Friday, December 29, 2006

Hall of Fame Garbage

"Famers on the Fringe" is supposed to debate the credentials of guys with marginal chances of making the hall of fame. Instead a trend quickly emerges here. The people defending the respective player's merits use statistics to show how they were comparable to other guys already inducted (a laudable argument technique for this situation), while the people assigned to the other side of the argument all just end up saying "well I don't really think he makes it in because he wasn't great, just good", hardly citing any evidence to support it. I think that is probably because the easiest way to explain why a player shouldn't get into the hall of fame is by saying that he wasn't dominant enough at any time or dominant for an extended period of time, and the hall of fame requires you to be dominant. This makes sense to an extent, but the problem is that over the years really the most hard and fast statistical benchmarks for entrance have proven to be additive stats over a players' career. While being arbitrary and era-dependent, the stats are 500 home runs, 300 wins, 3,000 hits, and a .300 career average, among others. Many deserving relievers haven't yet gotten in and probably never will mostly because there are basically no stats that clearly show how good a reliever was over the long term. So to defend a guy like Palmiero, you might say his career stats are ....., which are close to what hall of fame inductees in the past achieved, but the desenters would say that he wasn't dominant enough.

Now to me, at some point I think dominance and career excellence have been confused. Once the "benchmarks" were set by consensus over years of voting different players in, the numbers became set in stone even as the times have changed. Nowadays guys can add up homer numbers near to 500 without ever being a whole lot better than other players of their generations. The key really is how good a player is, not the numbers he is able to add up over his career. This is for some reason more clear for pitchers, as voters realize that not many pitchers are going to be reaching 300 wins in the next 50 years. However with hitting for some reason the benchmark stats remain and voters lament the fact that a 500 homer guy is going to elected in despite never having a dominant season or series of seasons. In reality they are just failing to realize that those benchmarks were set because of guys being excellent over their entire careers (edit: to clarify I'm referring to pre-90s players here), which allowed them to reach the marks. Afterall, what single season achievement would ever get a player a guaranteed ticket to the hall? There isn't any. People still question Pedro Martinez's chances based on his pedestrian career win total and he has had several of the most dominant seasons ever pitched, even more dominant than the symbol of short term dominance, Sandy Koufax. Is there really an advantage to your team or otherwise by compiling more of your stats in a couple truly brilliant seasons as opposed to a career of excellent seasons? If it is really your career totals and the label of "dominant" that is being looked at, then clearly the couple brilliant seasons gives you more of a chance of hall admittance, which is just silly.

Hall of Fame hopefuls should always be compared to their peers in career stats, as opposed to the players which have already been inducted, and as opposed to looking at career totals and trying to determine who could be nebulously classified as "dominant" based on a few select seasons. Doing so will avoid an onslaught of very good, but not great hitters entering in the next 10 years from the offense heavy 1990s. The hall is supposed to just be the greatest of players, and great should refer to your standing in relation to the players of your time.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting!11 However, I'm unclear whether you actually support the 500 homer/3,000 hit/etc. thresholds as evidence of a player's worthiness for the hall. On one hand, you say:

"Nowadays guys can add up homer numbers near to 500 without ever being a whole lot better than other players of their generations. The key really is how good a player is, not the numbers he is able to add up over his career."

But then you say:
"However with hitting for some reason the benchmark stats remain and voters lament the fact that a 500 homer guy is going to elected in despite never having a dominant season or series of seasons. In reality they are just failing to realize that those benchmarks were set because of guys being excellent over their entire careers, which allowed them to reach the marks."

Those statements seem to conflict, n00b! I don't intend to argue for or against whether that 500-homer benchmark is good or bad, just that your position seems unclear.

But I'd tend to agree that hall-worthy players should be judged against their contemporaries and era. Context is always important in fully understanding something's significance, at least in my industry. So a player's 2,500 hits in the dead-ball era ought to mean more than in other eras. Similarly, 500 homers could mean less in our homer-happy today.

But conjuring stats to convey that type of thing is hard and unwieldy. It's easy to say "Palmeiro had 569 homers, etc..." but hard to say "Palmeiro was in the 90th percentile of his fellow players."

9:26 PM  
Blogger sabesin2001 said...

sorry didn't mean to sound unclear. my position is that for a long time 500 home runs was unattainable without career excellence, and thus batters reaching that number were undoubtably deserving of hall entrance. now the times have changed again and the benchmark numbers have remained the same. being a quantitative person i would support a form of OPS+ or an era adjusted cumulative stat as a way to elect future hof-ers but it's always subjective anyway so at least people need to keep in mind that we are comparing players to contemporaries, not comparing their numbers to guys who are already in the hall.

and what i disagree with in the espn articles is how people always say things like "palmeiro wasn't the dominant slugger for any particular time in baseball" when in fact a year or two of dominance isn't what's lacking on his resume. what is really lacking is a career of performing at a much higher level then his fellow players.

12:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Honestly, I've never been a debater over who gets in the hall and who doesn't, primarily because no matter who gets voted in, there will always be controversy. For everyone who ever got voted into the hall, there's someone with some merit who thought it was a bad idea. OK, maybe not for some players, but certainly a significant amount.

Basically, deciding the "greatest" or "most important" people in baseball, or anything, is always a subjective thing and therefore always open to criticism.

To me, there's nothing wrong with arguments over who deserves to be inducted and who doesn't; that's free speech at work! But at the same time, if my favorite player didn't get in, I wouldn't go nuts. The requirements to enter the hall are nebulous, evolving and subject to the whims of a mass of baseball experts of many stripes. And none of them thinks exactly the same as anyone else.

People will still remember guys like Blyleven and Gossage even if they don't make the hall, because they were great players. And frankly, I'd rather have a hall that excludes great players on the fringe than just letting them all in just because some vocal group demands it.

7:59 PM  
Blogger sabesin2001 said...

yeah i do find it pointless mostly to argue about end of season awards, hall of fame inductions, etc. since the system demands that it be largely subjective. i should probably write a blog about why i think cal ripken shouldn't be in though, that might be interesting yeah?

4:04 PM  

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