Monthly Archives: July 2012

Fans of sports teams have been known to gripe about ill representation, whether it be at an All-Star Game or some other function, but Washington Senators fans have a legitimate gripe when it comes to their lack of representation at  basbeball’s Hall of Fame.  A number of great Senators haven’t received much support by voters, even with such quality candidates like Mickey Vernon, Cecil Travis, Eddie Yost, Frank Howard and the former star second baseman Buddy Myer.  When a player plays the bulk of his career with that capitalized “W” on his cap, he fails to get the exposure a player of the same caliber acquires when he sports pinstripes or plays in a larger venue.  Many baseball fans have complained, justifiably so, of the Hall of Fame’s New York bias, pointing to players with lesser stats on better teams having been inducted over superior players on lesser teams.  But the Hall of Fame isn’t perfect, far from it, and when one understands the location of the museum, it shouldn’t take the application of too much reason to understand the NY bias.

Buddy Myer, had there been no Charlie Gehringer, would be considered the best second baseman of his era.  He had other peers that were quality players, two, Billy Herman and Tony Lazzeri, have been inducted to the Hall of Fame, but the portside-swinging second baseman stacks up awfully well to those two gents.  Gehringer, The Mechanical Man, was clearly the cream of the 1930s 2B crop, but his runner-up might be left out of the Hall of Fame.  Myer was a gifted, all-round performer who had terrific offensive value and possessed a glove superior to both Herman and Lazzeri.  Buddy’s career fielding percentage at second base was an impressive .974 (five points above league average at the position) while Herman and Lazzeri fielded at an identical .967 clip. 

Myer had a substantial edge in career fielding percentage over both Herman and Lazzeri.  The Washington second baseman led the AL twice in fielding percentage while the slugging New York Yankee, Tony Lazzeri, never paced the junior circuit in fielding.  The Washington man accumulated more career putouts at second base than Laz, but Tony hit with authority while Buddy, whose homefield was the cavernous Griffith Stadium, hit more to contact.  The two men were terrific second basemen but newspaper writers of the time knew Lazzeri was inferior to Buddy at playing the position.  An article written during the prime of their careers compared Myer more favorably to Charlie Gehringer, regarded by all analysts as the best 2B of their time, than Tony Lazzeri.

Offensively, Buddy Myer left little to be desired.  The Senators weren’t known for their slugging, due in most part to their massive home stadium, but blasting the sphere, regardless his homefield, was never Buddy’s offensive game.  The best contact hitter among second basemen of his day–not named Gehringer, of course–Myer owned an enviable batting eye.  The Senators second basemen played ten years in which he had twice as many walks as strikeouts.  Charlie Gehringer is the only second basemen who played in roughly the same era to top Myer’s mark with twelve seasons–nobody else even comes close.  Billy Herman had five years in which he walked twice as much as he fanned while Red Schoendienst had five as well.  Yankee Hall of Famers Joe Gordon and Tony Lazzeri had one such year combined between the two, with Gordon achieving the feat.

One of the most interesting facts on Buddy Myer is that he is the only American League infielder of the prewar years to win a batting title and not be named to the Hall of Fame.  Buddy employed his remarkable batting eye to advantage, which enabled him to be a threat for a batting title year after year.  What his sharp eye also did was enable him to post some impressive on-base percentages.  Buddy’s career OBP of .389 exceeds all of his aforementioned Hall of Fame peers, with the typical exception of Gehringer.  Lazzeri’s career on-base percentage was nine points below Myer at .380, followed by Herman’s .367, Gordon’s ,357 and Red Schoendienst’s rather poor .337 career on-base percentage.  His on-base skills allowed him to be rack up more career stolen bases with 157 than Lazzeri (148), Gordon (89), Schoendienst (89) and Herman (67).

Although he wasn’t a slugger in the Lazzeri mold, Myer was a terrific run producer–better than Billy Herman.  The mite second basemen posted a 100 RBI/100 run scored season during his career, a feat never achieved by Herman or Red Schoendienst.  When looking at their runs manufactured average, the combination of runs scored with runs driven in, Myer has an edge on the Hall of Famers as well.  Myer average 1.053 runs manufactured per game during his career, which is an average that eclipses Herman’s 1.042 and blows Schoendienst’s meager 0.901 average out of the water. 

When an analyst wants to make a case for a player’s Hall of Fame induction, the best way is by comparing his stats to players already enshrined.  Myer’s career stats are pretty fair indeed, with many exceeding the standards of the gents already enshrined.  Billy Herman was widely regarded as the top second baseman of the National League during the pre-war years they played in, and Myer has many similarities to Herman in the most common of stats.  Buddy Myer scored 1,174 runs to Herman’s 1,163.  Myer drove in 850 runs compared to Herman’s 839.  Herman’s batting average was a point higher at .304 to Myer’s .303, as was Herman’s .407 slugging average–Myer had a career .406 SA.  But in the third slash line category, which makes Myer’s slash line far superior to Herman’s, is the 22 point separation Buddy has in on-base percentage: .389 to Herman’s .367.  When compared to his Hall of Fame peers, Buddy Myer looks to be a very strong candidate for enshrinement.

The writers have their opinion, but it your opinion, who is the best player from last year’s vote who was left out of the Hall of Fame by the writers?

Which newcomer to the Hall of Fame ballot do you believe to have the best chance for induction in next year’s vote?

The latest former baseball star to hang up his cleats is the gritty, hard-nosed catcher Jason Kendall.  A former All-Star for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Kendall is one of the fleetest backstops in the game’s history–not many receivers were used as leadoffmen but Jason owned that role for several years.  Although Kendall is overshadowed by position peers Mike Piazza, Ivan Rodriguez and Jorge Posada, his career numbers stack up awfully well to the latest catchers to make the Hall.  It may come as a surprise to many that Jason has more career hits than Hall of Famers Johnny Bench and Gary Carter.  All three men, Bench, Carter and Kendall have career runs scored totals between 1,000 and 1,100.  And, to make Jason stand out, his career batting average and on-pase percentage are substantially higher than either Bench of Carter’s.  But will Jason Kendall make the Hall of Fame?  Let your voice be heard by employing the poll below.

There have been many star ballplayers throughout the many years of professional baseball, but some of the game’s brightest toil in obscurity.  Tim Raines was a seven-time All-Star, representing his Montreal Expos in seven consecutive seasons.  As fleet as a gazelle with a lion chasing its tail, Raines was a threat to take an extra base whenever the man was in motion.  He pilfered bags, turned singles into doubles and hot-footed the occasional triple when most players would have held up at second.  Playing for the Expos north of the border didn’t allow for much exposure on Tim’s part, but obscurity may not be the reigning factor keeping Raines out of the Hall of Fame.  Competition, the analysis of comparing a player to his peers, might be the chief aspect keeping Raines out of the Hall.  However good he was, Raines, as a fleet-footed left fielder, was often compared to the great Rickey Henderson and always came up wanting.

Peruse any baseball site that specializes in the history of the game and you’ll find that Rickey Henderson is regarded as the greatest leadoffman in baseball history.  Henderson had the wheels and on-base skills one looks for in an ideal top-of-the-order hitter.  Tim Raines also possessed these skills.  Both men had an uncanny knack for plate discipline, that can be best understood by their batting stances–each man employed a rather pronounced crouch, thus giving them a tightened strike zone.  This enabled both Raines and Rickey to draw plenty walks while also keeping their amount of strikeouts down.  The two leadoffmen also had occasional power to go with their elite speed which gave them an edge over other swift leadoffmen like Brett Butler and Willie Wilson.  Rickey Henderson, the Hall of Famer, posted three years with at least 100 runs scored and 60 RBI–a feat matched by Raines.

Compared to Rickey Henderson, Raines is clearly the lesser player–in many aspects–but he does exceed the enshrined leadoffman in several key categories.  In the three slash line categories (BA, OBP and SA) Raines has a better mark in two columns.  His career batting average is much higher than Rickey’s (Raines has a career .294 BA to Henderson’s .279) and Tim’s slugging average even edges out Henderson’s by six points: .425 to .419.  However, in other important stats, Henderson outperforms Raines by a wide margin.  Henderson has far more runs scored and hits, and in stolen bases, their specialty, Henderson was more than a little better.  Henderson netted a dozen stolen base titles while Tim was able to lead his league on four occasions. 

To compare a player to one peer does not do the man justice.  Tim Raines has other outfield peers in the Hall of Fame and some of them appear a tad on the light side when judged against Raines.  While Tim was patrolling left field for the Expos, there were other gardeners, like Andre Dawson (a one-time teammate) Tony Gwynn, Kirby Puckett and Jim Rice playing in the pasture as well.  All these men made the Hall of Fame, with the exception of Raines, of course, but Tim’s career WAR exceeds all his Hall of Fame peers with the exception of Henderson.  The career WAR of these players are listed, best to worst: Rickey Henderson (106.8), Raines (66.2), Gwynn (65.3), Dawson (60.6), Puckett (48.2) and Rice (44.3).  As far as the important category of on-base percentage is concerned, Raines stacks up awfully well too.  Henderson leads the crew with a career .401 OBP, followed by Gwynn (.388), Raines (.385), Puckett (.360), Rice (.352) and Dawson (.323).

With a cursory glance at Tim Raines’ career, one gets the impression of a player knocking on the door of Cooperstown.  Tim won four stolen base titles in a row, netted a batting crown and led the National League in runs scored twice.  He scored 100 or more runs in six separate seasons and ranks fifth all-time in career stolen bases.  Among all the players in baseball history, only 52 men have scored more runs than him, and he was also an elite defender in left field.  Raines had the speed and instincts to play center field but Montreal always had plenty of ballhawking talent around Tim to keep him stationed in left.  Tim led left fielders in fielding percentage five separate years and currently rests seventh on the all-time list in putouts by left fielders and eleventh in left field assists.

Players who split their career between positions have had a difficult time making their way to Cooperstown.  For whatever reason, voters prefer position players with a set station, which accounts for the absence of Deacon White and Joe Torre in Cooperstown.  There have been players like Rod Carew and Robin Yount make the Hall of Fame, but both men are members of the 3,000 Hit Club, so their enshrinement was a given.  Deacon White, one of baseball’s early legends, falls into this bracket of undesignated position players since his career was split between catcher and third base.  Although White played more games at third he was a much better backstop than he was a hot corner custodian.  He caught in baseball’s early days, well before catchers donned masks and shin guards, before he shifted to third base.  When he was an everyday catcher, the schedule was significantly shorter than when he made the shift to third base, so Deacon spent more years behind the dish but played more games at third.

Deacon and his brother Will were professional baseball’s first brother battery as the White Boys were elite players at their respective positions: Will being the Greg Maddux of his time, complete with pinpoint control.  When baseball became a professional enterprise, Deacon was on the ground floor.  Of all the players who participated in the inaugural season of professional baseball only Hall of Famer Cap Anson has more career hits, runs and RBI than Deacon.  There were some exceptional players in baseball’s first season, such as Hall of Famers George Wright and Anson, as well as other forgotten stars like Cal McVey, Ross Barnes and Tom York.  But White’s career 1,140 runs, 2,067 hits and 988 RBI eclipsed every player from the game’s infancy not named Anson.

Deacon White often played with powerhouse teams during his career.  He was a member of the three-time champion Red Stockings in the mid 1870s and teamed with Hall of Famer Dan Brouthers, and stars Jack Rowe and Hardy Richardson to comprise the Buffalo Bisons’ fabled “Big Four.”  His status as one of the game’s elite stars during the early days of the game was unquestioned given his production from the catcher position: a post that caused severe bodily harm to many men of the period.  The Hall of Fame has done little to recognize players of the game’s early years, having enshrined the Wright Brothers, Al Spalding and Cap Anson from the original 1871 professional ranks.  Deacon White, who tallied the first base hit in Major League Baseball history–off of right-hander Bobby T. Mathews–may have been a better player than the lauded George Wright.

Over the course of White’s lengthy career in the Major League ranks he nabbed a pair of batting titles and led his league on three separate occasions in the RBI department.  George Wright, the Derek Jeter of his time, never once won a batting title.  Deacon was able to accumulate more career hits, runs and RBI than the star shortstop.  Taking into account each man’s slash line (batting average, on-base percentage and slugging average) Deacon has a clear advantage over Wright the Younger as well.  White ended his career with a solid slash line of .312 BA/.346 OBP/.393 SA compared to George Wright’s .301 BA/.318 OBP/.398 SA.  When one takes into consideration that White played a more physically demanding position than Wright, the impression that the lesser ballplayer resides in the Hall of Fame is presented.

In order to make a convincing case for a player’s Hall of Fame enshrinement, one must compare the player to his position peers–those men who played the same position in roughly the same era.  Deacon White’s closest peers are King Kelly and Buck Ewing–both catchers of baseball’s early years who also saw plenty action at other posts on the diamond.  Neither Ewing nor Kelly played at the outset of baseball’s professional status, like Deacon White, as the enshrined duo debuted several years after White when schedules had lengthened.  But White’s durability allowed him to post career numbers on par with the enshrined catchers.  Their career stats are in relative proximity to one another.

Both Deacon White and King Kelly won a pair of batting titles in their careers.  All three players caught for an extended period in the Majors with White besting the Cooperstown gents in longevity.  Like White, Kelly saw more action at another post than catcher but many historians view Kelly as a catcher rather than an outfielder, where he settled after his days backstopping.  White’s career totals in the major categories of hits, runs, RBI and batting average outdistanced Buck Ewing, and the same can almost be said of Kelly, but King tallied a slightly higher total of career runs scored.  Despite Kelly’s career runs total eclipsing White’s, Deacon had a better career WAR than Kelly: White posting a 44.2 to Kelly’s 42.4.  Behind the dish, Kelly’s arm was superior to White’s but Deacon was a more reliable receiver.  White had three Top Two finishes in fielding percentage at the catcher post while Kelly never had a whiff of leading catchers in fielding percentage. 

Inducting players from the 1800s into the Hall of Fame picked up a little steam a few years ago when slick-fielding second baseman Biddy McPhee was enshrined, but the coals have since gone cold.  One of the main factors in White’s Hall of Fame absence is the lack of knowledge concerning baseball’s early days.  When the game became a professional enterprise, teams did not engage in 162 games–far from it.  Thirty games seemed an ample amount of contests in the game’s early stages before the schedules began to expand courtesy a semblance of league stability.  Exceeding 2,000 career hits in White’s day is akin to reaching 3,000 in modern times.  The legendary Cap Anson was the only player from the 1800s to reach 3,000 hits.  White was analyzed a few years ago by the modified Veteran’s Committee, but he was, for whatever reason, found wanting.