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The Hall of wWAR: Center Fielders


When we switch from the Hall of Fame to the Hall of wWAR, no position loses as many players as center field. Nine center fielders miss the cut. Some of them are surprising (Kirby Puckett really didn't pile up much WAR, did he?) while some are painful (it doesn't feel right to remove Larry Doby, but he obviously made contributions that transcend his stats—the only factor considered here).

Just five center fielders take their place, meaning the position loses for players. That drops center to just 13 inductees.

Why is this okay? I can identify four players who make the Hall of wWAR who actually spent between a third and half of their career in center, despite being listed elsewhere. That, and we have a ton of worthy center field candidates hitting the ballot in the next fifteen years or so.

Who's Out?

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

  • Hugh Duffy: The man who hit .440 (in 1894) finished his career with a .326/.386/.451 line, but the run environment was pretty high and his OPS+ was 122. He was still able to accumulate 339 batting runs despite essentially being done at age 34. His baserunning (45) and fielding (67) also earned him extra credit. His positional adjustment takes a hit first because center field wasn't worth as much then as it is now and second because he spent a ton of time in the corner spots, too. Duffy's 49.6 WAR and peak-aided 67.4 wWAR falls just short.
  • Larry Doby: This one was painful. I understand Doby is inducted for reasons that transcend his statistics. The Hall of wWAR, however, is 100% statistics. The thing is, Doby comes so close. I hoped I could get him in, but in the end I just couldn't. His 47.4 WAR gets a nice boost to 67.0 wWAR, thanks to his peak. Doby played in 100 games in just ten seasons. During that stretch, he averaged 4.7 WAR per season. He maxed out at 7.3 in 1952. He was worth 277 batting runs in his career and all of his other skills hovered relatively close to average. In the end, that just wasn't enough to push him over the top.
  • Max Carey: Carey is one of just four players worth 100 runs on the bases for their career (he was worth 106). That's more than he was worth even at the plate (97 runs, 107 OPS+). Carey was also an excellent defender (86 runs), but that is pretty much cleared out by his positional adjustment. Center field wasn't always the premium position it is now, apparently. Carey's 50.6 WAR is moderately bumped to 61.9 by his peak.
  • Earl Averill: Averill didn't get his start until he was 27 years old (he was playing in the Pacific Coast League) and that likely cost him his Hall of wWAR spot. He hit .318/.395/.534 in an offense-heavy era but still had an OPS+ of 133. Despite just 11 full seasons, he still passed 2000 hits and belted 238 home runs. He was worth 309 batting runs, but lost a bit of value with his fielding (–32 runs). The late start hurt him and he finished with 45.0 WAR and 60.9 wWAR.
  • Kirby Puckett: If you told me when I was a kid that Kirby Puckett would be bumped from the Hall I'd think you were crazy. Sure he picked up a ton of hits (2304 in just 12 seasons) and hit .318 in his career, but Total Zone rates him as slightly below average and he didn't walk. Add in the short career and you get a guy with 44.8 WAR and 60.5 wWAR. He's worth just a bit more than Jim Rice.
  • Edd Roush: The last survivor of the Federal League, there's nothing really bad to say about Roush. He was just a good player—who doesn't quite fit the Hall of Fame bill. He hit .323 but didn't walk much (.369). His 127 OPS+ was nice, but by playing in less than 2000 games it only translated to 267 batting runs. He was an average ballplayer otherwise and finished with 46.5 WAR (59.5 wWAR). Nothing to be disappointed with… just not Hall of wWAR caliber.
  • Earle Combs: Combs is nearly identical in value to Roush. He played just nine full seasons (twelve total) and hit .325/.397/.462. The 125 OPS+ came out to 261 runs (lower because of the limited playing time). He was solid on the bases (37 runs) and an average fielder, but the short career limited him to 44.7 WAR (58.2 wWAR).
  • Hack Wilson: Are you trying to tell me Mr. RBI Record doesn't belong in the Hall? How could that be? Yes, his 1930 season was legendary for those 56 homers and 191 (190 when I was a kid!) RBI. Surprisngly, that was "just" a 7.4 WAR season. Why? His batting runs were a staggering +78. It's everything else that was below average (particularly his Total Zone at –10). Wilson managed two other 6+ WAR seasons, but still sits at just 39.1 WAR for his career. wWAR does bring him to 57.0, thanks to that brief, but impressive peak.
  • Lloyd Waner: The Other Waner Brother somehow rode his brother's coattails into the Hall. His 2459 hits and .316 average probably did it. But the thing is, he really didn't do much else. In fact, because he didn't walk or hit for power, his average rates as pretty much average. The rest of his game is darn near average too. Because of this, he never achieved higher than 4.2 WAR and finished with a total of 24.3. His wWAR is just 26.

Who's In?

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

  • Jim Wynn: The best player to never receive a Hall of Fame vote, Wynn was way ahead of his time. At first glance, if you see a .250 hitter with 1663 hits who is discussed for the Hall of Fame, you have to assume he was an elite fielder. He was, in fact, below average. What Wynn did do was post an OBP 116 points above his batting aveage. He also hit for power. Most importantly, he played in such a depressed run environment that his .250/.366/.436 line makes for a 128 OPS+ (and comes out to 306 batting runs). He rates well in all other offensive categories (baserunning, reaching on errors, and avoiding double plays), which helps his value. He peaked at 8.1 WAR, a season in which he walked 148 times. In 1976, he took a season that he had only 93 hits, hit .207, and was a below average fielder and still turned it into a 3.2 WAR season. How? He walked 127 times.Wynn's 59.8 WAR get a boost of 28.3 WAE and 6.8 WAM to push his wWAR to 94.9. That pushes him to 8th all time among eligible CF.s
  • Cesar Cedeno: Cedeno is somewhat similar to Wynn, but with fewer walks and a lot better baserunning. Cedeno had an early five-year peak where he averaged 6.5 WAR per season (and won the Gold Glove in each season). He hit .285/.347/.443 for a 123 OPS+ for his career, giving him 225 batting runs. His baserunning (61 runs) bump him up while his defense rates a bit below average. His 52.2 WAR gets a nice boost (21.0 WAE and 3.8 WAM) to 77.0 wWAR (10th among elgible center fielders).
  • Willie Davis: Davis played in the low-scoring 1960s, so at first glance his .279/.311/.412 line looks pretty weak. But that actually hovered around aveage for the era and he had a 105 OPS+ and 64 batting runs. Davis was a speed and defense guy first and foremost, getting 65 runs on the bases, 41 by not grounding into double plays, and 106 for his play in the outfield. That's sizable contributions from four components. All together, it leads to 57.2 WAR. His peak wasn't overpowering, but it was enough to bump him to 76.2 wWAR (right behind Cedeno).
  • Dale Murphy: Well, I must say this one surprised me. The closest comparison I've been able to come up with for Nomar Garciaparra is Dale Murphy. Murphy had six seasons of at last 5.3 WAR. Then, he had a single 2.9 WAR year and everything else is 1.6 or below (he also had one full season and four partial seasons below replacement level). His overall counting numbers don't appear to be a ringing endorsement for induction (.265/.346/.469, 121 OPS+, 227 batting runs with defense that rated as below average). But he crammed just about all his value into his half-dozen good seasons. As a result, they all have high WAR totals and therefore pick up a lot of WAE (20.7) and WAM (4.1). 38.7 of his 44.2 career WAR came in six seasons (87.5% of his value and an average of 6.5 WAR per season). 63.5 of his 69.0 wWAR (92%) came in those six years, as well as well as his two MVP awards four of his five Gold Gloves. If you haven't figured it out yet, the unadjusted wWAR baseline I used to populate the Hall of wWAR with the same number of players as the Hall of Fame was 69.0. Yes, Dale Murphy hit it right on the nose (as did Nomar).
  • George Gore: We welcome one more player based on the adjusted 19th century baseline. Gore managed to play just 1310 games in his career, both because he started his career when the seasons were very short and he was done by the time he was 35 (his teammate and captain said "women and wine brought about his downfall"). But he piled up 45.9 WAR in that time. Despite the shorter seasons, his peak seasons bumped his wWAR up to 59.1. His 346 batting runs in 6104 plate appearances is very impressive, thanks to his .301/.386/.411 line (that's a 135 OPS+). He was the first player to walk 100 times (in 1886). He rated above average on the bases and in the field, futher boosting his value.

Who's Next?

These five 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:

  • Ken Griffey: There was never any doubt about Griffey. The only surprising thing is how he finished. He was already a Hall of Famer when he left Seattle with 68.7 WAR after his age 29 season. It's shocking that he "only" ended up with 78.5 WAR. He gets a huge bump from his peak all the way to 128.8, but that still leaves him sixth among center fielders. Remember, though—there may only be a few center fielders in the Hall, but some of them are the very best players in the game. Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, and Mickey Mantle all have over 200 wWAR.
  • Jim Edmonds: I've written at great length about Edmonds. Basically, he was an elite hitter who's obscene offensive skills are overshadowed by his defensive skills. The fact that he was that good a hitter and that good a defender at that important of a position leads to gaudy numbers like 68.3 WAR and 106.6 wWAR (9th, immediatley after Billy Hamilton).
  • Andruw Jones: It is scary how good Total Zone says his defense was. And UZR might actually like him more. He rates as the best defensive outfielder ever, with 240 runs. His offense might actually be a bit overrated, as he clocks in at 97 run. Still, those defensive marks boost him to 59.9 WAR and 94.2 wWAR, comfortably in Hall of Fame territory.
  • Kenny Lofton: Kenny Lofton has a higher WAR, higher WAE, and higher WAM than Tim Raines. I really hope people beat the drum as fiercely for him when he's on the ballot. He did it all, with 125 batting runs, 81 baserunning runs, and 113 Total Zone runs. His 65.3 WAR and 92.2 wWAR practically scream Hall of Fame. Certainly they make the Hall of wWAR.
  • Carlos Beltran: While Carlos Beltran has battled injuries lately, I see a lot of discussion about whether or not he'll be a Hall of Famer. By WAR and wWAR, he is already deserving—and not by a little. His healthy peak years boost his 56.5 WAR to 85.3 wWAR. That's 13th all time among center fielders (including those listed above). Like Lofton, he rates well in every single category possible.

This will be the only wWAR post for today. I'll get right fielders and DHs up tomorrow. Then I'll hit you with all the pitchers at once come Monday.

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