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Pete Abraham’s Hall of Fame ballot

Dec 21, 2010, 3:06 PM EDT

Tim Raines

Like I said yesterday, I’m not going to go over every voter’s Hall of Fame ballot.  But we did touch on Pete Abraham’s Hall of Fame methodology last week, so now that he has released his ballot, it’s worth a look.

Pete has Roberto Almomar, Bert Blyleven, Barry Larkin, Alan Trammell and Tim Raines.  Damn fine slate if you ask me. I’d vote for every one of them.

Pete leaves off Bagwell. Rather than leave it oblique like some have, he simply discounts home run totals from the 90s due to the offensive inflation of the decade.

I get that, but I think there’s more to Bagwell’s case than home runs.  He was a considerably better hitter than, say, Rafael Palmeiro. And unlike Palmeiro and others, Bagwell played in the toughest hitters’ park in baseball for many, many years in the Houston Astrodome. Pete is not engaged in that “let’s see if he was found to be a PED user” game I wondered about yesterday, as he is quite clear on the subject when he discusses McGwire and Palmeiro.  I take Pete at his word that this is a performance-based vote, not a suspicion-based vote and thus I have no problem with it. He’s not supporting anyone inferior to Bagwell here.

Another omission is Edgar Martinez. Pete’s reasoning: “he was primarily a DH and as such, his offensive numbers had to be overwhelming to a point where you had no choice but to vote for him.”  I’m not sure if we’ll ever see a DH with a case like Martinez’s though, so it may be a defacto ban on DHs for Pete.  He does label it a tough call, however, and it’s possible that he’ll change his mind. Or not.  Either way, he states his standard and explains his vote and that’s all one can ask.

Nice ballot. Nice explanations. Let’s see more.

  1. billtpa - Dec 21, 2010 at 3:12 PM

    I loved the article, and the points about how they owe it to the process to think about it and do research.

    However, I wouldn’t be so quick to assume that “Pete is not engaged in that ‘let’s see if he was found to be a PED user’ game I wondered about yesterday.” I don’t know how to read this response he sent to me other than as evidence that that’s exactly the game he’s playing:

    If that’s not what he meant, I owe him an apology, but that’s what it sounds like to me.

    • billtpa - Dec 21, 2010 at 3:12 PM

      Wow, did not know that that was going to grab the image rather than just linking. That’s pretty sweet.

      • Ari Collins - Dec 21, 2010 at 3:28 PM

        Seriously, that looks cool. Did you just have a URL to the twitter post in there?

      • billtpa - Dec 21, 2010 at 3:31 PM


    • billtpa - Dec 21, 2010 at 5:11 PM

      Pete very graciously responded to several questions from me (and below, obviously) and I want to take back my “assumption” above. I personally think we do plenty to adjust for the difference in eras, and there’s no way that whatever comes next is going to move Bagwell from one of the five or so best ever to play his position to not-a-Hall-of-Famer, but his view is a lot more nuanced than I was giving him credit for, and I respect it.

      All in all, a really great column and a model for a lot of the old-world voters out there.

  2. Lukehart80 - Dec 21, 2010 at 3:14 PM

    Frank Thomas seems almost universally believed to have been ‘clean.’ I find it hard to put too much space between his career and Bagwell’s, whichever player you think was better, you must have the other not too far behind. That all said, it will be interesting (to me) to see if how many guys vote for one, but not the other. I don’t really understand how Bagwell’s numbers could fall short of a reasonable standard unless you’re the type who wants to keep all of the power hitters from the 90s out.

    • Ari Collins - Dec 21, 2010 at 3:23 PM

      Wow, there’s way less difference between the two than I thought. Thomas played well for longer, and was definitely better, but not by as much as I thought. Then if you take fielding and park into account… Bagwell’s no question unless you’re going to ding him for steroid hearsay. Which it sounds like maybe Pete Abe is.

      • fivetoolmike - Dec 21, 2010 at 3:57 PM

        They were also born on the same date. (5/27/68)

  3. Panda Claus - Dec 21, 2010 at 3:32 PM

    So are we to now compare DHs to punters in the NFL? None are in and none may get in? That’s ridiculous of course. This implies that those very positions only consist of players not able to play “real baseball” positions. As if it’s their fault.

    The best players in history at their position should be considered for the Hall, Period. (Raffy reference intended).

    • Jonny 5 - Dec 21, 2010 at 3:55 PM

      No it isn’t their fault they stink enough to be a DH specifically. But if they were good enough to be in the HOF, they would and should have fielding skills above average, which would have them defensively land on first or wherever in the OF. The fact is, the DH usually can only hit well. And that’s why they’re there in the first place. Many would be unemployed if there was no DH.

      • billtpa - Dec 21, 2010 at 4:06 PM

        But if they were good enough to be in the HOF, they would and should have fielding skills above average

        Jonny 5, meet Willie Stargell, Willie McCovey, Harmon Killebrew, Henry Heilmann, Billy Williams, Hack Wilson, Chuck Klein, Ralph Kiner, Ernie Lombardi, and Sam Crawford.

        Many would be unemployed if there was no DH.

        Arguably true that “many” would. And this affects Edgar how?

      • Jonny 5 - Dec 21, 2010 at 10:22 PM

        I’m not arguing one way or another. I’m just making the point that I can understand the whole “DH is not a HOF position” mentality. The fact is though, some can play defense pretty well, but if they could play a position above average, or just at average, or just below, they would (because they do). And if you’re not well rounded you better have a career hitting well above average. Like Crawford mentioned above who had a .309 lifetime avg.

      • billtpa - Dec 21, 2010 at 10:40 PM

        And if you’re not well rounded you better have a career hitting well above average. Like Crawford mentioned above who had a .309 lifetime avg.

        Batting average doesn’t matter, but Edgar’s was .312. His career hitting line is much, much more than “well above average.”

        Anyway, in Edgar’s case, it’s not even that he wasn’t good enough to do it — he was a fine 3B, and probably would’ve made an excellent 1B. They moved him to DH to help keep him healthy and because they had Tino Martinez. Most of the HOF I listed above would’ve DHed if the DH were available, and not just to keep themselves healthy. And Edgar likely contributed more by not wearing a glove than Stargell did by wearing one.

      • Jonny 5 - Dec 22, 2010 at 9:06 AM

        And I’m not saying he should not be in the HOF. Look, guys voting use the most bassackwards excuses for why they choose, or don’t choose certain players. My point is, I can understand his line of thinking. If you’re a “small Hall” kind of thinker, this is not a totally unreasonable place to draw a line in the sand. And i’m just happy he isn’t using the “he didn’t have enough grit” or “he didn’t know how to win” line, or another bs excuse that really means I have a bias I can’t explain towards such and such players.

  4. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 21, 2010 at 3:43 PM

    Something shocking I read, not sure if it was on fangraphs or another blog, but Bagwell had 202 steals with a 72% success rate. Compare that to Frank Thomas who had 32 steals with a 58% success rate. With Bagwell playing less years, I wonder if that makes up the difference in WAR considering Bagwell’s 79.9 > Thomas’s 75.5?

    • hackerjay - Dec 21, 2010 at 4:10 PM

      I’m sure that helps, but I would guess that a bigger part of it is that Bagwell rates out as a plus fielder, whereas Thomas was at best, terrible. There is about 10 points worth of WAR seperating the two on defense.

      • billtpa - Dec 21, 2010 at 4:26 PM

        Thomas also gets dinged in replacement value by the time he spent at DH (though probably isn’t dinged as much as he would’ve been if he’d actually spent all that time in the field).

        The SB don’t really make THAT much of a difference; Thomas cost his team a few runs, and Bagwell more or less broke even. But Bagwell was of course a much better baserunner overall, first-to-third and scoring from second and such, which makes a pretty sizeable difference.

    • okobojicat - Dec 21, 2010 at 4:30 PM

      Baserunning (i.e. steals + other stuff) is accounted for in WAR.

      But the thing is that even the WAR creators all say that they aren’t so precise. Tango (I think) had a post a couple weeks ago lamenting the usage on Fangraphs of decimals in WAR. there is an expected level of error. If the level of error is say 2% (easily wiithn any error range) and Thomas’s true return to hiss team was 2% less and Bagwell was 2% more, then Bagwell would be higher ranked than Thomas.

      Yet, I think very few people would actually claim Bagwell was a better player. Most people today (including me) never thought of Bagwell as a HoF while he was playing. However, if you look at his stats, his impact with the Astros, his impact on the community then he’s a no doubter. Thomas was always a no doubter for me.

  5. peteabrahambostonglobe - Dec 21, 2010 at 4:46 PM

    Just FYI, I’m not waiting for the other shoe to drop on Bagwell. I would just like to see better work done on how best to compare the statistics of the Steroids Era when compared to previous eras.

    In time, 450 homers and 1500 RBIs may look pretty tame for first baseman/corner OF types. Not sure I want everybody in the Hall who does that.

    I’d certainly consider Bagwell down the road but for now, I’ll take the opportunity to consider it further.

    • billtpa - Dec 21, 2010 at 5:18 PM

      I guess the thing I still don’t understand is how this affects Bags but not Alomar or Larkin. If it’s just how to adjust for the “steroids era” without any personal implications for Bagwell, wouldn’t the adjustment bring them both down too?

    • Mark - Dec 21, 2010 at 6:19 PM

      I respect that you’re willing to put your opinion out but I’ll throw out my 2 cents.

      Between 1980 and 2010, Bagwell was the fifth best 1B by OPS at 948, and fourth best by wOBA with 406. He ranks 34th in OPS+ for his career (this is all players, not just 1B). We’re talking about a guy who’s been one of the best hitting 1B at a position that’s loaded with outstanding hitters. He added some value with his base running that isn’t often found at first, and he provided some quality D.

      I understand the bit about him not having the magic # of 500 HR’s, or that you’re cautious about players from the steroid era. I respect that. He didn’t have the HR’s, but he made up for that by posting terrific power numbers (244 ISO power). For the record, he had the 8th highest ISO between 1980-2010 for 1B. So it’s not like he was some slap hitter who just posted godly on base totals. But that’s the other thing – he posted outstanding on base numbers to go along with the power. He had the fourth highest OBP among 1B during 1980-2010.

      I don’t find RBI a particularly useful tool to evaluate hitters. Despite the fact that 1500 may seem low, he again ranks 5th over that time period among 1B. If you think he was unclutch and that’s why he had the low RBI total, then I’ll point out he had his highest OPS in high leverage spots (983) and a 998 OPS with RISP. So he was an elite hitter who did his best work when there were guys on.

      I’m not gonna lie – Bagwell’s counting numbers suck. But he was an elite hitter, and he was one of the best 1B of his era – or any era for that matter. Regardless of how his HR/RBI totals stack up against his peers, he deserves to get in because he was one of the most well rounded 1B – a guy who hit for a good average, hit for tremendous power, did an outstanding job of getting on base, ran the bases well, and played good D.

      If he’s not a Hall of Fame player, than I think we need to re-evaluate what exactly the Hall of Fame stands for.

  6. Gary - Dec 21, 2010 at 5:25 PM

    But Bagwell was not just about HRs and RBIs. He was a complete player – as close to a five tool guy as you can find at first base.

  7. bigtrav425 - Dec 21, 2010 at 9:00 PM

    Frank Thomas was only a elite player for a few yrs..if he gets in the the injury shortened career of Albert Belle gets in and gets in before Thomas.I also think DH’S should get in NO question i think its insane to keep them out… and if you keep them out you have to keep closers out as well.Because Closers are specialists and part of the game…as ar dh’s they are hitting specialists and part of the game!

    • billtpa - Dec 21, 2010 at 9:51 PM

      Wait. Do you just not know who Frank Thomas is? You know there was another one after the 1950s Pirates outfielder, right?

      Best 8 seasons, in order by WAR:
      Thomas 7.6, 7.4, 7.2, 6.7, 6.6, 6.3, 5.5, 5.3 (52.6)
      Belle 7.4, 6.6, 6.0, 4,9, 4.7, 2.7, 2.2, 1.6 (36.1)

      Thomas was an elite hitter for about as long as anyone ever is, and there’s just no point in comparing him to Belle in any way, shape or form. Thomas was literally twice (at least) the player Belle was.

  8. Walk - Dec 22, 2010 at 11:18 AM

    The dh is a part of the game whether or not people like it. I prefer the nl style of baseball without the dh but if you are the best at your position on a consistent basis then you should be in the hof discussion at the very least. That was a very good point about specialist positions, i had never really equated closer to dh before.

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