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Is Luis Gonzalez Hall Worthy?

This question popped into my head after seeing that Luis Gonzalez smacked his 500th career double the other night. After heading over to Baseball Musings, I noticed that David Pinto had the same thought:

Should this be another one of those milestones that put you in the Hall of Fame? It's an impressive accomplishment. You need to play a long time and have good power. Twenty-eight of the forty four are in the Hall. Pete Rose would make it twenty nine if he were eligible. Biggio, Ripken, Gwynn and are going in at some point, and probably Bonds and Palmeiro. Roberto Alomar is also deserving. So Rose and those six would bring the total to 35 of 44. Seems like a Hall of Fame standard to me.

Of course, even if this was the case, I still prefer a more complete measure of offensive performance, and we can't forget defense when evaluating a player's worth. That said, doubles should certainly be included when evaluating a player's performance, since the voters seem to spend a great deal of time looking at the Triple Crown statistics, and when it suits the player, steals and defense. Of course, what the voters should use is JAWS, which is exactly what I plan to do with Luis Gonzalez today.

JAWS is JAffe WARP Score, developed by Jay Jaffe of Baseball Prospectus and Futility Infielder. It combines Career WARP3 and Peak WARP3 scores together, then divides them by two in order to find a figure that properly balances longevity with the high points of a career. WARP3 is Wins Above Replacement Level, adjusted for difficulty and playing time. Peak WARP is simply the total WARP3 of the players seven best seasons. After calculating the JAWS of all of the Hall of Famers at a particular position -- in this case, left field -- we can calculate the average Career and Peak WARP3 scores, as well as the JAWS. All except for the lowest rated player at each position are counted into the average; this is perfectly acceptable to do, because in more cases than not, the lowest rated player is a product of the Veteran's Committee and their irresponsible selections. Before I delve into those tables, let's take a look at Gonzalez's career.

Luis Gonzalez was drafted in the fourth round of the 1988 amateur draft by the Houston Astros. He debuted two seasons later, playing in 12 games for the 1990 'Stros. In 1991 he was given the left field job, and hit .254/.320/.433 in his first full season. His 1992 performance was disapointing, coming in at .243/.289/.385, but in 1993 he put up one of the best seasons of his career: a .300/.361/.457 with 34 doubles, 15 homeruns, 20 steals, and an 8.1 WARP3 score. He seemed to regress somewhat in his 1994 campaign, although it was still his second best season to that point. His 1995 started out disapointingly with Houston (1.7 WARP3 in 56 games is not a flattering figure) and he was shipped to the division rival Cubs along with Scott Servais in exchange for Rick Wilkins. LuGo would revive his career somewhat, posting 5.2 WARP3 in 77 games, for his second best season overall to that point. He re-signed with Houston for the 1997 season, but only stayed one season this time. He moved on to the Tigers (in all honesty, I assumed he was dealt to Detroit, due to the number of trades that occurred between Detroit and Houston in the 90's) and had a quality season with an OPS+ of 109.

That offseason, in what is now most certainly one of the more lopsided trades in history, Luis Gonzalez was dealt straight to the expansion Diamondbacks for Karim Garcia. Garcia amassed the grand total of 0.8 WARP3 in two seasons with Detroit; Luis Gonzalez has so far earned 54.9 WARP3 with the D'backs, essentially half of his career value, including a 2001 season where he amassed 12.6 WARP3, and won the World Series with a bloop hit that everyone reading can certainly picture.

So how does Luis Gonzalez stack up against the enshrined left fielders? Take a look at this table.

Hall of Fame JAWS for Left Field
Stan Musial 193.2 88.6 140.9 1422 1082 67
Ted Williams 164.4 89.4 126.9 1398 1166 -24
Carl Yastrzemski 137.3 63.7 100.5 990 589 47
Jim O'Rourke 128.9 56.0 92.5 579 309 -58
Ed Delahanty 110.5 71.3 90.9 746 513 -11
Billy Williams 110.8 62.8 86.8 801 493 64
Al Simmons 104.1 60.1 82.1 652 378 45
Willie Stargell 99.4 56.3 77.9 860 597 -84
Joe Medwick 92.2 60.3 76.3 628 391 43
Fred Clarke 100.9 51.4 76.2 673 387 44
Jesse Burkett 94.7 56.1 75.4 741 478 -54
Goose Goslin 90.6 53.6 72.1 644 363 -10
Zack Wheat 92.3 49.0 70.7 630 335 -12
Joe Kelley 85.1 53.8 69.5 527 296 12
Ralph Kiner 73.5 60.7 67.1 607 435 -45
Lou Brock 82.8 44.1 63.5 641 290 -71
Heinie Manush 63.9 43.5 53.7 475 231 -62
Average HoF'er 110.0 61.1 85.6 784 506 -3

BRAR is Batting Runs Above Replacement, while BRAA is Batting Runs Above Average. Those are exactly what they sound like they are; they are included to help differentiate peak versus career value even further. BRAA works for peak, while BRAR helps show longevity. FRAA is Fielding Runs Above Average, which is very self explanatory.

We see some of the greatest players in history adorning the top of the table, with Stan Musial and Ted Williams. Their presence on the list seems to skew the average, as only 6 of the 17 Hall of Famers are actually above that line. Luis Gonzalez comes in below the average, but much closer than one may expect:

  • Luis Gonzalez
  • Career WARP3: 100.7
  • Peak WARP3: 58.3
  • JAWS: 79.5
  • BRAR: 584
  • BRAA: 321
  • FRAA: 88
Luis Gonzalez is not that far off from the average at all. In fact, if he is able to string together 15 more career WARP3 from age 38-40, he'll finish at 85.6 JAWS; on the average exactly. He was good for 5.9 WARP3 in 2005, so this is not entirely out of the realm of possbility, although he would certainly have to remain healthy from this point forward. PECOTA doesn't see it happening, as it gives him 5.2 more WARP3 to earn between this year and next before retiring. PECOTA also expects his defense to take a serious dive in value, so it may to be a tad pessimistic, although it is entirely plausible at age 38.

Potentially, Luis Gonzalez is a worthy candidate for Cooperstown. Will he ever be enshrined? Considering that the voters have missed out on Bobby Grich, Lou Whitaker, Will Clark, Bert Blyleven and Ron Santo, I'd say not a chance in hell. Let's take a look at where Luis Gonzalez would rank all-time among left fielders in JAWS (including other active players).

Top Twenty LF'ers by JAWS
Barry Bonds 226.2 100.2 163.2 1675 1373 128
Stan Musial 193.2 88.6 140.9 1422 1082 67
Ted Williams 164.4 89.4 126.9 1398 1166 -24
Carl Yastrzemski 137.3 63.7 100.5 990 589 47
Jim O'Rourke 128.9 56 92.45 579 309 -58
Ed Delahanty 110.5 71.3 90.9 746 513 -11
Billy Williams 110.8 62.8 86.8 801 493 64
Al Simmons 104.1 60.1 82.1 652 378 45
Luis Gonzalez 100.7 58.3 79.5 581 319 89
Bob Johnson 96.4 60.4 78.4 633 407 2
Albert Belle 85.3 71.2 78.25 638 445 -18
Willie Stargell 99.4 56.3 77.85 860 597 -84
Manny Ramirez 96.5 59 77.75 791 594 -66
Joe Medwick 92.2 60.3 76.25 628 391 43
Fred Clarke 100.9 51.4 76.15 673 387 44
Jesse Burkett 94.7 56.1 75.4 741 478 -54
Brian Giles 82.7 63.8 73.25 566 412 140
George Foster 85.7 60.2 72.95 515 279 27
Jose Cruz Sr. 92.3 53.2 72.75 582 313 18
Goose Goslin 90.6 53.6 72.1 644 363 -10

On Edit: I am a moron. I forgot Raines and Henderson, who fall in ahead of Gonzo. He is ranked 11th. After work I'll triple check this.

Among the top twenty left fielders, ranked by JAWS, Luis Gonzalez comes in at ninth. Among other active notables, we see Barry Bonds coming in first overall -- no surprise there, as he is battling Babe Ruth for the title of greatest player ever -- with Manny Ramirez coming in 13th overall, and Brian Giles coming in 17th. There is a very good chance that both Manny Ramirez and Brian Giles will enter the top ten before their careers are over, although that does not necessarily mean both will make it to Cooperstown. For those who want to know, Lance Berkman is ranked 39th overall among left fielders...ahead of Hall of Famer Heinie Manush. Manush was that Hall of Famer left out of the average calculations, with good reason it seems. Thank you Veterans Committee. One other thing to note is that Jim Rice comes in at 26th overall.

It seems as if Luis Gonzalez will have to settle for a place in the Ray Lankford Wing of the Hall of Fame, although he will be one of the highest ranked players in its virtual halls, most likely in the top ten. It is simply important to note that Luis Gonzalez's Hall-worthiness may not be something simply to be shrugged off, and that he does in fact make a case; he's one of the top ten left fielders of all-time, and there are only nine other guys in history who can lay claim to that -- until you take my lack of memory into account, then apparently there are 11 who can claim it.