BASEBALL'S 2016 PRE-INTEGRATION ERA COMMITTEE BALLOT: ARE THERE ANY HALL OF FAMERS LEFT?

BASEBALL'S 2016 PRE-INTEGRATION ERA COMMITTEE BALLOT: ARE THERE ANY HALL OF FAMERS LEFT?
05 Dec
2015
Not in Hall of Fame

Index

Batter up! For 2016, the Pre-Integration Era Committee is at the plate for Baseball Hall of Fame evaluations and inductions not being done by the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA). The Pre-Integration Era covers the period from 1876, when the National League was formed, to 1946, the last year before Major League Baseball became integrated with the introduction of African-American players Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby into, respectively, the National League and American League.

The Pre-Integration Era Committee is currently one of three committees functioning as an overall unit to evaluate players and non-players from baseball's past who may have been overlooked in previous evaluations for the Hall of Fame. Those evaluations may have been done for players both by the BBWAA, which gets first crack at evaluating retired players for enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame, and by previous post-writers committees that are historically and collectively known as the veterans committee, which has existed in various forms ever since Hall of Fame selections have been made; this current unit is the latest incarnation of the veterans committee, although the term "veterans committee" is no longer officially recognized. In addition, these post-BBWAA committees also evaluate non-players—umpires, managers, executives, and pioneers—for Hall of Fame enshrinement.

Joining the Pre-Integration Committee are the Golden Era Committee, which covers the years 1947 to 1972, and the Expansion Era Committee, which covers from 1973 to the present. Since 2010, when all three committees were formed, each committee comes up to bat every three years. The Pre-Integration Committee first convened in 2012, with its selections slated for induction in 2013, and it voted three candidates into the Hall of Fame: umpire Hank O'Day, executive Jacob Ruppert, and player Deacon White.

One irony in the 2013 voting was its relation to the 2013 writers' vote, which on a ballot overstuffed with qualified Hall of Fame players did not elect a single candidate to the Hall, leaving White, who had last played a baseball game in 1890, as the only player to be inducted that year. And as a sardonic comment on the ongoing furor over recent players who may have "cheated" by using performance-enhancing drugs, James "Deacon" White was in reality a church deacon and a non-smoking, Bible-toting baseball player, a rarity in rough-and-tumble 19th-century baseball—as was his belief that the Earth was flat—whose supposed clean living stood as a rebuke to the PEDs-abusing current candidates.

To be fair, the Pre-Integration Era Committee's 2013 selections were not necessarily unjustified, and its fellow committees have also made judicious selections. For example, the Golden Era Committee in 2011 elected third baseman Ron Santo to the Hall of Fame, thus correcting a long-decried oversight, while in 2013 the Expansion Era Committee voted managers Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa, and Joe Torre (whose playing career was of near-Hall of Fame quality) into the 2014 Hall of Fame class.

However, last year's Golden Era Committee did not elect a single candidate to the Hall of Fame, this despite a number of players whose candidacies had been vigorously championed for many years, including Dick Allen, Gil Hodges, Minnie Miñoso, and Luis Tiant. I examined that ballot in detail, and I concluded that although a few players are truly on the threshold of the Hall of Fame—Allen, Tiant, and maybe Miñoso—none were ultimately oversights that needed to be corrected.

This prompts the question for this year's Pre-Integration Era Committee: Are there any Hall of Famers left from this period? This question becomes more salient because the period covered by the committee, 1876 to 1946, has been examined for decades. In fact, the stated purpose of the earliest veterans committees was to ensure that players from previous eras were not overlooked by voters who might not have experience or even knowledge of players from the 19th century or early 20th century who deserve to be recognized as among the greatest of all time.

On the other hand, the various incarnations of the veterans committee have also made many of the most marginal, even dubious, selections for the Hall of Fame. One notorious incarnation occurred under the watch of Frankie Frisch, a star second baseman nicknamed the "Fordham Flash" whom the writers inducted in 1947, but who as the veterans committee chairman in the late 1960s and early 1970s oversaw the induction of some of the least-qualified players in the Hall including pitchers Jesse Haines and Rube Marquard and fielders Travis Jackson and George "High Pockets" Kelly; many of these players were former Frisch teammates.

So, as we now turn to examining the Pre-Integration Era Committee ballot for 2016, the results of which are to be announced on December 7, 2015, the question remains: Are there any Pre-Integration Era candidates worthy of the Baseball Hall of Fame?

The 2016 Pre-Integration Era Ballot

This year's Pre-Integration Era Committee has ten candidates to consider, six players, three executives, and one pioneer. The six players are Bill Dahlen, Wes Ferrell, Marty Marion, Frank McCormick, Harry Stovey, and Bucky Walters. The three executives are Sam Breadon, Garry Hermann, and Chris von der Ahe. The sole pioneer is Doc Adams.

Four of the six players had been on the previous Pre-Integration Era ballot for 2013. Dahlen had been the top vote-getter among players not elected, with 10 of the 16 votes (Deacon White was the sole player elected for 2013), while Ferrell, Marion, and Walters each received three or fewer votes. Breadon was also on the previous ballot, receiving three or fewer votes.

Five of the six players have appeared on at least one BBWAA ballot, which is notable because this group spans a broad expanse of baseball history. Stovey was a 19th-century player exclusively, playing from 1881 to 1893, and for eight of his 14-year playing career he played in leagues that have not existed for more than a century—seven years in the American Association League and one year in the Players' League. Dahlen straddled two centuries, starting in 1891 in the 19th century and ending in 1911 in the 20th century.

And while Dahlen and Stovey were pure products of the Dead-ball Period, the other four played exclusively in the Live-ball Period: Ferrell had the earliest start, beginning his 15-year career in 1927; Walters played his first Major League game in 1931, McCormick played his in 1934, and both wrapped up their careers just as the Integration Era began, while Marion straddled the Pre-Integration and Integration Eras, starting his career in 1940 season and ending it in 1953.

The wide historical span as well as the changing rules and practices of both the BBWAA and the veterans committees make any comparison difficult if not simply meaningless. Thus the following table summarizes five of the six players' voting records based on BBWAA balloting. (Harry Stovey has never appeared on a BBWAA ballot.) It lists their first appearance on a BBWAA ballot; the number of years they were on a ballot; the percentage of the vote they received in the first year and the final year on a ballot; and the highest percentage of the vote they received during their entire run on a ballot.

2016 Pre-Integration Era Candidates, BBWAA Voting Summary

Player

First Appearance

Years on Ballot

Debut Percentage

Ending Percentage

Highest Percentage

 
Bill Dahlen

1936

1

1.3

1.3

1.3

 
Wes Ferrell

1948

6

0.8

0.6

3.6

 
Marty Marion

1956

12

0.5

33.4

40.0

 
* Frank McCormick

1956

4

1.6

1.1

3.0

 
Bucky Walters

1950

13

2.4

9.7

23.7

 
* McCormick appeared on BBWAA ballots in 1956, 1962, 1964, and 1968.

Dahlen appeared on the very first writers' ballot in 1936, while Stovey was one of those players whom the veterans committee was worried would be forgotten or overlooked by the writers; Stovey did appear on the first veterans committee ballot in 1936 and received 7.7 percent of the vote. All six players have been considered at least for nomination at some point by an incarnation of the veterans committee, although the various approaches tried by different incarnations of the veterans committee does not help to determine whether any of these players are actually Hall of Famers.

At the 2015 Winter Meetings, the 16-member Pre-Integration Era Committee will meet to vote on the slate of ten candidates. The committee comprises four Hall of Fame members (Bert Blyleven, Bobby Cox, Pat Gillick, and Phil Niekro), four executives (Chuck Armstrong, Bill DeWitt, Gary Hughes, and Tal Smith), and eight media figures and historians (Steve Hirdt, Peter Morris, Jack O'Connell, Claire Smith, Tim Sullivan, T.R. Sullivan, Gary Thorne, and Tim Wendel). Half of the current committee—Blyleven, DeWitt, Gillick, Hirdt, Hughes, Morris, Smith, and T.R. Sullivan—had served on the committee that elected the 2013 inductees.

And just as that committee will be doing, let's do an in-depth examination of all ten candidates on the 2016 Pre-Integration Era ballot.

The 2016 Pre-Integration Era Player Candidates

There are a number of challenges in evaluating players from the Pre-Integration Era, from 1876 to 1946. First, the era spans seven decades—the first half of Major League Baseball's long history—and includes baseball at various stages of its development, often radically so: 19th-century baseball is in several respects unrecognizable compared to the modern game. Thus, it is tricky, to say the least, to compare a 19th-century player to a modern-era player (from 1901 onward) because each was playing a fundamentally different game. It is always tricky to compare players across different eras in any case, but more so for players who played before the modern era when there were significant differences regarding foul balls, fly balls, balks, stolen bases—even the distance between the pitcher's mound and home plate.

Next, the evidence we have of players up to the early 20th century is fragmentary compared to that of players from later eras. There is no one alive now who saw Harry Stovey play baseball—Stovey's final season was in 1893. There most likely is not anyone alive who saw Bill Dahlen play even in his final season in 1911 (and there are precious few persons still alive who were even born in 1911). All we have to go on are their playing records and accounts written at the time and evaluations developed subsequently, which contain the biases and limitations of their times and of subsequent times, as perceptions change over time.

Finally, the legacy of the earliest players was a concern in 1936, when the first Hall of Fame voting took place. From that point on, various veterans committees engaged in determining whether players from bygone eras were Hall of Famers—at times with a zealousness that resulted in several marginal players being enshrined in the Hall; significantly, it has been the veterans committees and not the BBWAA voters that have selected the weakest Hall of Famers. In other words, all six players have been examined a number of times previously by various veterans committees, while four of them—Wes Ferrell, Marty Marion, Frank McCormick, and Bucky Walters—have been examined by BBWAA voters on more than one ballot.

So, are there any Hall of Famers left in the Pre-Integration Era? Let's find out.

Here are the four position players on the 2016 Pre-Integration Era ballot, ranked by bWAR, with other qualitative statistics, including fWAR, listed alongside it and explained below the table.

Position Players on the 2016 Pre-Integration Era Ballot, Ranked by bWAR

Position Player

Slash Line

wOBA

bWAR

fWAR

OPS+

wRC+

Dahlen, Bill

.272/.358/.382

.357

75.2

77.5

110

108

Stovey, Harry

.289/.361/.461

.380

45.1

54.9

144

132

McCormick, Frank

.299/.348/.434

.363

34.8

33.3

118

118

Marion, Marty

.247/.320/.339

.317

31.6

30.0

81

83

Slash Line: Grouping of the player's career batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage.

wOBA: Weighted on-base average as calculated by FanGraphs. Weighs singles, extra-base hits, walks, and hits by pitch; generally, .400 is excellent and .320 is league-average.

bWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by Baseball Reference.

fWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by FanGraphs.

OPS+: Career on-base percentage plus slugging percentage, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by Baseball Reference. Positively indexed to 100, with a 100 OPS+ indicating a league-average player, and values above 100 indicating the degrees better a player is than a league-average player.

wRC+: Career weighted Runs Created, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by FanGraphs. Positively indexed to 100, with a 100 wRC+ indicating a league-average player, and values above 100 indicating the degrees better a player is than a league-average player.

Here are the two pitchers on the 2016 Pre-Integration Era ballot, ranked by bWAR, with other qualitative statistics, including fWAR, listed alongside it and explained below the table.

Pitchers on the 2015 Golden Era Ballot, Ranked by bWAR

Pitcher

W-L (S), ERA

bWAR

fWAR

ERA+

ERA–

FIP–

Ferrell, Wes

193–128 (13), 4.04

61.6

50.8

116

87

93

Walters, Bucky

198–160 (4), 3.30

54.2

34.5

116

87

99

W-L (S), ERA: Grouping of the pitcher's career win-loss record (and career saves, if applicable) and career earned run average (ERA).

bWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by Baseball Reference.

fWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by FanGraphs.

ERA+: Career ERA, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by Baseball Reference. Positively indexed to 100, with a 100 ERA+ indicating a league-average pitcher, and values above 100 indicating the degrees better a pitcher is than a league-average pitcher.

ERA–: Career ERA, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by FanGraphs. Negatively indexed to 100, with a 100 ERA- indicating a league-average pitcher, and values below 100 indicating the degrees better a pitcher is than a league-average pitcher.

FIP–: Fielding-independent pitching, a pitcher's ERA with his fielders' impact factored out, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by FanGraphs. Negatively indexed to 100, with a 100 FIP– indicating a league-average pitcher, and values below 100 indicating the degrees better a pitcher is than a league-average pitcher.

An important note regarding both Wes Ferrell and Bucky Walters is that their WAR values, both from FanGraphs and especially from Baseball Reference, are significantly impacted by their hitting records. For bWAR, Ferrell derives a staggering 12.8 wins from his offensive value, and for fWAR it is a comparable 12.2 wins. Walters derives a significant 7.8 wins from his hitting for bWAR although for fWAR his offense is actually a liability at a –2.3 wins. We will examine this fascinating anomaly in greater detail below.

The table below combines both position players and pitchers into a ranking by bWAR with their fWAR values also listed.

All 2016 Pre-Integration Era Candidates, Ranked by bWAR

Rank

Player

bWAR

fWAR

1

Dahlen, Bill

75.2

77.5

2

Ferrell, Wes

61.6

50.8

3

Walters, Bucky

54.2

34.5

4

Stovey, Harry

45.1

54.9

5

McCormick, Frank

34.8

33.3

6

Marion, Marty

31.6

30.0


According to bWAR, and using 60.0 WAR as a rough baseline for serious consideration for the Hall of Fame, only Bill Dahlen and Wes Ferrell are worthy of serious discussion, with Bucky Walters on the threshold and worthy of some discussion. Does a ranking by fWAR change the criterion for discussion?

The table below combines both position players and pitchers into a ranking by fWAR with their bWAR values also listed.

All 2016 Pre-Integration Era Candidates, Ranked by fWAR

Rank

Player

fWAR

bWAR

1

Dahlen, Bill

77.5

75.2

2

Stovey, Harry

54.9

45.1

3

Ferrell, Wes

50.8

61.6

4

Walters, Bucky

34.5

54.2

5

McCormick, Frank

33.3

34.8

6

Marion, Marty

30.0

31.6


Even if ranked by fWAR, not much really changes in this sample. Dahlen remains at the top by a substantial margin while Ferrell and Stovey move onto the "bubble," into that region in which they might merit discussion for the Hall based on other criteria. Otherwise, no one else merits serious discussion.

And even though WAR is becoming commonplace regardless of which version is cited, it is not the only criterion for evaluation. Furthermore, it is a measure of a player's value that is helped in part by the longevity of a player's career—the longer a player plays, the more opportunities he has to be valuable to his team. Of course, if a player is playing for a long time, it may indicate that he does indeed have value to his team and does not need to be replaced, although all six player candidates played in periods of talent dispersion—there were a few great players in a pool of many mediocre ones—and thus even a player whose skills had eroded significantly was less likely to be replaced. Moreover, their WAR values are likely inflated because of the paucity of overall talent.

Nevertheless, WAR does measure the performance that contributes to that value, and both in a positive and negative manner; in other words, a player whose performance detracts from his team's ability to win is measured as a negative value. And sabermetrician Jay Jaffe has developed "JAWS," the Jaffe WAR Score system, to compare a player at a position against all players, in aggregate, who are already in the Hall at that position by using their WAR values. Note that Jaffe's system uses the Baseball Reference version of WAR, and the usual caveats about the limitations of WAR apply.

The JAWS rating itself is an average of a player's career WAR and his seven-year WAR peak. Jaffe also assigns one position to a player who may have played at more than one position, choosing the position at which the player contributed the most value. The purpose of JAWS is to improve, or at least maintain, the current Hall of Fame standards at each position to ensure that only players at least as good as average current Hall of Famers are selected for the Hall.

The table below lists all six players on the 2016 Pre-Integration Era ballot, ranked by JAWS, along with other JAWS statistics, which are explained below the table, as well as the average bWAR and JAWS statistics for all Hall of Fame players at that position. The table also contains the players' ratings for the Hall of Fame Monitor and the Hall of Fame Standards, also explained below the table.

All 2016 Pre-Integration Era Candidates, Qualitative Comparisons to Hall of Fame Players (Ranked by JAWS)

Player

Pos.

bWAR

WAR7

JAWS

JAWS Rank

Ave. HoF bWAR

Ave. HoF JAWS

HoF Mon.

(≈100)

HoF Std.

(≈50)

Ferrell, Wes

SP

61.6

55.0

58.3

39

73.9

62.1

75

33*

Dahlen, Bill

SS

75.2

40.1

57.7

10

66.7

54.7

94

48

Walters, Bucky

SP

54.2

43.0

48.6

77

73.9

62.1

104

28**

Stovey, Harry

LF

45.1

31.1

38.1

37

65.1

53.3

86

34

McCormick, Frank

1B

34.8

28.3

31.6

57

65.9

54.2

86

18

Marion, Marty

SS

31.6

26.2

28.9

63

66.7

54.7

57

17

* Ferrell's index comprises values of 22 for his pitching record and 11 for his hitting record.

** Walters's index comprises values of 27 for his pitching record and 1 for his hitting record.

Pos.: Player's position under evaluation in this table.

bWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by Baseball Reference.

WAR7: The sum of a player's best seven seasons as defined by bWAR; they need not be consecutive seasons.

JAWS: Jaffe WAR Score system—an average of a player's career WAR and his seven-year WAR peak.

JAWS Rank: The player's ranking at that position by JAWS rating.

Ave. HoF bWAR: The average bWAR value of all the Hall of Famers at that position.

Ave. HoF JAWS: The average JAWS rating of all the Hall of Famers at that position.

Hall of Fame Monitor: An index of how likely a player is to be inducted to the Hall of Fame based on his entire playing record (offensive, defensive, awards, position played, postseason success), with an index score of 100 being a good possibility and 130 a "virtual cinch." Developed by Baseball Reference from a creation by Bill James.

Hall of Fame Standards: An index of performance standards, indexed to 50 as being the score for an average Hall of Famer. Developed by Baseball Reference from a creation by Bill James.

Based solely on JAWS rankings, Bill Dahlen, ranked by JAWS as the tenth-best shortstop in baseball history, looks to be a criminally overlooked case. This is the conclusion reached by the Nineteenth Century Committee of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) when it named Dahlen its Overlooked 19th-Century Baseball Legend for 2012. Of the top 15 shortstops as determined by JAWS who are currently eligible for the Hall of Fame, the only other candidate not already in the Hall of Fame is Alan Trammell, ranked just one spot below Dahlen—and Trammell's travails on the BBWAA ballot end this year one way or another as it is his final year on the writers' ballot.

(The other two shortstops in the top 15 not currently eligible for the Hall of Fame are Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. Barring a revelation that Jeter is a mad rapist or a serial killer, he is certain to be elected in his first year of eligibility in 2020. Rodriguez, alas, will wish that he were merely Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens with respect to performance-enhancing drugs: It is entirely possible that his Hall of Fame induction will be a posthumous one, long after everyone has forgotten why PEDs was such a contentious issue. It will certainly remain a contentious issue when Rodriguez, owner of the longest suspension for violating Major League Baseball drug policy, among other transgressions, becomes eligible for his first Hall of Fame ballot.)

But apart from Dahlen, none of the other player candidates seem overlooked according to JAWS rankings. However, Wes Ferrell is an intriguing case: He is ranked 39th among starting pitchers; there are 62 pitchers enshrined in the Hall of Fame, and considering the high number of marginal pitchers already in the Hall of Fame (along with the aforementioned Haines and Marquard, Chief Bender, Herb Pennock, Catfish Hunter, and Lefty Gomez, among others, are dubious picks), is Ferrell truly an overlooked Hall of Famer? As noted above, a significant portion of Ferrell's value derives from his offensive prowess—stripped of that, Ferrell does not look like a Hall of Fame pitcher. But are we being too narrowly focused? We'll have to explore this below.

As we did last year with the Golden Era candidates, let's examine this year's Pre-Integration Era candidates as they compare to their contemporaries already in the Hall of Fame. However, because the Pre-Integration Era is significantly longer than the Golden Era, almost three times longer, and because it comprises three broadly distinct periods—19th-century baseball, 20th-century "modern game" (since 1901) dead ball (from 1901 to 1920), and 20th-century "modern game" live ball (from 1921 to 1946)—it is only fair to make the comparisons equitable. And as we did last year, let's also make the comparisons against players at the same position, or at least at the candidates' primary position.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 13 January 2016 21:47

Comments   

0 #1 Committee Chairman 2015-12-07 04:12
Amazing DDT! Just amazing!
Quote

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