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
2011 Hall of Fame Vote: The Good, the Bad, and the Utterly Perplexing
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The results are in, and there weren’t any major surprises. Bert (we suddenly loved you all along) Blyleven (79.7%), and Robbie (sorry we messed up last year) Alomar (90%), were the only two players on this year’s ballot elected into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.
Looking over the percentage of votes each player received from the BBWAA revealed interesting results, some unexpected, some utterly perplexing.
1) Roberto Alomar will now be enshrined in The Hall. Alomar was a stunning offensive player, and although his defense was a bit overrated (see my last bl0g-post), he certainly belongs in The Hall. Some bloggers / writers have Alomar rated as among the top three 2nd basemen of all-time. I think that overstates his legacy a bit much. I am comfortable rating Alomar in the top 5-10 second basemen ever.
2) Bert Blyleven, the Bearded Dutchman, joins Alomar. Personally, I don’t think I would have voted for Blyleven. I know that some people will think it’s outrageous to hold this opinion, but if he was such an obvious HOF candidate, then why has he been passed over 13 previous times? Some people point to his 3,701 career strikeouts (5th all-time) as one bit of evidence that he should be enshrined. But he averaged 6.7 K’s / 9 innings in his career, good, but not great.
Voting for Blyleven isn’t voting for greatness; it voting for remarkable durability (he averaged 245 innings pitched per season in his career.)
So why file his election under THE GOOD?
First, because I have nothing against Blyleven personally, and there’s no reason to rain on his parade. Obviously, this vote means a lot to Blyleven and his supporters.
Second, because now that his enshrinement is a done deal, we can start to focus a little more seriously on some of the other players who also deserve enshrinement. Which brings us to…
3) Barry Larkin: Larkin received a promising 62% of votes cast, an improvement over the 51% he received last year, his first on the ballot. Larkin is one of the ten best shortstops of all-time, and the best N.L. shortstop of his era. It will be interesting to see if his relatively strong showing this year represents his high-water mark, or if it is a stepping-stone to future Hall induction.
Next year’s relatively weak class of first-time HOF candidates, however, could work in his favor. Let’s hope it does.
1) Jeff Bagwell, an obvious Hall of Famer if there ever was one (unless you really weren’t paying attention), received a lower percentage of votes (41.7%) than I thought he would, and I had low expectations for him going into this election. His (hopefully temporary) rejection does not, however, come as a surprise because, and there is no way to sugarcoat this, many of the BBWAA voters are cowards.
What are they afraid of? They are afraid to induct a player that they know, statistically speaking, should be a first-ballot HOF’er because they believe he just MIGHT have used steroids.
Even though Bagwell’s name has never appeared on any list of users, and even though no former teammates of his have ever accused him of being a user, somehow an internet driven whiff of scandal has created a false cloud of controversy over his name and reputation.
And the voters are deathly, and unreasonably, afraid that if they were to induct Bagwell into The Hall, and then it was later revealed that he was, after all, a steroid user, then they would look foolish.
But they are wrong. If (as unlikely as it is) that Bagwell was elected and then, at some later date, it turns out he was a user, then the shame of his tainted induction would be on him, not on the voters.
In other words, placing the onus of responsibility on a particular player to prove that he didn’t use steroids is unreasonable and unjust. Guilty until proven innocent is the fallback position favored by cowards in an irrationally fearful society, and history is seldom kind to those who accuse others of some perceived crime, who then later turn out to have been innocent.
Prediction: Bagwell is eventually elected into The Hall, but it could take a while.
2) Larry Walker: Much of what I have just written about Bagwell can be applied to the case of Larry Walker as well. And, as an added obstacle to The Hall, Walker is penalized for having played in the best hitter’s park ever constructed in one of the better era for hitter’s in modern history.
Only one in five voters (20%) believe Walker had a HOF career.
Setting aside the steroid issue, on which you have probably already formed an opinion, yes, Walker benefited from playing at Coor’s Field. But I can’t think of any other player in baseball history who was penalized for having similar good fortune. For example, if you had put Jim Rice in the Astrodome for his entire career, he certainly would not have ended up in The Hall. Conversely, if you had put Jimmy Wynn in Fenway Park for his career, he would have put up HOF numbers.
As another example, Mel Ott hit 323 (63%) of his 511 career home runs at the Polo Grounds, the highest total any player ever hit in their home ballpark.
Walker was already an outstanding player before he signed with the Rockies. He was a great defensive player, an excellent base-runner, and could hit for power and average.
Yet his relatively poor showing in this year’s Hall of Fame vote does not portend, I fear, an eventual Hall induction. More likely, he will continue to languish in the Dale Murphy/ Ted Simmons limbo, never taken quite seriously enough by the BBWAA that the full weight of his career will ever receive anything other than token appreciation.
3) Tim Raines: Raines was named on 37% of the ballots cast. It is clear that Raine’s cocaine use, as well as the Conventional Wisdom that other lead-off hitters such as Rickey Henderson and Lou Brock outshone him, will probably keep Raines out of the Hall. I can’t think of any other reason why someone would not vote for him. The Conventional Wisdom in this case is, as it often proves to be, just plain wrong.
The Utterly Perplexing:
1) Edgar Martinez: (33% support) – What to do with Edgar Martinez, one of the greatest pure hitters in baseball history? The crux of the issue is, there is no consensus on what constitutes a legitimate baseball player. And don’t wait for the Baseball Hall of Fame to clarify the issue of what to do with the virtual life-time DH anymore than they will the issue of players linked to steroids.
The Hall of Fame, an institution that should be jealously guarding its reputation, has been cryptically, irresponsibly silent on the salient issues of the day regarding baseball, and the players it accepts for enshrinement.
2) Lee Smith: Smith, 3rd on the all-time Saves list, was snubbed, appearing on 45% of the ballots cast. What is a closer to do? Either Saves, as a statistic, impress you, or they do not.
Smith emerged from the single-inning “clean” Save era, where 9th inning specialists usually entered the game with no one on base, and three outs to work with. Sounds simple enough, and Smith did his job well. But is this task, however well-performed, impressive enough to merit HOF recognition?
I believe, despite the large number of closers who compiled over 300 saves, that the voters will ultimately reward only a small handful of these specialists. Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman come to mind as probable future inductees. But I don’t believe that the BBWAA membership is all that impressed by raw Save totals. Nor do I believe that they should be.
3) Fred McGriff: (18% support) – Why the lack of love for the Crime Dog? If I told you that a player who hit just under 500 home runs, registered eight 100+ RBI seasons, who had the same OPS+ as Al Kaline, and who has never been linked to steroids, appeared to be on the road to nowhere regarding Hall of Fame enshrinement, what would you think? Frankly, I don’t know what to think, either.
4) Marquis Grissom received four votes. Tino Martinez received six votes. B.J. Surhoff nailed down two, and Brett Boone and Charles Johnson received HOF support from one voter each. How is it that each of these decent but unspectacular players received votes for The Hall, yet so many writers do not see Bagwell, Raines, Larkin or Walker as Hall material? It’s a mystery worthy of Agatha Christie, without the inevitable “now it all makes sense” ending.
So what are your thoughts on today’s BBWAA Hall of Fame voting results? I’d like to know.
The complete results from the BBWAA: