Modern Baseball Committee (1970 – 1987): The 2018 Election

Modern Baseball Committee (1970 – 1987): The 2018 Election
07 Dec
2017
Not in Hall of Fame

Index

With its second meeting under a revamped structure, the Baseball Hall of Fame veterans committee will convene to evaluate nine players and one executive whose impact was made primarily during the Modern Baseball era, defined as having occurred between 1970 and 1987, and perhaps elect someone to the Hall of Fame. Their ballot results will be announced on December 10 during the winter meetings.

The dates for "Modern Baseball" may be arbitrary, but they underscore the need to concentrate on candidates from the last half-century. Last year, the Today's Game Committee met to evaluate players and non-players from 1988 to the present; the 16-member committee elected executives Bud Selig and John Schuerholz from a pool of candidates that included executive George Steinbrenner, managers Davey Johnson and Lou Piniella and players Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, and Mark McGwire.

Under the current structure, candidates from older periods will be evaluated much less frequently than in the past. The Golden Days Committee, evaluating the period between 1950 and 1969, will meet once every half-decade starting in 2020, while the Early Baseball Committee (1871 to 1949) will meet once a decade starting in 2020.

This year's Modern Baseball Committee will evaluate players Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons, Luis Tiant, and Alan Trammell, and executive Marvin Miller. Of the players, all spent the maximum of 15 years on the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) ballot (the "writers' ballot") with the curious exception of Ted Simmons, who was a one-and-done in 1994 when he garnered less than four percent of the vote.

The table below details BBWAA voting percentages for the nine players including their first year, final year, highest, and average percentages.

BBWAA Voting Percentages for Players on the 2018 Modern Baseball Era Committee Ballot

Player

Yrs. on Ballot

First Year

Last Year

Initial Pct.

Final Pct.

Highest Pct.

Ave. Pct.

Garvey, Steve

15

1993

2007

41.6

21.1

42.6

31.9

John, Tommy

15

1995

2009

21.3

31.7

31.7

24.9

Mattingly, Don

15

2001

2015

28.2

9.1

28.2

14.3

Morris, Jack

15

2000

2014

22.2

61.5

67.7

40.8

Murphy, Dale

15

1999

2013

19.3

18.6

23.2

13.9

Parker, Dave

15

1997

2011

17.5

15.3

24.5

15.3

Simmons, Ted

1

1994

1994

3.7

3.7

3.7

3.7

Tiant, Luis

15

1988

2002

30.9

18.0

30.9

13.3

Trammell, Alan

15

2002

2016

15.7

40.9

40.9

22.1


In addition to the BBWAA ballot, five of the nine players and Marvin Miller have appeared on a previous veterans committee ballot. Tiant has had more opportunities for the Hall than any of these candidates—along with 15 chances to be elected by the writers, he has been evaluated by some incarnation of the veterans committee seemingly every other year since 2005; this will be at least his sixth appearance on a post-writers' ballot. Both Garvey and John appeared on committee ballots in 2011 and 2014, while Parker and Simmons were also on that 2014 ballot. Meanwhile, Miller, who along with any other executive can gain a Hall pass solely from a veterans committee, has been up before one incarnation or another seven times since 2001; Miller died in 2012 at age 95 and is the only current candidate not still alive to learn of his fate—although by 2008 Miller, after the first three tries, had washed his hands of the process.

Marvin Miller Modern Baseball 01
Is Marvin Miller one of the most important men in baseball history? The Hall of Fame thinks not.


Of the nine players, Jack Morris, whose final years on the BBWAA ballot sparked heated debates between stat-heads and traditionalists, is the most likely candidate to get the nod from the committee. Morris broached the 50-percent mark in 2010 with 52.3 percent, and two years later he pushed north of 60 percent, notching his best showing of 67.7 percent in 2013, his penultimate year on the BBWAA ballot.

With all but one player candidate having appeared on 15 BBWAA ballots, it is tempting to state that they had their chances but could not convince voters of their Hall-worthiness over the course of 15 years. This was the sentiment expressed by the Hall of Fame itself when, in 2014, it shortened the number of years a player can remain on the BBWAA ballot from 15 years to 10 years, stating that the likelihood of a candidate being elected to the Hall of Fame after more than 10 years of trying was "incredibly minimal." Whether that reasoning is sound—Bert Blyleven is a strong argument against that; Jim Rice less so—it does put more pressure on current and future veterans committees (to use the generic term) to become the arbiters of legacy as more players pass through the BBWAA process unelected and into legacy limbo just waiting for a second chance with the veterans committee, as I noted at this time last year.

So, how has the veterans committee done in recent years? Credit them in 2012, when the now-defunct Golden Era Committee voted Chicago Cubs third baseman Ron Santo into the Hall of Fame. Considered to be one of the biggest Hall snubs for years (as I noted in my very first column for this site in 2011), Santo garnered 3.9 percent of the vote on his first BBWAA ballot in 1980, built that to 31.6 percent in 1992, and received a final-year push in 1998 to 43.1 percent, his best showing but well-short of election. A life-long diabetic, Santo died in 2010 at age 70, two years before he was finally elected to the Hall of Fame.

The next year, the now-defunct Pre-Integration Era Committee elected three candidates: owner Jacob Ruppert, umpire Hank O'Day, and third baseman and catcher Deacon White, whose last year as a player coincided with the Benjamin Harrison administration. Those elections contrasted dramatically with the 2013 BBWAA ballot, overstuffed as it was including first-time eligibles Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, managing to yield no inductees.

Up next in 2014, the Expansion Era Committee elected three candidates: Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa, and Joe Torre. All were managers and not players (though Torre, the National League Most Valuable Player in 1971, had a considerable playing career and lasted 15 years on the BBWAA ballot). Among the players on that 2014 ballot were Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Dave Parker, and Ted Simmons; each received six or fewer votes.

The following year brought back the Golden Era Committee, but unlike its 2012 incarnation that elected Ron Santo, this version could not elect a single candidate, which included Luis Tiant. Next up in 2016 was the return of the Pre-Integration Era, which, like its predecessor, also tossed a shutout.

Last year, the revamped Today's Game Committee did elect executives Bud Selig and John Schuerholz but no players. In my evaluation, I named Mark McGwire among players and Selig and George Steinbrenner among executives as being Hall-worthy, underestimating Schuerholz's impact on committee voters, who were more bullish on Schuerholz than I (though I have no objection to his being elected to the Hall of Fame).

As with the BBWAA ballots, a candidate on a veterans committee ballot must receive at least 75 percent of the vote to be elected to the Hall of Fame. And therein lies the rub regardless of how the veterans committee is configured: Both under the structure introduced in 2010 and the structure that replaced it in 2016, each committee comprises 16 members who have a limited number of votes they can cast.

Reports vary as to the number of votes each member receives, but even favoring the liberal count of five, that is still a tight margin: With a candidate needing a minimum of 12 votes for election, and with a maximum of 80 votes available (16 voters, each with a maximum of five votes), and with ten candidates eligible to receive votes—it's been far too long since I've taken a statistics course, but that is a hell of a lot of permutations, with the odds that three of every four voters will select the same candidates correspondingly slim.

It does happen, of course, as it did last year with the election of John Schuerholz and Bud Selig, and in 2014 with the election of Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa, and Joe Torre, and in 2013 with the election of Hank O'Day, Jacob Ruppert, and Deacon White. But recent results suggest that the odds are much better that a non-player candidate will be elected by a veterans committee than a player. In the 21st century, a veterans committee has elected only four Major League players—Joe Gordon, Bill Mazeroski, Ron Santo, and White—with only Mazeroski still living when the election occurred. (Negro Leagues pitcher Hilton Smith was elected in 2001; he never pitched in the Major Leagues.)

To put it bluntly: The Baseball Hall of Fame has reduced the number of years a player may remain on a BBWAA ballot from 15 years to ten years. With no other changes, such as a reduction in the minimum percentage of votes needed to be elected to the Hall, or an increase in the number of candidates a voter may select, the odds of a player being elected grow smaller. (In 2015, the BBWAA did ask the Hall for an increase in the number of selections allowed, from 10 to 12. The Hall refused the request.)

This leaves the fate of a player increasingly up to the veterans committee, which in the last 17 years has elected four MLB players to the Hall, two of whom began their final seasons when Richard Nixon was president, one of whom last played baseball when Harry Truman was president, and another of whom last played baseball when Benjamin Harrison was president. By contrast, the BBWAA elected four players to the Hall in one year, 2015, and 12 players in the last four years.

Do we expect the veterans committee to redress the ballot logjam, which the Hall of Fame seems to consider not an issue? True, it has revamped its committee structure to focus attention on players who have played in the last half-century—but does it think that either the Modern Baseball or Today's Game Committees will actually elect a player? The recent record militates against that. Do any of the 2018 candidates on the Modern Baseball ballot stand a chance of being elected?

To answer that, we must first determine whether any of the player candidates appear to have been overlooked in previous evaluations of their Hall of Fame worthiness.

The table below lists the Hall of Fame statistics for the six position players on the 2018 Modern Baseball ballot, with the statistics defined beneath the table. Please note that the JAWS rankings are for the player at his respective position and is not a ranking based on all positions.

2018 Modern Baseball Position Player Candidates, Hall of Fame Statistics

Player (Position)

fWAR

bWAR

WAR7

JAWS

JAWS Rank*

HoF Mon.

(≈100)

HoF Std.

(≈50)

OPS+

wRC+

Garvey, Steve (1B)

37.8

37.7

28.6

33.1

51

130

32

117

116

Mattingly, Don (1B)

40.7

42.2

35.6

38.9

38

134

34

127

124

Murphy, Dale (CF)

44.3

46.2

41.0

43.6

25

116

34

121

119

Parker, Dave (RF)

41.1

39.9

37.2

38.6

37

124

42

121

120

Simmons, Ted (C)

54.2

50.1

34.6

42.4

10

124

44

118

116

Trammell, Alan (SS)

63.7

70.4

44.6

57.5

11

118

40

110

111

fWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by FanGraphs.
bWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by Baseball Reference.
WAR7: The sum of a player's best seven seasons as defined by bWAR; they need not be consecutive seasons.
JAWS: Jaffe WAR Score system—an average of a player's career WAR and his seven-year WAR peak.
JAWS Rank: The player's ranking at that position by JAWS rating. (*) In this table, JAWS rank is for the player at his primary position only and is not a ranking of all position players.
Hall of Fame Monitor: An index of how likely a player is to be inducted to the Hall of Fame based on his entire playing record (offensive, defensive, awards, position played, postseason success), with an index score of 100 being a good possibility and 130 a "virtual cinch." Developed by Baseball Reference from a creation by Bill James.
Hall of Fame Standards: An index of performance standards, indexed to 50 as being the score for an average Hall of Famer. Developed by Baseball Reference from a creation by Bill James.
OPS+: Career on-base percentage plus slugging percentage, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by Baseball Reference. Positively indexed to 100, with a 100 OPS+ indicating a league-average player, and values above 100 indicating the degrees better a player is than a league-average player.
wRC+: Career weighted Runs Created, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by FanGraphs. Positively indexed to 100, with a 100 wRC+ indicating a league-average player, and values above 100 indicating the degrees better a player is than a league-average player.

Looking at the six position players and their Hall of Fame statistics, you can see why they continue to come up for evaluation—they are truly "on the bubble," at the threshold of Hall of Fame caliber, not obvious enough to admit without question yet too substantial to dismiss without examination.

An example of the latter is the Hall of Fame Monitor, which assigns a point value based on the player's entire playing record and which establishes an index score of 100 as the baseline for serious consideration for the Hall. All six position players exceed the 100-point index, not surprisingly as all had outstanding careers—yet the Hall of Fame Standards rating, based on performance standards with an index score of 50 as the baseline, shows all six position players below that baseline by at least six points.

For both adjusted OPS+ (OPS+) and adjusted weighted runs created (wRC+), each with an index value of 100 indicating a league-average hitter, all six position players exceed the baseline, which is notable for both Ted Simmons and Alan Trammell as each played at a position (catcher and shortstop, respectively) that stressed defensive skills over offensive capabilities (at least in their eras), and because both metrics include all hitters at every position, it is not unusual to see players at either position below that baseline; for example, Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith holds a career 87 OPS+ yet was inducted on his first ballot.

The WAR and JAWS statistics for the six position players are examined in detail below as each player is evaluated by his contemporaries at his respective position. As a rule of thumb, though, all position players except catcher and all starting pitchers merit serious consideration for a WAR value of 60 or more (either bWAR or fWAR), catchers do so for a WAR score of 50 or more, and relief pitchers for a WAR score of 30 or more.

Turning to starting pitchers, the table below lists the Hall of Fame statistics for the three starting pitchers on the 2018 Modern Baseball ballot, with the statistics defined beneath the table. This table does include the baseline JAWS values derived from the aggregate averages of all starting pitchers currently in the Hall of Fame, and the JAWS ranking for the three pitchers indicates their ranking for all starting pitchers ranked by JAWS.

2018 Modern Baseball Starting Pitcher Candidates, Hall of Fame Statistics, Ranked by JAWS

Player

fWAR

bWAR

WAR7

JAWS

JAWS Rank

HoF Mon.

(≈100)

HoF Std.

(≈50)

ERA+

ERA–

ALL HoF SP (62)

NA

73.9

50.3

62.1

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

Tiant, Luis

54.8

66.7

44.6

55.7

51

97

41

114

87

John, Tommy

79.4

62.0

34.7

48.4

83

112

44

111

90

Morris, Jack

55.8

44.1

32.8

38.4

164

122

39

105

95

fWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by FanGraphs.
bWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by Baseball Reference.
WAR7: The sum of a player's best seven seasons as defined by bWAR; they need not be consecutive seasons.
JAWS: Jaffe WAR Score system—an average of a player's career WAR and his seven-year WAR peak.
JAWS Rank: The player's ranking at that position by JAWS rating.
Hall of Fame Monitor: An index of how likely a player is to be inducted to the Hall of Fame based on his entire playing record (offensive, defensive, awards, position played, postseason success), with an index score of 100 being a good possibility and 130 a "virtual cinch." Developed by Baseball Reference from a creation by Bill James.
Hall of Fame Standards: An index of performance standards, indexed to 50 as being the score for an average Hall of Famer. Developed by Baseball Reference from a creation by Bill James.
ERA+: Career ERA, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by Baseball Reference. Positively indexed to 100, with a 100 ERA+ indicating a league-average pitcher, and values above 100 indicating the degrees better a pitcher is than a league-average pitcher.
ERA–: Career ERA, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by FanGraphs. Negatively indexed to 100, with a 100 ERA– indicating a league-average pitcher, and values below 100 indicating the degrees better a pitcher is than a league-average pitcher.

As with the position players, each pitcher is at or above the baseline for the Hall of Fame Monitor (Luis Tiant is a shade below) and below the baseline for the Hall of Fame Standards. With respect to the adjusted earned run averages, either as calculated by Baseball Reference (ERA+) or FanGraphs (ERA–), each pitcher is better than league-average by at least a few points.

And as all three candidates were starting pitchers, the table above indicates their WAR and JAWS statistics with respect to all starting pitchers currently in the Hall of Fame. These will be explored in detail below as each pitcher is evaluated by their contemporaries, but as the at-a-glance view at the JAWS perspective above indicates why these three pitchers are on the bubble: All three fall below the JAWS threshold for Hall of Fame starting pitchers.

Clearly, all nine player candidates must be evaluated in the context of their positions and their eras, an examination to which we turn now.

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Last modified on Saturday, 09 December 2017 17:15

Comments   

0 #2 Darryl Tahirali 2017-12-10 20:19
Thank you, Committee Chairman, although I had hoped that it was credible stuff I was posting so it would be convincing . . . guess we'll see how the committee voted tonight.
Quote
0 #1 Committee Chairman 2017-12-10 04:13
As always this is incredible stuff. The Committee should have your work be mandated reading!

Funny also how the longer i do this the more i have issues with Garvey and the HOF!
Quote

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