Hall of Very Good vs. Hall of Fame
BtB Aids in the Baseball Hall of Fame Debate By Paul Bessire, WhatIfSports.com July 27th, 2008
It is a debate that rages on in these parts (Cincinnati) all year round, but only truly picks up steam nationally in the winter when the new Hall of Fame member(s) are announced and this weekend when Major League Baseball enshrines those elite few: Who should be in the Hall of Fame, but isn't? Pete Rose? Ron Santo? Bert Blyleven? Jim Rice? Mark McGwire? Joe Jackson? Those can be some pretty loaded questions that generate heated debate and we have a unique way to objectively answer them.
In a manor that was originally constructed by hockey historian, Mike Wyman, for a similar debate related to the hockey Hall of Fame, we will approach this debate by trying to answer the question, "Could a team comprised of the best 25 former MLB players not in the MLB Hall of Fame (aka the "Hall of the Very Good" team) defeat a completely random team of those in the Hall of Fame?". (Note: For clarification, we are counting all players who have been retired for five years or more as eligible for the former team - so Pete Rose and the Black Sox can get in - and only those who have been inducted for their contributions as players on the latter.) To do this, we will perfectly mesh our SimLeague Baseball and SimMatchup technologies by building the Hall of the Very Good (HVG) roster based entirely on career player salaries from the Diamond Legends Career League option of SimLeague Baseball and then simulating a seven game series between the two teams 1,000 times in SimMatchup (more on this in a minute).
Disagree with our ultimate result? Want to make your own all-time teams? Check out our free Dream Teams functionality to build a team of your own or play SimLeague Baseball to compete against others to see who can create and manage the best team of historical baseball players.
Though we have chosen the HVG team in a deterministic manner, it should be noted that some great players generally in the debate did not make the cut (like Pete Rose, Andre Dawson and Jim Rice). While those players may also have strong cases, this is more indicative of the high level of talent that is not in the Hall of Fame - primarily in the corner outfield and corner infield positions. It seems as though most fans often focus more on aggregate totals (i.e. how many homeruns did he hit in his career?) rather than era-adjusted, ratio statistics (i.e. how many more total bases per at-bat did he generate than his peers? Or how many baserunners per inning pitched did he give up relative to his peers?) and consistency over time. The SimLeague Baseball career formula accounts for all of these pieces, including longevity and how the player's ratio stats compare both historically and within era, giving every element to this argument (except "did he bet on baseball?") its appropriate weight.
To choose the HVG team, we built rosters from the top 13 position player seasons with the highest cost and the 12 pitchers with the highest cost per inning pitched from throughout history. Baseball has done an excellent job of identifying starting pitchers for the Hall of Fame. For some positions, like catcher and relief pitcher, we only had to go down a couple of spots in our positional rankings. The starting pitchers we chose took much longer to find and have a much weaker debate for the Hall than others. Another observation in choosing players is that many of those on the Hall of the Very Good team played immediately preceding a time of expansion. This is typically the time when the talent across the entire league is the greatest, making it more difficult to stand out and post gaudy numbers.
With the Hall of Famers, we literally looked at an alphabetical list of players by position and drew random numbers to select the team. In both cases, we let the simulator optimize batting lineups and pitching staffs. Click on a player's name to view his career stats, including advanced stats like those referenced above and also including defensive evaluations.
Pitchers - Addie Joss, Cy Young, Mordecai Brown, Fergie Jenkins, Charley Radbourn, Clark Griffith - in as Executive/Pioneer/Player, Bob Lemon, Jack Chesbro, Jim Palmer, Tim Keefe, Dennis Eckersley and Bruce Sutter
Hall of the Very Good: Starting Lineup - Joe Torre (C) - should be in as a player, but will probably make it as manager, Mark McGwire (1B), Buddy Myer (2B), Vern Stephens (SS), Ron Santo (3B), Joe Jackson (OF), Albert Belle (OF) and Bob Johnson (OF)
Pitchers - Bret Saberhagen, Eddie Cicotte - that makes two Black Sox, Babe Adams, Sam McDowell, Doc White, Ed Morris, Ron Guidry, Ed Reulbach, John Wetteland - and we don't factor in the Post-Season, Robb Nen and Tom Henke
So which team wins? According to 1,000 simulations of a seven game series between these two teams, it's the Random HOFers - barely. The Random HOFers win 57.5% of the series with a seven game series being the most likely result. In the hockey debate, the result went the other way. It seems the MLB voters have done a much better job selecting the best to induct. In fact, by putting Joe Jackson and Eddie Cicotte in the HVG category (and watching them perform so well in the sim), it is a former commissioner - not the voters - Kennesaw Mountain Landis who has the most to do with the success of the HVG team. Other bright spots for the HVG team are Vern Stephens and the bullpen. Clearly, even with the recent inductions of Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage, the Hall of Fame is behind in acknowledging the efforts of relief pitchers.
What follows is an example series based on the most common result of those simulations. It includes boxscores, play-by-play and stats for each game in the series. Click on the links to see the entire breakdown of the game.
Game 1 Hall of the Very Good 7 @ Random HOFers 3: Boxscore with play-by-play>
Game 2 Hall of the Very Good 7 @ Random HOFers 5: Boxscore with play-by-play>
Game 3 Random HOFers 6 @ Hall of the Very Good 4: Boxscore with play-by-play>
Game 4 Random HOFers 3 @ Hall of the Very Good 1: Boxscore with play-by-play>
Game 5 Random HOFers 5 @ Hall of the Very Good 2: Boxscore with play-by-play>
Game 6 Hall of the Very Good 4 @ Random HOFers 0: Boxscore with play-by-play>
Game 7 Hall of the Very Good 1 @ Random HOFers 8: Boxscore with play-by-play>
And for those who may be interested, the roster would look like this if we constructed a team of players in not yet eligible in the same manner that we built the HVG team:
We hope that you enjoy our Beyond the Boxscore feature. As with all of our games, we are willing to listen to feedback and improve this page and content to make it as interesting and user-friendly as possible. With any comments, questions or topic suggestions, please contact BtB@whatifsports.com. Thanks!
Whatifsports specializes in answering the great "What if?" questions in sports by simulating games between historical teams, and has exciting simulation games for MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, college basketball and college football.