Modern Baseball Committee (1970 – 1987): The 2018 Election

Modern Baseball Committee (1970 – 1987): The 2018 Election
07 Dec
2017
Not in Hall of Fame

Index



Outfield: Dale Murphy, Dave Parker

First basemen Steve Garvey and Don Mattingly proved to be just under the threshold for the Baseball Hall of Fame—are outfielders Dale Murphy and Dave Parker in the same boat?

Dale Murphy

Like Garvey, Dale Murphy projected a squeaky-clean image both on and off the field, but unlike Garvey, whose wholesomeness provided a façade that disguised his unseemly extramarital affairs, Murphy, a Mormon, seemed to be genuine—so much so that in his final year on the BBWAA ballot, his son Chad's eleventh-hour online "integrity" campaign attempted to convince voters that if a player's decision to use performance-enhancing drugs reflects "negative" integrity, then a player's "positive" integrity, such as in Dale Murphy's case with its celebrated good-fellowship and charitable commitment, should be an incentive to vote for his dad.

Whether that had any impact is untested although unlikely as Murphy's final appearance, on the admittedly overstuffed and controversial 2013 ballot, netted him less than 19 percent of the vote. This is Murphy's first post-BBWAA re-assessment, and as we have done for the two first basemen, we will evaluate the outfielders on the Modern Baseball ballot against their contemporaries.

The table below details the Hall of Fame statistics for Dale Murphy and his center field contemporaries, defined as those who played a significant amount of their careers between 1976 and 1993, the span of Murphy's career. Aggregate JAWS statistics are marked in bold; Murphy's statistics are marked in bold italic.

Hall of Fame Statistics for Dale Murphy and His Center Field Contemporaries, Ranked by JAWS

Player

fWAR

bWAR

WAR7

JAWS

JAWS Rank

HoF Mon.

(≈100)

HoF Std.

(≈50)

OPS+

wRC+

All HoF CF (19)

NA

71.2

44.6

57.9

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

+ Dawson, Andre

59.5

64.5

42.5

53.5

13

118

44

119

117

Cedeno, Cesar

49.8

52.7

41.3

47.0

19

42

28

123

122

Lemon, Chet

52.0

55.5

37.1

46.3

20

23

20

121

122

+ Puckett, Kirby

44.9

50.9

37.5

44.2

23

160

39

124

122

Lynn, Fred

49.2

50.0

38.2

44.1

24

85

33

129

129

Murphy, Dale

44.3

46.2

41.0

43.6

25

116

34

121

119

Butler, Brett

42.2

49.4

35.2

42.3

29

54

36

110

115

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

None of the center fielders in Murphy's era are at or above the JAWS threshold, with Andre Dawson, elected to the Hall of Fame in 2010 with 77.9 percent of the vote, regarded as a borderline pick while Kirby Puckett, forced to retire at age 36 after 12 seasons because of glaucoma that blinded his right eye, was elected to the Hall in his first ballot appearance in 2001 with 82.1 percent of the vote in what a cynic might consider the Lou Gehrig Effect, although Puckett had to wait the five-year eligibility period to appear on his first ballot. (He died in 2006 following a massive stroke.)

Murphy, at about half a win above a replacement player behind Puckett, is closely matched to him although Murphy played 18 seasons even if his first two and last two seasons were negligible. Dawson played 21 years in the Major Leagues although he was a part-timer in his last three seasons; nevertheless, Dawson managed to roll up his counting stats as the table below illustrates.

Of Murphy's other contemporaries, Fred Lynn had roared out of the gate, becoming in 1975 the first player ever to win the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player Awards in the same year, before injuries hampered what seemed to be a Hall of Fame career. (Ichiro Suzuki, destined for the Hall of Fame once MLB jobs dry up for him, repeated Lynn's feat in 2001 while Aaron Judge offered the strong possibility of a third occurrence in 2017.) With about 200 fewer games played and about 1000 fewer plate appearances, Lynn generated numbers comparable to Murphy's although his effectiveness as measured by qualitative statistics is arguably greater.

Toiling for the middling Houston Astros for much of the 1970s, Cesar Cedeno supplied some power (436 doubles and 199 home runs) and a good deal of speed (550 stolen bases; 27th all-time) to provide surprising value, while Chet Lemon was a solid if unspectacular fixture and Brett Butler was a reliable top-of-the-order hitter (1359 runs scored) who stole 558 bases (25th all-time) and legged out 131 triples (78th all-time). None are serious candidates for the Hall of Fame.

The table below details selected hitting statistics, both qualitative and quantitative, for Dale Murphy and his contemporaries, ranked by adjusted weighted runs created.

Selected Hitting Statistics for Dale Murphy and His Center Field Contemporaries, Ranked by Adjusted Weighted Runs Created

 

Slash Line

wRC+

PA

H

2B

HR

RBI

Lynn, Fred

.283/.360/.484

129

7923

1960

388

306

1111

+ Puckett, Kirby

.318/.360/.477

122

7831

2304

414

207

1085

Cedeno, Cesar

.285/.347/.443

122

8133

2087

436

199

976

Lemon, Chet

.273/.355/.442

122

7874

1875

396

215

884

Murphy, Dale

.265/.346/.469

119

9041

2111

350

398

1266

+ Dawson, Andre

.279/.323/.482

117

9927

2774

503

438

1591

Butler, Brett

.290/.377/.376

115

9545

2375

277

54

578


Based on adjusted weighted runs created, only Lynn stands out as a top performer in this sample, with Murphy in the middle of the pack. Puckett's .318 batting average is 53rd all-time and sixth among hitters in the post-segregation era while Butler stands out in terms of on-base percentage. And although Dawson hit the most home runs, Murphy is just 40 round-trippers shy of him while having nearly 900 fewer plate appearances but whether he could have closed the more than 400 RBI between him and Dawson given those opportunities is an open question.

But in his prime, Dale Murphy attracted esteemed recognition for his accomplishments—he is one of only 28 players to have been named his league's Most Valuable Player more than once, when he won back-to-back MVP awards in 1982 and 1983.

The table below outlines seasonal awards and leaders statistics for Murphy and his contemporaries, ranked by the "black-ink test," or the weighted score of the number of times a player led his league in significant hitting statistics such as the "Triple Crown stats" (batting average, home runs, runs batted in) and others.

Awards and Leaders Statistics for Dale Murphy and His Center Field Contemporaries, Ranked by Black-Ink Test

Player

MVP

MVP Top 10

All-Star

Silver Slugger

Gold Glove

RoY

Black Ink

Gray Ink

Murphy, Dale

2

4

7

4

5

0

31

147

+ Puckett, Kirby

0

7

10

6

6

0

22

122

Butler, Brett

0

1

0

0

0

0

16

117

Lynn, Fred

1

2

9

0

4

1

15

69

+ Dawson, Andre

1

5

8

4

8

1

11

164

Cedeno, Cesar

0

1

4

0

5

0

4

70

Lemon, Chet

0

0

3

0

0

0

2

19

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

In black ink, Murphy tops the field as he led the National League four times in games played, twice each in home runs, runs batted in, and slugging percentage, and once each in runs scored and bases on balls. Moreover, Murphy won back-to-back Most Valuable Player Awards in 1982 and 1983, when he paced in the NL in RBI in each year, and is one of only four players eligible for the Hall of Fame who has won two or more MVPs but has yet to be elected to the Hall.

Two of those players, Barry Bonds and Juan Gonzalez, both have the albatross of performance-enhancing drugs hanging from their necks. The third, Roger Maris, who coincidentally also won his MVP awards back-to-back, in 1960 and 1961, also lasted 15 years on the writers' ballot, getting just over 43 percent of the vote, his best showing, in his final year in 1988.

Maris of course was the first to break Babe Ruth's single-season home run record when he hit 61 homers during the 1961 season, a watershed event in MLB history that some still insist is enough to merit his inclusion in the Hall of Fame. In both seasons, Maris led the American League in runs batted in, with RBI production having long been a dominant factor in past MVP voting.

Ironically, Maris's historic season might not have made him the most valuable player in 1961 when assessed retrospectively using bWAR, although bWAR shows Maris to have been one of the most valuable players in the previous year. Maris's bWAR in 1960 was 7.5, the best among the 28 AL players who received votes on that ballot. But although Maris generated a healthy 6.9 bWAR in 1961, that was matched or bested by five players including Maris's teammate Mickey Mantle (10.5) and teammates Norm Cash (9.2) and Al Kaline (8.4) of the Detroit Tigers.

Similarly, Dale Murphy's consecutive MVP awards, with his RBI leadership also a likely deciding factor, find him among heavy competition when assessed retrospectively by bWAR. In 1982, when Murphy posted a .281/.378/.507/.885 slash line that generated a 6.1 bWAR and 6.0 fWAR, a 142 OPS+ and a 144 wRC+ while yielding 36 home runs, 109 RBI (tied with the Montreal Expos' Al Oliver), and 113 runs scored, he found himself bested by Oliver's Expos teammates Gary Carter (8.6 bWAR, 8.4 fWAR) and Andre Dawson (7.9 bWAR, 7.3 fWAR), Philadelphia Phillies teammates Mike Schmidt (7.4 bWAR, 7.2 fWAR) and Steve Carlton (6.2 bWAR, 8.2 fWAR), and the Los Angeles Dodgers' Pedro Guerrero (6.8 bWAR, 6.2 fWAR).

Murphy did have a much more solid case the following year. Hitting 36 home runs once more, he again paced the NL in RBI (121) while also leading in slugging percentage (.540), part of his .302/.393/.540/.933 slash line as he generated a 149 OPS+, a 151 wRC+, a 7.1 bWAR, and a 7.0 fWAR. Houston Astros shortstop Dickie Thon was the only position player to best Murphy (7.4 bWAR, 7.2 fWAR) while Phillies pitcher John Denny had the best bWAR (7.6) among MVP candidates receiving a vote.

And although Murphy finished 11th in voting for the 1987 MVP award, his 7.7 bWAR (7.1 fWAR) was better than winner Dawson's 4.0 bWAR (3.5 fWAR) even as Dawson, now with the Chicago Cubs, paced the NL with 49 home runs and 137 RBI. Murphy posted a .295/.417/.580/.997 slash line as he drove in 105 runs, scored 115 runs, and established career highs in home runs (44), walks (115, including a Major League-leading 29 intentional walks), and slugging percentage (.580).

Dale Murphy Modern Baseball 01
One of the few players with two MVP awards who are not in the Hall of Fame--could Dale Murphy be elected this year?

Alas, 1987 was Murphy's final season as a top-flight hitter. The following year he plummeted to a .226/.313/.421/.734 slash line, generating a 3.1 bWAR with a 106 OPS+ that was just a few ticks above league-average, as his only league-leading statistic was grounding into double plays (24). For the last six years of his 18-year career, Murphy's aggregate slash line was .234/.307/.396/.702, yielding a below-league-average OPS+ of 96 as he averaged, per season, 18 doubles, 15 home runs, 45 runs scored, and 56 RBI.

Dale Murphy's halcyon period was a six-season stretch between 1982 and 1987 that saw him fire off a .289/.382/.531/.913 slash line that generated a per-season bWAR of 5.7 and a 145 OPS+ as he averaged, per season, 28 doubles, 36 home runs, 110 runs scored, and 105 runs batted in. In this stretch he amassed a 34.0 bWAR as he won a pair of MVP awards, which is even more impressive as he toiled for Braves teams that reached the postseason only once during Murphy's tenure in Atlanta, in 1982, when they were swept by the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series, who went on to win the World Series in seven games against the then-American League Milwaukee Brewers.

Winning two MVP awards gives Murphy cachet with Modern Baseball Committee voters, particularly for the Hall of Fame players on the committee who might have won an MVP award themselves, and even if Murphy was a dubious pick in 1982 his 1987 season was better than his contemporary Andre Dawson's, who won the NL MVP and was later elected to the Hall of Fame.

But while Murphy's pair of MVPs epitomizes his peak period, that period was not a dominant one, and his non-peak years were middling ones that added to his decent though unspectacular statistical record. Among his center-field contemporaries, Dawson and Kirby Puckett were elected to the Hall of Fame, and both are considered bubble candidates. Dale Murphy falls below that bubble. He is not a Hall of Fame-caliber player.

Dave Parker

By contrast, right fielder Dave Parker compiled an impressive offensive record, a lifetime .290 hitter who won back-to-back batting titles in 1977 and 1978 as he hit .300 or better six times in his 19-year career, amassing 2712 hits, 66th all-time and one hit better than Hall of Famer Billy Williams. With the Pittsburgh Pirates, Parker was the National League Most Valuable Player in 1978 as he reeled off a sparkling .334/.394/.585/.979 slash line, leading the NL in batting average, slugging percentage, OPS+ (166; not yet a statistic in 1978), and total bases (340) while hitting 32 doubles, 30 home runs, scoring 102 runs, and driving in 117 runs.

Parker had missed becoming the NL MVP in the previous year, when he led the league in batting average (.338), hits (215, his career-high), and doubles (44, also his career-high); he came in third in voting to the Philadelphia Phillies' Greg Luzinski, who posted impressive Triple Crown stats of a .309 batting average, 39 home runs, and 130 runs batted in, and to MVP winner George Foster of the Cincinnati Reds, whose 149 RBI topped the NL, and whose Major League-leading 52 home runs marked the only time in the 1970s that a Major League hitter slugged 50 or more round-trippers.

The table below details the Hall of Fame statistics for Dave Parker and his right field contemporaries, defined as those who played a significant amount of their careers between 1973 and 1991, the span of Parker's career. Aggregate JAWS statistics are marked in bold; Parker's statistics are marked in bold italic.

Hall of Fame Statistics for Dave Parker and His Right Field Contemporaries, Ranked by JAWS

Player

fWAR

bWAR

WAR7

JAWS

JAWS Rank

HoF Mon.

(≈100)

HoF Std.

(≈50)

OPS+

wRC+

+ Jackson, Reggie

72.7

73.8

46.8

60.3

8

170

54

139

139

All HoF RF (24)

NA

73.2

43.0

58.1

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

+ Gwynn, Tony

65.0

68.8

41.1

54.9

14

279

54

132

132

Evans, Dwight

65.1

66.9

37.1

52.0

15

70

44

127

129

Smith, Reggie

64.6

64.5

38.6

51.6

17

65

35

137

137

+ Winfield, Dave

59.9

63.8

37.7

50.8

19

148

56

130

128

Bonds, Bobby

57.2

57.7

41.0

49.4

22

66

36

129

130

Clark, Jack

50.6

52.8

31.3

42.1

28

28

35

137

138

Parker, Dave

41.1

39.9

37.2

38.6

37

124

42

121

120

Singleton, Ken

44.4

41.6

33.6

37.6

43

39

30

132

134

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

In terms of value among his contemporaries, Dave Parker fades in comparison to the three Hall of Famers in this sample as Reggie Jackson slugged 563 home runs while driving in 1702 runs in a career that saw "Mr. October" attain postseason glory both with the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees, earning five World Series rings, three with Oakland (although an injury sustained in the 1972 American League Championship Series prevented Jackson from playing in the World Series) and two with New York. Meanwhile, both Tony Gwynn and Dave Winfield racked up more than 3000 hits each during their long careers, with Winfield becoming a World Series victor at age 40 when the Toronto Blue Jays became the first (and so far only) non-United States team to win a World Series in 1992.

Parker, too, flashes World Series gold, first with Hall of Famer Willie Stargell's "We Are Family" Pirates of 1979, which overcame a 3–1 deficit against the Baltimore Orioles to win the Series in seven games, and then with the 1989 Athletics in their sweep of the San Francisco Giants during the "Earthquake Series."

But Parker also pales in comparison to overlooked and underrated contemporaries Dwight Evans and Reggie Smith, both of whom generated more than 20 wins above a replacement player over Parker in their careers even if Parker's WAR7, his best seven seasons, is comparable to theirs. Even Bobby Bonds and Jack Clark, two more right fielders who saw the limelight directed at players other than them, sneak above the 50-win threshold for both bWAR and fWAR while Parker hovers at the 40-win mark.

The table below details selected hitting statistics, both qualitative and quantitative, for Dave Parker and his contemporaries, ranked by adjusted weighted runs created.

Selected Hitting Statistics for Dave Parker and His Right Field Contemporaries, Ranked by Adjusted Weighted Runs Created

 

Slash Line

wRC+

PA

H

2B

HR

RBI

+ Jackson, Reggie

.262/.356/.490

139

11,418

2584

463

563

1702

Clark, Jack

.267/.379/.476

138

8230

1826

332

340

1180

Smith, Reggie

.287/.366/.489

137

8051

2020

363

314

1092

Singleton, Ken

.282/.388/.436

134

8559

2029

317

246

1065

+ Gwynn, Tony

.338/.388/.459

132

10,232

3141

543

135

1138

Bonds, Bobby

.268/.353/.471

130

8090

1886

302

332

1024

Evans, Dwight

.272/.370/.470

129

10,569

2446

483

385

1384

+ Winfield, Dave

.283/.353/.475

128

12,358

3110

540

465

1833

Parker, Dave

.290/.339/.471

120

10,184

2712

526

339

1493


Despite an impressive slash line informed by more than 2700 hits, 500 doubles, and 300 home runs, and nearly 1500 runs batted in, Parker ranks last not only among elite run-creators such as Jackson but also among less-celebrated hitters such as Bonds and Evans.

It is tempting to indict an advanced statistic such as wRC+, which is a league- and park-adjusted index of all hitters from a player's career span, as being an assessment that judges older players after the fact, once they have retired, when it was not available during their careers, or even during their tenure on a BBWAA ballot. That is true enough, and it warns us not to commit the historical mistake of "presentism," or the tendency to evaluate past events using only current perceptions and assumptions.

But why then, even though Dave Parker spent 15 years on a BBWAA ballot, did he average 15.3 percent of the vote during that time, with his final year in 2011 yielding that same 15.3 percent on a ballot that was not yet the logjam that it would soon become? Granted, that 2011 ballot was hardly bereft of serious candidates: Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven—the latter arguably the first of the "SABR candidates"—were elected on that ballot, with Jeff Bagwell, Barry Larkin, and Tim Raines (another SABR darling) elected subsequently. Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, and Larry Walker are grimly hanging on for the 2018 BBWAA ballot; Juan Gonzalez, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, and Lee Smith eventually fell off subsequent ballots; and Don Mattingly, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, and Alan Trammell join Parker on this Modern Baseball ballot. And Parker did have 14 previous chances on ballots that were not as crowded with potential Hall of Famers, but he broke above the 20-percent threshold only twice—and that is still a long way for the vaunted 75 percent needed for inclusion.

The table below outlines seasonal awards and leaders statistics for Parker and his contemporaries, ranked by the "black-ink test," or the weighted score of the number of times a player led his league in significant hitting statistics such as the "Triple Crown stats" (batting average, home runs, runs batted in) and others.

Awards and Leaders Statistics for Dave Parker and His Right Field Contemporaries, Ranked by Black-Ink Test

Player

MVP

MVP Top 10

All-Star

Silver Slugger

Gold Glove

RoY

Black Ink

Gray Ink

+ Gwynn, Tony

0

7

15

6

5

0

57

155

+ Jackson, Reggie

1

7

14

2

0

0

35

175

Parker, Dave

1

6

7

3

3

0

26

145

Evans, Dwight

0

3

3

2

8

0

15

113

Clark, Jack

0

4

4

2

0

0

9

87

Bonds, Bobby

0

2

3

0

3

0

6

132

+ Winfield, Dave

0

7

12

6

7

0

4

152

Smith, Reggie

0

2

7

0

1

0

4

124

Singleton, Ken

0

4

3

0

0

0

1

69

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

Parker's presence on significant leaderboards is apparent here as he ranks with both Gwynn and Jackson for both black ink and gray ink—the two-time batting champion also led the league in total bases three times, in both doubles and slugging percentage twice each, and in both games played and RBI once each.

He also won three Gold Gloves as the right fielder nicknamed "the Cobra" had a suitably deadly arm famously on display in the 1979 All-Star Game when he gunned down both Jim Rice and Brian Downing while driving in a run on a sacrifice fly to become the game's Most Valuable Player. In addition to being named the NL MVP in 1978, Parker finished in the top ten of MVP voting five more times although he did not receive a snub in any of those years.

But in the 1980s, Dave Parker's career took a nosedive (excuse the pun) as his cocaine addiction hampered his playing career. By 1985 Parker, along with several other MLB players including Vida Blue, Keith Hernandez, and Hall of Famer Tim Raines, were called to testify before a Pittsburgh grand jury in a drug scandal that rocked baseball although it is now overshadowed by the PED controversy.

Dave Parker Modern Baseball 01
He hit for power and average, but will Dave Parker's early-1980s swoon cost him his chance for the Hall of Fame?

Hernandez and Parker were among seven players suspended for a full season because of their prolonged drug use; however, the suspension was itself suspended on the condition that each player submit to random drug testing, contribute ten percent of his base salary to drug-abuse programs, and participate in 100 hours of drug-related community service.

Parker did rebound by the 1985 season with a .312/.365/.551/.916 slash-line performance for the Cincinnati Reds, good for 4.1 bWAR and a 149 OPS+, with 34 home runs and a league-leading 42 doubles and 125 RBI that got him named the NL MVP runner-up. However, in the previous five years, from 1980 to 1984, his age-29 to age-33 seasons, Parker averaged 116 games and 463 plate appearances with a .281/.319/.431/.750 slash line that generated, per season, a 0.7 bWAR, just above a replacement player, and a 106 OPS+, just above league-average.

Again pardon the wordplay, but Parker was flying from 1975, when he became a full-time player in his age-24 season, to 1979, when he banged out 193 hits including 45 doubles and 25 home runs amidst a .310/.380/.526/.906 slash line with 109 runs scored, the last of three consecutive years with 100 or more runs scored, and 94 RBI. Parker's 1980 campaign was hardly a disaster, although his .295 batting average was a dip below .300 for the first time since he became a full-time player in 1975. However, the next four years saw him struggle to be a league-average hitter while in the latter half of his prime, and although he turned in a fine performance in 1985, his age-34 season, Dave Parker was on the decline until his final year in 1991, his age-40 season.

Had Dave Parker not had that half-decade swoon in the early 1980s, he might have reached 3000 hits and 400 home runs to put him into Dave Winfield territory, not an inner-circle Hall of Famer but a solid one with a balance of MVP-caliber seasons—his peak—and high placement among career leaders in both counting numbers and rate stats—his longevity—which have been the traditional yardsticks for Hall of Fame consideration.

It is a long, hard road to Cooperstown, and it is very easy to stumble on the way for whatever reason. The writers had 15 years to evaluate Dave Parker for the Hall and couldn't put him within shouting distance. The veterans committee had looked at Parker once before with a similar result. Given the nine-player ballot the Modern Baseball Committee has this year, Dave Parker will find himself with marginal support once more and probably in the future.

Last modified on Saturday, 09 December 2017 17:15

Comments   

0 #2 Darryl Tahirali 2017-12-10 20:19
Thank you, Committee Chairman, although I had hoped that it was credible stuff I was posting so it would be convincing . . . guess we'll see how the committee voted tonight.
Quote
0 #1 Committee Chairman 2017-12-10 04:13
As always this is incredible stuff. The Committee should have your work be mandated reading!

Funny also how the longer i do this the more i have issues with Garvey and the HOF!
Quote

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