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POLL: Trevor Hoffman and the Hall of Fame

Posted by Andy on January 12, 2011

Trevor Hoffman announced his retirement yesterday.

He finishes as the all-time leader in saves and games finished as well as his run as the active leader in appearances as a pitcher.

Few people know that the Padres were actually Hoffman's third team. He was originally drafted by the Reds in 1989 (a few spots behind Kelly Stinnett in the year that Ben McDonald was taken first overall), and was then plucked off the vine by the Marlins in the 1992 expansion draft. In the middle of his first big league season, he was one of the youngsters shipped to the Padres in a trade that sent Gary Sheffield to Florida. Then, 16 years later, he signed with the Brewers as a free agent, spending his final 2 seasons in Milwaukee.

There is no doubt that Hoffman is one of the best closers of all time. The question of his candidacy for the Hall of Fame has, I think, more to do with how closers are valued overall.

Let's take a look at some of the numbers and have a vote.

For Trevor Hoffman in the Hall of Fame

  • As already mentioned, he's the all-time leader in saves. Given that pitchers (especially closers) are used different now from how they were in the 1980s and earlier, this is a less-impressive record than some others, but it's still quite impressive.
  • Hoffman is one of just 14 players with 1,000 games pitched, coming in at #9 overall. Again, this is somewhat tempered by the fact that he pitched fewer outs per game than most of the rest, but it's not his fault how he was used. (Incidentally, I did the math offline. Among the 14 guys with 1,000 games, Dennis Eckersley of course had the most IP per game at 3.07 since he was a starter for a large portion of his career. The next highest guys are Hoyt Wilhelm, Rich Gossage, and then Jose Mesa at 1.51 IP/game. Hoffman is the 4th lowest at 1.05 IP/game, followed by Jesse Orosco, Dan Plesac, and lastly Mike Stanton at 0.95 IP/game.)
  • His Win Probability Added is 19th all-time since 1950 among pitchers, right between Juan Marichal and Sandy Koufax.

Against Trevor Hoffman in the Hall of Fame

  • Before he's eligible for the Hall of Fame, there's a very good chance that he'll no longer be the all-time leader in saves, as Mariano Rivera is just 42 shy. Although, with Bill Wagner retiring, nobody else is anywhere close, with no other active pitching having even half of Hoffman's save total. Rivera is also quite likely to take over the lead in games finished.
  • Rivera is already way ahead of Hoffman in WPA, ranking 6th all-time at 50.81 (compared to 34.35 for Hoffman.) In the comparison between Hoffman and Rivera, it's clear that Hoffman comes up well short, and I think this will be commonly accepted if Rivera pitches a couple more years and passes Hoffman in all the counting stats. This alone doesn't mean that Hoffman isn't also excellent (the Hall of Fame, after all, has more than one member...)
  • Interestingly, Hoffman does fairly poorly in career WAR, coming in at 215th among pitchers, a bit behind Derek Lowe and Carlos Zambrano. Rivera, by comparison, is currently 69th all-time, a little behind Roy Halladay. I assume this is due mainly to the difference in their core numbers--whereas Hoffman has amassed more saves, Rivera's ERA+ is much better (141 for Hoffman vs all-time best 205 for Rivera.)
  • Despite leading in saves, Hoffman only led his league in saves in two individual seasons (1998 and 2006).  This suggests that perhaps he has the record more on longevity and not because he was usually the best closer in the league. (But to be fair, he had 7 other finishes in the top 3 in saves, and he might have had fewer save opportunities than other guys in many years.)
  • Hoffman's post-season record is spotty, including a series-ending loss in the 1996 ALDS and a loss in Game 3 of the 1998 World Series. It's true that he allowed earned runs in only 3 of 12 post-season games, but as is often is the case with closers, when those runs were allowed, they really hurt his team.

So what do you think?

This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 12th, 2011 at 9:04 am and is filed under Hall of Fame, Polls. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

173 Responses to “POLL: Trevor Hoffman and the Hall of Fame”

  1. It's not really fair to compare him with Rivera. Rivera is the best closer of all time, and nobody compares to him. But Hoffman is still HOF good. For most of his career he was recognized as one of the best closers in the game.

  2. I mentioned that the Rivera comparisons were unfair in the second bullet point under the 'against' section.

  3. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Only four seasons in which he pitched at least 70 good innings. Even by current standards that's a rather light workload. Pass.

  4. It will be interesting, Lee Smith retired as the all-time saves leader and the first to reach 400 saves. He also spent his first 3 ballots as the all-time leader and never got more than 50% of the vote. Not sure if it is because the voters thought he was not nearly as dominant as Eck, Fingers or Sutter or they did not want to vote for the 1 inning only save guy which Smith was from 1991 on when he piled up 213 saves. I dont Hoffman making it for a few ballots at least.

  5. If it were up to me, I would vote NO. I group him with Jeff Reardon and Lee Smith.
    I think he will probably get voted in eventually however

  6. Frank Clingenpeel Says:

    It might take a few ballots, but Hoffman will make it. Deservedly so.

  7. I say yes but barely.

    He's one of the very few relievers I think actually deserves it. But he's right on the margin; I think he's only a little better than Smith, who I don't think deserves to go into the Hall.

  8. There's no real standard as far as relief pitchers go in the HOF. I can't see Fingers & Sutter being any better than Quisenberry, Tekulve, Henke, Franco or Wagner.

    Saves are the most overrated and useless stats in baseball so there's no help or standard there.

    I would only vote for Rivera, Gossage, Eckersly and Wilhelm.

    Hoffman got to 600 saves which is a nice big round number that the writers like. Both he and Lee Smith had long career which is another thing the writers like.

    I could see Hoffman getting in especially when you consider there will be 12-15 solid HOF candidates on the ballot every year not getting-in because their link to PED.

  9. No.

  10. He'll make it because the hall is--perhaps unfortunately--not reserved for only the all-time unquestionable greats. I say he deserves it for the numbers, many have a long career without posting huge numbers.

  11. Not a terrible pick, but I'd say no for now. If twenty years from now it still looks like he was the second best career closer since the role went through its Eck-volution, I'd vote for him then.

  12. He retires on top in Saves - he deserves HOF recognition.

    That said, the greatest closer in history will pass him in May of 2012 (if not sooner).

  13. John DiFool Says:

    We need a Wagner poll next. Basically any Yes votes depend on whether you think elite closers deserve enshrinement, despite how their low innings totals reduce their overall value below that of elite starters (even after adjusting for leverage with WPA etc.).

  14. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    "Closing pitchers" are a category that is still being sorted out by HOF voters/observers as to what the standards are/should be. As #4 and #5 above noted, being the all-time saves leader is not enough, just ask Jeff Reardon (1992) and Lee Smith (193-2005).

    RELIEVERS ELECTED to the HOF:
    Year.../Name......................./years on ballot...../years all-time Saves leader
    1985 - Hoyt Wilhelm......... /8th....................... /1964 - 1979
    1992 - Rollie Fingers....... /2nd...................... /1980 - 1991
    2004 - Dennis Eckersley /FIRST (83.2%)
    2006 - Bruce Sutter......... /13th
    2008 - Goose Gossage.. /8th

    If there's a pattern there, I don't see it; I don't think Eck is useful for comparison, as he was a hybrid starter/ closer. I think that Hoffman will eventually be voted in, but he will have to wait about as long as Wilhelm / Gossage.

    Even if Rivera sets a new Saves record, it won't be by much, and most people recognize Rivera as one-of-a-kind. It would be like holding all outfield HOF candidates to the standards of Willie Mays or Hank Aaron (which some people are under the mistaken impression, IS the proper standard...).

  15. joe baseball Says:

    What makes relief pitchers so effective is that they pitch to very few hitters per game. Most relief pitchers would have terrible records if they had to pitch three or four times though a lineup. Therefore, comparing short relief numbers to starters or long relievers can't really be done fairly. It's unfortunate that closers with saves get more Hall of Fame (HOF) credit than short relievers with no saves. Why not just look at (Hits and Walks and HPB) per Batter Faced or per Inning and judge pitchers on just that? Also, if the best closers are HOF material, why not the best pinchhitters, pinchrunners, designatedhitters, platoon players or late defensive replacements given more credit as they succeed in helping win games based on how the manager wants to use them? Why are managers in the HOF and not coaches?

  16. Eck and Fingers did win MVPs, the only other closers to do that were Willie Hernandez (1984 Tigers) and Jim Konstanty (1950 Phillies) and they did not have long productive careers. That may have helped Eck and Fingers a lot.

    I think Hoffman was lucky to start his career at the perfect time, just when the 1 inning save became normal and he stayed pretty healthy and racked up a huge number of saves, but he really was the first of his kind. From ages 33-39, 1991 on, Lee Smith pitched 370.2 innings in 372 games and racked up 213 saves (44% of his saves in 29% of his career innings). If he would have been used in the same way his previous 11 seasons he may have gotten to a save total closer to Hoffman. In 10 years from now when many more closers have had long careers being 1 inning guys Hoffman's total may not look so dominant.

    Hoffman looks now probably how Met Ott's 511 HRs looked in 1945 which was the 3rd most ever at the time. A staggering number for 1945, still respectable but nothing amazing for today's standards.

  17. If you're arguing that he should get in because he's the all-time saves leader then why not Firpo Marberry who held the record for 20 years (and was a better pitcher than Hoffman, in my opinion) or Johnny Murphy who held it for 16?

    If Hoffman gets in then Lenny Harris is getting screwed.

  18. dukeofflatbush Says:

    I always have to add this to HOF debates, as much as we don't like to admit to it, character plays a huge part in voters opinion. 90% of HOF vote is stats, but how players represented MLB, treated fans, gave time to reporters etc.,is all factored in. And it will be for Hoffman.
    I'm not saying I agree with that. But its just the way things work.
    Hoffman was supposedly a great teammate. He was said to take the younger pitchers out to dinner, took last year's demotion with a ton of class (even as the whole team pulled for him to get into a few games to reach 600), did tons of charity...

    I think when it comes to guys like Hoffman, people think his admission into the Hall will diminish guys like Ruth, Mays, Johnson...
    If anyone has been to the Hall (I have many times) you'd know, that its not everyone heaped into a pile. True they all have the same plaque, but there is no mistaking who is who in terms of talent and importance to the game.
    If someone from Europe was to visit Cooperstown, with no previous history of the game, they'd still be able to cypher out the minutiae and figure Cy Young was a bit different than Hoffman.
    If you think of the Hall as an abstract ideal that one is either a part of or not, than it does seem a bit problematic to consider Hoffman. But if you were to think of it as a club, or better - an Ivy league school - you'd know that not everyone in the class of 2010 at Harvard has the same skill sets, received the same education, took the same courses, or will make the same money, yet they all will have a diploma that reads pretty much the same thing.
    And these arguments that Hoffman was a closer, therefore not Hall worthy are just plain silly. In hockey, you don't compare Goalies to Wings - in Football, wideouts to punters - a point guard to a center. Maybe a better analogy would be film. Come March, the Academy of Motion Pictures will pick 5 of the years best films to compete for title of THE best film of the year. Historically, comedies and horror films and other lesser genres are ignored. I don't know about the rest of you, but to me, a film is either good or not, independent of genre. I also don't put AIRPLANE on the flatscreen expecting to be crying or to have a life changing experience. If i did, I'd be let down quite a bit. I understand going into a film what to be looking for.
    This whole argument a against closers is just silly.
    Yes I agree that the save is a silly stat.
    Yes I agree that a closer should be used in the tightest situation, regardless of save opp.
    But those are the conditions that Hoffman played. And he did them at an elite level for a very long time.
    He was easily in the top 3 closers in the game for ten seasons.
    Yes he did not win 250 games, but AIRPLANE didn't make me cry, but they both are in my top 100 lists.
    Shirley I'm not kidding.

  19. I generally agree with a lot that has been said, with one major difference in terms of how I look at things. Hoffman happens to have played his entire career in the 1-inning save era. As #16 points out, he got lucky to start just when the 1-inning save became the absolute standard across all of MLB. The luck of this timing combined with Hoffman's excellence are what gave him the saves record.

    All of these things are happenstances that were not under Hoffman's control. He couldn't control his age or when his major-league career started. He couldn't control how closers were used or how his managers used him specifically. He can't control the future, specifically who may pass him in Saves or whether the 1-inning save continues to be the standard or whether it (more likely, as with most things in MLB) fades into something else in 10 or 30 or 50 years.

    The bottom line is that for the years he played, the standard practices in baseball during that time, and the way he was used, he was really, really good. While JT in #3 above is right that he didn't pitch a lot of innings, the bottom line is that he pitched as much as he pitched, and he usually did it quite well. His career ERA+, even being much lower than Rivera's, is still excellent.

    So, my view is that he should be in the HOF. Yeah, 20 years from now, a guy who specialized in 1-inning saves may seem weird. That's quite possible. But that's the way the game was when Hoffman played, and he was awesome.

  20. If you calculate strikeout-to-walk ratio using BB + HBP - IBB, Hoffman has 4.39, Rivera 3.81.

    Hits per 9 IP: Hoffman 7.0, Rivera 6.9

    HRs per 9 IP: Hoffman 0.8, Rivera 0.5

    That is the one big difference between the two. But it means for nonHR hits per 9 IP, Hoffman beats him 6.2 vs. 6.4.

    Maybe Hoffman is not as far behind Rivera as we usually think. If a HR is worth 1.4 runs, then Rivera's advantage is .42 runs. If nonHR hits are worth .55 runs on average, then Hoffman has an edge of .11. Combined, Rivera is ahead here by .31 runs per 9 IP. But then Hoffman has a big lead in SO/BB.

    Using BB + HBP - IBB, Hoffman actually has fewer BBs per 9 IP, 2.13 vs. 2.16.

    Hoffman beats him SO per 9 IP, 9.4 to 8.2.

    Fangraphs has Rivera ahead in FIP ERA 2.79 to 3.08. I know I am ignoring leverage and WPA and clutch (which maybe applicable for closers). But I am surprised how close it is. Alot closer than the ERA+ indicates.

  21. So who's Shirley and are you singling her out? :-) :-) Yes I get the reference to Leslie Neilson's line in Airplane

  22. @20, look at Billy Wagner too.
    BB + HBP - IBB / K = 3.89
    H/9: 6.0
    HR/9: 0.8

    1.4 runs/HR * 0.8 + .55 runs/nonHR * 5.2 = 1.12 + 2.86 = 3.98
    Same for Rivera = 4.275
    Same for Hoffman = 4.695

    K/9: 11.9
    FIP: 2.73

    I still think Rivera is probably the best closer but as usual he gets a HUGE Yankee bias boost that overinflates his value. He is really not THAT much better than Hoffman or Wagner.

  23. Thanks for doing the work on Wagner. I remember a discussion at Fangraphs on him and I was surprised by how good he was

  24. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Brooks Graff. Brooks Graff said: POLL: Trevor Hoffman and the Hall of Fame » Baseball-Reference ...: Win Expectancy, Run Expectancy, and Leverage... http://bit.ly/i0F1tM [...]

  25. Oops I screwed up the runs/9 for Rivera and Hoffman.

    Wagner = 3.98 runs/9
    Rivera = 4.22 runs/9
    Hoffman = 4.53 runs/9

    Assuming 1.4 runs/HR and .55 runs/nonHR

  26. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    #17/ Hartvig Says: "If you're arguing that he should get in because he's the all-time saves leader then why not Firpo Marberry who held the record for 20 years (and was a better pitcher than Hoffman, in my opinion) or Johnny Murphy who held it for 16?..."

    Hartvig, I don't think that Saves became a useful stat for player comparisons until well after it was recognized as a formal statistic c. 1969, and managers deliberately brought in their best relievers in "save" situations.

    Firpo Marberry was a "swingman'" who could both spot-start and relieve frequently. Johnny Murphy was a "fireman" who would come in when the starting pitcher was in trouble, not just in the 9th innings (in years in which he did not start at all, he averaged about two innings/appearance). Both were good pitchers for a number of years, but not quite HOF-caliber.

  27. Johnny Twisto Says:

    He is really not THAT much better than Hoffman or Wagner.

    Sure, if you ignore October.

  28. @19, I think everyone agrees you shouldnt penalize Hoffman for things beyond his control such as the era he played in, but the problem is that since he was the first of his kind it is difficult to judge how impressive or rare his career was.

    Like the Mel Ott example, in 1945 he had 511 HRs, 3rd most ever behind Ruth 714 and Foxx 534. It was probably difficult to determine what to make of 511 HRs at that time, should Ott be on the very short list of greatest power hitters of all-time? Is Babe Ruth's ~700 HR mark the real benchmark of true HR hitters and 500 was not that impressive, or was 500 so rare that 50 years after Ott only a few more would join him and Ruth's 700 was a freak number? Time has shown the Ruth's 700 is truely the historic number that will probably only be reached by 4-5 others 100 years after Ruth set the mark and the 500 club has since been joined by 22 others in the 60 years after Ott with several members added each generation for the forseeable future.

    So is 601 saves similar to 700 HRs, the true benchmark for historic greatness even 100 years from now, more like 500 HRs; still HOF worthy but not historic, or maybe even more like 400 HRs; a once rare number that is now so common its not even guaranteed HOF?

  29. I agree with Andy on post # 19. An easy yes for me. The yang to Rivera's ying. Perhaps if Hoffman were a Yankee and Rivera a Padre during their careers it would be Hoffman, and not Rivera, being praised as the best ever.

  30. #28, it's a fair point but I would say there's an argument that applies to both Ott and Hoffman. Yes, over (a lot) of time, 500 HRs (and maybe 600 saves) became a lot less impressive. But when Ott did it, it was quite impressive relative to the era in which he played. Ott was a great power hitter. Certainly stacking Ott up against some of the more recent entrants in the 500 HR club, Ott's homers are more impressive. I am not bothered by the fact that Ott is in the HOF or that his raw numbers got match a whole bunch of times. Other than Rivera, it's going to be at least 8-10 years before another pitcher gets 500 saves, and at that time I'm confident that Hoffman is going to look like one of the very best closers for the period 1990-2020, even if by the year 2040 there are half a dozen pitchers with 600 saves.

  31. Agreeing with #27 except that I think Rivera is clearly better even ignoring post-season. Wagner and Hoffman were both as effective, in terms of WPA, but Rivera was clearly more dominant in the underlying stats.

  32. Trevor Hoffman has blown too many saves in key situations ... 98 World Series (though they wouldn't have won anyway), 96 ALDS, the 2006 All Star Game (when home field was at stake), and worst of all the 2007 NL West tiebreaker game...

    In the era of one inning closers, it's Mariano Rivera and NO ONE ELSE

  33. It seems like there has been a lot of mention of Yankee bias on this blog lately. Does anybody believe that it still exists? Seems to me that if anything, there is a reverse-Yankee bias do to the national backlash against that team's success in the 1990s and 2000s. Should I do a post on this?

  34. Trevor Hoffman has blown too many saves in key situations ... 98 World Series (though they wouldn't have won anyway), 96 ALDS, got a win after a blown save in the 98 NLDS vs Atl (blew the lead in the 9th, started and was pulled in the 10th before another pitcher closed it out) the 2006 All Star Game (when home field was at stake), and worst of all the 2007 NL West tiebreaker game...

    In the era of one inning closers, it's Mariano Rivera and NO ONE ELSE

  35. @4, all the closers voted into the HOF through 2011 have had an ERA in save situations better than Lee Smith (2.94).

    Despite Hoffman's awful 2010 season, his ERA in save sit's still ranks better than Smith, so I expect he'll go in. The closest to Smith was Sutter (2.85), but as we know... Sutter's got the whole reputation for bring the splitfinger fastball into prominance so he's seen as a game changer on top of it all.

    I wish I knew where to find the FIP in save situations. I'd love to look at that.

    BTW, anyone notice that the first three letters of Trevor's last name is HOF? He was born for this.

  36. @33, is that a joke? Just watch sportscenter, they spent more time talking about the Yankees not getting Lee than the Brewers getting Zach Grienke, about ~2 days of coverage vs. 20 minutes. Why do I know who Joba Chamberlain is? He is just a crappy setup man? Why does the average fan know who Joba is but probably has never heard of Joakim Soria? If you think an east coast bias does not exist it is because you must be located over there instead of being on the outside looking in.

  37. @34
    Agree, Hoffman had a trace of Armando Benitez in him.

    @35
    You can't compare Smiths Save ERA to Hoffmans because Smith spent half of his career pitching in multiple inning Save Situations. Hoffman usually finished a season with less IP than Games. He was averaging less than 3 batters an appearance.
    Smith also spent a large chunk of his career in Wrigley and Fenway.

  38. "Perhaps if Hoffman were a Yankee and Rivera a Padre during their careers it would be Hoffman, and not Rivera, being praised as the best ever."

    You're right.

    Five rings and pinstripes have as much to do with Rivera's standing in the game than anything he did on the mound.

    Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada would each have a handful of rings if Joe Borowski was the Yankees closer.

    As far as penalizing players for their era, tell that to Ron Santo and about a dozen other players who played the prime years of their careers from the early '60's to the mid '70's.

    Hoffman and Rivera and the others are all failed position players or starters who would have spent the last fifteen years selling cars; instead, they took advantage of a "created" position, a stupid rule, and a cheap stat and now we're to consider them all time greats?

    Sorry, but no.

  39. Lets not turn this into another east coast bias thread. I know plenty of marginal players on the SF Giants, thanks to their WS victory. I also know plenty of run of the mill players on the Dallas Cowboys.

    Trevor Hoffman is not a victim of east coast bias. Given the choice, I am taking Rivera everytime over Hoffman, Wagner and all the rest, regardless of where they play.

  40. #36, East coast bias and Yankee bias are two different things. There's an east coast bias with most things in this country, including professional sports since most events are at night and half the country is sleeping when events are going on on the west coast. I wouldn't argue for a second against east coast bias. It's Yankee bias specifically I'm talking about.

    As long as we're at it, I'll mention that I consider Sportscenter to barely be worth a damn anymore when it comes to sports journalism.

  41. @35 Hoffman is save situations: 698.1 IP, 68 HR, 745 K, 162 BB, 18 IBB, 7 HBP.

    13*HR + 3*(BB + HBP - IBB) - 2*K / IP + C = -.219 + C where C is calculated so that the league average FIP = league average ERA. It is usually around ~3 for Hoffman's NL era. So to be conservative and add 3.2 his save situation FIP ~ 3.00

  42. Maybe this isn't fair but I have a hard time voting anyone in the HOF with a losing record whether it's a closer or not. If you ain't savin' you should be at least winnin'! It's a no for me.

  43. I voted for Hoffman in the poll, even though I think the modern usage of "closers" is an absurd waste of talent. My rationale:

    1. I try to strike a balance between my own opinion of how an ace reliever like Hoffman should have been used, and the inescapable reality of his era, i.e., that virtually all managers used their ace reliever as a 1-inning closer limited to save situations. It's akin to crediting a player for years lost to wartime service: Hoffman didn't choose the way in which he was used, and there's reason to think he could have pitched more innings at an ERA+ close to his career mark, thus gaining more WAR / WPA. So, I'll support inducting the very best long-career closers from this era, even though their WAR / WPA may not seem to merit it.

    2. Again, while I don't agree with how the Cy Young voters have valued closers in this era, it's still a fact that Hoffman had two very strong 2nd-place finishes in the CYA vote -- in 1998, he actually got the most 1st-place votes (13 to 11) over Glavine, but lost on points; and in 2006, he got 12 1st-place votes to 15 for Brandon Webb. Hoffman's career total of 1.07 CYA shares is similar to Bruce Sutter's 1.14 (Hoffman pitched more innings with a better ERA+). And he was an All-Star seven times.

    3. By the measure of doing the job he was assigned to do -- a job that was considered very important, and thus was invested with a high dose of pressure -- Hoffman was outstanding, and for a very long time. Obviously, he set the all-time saves record; but also, he didn't do it by "compiling" -- he led the league twice, ranked top-3 nine times, and his nine seasons of 40+ saves are two more than Rivera and five more than any other pitcher in history. In his closing career (1994-2010), Hoffman converted 89.1% of save chances, which is very close to Rivera's conversion rate of 89.8% in his closing career (1997-2010).

    Here are the career conversion rates* (in descending order) of the top closers whose closing careers overlapped Hoffman's by at least 2 seasons:**

    Rivera, 89.8 (1997-2010)
    Hoffman, 89.1 (1994-2010)
    F.Rodriguez, 88.2 (2005-2010)
    Mesa, 87.3 (1995-97, '99, 2001-05)
    Percival, 86.8 (1996-2009)
    Wagner, 86.4 (1997-2010)
    Myers, 86.3 (1988-90, '92-98)
    Henke, 85.6 (1985-95)
    Beck, 85.6 (1992-99, 2003)
    Eckersley, 85.5 (1988-97)
    Nen, 85.3 (1994-2002)
    T.Jones, 84.4 (1995-2001, 2005-08)
    F.Cordero, 84.4 (2004-10)
    Wetteland, 84.2 (1992-2000)
    Isringhausen, 84.0 (2000-08)
    L.Smith, 83.5 (1982-95)
    Benitez, 83.3 (1998-2007)
    D.Jones, 82.8 (1988-98)
    Franco, 82.5 (1986-99)
    Aguilera, 81.2 (1990-95, '97-2000)
    R.Hernandez, 81.1 (1993-2002)
    Montgomery, 80.8 (1989-99)

    4. Hoffman's career SO/BB rate of 3.69 ranks 7th all-time (min. 1000 IP).

    I certainly do not put Hoffman on a par with Rivera. But to rate a solid 2nd over the course of a career that was contemporary with that of the man widely considered the greatest ever at that job, is still a mighty impressive performance.

    -----------
    * All references to save conversion rates count only the player's years in the closer role, so as to exclude most games that officially were "blown saves" but, in a modern, practical sense, were not really save chances. My definition of when a pitcher had the closer's role was a little bit subjective; my general standard was having at least 15 saves, but I did include years when I knew the pitcher started the year in the closer role before getting hurt or losing the job due to performance -- e.g., I did include Hoffman's 2010 season -- as well as years when I knew the pitcher had come up from the minors mid-season and taken over the closer role.

    ** This means basically all closers with at least 268 career saves, except for Reardon, Fingers, Gossage and Sutter. I excluded them because a substantial part of their closing careers occurred before the 1-inning save become predominant; conversion rates were generally lower in their time.

  44. Andy @19 -- We should have this thread bronzed or something: We not only agree, but for the same reasons! (And you said it much more succinctly than I.)

  45. Actually you can pretty easily get his FIP constant by using his career stats and FIP: 13*100+3*(307+9-58)-2*1133/1089.33 + C = 2.87. C = 3.05

    So Hoffman in career save situations FIP = 2.83
    Total Career FIP = 2.87

    Rivera:
    C = 3.2
    FIP in save situations = 2.63
    FIP total career = 2.79

  46. Although I agree with some Yankee media Bias to a point many times Yankee players turn into a afterthought because the Yanks keep such loaded lineups. take Bernie Williams as a example, if he played for any other team those teams would be promoting him for the HOF. as a Tiger fan I listen to those who want Lou Whitaker and Trammell in(which I am in favor of being the homer I am) or a Reds fans who want Larkin in, or a Rockies fan who wants Larry Walker in and so on and so on, but you never hear nothing of Williams. of course I am not saying if he belongs or does not belong but he definately deserves consideration as someone who was a excellent hitter as well as fielder.he played in 121 playoff games and played 1 of the 3 defensive positions that matter the most (along with C and SS). so being a yankee can hurt as well as help IMO.

    AS far as Hoffman goes I do not see how he can not eventually be put in. he has been consistantly 1 of the best pitchers to come in and shut the other team down in the most important inning. the inning where teams hold no bars back and bring in what they got off the bench. many people make me laugh as they think it is possible to transform any starter into a great reliever. if that was true every team would have a great reliever. the most common thing teams with good W/L records have is not hitting or fielding or starting pitching. it is good relief pitching and Hoffman is 1 of the best ever at that.

    JMO of course.

  47. JA, for my part I agree with virtually everything you post on this blog. The few things that have irked me are very much the exception.

  48. @43 JohnAutin:
    Some interesting points. However, I disagree with these two statements.

    "It's akin to crediting a player for years lost to wartime service"

    "and there's reason to think he could have pitched more innings at an ERA+ close to his career mark"

    I also don't put too much weight in the Save Conversion Rate which treats a one out Save the same as a 6 out Save.

  49. I think Hoffman deserves to get into the HOF.

    Why? For about 18 seasons, Hoffman finished a game over 600 times when his team was winning. To me, that means a team trusted him to close out a winning game over 600 times. His 601 saves are the most of all-time.

    To use the "He pitched in the 1-inning Era of closers" is a weak argument for excluding him. So far, he has been one of the best of the 1-Inning-Per-Save Era. Maybe he would have been bad in the "Mulitple-Inning-Per-Save Era." Are we going to hold Greg Maddux to the same standard, because he only completed 109 games, good for 355th all time?

    Hoffman only pitched 13 innings in the post-season and has a 3.46 ERA. 13 Innings is not a lot at all. I don't want about 1% of his career's innings to judge whether or not he deserves induction.

    Interestingly, he has more Cy Young Award shares than Mariano... for whatever that is worth.

    As a side note... if Hoffman remains the all-time saves leader and doesn't get elected... we have the potential for the all-time Hits leader (Pete Rose), Homers leader (Barry Bonds depending on how 'roids gets votes), and Saves leader (Hoffman) not in the Hall of Fame.

  50. Andy, Hoffman is not 19th all time in WPA, since we only have WPA since 1950. He is second to Rivera among relievers on the list, and I doubt that would change if you went back before 1950. WPA is not without problems, but I think it is the best way to compare closers. The rate stat would be WPA/game, not per inning or per batter. Rivera's big lead in WPA shows that he was much better in the regular season, unless park effects or defense where greatly in his favor. Very unlikely. I don't understand, "Wagner and Hoffman were both as effective, in terms of WPA, ..." They weren't even close.

    I have no problem with there being closers, (and DH's) in Cooperstown, but they should be compared to other positions, that is why there are no non-closer relievers in the HOF. (There are no players who were only punters in the NFL HOF.)

    The Yankees and a few other teams certainly get more than their share of media attention; but I do not see this reflected in MVP, Cy Young, or HOF voting.

  51. @46, I think the opposite is true, Bernie Williams will get much more support next year for the HOF than he deserves because he was a Yankees. Looking at his numbers he belong in the Hallway of Fame just outside, and certainly not better than Larry Walker, but I suspect he will get as much if not more support than Walker next year.

  52. @50, Earle Combs, Herb Pennock, Wait Hoyt, Red Ruffing, Phil Rizzuto, Joe Gordon, Tony Lazzeri.

  53. Johnny Twisto Says:

    there's reason to think he could have pitched more innings at an ERA+ close to his career mark

    I doubt that. There has been an obvious increase in ERA+ of relievers as their stints have gotten shorter. I posted the following on this site last year:

    Over successive 5-year periods, I took the top X pitchers in saves for that period, where X = the number of teams in the majors at that time. Of those X pitchers, I then found the median in various stats.

    2005-2009: 274 G, 1.02 IP/G, 112 Sv, 145 ERA+, 72 OPS+ against
    2000-2004: 281 G, 1.06 IP/G, 125 Sv, 138 ERA+, 74 OPS+
    1995-1999: 273 G, 1.10 IP/G, 110 Sv, 127 ERA+, 81 OPS+
    1990-1994: 262 G, 1.16 IP/G, 105 Sv, 131 ERA+, 81 OPS+
    1985-1989: 279 G, 1.35 IP/G, 90 Sv, 129 ERA+, 82 OPS+
    1980-1984: 277 G, 1.57 IP/G, 70 Sv, 125 ERA+, 84 OPS+
    1975-1979: 271 G, 1.68 IP/G, 65 Sv, 122 ERA+, 86 OPS+
    1970-1974: 234 G, 1.52 IP/G, 54 Sv, 121 ERA+, 88 OPS+

    This probably isn't the most accurate way to study it, but it's (relatively) quick and close enough. Anyway, it's obvious that closers are being used less in each appearance and consequently becoming more effective in terms of ERA+ and OPS+. A 145 ERA+ is no longer impressive for a short reliever. Last season 37 pitchers saved at least 10 games, and the median ERA+ was 150.

    From this thread:
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/blog/archives/6545/comment-page-1

  54. I'm not a Yankee fan (at all), but I think anyone who denies that Mariano Rivera is a cut above any other closer from the modern closer era, on a purely objective basis, may be guilty of anti-Yankee bias.

    In addition to the stats that everyone here should know already -- such as that Rivera has the best ERA+ ever -- here are a couple more that I think haven't been mentioned above:

    1. In the era of the 1-inning save, Rivera has 115 saves of more than 1 inning, in the regular season alone; that's more than twice as many as Hoffman, and 64% more than any other pitcher over the past 20 years:
    115, Rivera
    70, Wetteland
    67, Montgomery
    59, R.Hernandez
    56, M.Rojas
    55, T.Hoffman and K.Foulke
    52, Eckersley

    2. Just as not all saves are created equal, not all blown saves are equal. Over the past 20 years, there are 24 pitchers who have been charged with at least 50 blown saves. Within each pitcher's blown saves, Rivera has the lowest ERA and the lowest WHIP. The median ERA for this group is 13.35; Rivera's is 10.93, Hoffman's is 17.29, Percival's was 19.97.

  55. @53, Johnny Twisto -- You are right; I should not have said "...he could have pitched more innings at an ERA+ close to his career mark," but rather, "...he could have pitched additional innings with positive value in those innings."

  56. Topper009,

    I think as Andy said there's an East Cost bias in baseball because the West-Coast games take place when most people are sleeping and the results are never listed in East Coast papers the following days. If you play rotisserie baseball on the East Coast, West Coast players tend to undervalued.

    I don't know if there's a specific Yankee bias in MVP or HOF voting. Keller, Nettles, Randolph never received any attention in HOF voting. It took Joe Gordon forever to get into the HOF. Munson received a little bit at the time of his death but then nothing. Jeter, Nettles never won an MVP award.

    I think certain Yankee teams are overrated and over-mythologized, the '27 team and the '61 team for example.

    I think there is a definite 1927 Yankees bias as evidenced by Pennock, Combs, Hoyt and Lazzeri. I agree with you that those four player don't deserve to be in the HOF and

    Ruffing deserves HOF induction especially when you factor his peak and WW2. Rizutto probably deserves HOF induction when factor in ww2 and the Malaria he suffered in 1946. Joe Gordon should have been elected a long time ago especially if you factor in ww2.

    I can't think of too many Yankees that are overrated, Don Mattingly was a hell of good guy but he's overrated. Reggie Jackson's contribution to the 1977-1981 Yankees is overrated/overhyped. Roger Maris' 1961 season is overrated.

    There's quite a bit of underrated Yankees: Keller, McDougald, Roy White, Nettles, Randolph, & Posada. Bernie Williams was kind of underrated while he played.

    Bucky Dent was a terrific SS on those late 70's Yankee teams and he never won a GG. Willie Randolph was an excellent defensive 2b on those late 70's Yankees teams and he never won a GG.

  57. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    #30/ Andy Says: "#28, it's a fair point but I would say there's an argument that applies to both Ott and Hoffman. Yes, over (a lot) of time, 500 HRs (and maybe 600 saves) became a lot less impressive. But when Ott did it, it was quite impressive relative to the era in which he played. Ott was a great power hitter. Certainly stacking Ott up against some of the more recent entrants in the 500 HR club, Ott's homers are more impressive... "

    I don't think Mel Ott's reputation suffers much because of the glut of 500-HR hitters since he retired. When he retired in 1945, he was 7th in offensive WAR, behind only:
    Ruth, Cobb, Wagner, Hornsby, Speaker, Collins

    That was after about 70 years of MLB history. He's now 15th in offensive WAR, after another 65 years of MLB history (since 1945). That's still very impressive.

    As to how this reflects on Hoffman's HOF chances, well I don't see anyone besides Rivera (and maybe K-Rod) closing in on 600 saves in the next five/six years. It is possible that in say twenty years, 600 career saves won't be as exclusive as it is now, but that's impossible to predict.

  58. @48, Soundbounder -- You noted your disagreement with two of my points, but didn't give any reason for either one. I have already acknowledged my error on the second point you mentioned (see my #55 above). Would you mind stating some reason that you disagree with the first point you mentioned?

    And there's no reason to discredit save conversion rate because of one-out saves. They are rare; there were just 54 of them in all of MLB last year -- less than 2 per team. Hoffman has 30 in his career (5% of his career saves), Rivera 22 (3.9% of his career saves). And because I included only those closers who pitched mainly in the time of the 1-inning save, the conversion rates I presented are generally comparing apples to apples. There is not much variance in the rates of IP per save chance for closers over the past 20 years.

  59. Sure the Yankees have their share of underrated players but can you name any OVERrated players on the Mariners, Padres, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Royals, Astros, Rangers, Twins, WhiteSox, Brewers, Tigers, Reds, Indians, Pirates...ever? Not really. Only the big market teams, led by the Yankees, have overrated players.

    Robin Yount only got 77% HOF votes and is a similar player to Jeter, still better I think, yet Jeter will get > 90% HOF votes. If Jeff Bagwell had the exact same numbers but played in the Bronx he would have easily been elected to the HOF.

  60. Topper009 @52,

    Do you have any examples of guys that have played in the last 50 years?

    How about Munson, Nettles, Randolph, Guidry, John, Mattingly? I thought ALL Yankees are supposed to get into the HOF.

    The 1976 thru 1981 teams (4 W.S. with 2 titles) only had part of Jackson (77-81), Hunter (76-78), Gossage (78-81) and Winfield (81) as HOF players. Maybe Gayold Perry was in there at some point!?!

    In the 80's they had Winfield, Henderson and some part of Phil Niekro as HOF representation.

    For the 1996 thru 2000 Yanks, it will be just Jeter, Rivera, and Clemens (maybe Posada) - No O'neill, Tino, Pettitte, Cone, Raines, Bernie.

    And for the 2000's Yanks it might be too early to tell for some of the recent additions (Tex, CC), but certainly A-rod and perhaps Mussina, Sheffield. I am sure I have forgotten some guys.

    But the list is not overwhelming, considering the Yankee bias and how the pinstripes are supposed to be a red carpet leading directly to the HOF.

  61. Hunter is good example of a guy who doesnt belong. No one said ALL Yankees are supposed to get into the HOF, but you need to consider that the Yankees have some players in the HOF who dont deserve it but the majority of teams have 0 such players.

    You act as if having 4 HOFers over 6 years on 4 pennant winners is a small number, whereas it is actually historically a very high number with few exceptions. And you say no O'Neill, Tino, Cone Bernie as if they are somehow being undervalued and deserve it when obvioulsy none of them belong in the HOF and no one would even give it a second thought except for you. Pettitte and Posada have a decent chance due to their Yankee-ness and Raines may get in while still on the BBWAA ballot.

    The list actually is overwhelming when you consider 1 of the reasons against Ron Santo was that people thought it was rediculous to say there were 4 HOFers (Banks, Williams, Jenkins) on the good 60s Cubs teams that never won the WS.

    Plus this is along way away, Gordon, Lazzeri, Rizzuto werent inducted until 50 years after they played. The veterans committee may very well look back and think the 96-01 Yankees with 5 pennants and 4 WS need more guys and Williams, Tino, Cone, etc will get the nod.

  62. @59,

    "If Jeff Bagwell had the exact same numbers but played in the Bronx he would have easily been elected to the HOF."

    I absolutely disagree. Whatever the reason is that Bagwell was not elected this year (maybe suspected use of PEDs, or maybe his stats did not warrant 1st year election, I am not sure), being a Yankee would not have changed that. He only got 42% of the vote - so you are saying that being a Yankee is worth 35%? Actually you would think it is more than that since you said Bagwell would "easily" have made it if he were a Yankee.

    I wonder then, How did Mattingly and Tino (both NYY 1B) get less than 35% if you get that just for being on the Yanks?

    You still have not provided one name of a player that played in the last 50 years was eleceted by the BBWA that did not deserve it just because they were on the Yankees.

  63. I would bet that by 2050 many of Maris, Dent, Munson, Nettles, Randolph, Guidry, Mattingly, O'Neill, Williams or Cone are in.

  64. "Interestingly, he has more Cy Young Award shares than Mariano... for whatever that is worth."

    I've always hated when closers get Cy votes for the award, or worse, win it. Cy Young wasn't a closer. They should just make the Rolaids Relief a subjective award, so we have something else we can all fight about.

  65. Catfish Hunter is 1. A lot of these guys go in on the vets committee, and in 50 years many of them will. You have also not named an overrated player from a small market team.

  66. @58 John Autin wrote:

    "And there's no reason to discredit save conversion rate because of one-out saves."
    I'm not just focusing on one out Saves.
    Rivera averages more outs per Game than Hoffman. Most seasons, Rivera has more IP than Games, while Hoffman has more Games than IP.

  67. John Olerud, much better than Mattingly by a lot, got 4 votes and is done. Mattingly got a high of 28% one his first ballot for a terrible career by HOF standards that was done at age 29. So Mattingly got a 28% bump over Olerud only because he was a Yankee.

  68. Johnny Twisto Says:

    can you name any OVERrated players on the Mariners, Padres, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Royals, Astros, Rangers, Twins, WhiteSox, Brewers, Tigers, Reds, Indians, Pirates...ever? Not really. Only the big market teams, led by the Yankees, have overrated players.

    That's really one of the sillier comments I've ever heard.

    Ichiro Suzuki, Trevor Hoffman, Dante Bichette, Nolan Ryan, Juan Gonzalez, Delmon Young, Jack McDowell, Jack Morris, etc etc etc.

  69. Johnny Twisto Says:

    o Mattingly got a 28% bump over Olerud only because he was a Yankee.

    Right. It's not because Mattingly won an MVP and was considered the best player in the game.

  70. 'Robin Yount only got 77% HOF votes and is a similar player to Jeter, still better I think, yet Jeter will get > 90% HOF votes.'

    Derek Jeter won't be on the ballot with Nolan Ryan and George Brett.

  71. @69 So every player who ever played 14 seasons only 6 good 1s and an MVP should get 28% of the HOF vote? So your arguement is that as long as someone wins an MVP and was once considered the best player in the game they deserve serious HOF consideration?

    Juan Gonzalez has 2 MVPs and just got 5% and will be off the ballot after next year. Where is the Dale Murphy back to back MVP winner's love? Murphy's highest vote total was 23% and this last ballot he got less votes than Mattingly.

  72. @68, I just meant overrated HOFers who dont belong in the HOF, sorry for the confusion.

  73. @61
    Catfish got in because of his exploits with Oakland.

    Whether you believe he deserves enshrinement or not, it is his years with the championship A's that led to his election.

  74. Take Jack Clark, same position and an exact contemporary of Mattingly who was much better. He gets 1.5% of the vote 1 and done.

  75. "John Olerud, much better than Mattingly by a lot, got 4 votes and is done. "

    Couldn't disagree more. Olerud was nowhere near Mattingly during his prime, not even close. Mattingly should have had 2 MVPs, and was among the best (if not THE best) in the game during that stretch. I've said it before, but think of Olerud as a poor man's Keith Hernandez.

  76. Mattingly had 4 good seasons and nothing else, never with an OPS+ higher than 161 and never finishing higher than 5th in WAR in the AL

  77. @68 Johnny Twisto -

    "can you name any OVERrated players on the Mariners, Padres, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Royals, Astros, Rangers, Twins, WhiteSox, Brewers, Tigers, Reds, Indians, Pirates...ever? Not really. Only the big market teams, led by the Yankees, have overrated players." That's one of the sillier comments you've ever heard? Really? That is quite a statement to make. Well, an understatement that is...

    It might be THE silliest comment I've ever heard. It's either a troll comment or if not, well, a simply illogical comment. I can't honestly believe any baseball fan would say that those teams have never, ever had an overrated player. If Jack Morris happens to be reading this thread, I bet even he is laughing right now.

  78. Overrated from a small market?????

    Jack Morris, Kirby Puckett, Cal Ripken, Bill Mazerowski

  79. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Topper, yes, I'd say anyone who was the best player in the game deserves serious HOF consideration. I'm surprised Murphy hasn't done better. Gonzalez was never considered the best player in the game.

    There's no magical formula to calculate one's vote percentage. It depends on a ton of different factors. Mattingly's never getting inducted by the writers, so does it make a lot of difference whether he gets 8% or 28%?

  80. Olerud should've won the 93 MVP. His stats show him to be every bit as good as Keith Hernandez.

  81. @76 Topper009 -

    "never with an OPS+ higher than 161"
    You say that like its a bad thing. You do realize that led the league the year he got that 161 right? You do realize he led the league in OPS+ more than Olerud did right? You do realize that Mattingly was considered one of the best (if not the best) players in baseball for about a 4 to 6 year stretch? When was John Olerud held in the same esteem?

    "never finishing higher than 5th in WAR in the AL"
    Really? And here on this site I see he was 4th in 1984, 3rd in 1986 and 4th in 1987. BTW, Olerud has 2 "higher than 5th" finishes.

  82. He was only considered the best player in NY, 1986 was the only time in his career he finished in the top 10 WAR across MLB, and he took 7th.

  83. [...] more: POLL: Trevor Hoffman and the Hall of Fame » Baseball-Reference … Posted in General Tags: leverage « Lipso Nava to Manage 2011 GreenJackets Bankers Say [...]

  84. @81 your are refering to WAR among position players only. I never said Olerud deserves the HOF, but his career was better than Mattingly's. Mattingly had a better peak but it was not a historic peak and other than 4 years Mattingly career is garbage.

  85. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    #69/ Johnny Twisto Says: "{O Mattingly got a 28% bump over Olerud only because he was a Yankee.}
    Right. It's not because Mattingly won an MVP and was considered the best player in the game."

    I gotta go with Johnny T. here, from 1984-89 Mattingly was considered (rightly or wrongly) one of the very best players in the game, then his back started acting up. You could make a case for Olurud (as amongst the best) _perhaps_ in 1993, other wise he wasn't considered an elite player.

    Comparing the two, the biggest differences offensively are that Olerud had about two seasons more of PA, and averaged about 40 more walks/year. HOWEVER, in popular perception, Mattingly had more of the big Triple-crown years that get MVP-voting respect.

    I'd rate Olerud a bit ahead of Mattingly, but as far as the HOF goes, I'd put both Keith Hernandez and Will Clark in ahead of them (after Bagwell goes in, of course).

  86. I think Hoffman is the bottom of the line for HOF standards for modern closers.

  87. I am not a Yankee fan by any stretch, but this supposed Yankee bias is ridiculous. It simply doesn't exist.

    There is zero evidence that being a Yankee has helped in MVP, Cy Young, or Hall of Fame voting in the past 40 years.

    I am a huge Bagwell fan and I don't see any reason to think he would have been voted in if he'd played for New York (or Boston for that matter).

    Catfish is in the HOF more for 20 win seasons (big round number), his success with the A's, and his cool nickname than he is for his Yankee status.

    Mattingly won the MVP because voters overvalued RBI's. Juan Gonzalez won the MVP with insane RBI totals too. Most years, the winner has a crazy RBI total.

    Derek Jeter lost out on an MVP to Justin Morneau.

    This past season the Yankees ace won 21 games and (rightfully) lost the Cy Young to a 13-game winner from Seattle. Again, this reflects more about what the voters are valuing than the uniform the guy is wearing.

    From 1996-2004, every AL MVP was from the AL West.

    The only Yankee to win an MVP in the last 25 years was A-Rod... and he won it with Texas first.

    One of the last nine AL Cy Youngs has come from the AL East and that was Halladay in 03. For that matter, one of the last 12 NL Cy Youngs has come from the NL East. And that was also Halladay.

    Don Mattingly is indeed overrated, especially by every Yankee fan from that generation. I too like Olerud more. But the HOF voting has a lot more to do with Mattingly's peak, the perception that he was one of the best players in the game, and the voters undervaluing walks.

    If Andy Pettitte gets strong HOF support, part of it will be his role on "winning teams" but a large part will also be the Jack Morris factor of racking up a lot of W's despite a high ERA due to strong run support.

    Mike Mussina should be an easy Hall of Famer regardless of which team he played on, but all indications are that he'll struggle to get in. Even though he spent 8 seasons with the Yankees.

    Bernie, O'Neill, Cone, Guidry, Nettles, Randolph, Munson, Posada, Pettitte, Wells, Giambi, etc. all had strong careers. Some have better HOF cases than others. But none of them have had an HOF campaign that has benefitted from wearing pinstripes.

    And if there was a huge New York bias, you'd at least expect it to show up somewhere with the Mets too. I know the Yankees are the Yankees and the Mets are supposed to be inferior, but a large part of the Yankees aura is that they play in New York. So by that logic the Mets would get at least a little of that New York rub, right? And yet, John Franco, Al Leiter, and John Olerud just fell off the HOF ballot. The Mets have never had an MVP in their history. Not Piazza, Strawberry, or Wright. Seaver and Gooden are the only Cy Young winners in franchise history and both were obviously deserving. Keith Hernandez is one of the more widely acknowledged undervalued players of his time.

    People make the same east coast bias argument with Boston, but the fact is Red Sox players with strong cases like Tiant and Evans haven't gotten into the Hall. Mo Vaughn and Nomar aren't getting in. Yeah, Jim Rice got in. It had more to do with the types of numbers and narrative ("most feared") the writers prefer.

    None of this means guys like Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Cal Ripken, Robin Yount, Barry Larkin, Kirby Puckett, Chipper Jones, Tony Gwynn, George Brett and Joe Mauer are underappreciated for spending their entire careers with teams who have the nerve to play somewhere other than New York.

    It's fine to root against the Yankees. I don't like them either. Many of my friends are Yankee fans. They can be obnoxious. But to pretend every Yankee gets a bump in HOF voting and award voting is absurd. There's no evidence that any voting bias exists. I don't understand why people get this bent out of shape about the northeast. It's very densley populated. There are more people there than anywhere else. It's closer to Europe. Is it really that big of a deal?

  88. @33, Andy: "Should I do a post on [whether pro-Yankee bias exists]?"

    Sure ... if you want to turn your blog into sports talk radio! :-)

  89. "There is zero evidence that being a Yankee has helped in MVP, Cy Young, or Hall of Fame voting in the past 40 years."

    Why do you need the 40 years qualifier? Just wait for another 40 years when the VC elects a bunch of the guys I listed in post 63.

  90. Johnny, nice analysis in #53

  91. @ 89: Because I agree that a lot of the 27 Yankees choices by the VC were misguided. As are a lot of their choices in general.

    But I'm glad you're an expert on the voting patterns of the 2051 veteran's committee. It must be nice to be able to predict the future.

    By the way, thanks for focusing on that one line and ignoring all the other evidence against your ridiculous argument. Well done.

  92. @36, Topper009 Says:
    "Why does the average fan know who Joba is but probably has never heard of Joakim Soria?"

    I think we should define the terms of this discussion.

    There are (at least) two different sorts of media "bias" -- (1) attention, and (2) accolades.

    In terms of raw attention, I would absolutely agree that there is NYC / East Coast media bias.

    But in terms of accolades? Absolutely, demonstrably not.

    Just consider the example you posed, Joba Chamberlain and Joakim Soria. Sure, more casual fans (and thus, more people overall) have heard of Joba. Now, I would argue that this is at least partly because Joba has been in the postseason 3 times, while Soria never has; and that degree of "attention gap" would be true even if the markets were reversed. (Or do you think that the 1972-74 A's suffered from underexposure?)

    I'm not actually sure that Joba's name appears on SportsCenter more often than Joakim's during the regular season, but for the sake of argument, let's say that it does.

    Has that helped Joba to any tangible accolades -- awards, All-Star appearances, what have you?

    I say no. Joba has never gotten a single vote for Cy Young or MVP, and he has not been named to an All-Star team. The only award for which he ever received a vote was the Rookie of the Year in 2008, in which he placed 8th.

    And that last fact is what I'd like to focus on: Joba placed 8th in the 2008 ROY vote, after posting a 171 ERA+ in 100 innings, with a 10.6 K/9 and a K/BB ratio over 3. And after earning a name for himself as a late-season call-up in 2007 (1 ER in 24 IP). He fared worse in the ROY vote than seven other players, including not just Evan Longoria of (small-market) TB, who won unanimously, but also:
    -- Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox (103 OPS+ in 136 games, never saw a pitch he didn't like, played sub-par defense);
    -- Mike Aviles of the Royals (102 games, 121 OPS+);
    -- Armando Galarraga of Detroit (121 ERA+ in 179 IP);
    -- Joey Devine of Oakland (0.59 ERA in just 46 IP, with 1 save);
    -- Denard Span of Minnesota (93 games, 122 OPS+); and
    -- Nick Blackburn of Minnesota (103 ERA+ in 193 IP).

    Don't mistake my point: I am not saying that Joba deserved to rank higher than any of those smaller-market players. What I am saying is, where is the evidence of pro-Joba bias?

    Now what about Joakim Soria? He placed 7th in the 2007 ROY vote, pitching 69 innings with 17 saves. He was an All-Star in 2008 and 2010. He received both Cy Young and MVP votes in 2010.

    Where is the evidence of anti-Joakim bias?

  93. Ahhhhhh...the Boys of Summer. In 2052!

    Now I have even more reason to live into my late 80's. To go to Bucky Dent's enshrinement.

    Hey Topper009, do you know the numbers for next week's Megamillions Lottery? Or does your fortune telling only kick in around the late 2040's?

  94. I know that 2007 Game #163 against the Rockies is technically a regular-season game, but in terms of the idea that for a closer, he certainly didn't come through in big moments, it's obviously a post-season game.

    Two-run lead in the bottom of the 13th: Double, Double, Triple, IBB and the season-ending Sac Fly.
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/COL/COL200710010.shtml

    With regards to Rivera, I'm assuming that the postseason doesn't come into play with WAR? Considering that the Yankees must have at least 162 postseason games during his stay, is there any way to translate Rivera's amazing postseason record into WAR?

  95. @59 Topper,

    Market size does play into someone being underrated/overrated but it's probably only about 1 of 10 things that make someone underrated/overrated.

    I think in Bill James comments about Daryl Evans he basically listed:

    1-Being very good at 4-5 different things rather than being great at just one can make you underrated.

    2-Playing for several teams can make you underrated.

    3-Playing a position in the middle of the defensive spectrum can make you underrated, 3b, Cf, 2b.

    4-changing positions can make you underrated.

    5-playing in a small market can make you underrated.

    6-Ballparks can make you underrated, either pitching in a hitter's park or hitting in a pitchers' park.

    7-Playing during a low scoring environment can make a hitter underrated (1960's), pitching during a high scoring environment (90's-00's) can make a pitcher underrated.

    8-Being a good hitter at a key defensive position can make you underrated.

    9-Playing the same position as an all-time great during the same time period can make you underrated.

    10-batting average/rbi are overrated, on base/slugging pct are underrated.

    Here are some overrated players off of the top of my head from those teams listed:

    Mariners-Jay Buhner, benefitted from a good hitter's park.

    Padres-Gaylord Perry won a ill-deserved 1978 Cy Young award because he was pitching in a pitcher's park. Mark Davis greatly benefitted from the Jack Murphy stadium when he won a 1989 Cy Young award. Ed Whitson was overrated after the 1984 season and turned that into a great Yankee contract.

    Diamondbacks-Hard to say how much the ball park helped or steroids helped Luis Gonzalez or Steve Finley, Jay Bell.

    Rockies-Vinny Castillo, Dante Bichette, and Andres Galaraga benefitted from Coors field. Jeff Hammonds made his only All Star appearance thanks to Coors field in 2000.

    Royals-Bo Jackson was overrated and overhyped. Willie Wilson was kind of overrated after 1982.

    Astros-Nolan Ryan was kind of overrated on the Astros, They had pitchers like Mike Scott in 1989 that got Cy Young support greatly helped by the ball park.

    Rangers-Juan Gonzalez, Never should have won two MVP. He won them because of the Ball Park & writers overrated rbi's.

    Twins-Kirby Puckett, Jim Kaat's time with the Twins especially his 1966 season.

    WhiteSox-Jack McDowell was overrated and he shouldn't have won the 1993 Cy Young Kevin Appier should have. Lamar Hoyt shouldn't have won the 1983 Cy Young.

    Brewers-Jeremy Burnitz, Pete Vukovich shouldn't have won the '82 Cy Young.

    Tigers-Jack Morris!!, Cecil Fielder, Rusty Staub as a DH,

    Reds-Ernie Lombardi, Tony Perez, Don Gullet, Sean Casey

    Indians-Bob Lemon, Cory Snider, Carlos Baerga, Omar Vizquel.

    Pirates-Lloyd Waner, Pie Traynor, Willie Stargell was a little bit overrated, I can't see him as a First Ballot HOF, never deserved the 1979 MVP.

  96. "Dante Bichette"

    On what planet was Bichette overrated? Anyone who knows baseball and studies the stats knows he was an entirely so-so player who had his power stats greatly boosted by playing in COL.

  97. @92 John
    That is a very good point: attention vs accolades.
    Jose Canseco is a classic case of a player who received a lot of attention, but the accolades were limited to just a handful of years.

  98. "Bernie, O'Neill, Cone, Guidry, Nettles, Randolph, Munson, Posada, Pettitte, Wells, Giambi, etc. all had strong careers. Some have better HOF cases than others."

    None of those guys belong in the HOF, if you look at the numbers strictly. Munson maybe based on sentiment? Wells maybe, if his record wasn't so inconsistent from year to year. Guidry maybe, except that his career was sorta short at 14 years (and 2 of those early on were a wash), and his last three seasons he went a stinky 16-23.

    I could break each player down more, but i'd bore you all to tears. :)

  99. Phil Haberkorn in Indiana Says:

    No, he doesn't deserve it but he will be a first-ballot pick.
    Part-time players should not be elected to the Hall of Fame.
    Instead of a plaque, they should hand Hoffman a mop, because that's all the modern "closer" does, mop up after the rest of the team did all the hard work. He frequently does not face the potential tying run or have to pitch with that runner on base, a situation that should be called a "hold" instead of a "save." If they used Hoffman in the 8th inning all the time, HOF would not even be mentioned in the same breath with his name.
    We need to re-define "save" to restrict it to only situations where the potential tying run was actually at bat or on base, then re-compute the career totals and see just where guys actually stand.
    Lee Smith's stats would hold up to that re-evaluation a lot better than Hoffman's or Dennis Eckersley's, I would suspect, primarily because Smith was often brought in earlier than the 9th inning to STOP A RALLY, something middle relievers do but closers frequently don't.
    Hoffman was paid to prevent rallies from getting started, which is all well and good, but that's a middle relief job, too, and those guys only get credited with "hold." Being on the field when the last out is made, is the only difference between Trevor Hoffman and middle relievers.

  100. Johnny Twisto Says:

    With regards to Rivera, I'm assuming that the postseason doesn't come into play with WAR? Considering that the Yankees must have at least 162 postseason games during his stay, is there any way to translate Rivera's amazing postseason record into WAR?

    I was looking at this earlier. It's not an easy thing to figure because of questions about how to set replacement level and park factors for the postseason, but I'd say his postseason could be worth in the ballpark of 10 WAR.

    On what planet was Bichette overrated?

    The one where he finished 2nd in the MVP voting.

  101. It's a poor decision to vote a player into the HOF simply because he's the all-time saves leader and, fortunately, I don't think we've seen evidence of that happening, at least based on the vote totals of Jeff Reardon and then Lee Smith. (Well, I guess it's fair to see we're seeing evidence of *some* voters are voting for Smith, but just not enough.)

    Having the all-time saves record is less impressive than it sounds. It's only been since the 1970s that the current saves rule has been in place, and in those early days relief pitchers were used quite differently, pitching more innings per appearance, while generating lower save totals. Sparkly Lyle won the Cy Young Award in 1977 with 26 saves, but 13 wins in 137 innings pitched. John Hiller pitched 150 innings one year, winning 17 games, but only saving 13 games. Notching save totals wasn't a goal, it was simply an outcome of pitching well and being there to throw the last pitch in the game. Saves increased with each decade as the game was slowly moving toward the one-inning save that Eckersley and LaRussa popularized starting in the late 1980s It really wasn't until the 1990s that the one-inning save became more the norm, allowing for higher save totals. So really, Hoffman is the king of saves over the past fifteen years or so years, not since the 1870s!

    Rivera has been the games most dominant reliever since arriving in the mid-1990s. I'd say Billy Wagner has been the most dominant reliever in the NL since the mid-1990s. Hoffman? He's been one of the most consistent relievers, but should he be a HOFer? I don't know. I don't think he's better than Smith, who I don't think should be in the HOf. ERA+ has Rivera at 205. Wagner at 187. Hoffman at 141. Not sure ERA+ is a great stat for relievers, yet it does seem to be telling us something here.

    My fear is if Rivera stays healthy and passes Hoffman for the all-time career-saves record, Rivera's greatness may elevate the importance of the all-time saves record simply because Rivera holds it. That means if some good, but not great, reliever comes along and is a compiler of saves and passes Rivera (or even approaches him) , then future BBWAA voters may automatically vote that player into the HOF, ignoring the fact that Rivera is not going into the HOF because he's the all-time saves leader, but because he's Mariano Rivera.

  102. "The one where he finished 2nd in the MVP voting."

    Well, you can't ignore a guy who hit 40HR and had 128 RBI's, but I agree...with those obviously inflated COL numbers, never should've been #2 in voting.

  103. "with those obviously inflated COL numbers,"

    Coors Field wasn't the only thing that inflated Dante Bichette.

  104. Johnny Twisto Says:

    What are you arguing then? If he was a so-so player, as you said, he certainly could and should have been ignored. Since he wasn't, he was overrated.

  105. @96

    I was going to respond but Twisto beat me to the punch.

    Bichette also won the silver slugger that season and made 4 All Star appearances as a Rockie.

  106. I guess I am pretty simple about these HoF things: pitchers need to pitch. Closers, by their definition, don't really do that, certainly not to the same extent as other HoF pitchers. Is Hoffman Koufax good? Gibson good? Could he pitch a perfect game? Or a shut-out? Could he even pitch a complete game? Don't think so.

    Sould a DH go the the HoF for being a great DH? It is a real skill, but no. Neither should the world's best relieving catcher. Just tough for these guys that they are either born at the wrong time, or didn't get the breaks. Though that is not going to be unique to closers.

  107. @106 So you don't see the specific value in what Mariano Rivera has accomplished? I know we're dealing with a different level, but since if you're going to argue that closers shouldn't be in the Hall, it's a reasonable question.

  108. @52, Ruffing doesn't belong on that list. If you don't consider his hitting, he's a very bad pick. But he probably contributed more value by his hitting than any other player who was only a pitcher. Once you factor that in, he's just past the point where most players get in and probably deserve to.

  109. It's too bad Wagner retired so soon. He seemed like he had a lot left and just had a career year.

  110. @107 Rivera is the exception and he has clearly had a great career, and he will certainly go to the HoF.

    Though, personally, I wouldn't send him there (probably 😉 ). The truoble is a great pitcher can also be a great closer, though not vise versa. Look at Randy Johnson in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. If you had to choose a closer, and you had the choice of Rivera or Johnson knowing that both to have thrown 100+ pitches the day before, which would you take? Could Rivera have done that? We'll never know.

    And there-in is the issue. The great HoF pitchers could all pitch through 9 and you could rely on them in a pinch situation. Unfortunately that makes me a purist. Unless you are a great, and truely great, you shouldn't get a ticket to the Big Hall.

    Johnson? Yes. Clemens? Yes. Martinez? Yes. Schilling? Maybe. Halliday? Maybe. Rivera? No. Hoffman? No.

  111. I think you can hold alot against closers, but I can't see any justification for Rivera not being a hall of famer. His post season success and consistent unmatched dominance is just too much qualification. And he's a class act and great team player from everything we've ever heard.

    Halladay isn't a Hall of Famer now, but he looks to be on his way.

  112. The gut-guy in me says, God yes.

    Some people have a resume, so awesome on its face, it's almost insulting to squeak the numbers. I know it's not a sabre-criteria, but some people are so universally agreed upon to be awesome, I think you have to hold off judgment til the vote. He'll be a first-vote with one of those legendary high % rates.

    P.S. on a different note, here's how clueless I am in using this site. Is there a way to reach Andy or Sean or any of those guys to suggest a topic?

  113. dukeofflatbush Says:

    @ Barkie
    Open your window and shout. Andy is very auditorily sensitive.
    Carrier Pigeons for Sean.

  114. Am training the pigeon, as we speak.

    More specifically, is there a place/opportunity where stat-heads meet in person?

    If I can find a hard-core sabrehead in the Detroit area (wayne county) that can answer my questions and back their points, I'll spring for the beers (though that might not be a good combination).

    P.S. get the idea Andy is too far away for my voice. Will gargle regularly and hope for the best.

  115. You can email me at andy (followed by an "at" sign) baseball-reference.com

  116. @56 Dent underrated? Are you serious? Except for one shining moment, he was about the same as Fred Stanley. The Yankees would have been well advised to keep the $400,000 and Oscar Gamble that they gave up for him. BTW, while Nettles and eventually Randolph were very good in the field, Chambliss made them all look better than they actually were. They could take chances making throws that on other teams they'd better swallow because Chambliss would always catch the ball and usually still be on the bag, no matter how wild the throw was.

  117. @98 Derek D -
    ""Bernie, O'Neill, Cone, Guidry, Nettles, Randolph, Munson, Posada, Pettitte, Wells, Giambi, etc. all had strong careers. Some have better HOF cases than others."
    None of those guys belong in the HOF, if you look at the numbers strictly. Munson maybe based on sentiment? Wells maybe, if his record wasn't so inconsistent from year to year. Guidry maybe, except that his career was sorta short at 14 years (and 2 of those early on were a wash), and his last three seasons he went a stinky 16-23.
    I could break each player down more, but i'd bore you all to tears. "

    You say Wells "maybe, if..." and don't even mention Cone. Feel free to break down Wells vs. Cone and say why Wells even warrants a "maybe, if" but Con doesn't even warrant a mention. Don't worry, it won't be a bore as I am interested to know your rationale.

  118. Silly me. For some reason, I worked up an argument for keeping Billy Wagner out of the HOF -- then I realized that nobody was arguing for his induction, but rather, calling him comparable to Hoffman and using that as a reason Hoffman should not be inducted.

    I'll leave my original argument at the bottom, in case someone's really bored.

    But as far as Wagner being comparable to Hoffman, I have two counterpoints:

    1. Wagner has pitched just 903 innings. That's 17% less than Hoffman's 1,089 -- or, if you prefer, a difference of 3 full seasons at their average rate of IP per year.

    2. Though I hate to go "through the looking glass" into the bizarro world where "One-Inning, Save-Only Closer" is considered a vital job, I think we must do so when comparing closers of this era who were used in that fashion. So although my eyes goggle at Wagner's K/9, WHIP, K/BB and ERA+, which are all better than Hoffman's, the actual assignment for both was to convert save chances into saves. And at that, Hoffman was better than Wagner, not only in total saves but in conversion rate (89.1% to 86.4% during their careers as closers).

    -----------------------

    Why Billy Wagner should not be elected to the HOF:
    (in case someone ever wants to argue in his favor)

    Wagner has had a fine career, and was probably underappreciated. But as far as the HOF, I would view him as the thin end of the wedge: if Wagner gets in, it will open the door to what may be a lot of pitchers with about 400 saves in the not-so-distant future.

    Two reasons I would vote against him:

    1. Wagner has pitched just 903 innings. Sutter's 1,042 is the lowest total for any HOF pitcher; Wagner's total is 13% less than Sutter, 17% less than Hoffman, 21% less than Rivera. And say what you will about Fingers and Gossage, they both had over 1,700 IP. The IP alone makes Wagner a very dubious candidate, and his gruesome postseason record seals it.

    2. To a certain class of HOF voters, I think Wagner's induction would come to be viewed as all about his save total. Yes, we know he had great rate stats, but there are many voters with whom K/9 and WHIP still don't resonate. If Wagner were to get in, consider the next pitcher to come up for a vote, with 422 saves and an 86.4% conversion rate, but without Wagner's dominant rate stats. What else could we say to distinguish the HOFer Wagner from Pitcher X?
    -- Wagner never led the league in saves; he ranked 2nd once, 3rd twice, 5th once, 6th and 7th twice each, 9th and 10th once each.
    -- He was invisible in CYA and MVP voting: not one 1st-place vote for either award, and a total of 0.04 CYA shares, 0.05 MVP shares.
    -- No championships; never played in a World Series; his teams lost 7 of 8 postseason series; and his personal postseason record is awful (just 11.2 IP, but still, a 10.03 ERA and 3 disastrous games out of 14 appearances).

  119. @106 Mark -
    "I guess I am pretty simple about these HoF things: pitchers need to pitch. Closers, by their definition, don't really do that, certainly not to the same extent as other HoF pitchers. Is Hoffman Koufax good? Gibson good? Could he pitch a perfect game? Or a shut-out? Could he even pitch a complete game? Don't think so.
    Sould a DH go the the HoF for being a great DH? It is a real skill, but no. Neither should the world's best relieving catcher. Just tough for these guys that they are either born at the wrong time, or didn't get the breaks. Though that is not going to be unique to closers."

    Closers don't pitch?

    You qualify that by saying "not to the same extent as other HOF pitchers". Well as already noted here on this board, Greg Maddux doesn't have near the same amount of CG's as other HOF pitchers (and non-HOF pitchers to boot). Is he a HOF'er? Is Pedro Martinez? Is Is Roger Clemens? Today's starting pitchers can't hold a candle to prior pitchers in terms of innings and complete games. So by your standard, are they worthy of the HOF?

  120. It looks like around 85% of us think he'll get in. I'm a little surprised. I thought it would be closer to 70%. Huh.

  121. This just in...Topper009 predicts that Shane Spencer is going to make the HOF in 2050 because of a New York bias.

  122. I voted Yes, Hoffman deserves to get in. He's done his job extremely well, better than almost everyone else in his particular role and that is worthy of the HOF in my personal opinion.

    To people who say his position is an "invented" position, well you know, every baseball position is an "invented" position. Think about it. And also realize, the game evolves. If you're not happy with that, well then any pitcher who doesn't pitch CG's on a Cy Young or Walter Johnson level should not be worthy of the HOF based on that logic.

  123. My only concern is his 61-75 record. That aside, he has a low ERA and 600 fricking saves. He is hard to ignore.

  124. "To people who say his position is an "invented" position, well you know, every baseball position is an "invented" position. Think about it. And also realize, the game evolves. If you're not happy with that, well then any pitcher who doesn't pitch CG's on a Cy Young or Walter Johnson level should not be worthy of the HOF based on that logic."

    I'll further that notion by saying that if closers as well as DHs are positions deemed worthy for consideration of winning the Cy and/or MVP awards (which they have won), why should we then deem them not worthy for HOF consideration?

    Keep in mind that I hate when closers win the Cy (should be an exclusive award for starters) and hate the DH rule altogether, but I have to throw the question out there.

  125. Dave V. @119: "Today's starting pitchers can't hold a candle to prior pitchers in terms of innings and complete games."

    I realize that you made that statement in defense of relievers being HOF-worthy. Still, I must quibble. While the CG and IP/year for today's ace pitchers are less than for those of any other era, career IP totals are a different story.

    Take Lefty Grove. With a career record of 300-141, he's obviously a first-tier, top-rung HOFer. And yes, Grove completed 65% of his starts (298 of 457).

    But Grove pitched 3,941 innings -- a total surpassed by Greg Maddux (5,008), Roger Clemens (4,917), Tom Glavine (4,413), Randy Johnson (4,135) and Jamie Moyer (4,020, though I hope he's not a future HOFer).

    And Grove does not even represent a typical HOF innings total. Among the HOFers from those golden days when "men were men" and finished what they started are 10 who made the Hall with less than 3,000 IP, and 20 with less than 3,500 IP. Of the 52 (or so) starting pitchers who made the HOF on the basis of careers from 1890 onward, the median career IP is about 3,760.

    In addition to the 4 current-era pitchers I mentioned above with over 4,000 IP, Mike Mussina had 3,563 IP; John Smoltz had 3,473 (despite spending 4 years as a closer); David Wells had 3,439 IP, and Kenny Rogers 3,303.

    Among active pitchers, C.C. Sabathia has 2,127 IP through age 29 (averaging 240 IP for the past 4 years), and Felix Hernandez has 1,155 through age 24.

    Or to look at it in terms of overall frequency, let's compare the number of pitchers who reached various career IP levels from 1920-60 (the live-ball, pre-expansion era) and 1961-2010 (the expansion era):

    2,000 IP:
    1920-1960: 47 pitchers, 0.14 per team/season.
    1961-2010: 176 pitchers, 0.14 per team/season.

    3,000 IP:
    1920-1960: 25 pitchers, 0.04 per team/season.
    1961-2010: 47 pitchers, 0.04 per team/season.

    4,000 IP:
    1920-1960: 4 pitchers, 0.006 per team/season.
    1961-2010: 16 pitchers, 0.012 per team/season.

    Of the all-time top 20 in career IP, 10 pitched entirely in the expansion era.

    The career IP gap between top starters of today and those of yesterday is not as big as some might think.

  126. My HOF threshold is high - I'm a limited Hall guy, but. Yes on Hoffman.

    Just during Hoffman's career, thousands of major league pitchers tried to do what Hoffman did - close games. Minus one guy, Hoffman's ability exceeded all others.

    And it ain't Hoffman's fault that baseball/Padres used him a certain way. He still did his job better than almost anyone. He was dominant at what he did for a long time.

    That's HOF.

  127. For me, relievers simply do not belong in the HOF because of the fact that they pitch so few innings and therefore have a relaively minimal impact on the game. Hoffman pitched fewer than 1100 innings in his career....that's the equivalent of about five decent seasons for a starter, and nobody would even dream of voting for a starter who only pitched five seasons.

    Add to that the fact that saves are a hugely overrated statistic, and Hoffman's achievements become much less impressive. After all, in a majority of those 601 saves, all he had to do was simply pitch a scoreless inning, something that even mediocre pitchers generally manage to do over 50% of the time. The number of times he had to actually "save" the game (i.e. enter the game with the tying run on base) is probably quite small.

    It would be very helpful if some of the stats geeks out there were able to create a stat which differentiates among the different toughness levels of saves...i.e. ones in which the closer enters with a 1-run, 2-run, or 3-run lead and/or in which the closer enters with a 1-run lead and the bases empty versus a runner in scoring position.

    I'm guessing that out of Hoffman's 601 saves, probably less than 10% involved him entering the game with the tying run in scoring position, and probably less than 30% with the tying run at the plate.

  128. @119 "So by your standard, are they worthy of the HOF?"

    Those guys, yes. I am one of those "best of the best for HoF" guys, not just a "best at what he does". Hoffman? Not for me. Blyleven? He was good stats but not HoF for me.

    And I have been thinking about Rivera and I'll change my mind on him. He is one of the best of the best, he just happens to be a closer. If he wasn't a closer, I think that he would still be in there, which is not the case for Hoffman. It would be the case for Maddux, Johnson, and the others.

  129. all who say rp dont belong in the hof neither should dh and the 27 nyy had a fewplayers who shoulldnt be in either except hoyt maybe

  130. [...] our Trevor Hoffman Hall of Fame post, a couple of readers remarked on his career W-L record of 61-75 as being a detriment to his HOF [...]

  131. Way back at #50 Kds, thanks for pointing that out, I have fixed the post.

  132. I've seen a few comments against Tony Lazzeri being in the HOF but I'm one who thinks he is a legit HOF'er. Amongst 2B who have played long enough to get a WAR of 35 or higher, he's 5th in OPS, 10th in OPS+, 6th in RBI, 9th in OBP amongst other stats. He's "only" 15th in WAR. But keep in mind that when he was elected to the HOF in 1991, only 8 2B eligible for the HOF had a higher WAR (not that anyone even knew what WAR was then anyways).

    Randolph retired in 1992, Whitaker in 1995, Sandberg in 1997, Alomar in 2004, Kent in 2008. Grich had already retired but wasn't yet HOF-eligible (he came on the ballot the following year, in 1992).

    I'm not sure if those against Lazzeri's inclusion are doing so partially on the basis of WAR at all, but if so, you have to look at things in context. He was one of the very best according to WAR at the time of his election. And his stats still hold up now I think as well.

  133. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    #110/-Mark Says: "... And there-in is the issue. The great HoF pitchers could all pitch through 9 and you could rely on them in a pinch situation. Unfortunately that makes me a purist. Unless you are a great, and truely great, you shouldn't get a ticket to the Big Hall. Johnson? Yes. Clemens? Yes. Martinez? Yes. Schilling? Maybe. Halliday? Maybe. Rivera? No. Hoffman? No."

    Mark, I think it's rather foolish to declare "no relief pitchers ever belong in the HOF". There's been five relievers already elected to the HOF, so it's already been decided that they DO belong in the HOF - that horse left the barn years ago. Now it's a question of _what_ the particular standards for relievers are going to be. Rivera will almost certainly be elected on the first ballot, despite your protestations.

    As for the only pitchers being qualified for the HOF those that "could all pitch through 9 ", again, that simply is _not_ the standard anymore, and hasn't been for many years. Greg Maddux (about 15% CG) has a lower complete game % than Seaver (35%), Seaver less than Spahn (58%), Spahn less than Lefty Grove (65%), Grove less than Walter Johnson (80%), and Johnson less than Cy Young (90%). The % of complete games has been declining for over a hundred years now.

    If CG are so important to you, how about the HOF merits of one Jack Taylor, who completed every game he started for FIVE STRAIGHT YEARS (1902-1906)?

  134. "There's been five relievers already elected to the HOF"

    And two of them, Fingers and Sutter, are EASILY two of the worst BBWAA selections.

    Wilhelm and Gossage were elected on the downward side of their eligibility, and Eckersley in part due to his twelve seasons spent as a starter.

    So, yes, there is a precedent on relievers/closers in the Hall.

    Not a very good one, however.

  135. @129, Mark said: “If [Rivera] wasn’t a closer, I think that he would still be in there, which is not the case for Hoffman.”

    I don’t know; this sounds like a back-door way to get Rivera past the IP road-block you’ve set for the HOF, just because (in the common phrase) he “feels” like a HOFer.

    What is the alternative role you’re thinking of for Rivera -- old-style “fireman,” or starting pitcher?

    If it’s fireman, I think there’s a chance that he would have been HOF-great in that role, but there’s little actual evidence, and what evidence exists in terms of his stamina is not in his favor. (See next paragraph.) Would he have been able to amass enough innings to meet your standard? After all, only three fireman have made it to the Hall -- Wilhelm, Fingers and Gossage -- and each had at least 1,700 IP. And while we may guess that Mariano would have thrived working longer outings and more IP per year, there’s not a lot of evidence to go on: Rivera has made only 17 relief appearances longer than 2 IP, just 2 of those since 1996. By contrast, the three HOF firemen each had at least 10 times as many relief games of over 2 IP: Gossage had 180 (including four in his final season, age 42); Fingers had 205 (eight over his final two seasons); and Wilhelm had 254. So to get from Rivera’s actual workload to that of a HOF fireman requires a hefty extrapolation.

    And if you’re thinking of Rivera succeeding in a starting role, I don’t see it. He did come up as a starter, but he got pounded in 10 starts as a rookie: 5.94 ERA, 1.68 WHIP, 8 HRs in 50 IP. He didn’t show much stamina in the minors, averaging less than 5 IP both in his 13 career starts at AAA and over his last three minor-league seasons combined. And if the Yankees had thought Rivera had a future as a starter, I think they would have left him in that role. After all, in his second year, 1996, when Rivera worked setup for Wetteland, the Yankee rotation included Dwight Gooden (5.01 ERA in 29 starts), Ramiro Mendoza (6.79 in 11 starts), and mediocre years from Kenny Rogers and Jimmy Key (each with a 4.68 ERA in 30 starts). Their ’97 rotation still had Gooden and Rogers, both doing worse than the year before. They certainly could have used help in the rotation.

    Summing up: I think it’s a stretch to surmise that Mariano Rivera would still have had a HOF-worthy career if he hadn’t been a closer. And so, if the 1,150 innings Rivera has actually pitched (so brilliantly) still leaves him shy of the Hall in your eyes, then you should leave him there.

  136. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    #134/ Chuck Says:"{ "There's been five relievers already elected to the HOF"} And two of them, Fingers and Sutter, are EASILY two of the worst BBWAA selections."

    Chuck - EASILY the worst BWWAA selection? Howzabout:
    - Pie Traynor
    - Herb Pennock
    - Rabbit Maranville
    - Catfish Hunter
    - Tony Perez
    - Kirby Puckett

    There's been plenty of discussion in these here parts of the merits (or lack thereof) of these selections also...

    On the number of ballots it took to get elected: Eddie Mathews took five years, Gary Carter took six years, Duke Snider took eleven (!) years - does that make them less worthy enshrinees?

    Well, regardless of the merits of particular relievers elected in the past, the BWWAA is going to elect relievers in the future, so it's foolish to pretend that _no_ relievers belong in the HOF, or should ever be elected.

  137. It always interests me when there is talk of how Rivera would have done as a starter if he never went to the pen. The answer is...we'll never know. He may have been great, he may have flopped and he may have come somewhere in between. Looking at his history, I don't think we can assume he would have failed.

    Rivera did average a low amount of innings as a starter. Perhaps it was a stamina issue. Perhaps the Yanks were babying him. He wouldn't be the first starter to average a low amount of innings in the minors. For example, CC Sabathia averaged amount 5.4 IP's his last season in the minor. Now he was pretty young and I'd bet the Indians were babying him. He's since went on to become one of the top workhorses in the bigs.

    Rivera's 10 GS's in his rookie year don't look great but then again, neither do these rookie seasons:

    --Maddux: 5 GS - 30 IP - 5.40 ERA - 1.80 WHIP
    --Glavine: 9 GS - 50.1 IP - 5.54 ERA - 1.75 WHIP
    --Smoltz: 12 GS - 64 IP - 5.48 ERA - 1.67 WHIP

    Looking in depth at Rivera's 10 GS's, half of them were lousy but half of them were respectable-to-excellent:

    --The Bad:
    GS #1 - 3.1 IP - 8 H - 3 BB - 5 Runs - 5 K
    GS #3 - 4 IP - 7 H - 1 BB - 7 Runs - 3 K
    GS #4 - 2.1 IP - 7 H - 1 BB - 5 Runs (4 ER) - 0 K
    GS #8 - 5.2 IP - 7 H - 3 BB - 5 Runs (4 ER) - 3 K
    GS #10 - 4.1 IP - 7 H - 3 BB - 5 Runs - 5 K

    --The OK/Good:
    GS #2 - 5.1 IP - 7 H - 3 BB - 1 Run - 1 K
    GS #5 - 8 IP - 2 H - 4 BB - 0 Runs - 11 K
    GS #6 - 6 IP - 6 H - 1 BB - 1 Run - 5 K
    GS #7 - 5 IP - 7 H - 1 BB - 3 Runs - 3 K
    GS #9 - 5.1 IP - 2 H - 2 BB - 1 Run - 5 K

    Incidentally, in that GS #5 of Rivera's career, he had an 85 Game Score. Tom Glavine, who was mentioned above, didn't have a Game Score that high until his 3rd season (and only 9 games with an 85 GS or higher across his entire career).

    Rivera showed some promise as a starter his rookie year. He also had some rough patches. The Yanks were fighting for a playoff spot his rookie year and couldn't deal with rough patches like that, so he went to the bullpen. He had some good games and then in the playoffs, he kept the Yanks in the series as much as he possibly could, specifically in his first game (Game 2 of the ALDS):

    Gm 2: 3.1 IP - 2 H - 0 BB - 0 Runs - 5 K
    Gm 3: 1.1 IP - 0 H - 0 BB - 0 Runs - 2 K
    Gm 5: 0.2 IP - 1 H - 1 BB - 0 Runs - 1 K
    In that Game 5, he came into the game with runners on 2nd and 3rd of a tie game in the 8th inning and got a strikeout looking. BTW, that BB he gave up was an intentional BB the following inning.

    So Rivera sort of came out of nowhere to do a great job for the Yanks in the playoffs. Rivera didn't do anything to lead them to believe he wouldn't be effective as a reliever in 1996, as he had a 1.25 ERA by the end of April and a 0.98 ERA by the end of May. There's no way the Yanks were going to go away from the tandem they know had set up, with Rivera followed by Wetteland. With that duo (and they had Stanton and Nelson in front of Rivera), games were considered 6 inning games for the Yanks. Finish the 6th with a lead, hand off to the bullpen and win. The formula helped the Yanks win the World Series that year. Rivera was so successful in the pen and Wetteland left as a free agent after that 1996 season that it made perfect sense to keep Rivera in the pen...they did and the rest is history.

    So could Rivera have had a HOF-worthy career as a starter? We really don't know. Its all just guesswork. Other HOF starters of this era were mediocre as starters just as Rivera was. Their teams kept them starting and they panned out. Rivera's team had a need for a reliever, it worked out fantasically well to start out with and the Yanks kept him in that role. He has had a HOF-worthy career as a reliever and that's all that counts.

  138. sorry for the typos above...
    "For example, CC Sabathia averaged ABOUT 5.4 IP's his last season in the minorS."

    "There's no way the Yanks were going to go away from the tandem they NOW had set up"

  139. @136, Dave V. -- "So could Rivera have had a HOF-worthy career as a starter? We really don't know. Its all just guesswork."

    Well, thank you for reinforcing my point. I wasn't trying to show that Rivera couldn't have suceeded as a SP (though I reserve the right to remain skeptical), only that there was no reason -- none -- to think that he would have done so.

    I was responding to Mark's claim that “If [Rivera] wasn’t a closer, ... he would still be in [the HOF], which is not the case for Hoffman” (emphasis added). My point was, upon what evidence did he distinguish Rivera's possible alternate careers from Hoffman's?

  140. @139 John Autin - I hear you and overall with the Rivera info, I just wanted to give as much info as I could on his rookie season. The way I see it, he isn't a "failed starter" (though I have seen some call him that across threads before). IMO he's a pitcher that the Yanks tried as a reliever out of need and he succeeded beyond all wildest expectations, so he stayed in that role. If he had started multiple seasons, did poorly and then the Yanks put him in the pen, I wouldn't have a quibble with him as a "failed starter". But that's not how it shaped up for Mo.

  141. @132, Dave V. -- “… when [Lazzeri] was elected to the HOF in 1991, only 8 2B eligible for the HOF had a higher WAR….”

    I count nine: Hornsby, Collins, Lajoie, Morgan, Gehringer, Frisch, Robinson, Herman, and Evers (48.4 WAR ). And many have argued that Evers didn’t deserve the honor.

    A larger point is this: At the time of Lazzeri’s induction, only two HOF 2B had a lower WAR than Lazzeri: Bobby Doerr (barely), and Red Schoendienst, another sentimental selection. Here were the WAR values for the 11 HOF 2B selected before Lazzeri: 127.8, 126.7, 104.2, 103.5, 80.9, 74.8, 63.2, 55.6, 48.4, 47.7, 40.4. How does Lazzeri’s 48.3 look in that list?

    And this: In the 14 times Lazzeri appeared on the writers’ HOF ballot, he never got more than 33.2% of the vote, and was down to 5.0% in his last year of eligibility (1962). Three decades later, the Vets’ Committee anointed him, in what looks to be a case of “if Doerr [1986] and Schoendienst [’89] are in there, Lazzeri should be, too!”

    Lazzeri had a very short career by HOF standards: At the time of his election, his 7,303 PAs were fewer than all but two HOF 2B, Jackie Robinson (asterisk, anyone?) and Evers, and all 2B elected since then also have more PAs. Lazzeri remains the only HOF second baseman who did not play at least 1,500 games at 2B.

    So if he had a very short career, he must have had a high peak of several years, right? Well … His top three season WARs were 7.8, 5.8 and 5.3; his next three were 4.7, 4.5 and 3.3. (Lou Whitaker’s detractors say he didn’t have enough peak value, but he had two seasons of WAR over 6, and 14 seasons of WAR 3.3 and up.) And Lazzeri’s only notable impact in MVP voting was a 3rd place in 1928 -- when Ruth and Gehrig were ineligible, as prior winners.

    Lazzeri’s far from the worst HOF inductee, but I don’t think he belongs.

  142. @140, Dave V. -- I agree that it's not right to call Rivera a failed starter.

    If I had a lot of time on my hands, I'd love to construct a timeline of everything connected with the "Rise of the Closer." I'd like to have a sharper sense of exactly when:
    -- MLB teams became willing to switch a once-promising starter to relieving after just a year or two of unsuccesful starting;
    -- MLB teams began to develop pitchers as relievers from the start of their careers;
    -- college and H.S. teams began pigeonholing pitchers as relievers.

  143. This is only slightly related to #142, but I did a study called "Starting Pitchers As Relievers Over Time" It is at

    http://cybermetric.blogspot.com/2009/11/starting-pitchers-as-relievers-over.html

    Over time, the trend for starters to become exclusively starters seems to be fairly gradual, starting maybe in the 1920s. I have both tables and timeline charts in this post

  144. JA, I did a series of posts somewhat related last year.

    Check out this one:

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/blog/archives/4275

    It shows relief appearances broken down into fraction more than one inning, exactly one inning, and less than one inning. I excluded save situations---not sure why. There must be an earlier post from me looking at save situations vs non-save situations but I couldn't quickly find it.

  145. @141 John Autin - you're right, there are 9 as I missed Jackie Robinson (I set the % of games at 2B too high and missed him). As far as Lazzeri goes, you make fair points. One thing that makes Lazzeri look bad is that he *should* (IMO) have been elected earlier than he was. As you note, he never did well on the writers' HOF ballot (but unfortunately as we know, that's the case for many candidates). Lazzeri first came on the ballot when there were only a handful of guys in the HOF. The ballot was extremely overcrowded and that may have made it difficult for a guy like Lazzeri to gain traction in the vote. Esp. as his numbers didn't compare to that of a HOF-worthy 1B or outfielder. But as a 2B (which like SS was not traditionally known for huge offense outside of a few guys who rank amongst the game's alltime greats), he was one of the best of his day.

    Overall, while you're on the side of the fence that says "far from the worst HOF inductee but doesnt belong", I'm on the side of the fence that says "far from the best HOF inductee but he does belong". JMO :)

  146. Another study I did that is only slightly related is "Did The Increased Use Of Relief Pitching Cause A Decline In Clutch Hitting?" It is at

    http://cybermetric.blogspot.com/2009/10/did-increased-use-of-relief-pitching.html

    It seems that starting with the early 1950s, as the % of complete games went down and the % of batters faced by relievers went up, how batters did in the clutch fell relative to their non-clutch performance. So it is possible that the way pitching staffs are managed and the way relievers are deployed makes sense

  147. dukeofflatbush Says:

    @ John Autin

    Usually you have some of the most insightful things to say here, but to call Rivera a 'failed starter' is surely not one of them. Or to say he couldn't make it as a starter, so...
    Does that make Ruth a failed starter?
    Eck a failed starter?
    Smoltz a failed starter, then a failed reliever?
    Peyton Manning couldn't of made it as a Fullback?
    I'm missing your point.

  148. @147, Dukeofflatbush, because of time limitations right now, I can't read all the postings above (I tried to do a quick review), so I'm not sure where the Rivera is a "failed starter" line came from, or what set it off, yet it's not correct. What's also not correct is we can't call Eck or Smoltz or Ruth failed starters, because all three had success as starters.
    Unlike those three, however, we can't call Rivera a "successful starter" either. He is neither a failed starter or a successful starter. He is an unproven starter, who had all of ten starts in the majors as a rookie, which were spread out sporadically over the course of the season, with roughly half of those starts occurring prior to his recall from the minors when he was clearly a different pitcher. His velocity kicked up quite a bit, and on his first start back in the majors against he White Sox, pitched a two hitter over eight innings. He made a few more starts, appeared in mop-up situations out of the pen, but he rarely was used regularly in critical situations, that is until Buck Showalter was forced to during game two of the playoffs against the Mariners in '95. I believe I was living in Chicago at that time, so the first time I really saw Rivera was in those playoff games, and I remember clearly my reaction was "Who is this guy?" He had crappy stats but looked really difficult to hit.
    Anyway, I've gone off track. Rivera had ten starts on the season, and only about five or six as the "new and improved" Rivera spread out over months, and he was still about a year away from developing his signature cutter. (He had four pitches in the minors, including a change-up, which was rated as pretty good. He shelved it once he became a reliever.) Trying to guess what kind of starter Rivera would have been in pointless. We just don't know. It would be like calling Billy Wagner a failed starter. He wasn't. He was a starter in the minors, and decisions were made and a level of success was reached early on out of the pen, that he never go the chance to start. The all relievers are failed starters meme isn't always true.

  149. @139 -- John A

    Yup, I am flip-flopping on Rivera, though please note that I know he will go into the HoF. First time around, probably.

    The issue, for me, is more one what kind of HoF would I like. And for me it is the best guys overall. For a pitcher I, just me, want a legend, a guy who can do it all and be up there with the best. Like Randy Johnson. He not only gave the promise, he showed he could do it: a real go-to guy. Start, pitch deep, close, come back after a big day prior and make the big plays -- that is HoF material, IMO.

    The other extreme would be a guy who is the best ever at pitching in a 2-out, two-one, one-run, late innings. Important. Sure. HoF just on that criteria? Too narrow for me, when compared with the other guys, like Cy Young or Koufax. Rivera? He did a bit more, did it very often, and is the best. Enough, under my criteria for my HoF? I think so, though I am not 100% sure 😉

    And this is just my little, limited view of the HoF. I know that the real one is very different. And so it goes...

  150. dukeofflatbush Says:

    Mike D,

    i was quoting and critisizing someone else's labeling Rivera a failed starter.
    I couldn't agree with you more. I think you read that wrong or I wrote it wrong, or maybe you should read the first 145 rambles for it to make sense.
    Actually though, my point was it was irrelevant if he failed as a starter or not. I think Thomas Edison dropped out of highschool. Lousy student, that Tommy. We should just forget what he 'did' and did better than anyone, and stop at what he didnot do...?

  151. I think Rivera's greatness seems to come with such ease, and the fact that he throws one pitch (which really isn't quite true) makes some assume that his skills would never translate to being a starter. Maybe, but if I had to guess, I'd say he'd have been a great starter, at least for a few years. It would be more of a question of endurance to me. Could his body type stand up to the strain. We'll never know.

    What makes Rivera so great is two-fold. It's his ability to repeat his motion, time and time again, probably better than any pitcher in the game today. It gives him great command and control. Add in his legendary cutter, and the fact he varies the pressure on it to change its movement, and it's clear we're watching not a great relief pitcher, or a great closer, but we're watching a great pitcher.

    I don't want it to appear that I'm taking credit for anyone else's work, even in part, so I'm including two links below from stories by Baseball Prospectus' Cliff Corcoran, who penned a story for SI on Hoffman, and the other more Yankee/Rivera specific for one of YES' blogs. He originally intended the SI piece to rate the greatness of Hoffman and to place him in historical context, which he does. What became most obvious is how much better Rivera is compared to all relievers, including Hoffman. It reaches Ruthian levels. Both are good reads. Links below:

    http://www.pinstripedbible.com/2011/01/13/g-o-a-t/#comments

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/cliff_corcoran/01/12/trevor.hoffman.closers/index.html

  152. Lawrence #136

    What I said..

    "...are EASILY two of the worst BBWAA selections."

    What you've quoted me as saying;

    "..EASILY the worst BWWAA selection"

    Kinda changes the whole meaning, doesn't it? And also kinda makes your post irrelevant.

    I don't mind getting called out for saying something dumb, but at least have the common courtesy of getting the bleepin' quote right.

  153. @150, Duke...

    My intent was to write a quick note about agreeing with you, but then went into a more in-depth note on why I also didn't agree with the "failed starter" language that others had posted. So I did know we were in agreement, but my note took on a life of it's own!

    @151, Tyler...

    I think the most telling thought in the article(s) regarding Rivera's dominance is when referring to Rivera's peak. There is no peak. His entire career fifteen year (and counting) career is his peak. We're still waiting for the off-peak to figure out his actual peak years!

  154. People are overthinking this. Of course he's a Hall of Famer. Yes, there are very few closers in the Hall, and so the standards are fuzzy, but whatever you think the baseline for closers is or should be, he's clearly over it. He was consistent and excellent for an extended period of time. Rivera is amazing, but Rivera's excellence shouldn't diminish Hoffman's results. If you don't let Hoffman in, who among closers (besides Rivera) can even hope to get in? The Hall of Fame is meant to honor the best. Hoffman clearly qualifies. Funny, everyone seems to think that closers are so important to success, but then you don't want to honor someone who is clearly among the top closers of all time?????

    Comparing Lee Smith to Hoffman is folly. Smith was a very good closer, although I think he's a little short of being Hall of Fame worthy, but essentially everything about Hoffman's record was better. Better ERA, more saves, better K/9, better control, fewer hits per 9.

    Keep it simple.......He deserves to be in.

  155. Joe Baseball's comment is one of the best ones I've ever seen about closers.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/blog/archives/9655#comment-81890

    Starting pitchers don't have the luxury of pitching in specially selected circumstances. Platoon players do. When was the last time they put a platooner in the HOF?

    Every time I hear one of those sportscasters proclaim how the latest hot closer has become the most important man on the team, I imagine myself talking back to the TV. I say, "didn't the rest of the team do anything all day?"

  156. [...] POLL: Trevor Hoffman and the Hall of Fame (Baseball-Reference, Andy) [...]

  157. "In 10 years from now when many more closers have had long careers being 1 inning guys Hoffman's total may not look so dominant."

    Really? Any idea who these closers might be? Could you give me an example of the many closers who are going to average above 40 Saves per year for the next decade?

    "Hoffman looks now probably how Met Ott's 511 HRs looked in 1945 which was the 3rd most ever at the time. A staggering number for 1945, still respectable but nothing amazing for today's standards."

    Wow! So 511 is not amazing because it's now only 23rd All Time? In over a century of baseball, nearly a century of live ball, 23 guys have hit 511 or better out of 10's of thousands of professional baseball players, but it's not an amazing total? Interesting world you live in.

  158. "Couldn't disagree more. Olerud was nowhere near Mattingly during his prime, not even close. Mattingly should have had 2 MVPs, and was among the best (if not THE best) in the game during that stretch. I've said it before, but think of Olerud as a poor man's Keith Hernandez."

    Mattingly's five best seasons by WAR: 6.9, 6.4, 6.3, 5.7, 3.9

    Olerud's five best seasons by WAR: 8.2, 8.1, 5.3, 5.3, 5.2

    Mattingly's were essentially consecutive seasons while Olerud's were a bit more spread out, but his prime far exceeds Mattingly. Fangraphs has it closer (those are from B-R), but still an edge to Olerud.

  159. "I know that 2007 Game #163 against the Rockies is technically a regular-season game, but in terms of the idea that for a closer, he certainly didn't come through in big moments, it's obviously a post-season game."

    The HOF is a career achievement and bringing up isolated incidents such as this, or its obverse, such as Morris's 10 IP World Series game, as an argument for or against is ridiculous.

  160. @158, Prime is not cherry-picked seasons over a prolonged period. It's how good was he really, doing the best we can to remove the luck that goes into a single year's statistics, at his very best. The power you're responding to may have overstated Mattingly's case, but suppose you could clone Mattingly as he was in 1985. Doesn't mean he'd duplicate 1985's season, things could break better or worse. But you could expect a hell of a season. At no point in Olerud's career was he especially close to that level of ability.

  161. I think some measures show Olerud was, at some points, as good as Mattingly was in 1985.

    OPS+
    Matt 85) 156 (actually had 161 in 86)
    Olerud 93) 186
    Olerud 98) 163

    Remember, Olerud hit over .350 in each of those years with 20+ HRs, lots of 2Bs and OBP well over .400 without missing very many games. We can see something similar if we use Adjusted batting runs or Offensive winning percentage.

    But Mattingly had, from 84-87, OPS+'s of 156-156-161-146. The year before Olerud had his 186, he had 126. The year after it was 124. The year before he had the 163, it was 135. The year after it was 128. He was not able to string his best 3-4 years together. They were spread out. His next best year was 2002 at 140. Playing in Seattle probably did not help

    Mattingly's best 3 year OPS+ average (simple averagge) was 157.667. 4-year average was 154.75. Olerud's were 145.333 and 137.75.

    It helped Mattingly that he put 3-4 great seasons in a row in NY while winning an MVP award. Olerud can match Mattingly for single seasons but not for a 3-4 year period. If Olerud had back-to-back .350+ seasons in NY, he would have gotten alot more attention

  162. @147, Dukeofflatbush (addressing my by name) -- "...to call Rivera a 'failed starter' is surely not [insightful]. Or to say he couldn't make it as a starter...."

    I post a lot here, so it's natural that sometimes statements are wrongly attributed to me, or that my meaning is completely mistaken; and I am not taking offense at this one. But I still want to set the record straight:

    If you read my posts mentioning Rivera @ 135, 139 and 142, it's clear not only that I never called Rivera a "failed starter" (or any other words to that effect), but also that I specifically said @142, "I agree that it's not right to call Rivera a failed starter."

    As Mike D noted, Rivera cannot be classed as a failed starter, but he did have a brief time as a starter and had very little success in that role. That's all I ever meant to say on that topic.

  163. Also, for the record, I am one of Mariano's greatest admirers, and I have posted many selections from the voluminous evidence of his unparalleled greatness as a closer -- for example, #82 on this thread:
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/blog/archives/9664

  164. @164, DM: "whatever you think the baseline for closers is or should be, [Hoffman is] clearly over it."

    I think what some people are saying -- though not I -- is that there is no baseline for "closers" to be in the HOF, as a simple matter of innings pitched. The Hoffman discussion isn't so much about whether he's one of the very best closers ever, but whether closers as a group should even get a "seat at the table."

    I think they should, and I cast my vote for Hoffman. Even if he was a failed starter. (JOKE)

  165. Looking at Hoffman's stats, it occurred to me that he might become first HOF pitcher who never started a single game in the majors. But no; Sutter never started, either.

    Interestingly, Sutter was a reliever from day one in the minor leagues -- back in 1972. He made only 2 starts in the minors, out of 116 games.

    Just looking around at names that come to mind....

    -- Kent Tekulve began his pro career as a starter, in 1969 (7 starts in 9 games), and seems to have done very well in that role, with a season ERA of 1.70 that year. But they switched him to exclusive relief the next year, anyway. He never started in the majors.

    -- Goose Gossage began his pro career as a starter. In his second year in the minors, 1971 in A ball, Goose went 18-2, 1.83, and averaged 7.5 IP per game. He spent all of '72 in the majors, making 35 relief appearances before his first big-league start at the very end of the year, which was an unmitigated disaster: 3 IP, 13 hits, 9 ER, 3 walks. That one game shot his ERA from 3.39 to 4.28, in a season of 80 IP; as a reliever, he had allowed just 59 hits in 77 IP. He was up & down between majors & minors in '73, mostly starting in the minors and mostly relieving in the big leagues; his MLB era was 7.43 in '73 and 4.13 in '74 (and by the way, his combined K rate for those first 3 years was a modest 6.3 K/9). It was only in '75, working exclusively in relief, that Gossage finally burst through with a great year -- 142 IP, 1.84 ERA, MLB-high 26 saves. So naturally, in '76, the White Sox made him a starter again. Those would be the last starts he ever made.

    -- Rollie Fingers was a SP throughout his 4-year minor-league career.

    -- Sparky Lyle was a starter in his first pro season, but switched to relieving in year 2 and never did start a big-league game.

    -- The first pitcher to have a long career without ever starting a game was Bob Locker, 1965-75. Locker appeared in 576 games, all in relief. He was a starter throughout his minor-league career, and a good one, with a 2.58 ERA in 485 IP; in his final year on the farm, Locker hurled 226 innings and fanned 178. But when the White Sox brought him up in '65, he pitched out of the bullpen only. Locker was a member of Oakland's first two division champs (and first World Champion), then was dealt to the Cubs for Billy North. He had an excellent year for the Cubs in '73, going 10-6 with 18 saves and a 2.54 ERA in 106 IP -- yet the Cubs swapped him back to Oakland after the season for a reliever named Horacio Pina. He missed all of '74, I guess with an injury, and at the end of that season the A's traded him ... back to the Cubs, along with Darold Knowles and Manny Trillo, for an aging Billy Williams. Locker pitched poorly for the Cubs and was released in June, his career over at age 37.

  166. Note that Hoyt Wilhelm had one full season as a starter and started less than a seasons worth in other years. In that one year he led the league in ERA and ERA+. This was 1959 when there were many fewer career relievers and a lot more people still believed that a reliever was a failed starter. He also led the league, (the other league), in ERA and ERA+ in 1952, his rookie season. All of his appearances that year were in relief. Has anyone else ever led the league in ERA pitching only in relief. tough to qualify. (Those 2 years were the only years Wilhelm qualified, even though he pitched until he was 48. (Of course he was a 29 year old rookie.))(Who else has led the league in ERA in both of the major leagues?)

    I could see an argument that the proper HOF line for relievers lies just below Rivera, and that he will qualify, but no one else, including Hoffman has yet.

  167. @ 160: "Prime is not cherry-picked seasons over a prolonged period. It's how good was he really, doing the best we can to remove the luck that goes into a single year's statistics, at his very best."

    WTF? Because Olerud put up an 8.1 WAR season at 24 before having 3 years where he struggled with health and then put up 5.2, 8.2, 5.3, 3.5, 5.2 and 5.1 WAR seasons I'm cherry picking? At his best Olerud was capable of putting up 8 WAR and consistently putting up 5+ WAR seasons. As I posted, his prime exceeded Mattingly's. ymmv, but there was no cherry picking involved. And, yes, prime is over a prolonged period. It's different than peak, which is all Mattingly had.

  168. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    If you put Hoffman into the hall, it's hard not to seriously consider Wagner also, which would give you 8 relief pitchers in the hall. This is a hall that has only 13 catchers, 3 of whom were dubious selections.

    I'm starting to get uncomfortable, even though I voted yes for Hoffman and have been assuming he belongs since I started thinking about him.

    Ok, on the other hand, you can probably use save conversion rate and IP under very similar usage to distinguish hoffman from Wagner. And a couple of extant relievers in the hall don't really belong, so maybe it's 5 guys. Still seems like a lot for a position that pitches so little.

    Even though I hate arguments like this, John Q? made a point about wagner and precedent that has stuck with me. His WPA and FIP stats are up in hoffman range, but more traditional stats are less impressive, and unlike Hoffman, if current closer usage patterns don't change much, his save total is quite likely to be matched by a ton of guys who are nowhere near HoF borderline caliber.

    I suppose that also means Wagner won't get in, as the same folks who would be in danger of using him as a bad precedent, won't understand why he's almost as good as Hoffman.

    Even 5 relievers seems like a lot to me, but that said, the WPA totals suggest that at least these cream of the crop guys really did provide as much value as a lot of HoF players.

  169. Gotta admit it, Jim Heyman really hit the Trevor Hoffman thing on the head.

    If you read his SI piece; Appreciating Trevor Hoffman, he does point well to a world unmeasurable by things like WAR.

    Also, he's right. Let the guy revel in his retirement lap for a while before we pounce on his legacy.

  170. @166 Kds -- That fact you posted about Wilhelm is one of my all-time favorite oddball facts: Out of 21 seasons, Wilhelm spent just one as a regular starter -- and led the league in ERA! His career line as a SP includes 52 starts with a 2.68, 20 CG, 5 shutouts and an average of 7-1/3 IP per start.

    Doesn't it make you wonder why he wasn't used more often as a starter?

    In response to one of your questions, I don't think anyone but Wilhelm has won an ERA title working solely in relief, but Mark Eichhorn came close in 1986; he had 157 IP, and his 1.72 ERA would have led both leagues by a large margin. Helluva rookie year (14-6 record with 10 saves), but he ran just 3rd in the ROY vote, behind Canseco and Joyner.

  171. @169, Barkie -- I would be very surprised to learn that Trevor Hoffman reads these threads, so I don't think we're really interfering with his victory lap. :-)

  172. [...] our recent Trevor Hoffman Hall of Fame post, some readers got into a debate about which player--Don Mattingly or John Olerud--had the [...]

  173. Cough Cough, several people have aluded to Mel ott and his 511 homers and all. Well, let's be clear on the fact that his HoF crederntials did not solely rely on 500 homers to say the least. Even if 511 Homer runs when he retired came short only to Ruth's and Foxx' totals.
    Sure 60+ years later you look at just the numbers outside their context and they look run of the mill in this Atomic baseball era, with musclebound hulks that rely exclusively on their multimillion dollar contracts to pay the bills in the offseason and leave them plenty of time to chug "vitamins"and train constantly.
    He only once ht 40 home runs after all. late 90s early 2000s, 20 peaople did that every year probably. In his case however, it was plenty of power to earn him 6 Homer Run titles, quick math tells me thats a more exclusive club than the 50 homer or maybe even 60 homer club.
    He lead the NL in walks 7 times, and OBA a handful of times too. He was no Ruth, Gherigh, Hornsby, Foxx.... (could take a while to go through that list) but he was definitely not a just some bloke who happened to amass tha needed 500 homers and comparing his extraordinary career to Hoffman who happened to be a very good closer yet never THE closer of his time in ANY year he played, well , thats just a crime.
    Not to say that Hoffman may not deserve his HoF berth if he gets it at some point. I suppose it will all come down to if 20 nickels is as good a 10 dimes in his case.
    How some people decided that Ott's 511 homer was a good point of comparison for Hoffman's 600 saves beats me.