Baseball’s Forgotten HOF Candidates: Part 2

Welcome back Interwebs, this is Lucas Kinser with the second in a ten-part piece on players who should get a second look by the Baseball Hall of Fame.

One revision I’ve decided to make is that the players analyzed must have never reached 25% in the Baseball Writers’ voting, meaning they barely even had a chance. As I got some negative feedback from my Bobby Bonds column, I’d like to remind you that these men aren’t slam dunks by any means. I just feel they didn’t receive enough credit for their successful careers and should at least get a second look by the Veterans’ Committee.

Next up is a backstop that quietly spend more than 20 seasons racking up Hal-worthy numbers:

Ted Simmons

  • Spent 21 seasons with three teams
  • Played most of his career as a catcher
  • Highest percentage received: 3.7% in 1994

Traditional Career Offensive Stats:

Despite playing more than 1,700 games at catcher, a position not often occupied by solid hitters, Simmons posted a career .285 average with 248 home runs and 1,389 RBI. His closest Hall-of-Fame contemporary, Carlton Fisk, was very comparable in his career, batting .269 with 376 HRs and 1,330 RBI.

A patient hitter as well, he drew 855 career walks while striking out just 694 times, helping lead to a .348 career on-base percentage. Among catchers with at least 200 home runs from 1968-88, he is the only one with more walks than strikeouts.

And he even matches up favorably to the rest of Cooperstown’s backstops throughout history, scoring more runs than Gary Carter, hitting more homers than Roy Campanella and smacking more doubles than any of the 13 catchers in the Hall (483).

Traditional Single-Season stats/honors:

During his prime with St. Louis, Simmons posted some seasons that were elite not just by catchers’ standards. From 1971-80, he ranked in the top five in baseball in hits (1,631), doubles (324) and RBI (903), pacing all catchers in the first two categories and trailing only Johnny Bench in RBI. But while Bench had “The Big Red Machine” to support him in the lineup, Simons was driving in guys like Bake McBride, Reggie Smith and Ted Sizemore (as well as Lou Brock for the sake of full disclosure).

While he never led the league in any major offensive category, he did consistently rank in the top ten in average (six times), doubles (eight), RBI (six) and intentional walks (seven). His success is evident in his eight All-Star selections and three times being among the league’s top ten vote-getters for the MVP award.

Sabrmetric Stats:

A key contributor for multiple teams, Simmons’ consistent success is shown through many Sabrmetric categories. For one, he posted 12 seasons with a Wins Above Replacement number of three or better, meaning he played well enough to be a starter on most any team in the sport.

Among all catchers to play the game, his career 50.3 WAR ranks 10th, ahead of Hall of Fame backstops Ernie Lombardi, Roger Bresnahan, Roy Campanella, Rick Ferrell and Ray Schalk, while sitting very close to Mickey Cochrane (52.0), Gabby Hartnett (53.4) and Bill Dickey (55.9).

Beyond WAR, he posted an even more impressive Win Probability Added (the number of wins or loses the player provided his team over his career), ranking second all-time among catchers behind Mike Piazza with 30.15. But this will be elaborated on in the Postseason section.

Fielding Stats:

Never considered an elite fielder, Simmons’ numbers show he was fairly competent behind the plate. He possessed a fairly average arm, allowing 1,188 stolen bases in 1,771 career games behind the plate. But he covered a lot of ground, ranking among the top five in range factor in five different seasons while pacing the AL in fielding percentage in 1982. It also bears mention that despite playing in the 14th-most games at catcher, he ranks outside the top 100 in errors, averaging one every 13 or 14 games.

Postseason Stats:

A product of joining St. Louis at the end of the 1960s dynasty, Simmons made just two appearances in the postseason, both with Milwaukee in 1981 and ’82. While he batted a dismal .174 in the 1982 World Series, he did launch a pair of homers in games 1 and 2 of the classic.

And while some could hold it against Simmons that could rarely lead his team to the postseason, it should be noted that the stellar 30.15 WPA shows he was a pivotal member of those clubs. He wasn’t the reason for the lack of success; it was the poor pitching (allowing 600 or more runs in every season of the 1970s).

Diagnosis:

There is a gap in the Hall of Fame that needs to be filled. Of the 13 catchers in the Hall of Fame, only three retired after 1980 (Bench, Fisk and Carter). More may well be coming in the future, but it feels like the voters went light on a position that is often overlooked. Simmons, however, transcends the stereotypes of offensively-anemic catchers, ranking favorably among his three contemporaries, as well as his entire era. The Veterans’ Committee should give this man a serious look when the Expansion Era candidates are voted on for the Class of 2014.

Thanks for reading my blog. Please follow me on twitter at @LucasKinser and keep an eye on my blog for parts 3-10. Until then, goodnight and have a great week!

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Baseball’s Forgotten HOF Candidates: Part 1

Good day my beloved readers, this is Lucas Kinser with the first of a ten-part piece on players who should get a second look by the Baseball Hall of Fame. As there are far more than 10 in total who could make a legitimate argument, I’m narrowing down the list to offensive players who are no longer on the ballot.

My goal is to lay out a comprehensive argument featuring the pros and cons for each player’s induction using data collected from baseball-reference.com, in my opinion the best source for both standard and sabrmetric statistics.

Come back every week or so for another edition from now until whenever ten weeks from now will be.

First up on the list is:

Bobby Bonds

  • Spent 14 seasons with eight teams
  • Played the vast majority of his career in Right Field
  • Highest percentage received: 10.6% in 1993

Traditional Career Offensive Stats:

Bonds is one of two players with more than 300 home runs and 400 stolen bases, joined only by his son, Barry. Even if you reduce the numbers to 200 homers and 300 steals, he’s still one of 22 players, including seven Hall of Famers and a number of future members of the club (Biggio, A-Rod, Jeter etc.)

If you limit those results to 1871-1981 (Bonds’ last season), he is one of four players with 200-300 (Willie Mays, Vada Pinson and Joe Morgan). Remember, he has 300-400, not 200-300. Limit that total to only right fielders in his era and he stands along.

But Bonds’ traditional stats aren’t without flaws. He was a swing-and-miss hitter like many power bats of his era (Jim Rice, for example). He didn’t get paid to walk to first base, he got paid to trot around the bases. Therefore, his OBP has been questioned (.353) as well as his career hits (1,886), runs (1,258) and RBI (1,024, only two seasons with more than 100).

He also struck out. A lot. Like, a record amount. His 1,757 fans stood at third behind Hall of Famers Willie Stargell (1,912) and Reggie Jackson (1,810) when he retired in 1981. But as a side note, the top seven career leaders in Ks at that time are all enshrined in Cooperstown today (Brock, Mantle, Killebrew and Perez).

Traditional Single-Season stats/honors:

This category is traditionally one of the weakest in Bobby Bonds’ case, as he only led the league in major positive categories three times (120 runs in 1969, 131 runs and 341 total bases in 1973) while he topped four negative categories (187 Ks in 1969, 189 Ks in 1970, 148 Ks in 1973 and 23 caught stealing in 1979).

But he did garner some accolades during his MLB tenure, earning three All-Star berths, collecting three Rawlings Gold Glove Awards and notching at least one MVP vote five times, including  third and fourth place finishes in 1973 and 1971.

Sabrmetric Stats:

Bonds was one of Bill James’ favorite subjects and even served as the inspiration for his Power-Speed # stat, and for good reason. Bonds led his league in the stat in 10 times from 1969-79, including a 40.9 mark in 1973 which served as the single season record until Rickey Henderson’s 1986 campaign.

His 386 career PS# ranks fifth all-time behind the younger Bonds, Henderson, Mays and A-Rod (at least two of which are directly linked to PEDs).

He also racked up some solid Wins Above Replacement numbers in his career, breaking the five-point barrier (making him generally considered an All-Star worthy player that season) on seven occasions.

In total, his career WAR finished at 57.7, the most by a right fielder not in the Hall of Fame upon Bonds’ retirement. In fact, second place on that list is Rusty Staub with 45.8.

He ranks eight overall among his position from 1981 back, posting a comparable number to Enos Slaughter (55.2), Harry Hopper (53.6) and Willie Keeler (54.0), but he remains a good distance away from No. 7 Harry Heilmann (72.1)

Fielding Stats:

Finally, let’s look at how Bonds performed in the field. This is an area where both the SABR numbers and the traditional stats come together nicely.

His 48 career fielding runs would rank seventh among Hall of Famers pre-1981 at his position, while he routinely ranked among the best Right Fielders in Range Factor/Game, finishing in the top five on nine occasions and ranking 42nd all-time.

And while he committed a number of errors (23rd most by a RF), he also ranked in the top 30 in putouts, games played and assist at the position, meaning his chances to make a mistake were extraordinarily high.

Plus not to be overlooked, he ranks 11th among RFs in double plays turned, tied with the legend himself Roberto Clemente. Let that sink in.

Postseason Stats:

Unfortunately, Bonds never got to play in a Fall Classic, only making it to one LCS in 1971. The Giants consistently floated near the top of the NL West during his prime seasons with the squad, but only took the division crown once. And as further evidence of Bonds’ value, the team posted a losing record in each of the four seasons after he left for New York

Diagnosis:

There’s certainly enough data here to prove Bonds was overlooked by the BBWAA during his years of eligibility. As a candidate from 1987-97, voters looked on as Bonds’ spots in the record books began to sink lower and lower due to the influx of PEDs in the game. In retrospect,  it would be nice to see him on the Veterans Committee ballot once again, as he’s been left off the final ballot every year since 2008. He may be a bit off the edge for HOF contention, but anyone whose career features such a unique combination of power, speed and fielding should at least be considered for years to come.

Thanks for reading my blog. Feel free to follow me on Twitter at @LucasKinser and look me up on Facebook. Next week, we’ll take a look at another forgotten candidate. Stay tuned to find out who!

The Case for Tim Raines

Well, it’s midnight in Texas and I can’t sleep. Benadryl didn’t work. Klonipin didn’t work. Vodka and Country Time Lemonade didn’t either. Therefore, a well-researched rant about one of baseball’s least appreciated stars seems to be in order. (In all seriousness, I’m not drunk right now, just having a little insomnia)

Before I get into Raines, I want to congratulate Matt Cain for an epic pitching performance today (or last night) against the Pirates. I was so impressed that a little Baseball Reference  research was in order. The last time a player pitched nine innings of perfect ball outside of a single by the opposing pitcher was Gary Peters in 1963 for the White Sox against Baltimore. At least in Peters’ case the hit was by Hall of Fame hurler Robin Roberts instead of some spare for Pittsburgh. Moving on.

Tim Raines spent the better part of his 23-year career in baseball purgatory: batting leadoff for the Montreal Expos. While the sporting world marveled at the accomplishments of a much more boisterous base-stealer on the west coast, Raines maintained an All-Star level of play despite issues with cocaine abuse. As the 1990s rolled around, “Hawk” kept a high level of play despite consistent injury problems which were later diagnose as the result of Lupus, an auto-immune disorder that can bring Olympic athletes to their knees in a matter of years. But Raines played on through 2002, making him one of only a handful of players to span their career over four decades.

So let’s play a game. I’ll list two players: can you definitively say one of them was better than the other?

Player A: 2616 games, 1610 runs, 3023 hits, 900 RBI, 938 steals, .293 BA, .343 OBP, 6x All-Star

Player B:  2502 games, 1571 runs, 2605 hits, 980 RBI, 808 steals, .294 BA, .385 OBP, 7x All-Star

Even more interesting, let’s look at each player’s career totals averaged out to 162 games, giving a glimpse of what one complete season to represent their careers would look like.

Player A: 162 games, 100 runs, 187 hits, 30 doubles, 9 HR, 56 RBI, 58 steals, 262 total bases

Player B: 162 games, 102 runs, 169 hits, 28 doubles, 11 HR, 63 RBI, 52 steals, 244 total bases

Player A is Lou Brock, a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Player B is Tim Raines, never receiving more than 50% of the vote for induction.

Maybe it’s the cocaine abuse. Maybe it was the fact he played outside of a major US market. Maybe Rickey Henderson simply overshadowed his accomplishments.

Whichever excuse the 294 BBWAA voters who bypassed Raines came up with simply doesn’t pass the smell test. Let’s make sure Cooperstown doesn’t go another year without one of the league’s greatest leadoff hitters, base-runners, and comeback stories doesn’t get left out of the game’s pearly gates.

Thanks for reading my blog. Be sure to follow me on twitter at @LucasKinser. Goodnight and have a pleasant tomorrow.