December 19, 2014

On the Ten Post-1942 Old-Timers Nominated for the HOF

October 12, 2008 by · 4 Comments 

I recently posted On the Ten Pre-1943 Old-Timers Nominated for the HOF. Since then they’ve released the 10 post-1942 “old-timers” who will also be voted on. What follows is a similar essay for this group, using the same metrics and considerations I did for the first batch.

As I started the other post, I’ll begin here by noting the view of my local newspaper’s sports editor, Bob Matthews. He ranks these 10 players in this order of preference: Joe Torre, Ron Santo, Gil Hodges, Al Oliver, Tony Oliva, Vada Pinson, Dick Allen, Maury Wills, Luis Tiant, and Jim Kaat. He would actually support the first three: Torre, Santo, and Hodges. As you’ll see, I agree with him on Torre and Santo, but not Hodges.

Unlike the other batch of ten nominees, this group has a few players with credentials beyond their time as players, so that of course makes evaluations of their playing careers only an incomplete look at their full resumes. The cases that fit this description here are:

  • Joe Torre — 8th most wins as a manager, 4 World Series championships — and still going strong!
  • Ron Santo — nearly 20 years as a baseball broadcaster
  • Gil Hodges — managed the 1969 World Series champion NY Mets (though a .467 lifetime managing record)
  • Jim Kaat — over 15 years as a baseball broadcaster

That said, I’ll leave those aspects aside until the end of this article.

First, I’ll start with a brief summary of what I consider each player’s main accomplishments to be:

Pitchers:

  • Luis Tiant – A lifetime record of 229-172 (.571), WHIP of 1.199, and ERA of 3.30, for an ERA+ of 114. He won 20+ games four times, And led the league in ERA twice: 1.60 in 1968 and 1.91 in 1972. He was an all-star three times.
  • Jim Kaat – A lifetime record of 283-237 (.544), WHIP of 1.259, and ERA of 3.45, for an ERA+ of 107. He won 20+ games three times, including going 25-13 in 1966 for the Twins. He won an amazing 16 gold-gloves (though admittedly this award means less for pitchers than other positions). He was an all-star three times.

Batters:

  • Ron Santo – A lifetime .277 hitter with 342 HR and 1331 RBI. He hit 25+ HR in eight seasons and had 100+ RBI in four, but never led the league in either category. A nine-time all-star, he won five gold-gloves at 3B, and had a good eye at the plate as he led the league walks four times and OBP twice. He had a career OPS+ of 125.
  • Joe Torre – A lifetime .297 hitter with 252 HR and 1185 RBI. He had 100+ RBI in five seasons. He split his time between C, 3B, and 1B, he made nine all-star teams and won a gold-glove behind the plate in  1965. He took home NL MVP honors in 1971 after leading the league with a .363 average and 137 RBI. He had a career OPS+ of 128.
  • Gil Hodges – A lifetime .273 hitter with 370 HR and 1274 RBI. Playing mostly 1B, he was an eight-time all-star and won three gold-gloves. Although regularly amongst the leaders in HR and RBI, he never led the league in any major category. He had 100+ RBI in seven consecutive seasons. He had a career OPS+ of 120.
  • Al Oliver – A lifetime .303 hitter with 219 HR and 1326 RBI. He mostly played OF, but also played over 700 gamves at 1B. He was a seven-time all-star, but never a gold-glover. In 1982 he led the NL in several categories: .331 average, 204 hits, 109 RBI, 43 doubles, 317 total bases. He had a career OPS+ of 121.
  • Tony Oliva – A lifetime .304 hitter with 220 HR. He was an all-star in eight consecutive seasons, won one gold-glove, and was AL MVP runner-up twice. He led the AL in batting average three times (1964, 1965, 1971), led the league in hits five times, doubles four times. He had an OPS+ of 131.
  • Vada Pinson – A lifetime .286 hitter with 256 HR, 1170 RBI, 1366 Runs, and 305 SB. A good combination of speed and power, he surely is one of the all-time greatest players to only be an all-star in two seasons. He played mostly CF, and won one  gold-glove. He had 200+ hits four times (led the NL twice), scored 100+ runs four times, and stole 20+ bases nine times. He didn’t walk much, so he had a low .327 OBP and a career OPS+ of only 110.
  • Dick Allen – A lifetime .292 hitter with 351 HR and 1119 RBI. He had played a combination of 1B, 3B, and OF, and was an all-star seven times. He burst onto the scene in 1964 for the Phillies, hitting .318 with 29 HR, 38 D, 13 T, 91 RBI, and 125 runs en route to winning the Rookie of the Year and coming in seventh in the MVP vote. He had 30+ HR six times, and in 1972 won the AL MVP award playing for the White Sox after he led the league with 37 HR and 113 RBI, and also stole 19 bases while batting .308. He had a very impressive career OPS+ of 156 — which ranks him 19th all-time!
  • Maury Wills – A lifetime .281 hitter with no power (20 HR), but lots of speed (586 SB and 1067 Runs). He played mostly SS, but also some 3B. He was an all-star in five seasons, won the gold glove twice, and took home NL MVP honors in 1962 after swiping 104 bases and only being caught 13 times. He led the league in SB six times, but also led the league in CS seven times. Since power wasn’t his game, nor did he walk much, his OPS+ is a lowly 88.

Now I’ll consider these players from various common metrics used in arguments regarding the Hall of Fame.

Black Ink (explanation)
This measures how often the player led his league in key categories. As such, it doesn’t consider positional differences, and favors players with shorter superstar careers over players with longer pretty good careers.

For pitchers, an average HOFer has about 40:

  • Jim Kaat 16
  • Luis Tiant 13

For batters, an average HOFer has about 27:

  • Tony Oliva 41
  • Dick Allen 27
  • Vada Pinson 18
  • Al Oliver 16
  • Maury Wills 16
  • Joe Torre 12
  • Ron Santo 11
  • Gil Hodges 2

So according to this, Oliva would be a pretty average HOFer, but all of the others would be well below average. Hodges in particular led his league in virtually nothing.

Gray Ink (explanation)
This measures how often the player was amongst the league leaders (top ten) in various key categories.

For pitchers, an average HOFer has about 185:

  • Jim Kaat 125
  • Luis Tiant 115

For batters, an average HOFer has about 144:

  • Dick Allen 159
  • Ron Santo 147
  • Tony Oliva 146
  • Vada Pinson 135
  • Gil Hodges 128
  • Al Oliver 127
  • Joe Torre 71
  • Maury Wills 67

So according to this, Dick Allen would be considered an above average HOFer. Santo and Oliva would be just above average, Pinson just below. All the other hitters and both pitchers would be well below average.

HOF Standards (explanation)
A way to measure players based on career statistics, based on various milestones reached.

For pitchers, an average HOFer has about 50:

  • Jim Kaat 44.0
  • Luis Tiant 41.0

For batters, an average HOFer has about 50:

  • Ron Santo 41.0
  • Al Oliver 40.3
  • Joe Torre 39.9
  • Dick Allen 38.7
  • Vada Pinson 36.3
  • Gil Hodges 31.8
  • Tony Oliva 29.4
  • Maury Wills 25.9

So according to this, all of these ten players would be considered below average HOFers.

HOF Monitor (explanation)
Another metric attempting to measure various HOF qualities in players, both single-season accomplishments and career milestones.

For pitchers, a likely HOFer has greater than 100:

  • Jim Kaat 129.5
  • Luis Tiant 97.0

For batters, a likely HOFer has greater than 100:

  • Al Oliver 116.5
  • Tony Oliva 112.0
  • Maury Wills 104.0
  • Dick Allen 99.0
  • Joe Torre 96.0
  • Vada Pinson 95.0
  • Ron Santo 88.0
  • Gil Hodges 83.0

So according to this, Kaat is definitely a “likely HOFer”, and Oliver, Oliva, and surprisingly Wills rate as likely too. All of the others come pretty close to the 100 mark, but come up short.

Similarity Scores (explanation)
I’ll list only the players with a 900+ similarity rating. Names in all CAPS are hall-of-famers already.

  • Santo — NONE.
  • Torre — NONE.
  • Hodges — Norm Cash 931, George Foster 925, Tino Martinez 920, Jack Clark 910
  • Oliver — NONE.
  • Oliva — Carl Furillo 934, Gus Bell 921, Andy Pafko 907, Pedro Guerrero 904, Bob Watson 900
  • Pinson — Steve Finley 908
  • Allen — Jim Edmonds 933
  • Wills — NONE.
  • Tiant — CATFISH HUNTER 942, JIM BUNNING 931, Billy Pierce 922, Vida Blue 921, Mickey Lolich 913, DON DRYSDALE 913, Jim Perry 908, Kevin Brown 903
  • Kaat — Tommy John 923, ROBIN ROBERTS 917

This can be misleading at times. For instance Oliva was a better player than those listed as similar to him, but his career was cut short.

Win Shares
This is the system that Bill James came up with several years ago, and detailed in a book by the same name.

  • Dick Allen 342 — Top three = 41, 40, 35
  • Ron Santo 322 — Top three = 37, 36, 32
  • Vada Pinson 321 — Top three = 32, 31, 27
  • Joe Torre 315 — Top three = 41 (1971 of course), 29, 28
  • Al Oliver 305 — Top three = 26, 26, 23
  • Jim Kaat 268 — Top three = 26, 22, 22
  • Gil Hodges 263 — Top three = 29, 26, 25
  • Luis Tiant 256 — Top three = 29, 28, 22 
  • Maury Wills 253 — Top three = 32, 28, 27
  • Tony Oliva 245 — Top three = 33, 30, 28

Michael Hoban’s NEWS ratings
This metric builds on Bill James’ Win Shares system, but gives more weight to a players best 10 seasons. The idea being that a short brilliant career should be given a bonus over a very long good career when considering players for the Hall of Fame. See his writeup for these ten players.

According to his system, Dick Allen is the one player who clearly belongs in the HOF, as he ties with the likes of Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken, and Robin Yount. While his career Win Shares are less than they had, he has a higher Core Value (score in his ten best seasons). Ron Santo also comes up deserving by the NEWS system, but none of the other eight players do.

Bill James Ranking (2001)
These rankings are by position, and from his book The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract.

  • Ron Santo – 6th amongst 3B, ahead of Brooks Robinson even, and behind only Schmidt, Brett, Mathews, Boggs, and Baker.
  • Joe Torre – 11th amongst C, just after Gabby Hartnett and Ted Simmons and before Bill Freehan.
  • Gil Hodges – 30th amongst 1B, just after Cecil Cooper and Dolph Camilli and before Steve Garvey.
  • Al Oliver – 31st amongst CF, just after Roy Thomas and Cy Seymore and before Andy Van Slyke and Eric Davis.
  • Tony Oliva – 21st amongst RF, just after Andre Dawson and Reggie Smith and before Dwight Evans and Elmer Flick.
  • Vada Pinson – 18th amongst CF, just after Richie Ashburn and Fred Lynn and before Hack Wilson and Hugh Duffy.
  • Dick Allen – 15th amongst 1B, just after Tony Perez and Will Clark and before Keith Hernandez and Orlando Cepeda.
  • Maury Wills – 19th amongst SS, just after Hughie Jennings and before Johnny Pesky.
  • Luis Tiant – 52nd amongst pitchers, just after Eddie Cicotte and Red Ruffing and before Rube Waddell.
  • Jim Kaat – 65th amongst pitchers, just after Tommy John and Catfish Hunter and before Ron Guidry.

In the end, and including any notable non-playing accomplishments, I would vote for Torre and Santo for sure, and also Allen. I want Bert Blyleven to get in before Tiant or Kaat (all those Gold Gloves notwithstanding), but I wouldn’t be too upset if they were voted in eventually (especially given the many similar pitchers already in the HOF). I know there are many vocal fans of Gil Hodges out there, but I wouldn’t support him for the HOF — close, but not quite. Tony Oliva also has some vocal supporters, but again, not quite. I like Oliver and Pinson a lot, but I don’t think they are quite HOFers. And Wills to me is definitely last amongst these ten candidates.

Comments

4 Responses to “On the Ten Post-1942 Old-Timers Nominated for the HOF”
  1. beastie978 says:

    Just curious, what’s your take on why Ron Santo has never made it previously? Do you think he hurt himself with all the self-promotion for HOF induction?

  2. Tom Stone says:

    I can’t comment on his self-promotion for the HOF, because I’m actually not that familiar with it.

    I assume most people who have not supported Santo have done so because his career numbers don’t scream HOF. A .277 average is pretty low for HOFer, and 342 HR are less than many other clear non-HOFers have. In looking at his season-by-season stats, he was a consistent run producer – but never had any amazing bursts of power really. In fact, he had 8 seasons of 25-33 HR, but never more than 33. He never got higher than 4th in the MVP vote either.

    Plus, as a Cub, he has no post-season heroics to pad his resume.

    I tend to weigh a player’s number of all-star appearances and gold-glove awards more than others do I think. I consider those an approximation (not perfect, but a good rough estimate) of the quality of the player because it involves comparing him with his co-temporaries — his true peers-of-the-day. Here Santo is strong: 9-time All-Star, and 5 Gold Gloves.

    I’ll admit though, without his long broadcasting career adding to his resume, I might not support him for the HOF. I think that helps tips the scales in his favor — as it certainly does with Joe Torre (managing career in his case).

  3. tk says:

    I think using black ink, grey ink, HF standards, the HOF monitor and similarity scores are pretty bad ways to pick HOF players. There are significant flaws to all of them. Among the most noticeable flaws for the monitor and similarity scores are that they do not adjust for era. Santo, who played in the big strike zone 60s, appears to have had his numbers sanded off just enough at the margins to make it appear that he was worse than he actually was. His prime was between 1963-68, which is exactly when the big strike zone was in effect. Home runs were down 10% in all of baseball during that period. The metrics also do not adjust for position: numbers that would not be good enough for an outfielder or a first baseman could be great for a shortstop or catcher. Further, the absurdity of the monitor can be demonstrated with this example: if you took 11 rbi off of Santo’s 1969 season and spread them to 4 other years, Santo’s monitor score would be 100. If he had two more doubles another year, that’d be another point.

    As it turns out, Santo’s career OPS+ score would rank him 6th of all MLB third basemen in the Hall. He is easily one of the ten best ever to play the position.

  4. Tom Stone says:

    Yes, each of those methods has its flaws. You noted flaws with HOF Monitor in particular, all good points. I actually like Black Ink and Gray Ink, since those are means of comparing a player against his peers, in the same way that career all-star appearances does. But the two ink scores also have flaws, which are noted in the descriptions of them at baseball-reference.com.

    I’m not a big advocate to any of these systems, including Win Shares even. In fact, you’ll notice that I didn’t actually argue for any players to be in or out of the HOF based on any of these metrics — I was just reporting the results for these players, which I found an interesting exercise and thought readers would too.

    My final opinion on the players and which are HOF worthy is an aggregate of “all things considered”, which goes way beyond the metrics detailed in this posting.

    And I agree with both you and Bill James that Santo is a top-10 all-time 3B.

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