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POLL: Willie Stargell and the Hall of Fame

Posted by Andy on October 19, 2010

Willie Stargell is already in the Hall of Fame, but that doesn't mean we can't debate his credentials.

Stargell played his entire career for the Pittsburgh Pirates and helped them win two World Series (1971, 1979). He had a monster year in 1973, leading baseball in doubles, homers, RBI, SLG, and OPS. He shared the 1979 NL MVP award with Keith Hernandez and had 3 other top-3 finishes.

He was a 7-time All-Star and winner of numerous other awards, including the 1974 Lou Gehrig and Roberto Clemente Awards, the 1978 Hutch Award, and the 1979 Babe Ruth award. In 1979, in addition to the regular-season MVP, he was the NLCS and World Series MVP as well.

Let's take a look at his career, discuss, and vote.

For Willie Stargell in the Hall of Fame:

Against Willie Stargell in the Hall of Fame:

  • Stargell's peak was high but short. His Black Ink and Gray Ink (measures of how often a player led his league or was among league leaders in major statistical categories) are not bad but are below average for Hall of Famers. Similarly, his HOF Monitor of 44 is a bit below average. Keep in mind that Stargell played before the Wild Card era, back when these numbers meant a little bit more. Most of his black ink came in the 1973 season; he barely led the league in anything in all the rest of the years of his career.
  • For all his post-season success, he also had some big failures, such as the 1971 NLCS when he went hitless in 17 plate appearances across the 4 games and the 1972 NLCS when he managed just 1 hit in 5 games. His overall post-season batting average was .278, close to his career number, so this is kind of a wash.
  • By pretty much all measures, he was not a good fielder (although I expect some to argue this.)
  • Stargell's career WAR of 57.50 is nothing to sneeze at and puts him ahead of a bunch of other HOFers, but also puts him right in the neighborhood of Jeff Kent, Ken Boyer, Will Clark, Darrell Evans, and Bobby Bonds. To me, this seems about right in terms of what he achieved as a player (with the exception of the 2 WS wins, which is definitely special.)

120 Responses to “POLL: Willie Stargell and the Hall of Fame”

  1. WilsonC Says:

    One of the differences seems to be in replacement level. Eyeballing a bunch of players, Fangraphs seems to have higher replacement level values in a lot of cases. Using Yastrzemski, for example, there's a difference of about 20 WAR (108 to 88), with about 50 runs worth coming from a difference in replacement value (466 to 413)

    Looking at Yaz, the two systems seem to rank him about equally during his best years (12.2-12.1 in 1967, 10.1-10.5 in 1968, 9.1-9.4 in 1970) but the difference can be quite substantial as you drift away from his peak (3.2-5.7 in 1964)

    I don't know if there's any consistency to this trend, or if it has to do with context or other factors.

  2. Matt Y Says:

    I don't see where what I said in #38 and #47 are inconsistent. I just look for a balanced resume, as stupid as that might sound. I look at more than just the WAR at B-R or a BA. With that said, I also don't like litmus tests or 100% milestones, but that doesn't mean hitting a milestone or batting a certain amount shouldn't matter when evaluating a player either. To me, Schmidt would have still went in if he had a .248 BA, but he would have been more of a borderliner solid in in instead of an inner-circle guy. I have felt for a while now that the WAR at others sites are perhaps a bit better, whether that was b/c walks are perhaps overvalued a bit or defensive metrics untrustworthy --we're all still trying to find out how to integrate everything....and find out what forms of evaluation are better than others.

    This is largely why i advocate a more moderate approach such as agreeing that improving advance metrics would be great and needed ( I personally like the B-R WAR, but it's far from something that should make up 90% of the evaluation process IMO), but lets also keep history and context relevant. It kills me, and i know there's plenty of these types out there, that look at the WAR at B-R and then they make their decision mostly on that without looking at other forms of evaluation, whether that be raw numbers, traditional viewpoints, HOM, WARP, fangraph WAR, win shares etc etc. I like to see players that have balanced resumes across many different forms of evaluation.

    i.e Rusty Staub --he has something like 360 win shares I believe, and according to this number he'd be a solid HoF pick, however, once you start looking at the rest of his numbers/ways of evaluation, you realize there's many other sites that score him as not even borderline worthy. I think his WAR at B-R is at 45--B-G has him at 48. He was a fine player, but not a HoFer. As far as I'm concerned, no one will ever corner the market on how to evaluate a player....and, that's a good thing.

  3. Cheese Says:

    Thank you #99, #100. This was the first time I'd looked at that season's vote totals and without first-hand knowledge of the players/era it is always tough to get context from numbers. I had a feeling it was along those lines, it was just odd at first glance to see Morgan's numbers compared to Rose and to have Morgan 4th (with my modern evaluation goggles 🙂 )

    Ok, so 230 hits and Stargell's numbers do look impressive with that angle. Morgan did get his 2&3 years later anyway with great OBP and OPS+ (Including a fantastic 1976 on paper!). Cheers.

  4. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    Matt Y -- what some of us here want to do is figure out which stats are good at evaluating which players and why -- to correct the problems.

    It's no good to just say "well all the stats are imperfect so be moderate". What we want to do is figure out why the differences exist and which stats are closer to the truth about which things, and from that make one that is best and really usable as a complete indicator of player value. Or if you inherently have to balance things (such as peak versus total value), to know which stats are best for judging each axis.

  5. Matt Y Says:

    I respectfully and completely disagree Mike!

    Until the stats are made definitively better ( a big IF in many many ways), I would say it's very disingenuous to push one form of evaluation to the point of near 100% exclusion of all the others--perhaps, one day one stat or one version of WAR will raise head and shoulders above all the rest. For that, I say continue trying to make the formulas and stats better, however, there's very likely always going to be different formulas with different outcomes and perspectives. The complex stats are great and provide us with another tool to evaluate players, but they probably should and probably will remain just one form of evaluation for the foreseeable future..

    I do not agree with today's mentality where things are so flippin' black and white --i.e. if this is true, than that is 100% false and not worth looking at ..... or the mentality of 100% division of labor or tasks --well, scouts scout and statisticians evaluate player's careers. The vast majority of things in life have shades of gray and very little is really black and white. Yes, 100 HRs are 100HRs, that's black and white, but not all 100 HRs are equal. People argue today on issues to the point where they just want to eliminate others' perspective. Yes, almost everything has some degree of merit, and I'll continue to push traditionalist to look at the saberstats, but I'll also continue to push sabermetricians to not get so caught up in their thing that all context and history have been boiled from the game.

  6. Matt Y Says:

    Here's another couple interesting ones to look at:

    Jack Morris

    B-R WAR: 39 (indicative of not even a borderliner)
    Baseball Gauge WAR: 53 (borderliner out)
    Fangraph WAR: 52 (borderliner out)
    B-P WARP: 36 (not even a borderliner)
    Win Shares: 221 (borderliner out)

    I'm not saying Jack should go into the Hall, but I do think he's a legitimate borderliner given what he did during some big games and his era. I get why he gets some Hall-play despite the 39 WAR.

    Andy Pettitte:

    B-R WAR: 50.2 (borderliner out)
    Fangraph WAR: 66.9 (borderliner on the fence perhaps in)
    Baseball Gauge WAR: 51 (borderliner out)
    B-P WARP 58.1 (borderliner just out)
    Win Shares : 210 (borderliner out)

    Andy actually has a better sabermetric argument that most give him credit for- he likely needs another year or two.

  7. Jesse Says:

    "Stargell's career WAR of 57.50 is nothing to sneeze at and puts him ahead of a bunch of other HOFers, but also puts him right in the neighborhood of Jeff Kent, Ken Boyer, Will Clark, Darrell Evans, and Bobby Bonds. To me, this seems about right in terms of what he achieved as a player (with the exception of the 2 WS wins, which is definitely special.)"

    Being "right in the neighborhood" of the likes of those five is a better argument for Hall of Fame induction than against.

  8. Matt Y Says:


    So, you think those 5 should be in the Hall? Unless you're a very large Hall guy, I don't see how Stargell being compared with this group of names above is an argument for his induction. I would only consider Kent a HoFer from this group --the others are borderliners but clearly out. Other than Kent, which I think will eventually make it, the others didn't get much play. 3 of the 4 fell off the ballot the first year, and Boyer lasted 20 years on the ballot but never got more than 25% of the vote. I'll predict Kent makes it somewhere b/w years 8-13.

  9. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    Matt on Morris v. Pettitte:

    BG WAR seems to be much higher than B-R WAR for pitchers. I do not consider 51 borderline.

    Fangraph WAR seems to be moderately higher for pitchers than B-R, but not as much as BG. 15 WAR is a big difference. If Pettitte is only on the line according to FG's 66.9, then Morris is not really borderline with a 52. Consider that the difference between Schilling and Moyer is roughly the same.

    I see Andy as having 3 stats say "close to border, but clearly out", one that says "borderline in" (FG) and one that says "not even close out" (BG).

    Morris has one stat showing borderline out (win shares), and 4 showing various level of clearly out.

    Also, Pettitte is still pitching, and pitching well. Which is one reason his resume looks better today than the last time I looked at him. He's still young enough that it's plausible that he gets another 2-3 good years in, at which point he'll be a pretty legitimate candidate. With current stats, he's getting close enough to merit discussion, but very clearly out. His peak is much too weak to be considered seriously with barely borderline career value. He needs another ~10 WAR to get serious consideration IMO. And if he does, his probable win total will make him a fairly likely selection, even if more deserving pitchers are left out (cf Kevin Brown).

  10. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Pettitte's postseason performances since returning to the Yankees are making his postseason resume look like what some fans always thought it was. He had disturbing tendency to get beaten around occasionally, and for some reason those starts were always forgotten. But Andy II has eliminated the bad postseason starts.***

    Anyway, he seems clearly capable of continuing to pitch well for another couple years. He has lost some mph on the fastball but adjusted wonderfully. I love watching him pitch. It's a question of his dedication, as he makes noise about retiring every season. I hope he does come back and can pitch himself into the HOF.

    ***jinx protection

  11. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Actually, going back to 2003, Andy I's last season with the Yankees, he is 9-3, 2.93 over his last 111 postseason IP.

  12. Matt Y Says:

    I didn't mean to bring up the two as a comparison, but can understand how it looks that way --they were interesting studies IMO. As for quibbling over whether Morris' WAR at fangraph and BG are borderline worthy, well, it's quibbling. He's barely borderline at best at some sites, but BG WAR is not a lot higher. Sorry. The BG WAR being a lot higher than B-R WAR is just NOT true -- if you poke around enough they're pretty comparable. Many pitchers are quite close and some BG WAR's are actually a bit lower. I'd say on average pitchers are slightly higher at BG, but it varies more than what you're stating here! I'd call 50 WAR +- a few borderline at any site --why, well, the WAR's can vary by 15+ points.

    As for Pettitte needing 10 plus WAR, well, I'll assume you mean 5 more with the 5 playoff WAR he should already be credited for. Another good year or two and he's across the line for nearly all large Hall people and a good majority of moderate Hall guys (HGH aside). After 1-2 to more good seasons, he'd have a pretty strong resume to the traditionalist and a fair resume to the sabermetrician. He'd be short with some moderate Hall people, and probably all small Hall people and high peak people, but lets face it, the Hall isn't small, and they really don't elect many "peak-only" guys anymore. Pettitte is somewhat hurt by having two of his best seasons cut short by injuries --if they weren't cut short he'd have a solid 5 year peak, but hey, injuries are part of the game.

    Going back to August 09, Pettitte is a combined 22-5 with 3.28 ERA --this includes playoffs.

  13. Matt Y Says:

    So, in short, Pettittee's 51 BG WAR is just borderline as well, but yes,he's still on wrong side of line. Again, BG WAR for pitchers is not a lot higher than B-R--it varies. Another year (or two) could change that given he should get credit for playoffs whether that is with 5 more WAR or the titles and wins. I didn't think he was coming back earlier in year, but I'm hearing that he might be leaning towards one more year. As much as you can get sick with the core four stuff, it be nice to see Posada, Mo and Pettitte around for 2 more years....Posada would have to adjust to part-time DH though. Jeter will be around another 4 years.

  14. Matt Y Says:

    Here's just a quick sample of some guys I just looked at as a comparison of BG WAR to B-R WAR --

    Whitey Ford
    BG WAR 53
    B-R WAR 55.3

    David Cone
    BG WAR 55.4
    B-R WAR 57

    Jamie Moyer
    BG WAR 43
    B-R WAR 48

    Luis Tiant
    BG WAR 62.5
    B-R WAR 60

    Bret Saberhagen
    BG WAR 54
    B-R WAR 55

    Tommy John
    BG WAR 59
    B-R WAR 59

    Roy Halladay
    BG WAR 54
    B-R WAR 54

    Billy Pierce

    53 at both sites

    Pettitte's WARs are basically the same at both site as well. 50.2 vs. 50.9

    If you poke around, yes, Schilling's WAR at BG is 10+ points higher, as is Early Wynn, Jim Kaat (is actually 63 at BG vs. 41) and some others, but it varies quite a bit as evidenced by these examples. Mussina's is also 5 points higher at BG, but Moyer's is 5 points lower at BG.

    So again, a WAR of 51 at BG is in that borderline range as well IMO. Seems to me that BG just is more highly variable, but it's not way higher across the board than B-R. I suspect it varies more erratically because there's some issues with defensive metrics.

  15. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    I haven't done an exhaustive study or anything, but of the 30odd pitchers I've looked at on both BG and B-R, a few are roughly equal, and all the rest are anywhere from a bit to quite a bit higher at BG. I've yet to see a pitcher whose BG WAR was more than a hair lower than their B-R WAR, but I've seen a fair number that are 20% higher.

    I'll accept even some cherry picked examples at least as enough evidence that I'd need to do more research before holding on to my current opinion. Can you find any pitcher whose BG WAR is >15% *lower* than their B-R WAR?

  16. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    ok sorry I missed that you did find one guy: Jamie Moyer who is if not 15% lower, at least more than 10% lower -- along with a bunch that are roughly equivalent.

    I couldn't suss out too much about their pitcher evaluation, but they definitely have a higher replacement level than B-R for position players. If the same is true for pitchers, that would explain Moyer's doing worse there he's probably got more innings than anybody on your list except maybe tommy john. doesn't explain Kaat's doing so well over there though.

  17. Matt Y Says:

    No, I haven't, but there are some ~7-10% lower at BG (see bellow). Yes, if there's a 20% difference it's always in favor of BG. However, the majority of pitchers are in the same ballpark --eyeballing it I'd say ~80% of the pitchers are close (within a WAR of 1-3 or within 5%) The big differences, and this is by means of a very rough eyeball crude analysis, seems to be mostly with HoFers with WARs above 60 that were high strikeout pitchers. Schilling, Smoltz, Ryan, Pedro, Randy Johnson, Walter Johnson, Clemens, etc all rank ~13-20% higher at BG. The Kaat 63 at BG is a bit perplexing though, but Kaat was a great defensive player and he played on some interesting defensive teams (I think I'll take a closer look at Kaat).

    So, in short, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle between us. BG's WAR in on average higher, but it's comparable. I'd like to see the median between the two sites. I suspect this would be a better indicator given the variability at BG. Defensive metrics and K's or K/walk ratio might be at the heart of the difference and variability.

    Warren Spahn:

    BG: 85
    B-R: 93

    Tom Glavine:

    BG: 59
    B-R: 67

    Rick Reuschel:

    BG: 61
    B-R 66


    BG: 43
    B-R 47

  18. Matt Y Says:

    Kaat (25 season 4500IP and 24 IP in playoffs):

    BG WAR: 63
    B-P WAR: 49
    B-R: 41
    Win Shares 269
    ERA+ 108
    WPA: 4.0
    Wins: 283 +1 in playoffs

    John (26 season 4700IP and 88 Innings in playoffs)):

    BG WAR 59
    B-P WAR: 64.5
    B-R: 59
    Win Shares: 291
    ERA+ 111
    WPA: 25
    Wins: 288 + 6 in playoffs)

    Tiant (19 seasons 3500IP and 34 playoff IP):

    BG WAR: 63
    B-P WAR: 63
    B-R WAR 60
    Win Shares: 252
    ERA+ 114
    WPA: 25.5
    Wins: 229 + 3 in playoffs

    Pettitte (16 season 3055IP and 263 playoff IP)

    BG WAR: 51 (add ~5 WAR for postseason play)
    B-P WAR 58 (add ~5 WAR for postseason play)
    B-R WAR 50.2 (add ~5 WAR for postseason play)
    Win Shares 210 (add ~20 Win Shares for postseason play)
    ERA+ 117 (with 263 postseason IP, and given the similarities of his numbers, you can safely assume his ERA + would still be around 117 in ~3400IP)
    WPA: 23 (add 2 more points for postseason play)
    Wins: 240 + 19 in playoffs

    Seems to me Kaat still wouldn't be a good choice; Tiant would be a nice Vet pick; John is on the fence hurt by being too much a compiler, but still wouldn't be a terrible Vet pick (perhaps give him a smidgeon of credit for surgery as well); and Pettitte is 1-2 seasons away when including post season numbers via either playoffWAR or Wins and championships.

    Fangraph doesn't have WAR for pitchers that pitched pre-1980?

  19. Cam Says:

    Joe Jackson and the hall of fame.

  20. Jeff Zoerner Says:

    Willie was better than Reggie Jackson in every way. I'm surprised it's Willie being discussed instead of Reggie, as I am surprised that Reggie always ranks higher on all-time lists. Why?