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When it Raines, Part I

Sep 23, 2013, 4:06 PM EDT

A fantastic point here made by Tom Tango, and I have to admit that it has made me (for the nine millionth time) rethink the Baseball Hall of Fame. As you might have heard, Fangraphs asked a bunch of writers to name the three best eligible players not in the Hall of Fame. They asked the writers to leave out Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and Pete Rose, which was smart, those players are bogged down by issues other than baseball. The point here, as I understood it, was to simply name the best eligible baseball players not in the Hall of Fame.

Tim Raines got the highest vote total, with Mike Piazza second and Jeff Bagwell third. Then came Craig Biggio and Curt Schilling. That seems right in line with what I’ve been writing for the last couple of of years. BUT — and this is strange — when I saw the list, I had this weird and utterly counterintuitive thought, something I almost don’t want to write.

I almost don’t want to write this because, as anyone who reads this site knows, I am a huge Tim Raines fan. Huge. OK, maybe I’m not quite at the Jonah Keri level, but I’m a big fan and I absolutely believe that he is a Hall of Famer. I have made that argument many times. I have made that argument based on Raines’ greatness compared to the players who are actually in the Hall of Fame right now. As I wrote here, of the 11 left fielders that the BBWAA has voted into the Hall of Fame, Raines is comfortably in the middle. He was, I think, a better player than Ralph Kiner or JIm Rice or even a great player he resembled, Lou Brock. His career value was very similar to right fielder Tony Gwynn’s … it’s just that Gwynn’s greatness came in obvious and bold colors (lots of hits, absurdly high batting averages, batting crowns galore, Gold Gloves galore) while Raines’ greatness tended to be cloaked in drab gray (lots of walks, extraordinary base stealer, lots of runs scored, a lot of value as a part-time player later in his career).

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Tim Raines should be in the Hall of Fame.

So here comes to the counterintuitive part: If I was only given three votes — and this is even if I was told to skip over Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and Pete Rose — I would not vote for Tim Raines.

Like I say: It hurts me to say that. I have long looked at Raines as my guy, as someone I not only vote for the Hall of Fame but also as someone I lobby for the Hall of Fame. I am on the picket line, holding up my “Vote Tim Raines” sign. But, see, that’s by the current rules, where we voters are allowed to vote for 10 players.

With 10 players, I can afford to be pretty generous. I don’t need to make too many hard choices. If I think they deserve to be in, I vote them in. Let’s come up with a bizarre analogy: If I go into a Brookstone with a gift certificate that allows me to get TEN THINGS, sure, I might pick up the water foot massager or the Rosetta Stone langugage lessons for Spanish or a travel water purifier or an electric globe.

But If I’ve only got a gift certificate for THREE things, I’m going to be a lot choosier and choose things I NEED rather than things I want. Admittedly, this distinction might not help me as much in a Brookstone, but I think you get the point. Ten things, sure, a water purifier sounds great. Three things, no, I’m probably getting something like luggage.

Tim Raines … great player. Belongs in the Hall. But is he one of the three best players not in the Hall? No. I don’t think so. I don’t think he’s particularly close. That’s not a knock on his awesomeness, it’s simple reality. I put together this list of the highest WAR (I average Baseball Reference and Fangraphs WAR) for non Hall of Famers. Let’s see how far down we have to go to get to Tim Raines. Then, next post, I’ll go through Tango and Bill James ideas for a better Hall of Fame vote:

In this list, I’m going to include ALL retired players (after 1900), including those who are just retired and those who are not yet eligible for the Hall of Fame. I’ll bold out the people who are already on the Hall of Fame Ballot.

1. Barry Bonds (163.4 WAR).

How about this Bonds tidbit: If Barry Bonds had retired after the 1998 season — so before anyone believes he was a using anything, before 73 homers, before the most absurd stretch of baseball ever — look at how his career compares with the entirety of Duke Snider’s career..

Bonds through 1998: .290/.411/.556, 1,1916 hits, 411 homers, 1,364 runs, 1,216 RBIs, 445 SBs, 164 OPS+, 8 Gold Gloves.

Duke Snider: .295/.380/.540, 2,116 hits, 407 homers, 1,259 runs, 1,333 RBIs, 99 SBs, 140 OPS+.

It’s not just lip service: Barry Bonds was a clear Hall of Famer even before his bulked up.

2. Roger Clemens (139.6 WAR)

3. Greg Maddux (109.6 WAR … eligible 2014)

Who will be the numbskulls to leave Maddux off their 2014 ballot?

4. Randy Johnson (107.2 WAR … eligible 2015 )

5. Pedro Martinez (86.4 WAR … eligible 2015)

One of the craziest and least appreciated parts of the Steroid Era is that while it is known for all the home runs, it really should be remembered for giving us four of the greatest pitchers in baseball history.

6. Chipper Jones (85.2 WAR … eligible 2018)

7. Mike Mussina (82.5 WAR … eligible 2014)

You probably did not expect to see Mussina this high. He seems destined to be the next Bert Blyleven, someone who will get pretty low vote totals at the start and will need to become a cause.

8. Curt Schilling (82.1 WAR)

At some point, we’re going to have to figure out a way to get postseason performance in career WAR.

9. Ken Griffey Jr. (80.5 … eligible 2016)

I added the Junior here so there would be no confusion. Ken Sr. weighs in at a more-than-respectable 36.7 WAR.

10. Pete Rose (80.0 WAR … eligible when Bud Selig melts)

(tied) Jeff Bagwell (80.0 WAR)

12. Frank Thomas (73.0 WAR … eligible 2014)

13. John Smoltz (72.5 WAR … eligible 2015)

14. Lou Whitaker (71.5 WAR … off ballot)

15. Kevin Brown (71.3 WAR … off ballot)

You will notice that we are 15 deep now, and we till haven’t gotten to Tim Raines. Truth is, we still have quite a long way to go.

16. Rafael Palmeiro (70.9 WAR)

17. Larry Walker (70.7 WAR)

Was Larry Walker a better player than Tim Raines? Such a tough question because they were such different players, they played in somewhat different eras and Walker spent the bulk of his career playing at Coors Field when it was am absurd hitters park. Also Raines played about 500 more games than Walker. You could make an argument, after neutralizing their statistics, that Raines was the more valuable offensive player.

Neutralized batting:

Raines: .299/.392/.433, 1,598 runs created.

Walker: .294/.378/.530, 1,379 runs created.

Then again, Walker was a better outfielder than Raines and had two seasons that were probably better than Raines’ best. These are the tough calls that have to be made.

18. Jim Thome (70.4 WAR … eligible 2018 if he retires)

19. Bobby Grich (70.1 WAR … off ballot)

At this point, I’m pretty sure Bobby Grich is the most underrated player in baseball history, and I’m not even sure who is in second place. Minnie Minoso, maybe? Dick Allen? Darrell Evans? Grich is the truest kind of underrated in that you almost never even hear about him being underrated. Grich was a four-time Gold Glove winning second baseman and, by the advanced numbers, deserved them — he was a brilliant fielder. He was a hugely valuable offensive player because he walked a lot and hit with power … this at a time when middle infielders could not hit. Only Joe Morgan was better offensively among second basemen and shortstops. And he was Joe Morgan.

Grich suffers from all the underrated blues. People noticed his low batting (.266) and not his high on-base percentage (.371). He played in a very low scoring era, and he played in dreadful hitters parks throughout his career. He has the misfortune of having perhaps the best year of his career (.304/.378/.543 — led the league in homers and slugging) in the 1981 strike season, which obviously was truncated. He was overshadowed by great players on his own teams (Frank Robinson for his offense, Brooks Robinson and Mark Belanger for their defense, Reggie Jackson, Don Baylor the year he won the MVP), and great players on other teams (particularly Morgan, who just happened to be legendary when Grich was merely great). He also had a relatively short career, which prevented him from putting up the baseline numbers that people look at first — things like hits (he had 1,833 career hits).

20. Scott Rolen (70.0 WAR … eligible 2018 if he retires)

Is he retired? It sounds that way. I suspect he will go the way of Ken Boyer, Graig Nettles, Buddy Bell … the third basemen who just can’t garner much Hall of Fame support.

21. Ivan Rodriguez (69.5 WAR … eligible 2017)

22. Rick Reuschel (69.0 WAR … off the ballot)

23. Tom Glavine (69.0 WAR … eligible 2014)

Baseball Reference WAR has Glavine worth about six more wins over his career than Reuschel. Fangraphs WAR has Reuschel worth about five more wins over his career than Glavine.

I’ll readily admit: It’s stuff like this — Fangraphs having Reuschel as a markedly better pitcher than Glavine — that makes people mock the statistic. But this is really because we are so used to seeing statistics through the traditional prism. Glavine has 305 wins to Reuschel’s 214. Glavine had a much higher winning percentage (.600 to .528). Glavine won a Cy Young Award and won 20 five times; Reuschel only came close to winning a Cy Young Award once (he finished a close third) and won 20 once. Reuschel had a better career ERA than Glavine (3.37 to 3.54) but Glavine had the better ERA+, reflecting the times when they played.

So how in the world could Reuschel have a higher Fangraphs WAR? Well, of course, WAR doesn’t care at all about wins. So that goes out the window. It doesn’t exactly care about ERA either. Fangraphs WAR bases a pitcher on three things: Walks, strikeouts and home runs allowed. Based on a fairly simple formula that I just had my 12-year-old daughter (who is learning basic algebra now) help me with — ((13 times homers) plus (3 times walks+HPB) minus (2 times strikeouts) divided by innings pitched — the two pitchers raw fielding independent pitching numbers look like so:

Reuschel: .539

Glavine: .932

The lower number is better so you can see Reuschel has a pretty strong advantage. He struck out about as many batters per inning as Glavine, walked fewer and allowed fewer home runs. So then you adjust for time. Glavine obviously pitched in a much higher scoring time than Reuschel, so he gets credit for that. On the other hand, Reuschel spent more than half his career pitching at Wrigley Field when they was a dreadful park for pitchers. So he gets some credit for that. Then the whole thing is adjusted to more or less look like ERA so it will be easier to understand.

Final FIP numbers:

Reuschel: 3.22

Glavine: 3.95

That’s why Fangraphs has Reuschel as the better pitcher. You may total disagree with the method or the result. But that’s how it works.

24. Tommy John (68.9 WAR … off ballot)

25. Tim Raines (67.6 WAR)

And finally, we get to Raines. Now, it’s true that this list includes a bunch players who are not eligible for the Hall of Fame — of the players on the 2013 ballot, he is ranked seventh if you include Bonds and Clemens, fifth if you do not. But that’s still not Top 3. And four players are added in 2014 with a higher WAR, and that does not even include Jeff Kent, who has his Hall supporters.

And while you might disagree with WAR and say that Raines was definitely more valuable than a lot of players on this list — starting with Tommy John, Rick Reuschel, Bobby Grich and Larry Walker among others — you have to admit there are a bunch of players BELOW Raines on the list who have arguably as strong or stronger cases.

Would you vote Tim Raines ahead of Mike Piazza (who ranks 41st on the list)? That’s tough. Piazza might have been the best hitting catcher ever.

What about Craig Biggio (No. 32 on list)? He had those 3,000 hits, is 18th all-time in times on base, is 15th all-time in runs scored and so on.

Was Raines a better player than Shoeless Joe Jackson? We obviously know Jackson’s issue, but forget that for a moment … we’re only trying to come up with the best players not in the Hall of Fame. Was Raines a better player than Joe Jackson?

How about Alan Trammell? Graig Nettles? Dwight Evans? Dick Allen? Mark McGwire? Ken Boyer? Minnie Minoso? The Keith Hernandez?* Vlad Guerrero? All of these players and many other excellent ones rank below Raines in WAR … but maybe you think they were better players. There’s also a pitcher you might have heard of who ranks way below Raines in WAR, a pitcher named Mariano Rivera.

*For some reason, I wrote “The Keith Hernandez” in my first draft. I decided to keep it.

And we haven’t gotten anywhere near Jack Morris, who will be discussed again in Part II.

The point is: This is where the real Hall of Fame contest is waged. I have always thought that the best way to decide who belongs in the Hall of Fame is to determine where the Hall of Fame line has been drawn and vote for players who I believe are above that line. Now I’m thinking that this mythical Hall of Fame line, while worth figuring, isn’t really the deciding factor. The deciding factor is: Does a player, by whatever standard you use, have a better case for the Hall of Fame than the many, many great players out there who have not yet been elected.

Tim Raines, I love you. I absolutely will keep voting for you. I hope to be there on the day your are inducted into the Hall of Fame. But if I’m being completely honest, you are not one of the three best players not in the Hall of Fame, and that’s even if we do leave out Bonds, Clemens and Rose.

  1. jm91rs - Sep 23, 2013 at 4:37 PM

    I must admit I am pretty naive when it comes to modern baseball statistics. I read the numbers when someone writes about them, and use them in my head when picking which player is better, but I don’t care much for calculating them myself and I sometimes find it harder to enjoy the game when they’re being thrown at me. All that said I’m pretty surprised to read how WAR is calculated for a pitcher. Unless I’m looking at something wrong, a ground ball pitcher really could give up a lot of runs without having much negative effect on WAR. I’m sure I’m missing something, but my head says keeping the other team off the board is the number one job of a pitcher so I’m just gonna have to stick to using ERA as my measuring stick until I understand that one better.

    • eightyraw - Sep 23, 2013 at 5:00 PM

      DIPs theory (the basis of FIP – fielding independent pitching) states that the pitcher has little control over balls in play. Batting averages on balls in play (BABiP) for pitchers are usu located within a rather fine range, with most fluctuations being the result of luck rather than skill. Even pitchers on the same team can see wildly different BABiPS despite the same fielders and quality stuff, as shown here: FIP takes away all balls in play and shows you how the pitcher did in all occasions where the ball was not in play. This is a pretty nice tool for a yearly approximation of a pitcher’s true talent. FIP-based WAR is arguably less insightful for career WAR totals though.

      To clarify some of your confusion, Fangraphs WAR (fWAR) is FIP-based. But the site also offers RA9-Wins version that is similar to Baseball-Reference’s WAR, in that it is based off runs allowed. Poz averaged the WAR from the two sites.

      There is nothing wrong with your assumptions and reasoning. My only suggestion would be to use RA/9 instead of ERA for a truer version of pitcher success, since unearned runs are too frequently arbitrarily assessed and require a hypothetical imagination of an inning’s events. Though, this metric is less readily available.

      • eightyraw - Sep 23, 2013 at 5:02 PM

        *To clarify: FIP looks simply at Ks, BBs, and HRs, then is scaled to replicate ERA. I should not have used “balls in play”

  2. bjavie - Sep 23, 2013 at 4:49 PM

    I don’t care much for the way ball players are “evaluated” today. That aside, Dale Murphy was one of the top 5 players of his era, IMO he was the second bast player of the 1980’s behind Schmidt. Half the fools above cannot be mentioned in that breath. How any one could put Scott Rolen on this list…Scott Rolen…and not Dale Murphy is beyond me.

    But, I guess that is what fake statistics like WAR get you. You know it requires an *adjustment*?!?! What the hell kind of stat can be taken seriously when no two sources agree on how to figure it and it includes an *adjustment*????

    • eightyraw - Sep 23, 2013 at 5:07 PM

      Scott Rolen is probably the second-best defensive third baseman of all-time. And he was a better hitter than Dale Murphy. Dismissing a tool because you don’t agree with one result is a nice way to ensure ignorance.

      How is WAR fake? Also, numerous stats now feature adjustments. Offensive levels have wildly varied over MLB’s history. Adjusting raw statistics for league average helps compare players over different eras.

    • cohnjusack - Sep 23, 2013 at 5:07 PM

      Scott Rolen is not as good as Dale Murphy?

      #1: Scott Rolen was a fantastic defensive 3rd baseman. I mean, he was absurd. Dale Murphy got moved from centerfield at age 30 and most of us can probably reasonably agree that his gold gloves were awarded due more to doing a piss poor job at handing out gold gloves than defensive prowess.

      #2. Scott Rolen hit for a higher average, got on base more often, hit for a higher slugging percentage, had a higher OPS adjusted for league average and was good(though not longer great) up until age 35. Murphy was stopped being a good player at age 32, dramatically falling off a cliff.

      You don’t need to cite WAR at all to show that Rolen was better. Murphy may have been a better hitter during his peak. Hell, even that isn’t that much different. In his best 6 years, Murphy put up a 145 OPS+, not much higher than Rolen’s 137 during his best six years.

    • cohnjusack - Sep 23, 2013 at 5:14 PM

      You know it requires an *adjustment*?!?! What the hell kind of stat can be taken seriously when no two sources agree on how to figure it and it includes an *adjustment*????

      Quick! Only considering offensive output, which of these guys were more valuable to their respective teams?
      Player 1: .301/.426/.495
      Player 2: .344/.408/.639

      The answer is player 1 and it’s not even close.

      Player 1 is Carl Yastrzemski in 1968, player 2 is Ellis Burks in 1996. For a multitude of reasons, some eras of baseball saw a lot more runs scored than others. Therefore, 1 run was far more valuable in 1968 when 3.4 runs per game were scored than 1996 when 4.7 runs per game were scored (add that to Coors Field, which during the steroid era was the greatest hitters environment in baseball history). That’s what you adjust for, and if you don’t understand this, how can you possibly understand baseball history? You can either put value in adjusting for ERA, or go through life thinking that Carlos Delgado was the hitting equal of Hank Aaron because they have virtually identical OPS

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 23, 2013 at 5:28 PM

      What the hell kind of stat can be taken seriously when no two sources agree on how to figure it and it includes an *adjustment*????

      Oh look it’s that same argument that’s defeated easily.

      I have a glass of water. Can you tell me how much water is in it? Well are you measuring in fl oz or ml?

      I have a container of sugar. Can you tell me how much sugar is in it? Well are you measuring in lbs or grams?

      I need to go to the airport but I’m short on gas. Can you tell me how far away it is? Well are you measuring in miles or kilometers?

      We readily accept multiple ways to measure the same thing in real life. Why not in sports?

      Btw, Murphy was the second best player in 80s behind Schmidt? Henderson destroys him.

      Henderson: .291/.403/.436 – 137 OPS+, 70.8 rWAR
      Murphy: .273/.361/.491 – 132 OPS+, 46.9 rWAR

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 23, 2013 at 5:41 PM

        Also, there’s tons of ways of measuring in baseball alone. How do you want to judge a hitter? By BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, OPS+, wOBA, wRC+, WRAA? What about pitchers? Do you use ERA, ERA+/- (- is better and should be used more honestly), RA/9, FIP, xFIP (awful)?

      • indaburg - Sep 23, 2013 at 6:59 PM

        Your nuanced thinking hurts my brain.

        Everyone knows that miles are better than kilometers.

      • cohnjusack - Sep 23, 2013 at 7:30 PM

        Btw, Murphy was the second best player in 80s behind Schmidt? Henderson destroys him

        I’d take Cal Ripken, Wade Boggs, Eddie Murray, Gary Carter, Robin Yount, Tim Raines and George Brett over him too. But other than all of those guys, he’s the 2nd best player of the 80s.

    • indaburg - Sep 23, 2013 at 6:08 PM

      Should I get off your lawn, sir?

      • cur68 - Sep 23, 2013 at 6:41 PM

        Hey ‘Burg: when you fill a syringe don’t make any “adjustments”. Just give everyone the same dose, regardless of weight or age or medical condition.

    • stlouis1baseball - Sep 24, 2013 at 12:44 PM

      “Dale Murphy was one of the top 5 players of his era, IMO he was the second bast player of the 1980′s behind Schmidt.”

      George Brett, Wade Boggs, ROBIN PHUQING YOUNT and everyone else disagrees with you.
      Wow dude…do our homework.
      Scott Rolen is one of (if not THE best defensive 3rd Basemen of all time).

      Sorry Brooks Robinson…I am biased as Rolen is a fellow Hoosier.

  3. cackalackyank - Sep 23, 2013 at 4:56 PM

    I know it probably will not happen because there MAY still be limits to BBWA stupidity. However, the die is cast for change. In 2019 Mariano Rivera will be eligible. If Mo does not goin in on the first ballot we will have the certain proof that the system is irretrievably broken.

    • largebill - Sep 23, 2013 at 6:39 PM

      Wrong. System may or may not be broken, but I refuse to concede that if any particular player isn’t unanimous or if a player gets in on his second or third or fifteenth ballot when we all “know” he deserves to be a first ballot guy that it undermines the entire system. Most of us see a backlog of eligible and worthy players which could result in some very odd ballot results over the next several years. That backlog could lead to tweaking or revamping the election process to fix things. The fact that things can be fixed shows things are not “irretrievably broken.”

  4. tigerprez - Sep 23, 2013 at 5:05 PM

    Though Raines certainly deserves to be voted in, it might take a long, long time. For one, I don’t think many people thought he was a HOFer while he was playing, and it’s difficult for voters (especially those not inclined to use stats like WAR) to change their minds on someone who didn’t jump off the page as one of the greatest left fielders ever while he was on the field. (Honestly, growing up in the 90s, I don’t recall anyone talking about Raines as someone who would go to the HOF someday. He was just so easy to overlook.) Also, despite playing for parts of 23 seasons, he only got more than 400 at bats in 13 of them, which makes him look, at a glance, like someone who was a part-time player for longer than most HOFers. He’s going to have a tough climb to get voted in.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 23, 2013 at 5:30 PM

      Also, despite playing for parts of 23 seasons, he only got more than 400 at bats in 13 of them, which makes him look, at a glance, like someone who was a part-time player for longer than most HOFers.

      He also lost some of his best seasons due to collusion. Check out for more info on why he should be in the HoF.

  5. kalinedrive - Sep 23, 2013 at 5:12 PM

    I have a Bobby Grich model Rawlings baseball glove.

    • clemente2 - Sep 23, 2013 at 6:51 PM

      Yea for Bobby! Awesome player.

  6. earpaniac - Sep 23, 2013 at 5:44 PM

    This is why I don’t get the “advanced stats”. I saw Rick Rueschel, I saw Tom Glavine. There is no stat in the world that can convince me Glavine wasn’t better. I know the stats you cited prove it, I just cannot believe it.

    • eightyraw - Sep 23, 2013 at 6:18 PM

      Advanced stats don’t prove that at all. One method of measuring a pitcher’s value omits all non-HR batted balls to combat the issues that arise from the typical year-to-year variance in BABiP. For pitchers with lengthy careers like R. Reuschel and Glavine (who faced 14888 and 18604 hitters respectively) we have a better estimation at the true talent of limiting hits on balls in play. The more data, the less we have to regress. BABiP against Glavine was .270, compared to .280 against R. Reuschel. How much of this difference do you believe to be real? How much do you credit Glavine and not his fielder’s and/or home park for the difference.

      Alternatively, Glavine allowed earned runs at 16% better than average over his (longer) career compared to R. Reuschel allowing earned runs at 12% better than average. Again we must consider how much credit to give each pitcher.

  7. earpaniac - Sep 23, 2013 at 5:46 PM

    And Bobby Grich was fantastic. And while Dale Murphey may belong in the HOF, and had several obvious great seasons, I think Rolen was a better player longer.

  8. earpaniac - Sep 23, 2013 at 6:07 PM

    And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Reuschel was some bum either. But I just cannot accept the fact he was better than Glavine. I said before I didn’t get advanced stats, and I should say that’s partly true. I do like them for the reason it gives me more baseball to digest and discuss, and I’m not an “anti-new stat” guy as some are by any means. But you can sometimes can make numbers mean more or something they don’t. I can prove that hammers cost $50,000 (thanks US govt) but that doesn’t mean they really do. And I’m a Cub fan, so I have no idea why the Glavine/Reuschel thing bothers me, but it does nonetheless.

    • eightyraw - Sep 23, 2013 at 6:21 PM

      No one is presenting it as fact that Reuschel had a better career than Glavine. The numbers are easily available. Judge for yourself. But whatever adjustments you make should then be used in your evaluations of all players. This is one of the biggest benefits of WAR – transparency and consistency in ranking players.

    • ryoung122 - Sep 24, 2013 at 12:06 AM

      The article already makes it clear that the FanGraph WAR formula is flawed. Basically, it rewards pitchers who do all their own work themselves (out via strikeout, for example) but not those who work as part of a team…inducing a double play, for example. There’s also no adjustment made for peak vs career value…just because someone retired early due to injury (such as Sandy Koufax) doesn’t mean they should be compared to pitchers who logged 20 years. Tom Glavine’s 300+ career wins show an accomplishment of long-term committment that WAR can’t measure.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 24, 2013 at 9:20 AM

        There’s also no adjustment made for peak vs career value…just because someone retired early due to injury (such as Sandy Koufax) doesn’t mean they should be compared to pitchers who logged 20 years. Tom Glavine’s 300+ career wins show an accomplishment of long-term committment that WAR can’t measure.

        No stat shows this, so why are you only docking WAR for it? Why should a player get some sort of bonus for just hanging out multiple years? Glavine’s last two years were 263.2 IP of 86 ERA+ ball. He should get credit for hanging around, pitching worse than league average so he could break 300 wins?

        Basically, it rewards pitchers who do all their own work themselves (out via strikeout, for example) but not those who work as part of a team…inducing a double play, for example

        If you don’t like DIPS Theory, then use rWAR instead. However, you know feel that the pitcher should get full credit for the defense behind him. Should Kuroda get all the credit that he know pitches with Ryan and Cano behind him, while early ’00s Yankee teams had Jeter and Soriano?

  9. bbk1000 - Sep 23, 2013 at 6:56 PM


  10. earpaniac - Sep 23, 2013 at 7:09 PM

    I guess that’s what I was trying to say. If Stats were the true be all some claim, there would be no discussion, you could just point to a stat and that’s it, end of argument. The reason I like baseball stats, and more the “new” stats, is its another toll I can use to make judgements. And I’m not saying you were Mr. Posnanski, but I don’t like when some people insist that for instance, Reuschel is better than Glavine, because a “new” stat “proves” it.

  11. metroplexsouthsider - Sep 23, 2013 at 7:40 PM

    Wow, and so much wrong with this. When I look at Grich, I see someone who either couldn’t or wouldn’t play through injuries after getting hurt easily. Kind of like Larry Walker … lots of nagging injuries derailing a career. Reuschel wasn’t that much worse than Glavine, but better? No, and certainly not for as many years.

    Otherwise, it’s not that WAR is “wrong,” but that it’s simplistic, especially when used by itself.

    WAA (on Baseball Reference) is a better starting point. Gives you better idea of who really outshone their peers. Below 30? Not a HOFer. 30-35? Gray area. 35-40, less gray, and 40 or above, we’re talking serious now. Second, WAR or WAA shouldn’t be a one-stat gimmick.

    For pitchers, to be HOFers in my book, they have to have an ERA+ of 110 or better and a WHIP of 1.25 or lower. (If they pitched long enough, the “H” in WHIP will settle out, vis-a-vis FIP, and the “W” is always under pitcher control. For that matter, even outside FIP, which isn’t perfect either, the H is primarily under the pitcher’s control.)

    For hitters, their career OPS+, unless at a primo field position like SS, has to be 110 or better.

    Finally, while I don’t look at counting stats first, I do look at them. Hence my comments about Grich. I couldn’t vote him in with less than 2,000 hits.

    • eightyraw - Sep 23, 2013 at 7:55 PM

      So Grich easily meets/exceeds your WAA and OPS+ requirements (and this ignores his above-average defense at 2B), but because he walked so frequently and had a few injuries he doesn’t make the cut? And yes you do look at counting stats. WAA is a counting stat.

  12. metroplexsouthsider - Sep 23, 2013 at 7:54 PM

    I have a bit of a problem with fielding-independent pitching, I’ll say.

    First, Fangraphs’ calculation of it is a bit arbitrary. Besides second-guessing the exact ratios, I don’t think it allows for park-factors on the home runs. (xFIP may partially address that in a backdoor way.) That leads to …

    Two, as Wikipedia notes on BABIP, there are other factors, such as whether a pitcher is a ground ball or fly ball pitcher. Obviously a fly ball pitcher is going to, on average, allow more taters.

    There’s yet more that doesn’t get mentioned. How good of a game-caller as a catcher does that pitcher have? How well does the pitcher follow the catcher? How much does the team use defensive shifts or not?

    • eightyraw - Sep 23, 2013 at 7:58 PM

      Nothing is arbitrary about FIP’s calculation. And Fangraphs has FIP-, where park factors are included. Though that means you wholly accept their park factors.

      You last set of complaints can be directed at any metric measuring pitching. No metric takes those things into account.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 23, 2013 at 8:32 PM

      How much does the team use defensive shifts or not?

      This doesn’t matter in FIP’s calculations, as it only tracks BB/K/HR and normalizes BABIP.

      Two, as Wikipedia notes on BABIP, there are other factors, such as whether a pitcher is a ground ball or fly ball pitcher. Obviously a fly ball pitcher is going to, on average, allow more taters.

      A GB Pitcher does have a higher BABIP, because ground balls go for hits more often than fly balls. However, as mentioned above, BABIP is removed from FIP’s calcs.

      If you don’t like the idea of FIP, or DIPS theory, use baseball reference’s version of WAR (rWAR) which gives full credit to the pitcher for above or below average BABIP.

      • ryoung122 - Sep 23, 2013 at 11:54 PM

        FIP and DIP hypotheses automatically presume that the pitcher has no control over the most central thing a pitcher does…which is to attempt to keep hitters from getting a base hit. I do agree that Baseball Reference’s version of WAR is correct and the FanGraph calculation is a gross distortion of pitching reality.

      • eightyraw - Sep 24, 2013 at 1:16 AM

        1. FIP doesn’t presume anything. It is a formula
        2. DIPS is a theory, not a hypothesis. The hypothesis was thoroughly tested.
        3. DIPS does not presume no control
        4. If we are trying to measure true talent, FIP can be more beneficial than RA9.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 24, 2013 at 9:26 AM

        I do agree that Baseball Reference’s version of WAR is correct and the FanGraph calculation is a gross distortion of pitching reality.

        So you think BABIP is entirely within a pitcher’s control? Then take these two stat lines:

        A – 213.1 IP, 13.2 K/9, 1.56 BB/9, 0.38 HR/9, 2.07 ERA (243 ERA+)
        B – 217.0 IP, 11.78 K/9, 1.33 BB/9, 0.71 HR/9, 1.74 ERA (291 ERA+)

        They look relatively similar right? A had a better K rate but worse ERA, and B had a better ERA but seemingly worse peripherals. Now let’s add another stat in:

        A – .323 BABIP
        B – .236 BABIP

        These are Pedro Martinez’s ’99 (A) and ’00 (B) seasons. If BABIP is entirely within a pitcher’s control, why the enormous swing? [note, this is what got Voros McCracken to start working on DIPS Theory]

  13. ryoung122 - Sep 23, 2013 at 11:47 PM

    This article, ostensibly about Time Raines and the HOF ballot, instead exposes the absurdity of attempting to use career WAR as a “one-size-fits all” statistic. The reality of baseball is that there are far too many variables to be able to sum up with one neat little number who is the better player all the time. What’s wrong with the “career WAR”? We can start with the same issue that applies to all “average-type” statistics: they measure better peak value, but should we hold it against a great player for playing beyond their prime? Just as a career BA tends to fall as a player plays on into the twilight of their career, so “career WAR” does the same. Conversely, it’s also possible for a player to put up a great WAR over a short time, then quit…but their value over a few years wasn’t nearly as important as a 20-year player’s value. A second issue, and we see in the Rick Reuschel vs Tom Glavine debate, is that WAR, or at least the FanGraph version of it, rewards “independent” work (such as a strikeout) but penalizes the pitcher for inducing a ground-ball-double play, for example. To pretend that a great pitcher has no control whatsoever with what the batter’s ball is going to do behind them is to not understand that baseball is a TEAM sport. Not only that, but in some cases, it may be better for the pitcher to walk a batter than to let them swing freely (that’s why great batters get walked). Yet, again, doing the right thing for the team is another penalty for pitchers in FanGraph land.

    • eightyraw - Sep 24, 2013 at 1:32 AM

      Who uses career WAR as the only tool to measure a player? Poz wanted to create a quick list. WAR makes it easy to present lists quickly where every player is evaluated with the same formula.

      fWAR does not penalize a pitcher for inducing a DP. It ignores it. No matter the batted ball, some credit for a DP must go to the fielders. We don’t know how much credit to give to the pitcher, so fWAR ignores all plays where pitcher credit isn’t approx. 100%.

      Over lengthy careers how much to you think the addition of GiDP and strategically issued BBs would alter valuations?

      If great pitchers can control batted balls, why did Randy Johnson post BABiPs significantly above his career norm in the years he had his lowest ERA-? This is a great pitcher pitching at his greatest but still allowing hits on balls in play at a less than desirable rate.

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