When an individual is analyzed for inclusion into a select institution, those performing the analysis must compare the prospective recruit to current members. A person with an aversion to cold weather would make for a poor recruit into the Polar Bear Club, where persons dip into icy waters to quench their thirst for the absurd. The ideal candidate for the Polar Bear Club would be a person with an inclination to frigid waters, and not he who slinks away from the glacial brine. The Baseball Hall of Fame is a common, select-company-only institution. Those seeking admission into her ranks are set beside the current club members and given a thorough–in ideal cases–examination of their merits. When their merits compare favorably with those persons already enshrined, the just course seems to include the new recruit as well. To reject the superior while including the inferior throws the institution into question.
The Veteran’s Committee has elected for the Class of 2012 former Cubs All-Star third baseman Ron Santo. An adequate selection by my estimation, Santo was a star player who stroked his share of homeruns, posted lofty on-base percentages and won five Gold Gloves. Santo was a fine player and a decent selection for the Hall of Fame, but his inclusion into Cooperstown now makes former Cardinals third baseman Ken Boyer a worthy recruit. Now that Santo resides in the Hall, Boyer must be analyzed for selection as well. They each played the same position in the same era, making them perfectly compatible for Hall of Fame analysis. Both men were star hot corner custodians, with Santo making nine All-Star teams and Boyer netting seven trips to the Midsummer Classic. Right-handed hitters with solid power each, Santo and Boyer both were above average defenders and were awarded, five times each, the Gold Glove for their position. Similar players, Santo has always been respected a little more, by Hall of Fame voters, than Boyer, indicated by Ken’s high of 25.5% of the HOF vote by the BBWAA to Santo’s highwater mark of 43.1%.
Boyer and Santo have many similarities but they also have many differences–which will be touched in this essay. Many Hall of Fame voters place a heavy emphasis on October play, which I have always found ridiculous, for it takes a team and not a player to make the postseason, but be that as it may, playoff experience has always carried plenty weight with those casting ballots. Newly inducted Ron Santo never once played in a postseason game while Ken Boyer was a member of the World Champion Cardinals of 1964. More than just a role player, that year Kenny led the Redbirds to the World Series with an MVP season. The St. Louis third baseman won the Most Valuable Player Award in ’64–hardware Santo never claimed. In fact, Ron never finished in the Top Three any given year in MVP voting.
It takes a well-rounded ballplayer to win an MVP Award and Ken Boyer was most certainly that. It can be argued that he brought more to the table than Santo. Sure, a cursory glance at their lifetime stats will show that Santo clubbed more homeruns, but Ken excelled in other facets of the game. Defensively, both men were in the upper echelon of their third base peers, but Boyer’s glove was perhaps a bit better. Santo committed 316 errors at third over the course of his career while Boyer had 264 miscues. Yes, facts are Boyer spent a year manning center field, because his athleticism was more refined than Santo’s, therefore giving Ron more chances at third to commit guffaws. However, Santo led National League third basemen in errors during three separate seasons while Boyer only topped hot corner custodians in miscues once. The star from St. Louis only had one season in which he committed 25 or more errors while Santo had a whopping six such campaigns.
On the defensive side of the sphere, Boyer looks better with his slim error totals when compared to the miscue mountains amassed by Santo. Granted, third base is a defensive position, but it is an unusual position in that teams want a stellar glove at the post but also expect some brawny blasting out of their man. Both Santo and Boyer offered this uncommon mixture of talent. Boyer was a better hitter for average than Santo–Boyer’s career BA was .287 while Santo’s was substantially lower at .277. Kenny was able to post four consecutive seasons with a .300 batting average while the most Santo could ever muster were two such seasons, back-to-back. Ken was also able to post three 180 hit seasons while Santo mustered two.
Boyer was a much better hitter for average than Santo and his all-round game was far more diverse. One of the better speed/combo guys of his era, Ken swiped 105 bases over the course of his career while Santo pilfered just 35. Not one to pick his steals well, Santo was gunned down attempting steals more than he was successful in his attempts. Santo’s lack of wheels also presented itself in another unflattering stat which he rests high among baseball’s all-time players: grounding into double plays. The Cubs star currently rests 25th all-time in grounding into twin-killings while Boyer fails to crack the Top 125. So notorious was Santo for bouncing into the pitcher’s best friend, he was able to lead the league in that department a handful of seasons. Had he possessed the athleticism of Boyer, his twin-killings would have been dwarfed.
Santo’s greatest edge on Boyer is his power and on-base percentage. Boyer was unable to crack the 300 Homerun Club–a fraternity that Santo resides in. Although Santo’s on-base percentage was better than Boyer’s, Ken was issued more intentional passes. In three seasons Ken was handed first base freely at least ten times while Santo was never intentionally walked ten times in any given year. But Santo’s walks totals were always higher than Kenny’s. Their career slash lines are quite impressive, with Boyer’s being .287 BA/.349 OBP/.462 SA. Santo’s is equally impressive with a .277 BA/.362 OBP/.464 SA. Now, they each have relatively the same slugging average with the slightest of edges in Santo’s favor, but in the other departments the balance is not there. Boyer greatly exceeds Santo in BA while Santo is well ahead of Boyer in on-base percentage. The question must be asked, is Santo’s lofty on-base percentage more important than Boyer’s higher batting average? The following exercise will shine a little light on this topic.
This exercise focuses on Boyer and Santo’s first ten years as regulars in the Major Leagues. The focus of this exercise is on runs scored, and how many runs each player scored, on average, for his team. When I initially started this experiment, I imagined that Santo accounted for more of his team’s runs on average than Boyer, since Ron had a superior on-base percentage and was thus capable of scoring more runs–the more one reaches the hassocks the better chance he has of scoring: Baseball 101. But I found out otherwise.
12% 12.1% First season
13.4% 6.9% Second season
10.7% 13.8% Third season
16.3% 14.4% Fourth season
13.4% 13.8% Fifth season
14.8% 14.4% Sixth season
15.5% 15.2% Seventh season
11.8% 14% Eighth season
11.5% 13.4% Ninth season
13.9% 10.2% Tenth season
Now, Boyer and Santo each split the wins in the above exercise, with Boyer accounting for more of his team’s runs five seasons and Santo accounting for more the other five campaigns. However, on average, over the course of their first ten seasons in the Majors, Boyer accounted for 13.3% of the Cardinals runs while Santo lagged behind with 12.8% of the Cubs runs. Both men were middle-of-the-order hitters which has the tendency to render on-base percentages a poor estimation of a player’s value. The above exercise proves that Santo’s higher on-base percentage really wasn’t that important to his team. Had he been a leadoffman, his OBP would have been a boon to the Cubs, because the heart-of-the-order could drive him in, but since he was a heart-of-the-order hitter, his high OBP was useless because the five and six slot hitters couldn’t drive him in at a clip comparable to Boyer.
When focusing on slash lines, Boyer may be weaker in OBP than Santo and his slugging average is a tick below the former Cub, but Boyer was far more consistent with his slash line than Ron. Ken was able to post a seven-year string of a slash line with at least a .280BA/.355 OBP/.450 SA while Santo’s string was halted at five seasons. Boyer was able to put together two seasons with 100 runs scored and 180 hits while Santo was never able to achieve this feat in any given season. Although Santo had the higher on-base percentage, and in theory, the better chance to score runs, he only reached 100 runs scored in one season. As for Boyer, he crossed the dish 100 times three separate campaigns. It is my estimation, given the above argument, that since Cooperstown has opened its doors to Ron Santo, Ken Boyer is qualified to join the roll call as well.