The Red Sox Hall of wWAR: A Baseball Hack Day Project

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On Saturday, I took part in the very first Baseball Hack Day hosted by The Boston Globe (and sponsored by The Globe, Boston.com, Hacks/Hackers Boston, and SABR). What's a "hack day"? It's a get-together of like-minded folks (in this case, baseball fans) who combine their varied skills (design, programming, visualization, content development, etc.) to build some cool things over the course of a day. Some "teams" are created that day while others plan a project in advance. I planned mine in advance and worked with my friends Jeffrey Chupp and Adam Bailey.

I've been meaning to coax Jeffrey into helping me build Ruby on Rails backend for the Hall of wWAR so I could create new visuals more quickly. Refactoring an existing project, however, isn't really in the "hack day" spirit. Instead, I decided to build something else on top of that framework I want so badly. As a result, we created a new Hall of wWAR based The Local Nine—the Red Sox Hall of wWAR.

Some tidbits:

  • The Red Sox Hall of Fame was established in 1995 and 56 players are currently inducted for their contributions on the field (though Bill Carrigan and Jerry Remy are more like hybrids). So, we populated the Red Sox Hall of wWAR with the Top 56 eligible players by wWAR.
  • We only counted wWAR that the players accumulated as members of the Red Sox.
  • It quickly became clear that the Red Sox do a much better job of inducting players than the National Baseball Hall of Fame does. Of the 56 players in the Red Sox Hall of wWAR, 42 are also in the Red Sox Hall of Fame. That's 75%. The Hall of wWAR sports 70% crossover. Furthermore, there are no egregious omissions like Jeff Bagwell and Bob Caruthers.
  • The top (eligible) player by wWAR who is not in the Red Sox Hall of Fame is Freddy Parent. He fits the profile of an overlooked player—played a valuable position (shortstop), played it well (+44 Total Zone), provided adequate offense (12 WAR batting runs, 103 OPS+), and played so long ago that nobody alive has seen him or cares about him (with the Red Sox from 1901 to 1907).
  • In fact, of the fourteen players removed from the Red Sox Hall of Fame, several are actually in there for good reason. The Red Sox have a rule that any player in the National Baseball Hall of Fame who played at least three years with the Red Sox is automatically inducted to the Red Sox Hall of Fame. That accounts for three of the fourteen—Rick Ferrell, Herb Pennock, and Red Ruffing. Two more (Remy and Carrigan) did play for the Red Sox, but are clearly enshrined for reasons other than their playing skills. Three more—Tony Conigliaro, Jim Lonborg, and George Scott—were members of the beloved 1967 Red Sox team. Conigliaro most certainly was inducted with a bit of "what might have been" mystique, too. Tommy Harper is inducted as the team's single-season stolen base leader (though he provided little else).
  • If we decided to keep Remy and Carrigan in the Red Sox Hall of wWAR but change their designations to broadcaster and manager (respectively), that would open the door for Jim Piersall and Ellis Burks.
  • Of the players added to the Hall of wWAR, several played quite a while ago (like Parent). This make sense, as the team is more likely to honor players who are alive so that they can appreciate the honor. Still, Parent and Dutch Leonard should probably be in. The first players from the "Who is Added?" list who actually have color photos are Trot Nixon (who just became eligible—there is a three year waiting period) and Rich Gedman.
  • Our pool of players we analyzed (and featured on the site) included 189 players. The pool includes every player in franchise history with 5+ WAR (Baseball-Reference flavor).
  • Two players met the 5+ WAR threshold as both a hitter and a pitcher—Babe Ruth (22.2 as a hitter, 18.3 as a pitcher) and Wes Ferrell (5.1 as a hitter, 15.9 as a pitcher). Have I told you lately I'm in love with Wes Ferrell?
  • Who from the current Red Sox team already meets the induction criteria? David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, and Jacoby Ellsbury all do. So do the recently depahted Tim Wakefield, Jason Varitek and Jonathan Papelbon.
  • Since the Red Sox automatically induct players who are voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, I have listed Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling as "ineligible", since my guess is that the Red Sox are waiting to see how their Hall of Fame votes play out.

So, take a look and tell me what you think. The project was a lot of fun to work on. I look forward to using the new framework to make even more visualizations.

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