Saturday, January 1, 2011

Ten Worst Players in the Hall of Fame

I have no notes.  Just a self-explanatory list.

1.  Tommy McCarthy, OF (1884-96, BOS): 19 WAR/102 OPS+/32 FV
McCarthy was a rather mediocre outfielder for the better part of nine seasons, over which period he had a .301 AVG and an 106 OPS+.  Those numbers seem all right, but they're basically just the average of five good seasons and four bad ones.  During that stretch (aka "his whole career") he hit above .300 only four times, and had an OPS+ above 100 five times.  His biggest accomplishment was stealing bases, and he did rack up a decently impressive 468 in his career, however that's only makes him 43rd all-time.  Overall, McCarthy did nothing during his career to distinguish himself, and his place in Cooperstown is most puzzling.  I must concur with Bill James: Tommy McCarthy is indeed the worst player to be a member of the Hall of Fame.

2. Jesse Haines, SP (1918-37, STL): 210-158/33.8 WAR/109 ERA+
Much like McCarthy, Haines was a good--but not great--pitcher whose Hall of Fame status is a bit of a mystery.  Haines managed to rack up 210 wins for his career, getting at least twenty three times, but that was mostly a product of the talented St. Louis Cardinals teams on which he played.  Over the eleven seasons in which Haines started at least twenty games, he had an ERA under 3.00 only twice.  The most number of batters he ever struck out in a season was 120, and his lowest WHIP was 1.270 (his career number was 1.350, among the worst in the Hall).  His career ERA+ is not bad, but it's certainly not Hall of Fame level.  The other pitchers in the Hall with an ERA+ around 100 all had some significant accomplishment during their careers.  Not Haines, though.  He was a merely fine pitcher in an era with many a better pitcher.  He could be first on this list, but I'm more underwhelmed by McCarthy's lack of accomplishment.  It's a toss-up though.

3. Rick Ferrell, C (1929-47, SLB): 22.9 WAR/95 OPS+/-3 FV
The Hall of Fame cites Ferrell as a "defensive standout" whose most notable accomplishments include that he "retired having caught more games than any other American Leaguer" and that "he had a knack for handling the knuckler."  Color me unimpressed.  As his fielding value shows, he clearly was not a "standout," but rather a liability.  Catching more games than any other catcher in half of the major leagues is a nice statistic, like Dave Stieb having the most wins in the 1980s, but it doesn't mean you were an all-time great.  And being able to catch the knuckleball?  That's kind of necessary when your pitching staff is comprised wholly of knuckleball pitchers, but it doesn't mean that your ticket to Cooperstown should be automatically stamped.  All this would be somewhat all right if Ferrell was a decent hitter, but he was quite subpar, only hitting over .300 four times (lifetime average: .281).  Ferrell isn't at the top of this list just because I'm sure he was instrumental in the development of the position, or something, but it's close.  His WAR is the second lowest (first: Tommy McCarthy, of course) among all players who were inducted solely for their hitting in the major leagues, making him a clear choice for inclusion on this list.

4. Lloyd Waner, CF (1927-45, PIT): 24.3 WAR/99 OPS+/17 FV
Waner's probably in the Hall of Fame solely based on his .321 AVG, which is impressive until you realize that in 1929, when Waner hit .353, he only barely cracked the batting average top ten list.  That is, in the 1920s and 1930s people were hitting quite a lot, and Waner got swept up in the times.  If you look at his stats relative to the league at the time (aka OPS+) he fares rather poorly.  His OPS+ from 1927-1942, the duration of his career, is tied for 141st.  Getting 2459 hits is impressive enough, but when it's just a product of the era it loses a bit of its luster.  Waner had nothing else to supplement his game, and he is yet another odd, and ill-fitting, HoF case from the early 20th century.  Maybe the voters thought they were voting for his much more talented brother, Paul Waner.

5. Roger Bresnahan, C (1900-15, NYG): 41.6 WAR/126 OPS+/-15 FV
Speaking of underwhelming catchers from olden days of baseball, here's Bresnahan!  Most notable for being Christy Mathewson's catcher (a precedent that got Jerry Grote and Tim McCarver elected to the Hall?), Bresnahan slugged a fair bit for his day.  And by that I mean that during his seven seasons with 100+ games, he slugged at or above .400 only three times.  To further attack the first part of that sentence, it's remarkable how little Bresnahan played.  Over his fifteen seasons with double digit games, he averaged only 96 games per season.  If I were his manager, I would have been benching him that often too!  He didn't hit for average, was a bad defender, and hit for power in an era when power meant five home runs per year.  Bresnahan's relative "slugging" is the only thing that saves him from rising on this list, but there's no good reason for why he's in the Hall of Fame.  Maybe Christy Mathewson really was that hard to catch.

6. Freddie Lindstrom, 3B (1924-36, NYG): 29.2 WAR/110 OPS+/21 FV
In the ten seasons he played in at least 77 games (half the season), Lindstrom had a below average OPS+ four times, and an above average one seven times.  What does this tell us?  Lindstrom was merely a fair hitter.  He's so similar to the other entries on this list (decent hitter from the 1920s who was just above average for the era) that I won't spend much more time on him.  He got over 200 hits twice, which is nice, and once hit .379.  Does that make him a hall of famer, however?  It shouldn't.

7. High Pockets Kelly, 1B (1915-32, NYG): 24.3 WAR/109 OPS+/52 FV
George "High Pockets" Kelly is the first player on this list who's not merely mediocre.  That said, he wasn't anything too special.  He played in the same era as Lloyd Waner, yet only managed to bat .297 with 1777 hits.  Unlike Waner, Kelly was a slugger, and actually led the National League with 23 home runs in 1921.  He managed an above-average OPS+, showing that his game was actually elevated above that of his colleagues (hear that, Waner?).  Just because it was "elevated," however, doesn't mean that it was Hall of Fame-worthy.  From 1920-1930 Kelly had an OPS+ of 112, which is 45th over that period of time (and almost half that of Babe Ruth, who had a 215).  He was a "slugger," but wasn't nearly as good as others for his era.  His defense was good, but not enough to compensate for his average hitting.  If Kelly had produced at his 1920s level in the 1910s his statistics would look pretty good, but as it is they're fairly blah.  He was a good player, and had a few well above average seasons, but he was never a Hall of Famer.

8. Jim Bottomley, 1B (1922-37, STL): 32.4 WAR/124 OPS+/-73 FV
Hey look, another 1920s slugger whose numbers were good, but not great, relative to the time.  Actually, Bottomley was a tiny bit better than the others.  He won an MVP in 1928 for hitting .325 with 136 RBI and 31 home runs (both of which led the league).  He was a pretty consistent slugger for a decent period of time, and shakes out pretty similarly to Will Clark and Don Mattingly.  What did Bottomley have that Clark and Mattingly didn't, however?  A glove with a hole in it.  Okay, not literally, but Bottomley was just an awful defender.  His FV is fourth lowest of all the position players in the Hall, and third worst all-time at first base, but he was a significantly worse hitter than the players he is above (Willie McCovey, Harmon Killebrew, and Dave Winfield).  Fielding is an integral part of the game, and Bottomley failed at it.  Of course, in the modern era he would be a perfect designated hitter.  In the 1920s, however, Bottomley was a good slugger who had a small number of great seasons and an inability to field his position.  That is not a Hall of Fame-making combination.

9. Herb Pennock, SP (1912-34, NYY): 241-162/36.9 WAR/106 ERA+
Pennock's career was strangely akin to High Pockets Kelly's.  They both started playing full-time at the tail end of the Dead Ball era, had MVP consideration-caliber seasons in 1924-6, and faded by 1932.  Similar to Kelly, Pennock put up good numbers, but each was really just average compared to his colleagues of the era.  From 1919-1932 Pennock registered an ERA under 3 four times, though he did post an ERA+ over 100 nine times.  Pennock's wins are deceiving: he was a starting pitcher for the Yankees during the "Murderer's Row" age, hence his ability to register 23 wins while subsequently having an ERA of 3.62 (ERA+: 107).  Pennock was clearly not a bad pitcher, and might even have a Hall of Fame based on his ERA+'s, but being able to pitch when Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth are in the lineup every day would greatly boost any pitcher's career.

10. Chick Hafey, OF (1924-37, STL): 29.5 WAR/133 OPS+/-8 FV
When he played, Hafey was a very good player.  He had an OPS+ greater than 130 seven times (six of them from 1927-32), though he never played in more than 144 games in a season (averaging 116 over his main starting stretch of 1925-34).  My main problem with Hafey's inclusion in the Hall of Fame is that he was a very good player for only a short stretch of time.  He's very similar to Dale Murphy in that way, however Hafey never really established dominance over the game the way Murphy did.  Hafey's 1927-32 OPS+ of 149 is ninth in that period of time.  Also, Hafey's performance outside of that stretch was only fair.  He only played 583 games in the seven other seasons he was in the major leagues (an average of 83 per year), and had an OPS+ of 111 (fairly mediocre) during that period.  If you read my post on this year's Hall of Very Good, you probably noticed that I don't think Murphy belongs in the Hall of Fame.  Well, the same applies to Hafey, though it's semi-close.

Runners-up: Burleigh Grimes, SP (1916-34, BRO); George Kell, 3B (1943-57, DET); Rube Marquard, SP (1908-25, NYG); Ray Schalk, C (1912-29, CHW)

9 comments:

  1. Please. You know stolen bases are the only stat that matters. Tommy McCarthy deserves a spot right next to Rickey Henderson in the HOF.

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  2. Ah, Pennock and Haines. Two of the pitchers I always bring up to my Blyleven-hating friends. (I usually include Grimes, Waite Hoyt and Bob Lemon to make it an even five.)

    Thanks for writing these. This site is going to help me through the winter months...

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  3. My list of pitchers (post-1920 only) who should be voted out of the HOF, or at least considered for "demotion." Look at Early Wynn. 300 wins? He was the Jack Morris of his day if not worse.

    http://socraticgadfly.blogspot.com/2011/01/who-would-you-vote-back-out-of-mlb-hof.html

    Working on a similar list for batters.

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  4. I really, really like this list except: Bresnahan is in the Hall mostly for developing the first real catching equipment, which I believe were shin pads.

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  5. Nice list. My batters honorable mentions: Dave Bancroft (2004 Hits,32 HR,.279 Avg), Frank Chance(1274,20,.296), Johnny Evers(1659,12,.270), Joe Gordon(1530,253,.268), Bill Mazeroski(2016,138,.260), Bid McPhee(1297,26,.279), Pee Wee Reese ((2170,126,.269), Phil Rizzuto (1588,38,.273), Ray Schalk(1345,11,.253), Joe Tinker(1560,29,.263), and Monte Ward (1919,22,.270)

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  6. My pitchers honorable mentions were more difficult. Some had decent win totals but low strikeouts and high ERA, which could be more of a reflection of the great teams they played on than their pitching "greatness". Some had low win and strikeout totals but decent ERA's. Anyways, here they are: Dizzy Dean (150 Wins,1163 SO,3.02 ERA), Lefty Gomez (189,1468,3.34), Waite Hoyt (237,1206,3.59), Bob Lemon (207,1277,3.23), Ted Lyons (260,1073,3.67), Rube Marquard (201,1593,3.08), Herb Pennock (241,1227,3.60), and Dazzy Vance (197,2045,3.24),

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  7. Bresnahan's OPS+ was 126 which is one of the top marks all-time for a catcher. Maybe not Hall material but far from the fifth worst selection.

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  8. It is no mystery why Haines in the Hall of Fame. Nor is it a mystery why Lindstrom, Bottomly, Hafey and Kelly are in. All of them were teammates of Frankie Frisch who as a bigwig of the HOFs veterans committee made sure all of them were elected.

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  9. You might want to learn a little bit about the game and the players! Schalk pretty much revolutionized the way the catching position was played defensively. Marquard, the expensive lemon for the Giants early on, was right on par for the Giants when they won the three straight pennants from 1911-1913 going 73-28 to Matthewson's 74-36 and also helping Brooklyn to their first world series in 1916! Those are just a few examples of the ignorance displayed in this article!

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