Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Worst of the Best: The Baseball Hall of Fame's Worst Players by Position

Yesterday, the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee had an election for candidates of the post-expansion era. Of the 15 men on the list, including George Steinbrenner, Steve Garvey, and Ted Simmons, only one man, Pat Gillick, was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Gillick was the GM for three World Series winning teams and built playoff teams in four different cities (Toronto, Baltimore, Seattle, Philadelphia), so I don't see why he shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. However, it did get me to thinking, just who are the least deserving members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. So, here we are. Like the previous post about the worst Pro Football Hall of Famers, I will name the worst Hall of Famer by position.

C - Ray Schalk, playing career 1912-1929, elected 1955

Of all the position players in the Hall of Fame, Schalk's .253 career batting average is the lowest. Combine that with a lack of power (.311 SLG, 11 career home runs), and Schalk was just about worthless with the bat. True, Schalk was considered the top defensive catcher in his time, but his defense could not compensate for his offensive ineptitude enough to make Schalk a worthy Hall of Famer.

If Schalk is in, then why not:

Wally Schang? Schang played in roughly the same time-period as Schalk (1913-1931) and while he never was the best fielder behind the plate, his bat was the best among catchers for a number of years. Of all catchers with more than 3,000 career plate appearances, Schang's .393 on-base percentage is third all time, only behind Mickey Cochrane and Joe Mauer, and Schang had eight seasons with an OBP over .400. A member of three World Championship teams, Schang finished in the top 10 in OBP six times, in Slugging Percentage four times, and in adjusted OPS+ 5 times. His career line (.284/.393/.401) and championship pedigree is superior to Schalk (.253/.340/.316, one world championship), but Schang is still on the outside of the Hall doors.

1B - George Kelly, 1915-1932, elected 1973

Kelly is perhaps the biggest example of getting into the Hall of Fame because of the people he knew rather than his skill on the diamond. Kelly had a few decent seasons in the early 1920s, leading the NL in home runs in 1921 and playing in four straight World Series for the Giants (1921-1924). Kelly was also regarded as a top notch fielder at his position, and surely would have won a few gold gloves had they been in existence during his playing days. But Kelly was not an effective ballplayer past the age of 30, and his career line of .297/.342/.452 was good, but not Hall of Fame caliber. Most of the writers seemed to think Kelly was not worthy of election, as he never got more than five votes on a single ballot. But in 1973, Kelly's old teammates Frankie Frisch and Bill Terry were the heads of the Veterans Committee, and brazenly voted Kelly in to the baseball Hall of Fame. That selection, and others like it (including four other players on this list) caused the baseball Hall of Fame to restructure the Veterans Committee some years later.

If Kelly is in, then why not:

Gil Hodges? Hodges, like Kelly, gained his fame playing in New York (Hodges for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Kelly for the New York Giants). Hodges, however, has more staying power than Kelly, as he was the top first baseman in the National League for nearly a decade. During his career, Hodges slugged 370 home runs and drove in 1,274 runs. Hodges had 10 seasons where he finished in the top 10 in home runs, seven top ten finishes in RBIs, and six top ten finishes in slugging percentage. Not only that, but Hodges was also an excellent fielder, winning the Gold Glove the first three years of its existence, and had the Gold Glove been around earlier, Hodges would have added a few more to his resume. Of all the players that haven't been elected, Hodges has the most votes by the baseball writers' association, and has narrowly missed election in the Hall of Fame a few time by the veterans committee. It's possible that Hodges will be elected soon, but for now, he's the best first baseman outside of the Hall of Fame.

2B - Bill Mazeroski - 1956-1972, Elected 2001

Mazeroski is known mainly for two things, his excellent defense (probably the best of any second baseman in history) and for hitting the game winning home run in game seven of the 1960 World Series. That's all well and good, but it does not make for a Hall of Famer. Mazeroski played 17 years, and failed to put up an OPS+ over 100 (which is basically average production) one time. His on-base percentage of .299 is the lowest of any Hall of Fame position player. Mazeroski may have won eight Gold Gloves and played in nine All-Star games, but I fail to see how a .260 hitter with little power, little base running speed, and who couldn't take a walk is considered a Hall of Famer.


If Mazeroski is in, then why not:

Willie Randolph? Randolph may not have been the same caliber fielder as Mazeroski, but the longtime Yankee was far superior offensively. In roughly the same number of games (Randolph - 2,202, Mazeroski - 2,163). Randolph got more hits (2,210-2,016), more runs (1,239-769), and more walks (1,243-447). Maz had a little more power than Randolph, but Randolph was more of a threat on the basepaths (271 steals). Overall, Randolph's line (.276/.373/.351 104 OPS+) is superior than Mazeroski's (.260/.299/.367 84 OPS+), but while Maz is in, Randolph has little or no chance of getting inducted into Cooperstown.

3B - Freddie Lindstrom - 1924-1936, Inducted 1976

Another selection of the Frankie Frisch led Veteran's Committee, Lindstrom had a few good years for the New York Giants, hitting .379 in 1930 and leading the NL in hits in 1928 with 231, when he was a mere 22 years old. However, his last good season came at the age of 27, and Lindstrom seemingly did not put together enough quality seasons to reach the Hall of Fame. The writers seemed to agree, as Lindstrom never received more than seven votes while on the ballot. But Lindstrom had friends in high places, so in spite of his short career, he got in.

If Lindstrom is in, then why not:

Stan Hack? Other than perhaps Ron Santo, Hack is the best third baseman outside of the Hall of Fame. Hack, the Cubs' leadoff hitter for a number of years, was quite adapt at getting on base, as his .394 career OBP and eight top ten finishes in OBP shows. Hack also led the NL in hits twice (1940-41), had seven season of 100 or more runs scored, and hit over .300 in six seasons. A six time All-Star, Hack played in four World Series with the Cubs, and led the league in stolen bases in 1938 and 1939. Hack's career line of .301/.393/.397 119 OPS+ compares rather favorably with Lindstrom's .311/.351/.459 110 OPS+, and Hack had more quality seasons than Lindstrom, but Lindstrom impressed the right people, so he got in despite Hack being the superior ballplayer.

SS - Travis Jackson, 1922-1936, Inducted 1982

Like Lindstrom and Kelly, Jackson was a New York Giant. Like Lindstrom and Kelly, Jackson's numbers look better than they are because they played in perhaps the highest-scoring era in baseball history. Jackson wasn't a bad ballpayer, but his lack of durability (only 4 seasons with 140+ games played), and his relatively unspectacular resume (although he did have more power than any other shortstop during his time, with four top 10 home run finishes), makes him a weak candidate for the Hall of Fame.

If Jackson is in, then why not:

Bill Dahlen? Dahlen, who also played for the Giants (as well as the Cubs, Braves, and Dodgers) was every bit the defensive player Jackson was, but also more durable and more important to his team offensively. Among shortstops, Dahlen is sixth all-time in both runs and stolen bases, and 12th in hits. Dahlen's 109 OPS+ is seven points better than Jackson's, and Dahlen finished in top ten in home runs, stolen bases, and walks in 5 different seasons. Dahlen also had nine seasons of 30+ steals, once compiled a 42-game hitting streak, and even led the NL in RBI in 1904. But for whatever reason, Dahlen was largely forgotten by voters, garnering only three votes total by the BBWAA.

LF - Chick Hafey - 1924-1937, Inducted 1971

Chick Hafey was one heck of a hitter, even accounting for the era he played in and his poor eyesight. During his career, Hafey won a batting title in 1931 and led the NL in slugging percentage in 1927. Hafey finished in the top 10 in Adjusted OPS+ and slugging percentage five times, and also finished in the top 10 in home runs six times. The problem with Hafey is that he didn't play nearly enough. During his career, Hafey only had eight season where he played more than 100 games, and two where he played more than 140.  Yes, Hafey had five pretty good years, but so did a lot of other guys not in the Hall of Fame.

If Hafey is in, then why not:

Lefty O'Doul? Like Hafey, O'Doul probably didn't play long enough to truly deserve induction into the Hall of Fame, but O'Doul was one heck of a hitter. Even though his career didn't get fully started until he was 31, O'Doul put together one heck of a career. He won two batting titles (1929, 1932) and his .349 career batting average ranks fourth all-time in major league history. O'Doul also finished in the top 10 in batting average, on-base percentage, OPS, and home runs four times apiece. O'Doul's line of .349/.413/.532 143 Adjusted OPS+ is superior to Hafey's .317/.372/.526, 133 Adjusted OPS+ line. One wonders what type of career O'Doul would have had if he hadn't been a pitcher for the first 10 years of it.

CF - Lloyd Waner - 1927-1945, Elected 1967

Waner's brother Paul is also in the Hall of Fame, and he is truly a legit Hall of Famer. But as for Lloyd, I'm not so sure. True, Waner hit .316 for his career and had seven seasons where he finished in the top 10 in batting average. But hitting singles seemed to be Waner's only skill, as he rarely walked, had no power, and like most of his peers during his era, rarely stole bases.  Despite his high average, Waner finished his career with an Adjusted OPS+ of 99, meaning he was one point less than average.

If Waner is in, then why not:

Dom Dimaggio? Like Waner, DiMaggio played in the shadow of his more famous brother Joe. Like Waner, DiMaggio is considered one of the best defensive outfielders of his era, and like Waner, DiMaggio finished in the top ten in his league in hits seven times. But DiMaggio was also the superior offensive player to Waner, as he finished his career with a .383 OBP and a 110 Adjusted OPS+. DiMaggio had six 100 run seasons compared to Waner's three, outslugged Waner (.419-.393) and made seven all-star games during his career. Unilike Waner, Dimaggio's career was relatively short, in part due to WWII, but make no mistake about it, he was every bit the player Waner was, and a little more.

RF - Tommy McCarthy - 1884-1896, elected 1946

With most of the other players I've mentioned, I can see some reason why they were inducted into the Hall of Fame, even though I disagree with those reasons. With McCarthy, I honestly have no idea how he was inducted. Yes, he had a few decent seasons, and led the American Association with 83 steals in 1890. But McCarthy didn't have particularly high career numbers, and his .292/.364/.375 102 Adjusted OPS+ line is nothing to write home about, particularly for a right fielder. But in 1946, McCarthy was selected to the Hall of Fame by the now defunct Old Timers Committee. The only reason I can think of for McCarthy's induction is that he is widely credited with creating the hit-and-run play, but is that enough to make up for his average career numbers?

If McCarthy is in, then why not:

Mike Tiernan? Tiernan, like McCarthy, played his entire career in the 19th century, but a look at the numbers shows that Tiernan was the superior player. During his career, Tiernan led the NL in Slugging percentage one year, and led in OPS and in home runs two years. Tiernan finished in the top ten in slugging and OPS+ seven different years, in homers six years, and in OBP, batting average, and runs scored five different years. Tiernan's line of .311/.392/.463 137 Adjusted OPS+ is much better than McCarthy, and with the exception of stolen bases, Tiernan has better offensive numbers than McCarthy in every single category. Tiernan passed away nearly a century ago, and is largely forgotten today, but the numbers show that he was a superb hitter.

P - Jesse Haines - 1918-1937, Inducted 1970

Once again, the Frankie Frisch led Veteran's Committee let a borderline candidate at best through the doors of immortality. Througout his career, Haines was a pitcher with solid control and who was rather inconsistent. Yes, Haines had 3 20-win seasons, but so did guys like George Uhle, and nobody's calling for his election into the Hall. Haines finished his career with a decent record of 210-158, but his 3.64 career ERA and 109 career ERA+ hardly screams immortality. But because a few people in power liked Haines, he got into the Hall ahead of more deserving candidates.

If Haines is in, then why not:

Dolf Luque? Luque and Haines had similar careers, as both players started late and both men were teammates on the 1918 Cincinnati Reds. Haines may have had the better record, as Luque finished with a 194-179 win-loss mark, but other than that. Luque put together a better career. Luque led the National League in ERA in 1923 and 1925, and also led the league in wins and shutouts in 1923. Luque finished in the top ten in both ERA and WHIP six times, compared to three times and one time, respectively, for Haines. Luque also had the better career ERA (3.24), ERA+ (118), and better WHIP (1.29 to Haines' 1.35) than his contemporary. But while Luque isn't in the baseball Hall of Fame, he can at least claim that he's in the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame, as Luque was one of the few Cubans permitted to play during his era due to his light skin.

Manager - Wilbert Robinson - 1902, 1914-1931, Inducted 1945

Robinson is best known for managing the Brooklyn Dodgers for 18 years beginning in 1914. During his tenure with Brooklyn, the team won 2 NL Pennants, but also had 10 losing seasons, and Robinson's .506 career winning percentage with the Dodgers doesn't really seem deserving of being selected to the Hall of Fame. I mean, he didn't even win a World Series as a manager.

If Robinson is in, then why not:

Ralph Houk? Houk managed 20 seasons to Robinson's 19, but had two less losing seasons and a winning percentage 17 points higher than Robinson's (.517 to .500). Not only that, Houk managed two World Series winning teams (1961 and 1962 Yankees). Houk was cited as an influence by many other managers, including Tommy Lasorda, who called Houk the best leader of men that he ever played for. Houk was also no stranger to adversity, as during his watch both the moribound Tigers and rebuilding Red Sox became respectable teams. It's unlikely that Houk, who passed away this July, will ever be elected into Cooperstown, but he is just as deserving, if not more so, than Robinson.

Executive - Morgan Bulkeley, Inducted 1937

Bulkeley, the former governor of Connecticut, was the first president of the National League when it started in 1876. However, Bulkeley only served one year as president, and it seems as if he was a figurehead president as his eventual successor William Hulbert was really running the show. So even though he may of been the first NL president, it's hard to see what he did, if anything, to justify his selection into baseball's hall of fame.

If Bulkeley is in, then why not:

Marvin Miller? Unlike Bulkeley, it's not hard to spot the impact Miller has had on baseball. As the head of the players' union from 1966-1982, Miller and the union put an end to the reverse clause, and both arbitration and free agency started in baseball due to Miller's efforts. The new policies negotiated by Miller not only changed baseball, but other professional sports as well. Despite endorsements from such legendary players like Hank Aaron and Joe Morgan, Miller once again fell short of election this year, finishing one vote short in yesterday's voting. The fact that Miller is on the outside of the Hall while Bulkeley is in after doing nothing of impact in baseball is a travesty, and it should have been rectified long ago.

Well, thanks for reading. I hope it wasn't too long to read. If you happen to agree or disagree with my selections, than feel free to express your opinions on this topic. If you have any comments on this post, or ideas for future posts, than send me them either by leaving a comment or by e-mail at kthec2001@gmail.com.

7 comments:

  1. Great choices here. I will never understand, for the life of me, why Gil Hodges and Ron Santo aren't in the Hall. The knock against Santo is that he never won the pennant. Then again, through most of his career, the Cubs ranged from mediocrity to outright ineptitude. On the other hand, there is no such excuse (weak as it is) for excluding Hodges.

    At least some of the underserving players you mention were enshrined by the Veterans' Committee, which has sorely abused its power--especially when Frankie Frisch was on it. Even after Frisch died, his influence continued to damage the Committee's--and the Hall's--credibility.

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    1. I agree with you completely, Justine Valinotti. Except Ron Santo was enshrined in 2012. But aside from that...

      http://baseballhall.org/hof/santo-ron

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  2. Great points, where have I read these almost verbatim?

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