Where do the Current Hall of Fame Snubs Rank According to WAR and JAWS?
With the 2015 Hall of Fame election results recently announced, we saw Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Craig Biggio get elected. Many commentators and voters are becoming increasingly vocal about the system, most notably complaining that because voters can only choose 10 players, some high quality candidates are being artificially kept from getting the 75% of the vote needed for election. While this ten vote limit has long been the rule, few can argue that in years where there are several strong first-year candidates, it makes it hard for quality holdovers to surge in their vote totals to finally make it. Here are the players and their vote % this most recent year who got enough (5% or more) to stay on the ballot, but not enough to be elected:
- Mike Piazza – 69.9%
- Jeff Bagwell – 55.7%
- Tim Raines – 55.0%
- Curt Schilling – 39.2%
- Roger Clemens – 37.5%
- Barry Bonds – 36.8%
- Lee Smith – 30.2%
- Edgar Martinez – 27.0%
- Alan Trammell – 25.1%
- Mike Mussina – 24.6%
- Jeff Kent – 14.0%
- Fred McGriff – 12.9%
- Larry Walker – 11.8%
- Gary Sheffield – 11.7%
- Mark McGwire – 10.0%
- Don Mattingly – 9.1%
- Sammy Sosa – 6.6%
- Nomar Garciaparra – 5.5%
Over the past few decades several statistics have been developed to try and compare players’ entire careers across the eras, across positions, etc. In recent years a favorite has been WAR (Wins Above Replacement), and the extension of that by Jay Jaffe called JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score System) which attempts to integrate quantity of accomplishments and peak output (defined as a players peak seven year period). So let’s see how the above players (and a few others) rate amongst the all-time greats, Hall of Famers and otherwise, at their main respective positions.
Have a look at the ranking for Catchers according to JAWS:
Here we see Mike Piazza ranks 5th, behind Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Ivan Rodriguez (eligible in 2017), and Carlton Fisk. This ranks him above greats Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey, and Mickey Cochrane. The top five are also in the same order for total WAR value. So clearly he is deserving of Hall of Fame recognition – the glitch for him seems to be suspicions of PED use by some voters. He just needs 5% more votes though, so he should get in next year or the year after. And Ivan Rodriguez I think will likely be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, or at least second ballot.
Interestingly, after only eleven seasons Joe Mauer follows Mickey Cochrane at 9th in lifetime JAWS rating amongst catchers. This is just below the average for Hall of Famers at this position, so as long he continues to produce even moderately well, he seems to be on a Hall of Fame trajectory.
After Mauer we have Ted Simmons, who has some advocates for the Hall of Fame, but whose case based on JAWS is not super strong… since after him in the list is Hartnett (HOF), but then Munson, Tenace, and Freehan who are not in the Hall of Fame. Munson might have been if not killed in the plane crash, and some might advocate for Freehan. But few would support Tenace even with his 136 OPS+ and .388 OBP, as a .241 average and 201 HR just isn’t good enough.
Have a look at the ranking for 1B according to JAWS:
Jeff Bagwell got 55.7% of the vote, so has a ways to go, but I think could get to the 75% needed in a few years. And well he should, at least according to JAWS, as he ranks 6th behind only Lou Gehrig, Albert Pujols, Jimmie Foxx, Cap Anson, and the lesser known Roger Connor, an old-timer who played from 1880-1897. After Bagwell comes other greats Dan Brouthers, Johnny Mize, and Frank Thomas. Interesting that the Big Hurt made it as a first-ballot nominee, while it is taking a few years for Bagwell. Again, the PED suspicions by some voters I think are in play here, along with the 449 HR compared to Thomas getting 521 (past that magic 500 mark). But there are pros for Bagwell in comparison to Thomas too, like the lack of time spent as a DH (Thomas played a majority of games as a hitter only), 202 SB for Bagwell compared with only 32 for Thomas, and far better defense by Bagwell. So hopefully Jeff will be joining his teammate Biggio very soon.
Coming in 10th according to JAWS rating is Jim Thome, who will be Hall eligible in a few years. With this ranking, 612 HR, and a .402 OBP, hopefully voters will elect him right quick. After Thome on the list is Palmeiro, a player with great numbers but who definitely will not get into the Hall until some sort of massive shift in voting or policy regarding PED-era players. After him in 12th place is Willie McCovey, and then we have the recently retired Todd Helton. His candidacy will largely ride on the voters’ views of Coors Field (as Larry Walker has also faced in recent years). Many of his numbers impress: 1400+ Runs and RBIs, a .316 average and .414 OBP. And ranking here just after McCovey but before Eddie Murray, Hank Greenberg, Mark McGwire, and George Sisler – it will be interesting to see how voters respond to Helton when the time comes.
Not ranking very high according to JAWS is Fred McGriff (27th). True, that places him just after Hall of Famers Jake Beckley and Tony Perez and ahead of Hall of Famers like Orlando Cepeda, Frank Chance, and Jim Bottomley. But with so many mistakes amongst Hall of Fame inductees over the years, that can’t be a good argument for Fred McGriff to make it in too: note that John Olerud ranks 20th according to JAWS. A fine player Olerud was… but wanna advocate for him as a Hall of Famer? Didn’t think so.
While we are still staring at this JAWS ranking… I’ll note that Gil Hodges comes in only 34th, so if you like JAWS as a metric, you’d have to give him a lot of extra credit for guiding the Miracle Mets to the 1969 championship to overcome this lackluster JAWS ranking. Interestingly, Carlos Delgado ranks right after him at 35th, and he didn’t garner enough votes to even stay on the ballot for next year. And then next is Don Mattingly, a fan favorite with many, but not one I support for the Hall.
Have a look at the ranking for 2B according to JAWS:
With only 14% of the vote, it seems Jeff Kent has a long hill to climb to get elected to the Hall. I’ve seen some interesting arguments in his favor, but it’s not clear that his JAWS ranking will be one of them. He comes in 18th with a 45.4 rating, well below the average of 57.0 for HOF’ers at this position. Biggio who was just elected comes in 14th with a 53.4 rating, perhaps a case that it should just take Kent a bit longer to make it. He ranks higher than Billy Herman, Boby Doerr, Nellie Fox, Tony Lazzeri, Bid McPhee, Johnny Evers, Red Schoendienst, and Bill Mazeroski – so if you like some of them as Hall of Famers, then you might lend your support for Kent on the basis of JAWS. On the other hand, Willie Randolph ranks above Kent with a 50.8 JAWS (and interestingly even had a higher WAR7 peak) – do we really think Randolph is a Hall of Famer? I do not.
Three others of note at this position are the guys who rank in the top 15 in this list, but are not (yet) in the Hall of Fame. Tops among them is Bobby Grich – definitely an underrated player, who has a 58.6 JAWS, good enough for 7th all-time for second basemen. He had a solid 125 OPS+, 224 HR, was a six-time All-Star, and importantly won 4 Gold Glove Awards. But in 1992, his first and only year on the ballot, he received a paltry 2.6% of the vote.
Lou Whitaker has a similar 56.4 JAWS rating, which places him 11th on this list. His total WAR is actually higher than Grich’s (meaning his peak value was not quite as high). He had a 117 OPS+, 244 HR, 1386 Runs, 1084 RBIs, and similarly was knocked out of contention in his first year on the ballot after receiving only 2.9% of the vote. This has always baffled me given how much better his DP-partner Alan Trammell has done over many years lingering in the vote.
Finally, still active Chase Utley ranks 12th with a 55.3 JAWS rating so far. He’ll only climb in the rankings, likely surpassing Grich, but perhaps not going any higher than 7th as there is a gap from there to Rod Carew with a 65.4 JAWS. If he does that then like Grich it means he would rate higher than Frankie Frisch and Ryne Sandberg, in addition to the likes of Alomar and Biggio who he already ranks above. So when the time comes it will be interesting to see if he gets enough support to at least stay in the running for several years.
Have a look at the ranking for 3B according to JAWS:
Although Edgar Martinez played far more games at DH (1403) than at 3B (564), this list shows he rates 11th amongst all-time 3B with a 56.0 rating, slightly above the average Hall of Fame third baseman. He was an All-Star seven times, hit 514 doubles, 309 HR, topped 1200 for both Runs and RBIs, racked up a 147 OPS+, with a .312 average and impressive .418 OBP. Interestingly he ranks only two notches below Paul Molitor, another 3B who played more games as a DH. Molitor’s quantity numbers are higher as he played longer and didn’t have the late start that Martinez did, but Edgar’s peak seasons were stronger.
Nestled between Molitor and Martinez is another interesting HOF candidate, Scott Rolen who will be eligible in several years. Intuitively he doesn’t seem like a Hall of Famer to me, but he is the 10th best 3B according to JAWS rating, was an All-Star 7 times, earned 8 Gold Glove awards, and ended his career with a 122 OPS+, 316 HR, and 1200+ Runs and RBIs. With a .281 average and .364 OBP (both respectable), he was less of a pure hitter than Martinez (or Molitor), but clearly a much better fielder.
After these guys the JAWS ranking is chock full of 3B who were fine players, many of them quite underrated, but who I think rightly did not get much support for the Hall of Fame: Graig Nettles, Ken Boyer, Buddy Bell, Sal Bando, Dick Allen, Darrel Evans, and Ron Cey. Allen usually gets the most HOF support, because of his impressive 156 career OPS+ (amazingly, two points higher than Miguel Cabrera!)
Have a look at the ranking for SS according to JAWS:
I discussed this listing in my recent blog posting about where Derek Jeter ranks amongst all-time shortstops. But in the context of this posting, Alan Trammell is the main topic. He ranks 11th with a 57.5 JAWS rating, above the 54.7 average for Hall of Fame shortstops, and in particular above Hall of Famers like Barry Larkin, Bobby Wallace, Lou Boudreau, Joe Cronin, Pee Wee Reese, Joe Sewell, and Luis Aparicio. Oh… and he is one spot above Derek Jeter too, a popular player sure to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Nomar Garciaparra managed to get 5.5% of the vote this year, thereby staying on for another go in 2016. He ranks only 23rd for shortstops according to JAWS, right below Bert Campaneris, Jim Fregosi, and Aparicio (a Hall of Famer), and just above questionable Hall of Famers Joe Tinker and Dave Bancroft. Similar to Mattingly, I don’t support Nomar for the Hall, and I don’t think that WAR or JAWS support his case.
Have a look at the ranking for LF according to JAWS:
So of course Barry Bonds ranks at the top of this list with a massive 117.6 JAWS rating, well above the great Ted Williams at 96.2. If and when the world figures out a way to include PED users and PED-suspected players in the Hall of Fame, Bonds and Clemens will be the first to get in.
So the real discussion for this post is Tim Raines, whose 55.6 JAWS rating ranks him 8th on this list, just behind Ed Delahanty and Al Simmons, and just above Goose Goslin, Billy Williams, Fred Clarke, Jesse Burkett, Willie Stargell, Joe Medwick, and Zack Wheat. Pretty good company, and very much a support for Raines’ candidacy. A very efficient 808 stolen bases, to go with a 123 OPS+, .294 average, .385 OBP, and 1571 Runs, I think is more than enough to warrant selection.
Have a look at the ranking for CF according to JAWS:
No one from the 2015 ballot to discuss here, but there will be two newcomers next year. Clearly Ken Griffey Jr. will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and deservedly so. In terms of JAWS he ranks 5th, just ahead of Joe DiMaggio, though far behind the top four of Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, and Mickey Mantle.
Jim Edmonds will also be on the ballot, and I suspect he will get some support but will never be elected. He ranks 14th on this JAWS listing with a 51.4 rating, based on a 132 OPS+, 393 HR, and his elite defense that earned him 8 Gold Glove awards. But his JAWS rating places him just above the likes of Willie Davis, Jim Wynn, Vada Pinson, and Cesar Cedeno – none of whom I think are Hall-worthy.
The players who rank 8th through 10th on this list are interesting – they are noticeably below Griffey Jr., DiMaggio, and Duke Snider, but above Hall of Famers Richie Ashburn, Andre Dawson, and old-time speedster Billy Hamilton (who compiled 914 SB with a .344 average and amazing .455 OBP). Still active Carlos Beltran has a 55.9 JAWS rating, and will be an interesting Hall of Fame case when he becomes eligible. He has a 121 OPS+ and already has over 300 HR and over 300 SB to go with 3 Gold Glove awards. He’ll be compared with Andre Dawson I think, and so if deemed his equal will take many years to get elected, but eventually will get in.
The 9th player in this JAWS list initially surprised me: Kenny Lofton with a 55.7 rating. I think when a player bounces around with a lot of teams, I and other fans tend to lose track of them in these kinds of career considerations. And Lofton certainly moved around a lot: he had three stints with the Indians for a total of 10 seasons, but then also played for 10 other teams for one year or less each! He was a great fielder (4 Gold Glove awards) and definite speedster with 622 SB and 1528 Runs. But that was only good enough for 3.2% of the vote in his first and only year as a HOF candidate.
And finally, Andruw Jones ranks 10th on this JAWS CF list with a 54.6 rating. He smacked 434 HR, had 1200+ Runs and RBIs, but hit only .254 with a .337 OBP and 111 OPS+. His defense was just about as good as it gets, and he took home 9 Gold Glove awards as a result. He’ll be eligible in a few years and I think he’ll get over 5% to earn repeat consideration, but I question whether he’ll ever get elected because of that low batting average.
Have a look at the ranking for RF according to JAWS:
The top nine players on this list are all in the Hall of Fame and rightly so: Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Mel Ott, Frank Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Al Kaline, Reggie Jackson, and Harry Heilmann. Who comes in 10th… why it’s Larry Walker who only received 11.8% of the vote this year. I’m not aware of any PED concerns with Walker, so I think the voters must be discounting his numbers based on his lopsided results from Coors Field. And it is true that his best seasons came while playing for the Rockies, and he flat-out raked in the thin mountain air: at Coors field he batted .381 with a .462 OBP. But in addition to his 383 HR, 1300+ Runs and RBIs, 230 SB, .313 average, .400 OBP, and 141 OPS+, his strong defense and 7 Gold Glove awards are another important consideration. He ranks ahead of the likes of solid Hall of Famers Paul Waner, Sam Crawford, and Tony Gwynn, so I hope he gets more support from voters in the coming years.
Gary Sheffield got nearly the same number of votes with 11.7%, but ranks only 23rd on this JAWS list with a 49.0 rating. His 509 HR, 1600+ Runs and RBIs, 253 SB, 140 OPS+, .292 average, and .393 OBP all seem very impressive. A nine-time All-Star, he wasn’t nearly as good of a fielder as Walker, and I think there are some PED overhang issues for him that Walker lacks. So while he rates higher on this JAWS list than many Hall of Famers (e.g., Willie Keeler, Enos Slaughter, Sam Rice, Harry Hooper, Chuck Klein) I suspect Sheffield won’t ever make the Hall, unless there is a massive change in attitude about the PED era sluggers.
And with only 6.6% of the vote, clearly Sammy Sosa won’t ever be elected until the PED era is viewed differently. He ranks slightly higher than Sheffield according to JAWS, with a 51.0 rating good for 18th on this list. That is right above Dave Winfield, but interestingly below the underrated Dwight Evans and Reggie Smith.
Have a look at the ranking for SP according to JAWS:
As with Bonds, Roger Clemens is an all-time great at his position who will be amongst the first to get into the Hall of Fame if and when the perspective on the PED era shifts. He ranks third behind only Walter Johnson and Cy Young. Recent inductees Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux rank 9th and 10th respectively, while Pedro Martinez comes in at 21st.
Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina are right next to each other on this list at 27th and 28th, right after Robin Roberts, Eddie Plank, Fergie Jenkins, Amos Rusie, and Pud Galvin. This is right above Ed Walsh, Tom Glavine, and Nolan Ryan (!). So hopefully they will both get increasingly more support in the coming years, and eventually get elected.
Have a look at the ranking for RP according to JAWS:
This is the position where it is hardest to use the list at baseball-reference.com for this analysis, because relievers who spent significant time as starting pitchers rate higher than those who were closers their entire careers. Eckersley did a lot of both, so naturally he ranks at the top of the list with a 50.5 JAWS rating, even though just about everyone at this point would consider Mariano Rivera to be the best reliever of all time (he comes in second here with a 43.0 JAWS rating). Next are Hoyt Wilhelm and Goose Gossage at 37.1 and 37.0, respectively.
Amongst players on this list with 200 or more saves, Lee Smith comes in fifth, but with a far lower 25.4 rating. So that doesn’t lend a lot of support to his HOF candidacy in my view. That said, Bruce Sutter is in and his JAWS rating is 24.6. The closers who follow him on this list are Joe Nathan, Dan Quisenberry, Billy Wagner, and Trevor Hoffman. It is Hoffman’s candidacy next year that will be the most interesting, because he ranks second in saves all-time with 601. His ERA of 2.87 and ERA+ of 141 are better than Smith’s at 3.03 and 132, so I suspect he could get more support than Smith has and might eventually get elected while Smith does not.