For the last few years – and by few I mean really dozen or so – I have been comparing players and trying to find a good way to compare them, particularly when it comes to the Hall of Fame. While I get that there is no end all statistical formula to make every decision, I do believe that one can come up with a method better than “He’s a Hall of Famer because I just know it”.
I believe that I have a method (at least for position players; I’m still tinkering with the pitchers model) – I call it my Hall of Fame Rating. What I first did was separate the Hall of Fame players by their primary position (these were the ones selected at players, not former players who were selected as managers). I took four statistics – well really five, but I’ll get to the fifth one in a moment – and broke those down a little further. The four stats I used were Bill James’ Win Shares (WS), Baseball Reference’s Wins Above Replacement (bWAR), Fan Graph’s Wins Above Replacement (fWAR), and Baseball Prospectus’ Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP).
This was a little tricky because Baseball Prospectus only goes back to 1950. Obviously we shouldn’t punish early players for a website’s lack of data, so we only consider a player’s WARP if they played the majority of their career after 1949. On other words, Joe Dimaggio doesn’t get docked for playing only two seasons after 1949 (and therefore only accumulated 8.3 WARP), and Richie Ashburn gets credit for playing 13 of his 15 seasons after 1949 (and accumulated 72.2 WARP). Fortunately this isn’t a big lot and therefore a fairly simple fix.
I break those four stats into three separate numbers. First is the overall career total. Then, I figure what they averaged per 162 games. Then I figure out what their best five year average is. Then I put a count together of how many All-Star level seasons each player had. By All-Star level, I looked up what each site considered All-Star level. For Win Shares, it’s 20, for Baseball Reference it’s 5.0, for Fan Graphs and Baseball Prospectus it’s 4.0.
Then I added in Jay Jaffe’s JAWS. JAWS stands for JAffe War Score. It is simply a hitter’s career offensive WAR plus his offensive WAR in his seven best seasons divided by two. He uses it to compare players to the average Hall of Famer at each position.
What I then did was take every player at each position and get the averages for every category. The next thing was to take the lowest score of each until I got to the All-Star level seasons. I had to make one change. I decided that the low bar for All-Star seasons should be four.
First, there are a few in the Hall of Fame that had exactly zero All-Star seasons and my formula involves division and dividing by zero just can’t happen. Second, the reason so many of the zeros were inducted was that the Veterans Committee – behind the urging of a few, but particularly Frankie Frisch – put those questionable at best players in. And third, if you’re making a Hall of Fame case for a player, in my opinion you had better have at least four seasons at an All-Star level, Frankie Frisch’s opinion be damned.
So we have those figures. What I did then was looked at those same figures for players, started at 50.00 and divided each figure by the average Hall of Famer. Then I repeated the process with the minimum totals. For each percentage I subtracted 1.00 from them, then added that total to the original 50.00. This is a player’s Hall of Fame Rating. As for a frame of reference, if a player’s HOFR is higher than the average Hall of Famer’s I consider them a lock on my ballot. If they score 60.00 or higher, I consider them a solid choice. If they are below 60.00 but above 50.00 they had better be a catcher or have a reason that blows me away. If they are below 50.00 don’t even try discussing it with me. For an example, let’s use Scott Rolen.
Rolen played 17 seasons and 2,038 games. Here are his career numbers:
The numbers at the bottom indicate the All-Star level seasons. His JAWS is 56.8. Now, when comparing him to the Hall of Fame third basemen, their numbers are:
The Average JAWS is 54.7 while the the lowest was 27.3. As for the average All-Star level seasons, those are 8.8 20+ Win Share seasons, 5.8 5+ fWAR seasons, 8.1 4+ fWAR seasons, and 9.8 4+ WARP seasons. When you take those number and do the math with Rolen’s you get 67.72 while the average rating for a third baseman is 65.10. In other words, next year when the ballot comes out, he’s marked off on mine. What I did then was look up every player since 1950 who accumulated at least 250 Win Shares and are not in the Hall of Fame. Here are those figures:
These numbers seem reasonable. Now I have to figure out the pitchers . . .