Cleaning Up The Hall of Fame: Lloyd Waner vs. Dale Murphy
But before I go any further, let me briefly state, as I did in Part 1, that the purpose of this series is to incrementally improve the Hall of Fame one player at a time. It is not, therefore, to find the perfect, overlooked Hall of Famer.
Also, let me be clear that these are meant to be purely hypothetical arguments. I am not suggesting that the readers of this blog should Occupy the Hall until certain HOF plaques are removed, to be replaced by more deserving players.
Having said that, one of the worst mistakes the Veteran’s committee has ever made was to vote to induct former Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Lloyd (Little Poison) Waner into the Hall of Fame.
Lloyd Waner, the younger brother of legitimate HOF’er Paul Waner, never received more than 23% of the vote of the BBWAA in all his years on the HOF ballot. Yet, in 1967, the Veteran’s Committee, apparently influenced by Lloyd’s inflated batting averages and not much else, voted to pair Lloyd with his brother in The Hall.
At first glance, there is a case to be made for Lloyd Waner, who played from 1927-45.
Although he never won a batting title, Little Poison enjoyed ten seasons in which he batted over .300. He enjoyed four 200 hit campaigns in his first five seasons, including a league-leading 214 hits in 1931. He also led the league in triples with 20 in 1929, and he scored over 100 runs in each of his first three seasons. He also led the N.L. in at bats three times.
A good center fielder, Waner led the senior circuit in put outs four times, in fielding percentage three times, and in range factor three times as well. Had the Gold Glove been awarded in his era, he would probably have won three or four.
Waner retired after an 18-year Major League career (the first 14 with the Pirates) at the age of 39. But his last truly productive season occurred in 1938, when Waner was 32-years old.
His final career numbers are as follows: 2,459 hits, 281 doubles, 118 triples, 27 home runs, 1,201 runs scored, 598 RBI, 67 stolen bases, and 420 bases on balls. His 426 career extra base hits is one of the lowest totals by any position player in The Hall.
His career triple slash line is .316 / .353 / .393. While the batting average is 69th best of all-time, he played in an era when it was very common to bat over .300. Drawing few walks, Waner’s on-base percentage is not impressive at all for his era. And his slugging percentage is abysmal for any era.
Lloyd Waner’s career WAR is 24.3, also among the lowest in The Hall. Perhaps most damning is his career OPS+ of 99, which means he was actually one point below the average replacement level player.
Waner was a good player who hit a ton of singles, (2,033 of his hits were singles, good for 41st all-time), scored lots of runs in his first three years (in a huge run-scoring era), played some good defense, and not much else.
Lloyd Waner simply does not belong in the Hall of Fame.
A better candidate for The Hall would be a slugger now almost forgotten by the under-40 year old baseball fan, former Atlanta Braves center fielder Dale Murphy.
There are actually a few similarities between Lloyd Waner and Dale Murphy. They each played approximately 14 of their first 18 years with one team (the Pirates and Braves, respectively.) They each peaked at about 23% of the vote of the BBWAA for Hall induction, and each of their careers were essentially over before they turned 33-years of age.
But there are also several important differences between these two center fielders.
From 1980, when he became a full-time outfielder for the Braves (he came up as a catcher) through 1987, Dale Murphy was arguably the best player in the National League. He won two N.L. MVP awards (1982-83), and he finished in the top 10 in two other seasons (1984-85.)
Dale Murphy was a seven time All-Star, he won five Gold Gloves, and he was a four-time winner of the Silver Slugger award. An iron man, Murphy played every single game from 1982-’85, and he missed a total of five games over a six-year period.
Unlike Lloyd Waner, Murphy also had a lot of power. Six times he hit at least 30 home runs in a season, leading the league twice. He slugged a career-high 44 home runs in 1987. He also led the league in slugging percentage twice, Runs Batted In two times, and OPS once.
Murphy drove in over 100 runs five times, drew over 90 walks in a season four times, and topped .900 OPS four times. Whereas Lloyd Waner’s single-season best OPS+ was just 116, Murphy reached an OPS+ of at least 135 in six different seasons.
Dale Murphy’s career WAR of 44.2 is also significantly better than Waner’s.
Murphy finished his career with 2,111 hits, 350 doubles, 39 triples, 398 home runs, 1,197 runs scored, 1,266 RBI, 161 stolen bases, and 986 walks. Waner has the edge in hits, runs scored (though not by many) and triples. Murphy has a big edge in doubles, home runs, extra base hits, stolen bases, RBI and walks.
Dale Murphy’s career OPS+ of 121 is also better than Waner’s score of 99. And although Waner ranks 41st all-time in singles, Murphy ranks 5oth all-time in home runs. Whom would you rather have?
Therefore, in our ongoing quest to clean up The Hall, Dale Murphy would make a more than adequate replacement for Lloyd Waner in the Hall of Fame.
Stay tuned for the next installment of this series, with a movie review coming soon as well.
- Dale Murphy’s Hall of Fame case warrants only two pages (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- Braves campaigning to get Murphy into Hall (mlb.mlb.com