Sunday, June 29, 2008

Hall of Fame Debate: Curt Schilling

Since Curt Schilling's career is nearing an end, it has become popular to debate whether his career is hall worthy. Here are his career numbers:

GS---- W---- L----- W%---- CG--- IP---- K----- ERA--- ERA+---- WHIP
436--- 216--- 146--- .597----- 83--- 3261-- 3116--- 3.46--- 127------- 1.137

In addition, Schilling ranks second all-time in K/BB ratio (Tommy Bond), with a very impressive 4.38 ratio. The most supportive career statistic for Schilling's Hall status is 3,116 career strikeouts, but it is obvious that this alone is not enough, since Burt Blyleven's 3701 career strikeouts have not been enough to put him over the top. The rest of the numbers, while good, are far from enough to make a strong case that Schilling belongs in the Hall. Of course, with Schilling, career regular season numbers are only part of the story. But can a bloody sock and the reverse of a curse put Schilling in the Hall? Here's a look at his career post-season numbers:

GS--- W---- L---- W%---- CG---- IP---- K---- ERA
19---- 11---- 2---- .846----- 4 ---- 133.1 -- 120-- 2.23

While these numbers are very impressive, and they include a 1993 NLCS MVP award as well as a 2001 WS MVP award, let's compare them to Jack Morris' career postseason stats:
GS --- W---- L ----W%---- CG---- IP---- K---- ERA
13----- 7----- 4 ----.636----- 5----- 92.1--- 64---- 3.80

Which comes accompanied with a 1991 WS MVP award and perhaps the greatest world series pitching performance in history, a ten inning shutout in Game 7 of this world series. Morris also posted 254 regular season victories, far above the career total of Schilling. It is very clear that Jack Morris falls short of the requirements for Hall status. Schilling and Morris both make cases for the Hall based upon solid regular season numbers and mythical post season performances, but it is obvious that neither is Hall worthy. Curt Schilling has had a great career, one worthy of continual reflection and even mythical acclaim; but it is not enough to enter the hallowed walls of Cooperstown.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Hall of Fame Debate: Ken Griffey Jr.

Six hundred. Just stop and think about it for a moment. Babe Ruth. Willie Mays. Hank Aaron. Barry Bonds. Sammy Sosa. Ken Griffey Jr. There was a time that we thought he'd reach this plateau at a much younger age, but it doesn't lessen its value any. Ken Griffey Jr. has reached hallowed ground today. Ruth, Mays, and Aaron. That was the list for so very long. Now three more have reached that grand summit, but only one of those stands free of controversy and suspicion. Ken Griffey Jr.
His numbers are absolutely staggering, especially when considering the toll injuries have had upon him over the past 7+ seasons. Even missing such significant time Griffey has managed to climb to number 6 on the all-time list and will almost certainly climb to number 5 by season's end. He ranks nineteenth all-time in RBI, forty-sixth in runs scored, eighteenth in total bases, and twenty-first in runs created.
He won the AL MVP award in 1997, he's a10 time gold glove winner (all consecutive), a 13 time all-star, holds a .289 career batting average and ranks 78th all-time in adjusted OPS+. He was the premiere star of his generation, before injuries cut him short. He led his league in home runs 4 times, and was considered the best all around player in the game during his peak years; this at a time when Barry Bonds was playing.
There can be little doubt that Ken Griffey Jr. is a first ballot Hall-of-Famer. His unique brand of enthusiasm and graceful elegance renew memories of a treasured past; while controversies swirl and spoil many great achievements in the sport.
Six hundred. It may be a while before we see it again, and even longer before we feel this good about it.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Hall of Fame Debate: Chipper Jones

Chipper Jones is enjoying an incredible start to the 2008 regular season. Not only is Jones leading the majors with an astounding .423 average, but his 1.176 OPS is second only to Berkman in the majors; he is first in OBP at .502, second in SLG (Berkman) at .671, and second in RC (Berkman) at 64.2.
In addition to all of this, Chipper hit his 400th career home run yesterday. He currently ranks 43rd all-time in home runs, 79th in RBI (1338), 45th in OBP (.406), 27th in slugging (.550), and 22nd in OPS (.956). He was awarded the 1999 NL MVP award, has received 2 silver slugger awards and is a 5 time all-star.
He has met the standards of many to enter the Hall of Fame, but there are still some naysayers who argue that Jones has been too much of an injury risk during his career, particularly over the past several years. Also, Jones has never been considered a premiere defender; he has played at a time when many would argue that he was not the best third baseman in the game. Names like Rolen, Rodriguez and Wright surface as contemporaries or partial contemporaries whose achievements may ultimately dwarf Jones'.

Chipper has also had the unfortunate timing to have played in baseball's steroids era. While we note that Jones has never been under any kind of scrutiny regarding performance enhancing drugs, and has in fact been quite outspoken against PEDs, the era in general suffers from its perception. But even adjusting for era and ballparks Jones' OPS ranks 49th all-time. Only 8 hall-eligible players rank ahead of Jones in OPS+ while not making into the Hall of Fame.
Among players who played more games at 3rd than any other position, Jones ranks second only to Mike Schmidt in OPS+. Among all players who played significant time at third he is 5th, behind Dick Allen, Edgar Martinez, Alex Rodriguez and Schmidt. Jones is also third all-time in OPS+ among switch hitters (Mickey Mantle, Lance Berkman).
While the climb may be uphill for Jones to get into the Hall, because so many writers associate the Braves with pitching, it is clear that Jones has earned the right to enter into that hallowed shrine.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Relief Coming to Hall of Fame

For quite some time now I have been researching statistics of MLB players that are not currently eligible for the Hall of Fame to get a good idea of who may or may not qualify for the Hall.
I sent a list to a friend over at the "Weiled West" blog; and he posted the list over a year ago. I have continued my research and one name kept coming up that I continually rejected upon the surface. That was John Franco, RP.
When his name first came up in my research it was prior to the Sutter and Gossage nominations and I rejected it based solely upon the fact that relievers were such long shots to begin with. After revisiting the numbers following the Sutter nod, I still rejected his name simply because I felt like I was alone when considering him for the Hall of Fame.
Certainly John Franco would be fighting an uphill battle to get into the Hall. Three things are working against him; first, he will continually be compared to Lee Smith, who had more saves as a contemporary, furthermore some of the later closers such as Hoffman and Rivera will have saves totals dwarfing those of Franco. Second, there is almost no mention, if any, among mainstream media regarding John Franco and the Hall of Fame. Third, Franco was one of the first of the new generation of closers who closed by pitching one inning; Sutter and Gossage will always have an edge in multi-inning saves over those who have closed in this more modern era.
Looking closely at the numbers, however, reveals that Franco is at the very least worthy of serious consideration.
Here's how he stacks up against some other notable relievers:
Player-----Yrs--W-- L--- WL%-- ERA---- G---GF--- SV------- IP--- H-----BB---SO---ERA+
Franco-----21---90--87-- .508---2.89-- 1119-- 774-- 424---1245.7-- 1166-- 495-- 975---137
Sutter-----12---68--71-- .489----2.83-- 661 -- 512-- 300--1042.3-- 879 -- 309 --861 ---135
Gossage---22---124-107-- .537---3.01- 1002-- 681-- 310-- 1809.3--1497-- 732 --1502 --125
Smith------18---71- 92---.436----3.03- 1022-- 802-- 478-- 1289.3--1133-- 486--1251---131 Reardon---16---73--77---.487----3.16--- 880---695---367---1132.3--1000--358--877----121
Rivera*---14----62--44---.585---2.33----795---666---449---962.0---763---238--865----195 Hoffman*-16----53--62---.461---2.77----890---737---528---950.3---733---269--1017---144
Franco----21----90--87-- .508--- 2.89-- 1119-- 774-- 424---1245.7-- 1166-- 495-- 975---137
* Denotes active player. All statistics are from as of 4/26/08
He compares very favorably to this group. Looking at the ERA+ category he actually ranks about the same as Sutter and well ahead of Gossage. (Note: this statistic is adjusted for era and 100 is average) Only Wagner and Rivera dwarf him in this category. In the total saves category he ranks well ahead of both Sutter and Gossage who are already hall of famers. At the time of his retirement he was second only to Lee Smith in saves.
A negative that is easily seen is that Smith is not in the Hall, yet Franco's numbers are so similar. Franco has an edge in WL% while Smith gets the nod in Ks.
A deeper comparison shows that Franco won the Rolaids Relief Award twice, Smith three times; Franco led the league in saves 3 times, Smith four times. One big negative for Franco is the fact that he never cracked 40 saves in a season. Smith accomplished the feat 3 times.
Comparing Franco to anyone on the above list besides Smith or Reardon isn't too productive since the role of closers in different eras is not completely understood for comparison purposes yet. However, we see that Franco does compare very favorably to Lee Smith. While it is my opinion that Smith himself is fighting an uphill battle to get selected for the Hall of Fame it is clear to me that if Smith is elected, Franco ought to be elected.
With the recent selections of Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage, Hall of Fame voters will have to look more closely at the numbers that are being put up by modern day closers. As more understanding of their effect on the game is gained we will begin to have a greater appreciation for the elite closers of each era.
Hall of Fame voters are still showing a great reluctance to vote for relievers, but with today's game becoming more dependent on the role day-by-day, perhaps the voters will do the right thing by electing Lee Smith, John Franco and some of the greats who are following after them to what they are truly worthy of, the Hall of Fame.