The Hall of wWAR: Second Basemen

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With Roberto Alomar's Hall of Fame selection, I've read more and more about how second basemen tend to break down sooner than other position players. I've listened to reasons that range from the wear and tear of double plays to the fact that second basemen are failed shortstops (and are therefore a lower class of athlete). Perhaps that is reflected in our Hall of wWAR adjustment, since just sixteen second basemen make it.

Six players were bumped, but among that crew only Bill Mazeroski stands out as an eyebrow-raiser. Four players were added back, and two of them rank among the very best players not enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

Who's Out?

These six players are in the Hall of Fame, but did not make it into the Hall of wWAR:

  • Tony Lazzeri: Lazzeri hit .292/.380/.467, which is very nice for a second baseman. It was in an offensive era, so it gets toned down a bit by WAR. He made just 245 plate appearances after his age 33 season, however. That limited him to 48.3 WAR. Had he played a few more years, he would have certainly been in.
  • Johnny Evers: Evers also broke down in his early 30s, limiting what could have been a much more valuable career to 48.4 WAR. In case you're wondering about the order, Lazzeri had the slightly higher peak.
  • Bobby Doerr: Doerr was very similar in value to Lazzeri, Evers and even the next player, Nellie Fox. Doerr was actually completely done after his age 33 season, stopping at 47.7 WAR.
  • Nellie Fox: Fox had a lower career WAR (44.4) than the three above him, but his peak was a bit better than all of them. Interestingly, he won an MVP award. He did it with a 6.2 WAR season (his second highest mark). What's interesting is that he won the award in the year he posted his career high in Total Zone runs (21).
  • Red Schoendienst: Red played longer than all the other second basemen in this list. Given that his WAR is lower than the others so far (40.4), it goes without saying that his peak was significantly lower (9.6 WAE and 0.5 WAM). Still, I look at his place in the Hall of Fame and think "Really?"
  • Bill Mazeroski: Look, WAR agrees that he was an elite, amazing, and wonderful second baseman. In fact, his 147 Total Zone runs are the most ever for a second baseman. But the problem is, he was so bad on offense that he wiped most of his defensive value away. Guys like Ozzie Smith and Brooks Robinson at least had decent offensive talent to complement the elite glove. When you have just the glove and a horrid bat, it doesn't do much for your WAR. Maz sits at 26.9 WAR with just 2.0 WAE and a big goose egg for WAM.

Who's In?

These four players are not in the Hall of Fame, but are now being inducted to the Hall of wWAR:

  • Bobby Grich: If you look at a list of the most underrated players according to WAR, I'll show you a list of guys who either drew a ton of walks (OBP wasn't sexy until recently) or guys who had undervalued gloves (didn't have the reputation despite strong defensive performance). Sometimes, you get that ballplayer who fits both categories. At second base, we have three. Bobby Grich leads the group. Grich actually has a slightly lower career WAR than Lou Whitaker (next on the list), with 67.6. But his peak was ridiculous and it launches him into the #1 spot among eligible non-Hall of Famers. Not only that, but he places 8th among all second basemen in history.
  • Lou Whitaker: Whitaker was bumped from the Hall of Fame ballot after just one year for receiving just 2.9% of the vote. One camp claims this is ludicrous because Whitaker ranks 7th among all eligible second basemen in WAR. The other camp (somewhat rightfully) claims that WAR rewards compilers. wWAR is our voice of reason. Yes, Whitaker did compile a bit. But his lower and extended peak still puts his wWAR as 11th among second basemen (Jackie Robinson, Grich, Ryne Sandberg, and Roberto Alomar all leapfrog him). 11th best at your position puts you in the Hall of Fame (and the Hall of wWAR).
  • Willie Randolph: With his 114 Total Zone runs and his OBP about 100 points higher than his batting average, Randoph fits right in with Grich and Whitaker. His wWAR total of 77 ranks 13th among second baseman (Joe Gordon and his impressive peak squeezes between Whitaker and Randolph). Randolph's peak was more of a consistent excellence, like Whitaker. Regardless, there is just one player with a WAR of 60 or more who does not make it into the Hall of wWAR (first baseman Jake Beckley).
  • Cupid Childs: Childs never played a game after his age 33 season and he played in the 19th century (mostly). The fact that he still managed to post a wWAR of 69.7 is downright remarkable. In his eleven full seasons, he posted OBPs of .434, .395, .443, .463, .475, .392, .467, .435, .395, .369, and .323. He also happened to be a plus defender, but it's his offense that boosts his value this high. Childs was a +61 hitter as a rookie in 1890.

Who's Next?

These two players are either still active or retired and not yet eligible for the Hall, but have already met the threshold to be inducted to the Hall of wWAR:

  • Craig Biggio: Biggio and his 94.2 wWAR fit nicely into the #9 spot among eligible second basemen. What might be most surprising is that he ranks right behind Bobby Grich. wWAR just really, really likes Bobby Grich. Biggio sits ahead of Roberto Alomar and Ryne Sandberg, so this guy was pretty elite.
  • Jeff Kent: Kent clears the Hall of wWAR line, but some may quibble with how Total Zone ranks his defense. He seems to be panned as a poor fielder, but he only rates as –4 runs, according to the rWAR model. With Biggio included, Kent ranks 14th on the second base list (right before Willie Randolph).

Up next? Third basemen. I promise a lot of turnover in that one!

The Hall of wWAR
Catchers | First Basemen | Second Basemen | Third Basemen | Shortstops
Left Fielders | Center Fielders | Right Fielders | Designated Hitters
Pitchers

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