Baseball Writers Suck And How to Better the HOF Vote

How in the heck did Walt Weiss, Greg Jefferies, Doug Jones, Rick Aguilera, John Wetteland, Gary Gaetti, Ozzie Guillen, and Hal Morris get votes? And how does Will Clark not get more than 5% of the votes and therefore is dropped off the ballot? I don't know if there's anything to do for borderline cases like Clark (I love Clark but I can see why people don't want him in; I can go either way, I've seen some eloquent stats put up for why he belongs, I see that after a great start, he was an hobbled star who could not play a full season that often) but how can any voter keep their right to vote by voting for those other guys?

I have also always been stupified by the writer's voting (how does Mays and Aaron not get 100%? And that's just for starters, how does Babe Ruth not get 100%?) and have thought about ways to try to get around this but I've never found anything satisfactory. Any penalty system will change people's votes to be more cautious, voting for borderline candidates when he would have voted against, just to avoid a penalty, for example. But it would certainly avoid atrocities of obviously non-HOF getting a vote. Personally, if I had known a writer who didn't vote for Mays, I would have scorched him in print in a column, that would be so idiotic.

My Proposal: Three Strikes and You're Out

My idea, just to throw it out there, feel free to tear apart, is to have a "three strike and you're out" system. You get a strike if you vote for anyone who gets 1.0% or less of the votes. That was the easy one. We could make it 2% but 1% covers 5 votes and that seems fair to me.

The harder one is the reverse: the gimmees. Obviously, whoever didn't vote for Ruth, Mays or Aaron would get a strike. But Frank Robinson would appear to be an obvious HOF to me but only got 89.2% of the vote, whereas Aaron got 97.8%, Mays got "only" 94.7%, and Ruth got 95.1%. That seems way too low a threshold.

And speaking of Ruth, lets look at the first five inductees. Ty "Georgia Peach" Cobb got 98.2% of the vote, Honus "The Flying Dutchman" Wagner tied Ruth at 95.1%, Christy "Big 6" Mathewson had 90.7% of the vote and Walter "The Big Train" Johnson got only 83.65 of the vote. I would think that they were all obvious inductees today but look at their vote totals. Where do you draw the line?

And how about this factoid: Cy Young, whose name now graces the award for the top pitcher of the year, got only 49.1% of the vote in that first vote. I guess they were having problems with peak vs. longevity from the very first vote. Looking over Young's baseball-reference profile, he rarely led the league in anything but just kept on plugging away and pitched for 22 years, only 2 of which he had an ERA below the league average. He led in a lot of saber-stats, like WHIP and K/W, but in the traditional stats of that era, his only one was, obviously, wins, where he led the league 5 times in his 22 seasons, not too shabby, but I guess not deserving enough when you don't strike out a ton of people, like the Big Train did.

So where to set the tipping point? Given that Mays and Ruth had approximate 95%, that would seem to the minimum to set the bar, but in this case, none of the Mays non-voters would have gotten a strike. Dropping it down to 85% to include Frank Robinson seems a bit extreme. So maybe 90% might be the right balance. It misses Frank Robinson but should honor most of the obvious candidates with a high vote

So that got me thinking about the lower threshold. Maybe 1% is too low. Looking over the votes of the past few years, anywhere from 1% to even 5% (the minimum necessary to keep your name on the ballot) would seem reasonable, it depended, year by year. Lets go with 2.5% as the balance point on that one, that's about 12-13 votes, still a fringe candidate. That doesn't penalize any of the people not voting for Will Clark, but that's baseball, sometimes the ball doesn't go your way.

Lastly, I was just thinking that perhaps losing your vote is too harsh. It's not like they killed a player or anything, at least not literally. Maybe it could be like a suspension of some sort, instead of a permanent loss of voting right for three strikes. So they don't get to vote until they tack on, say, another three years of experience (I think the minimum right now is 10 years experience as a baseball writer in the association/union that they have) as penance.

The Rule

So the rule would then be the writer get a strike if they vote for anyone getting less than or equal to 2.5% of the vote or does not vote for anyone getting 90% or more of the vote and after three strikes, they need to work another three years as a baseball writer to earn back the right. This way, they won't be cautious with their vote until they get to two strikes. And maybe throw in you lose a strike after 3 years of going without a strike, so that the writer is not stuck at two strikes for the rest of his career and this only applies if you have a strike. Anyway, just a thought, something to work on when I'm perturbed by the latest HOF vote. I'll try to remember to revisit this next year.

Bobby Bonds Gets Stat Support for Hall of Fame - repost

Repost of article posted on November 19, 2005: corrected garbled first paragraph to include proper links to the article that prompted me to post this in the first place plus to my original article and follow-up article.

There was a very interesting article written by John Brattain for The Hardball Times about Bobby Bonds credential for the Hall of Fame. It has a lot more info than the original article that I wrote or the other one I wrote here on my blog.

One additional point the author could have added was that his totals were warped by the fact that he spent his early part of his career leading off and the latter as an RBI guy. That hurt his chances to get RBIs in the early part of his career, then hurt his chances to get runs later in his career. If he had strictly stayed one or the other, he could have put up bigger numbers in one or the other, instead of where he is now.

It gave him more of a jack of trades look, statistically, when he could have been a run machine like Ricky Henderson or an RBI machine like any other middle of the lineup guy. As it was, I think that he was up among the top 100 in a number of the major offensive categories when he retired but his notoriety as a strikeout beast, plus he didn't make friends in the media (imagine how bad Barry must be relatively for his dad to have told him to take it easy), cost him any chance for the Hall of Fame, as well as his travels to 7 teams in 7 years in his last years. And despite the strikeouts, his contact rate was at least over the 75% rate for much of his career, the minimum rate for contact, particularly during his best years. And he walked enough so that for his career, he had just over 50% walks:strikeout ratio, which is not as bad as one would think given all the strikeouts, though still not that good, just barely acceptable.

The author should have also emphasized his OBP a bit more. Yes, he struck out a lot but he also got a lot of walks, his walk rate was consistently and comfortably over 10%. Given what we know now about the importance of getting on base, I think this was one area that he was never given his due on. Thus his OBP throughout his career was in the OK to good range, .330 to .375, until his final years. And his OBP was at or above (looks like averaged about 24 point above) the league OBP for his whole career, except for his next to last season. That plus his power contributed to a strong OPS throughout most of his career. His OPS+ was consistently in the 120-150 range throughout his career. He never had one year with his OPS+ under 100, even at the end of his career.

Given all this, I've always thought that he should be in the hall of fame, but now with this further evidence, that should make his case a bit more: he was not just a prodigious strike-out artist, nor just a hybrid, odd-ball power-speed athlete, nor a failed Willie Mays wannabe (in media's eyes, of course), nor just Barry Bonds father - he was the best RF in the game for a 10 years out of 14 career seasons. What more does an baseball player have to do?


Interesting Question: Will Schmidt Rebound

A burning question for Giants fans is whether Jason Schmidt will return to past glory or if he's on the downside of his career. That is very important because of a number of factors. First and most importantly, he's the ace of our staff. Secondly and also very importantly, we are paying him $10.5M this season. In addition, this could be Bonds swan song season with the Giants and it would be sabotaged by another Schmidt Magical Mystery Tour. Lastly, our pitching staff does not have the depth to replace a Jason Schmidt at the moment (though we hope Matt Cain will) and if he doesn't do well, it is not like we could drop him mid-season like we did with Rueter and replace him.

Analyzing Schmidt's 2005 Season

Schmidt definitely wasn't the Schmidt we knew but he was good most of the season. Unfortunately, he had a few oddities in the season that made his overall seasonal stats look poor. If you cut out his bad May, his overall ERA was 3.96. Alternatively, if you cut out his poor outing at Great American (since he won't pitch there in 2006) and his lousy PETCO performance (normally a strong pitchers park, he did well before there), he had a 3.82 ERA overall otherwise. Taking out those anomalies dropped his ERA considerably; taking out both would have returned his stats to near what we normally see from Schmidt.

Most projections and indicators I've seen so far pegs Schmidt for a good to great rebound. For one, his FIP was 3.86 in 2005, which means his performance was generally in that range. According to Bill James projections, Schmidt will have a 3.32 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 8.7 K/9, 3.5 W/9, 0.8 HR/9, 2.5 K/W, all pretty good except for W/9, which is a little on the high side (3.0 is the ideal minimum for that but his high K/9 rate makes up for it in a big way. Also, his post ASG stats was 3.66 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, .216 BAA, which was pretty good for almost anyone else, but poor based on his past performances for the Giants. Second half stats are good indicators for the next season.

Schmidt Should Be OK in 2006

I think by most indications Schmidt had a year that in most years would have been a mid to high 3's ERA, which is good, not great. It looks bad in particular compared to what we fans have been expecting from him. In addition, he kept his K/W ratio at 2 or above for most months, he really only had one bad month with that and that was May again. Keeping it above 2 is key to keeping his ERA in the right range, below 4 and ideally below 3.5, if he is going to be our ace. Plus it is his free agent year so he will be motivated to perform well and get a huge contract.

Picking up his option was a no-brainer. Given that the Giants already owed him a $3M buyout if they did not pick up his option, his effective net cost in 2006 is only $7.5M, which would have only bought us a Loaiza or Byrd at the going price for starters. He should be much better than either of them. I think he'll be fine in our new reconstructed starting rotation, hopefully we can get another decent starter to round things out at the bottom and provide our system with some starting pitcher depth with Hennessey and Correia backing up the starting rotation in AAA.

Food for Thought: Trade Schmidt?

Given that this is Schmidt's free agent year, do the Giants trade him? Sacriligious one might say, particularly if the Giants are trying to win the World Series, but do we risk losing him for nothing but perhaps draft picks after the season? But there are scenarios where I can see it happening.

Obviously, it would be a no-brainer if the Giants self-destructs again and are at or near the bottom again by mid-season. He would bring a lot from a contender, particular if he is pitching as well as I've painted above. Plus the move would save a lot of money from this season that could be used next season. The prospects would help set us up for 2007, like how the A's did it with Hudson and particularly Mulder.

But what if the Giants are competitive or even leading the division? It will definitely be a tough choice and a bold risk. But if things are going well, then what if Morris is putting in a good season as expected, Lowry continues to build upon his August, and Cain just continues to amazes? That would give us the three strong starters most teams would need to get through the playoffs. That could allow the Giants to trade Schmidt for a good young starter to a contender who needs experience over youth plus pick up a few other prospects in the deal as well or to fill whatever other needs we might have at that time, whether relievers or position players.

Because Schmidt, if he performs even moderately well in 2006, will probably be looking at getting a contract in the $12-15M per year range, based on what we've seen this off-season, and a multi-year contract, probably 3 years with a team option for the 4th with a buyout. The Giants could afford that with all the free agents leaving after the season but they probably will balk at the money and the years, particularly given Schmidt fragile status over the years.

Besides, if Bonds does retire or, worse, perform poorly, Sabean will be looking to spend his money on a young hitter to replace Bonds in the lineup. And I would think Derrek Lee would be very attractive unless the Cubs resign him beforehand. But I would think that they would have announced a deal with Lee by now, like how the Pirates handled Jason Bay, or the Cards with Rolen, unless Lee is looking to both enjoy free agency plus look to get back closer to home, which is Sacramento. Which is not that far away from SF. Keep your fingers crossed!