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Maury Wills thinks he should be a Hall of Famer for some reason

Jul 12, 2012, 11:16 AM EDT

Los Angeles Dodgers

Maury Wills was asked when he’ll make the Hall of Fame. His response:

“I don’t know … Maybe they’re waiting to do me like they did Ron Santo. He dies and they put him in the next year. Isn’t that ridiculous? Maybe they’re just waiting to do that. I was thinking about that. I don’t think I’ll get any better. I don’t think I’ll get to be any nicer of a guy. I haven’t done anything to get anybody upset with me that I know of.”

Perhaps it’s simply a matter of people not thinking you were good enough, Maury?  Because based on your record, you really weren’t.

Wills gets credit for an MVP season that, in all honesty, was more a function of shocking people — no one in 1962 really figured people would ever be stealing 100 bases — than Hall of Fame-level greatness, as his league-average batting line that year suggests. Which is not to say it was a bogus MVP. League average batting for a Gold Glove shortstop with insane base running numbers is pretty fantastic. There were way worse MVPs than Wills’ 1962 award.

But that was the high water mark for him. He hit better a couple of times, but his vaunted base running was way, way worse. Indeed, for his career, Wills’ success rate on the bases was pretty damn poor. He was a 65% base stealer. That’s a net negative according to most analysts, who have pegged a 75% success rate as the point above which stolen base attempts increase run scoring expectancy and below which run scoring expectancy is decreased.

So, Wills’ signature talent — the stolen base — was actually more show than it was useful. Perhaps he should be given points for being the first to bring the running game back to prominence in the 1960s and beyond. I’d be willing to give him those points. But it’s guys like Lou Brock, Joe Morgan, Rickey Henderson and Tim Raines who made steals valuable weapons for their team, not Maury Wills.

Once you take away the steals, Wills was nothing special. A career line of .281/.330/.381 was below league average even for the offensively-depressed 1960s.  He had a couple Gold Gloves, but so do a lot of guys. The line of shortstops with more legit Hall of Fame cases than Wills is long too, and most of these guys probably don’t belong: Trammell. Concepcion. Tony Fernandez. Omar Vizquel. Nomar. Tejada. And when you move beyond shortstop, the list of Hall of Fame snubs is much, much longer.

Maury Wills: nice player for a while. Something of an innovator. In no way whatsoever worthy of a place in the Hall of Fame.  They’re not waiting until he dies to induct him. They’re simply passing reasonable judgment.

  1. ajcardsfan - Jul 12, 2012 at 11:31 AM

    Is it just me, or does that photo make it look like he was running in clown shoes?

    • nelsonhound - Jul 12, 2012 at 11:41 AM

      That’s a clown question, bro.

  2. qacm - Jul 12, 2012 at 11:37 AM

    Wins Above Replacement, 1962 — Maury Wills = 5.8, Willie Mays = 10.2

    • 78mu - Jul 12, 2012 at 12:04 PM

      Like anyone has seen Willie Mays Hayes in the HOF unless he bought a ticket. No one is even putting Major League on their top 100 movies of all time.

      Oh, you mean THAT Willie Mays.

      Yeah, he was pretty good. Actually, great is a better description. How could guys like him or Ruth or Williams not be unanimous choices for the HOF? Were some voters comparing their stats to what God would do if he were a MLB player?

      • deathmonkey41 - Jul 12, 2012 at 12:22 PM

        78mu – Jul 12, 2012 at 12:04 PM
        Were some voters comparing their stats to what God would do if he were a MLB player?

        I’m sure Derek Jeter will be a first ballot HoF’er….oh, you mean that God…

  3. mybrunoblog - Jul 12, 2012 at 11:39 AM

    Poor Maury is delusional if he really believes he is HOF material. Funny thing, I don’t even think he is that close. There are lots of other guys we could debate before this guys name would ever come up.

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Jul 12, 2012 at 11:47 AM

      Including Jack Morris. I mean, he pitched to the score, man!

      • bsbiz - Jul 12, 2012 at 12:41 PM

        Actually, I think he was running to the score.

  4. CJ - Jul 12, 2012 at 11:46 AM

    The first thought that crossed my mind when reading the headline: Who?
    The first thought that crossed my mind when reading the article: Why?

    Come on man, seriously? Either get back in baseball and either be one heck of a broadcaster or one heck of a manager. Then you can be in the HOF, maybe. Or, be a member of the BBWAA for ten years and then vote for yourself (if even possible). Then you can feel good about getting a vote at least.

    Complaining won’t help your case, either.

    • Detroit Michael - Jul 12, 2012 at 12:42 PM

      Oh, I’m pretty sure no one would ever hire Maury Wills as a manager again. It was a disaster the first time around.

  5. thefalcon123 - Jul 12, 2012 at 11:47 AM

    Maury ranks 308th all time in WAR. The following players make up the 10 spots ahead of him (with highest HOF vote percentage in ()):

    Rafael Furcal (active)
    David Justice (0.2%)
    Mark Belanger (3.7%)
    Jim Gilliam (0%)
    Darrell Porter (0%)
    George Burns (1.5%)
    Eddie Stanky (1.1%)
    Mark Griffin (born in 1865, so…)
    Gary Gaetti (0.8%)
    Phil Rizzuto (38% and later put in via veterans committee)

    So, 9 players that no one has ever confused as a Hall of Famer and one of the Hall’s weakest choices (and one whose WAR is depressed due to missing 3 prime years to WWII).

    It’s okay Maury, you were merely a good major league baseball player. That’s still better than 99.9% of can ever claim.

    • 18thstreet - Jul 12, 2012 at 1:50 PM

      I’d happily put him into the Hall of Pretty Good, but he’s not getting into the Hall of Very Good without a ticket.

      • Jeremy T - Jul 12, 2012 at 2:10 PM

        Baseball needs more halls. Just have like… the Baseball school, and each hall will be filled with baseball players of varying quality.

    • 78mu - Jul 12, 2012 at 10:26 PM

      Are you saying Gary Gaetti is not going into the HOF?

  6. Mark Armour - Jul 12, 2012 at 11:57 AM

    I would not put him in the Hall of Fame either, but I believe the use of the 75% “break-even” number for stolen bases is unwise. First off, that number is dependent on the run-scoring environment, and Wills’s environment was much different than anything you youngsters have ever seen. Second, once you have a number number, it only means applies to the “average” situation faced in an average game against an average pitcher. The break-even stolen base number for Dodger Stadium against Juan Marichal in the seventh inning of a tie game was probably below 50%.

    Again, none of this really matters to the overall point about Wills. I just am fighting a lonely battle to get people to stop over-using these so-called “break-even” numbers (for sacrifice bunts too!)

    • paperlions - Jul 12, 2012 at 2:00 PM

      You are correct in that break even points are estimates and always dependent on context. Nonetheless, there is no context in which making 35 outs to advance 65 bases is a productive exchange. The hardest part of scoring is just reaching base safely, making outs once you have done that is highly counter-productive.

      • Mark Armour - Jul 12, 2012 at 2:17 PM

        According to Thorn and Palmer’s “The Hidden Game of Baseball,” the break even percentage for a steal of second, in the average situation, was .634. For “last of the seventh, home team down by one” it is .61, or 61%. This is for all of baseball history, and does not consider the effect of depressed scoring that Wills played with, nor the effect of facing a great pitcher.

        What happened is that these base-out tables were updated throughout the 90s and 00s and people ratcheted up these numbers considerably, using Craig’s 75% figure above, which might have been correct in 1996 or 2001, but is completely ungermane to 1965. People acknowledge that context matters, but fail to understand how much it matters. Depending on the time, place and situation, it might be 45% or 80%. With Wills, it was very, very low, certainly below 60%.

      • madaozeki - Jul 12, 2012 at 2:18 PM

        Actually it’s pretty easy to calculate a context in which a 65% success rate on stolen bases is break-even or better. Plus, the distribution of WHICH base is being stolen combined with number of outs can move the break-even point quite a bit. If a player is stealing home with 2 outs, he can be successful far less than 50% of the time yet still come out ahead. A depressed offensive environment with low power makes 65% perfectly cromulent for the low-offense 60′s and 70′s. Dead-ball era stolen base %’ages were in the 50′s and 60′s, but teams were still often breaking even or coming out ahead.

      • paperlions - Jul 12, 2012 at 2:29 PM

        Well, yes…for any specific situation, such probabilities would be easily calculated, and people have calculated them, and when they are averaged across all events and the frequency of those events….you get about 75%. It is incumbent on you to show that such an estimate doesn’t apply to Wills (who was far worse at stealing bases)….saying you don’t like the generality isn’t constructive…..and a 10% gap is huge over the course of a career.

      • Mark Armour - Jul 12, 2012 at 3:06 PM

        As I said, the break even point, as calculated in 1982 by the man who essentially invented the concept, was 63.4% for all such situations in baseball history. The number 75%, likely obtained from a base-out table from the absurdly high run scoring era of the 1990s, is nonsense as far as valuing Wills is concerned. According to a study done a few years ago at a SABR conference, the number can vary from 55% to 75% just by applying era context (1960s vs. 2000). Adding in park, pitcher, and the game situation gives a much larger range.

      • madaozeki - Jul 12, 2012 at 3:29 PM

        Yes, what Mark said. The 75% figure is for a specific era with a specific run scoring environment, and isn’t relevant when evaluating Wills’ steals. I don’t know offhand what the break-even point was for when he was active, but wouldn’t be surprised if it was as low as high-50′s or low 60′s for the extreme pitcher’s years.

        Of course none of this makes him a Hall-of-Famer, but it behooves us to analyze his stolen base contributions in the proper context, rather than he was a “bad base stealer” based on a number that simply doesn’t apply to him. Was Ty Cobb a bad base stealer? For the seasons we have CS stats, he was about the same as Wills.

      • Mark Armour - Jul 12, 2012 at 5:15 PM

        Plus, Craig made a math error above, and Wills’ % was actually 74%. So, rather than being well below the break even point, which was the claim, he was actually well above the break even point, about 15 points above it.

  7. sisqsage - Jul 12, 2012 at 12:08 PM

    I always thought Maury was a little delusional. I remember when he used to compete in those cheesy Superstars competitions on ABC in the ’70s for pro athletes who were retired/past their prime. He started crying like a Little Leaguer on TV when interviewer Don Drysdale told him he didn’t make the final round.
    I know these guys are super competitive, but get some perspective. It’s not like it was the 7th game of the World Series…or not making the HOF.

  8. pjmitch - Jul 12, 2012 at 1:37 PM

    I think we all agree that his election will never happen so it’s a moot point.

    The bigger question should be, who in the heck asked him the question in the first place?

    Was that person’s next question? To Reggie Jackson of “When are you going to win the award for most humble human?” That is about on the same level

  9. jaysaucer - Jul 12, 2012 at 3:18 PM

    Wait a minute Craig – how do you get Maury’s 65% base stealer number??? According to baseball reference (http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/w/willsma01.shtml), he had 586 SB’s and was caught stealing 208 times. That equals a career % of 74% – much better than the article quotes (586 / 794 total attempts).

    Sorry – I’m an accountant and can’t help myself from auditing numbers…..

    • madaozeki - Jul 12, 2012 at 3:31 PM

      I think jaysaucer just won the thread :)

  10. yahmule - Jul 12, 2012 at 3:48 PM

    Wills case for election is weak, but he makes one really good point. It drives me crazy when the various Halls of Fame decide to enshrine a player after he’s dead. The NFL loves to do this. Five years ago, the NFL HOF Veteran’s Committee made Marshall Goldberg a finalist for enshrinement. Though largely anonymous to today’s fans, he was something of a pioneer in the sport and worthy of a place in Canton. The problem was the man died in 2006 at the age of 88. Why the hell would they wait until 2007 to consider his case?

  11. bbil2012 - Jul 12, 2012 at 4:56 PM

    ” A career line of .281/.330/.381 was below league average…for the 60′s.”
    I’m just wondering about this because from what I found the MLB average for the 60′s was
    .249/.314/.374.
    Wills for the 60′s .286/.334/.337.

  12. hornbuckle - Jul 12, 2012 at 7:14 PM

    Conception belongs in the hall. He was a vital member of the Big Red Machine.

  13. chjdc - Sep 8, 2013 at 9:56 PM

    I would imagine that the author of this article – Mr. Calcaterra – was too young to have seen Maury Wills play in the 60′s. If he had he would have known that he was one of the, if not the most exciting player in baseball to watch. That’s right. Mr. Calcaterra probably never sat in a sold out Shea stadium when the Dodgers played the Mets and Maury got on first base either by walk or hit. For if he had he would have been familiar with the chant from 50,000 spectators yelling Go Go Go in anticipation of Maury stealing a base. This was done for no-one else during that era.

    You should not lose sight of the fact that Maury led the N.L league in singles a number of times and was considered by many to be the best lead off man in the majors. He had a higher lifetime batting average than either Luis Aparico or Phil Rizzuto who both made it in. His base stealing lead the Dodger offense in small ball.

    The author said take away the stolen bases and his career was not that good – a very silly statement. That’s like saying take away Willie Mays’ home runs and his career is not that great or take away Cy Young’s wins and what do you have.? Silly and foolish statement.

    It should be remembered that the Dodgers made it to the World Series 4 out of 8 times between 1959 and 1966 when Maury was the starting shortstop. And don’t forget they just missed in 1962 when they lost to the Giants in a 3 game play-off. Maury Wills was a big reason for that. That’s why the Dodger manager Walter Alston made him the team captain.

    In Sandy Koufax’s autobiography he stated that Maury Wills makes our offense go. Unfortunately he didn’t enter the majors until he was 26 losing years because Pee Wee Reese was a star and the Dodger shortstop until he retired. Had he been in the majors 3 or 4 years sooner his total stolen base count would have put him in the top 10 all time. Still in my view Maury Wills was a Hall of Fame ballplayer. Anyone who comes along and changes the game is. Go ask Joe Morgan or Sandy Koufax.

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