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Albert Belle for Cooperstown

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First things first: J.D. Arney from The Red Reporter has started up a Sportsblogs Award campaign. Make sure to stop on by and nominate some blogs (cough, cough) for distinction.

Jay Jaffe released his analysis of the new Cooperstown candidates using his JAWS system yesterday at Baseball Prospectus. I linked to his blog as well for those who do not have a BP subscription since he excerpts himself there. The important thing is this: Jaffe says Will Clark and Albert Belle should in the Hall of Fame, and he also compares Albert Belle to Kirby Puckett in his analysis. For those of you who were not reading BtB back in the day, (meaning earlier in the year) here is my original Albert Belle for Cooperstown article. Now, Jay Jaffe tweaked the JAWS system, so that information is not as accurate, but he is deserving by either style of JAWS. I have to update all of my JAWS spreadsheets to account for the changes made by Jaffe, which were extensive and small at the same time. I made those spreadsheets after I had knee surgery and was laying with my leg up in the air for a few days. I needed something to do besides watch cartoons...on to the article!

June 10, 2005

I saw some discussion on the Baseball Think Factory message boards in regards to Albert Belle's credentials as a Hall of Famer. I figured I could give Belle both the WARP and JAWS treatment that I normally give people, as well as the Keltner Test from Bill James to evaluate him as well. Let's take this one little tidbit as well: Belle is a .564 career slugger; everyone over .534 is in the Hall of Fame (eighteen total) according to Rob Neyer. Granted, he did not have a period for his production to really decrease due to his hip problem resulting in an early exit, so we'll focus on more than merely his rate stats. Let's take a look at his DT Card stats first:

Career WARP3: 88.8
Peak WARP: 51.3
JAWS: 70.05
BRAR: 675
BRAA: 482

Just a note on his Peak WARP...he did not play so hot in 1997 (5.1 WARP) but followed that up with an 11.8 season as well as a 10.3 season. That means in 6 of 7 years, Albert Belle had a WARP score of 10 wins or greater, with a 13.4 WARP3 score at his Everest peak.

Here are the average numbers for a Hall of Fame leftfielder:

Career WARP3: 103.8
Peak WARP: 42.8
JAWS: 73.3
BRAR: 730
BRAA: 462
FRAA: -8

If Belle did not have to retire at age 33, he would have obliviated those numbers by accident. Let's take a look at the career of someone else the Hall let in with an injury shortened career:

Career WARP3: 92.0
Peak WARP: 45.6
JAWS: 68.8
BRAR: 569
BRAA: 338
FRAA: 29

By basically all acounts (except for Career WARP, where Belle is slightly behind due to not starting his career as an everyday player like mystery player X) Belle is the superior player. If you can't guess who it is I'm talking about, its Kirby Puckett. Belle has even more of a case than Puckett when you realize Puck got in as a centerfielder, where the standards are higher:

Career WARP: 108.8
Peak WARP: 46.5
JAWS: 77.6
BRAR: 694
BRAA: 445
FRAA: 14

Let's move on to the Keltner list.

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?

Bill James ranks him as the 20th best left fielder of all-time in his New Historical Baseball Abstract. Besides Barry Bonds, no contemporary left fielders are in front of him. For a time in the mid-90's (like when he was robbed of an MVP in 1995) I think many considered him to be the best player in baseball, or atleast the best hitter.

2. Was he the best player on his team?

1993 Baerga 10.6 WARP3, Belle 10.5
1994 Lofton 11.1 WARP3, Belle 10.6
1995 Thome/Ramirez 8.0 WARP3, Belle 13.4
1996 Thome 10.0 WARP3, Belle 11.3
1997 Thomas 10.4 WARP3, Belle 5.1
1998 Durham 9.1 WARP3, Belle 11.8
1999 Anderson 8.9 WARP3, Belle 10.3

Belle was always the best or second best player on his team during his peak as shown in the makeshift table above.

3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?

Best player in baseball goes to Bonds. Best player in league I think so.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

The Indians made the playoffs in 1995 and 1996 with Belle on the team, and since he was robbed of the MVP in 1995, he most definitely had an impact. The 1997-98 White Sox teams were .500 teams with him, and the Orioles had just finished their playoff hunt when he came to town.

Thanks to Baseball Musing's Day by Day Database we can see Belle's numbers in September for the Indians during those two years:

1995 28 G, .313/.420/.929
1996 25 G, .354/.409/.586

I'd say he performed down the stretch.

5. Was he good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime?

Belle's last healthy season had a WARP3 score of 10.3...I'd say he could keep on hitting after his peak, since it was his age 32 season.

6. Is he the very best baseball player in history who is not in the Hall of Fame?

No, Blyleven and Santo are not in, but I blame that more on the BBWAA and the Veteran's Committee than I do on Albert Belle.

7. Are most players who have comparable statistics in the Hall of Fame?

Manny Ramirez (922)
Juan Gonzalez (900)
Jim Thome (877)
Moises Alou (873)
Dick Allen (867)
Hank Greenberg (859) *
Rocky Colavito (852)
Ralph Kiner (851) *
Jim Edmonds (849)
Frank Howard (848)

Greenberg and Kiner are in the Hall, Manny Ramirez is on his way, as is Jim Edmonds. Jim Thome might make a case for himself if he rebounds, and we all know the Dick Allen story.

8. Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?

In only an 11 year span (that is really only 9 seasons) Belle accumulated enough to just miss out on Hall inclusion. But since it was due to injury, I guess we can give this question a yes.

9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?

None that I have heard or can think of. Bill James says he was an underated base stealer who was rarely caught, and his success rate for almost killing Fernando Vina's is 100%. Just kidding of course.

10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?

Minnie Minoso, Frank Howard, Charlie Keller, and Tim Raines are not in the Hall of Fame yet, and are all ranked higher. Tim Raines is going on the ballot soon though.

11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?

Basically his whole peak was full of "MVP-type" seasons, but in 1995 he was screwed over. Take a look at this:

1995 Vaughn 7.3 WARP3, .300/.388/.575
1995 Belle 13.4 WARP3, .317/.401/.690

Not even close. Not to mention Belle hit 50 homeruns and 50 doubles in the same season while walking 73 times. SecAvg: .513...

12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the players who played in this many All-Star games go into the Hall of Fame?

6 seasons deserved, 5 seasons earned. Thanks to Doug at Westwood Blues, I got this:

Hall of Famers typically play in more than six All-Star games, although Willie McCovey was only a six-time All-Star.

Since Ken Harvey has made the all-star team, I hereby disregard it as important. I do not mean that I feel that we should disregard the importance of all-star appearances for the sake of Albert Belle's inclusion into Cooperstown, I just want to make it known how I feel about all-star appearances determining the inclusion of a player in general. So for the purposes of this test, Belle fails this particular item.

13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?

Yeah, that was the case in two years in Cleveland. If Chicago had more to their team than simply Belle and a few other hitters (Doug Drabek and Danny Darwin in the rotation is good, until you realize its 1997) they might have done something. The team ERA for 1997 was 4.74 (93 ERA+) and in 1998 it was 5.24 (87 ERA+). Not Belle's fault.

14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?

Second basemen started to wear suits of armor in games against Belle. Second basemen were allowed to cary mace to spray at Belle. Besides being an amazing hitter, Belle did nothing much for the history of baseball. We'd talk about him as one of the greats 20 years from now when everyone forgot he was disliked and simply took a look at his numbers though.

15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

Let's try to find ten good things to say about Albert Belle:

  1. As far as we know, he's never killed anyone.
  2. He is handsome, and built like a God.
  3. He played every game.
  4. He has never appeared on the Jerry Springer show.
  5. He was an underrated baserunner who was rarely caught stealing.
  6. He hasn't been arrested in several years.
  7. He is very bright.
  8. He works hard.
  9. He has never spoken favorably about Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, or any other foreign madman.
  10. The man could hit.

That is taken straight from Belle's inclusion among the top 100 leftfielders from The New Bill James Historical Abstract.

Based on his DT Card scores, the fact that Puckett was let in with a shortened career that may not even be as good as Belle's, and the fact that he passes the Keltner test (even with some personality traits the media detests) gives him the A-Ok to enter the hallowed Halls of Cooperstown. Of course, this is probably why I'll never be given a vote.