Saturday, December 4, 2010

I'm Probably The Only Person in the World Bothered By This, But I've Got the Microphone In My Hand, and Goddamnit, I'm Going To Be Heard!

In a Yahoosports post arguing Ron Santo's HOF case (a case I agree with wholeheartedly, btw), a columnist named Alex Remington posts this "gem":

Third base is the most underrepresented position in the Hall: There are 16 catchers, 25 first basemen, 18 second basemen, 22 shortstops, 21 left fielders, 21 center fielders and 22 right fielders, but only 14 third basemen.

Of those 14, three are former Negro Leaguers, and four are relatively weak players from the dead ball era who were elected by a previous, much more permissive incarnation of the the veterans committee. (These include Frank "Home Run" Baker, whose most notable feature is his nickname, and Freddie Lindstrom, who was mainly elected because he was a member of John McGraw's dynastic New York Giants.)

Emphasis mine. I support Santo's case, but the abject ignorance in this argument kind of undermines the writer's case. Home Run Baker was a fantastic player with a short career, but by nearly any measure significantly better than Santo. Just for a quick and dirty look: in 6660 Plate Appearances, Home Run Baker tallied 63.7 WAR in his career. Santo took 9396 PA to tally 66.4. Is there an argument for longevity? Sure, but to say "Home Run" Baker's most notable feature is his nickname in the same column arguing for the HOF enshrinement of a lesser player seems like a pretty dumb move.

Meanwhile, in the same column, Remington makes an offhand comment indicating he doesn't think Santo stacks up to BBWAA enshrinee Pie Traynor. Another rough and dirty look: In 8293 PA, Traynor has 37.1 WAR (which includes a -3.6 dWAR). Santo, as we saw above, has 66.4 WAR in 9396 PA (which includes a positive dWAR). So it's pretty clear that Remington is very close to completely clueless. But enough about this d-bag. Let's talk like adults about Santo's HOF case.

As far as 3B HOFers go, they probably rank like this:

1. Mike Schmidt
2. George Brett
3. Eddie Matthews
4. Wade Boggs
5. Home Run Baker
6. Maybe Brooks Robinson

That's about it in terms of 3B who are better than Santo at 3B in the HOF. So let the guy in already, for crying out loud. Oh, and Dick Allen, Bert Blyleven, Tim Raines, and Allen Trammell too.



Biggus Rickus said...

It's also worth noting that George Brett has the same career OPS+ as Baker: 135. On a side note, when Chipper Jones is inducted does he supplant Schmidt for the top spot or slide in at number 2?

Chris W said...

I think Schmidt still takes the top spot because of his defense. It should be noted that Matthews, Brett, and Boggs are almost indistinguishable in terms of quality (even though they're different players). I'd think Chipper would fit in with that group very well.

Elliot said...

Still active, but Scott Rolen (66.1 WAR, 14.2 dWAR) deserves to be in the conversation as well. I also think you're underrating Brooks Robinson, who won 16 gold gloves in a row, and ranks #1 all-time in dWAR with 27.3.

Your top 4 is pretty solid though.

Chris W said...

I don't know if I'm underrating Brooks. He's got similar overall WAR to Santo and Baker but in like 11,000 PA.

I'm a little leery of using WAR so haphazardly, but it's just a solid quick and dirty comparison.

Biggus Rickus said...

Gold gloves are liars and defensive metrics are iffy, though it is true that Robinson is widely considered the best defensive third baseman of the modern era. The question is does defense at third by only a pretty good hitter merit a higher ranking?

Chris W said...


Gold Gloves can be liars, but when they match numbers and defensive reputations, they can be a worthwhile measurement. If you take them with a grain of salt. I only use GG's with Santo to illustrate that he--at the very least--was an above average 3B.

W/R/T Robinson, that's a very interesting question. Bill James, when writing about Robinson pointed out that many of the things you could say about him you could say about Ken Boyer who no one considers an all-time great. Obviously Brooks is slightly better than Boyer, but when a guy's value is nearly half defense, how can that slight difference between Boyer and Robinson be that much relevant?

But there is something to be said about the a guy who was a superstar for his glove--Ozzie, Mazeroski, Brooks, even Keith Hernandez.

It's funny though that only the infield merits HOF status for being the GOAT defensively. You'll hear people argue Hernandez even, but no one would ever bring up Vince or Dom Dimaggio.

Biggus Rickus said...

The question really amounts to which positions actually matter defensively? Obviously, they all matter to one degree or another, but is it worth having a great defensive left fielder who is okay with the bat instead of a very good or great hitter who's spotty in the field? Most people, maybe everyone, would obviously favor offense in that case. Middle defense is obviously highly valued, which is why people are willing to tolerate light hitters at catcher, shortstop, second and center. First base is the easiest defensive position, so how valuable is a good defensive first baseman? Ultimately, what's the most reasonable expectation of balance between offense and defense at a given position? Obviously, everyone would like to have A-Rod in his prime, but that's entirely unrealistic.

Chris W said...

Bill James's Defensive Spectrum is:


The reasoning being the further left you go the more people can play it, so a 1B who doesn't hit well is a tough pill to swallow since basically anyone can play it and thus you could probably find a better hitter. The further right you go the less likely someone else on your team can move to that position. 3B is right in the middle, so it's a pretty open question as to how valuable defense is there.

Alex said...

Santo had better numbers than Robinson (who is sometimes regarded as the greatest 3b for some reason) who is revered. Sounds to me Santo is blamed for (subjective) things like the Cubs collapse in 1969 and that somehow he wasn't a "leader." All BS.

True, longevity hurts him but his stats are solid and his defense (as shown by the imperfect Field %) is very good.

Considering who's in at the position, I can't see how you can objectively keep him out. Subjectively, you can come up with all sorts of reasons; even strawman fallacies.

Schmidt, to me, is the best of the bunch.