left fielders Billy Williams, Zack Wheat, Ralph Kiner, Heinie Manush, Jim Rice, Lou Brock, and Chick Hafey. Minoso's numbers, of course, don't include his Negro League career. He played for the New York Cubans from 1945 to 1948, twice making the All Star team. Minoso is just a couple All Star seasons away from being the 12th best left fielder (by wWAR). Which left fielders rate ahead of Minoso but are not in the Hall? My system has Pete Rose and Joe Jackson as left fielders, to they're #1 and #2. They are followed by Tim Raines and Sherry Magee.
Tony Oliva is another player often touted as among the best not enshrined. He ranks 29th among right fielders, but still sits behind Larry Walker, Reggie Smith, Dwight Evans, Bobby Bonds, Mike Tiernan, and Rocky Colavito among non-Hall of Famers. Oliva does rank ahead of Hall of Famers Chuck Klein, Ross Youngs, and Tommy McCarthy, but those are three of the worst choices in the Hall. Oliva's main issue is that he only provided 0.3 WAR after his age 32 season.
Allie Reynolds is on this ballot because of gaudy win totals. The truth is, I'm not even sure where he ranks. I pulled all players I felt had a reasonable chance of being discussed for the Hall of Fame. Reynolds and his 29.0 WAR lives beneath the cutoff. I can say he's not among the 200 best pitchers by wWAR, though. Take Sid Fernandez's career and add Red Ruffing's postseason exploits and you have Allie Reynolds.
Ron Santo, as I mentioned earlier, is the top third baseman not in the Hall. But when talking about a guy like Santo, you just throw out the position and talk about the very best players not in, regardless of position, era, or any qualifiers. Look, this is the Hall of Fame. We're not curing cancer or anything here. But it really bothers me that Ron Santo is not in. There's just no explanation for it. Add to it the fact that he passed away not too long ago and it's really a shame. The very best players not in the Hall (as a player) by wWAR are:
- Al Spalding
- Jeff Bagwell
- Bob Caruthers
- Pete Rose
- Shoeless Joe Jackson
- Bill Dahlen
- Ron Santo
One of those players is actually in the Hall, but as a pioneer (Spalding). Two are only outside the Hall because they were banned (Rose and Jackson). One missed his first chance, but will get in (Bagwell). Two finished their careers at least 100 years ago and possessed under-appreciated skills (Caruthers and Dahlen). That leaves just Ron Santo. He hit home runs. He drove in runs. He won Gold Gloves. He played in the "Golden Era". He even had a long broadcasting career. But he's not in the Hall of Fame. It's ridiculous.
Luis Tiant is a player I overlooked for a long time. I always felt he was borderline, but this wWAR exercise really showed me is a horrendous snub. Look, there are a lot of great hitters outside of the Hall. But the thing is there aren't nearly as many great pitchers outside the Hall. Tiant is among the best. He ranks 44th all time among pitchers. Given that there are 63 pitchers in the Hall of Fame, he's not even borderline. There are 22 starting pitchers in the Hall already who done rate as well as Tiant. Among pitchers not in the Hall, he ranks ninth. Four of the pitchers ahead of him pitched in the 19th century. The others are Kevin Brown, Wes Ferrell (who's ranking surprised me—but he's basically Andy Pettitte with a hell of a bat), Rick Reuschel, and David Cone.
Who, from this group, would you support for the Hall?