Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Can you guess the Hall of Famer?
By David Schoenfield
Let's play a little Hall of Fame game. I'm going to present two players with similar statistics. One is in the Hall of Fame and the other is on this year's ballot. Presented two lines of numbers, can you guess which player is the Hall of Famer? Check the numbers, vote in our poll and then check below to see who the players are. (No cheating!)
Comparison No. 1
My favorite part of this comparison are the final two stats: runs created and outs made, with the two players nearly identical over their careers.
I should note that these two are contemporaries and the Hall of Famer made it in the first year he was on the ballot.
While the Hall of Famer was never considered the best player in the game, there is an argument to be made that the non-Hall of Famer was the best player in the game at his peak.
Both were good defensive players and had speed, at least early in their careers.
Comparison No. 2
Two hard-hitting outfielders who both fell short of many of the magic Hall of Fame numbers such as 500 home runs and 3,000 hits due to relatively short careers.
Both had some monster seasons, however. The Hall of Famer led his league in several offensive categories at various times, including runs scored, home runs, RBIs, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. The non-Hall of Famer also led his league in home runs, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Both were considered good all-around players.
The Hall of Famer took a few years to get elected, but nobody ever calls him out as a poor selection.
Comparison No. 3
Let's try two starting pitchers.
I can say these two were pretty similar in many ways, both among the biggest names in the sport while active, with some legendary tales about their performances.
Both pitched for multiple World Series champions but neither came close to 300 wins. Their adjusted ERAs are pretty similar.
When elected, the Hall of Famer was viewed as a controversial selection, in large part because of his win total. The non-Hall of Famer will have to face that same bias.
Comparison No. 4
Two guys who relied on their bats to earn their paychecks. Both hit cleanup for World Series champs and were viewed as among the premier sluggers in the game at their peaks.
The Hall of Famer made it on his first year on the ballot and made seven All-Star teams. The non-Hall of Famer made five All-Star teams. Both led their league twice in home runs.
The Hall of Famer hit 30-plus home runs six times while the non-Hall of Famer hit 30-plus home runs 10 times, including six seasons in a row at one point.
According to Baseball-Reference, both players had five seasons with 4-plus WAR.
Comparison No. 5
This one is my favorite comparison on the list.
They didn't play the same position, but both did play key up-the-middle positions and were awarded multiple Gold Gloves in their careers.
One guy was part of more than one World Series champion while the other never played in a World Series. The Hall of Famer made it in on his third year on the ballot while the non-Hall of Famer has work to do.
As far as fame, both would rate very high in that category while active. Had they played longer, both would have a better chance to meet some of the automatic Hall of Fame standards.
Comparison No. 6
These two guys played the same position and had several seasons in which their careers overlapped, although they played in different leagues.
Both were arguably the best player on a World Series championship team.
While the Hall of Famer made it after a short stay on the ballot, the non-Hall of Famer has struggled to get enough support. Both players won multiple Gold Gloves. The Hall of Famer hit .300 nine times and the non-Hall of Famer hit .300 seven times.
According to Baseball-Reference, the Hall of Famer had eight four-win seasons while the non-Hall of Famer had nine. This one is close.
Comparison No. 1: Player A is Tony Gwynn and Player B is Tim Raines.
Of course, I left out Gwynn's 3,000 hits and .338 career average. But as you can see from above, the two were quite similar players: Raines drew more walks, hit a few more home runs and stole more bases at an excellent percentage, making up the advantage Gwynn had in base hits. But Gwynn won batting titles and Raines' dominant years in the '80s came in the obscurity of Montreal.
Comparison No. 2: Player A is Larry Walker and Player B is Duke Snider.
Snider's Hall of Fame case was originally hurt by the fact that he wasn't Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle. Of course, who is? But he was a key member of one of the great teams of all time, the 1950s Brooklyn Dodgers. Snider never won an MVP Award but finished as high as second; Walker won MVP in 1997. Of course, Walker is questioned because of the Coors Field numbers, but as you can see, each player's adjusted OPS is about the same. (Ebbets Field was a great hitters' park as well, and Snider's career OPS is 79 points higher at home.)
Comparison No. 3: Player A is Curt Schilling and Player B is Don Drysdale.
Two hard-throwing right-handers who racked up strikeouts. Schilling, of course, has the great postseason record (11-2, 2.23 ERA); Drysdale was 3-3, 2.95 in the postseason (all World Series games). Both pitched for three World Series champs. Drysdale has the lower career ERA -- 2.95 to 3.46 -- but once you adjust for eras and ballpark (Dodger Stadium in the '60s was a great pitchers' park), Schilling's ERA is a little better.
Comparison No. 4: Player A is Willie Stargell and Player B is Fred McGriff.
And both had cool nicknames as well -- Pops and Crime Dog. Stargell did win an MVP (shared with Keith Hernandez) but that was an award earned for leadership more than production; he did finish second twice in the voting. McGriff finished as high as fourth in the voting.
Comparison No. 5: Player A is Bernie Williams and Player B is Ryne Sandberg.
This was my favorite comparison on the list. Sandberg made it on the third ballot while Williams, despite playing center field for four World Series champs, got just under 10 percent of the vote his first year on the ballot. Shouldn't center fielders be given a similar defensive consideration as second basemen?
Comparison No. 6: Player A is Barry Larkin and Player B is Alan Trammell.
There is very little to separate these two. Larkin did win an MVP Award, but Trammell should have won in 1987, when he finished second. Larkin played until he was 40, but their career games totals are similar. I think his edge over Trammell is that once Ozzie Smith faded, Larkin was viewed as the best shortstop in the National League. Trammell was always behind somebody -- Robin Yount or Cal Ripken, and then after he retired, the AL had all the shortstops putting up the big numbers -- A-Rod, Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra and Miguel Tejada. But there's no shame in being ranked behind Yount or Ripken. Trammell deserves to join Larkin in Cooperstown.