The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

Archive for the tag “Bill Terry”

Is the Wrong Giants First Baseman in the Hall of Fame?

A while back, I asked the question, “Is the Wrong Red Sox Outfielder in the Hall of Fame?”  This is a follow-up of sorts, though the intent is not necessarily to turn this into a new series.  Nevertheless, I do become intrigued from time-to-time by the often haphazard approach the various Hall of Fame voting groups take to selecting their Hall of Famers.  This is one of those times.

Player A is in the Hall of Fame.  He gained entry into the Hall of Fame in his 15th-year on the ballot, receiving 77.4% of the votes cast that year.  In his first year on the ballot, he received just 4% of the vote, but there was apparently no rule at the time that a player must receive at least 5% to remain on the ballot.

Player A spent his entire career with the Giants.  He batted and threw left-handed.  He was a Southerner.  He stood 6’1″ and weighed 200 pounds.

Player B is not in the Hall of Fame, having fallen off the ballot in his first year of eligibility when he received 4.4%, a bit more than did Player A on his first year on the ballot.  But as it stands today, if a player doesn’t receive 5% of the ballot, he drops off the ballot.

Player B spent the first half of his career as a Giant, and it is the team he is still primarily associated with.  He batted and threw left-handed.  He, too, was a Southerner.  He stood 6’2″ and weighed 190 pounds.

Now let’s compare their respective career statistics:

Player A:                            Player B:

Career Hits – 2,193          Career Hits – 2,176

Doubles – 373                    Doubles – 440

Triples – 112                      Triples – 47

Home Runs – 154              Home Runs – 284

RBI – 1,078                        RBI – 1,205

Runs – 1,120                      Runs – 1,186

Batting Average – .341    Batting Average – .303

On-Base % – .393            On-Base % – .384

Slugging % – .506             Slugging % – .497

OPS – .899                        OPS – .880

OPS+ – 136                       OPS+ – 137

Walks – 537                      Walks – 937

Strikeouts – 449               Strikeouts – 1,190

WAR – 54.2                       WAR – 56.2

As you can see, they were close in a few statistical categories, and each “won” seven categories.  If you throw in their respective Black Ink scores, which indicates the number of times a player led his league in a statistic in a particular season, Player A scored a 12, while Player B scored a 13.

Neither player won an MVP award.  Player A finished third twice in the voting, while Player B once finished runner-up in the voting.

So, have you guessed the identities of each of these players?

English: 1933 Goudey baseball card of Bill Ter...

English: 1933 Goudey baseball card of Bill Terry of the New York Giants #20. PD-not renewed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Player A is Bill Terry.

Player B is Will Clark.

If you think Terry’s .341 career batting average should give him the edge, keep in mind that Terry won just a single batting title in his career, and generally played in a much hitter-friendlier era than did Clark.

It appears to me that if one of them is in the Hall of Fame, then so, too, should be the other.  Whether you believe either of them belongs in the HOF is another matter.

But it does raise the question as to whether or not the 5% rule should be abandoned.

After all, clearly a player’s stature can grow significantly over time, as it did with Bill Terry (not to mention Bert Blyleven, Jim Rice, and several other Hall of Famers.)

 

Will Clark preparing to bat during seventh inn...

Will Clark preparing to bat during seventh inning of 12 August 1992 game between San Francisco Giants and Houston Astros, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Game boxscore (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

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Best Forgotten Seasons: Part 24 – The Toronto Blue Jays

"Laverne & Shirley Sing"-1976 LP cover

Image via Wikipedia

The Toronto Blue Jays, a franchise that played its inaugural season back in 1977, were born in the era of disco, Jimmy Carter, and Laverne and Shirley, not exactly the high water mark of Western Civilization.

Tweeners like myself (neither a true Baby-Boomer nor a Gen-X‘er), remember this period as our awkward transition through puberty and on into high school.

Blue Jays fans remember the late ’70’s as the Doug Ault / Jesse Jefferson era.  Back then, Toronto was to baseball what the Donner Party was to holiday travel.

After six miserable seasons, however, the Blue Jays became a respectable ball-club —  and stayed that way —  for the next eleven consecutive seasons.  They reached the pinnacle of success by winning back-to-back World Championships over first the Braves, then the Phillies, in 1992-93.

Alas, Joe Carter‘s walk-off home run off of Mitch Williams in ’93 would be, up to this point, the last great moment in Jays history.  Not that they’ve been a bad team, mind you.  They finished in third place in their division eight times in ten years from 1998-2007, with a second place finish thrown in as well.

But the glory days, when they regularly drew over 4 million fans per year to the Skydome, have passed them by.  The Blue Jays drew just 1.49 million fans this past season, their lowest attendance total since 1982.

Nevertheless, in good times and bad, the Blue Jays have produced their fair share of talented baseball players.  Not a single Blue Jay has yet made it into the Hall of Fame, however, although HOF’ers Rickey Henderson, Phil Niekro, Dave Winfield and Paul Molitor have worn the Blue Jay uniform.

One other player who wore a Blue Jay uniform and who has a solid case in his favor regarding Hall of Fame worthiness is retired first baseman Fred McGriff.

Fred (Crime Dog) McGriff, who made his major league  debut with the Blue Jays in 1986 at the age of 22, was one of the first excellent players the Jays produced.  By age 24, McGriff was already one of the most lethal players in his league, smashing 34 homers, scoring 100 runs, and producing an OPS of .928.

But Fred McGriff’s Best Forgotten Season with the Blue Jays was 1989.

In 1989, McGriff smashed an A.L. leading 36 home runs.  He also led the league in OPS (.924) and OPS+ (166).  He scored 98 runs, drove in 92, collected 289 total bases, and drew a career high 119 walks (second most in the league.)  His .524 slugging percentage was also second-best in the league.

McGriff won a Silver Slugger award ’89, and he finished sixth in the MVP voting in only his third big league season.

In December, 1990, McGriff, along with teammate Tony Fernandez, was traded to San Diego for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter.  As great a player as McGriff was, this was a trade the Blue Jays certainly cannot regret having made.

McGriff went on to enjoy an excellent career until his retirement at the age of 40 in 2004, having helped lead the Atlanta Braves to a World Championship in 1995.

His final career numbers include 493 homers (tied with Lou Gehrig for 26th all-time), 1,550 RBI’s, 1,349 runs scored, 2,490 hits, 441 doubles, and 4,458 total bases (top 50 all-time.)

Only eight first basemen in history have ever out-homered McGriff (only six if you subtract steroids-tainted Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmiero.)

McGriff’s career OPS+ (134) is better than approximately 85 current Hall of Famers.

Now, if you’re still with me,  let’s take a look at five other first basemen currently in the Hall of Fame:  Eddie Murray, Tony Perez, Orlando Cepeda, George Sisler and Bill Terry, and compare them with Fred McGriff.  We’ll begin with OPS (on-base + slugging percentage.)  Here’s how they stack up:

1)  Bill Terry – .899

2)  Fred McGriff – .886

3)  Orlando Cepeda –  .849

4)  George Sisler – .847

5)  Eddie Murray – .836

6)  Tony Perez – .804

Now how about OPS+ (which takes into consideration the era and the home ballpark of the particular player):

1)  Bill Terry – 134

2) Fred McGriff – 134

3) Orlando Cepeda – 133

4) Eddie Murray – 129

5) George Sisler – 124

6) Tony Perez – 122

Want still more?  How about career WAR? (a cumulative stat):

1)  Eddie Murray – 60.2

2)  Fred McGriff – 53.2

3)  George Sisler – 50.4

4)  Tony Perez – 49.6

5)  Bill Terry – 48.1

6) Orlando Cepeda – 46.8

Just for the hell of it, how about runs created (the hitter’s basic purpose):

1)  Eddie Murray – 1,942

2)  Fred McGriff – 1,704

3)  Tony Perez – 1,524

4)  George Sisler – 1,468

5)  Orlando Cepeda – 1,337

6)  Bill Terry – 1,280

Notice a trend?  When compared to five other HOF first basemen, Fred McGriff comes in second place on each list.

There are those of you who hate these kinds of arguments (A is as good as B, and B is as good as C, so A is as good as C.)  You might argue that perhaps none of these players (with the exception of Eddie Murray) belongs in The Hall.  Perhaps, you might reason, The Hall should be reserved for only the VERY BEST of the VERY BEST.  Guys like Gehrig, Ruth, Williams, DiMaggio, etc.

Well, my friends, we crossed that Rubicon a long, lonely time ago.

Democracy has its merits, but perhaps its one great flaw is the idea that there really isn’t that much difference between the truly great and the merely very good.  We live in a democracy, and lots of very good people (and some true mediocrities) have assumed positions of great power,wealth and prestige.

Why should we expect Baseball’s Hall of Fame to be any different?

This is no slight against the career of Fred McGriff, nor against any of the other players on the above lists, for that matter.

Just don’t tell me you know a HOF’er when you see one.  Or that a true HOF’er is always obvious.

Numbers are the mother’s milk of this pastime, and the numbers indicate that it is virtually impossible to make an objective, reasonable argument as to why Fred McGriff does not belong in the Hall of Fame.

Now, anyone for a Nick at Night Mork and Mindy Marathon?

Best Forgotten Baseball Seasons: Part 18 – The San Francisco Giants

Will Clark preparing to bat during seventh inn...

Image via Wikipedia

I thought he was destined for the Hall of Fame.

For a five-year period, from 1987-91, Will “The Thrill” Clark of the San Francisco Giants was one of Major League Baseball’s  most dominant players.  His eye-black and competitive nature provoked fear in many opposing pitchers.  His glove around the first base bag was plenty good, but it was his bat they feared and respected most of all.

During that five-year period, Clark averaged 27 home runs, 104 RBI’s, 94 runs scored, a .304 batting average, an OPS of .900, and an outstanding OPS+ of 153.  He accomplished all of this while playing in one of the better PITCHER’S Parks in the N.L.

By way of comparison, Hall of Fame first baseman Tony Perez topped an OPS+ of 150 only twice in his 23-year career.  Giant’s Hall of Fame first baseman Orlando Cepeda topped 150 three times.  Yet another Giant’s Hall of Fame first baseman, Bill Terry, touched an OPS+ of 150 in just two seasons.

Will Clark topped an OPS+ in five separate seasons, as many as Cepeda and Terry combined.

Obviously, then, Will Clark had several outstanding seasons before he turned thirty years old, and many other good seasons during the rest of his career.

Will Clark’s Best Forgotten Season was in 1989.

As with some of the other players I’ve profiled in this series, a case could be made for one or two other seasons as well.  But ’89 was arguably Clark’s best season for several reasons.

In 1989, the 25-year old Clark batted .333, second best in the league.  He accumulated 321 Total Bases, again, good for second best in the league.

His WAR was a league-leading 9.4.

He led the N.L. in runs scored with 104.

He posted a career high 196 hits, and his OPS (.953) and OPS+ (175) were also each second best in the league.

He won his first Silver Slugger award, and he played in the All-Star Game.

Clark’s 136 Runs Created led the N.L.

He led the N.L. in times on base with 275.

He hit 23 home runs, drove in 111 runs, knocked 38 doubles and added nine triples.

Defensively, his Range Factor / Game of 9.85 was also the best in the N.L.

Just for good measure, he was voted the N.L.C.S. MVP by single-handedly smashing the Cubs pitching to the tune of a .650 batting average, a .683 on-base percentage, and a ridiculous slugging percentage of 1.200.

Will Clark finished second in the N.L. MVP voting in 1989 to teammate Kevin Mitchell who slugged 47 home runs and drove in 125 runs.

Clark finished in the top five in MVP voting four times in his career.  He played in six All-Star Games.  He won one Gold Glove, but was good enough to have earned more.

Astonishingly, Will Clark’s career OPS+ of 137 is better than 90 hitters currently in the Hall of Fame.

It is also better than two of his more celebrated contemporaries at the first base position, Don Mattingly, (127), and Keith Hernandez, (128).

The primary reason’s why Clark is not a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame have to do with his career power numbers.  Hall voters like to see lots of home runs and RBI’s from a first baseman.  Clark’s career totals in these two areas — 284 home runs and 1,205 RBI’s —  look modest compared to some of the other first basemen in The Hall.

Clark also never won an MVP award, and he never played on a World Championship team.

Clark ended his fifteen-year baseball career after the 2000 season when he was just 36-years old.  But he showed even in his final days as a player that his bat was still just about as dangerous as ever.

As a member of the St. Louis Cardinals in the last 51 games of his final season, Clark batted .345, had a .426 on-base percentage, slugged .655, and compiled an OPS of 1.081.  He smoked 28 extra-base hits in just 171 at bats.

Although Clark’s best overall season had occurred almost a dozen years earlier, clearly he had saved the best for last.

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