August 27, 2014

The Kaline: Establishing a Mendoza Line For Hall of Famers

August 17, 2010 by · 7 Comments 

Introduction

The purpose of this study is to establish a Mendoza Line for Hall of Fame hitters. After looking at the lifetime statistics of current Hall of Famers, Al Kaline began to stand out from the crowd. His .297 batting average, 3,007 hits, and 399 home runs seemed to be benchmarks for elite hitters.

This study will identify how many Hall of Famers performed below Al Kaline in the areas of batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. The results will be used to establish “The Kaline,” a minimum level of offensive performance for potential Hall of Famers.

Methodology

One hundred forty-one Hall of Fame position players were examined in this study. Pitchers, Negro League Players, and other Hall of Famers were not included in the sample. The goal was to identify players that performed below Al Kaline in the areas of batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. These statistics were chosen because of their strong positive correlation with runs produced per game.

Results

Approximately 22% of the Hall of Fame hitters performed below Al Kaline. As a group, these players produced a .276 batting average, .342 on-base percentage, and .399 slugging percentage. “The Kaline” is comprised of these statistics.

The players that performed below Al Kaline shared three common characteristics.

  • Mostly Middle Infielders (62% of the Group)
  • Played from 1882 to 1950 (55% of the Group)
  • Voted into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee (55% of the Group)

In the future, the Baseball Writers Association of American and Veterans Committee may want to consider using “The Kaline.” This minimum level of offensive performance could help them determine whether current and former players are worthy of the Hall of Fame.

Last First BA OBP SLG POS Career Voted By
Kaline Al .297 .376 .480 RF 1953-1974 BBWAA
Aparicio Luis .262 .311 .343 SS 1956-1973 BBWAA
Bancroft Dave .279 .355 .358 SS 1915-1929 VET
Bench Johnny .267 .342 .476 C 1967-1983 BBWAA
Brock Lou .293 .343 .410 LF 1961-1979 BBWAA
Carey Max .285 .361 .386 CF 1910-1929 VET
Carter Gary .262 .335 .439 C 1974-1991 BBWAA
Collins Jimmy .294 .344 .409 2B 1906-1926 VET
Davis George .295 .361 .405 SS 1890-1909 VET
Doerr Bobby .288 .362 .461 2B 1937-1951 VET
Evers Johnny .270 .356 .334 2B 1902-1922 VET
Fisk Carlton .269 .341 .457 C 1969-1993 BBWAA
Fox Nellie .288 .348 .363 1B 1947-1965 VET
Hooper Harry .281 .368 .387 RF 1909-1925 VET
Jackson Travis .291 .337 .433 SS 1922-1936 VET
Maranville Rabbit .258 .318 .340 SS 1912-1928 BBWAA
Mazeroski Bill .260 .299 .367 2B 1956-1972 VET
McPhee Bid .271 .355 .372 2B 1882-1899 VET
Murray Eddie .287 .359 .476 1B 1977-1997 BBWAA
Perez Tony .279 .341 .463 1B 1964-1983 BBWAA
Reese Pee Wee .269 .366 .377 SS 1940-1958 VET
Ripken Cal .276 .340 .447 SS 1981-2001 BBWAA
Rizzuto Phil .273 .351 .355 SS 1941-1956 VET
Robinson Brooks .267 .322 .401 3B 1955-1977 BBWAA
Sandberg Ryne .285 .344 .452 2B 1981-1997 BBWAA
Schalk Ray .253 .340 .316 C 1912-1929 VET
Schoendienst Red .289 .337 .387 2B 1945-1960 VET
Smith Ozzie .262 .337 .328 SS 1978-1996 BBWAA
Tinker Joe .262 .308 .353 SS 1902-1916 VET
Wallace Bobby .268 .332 .358 SS 1894-1916 VET
Winfield Dave .283 .353 .475 RF 1973-1995 BBWAA
Yount Robin .285 .342 .430 SS 1974-1993 BBWAA
Averages
.276 .342 .399

Hall of Fame Hitters Performing Below “The Kaline”

“The Kaline” .276 .342 .399
Last First BA OBP SLG POS Career Voted By
Aparicio Luis .262 .311 .343 SS 1956-1973 BBWAA
Maranville Rabbit .258 .318 .340 SS 1912-1928 BBWAA
Mazeroski Bill .260 .299 .367 2B 1956-1972 VET
Schalk Ray .253 .340 .316 C 1912-1929 VET
Smith Ozzie .262 .337 .328 SS 1978-1996 BBWAA
Tinker Joe .262 .308 .353 SS 1902-1916 VET
Wallace Bobby .268 .332 .358 SS 1894-1916 VET
Averages
.261 .321 .344

Player Comparisons

The tables below contain information about current and potential Hall of Famers. Red Schoendienst and Buddy Bell’s statistics closely resemble “The Kaline”. Tim Raines appears to be the best Hall of Fame candidate.

Hall of Famers

Last First BA OBP SLG POS Career Voted By
Ferrell Rick .281 .378 .363 C 1929-1947 VET
Schoendienst Red .289 .337 .387 2B 1945-1960 VET
McPhee Bid .271 .355 .372 2B 1882-1899 VET
Averages
.276 .342 .399

Non-Hall of Famers

Last First BA OBP SLG POS Career Voted By
Vernon Mickey .286 .359 .428 1B 1939-1960 N/A
Bell Buddy .279 .341 .406 3B 1972-1989 N/A
Raines Tim .294 .385 .425 LF 1979-2002 N/A
Averages
.276 .342 .399

Comments

7 Responses to “The Kaline: Establishing a Mendoza Line For Hall of Famers”
  1. Smitty says:

    Well done piece – That exposes Mazeroski even more.

  2. SteveP says:

    Fun, but the game has changed a lot. Even if such statistical thresholds weren’t banned, you’d still really have a problem with the era level changes in batting averages, strikeouts and power.

    (also Buddy Bell =\ C)

  3. Tom Zocco says:

    @SteveP

    Al Kaline spent his final season with the Detroit Tigers as a designated hitter.

    Without the DH, Kaline probably would not have reached 3000 hits. Perhaps, his

    standard should be lowered.

  4. Brian Wood says:

    Nice concept, though I agree that more definition could be made–not only by era, but by position. The fact 62% were middle infielders makes this case.

  5. Greg Sansone says:

    Kaline happens to be my favorite player of all time, and I come from Pittsburgh so I like the comment about exposing Maz. He doesn’t belong anywhere near the hall. The comment about changing the Kaline standard, yes he did spend that year as a DH, and maybe you consider two different standards, one pre DH and one post DH, but his numbers by and large were set into place by then, especially his career averages. If anything, yes he would have come up about 140 hits short of 3000, but the standard that is being established is about avg, obp, and slugging, and that last year only HURT those numbers. Those numbers all would have been higher had it not been for his slash line of .262/.337/.389. WIthout those, his career slash line would have been .300/.380/.482. Like i said, largely set in stone already, the numbers wouldn’t have changed much.

    Do I think that his 3000 hits helped his case greatly, yes I do, but he also was a Stud Right Fielder, had 400 homeruns (actually, 399, but who’s counting) had 100 more outfield assists than errors.

    And that is the main reason I disagree with this article. A lot of people get into the hall for different reasons. Ozzie Smith is there because he was the best defensive shortstop ever. Defense is a position that is vital to the game. If you can’t play defense but can mash, you end up as David Ortiz, or Edgar Martinez. Maybe you were one hell of a hitter, but you only play half of the game. At least defensive wizards still bat, and contribute.

    Yes, there should be a standard. But positions (middle infielders shouldn’t have to get to the 500 homerun plateau, catchers certainly don’t need 3000 hits) should have different standards. Maybe Middle infielders should need 6 gold gloves, 2250 hits, and a .280 average just to even qualify for the ballot. Maybe 350 homeruns or a career .300 average for corner players just to get to the ballot. Im not sure what it should be, but I for one don’t want baseball to turn into the NFL, where if you made the pro bowl once or twice you get in.

  6. mikkyld says:

    The problem with this approach is that position does matter and defense does matter and, yes, even counting stats do matter.

    For example, the slickest SS of all time may not have hit as well as Al but he certainly belongs in the HoF.

    Until the Hall gets wise and has separate wings – at least one for leaders and record holders and the other for the best players of all time – the issue of counting stats will always be problematic. 3000 hits says Brock belongs, certainly not his offensive numbers.

    A wing for best hitters – there’s Rose for hits and Bonds for HR and the leaders in all those stats – and one for pitchers – there’s the most wins etc etc – would stand separate from the one that says these are MLB’s all time great players. No mazeroski or jim rice or andre dawson or Brock need apply (and maybe not Kaline either), but the Wizard should still be there. Just my $.02

  7. Ron says:

    I’m not sure how to take this story of the Ka-Line mendoza line for HOF’ers.
    Al Kaline was a Great Player -Period. From the era he played, I would take him over anyone not named Aaron, Mantle, or Mays. He played his career in the second deadball era and led the American League in batting average for the 1960′s. If not for Kaline’s seemingly endless injuries year in-year out, starting in 1959, he would most certainly would have eclipsed 3,000 hits by 300-400, and had well over 400 home runs along with 200 more rbi and runs scored, well before his 1974 season as a DH. Only Mantle with over 600 games lost from injuries had more games lost than Kaline’s 400 to injuries. (1961 was the last year Kaline played in over 150 games). Kaline was the consummate professional hitter, and in-game situational hitter with great plate discipline, a Chess Master playing checkers-baseball. and imo, the most Accurate of all outfield throwing arms past or present.

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