Left Field has a great deal of turnover, but the population stays close to the same. Seven left fielders are booted while six take their place. While left field features a lousy Hall of Fame choice in Chick Hafey and a deceptively weak inductee in Lou Brock, it also features three cuts that were particularly tough to make—Billy Williams, Zack Wheat, and Ralph Kiner.
These seven players are in the Hall of Fame, but did not make it into the Hall of wWAR:
- Billy Williams: Williams was the most difficult omission, for sure. He is a casualty of the higher standard for corner outfielders and first basemen. For his career, he hit .290/.361/.492 (133 OPS+) and accumulated 365 batting runs. He didn't rate that well defensively, coming in at –41 runs. His 57.2 WAR is bumped up to 77.0 wWAR when you factor in his peak. He was a great hitter, but you just need to be a little better than he was if you're not going to provide anything on defense.
- Zack Wheat: Wheat provided more value on defense than Williams (54 Total Zone runs). His .317/.367/.450 batting line (129 OPS+) translated to 324 batting runs, but those two numbers together come out to 57.8 WAR (and 72.8 wWAR) and still fall a bit short. Williams and Wheat are hurt by spending their entire careers at low value positions.
- Ralph Kiner: Kiner started with just 45.9 WAR in his short career (his age 32 season was his last). He had a great peak, leading the league in home runs in each of his first seven seasons. From 1947 to 1951, he averaged 6.9 WAR. This boosts his wWAR to 72.1. Despite his 351 runs, his weak defense (–40 runs), positional adjustment (–63 runs), and relatively brief career leave him short. If Williams was the most difficult omission, Kiner may have been the most surprising.
- Heinie Manush: After Kiner, there is a pretty substantial dropoff. Manush hit an eye-popping .330/.377/.479, but it is tamed by the era he played in (121 OPS+). That drops his batting runs to "just" 241, which when combined with average defense and a corner outfield position leaves you with just 44.1 WAR. His peak wasn't particularly impressive either, as his wWAR goes up to 58.6.
- Jim Rice: I've devoted a lot of "ink" to Jim Rice. So, this shouldn't be much of a surprise. Sorry dude, but I had to do it. Rice had the nice .298 average and .502 slugging, but he didn't walk a ton and he wound up with an OPS+ of just 128 (certainly not bad, but lower than you'd think given his reputation). He earned 279 batting runs as a hitter, but he gave 46 of those back just by grounding into double plays. That's 16.5% of his offensive value gone because of double plays. Between that, the relatively low walk totals and the shorter career, he falls short.
- Lou Brock: So, am I really advocating bumping a player with 3023 hits and 938 steals from the Hall? Yes, Lou Brock could hit singles. And yes, Lou Brock could steal bases. But there really wasn't much beyond that. He didn't walk a lot, so his OBP was .343. He didn't hit homers, so his slugging percentage was .410. He wasn't a good fielder (–50 runs) and he played a low-value position. In fact, it takes him 79 baserunning runs to even get his WAR to 39.1. His wWAR is bumped to just 47.8.
- Chick Hafey: Hafey, who's career was cut short by vision problems and other health problems likely caused by multiple beanings, was one of "Frisch's Friends". His batting line for his career was certainly good (.317/.372/.526) and compared to his era he had an OPS+ of 133. People tend to overrate his peak because the entire era was so offense-heavy, but really he only averaged 4.5 WAR per season from 1927 to 1931. Because of this, his career WAR of 29.5 doesn't get much help from WAE (7.3) and WAM (0.0). His wWAR was 36.8, the lowest for a corner outfielder in the Hall of Fame.
These six players are not in the Hall of Fame, but are now being inducted to the Hall of wWAR:
- Pete Rose: There's really no doubt about whether or not Rose would be in the Hall of Fame, were he eligible. What the question seems to be is "really, how good was he?" It's a fair question because he was such a unique player. Some view Rose as one of the greatest players ever because he has all those hits. Others dismiss him as merely a "compiler" and say that he was essentially a borderline Hall talent. The truth, as always, is somewhere in between. His 75.3 WAR ranks 45th among position players. That's not among the very select few all-time greats, but it's pretty damn good. He had an 8.5 WAR season and three others over 6.0. so he did bring some peak value (though nothing close to the Mays and Mantle-types). His wWAR of 109.9 ranks him sixth among eligible left fielders (behind Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Rickey Henderson, Carl Yastrzemski, and Ed Delahanty). Note: Musial and Rose played more games at first base than left field. What I've done when determining positions is treat corner outfield as one position. If a player's LF+RF games totaled more than any other position, that's what I used (and I would just choose the corner outfield spot they appeared at most). Rose had 939 games at 1B, 673 in LF, and 590 in RF (not to mention 634 at 3B, 628 at 2B, and 73 in CF). Since 673+590 is 1263, and 1263 is geater than 939, I determined Rose was a corner outfielder (and put him as LF, the corner spot he appeared more often).
- Joe Jackson: Pete Rose was banned after his playing days were over. Joe Jackson was banned while he was still in his prime (coming off a 7.4 WAR season). His 62.9 WAR trails Rose, but since he did it in a much shorter time his WAE (34.0 to 30.2) and particularly WAM (11.5 to 4.4) numbers are better. This puts his wWAR right near Rose's, at 108.4 (seventh among left fielders). How good could Jackson have been? Let's take a very conservative projection and say that after his 7.4 WAR season, he followed it up with seasons of 6.0, 5.0, 4.0, 3.0, 2.0, 1.0 and 0.0 and then retired at 37. That brings him to 83.9 WAR (that would be 5th among LF). It would also boost his WAE to 40 (while leaving his WAM untouched). His new wWAR would be 135.4. He'd only leapfrog Rose and Delahanty, but he'd be right there with Yaz. And this, I believe, is a conservative projection.
- Tim Raines: I like Tim Raines. I really do. I'm just not as crazy about his induction as some others. Don't get me wrong, I certainly think he's the top non-banned eligible left fielder not in the Hall. But I feel a lot more strongly about Bagwell and Santo, among others. That said, Raines belongs. His 64.6 WAR leads to an 88.3 wWAR, which is higher than twelve left fielders currently in the Hall. Raines and Willie Wilson (with 121 baserunning runs each) are the only players to trail Rickey Henderson in value on the bases. The main difference, of course, is that Wilson was worth –88 runs at the plate. Raines was worth 306. Add the fact that he didn't hurt himself defensively (rated as average) and you get an incredibly valuable (and unique) player.
- Sherry Magee: Magee played at a time when his .291/.364/.427 line was worth something (specifically, a 136 OPS+ and 327 batting runs). He peaked early and averaged 5.5 WAR over six years (from age 20 to 25). In many ways, it's tough to come up with much to say about Magee (which may be why he's not enshrined). He wasn't flashy. He just was among the best hitters in a severely depressed run environment for a decent number of years. His baserunning (29 runs) and defense (25) were a tick above average, and he really didn't fare poorly in any aspect of the game. Put it all together and you have a 59.1 WAR player. His 81.1 wWAR places him 14th among left fielders.
- Minnie Minoso: I was somewhat surprised to see Minoso make the cut. I've always seen him as your classic good-but-not-good-enough player. He collected 1963 hits, 186 home runs, 205 steals, and had a .298/.389/.459 line. The walks really help him as he posted a 130 OPS+ and 325 batting runs. He rated as a decent baserunner (18 runs) and a good fielder (34), too. In the 9-year stretch from 1951 to 1959, he averaged 5.5 WAR per season. That's certainly a solid peak. His 52.8 WAR gets a boost to 78.4, sneaking him in as the final modern left fielder.
- Harry Stovey: Before Barry Bonds broke Henry Aaron's home run record, Aaron broke Babe Ruth's record. And Ruth broke Roger Conner's record. Who's record did Connor break? He broke Harry Stovey's. Stovey spent the peak of his career in the American Association, and because of this he is often dismissed. But he posted a .289/.361/.461 line, a 143 OPS+, and 348 batting runs. He also ran incredibly well and was worth 62 baserunning runs. At one time, he actually held the single-season records for home runs and stolen bases. Stovey's raw totals of 1492 hits and 122 home runs are suppressed by the shorter schedules of his day. His WAR total of 46.8 is very impressive, considering his plate appearance total (6832). He also put up decent peak numbers for his day (12.6 WAE and 0.3 WAM) for a wWAR of 59.7. He makes the Hall of wWAR because of the aforementioned (in the 3B article regarding Deacon White) baseline shift for players from the early days of baseball.
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:
- Barry Bonds: Hey guess what. He was pretty freakin' amazing. What's crazy is that Bonds' 335.5 wWAR actually passes Babe Ruth—kind of. That doesn't count Ruth's pitching career, so he takes the lead back.
- Manny Ramirez: One would think Manny would fare better by both WAR and wWAR. But bad defense is a nasty thing for one's career value (ask Dave Winfield). Ramirez's WAR of 67.5 and wWAR of 91.9 are far lower than I would have imagined. The most surprising thing? The WAM of 2.2. Still, he clears the Hall of wWAR baseline easily and would rate as the #12 left fielder by wWAR.
Stay tuned for center fielders tomorrow!