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Billy Pierce and Hugh Duffy Inducted into the Hall of wWAR: Ezra Sutton and Hoyt Wilhelm are First Casualties

The beautiful thing about the Hall of wWAR is that it is a fluid institution. Just because you're in there one day doesn't mean you'll be in there the next. As the formula is improved, the population of the Hall is adjusted accordingly.

I've made a few tweaks to the formula recently and we had some turnover. But before we honor the new "inductees" (and say goodbye to the old ones), I wanted to talk about the changes I made.

1. WAR/162 and 19th Century Players

John Autin of High Heat Stats emailed me with some questions about WAR/162, the modified version of WAR that projects WAR totals for seasons with shorter schedules. John (rightfully) pointed out that in some cases, players were getting over five times the credit for the WAR the earned (like in 1871 when Ross Barnes earned 2.9 WAR in a 31-game schedule).

After some discussion and experiments, I decided to take John's advice and put a cap on the adjustment. A player's WAR/162 can now be no more than twice his WAR. This affected only seasons that were shorter than 81 games—essentially, 1871–1878).

The following players saw the biggest decrease in their wWAR:

  1. Ross Barnes (–25.1 wWAR)
  2. Cap Anson (–16.8)
  3. Deacon White (–14.9)
  4. Ezra Sutton (–9.2)
  5. Jim O'Rourke (–8.0)
  6. Al Spalding (–5.0)

As a result, Sutton falls below the induction line, so he will need to be replaced. He does, however, now sit close to Hardy Richardson. It was a Richardson/Sutton comparison that John made when he emailed me. That's what sparked this change. Their wWAR difference didn't match up with their relative value.

2. Reliever Baseline

The second fix that I made began with Mariano Rivera. I saw that I somehow left his Wins Above MVP out of my spreadsheet last time around. By adding his 10+ WAM to his already astronomical wWAR total, things just didn't look right. I had to choose one of two things to believe—Mariano Rivera had a better Hall of Fame case than Randy Johnson or Hoyt Wilhelm had to be out of the Hall of wWAR. I decided to raise the relief pitcher induction baseline. That reduced Rivera's other-worldly WAR a bit, but put Wilhelm on the wrong side of induction. He will need to be replaced, too.

Goose Gossage is still comfortably enshrined with 85.1 wWAR/norm (he used to be around 100). Wilhelm is now at 64.5, putting him in line with the likes of Gil Hodges, Ron Guidry an Frank Viola. Not a the Hall of wWAR level, but respectable nonetheless.

3. Complete Catcher Adjustment

For some reason, when I recently applied an additional catcher adjustment (to make up for catchers' lower induction baseline), I only applied it to catchers who appeared in at least 25% of their career games behind the plate. Since I was only applying a relative percentage of the adjustment (based on games caught) anyway, I decided to add the adjustment to every player spent some time primarily as a catcher. As a result, these part-time catchers get a little boost:

  1. Craig Biggio (+2.5 wWAR)
  2. Jim O'Rourke (2.0)
  3. Frank Chance (1.9)
  4. Jimmie Foxx (1.4)

Is there anything Foxx didn't do? He also has 1.1 WAR as a pitcher.

New Inductee #1: Billy Pierce

The bad news for Mr. Sutton and Mr. Wilhelm turns into good news for a pair of new Hall of wWAR inductees. The first is actually a player I was surprised to see miss the cut when I reworked the Hall of wWAR a few months agoBilly Pierce.

The dominant pitchers of the 1950s were Robin Roberts (58.9 WAR) and Warren Spahn (58.6). Billy Pierce is third with 44.8, a few wins ahead of Early Wynn (40.2 WAR). Pierce's rival Whitey Ford sits in a tie for seventh with Sal Maglie (30.0 WAR). In terms of ERA+, Pierce (128) trailed only Hoyt Wilhelm and Ford (140 ERA+ for each, minimum 1000 IP). Pierce, however, threw about as many innings as Wilhelm and Ford combined (2383 IP to Wilhelm's 1024 and Ford's 1562).

Pierce received plenty of traditional accolades, too. He was a member of seven all star teams (starting three times) and twice received The Sporting News' Pitcher of the Year honor. While he is not an absolute slam dunk Hall of Famer, he was one of the 209 best players by wWAR and therefore gets into the Hall of wWAR.

Billy Pierce
WAR/pos -1.7
WAR/p 53.5
WAR/tot 51.8
WAR/162 54.2
WAE 19.3
WAM 2.0
wWPA 0.6
wWAR 76.1

New Inductee #2: Hugh Duffy

Duffy—a native of nearby (to me) Cranston, Rhode Island—also squeezes into the Hall of wWAR. One of the keys to Duffy's Hall of Fame induction was his 1894 season.

He hit .440.

The pitcher's mound had been moved back to 60'6" just a year before and Duffy took full advantage. Already a perennial .300 hitter, he saw his slash line in 1892 (50' mound distance) of .301/.364/.410 turn into an 1893 slash line of .363/.416/.461. The remarkable thing? In both seasons, his OPS+ was 125. He was off the charts in 1894, hitting .440/.502/.694 with 237 hits (led the league), 18 home runs (led the league), 51 doubles (led the league), 145 RBI, and 48 stolen bases. He had an OPS+ of 172 and 7.6 WAR.

Duffy could hit—and it wasn't just because of his era. On six occasions, he topped 30 WAR Batting runs. His 7.6 WAR season is joined by three others over 5.0 and another three more over 4.0.

Should he be a Hall of Famer while players like Jeff Bagwell, Alan Trammell, and Dick Allen are not? No. But on the list of egregious Hall of Fame inductions, Hugh Duffy is nowhere near the top.

Hugh Duffy
WAR/pos 49.6
WAR/p 0.0
WAR/tot 49.6
WAR/162 58.3
WAE 16.2
WAM 1.6
wWPA 0
wWAR 76.1