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Excerpts from "Auditioning for Cooperstown: Rating Baseball's Stars for the Hall of Fame" ---
What criteria should be used to rate players for Hall of Fame election? The easiest choice is a straight ranking of career Win Shares since career production is the most obvious method ranking players for all time. However, the flaw with this idea is that some truly great players ended up with seriously shortened careers, mostly due to injury. How to compensate for this? 
Bill James wrote about career values and peak values in his first Historical Abstract. Peak values looks at a player’s best seasons regardless of career production. This viewpoint determines who the most talented players were even if their careers fell short of any great length. For many players, career and peak value rankings don’t vary much, but for others, it’s the difference between night and day.
A tale of two Hall of Fame teammates (for the 1966 season, anyway) demonstrates the difference between career and peak values. Sandy Koufax was the ultimate pitcher of his generation, ranking 23rd in adjusted peak Win Shares. Since he retired after 1966 due to a debilitating elbow injury and would assuredly have achieved so much more in good health, he was rewarded with election to the Hall in his first year of eligibility. 
On the other hand, Don Sutton was the ultimate plodder, never dominating and winning 20 games only once. Yet, he parlayed a dozen 15 win seasons into a 324 win career. He ranks only 125th in peak value, well below Koufax. But their career values are virtually mirror opposites of the peak values, Sutton’s 19th career value ranking trumping Koufax’s 132nd ranking. Adding in the positional dominance factor to the other two factors, Koufax ranks 64th all-time among starting pitchers and Sutton 68th.
Given the concept of peak Win Shares, what defines a peak? The ultimate peak is one season, but should one great season in a sea of merely good ones define peak value? Especially when a career of at least 10 seasons is evaluated? If only one season mattered, then Pete Reiser would be a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame. His rookie total of 34.4 Win Shares portended a phenomenal career, but his utter lack of regard for his own safety playing the game limited him to a 10 year career filled with pain and disappointment. 
Peak value should include enough seasons to mitigate the effect of just one brilliant one. The advantage of peak value is that players should have enough excellent seasons to eliminate those where injuries shortened others. In a ten (or more) year career, five seasons offer enough performance to realistically determine peak value.
10. Mickey Mantle – 1566.2 points
If any player could be considered “The Natural”, Mickey Mantle would be the most likely choice. He had the requisite five tools and the youthful, all-American good looks. However, he also had a family history where the men, including his father, didn’t live beyond middle age and thus he expected that he wouldn’t either. That mindset caused him to party hard during the 1950’s with teammates such as Whitey Ford and Billy Martin. Various injuries and his own neglect of his health shortened his career and prevented him from possibly becoming the greatest player ever. 
As it was, he had a phenomenal career. He was a perfect successor to Joe DiMaggio at the New York Yankee centerfield position with his outstanding defensive skills. His combination of power and blazing speed was virtually unmatched, except for rival centerfielder Willie Mays, in baseball. 
Mantle reached the 50 home run level twice, the first in 1956 when he won the Triple Crown with 52 blasts, 130 runs batted in, and a .353 batting average. His other 50 home run season was even more memorable as he engaged in an historic home run race with fellow Yankee outfielder Roger Maris. Injuries kept Mantle to a “mere” 54 roundtrippers while Maris went on to surpass Babe Ruth’s single season record with 61 homers. 
Playing in an era when stolen bases were not a major offensive weapon, Mantle stole 153 bases in his career, getting caught just 38 times. He drew well more than his share of bases on balls, leading the American League five times in that category. In all, he won three A.L. M.V.P. awards, finishing as runnerup in the voting another three times.
Mantle’s greatest Hall of Fame point strength is his adjusted peak Win Shares. He’s fifth in the all-time rankings, fourth in the modern era (Ross Barnes dominated in an era of far fewer players), behind Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb. Had he enjoyed a healthy 21 or 22-year career, he would have easily been a Double Hall of Famer.
21. Roger Connor – 1,256.2 points
Roger Connor was the New York Giants first baseman of the 1880’s and one of the greatest players of that decade. His solid power early in his career became home run power in mid-career.
Connor led the league once in doubles, twice in triples and once in home runs, but compiled excellent career totals in all three categories, given that he played just 1,998 lifetime games. His 441 doubles and 233 triples would have exceeded 600 and 300, respectively, had he played in the 20th Century with the longer season schedules in effect.
Connor scored 100 or more runs eight times. In 1889, he also led the National League with 130 RBIs in just 131 games. His .371 average won the 1885 batting title while he also took a pair of slugging titles as well. 
Apparently, baseball writers had never heard of Connor for all of the years he was eligible for election. From the initial balloting in 1936 until his selection by the Veteran’s Committee in 1976, not one single vote was cast for him. For the 21st ranked hitter in Hall of Fame points, this is unfathomable. Yes, information during that time was quite limited as compared to today (baseball-reference.com is just amazing) and everybody’s grasp of statistics was still rudimentary, but the idea of no one casting a vote for him is shocking.
After all, it was Connor’s career record of 138 home runs that Babe Ruth broke on the way to his 714 total. 
39. Paul Hines – 1,106.5 points
Paul Hines is a player I long ago suspected of belonging to the Hall of Fame. Compiling the Hall of Fame database described earlier proved my suspicions to be correct.
Hines’ career ran almost exactly in concurrence with that of Deacon White, following White by just one season on both ends. Playing in the 1870’s and 1880’s limited Hines’ playing opportunity, with Hines accumulating a very solid, if undistinguished, 275.2 career Win Shares. His career schedule adjustment of 1.729 boosts the Win Shares to an all-time 25th ranking 475.8 adjusted career Win Shares. The other two factors fall into the top 77 all-time, well within Hall of Fame range. The schedule adjustment boosts his career hit total of 2,133 knocks to a schedule adjusted 3,688 hits, well among the greatest ever.
Hines won back-to back batting titles in 1878-1879, also pacing the league in total bases both times. He led the league three times in doubles, totaling 399 for his career. That translates into 690 doubles in a modern career. His 1,217 runs scored would be 2,104 runs today. 
As you might guess by now, he’s never received a single Hall of Fame vote. Ranking 39th in the all-time Hall of Fame points listing, Hines is easily deserving of enshrinement with the other immortals.
At this writing, Hines’ page in baseball-reference.com is sponsored with the comment “I played hard, and I looked good doing it. Now get the Veterans Committee to give me of those gaudy “Hall of Fame” bands by the end of 2012!”
62. Stan Hack – 1,016.9 points
Stan Hack certainly isn’t the 62nd best hitter of all-time, but he deserves much more credit than the Hall of Fame voters have accorded him. While he ranks 126th in adjusted career Win Shares and 114th in adjusted peak Win Shares (both within Hall of Fame standards), his real strength is positional dominance. He was the #1 ranked third baseman in the National League seven times and #2 another four times.
Hack’s quiet offensive strength was his ability to draw walks, reaching 80 or better eight times in his career. He topped the .400 mark in on base average seven times and finished his career with an outstanding .394 percentage, very impressive given his .301 lifetime batting average. He led the league twice in hits and scored 100 or more runs seven times.
At the very least, his 33rd place spot in positional dominance should assure him a Hall of Fame berth. Being the top player at one’s position in his league for a full decade is worthy of immortality in and of itself. His best showing was eight votes in the 1950 election. Stan Hack deserves enshrinement in the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee.   
100. Keith Hernandez – 934.4 points
Keith Hernandez was not a prototypical hitter for a first baseman, but was still an excellent hitter and is generally regarded as the greatest defensive first baseman ever. His 11 Golden Glove awards are a testament to that assertion.
Hernandez proved his value by sharing the 1979 National League M.V.P. award with the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Willie Stargell. His real value came in combing hits with walks for a .400 or better on base average for six full seasons and an overall .384 average. 
His Hall of Fame credentials are best summed up by his six #1 N.L. first place rankings and two #2 finishes. This places him 55th on the all-time positional dominance rankings. 
His best showing was 52 votes in the 2000 election before being dropped after the 2004 election with less than 5% of the vote.
The sponsored comment on Hernandez’ page on baseball-reference.com as of this writing sums it up best. It says “The best defensive first baseman in the history of the game and an MVP. The Captain’s #17 belongs on the wall at Citi Field and his plaque in Cooperstown.”
115. Mark McGwire – 897.8 points
Here’s where the steroids issue gets really interesting in terms of Hall of Fame consideration. Mark McGwire, who has admitted to taking human growth hormone, put together an amazing career resume, but just how much of it is attributable to his talent and how much to his stuff?
From the beginning of his career in 1986, McGwire showed enormous power, ripping 49 home runs in 1987, when he was the American League Rookie of the Year. McGwire continued blasting home runs, but missed most of the 1993 and 1994 seasons due to foot injuries. He hit a career high 52 bombs in 1996 and finally amazed America with the greatest home run race ever in 1998, edging out Sammy Sosa by a 70 to 66 margin. McGwire followed that up with 65 homers the following season, ending his career with 583 home runs and the lowest lifetime at bats to home runs ratio ever. 
As with many other sluggers, McGwire also drew many walks, leading the league twice. He walked 1,317 times in his career. 
He ranks just outside of the top 100 but within the top 130 in all three Hall of Fame factors. However, where would he rank had he never taken steroids? Some think that his use may date back to the beginning of his career, but he did admit using the HGH in an effort to recover from his foot injuries. For the sake of argument, let’s say that this covered just the second half of his career. I’ll also estimate a 20% reduction in performance over that half, thus reducing his total Hall of Fame points by 10% from 898 down to 808 points. The 20% reduction is a fair estimate, considering that his 1998 home run total would then be 56 blasts and his 1999 figure 52 blasts, well within believability. 
The reduction in Hall of Fame points would then drop him from 115th place, nestled among numerous Hall of Famers, to 168th place, where only every third or fourth player is enshrined in Cooperstown. It doesn’t necessarily eliminate McGwire from consideration, but it does cast serious doubt on his Hall of Fame viability. If the HGH actually helped him to continue playing at all after 1994, let alone at such a high level, then it’s clear that McGwire doesn’t belong with the other immortals, despite his very impressive home run track. 
So far the voters have withheld the ultimate honor from him, never awarding him with more than 23.75% of the vote. Even if he had played clean for his entire career, his resume is Hall of Fame worthy, but not overwhelmingly so, and thus more marginal than at least 100 others. 
Ultimately, McGwire’s career record, after discounting for the steroids effect, is too marginal for Hall of Fame consideration. The baseball writers are showing appropriate caution in their judgment and will likely not vote him in. If anybody really supports McGwire as a Hall of Famer, the burden of proof is on them to make a steroid proof case for him.
206. Gil Hodges – 760.0 points
If it were up to the middle aged baseball fans, Gil Hodges would long ago have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. He has received more writers’ votes (3,010) than any other non-Hall of Famer, topping out at 63.37% in 1983.
Hodges was a top flight power hitter, slugging 20 or more home runs for 11 consecutive seasons, his career total numbering 370 blasts. He was also quite effective at drawing walks, topping out at 107 passes in 1952.
Hodges may or may not be disadvantaged by being surrounded by Hall of Famers Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella (who actually ranks below Hodges) on the Brooklyn Dodgers. Hodges is truly that player whose Hall of Fame status can go either way. Now that the Veterans Committee can consider his career, Hodges may yet find himself enshrined with his Dodger teammates. 
481. George Kelly – 517.2 points
George “Highpockets” Kelly was the first baseman for the New York Giants when Frankie Frisch was covering second, which explains Kelly’s inclusion in the Hall of Fame. Kelly was a pretty good hitter with some power, leading the National League with 23 home runs in 1921. He paced the senior circuit twice in runs batted in, peaking with 136 in 1924. His speed and ability to draw walks was very middling. He totaled 1,778 career hits and hit .297 for his career. The Veterans Committee enshrined him in 1973.
Theoretically, if Kelly was a bona fide Hall of Famer, then every hitter ranked above him would be, too. He ranks 481st among 1,946 hitters, 24.7% of the way down the list. Extend that to the 3,105 players who qualify or received votes for the Hall of Fame and that means 767 players would belong in Cooperstown, instead of just over 200 now. That total would represent 4.325% of every major league player ever, or 1 out just over every 23 players who stepped on a major league diamond for real action. 
Having nearly 800 players, each with their very own plaque, would be a real headache for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. They would need to build a large, new wing to the building, for which room no longer appears to exist in looking at the Google map. Visiting the Hall of Fame would then be a two day trip for thorough visitors like me – one day for the plaques and the other for the exhibits. 
It’s easier to simply admit that the Veterans Committee made some major mistakes (not limited to hitters, by the way), recognize those errors and do everything possible to not have any more such voting mishaps.
5. Greg Maddux – 1,406.3 points
Although most great pitchers started out as flame throwers, Greg Maddux proved the exception by building a career as the quintessential crafty right handed pitcher. Not an overpowering thrower, he still managed to fan 3,371 lifetime hitters.
The 1986 Chicago Cubs were an amazing team in that they featured two non-descript rookies and a washed up starter on their pitching staff. This trio combined for a forgettable 15-19 record for the season, not really helping the Cubs that year. Yet one of them is now a Hall of Famer, another will become one as soon as he is eligible and the third is still pitching at the age of 49 and can be considered a long shot possibility for the Hall of Fame. Dennis Eckersley had to get traded to the Oakland A’s to become a stellar closer, reviving his career. Maddux’s signing as a free agent with the Atlanta Braves had to become the greatest free agent signing of a starting pitcher for him to reach his potential. And Jamie Moyer has pitched with various teams in amassing his 260 plus wins, not yet having surrendered to Father Time as of this writing. Just imagine how the Cubs’ history would have changed had all three of them remained to fulfill their potential at Wrigley Field.
Maddux also redefined the measuring stick of success for starting pitchers. The 20-win season was always the standard of excellence and never was any thought given to a 15-win season as a pretty darned fine season in its own right. Two 20-win seasons seem paltry for such a tremendous career, but 17 15-win seasons (including 16 straight) better defines his career. 
His combined record of 35-8 in 1994-5 with a combined ERA of 1.60 stands as one the greatest stretches of pitching success ever. He ranks in the top 8 in all three Hall of Fame categories. Maddux is an absolute shoo-in for the Hall of Fame when he appears on the 2014 ballot.
19. Bert Blyleven – 963.4 points
Just looking at these career statistics of 287 wins vs. 250 losses, 3,701 strikeouts in 4,970.0 innings and 60 shutouts, wouldn’t you conclude that this guy is a Hall of Famer and not give it a second thought? So why did it take the baseball writers the full 15 years of Bert Blyleven’s eligibility on their ballot to finally elect him to the Hall of Fame? I can understand that the old time writers lacked the resources we enjoy today in evaluating players, but haven’t some (yes, a lot already have) of today’s writers caught on yet?
Granted, he lacked the dominant seasons virtually everybody else in this chapter put together, but his career numbers more than compensate for that. He ranks just 69th in adjusted peak Win Shares, but is a healthy 15th in adjusted career Win Shares and 18th in positional dominance. He ranked #1 once, #2 once and #3 twice, but really showed his positional dominance with 13 top 10 finishes. Check out baseballbypositions.com to see it all. 
Blyleven’s problem was that he was judged on the old standard of 20-win seasons, of which he had just one. He did, however, have 12 seasons of 14 or more wins, a better measure of his ability. Moreover, he threw five or more shutouts seven times, pacing the league on three occasions. He owns two dubious single season records – 50 home runs surrendered in 1986 and 20 no-decisions in 1979. 
His vote total of 3,094 with the writers is second only to that of Jim Bunning among starting pitchers. 
61. Orel Hershiser – 761.1 points
Orel Hershiser was given the nickname “Bulldog” as an ironic counterpoint to his boyish looking face. As it turned out, the nickname fit perfectly as he proved himself a very tenacious and determined pitcher. He was the National League’s best pitcher in the second half of the 1980’s. 
Hershiser pitched for a Los Angeles Dodger team that gave him little support in a pitcher’s park, a perfect recipe for mediocre win-loss records despite great earned run averages. In 1987, despite a 3.06 ERA, he wound up with only a 16-16 record and two years later, he had a 2.31 ERA and a 15-15 record, actually leading the league in losses. Those two years could easily have been 20 win seasons to go along with the 19 and 23 win seasons he actually enjoyed. 
His 23-8 record in 1988 was an epic effort as he led the league in innings pitched (one of three such titles in a row), complete games and shutouts with eight. In fact, he finished that season with the hottest streak ever – a record 59 consecutive shutout innings going into the playoffs. 
For his career, Hershiser won 204 and lost 150 with 25 lifetime shutouts. His 61st overall Hall of Fame ranking is comprised of a 59th place in adjusted career Win Shares, 63rd spot in adjusted peak Win Shares and 62nd place in positional dominance, a remarkably evenly balanced Hall of Fame qualification.
Hershiser was on the writers’ ballot for just two elections before falling below the required 15% to remain eligible for election by the writers. The Veterans Committee really should elect the best National League starting pitcher of the 1980’s to the Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible.
4. Billy Wagner – 552.5 points
The title of greatest left-handed closer ever is now settled for the foreseeable future. Previous contenders included Tug McGraw, John Franco, Sparky Lyle, Dave Righetti, and Randy Myers. Billy Wagner has easily surpassed all of them with no challengers in sight.
Wagner, a relatively (at least regarding pitchers) short 5’10”, was an absolute flamethrower, four times fanning better than 14 hitters per 9 innings, bordering on the ridiculous. His control was good enough to end up with a WHIP of less than 1.0 over seven seasons. He posted earned run averages of 1.57, 1.51 and 1.43 (in 2010, his final season) over his career. Although he never led the league in saves, his career high was a very solid 44 in 2003. 
Wagner totaled 422 career saves with a remarkable 2.31 ERA. His pitching quality is also highlighted by a lifetime 0.998 WHIP and 11.9 strikeouts per 9 innings. If the writers are on the ball, Wagner should get elected to the Hall of Fame in 2016 when his turn on the ballot arrives. 
Copyright © by Andre Lower 2012, excerpted from "Auditioning for Cooperstown: Rating Baseball's Stars for the Hall of Fame"