Thursday, January 15, 2015

Sabermetrics and Overrated players

Here comes another baseball post continuing the theme of the Hall of Fame vote.  Here are the 5 most overrated players who career ended after 1985.  While almost all of these players deserving of enshrinement, they are often considered to be among the best of all time which is not the case.  Here's the list in no particular order:

Ozzie Smith- Arguably the best defensive player of all time at any position and was threat to steal on the basepaths but was a .260 hitter with very little power and finished with a career OPS+ of 87.  Smith was a first ballot Hall of Famer with over 90% of the vote.  By comparison, Barry Larkin had a 116 OPS+ and it took 3 ballots for him to get in.  Larkin was also a plus defender who could steal bases.  Yes, I would have voted for Smith but if he could not hit .250, my vote changes.

Pete Rose- The hit king needed nearly 14,000 ABs to break the record and finished with a career slash line of .303/.375/.409 for an OPS of .784 (118 OPS+).  Those are good numbers but over a shorter career, they would not scream Hall of Fame.  By comparison, Mark Grace had a slash line of .303/.383/.442 and was 1 and done because he only had 8,000 ABs.   Rose hit a total of 2 home runs over his last 4 years while hitting about .260 and was NOT a great fielder either.  Although there is no evidence that he fixed games, he certainly could have saved key players for games in which he had bet money. His numbers are good enough but I would NOT vote him into the HOF if he was eligible.

Cal Ripken Jr.-  I may take some heat for this one but here it is.  No doubt Ripken is a 1st ballot HOF and probably the best at his position in his era but a notch below the best of all time.  Compiled over 3,000 hits and 400 HRs but it took him over 11,000 ABs.  Finished with a slash line of .276/.340/.447 for a 112 OPS+, which is only 2 point above Alan Trammell, who won't make the HOF and 4 points below Larkin.

Nolan Ryan- It pains me to say it because he was one of my favorites growing up.  Granted, he played for some mediocre teams but his winning percentage was only .526, which projects to an ordinary 85-77 over 162 games.  His biggest weakness was his walk rate of 4.7/9.  He was also a poor fielder who allowed a lot of steals.  Tommy John didn't make the HOF and Blyleven barely did largely because of their high loss totals but that didn't hurt Ryan in the eyes of voters.  Yes, he is a 1st ballot HOFer but among his contemporaries, Tom Seaver was better and so was Steve Carlton.

Bruce Sutter- This is one that I do not think belongs in the HOF.  Finished his 12 year career with 300 saves, a 2.84 ERA but a strong 1.14 WHIP.  By comparison, Jeff Reardon finished with 367 saves, a 1.19 WHIP and a 3.16 ERA and was 1 and done.  I'd like to see a WHIP below 1.10 with an ERA around 2.50 to get in as a closer because they pitch so few innings.

Traditionally, players were evaluated on batting average, home runs and RBIs but this has shifted to On-base percentage, slugging and WAR (wins above replacement).  I agree and disagree with the new evaluations.
On-base vs batting average:
While there is a place for both on every team, I personally value batting average a bit more.  A walk is as good as a hit only if the bases are empty.  A single can drive in runners on 2nd and 3rd while a walk will load the bases and give the pitcher another chance to get out of the jam.

Slugging vs Home runs and RBI:
This is a case in which I do agree with the new methods.  Doubles power is very under-valued because it can clear the bases and put you in position to score on a single.  Given the choice between a 30 HR player who only hits 20 2B or a 20 HR player with 40 2B, I would prefer the latter if everything else is equal.

I am not a fan of WAR evaluations because I feel it's too subjective.  In particular, what defines a "replacement" level player?  It's usually about the 28th best at each position.  When voting for the HOF, it kills clean players from the steroid era.

In terms of pitchers, I still value won/loss record and ERA above K-rate and FIP.
In my opinion, strikeouts are overvalued and a weak pop fly is just as effective because it will not advance any runners.  A pitcher who induces a lot of ground balls will get more double plays.  FIP (fielding independent pitching) only takes into account walks, home runs, strike outs and hit batters figuring that pitchers cannot control the outcome of balls in play.  I disagree.  I value pitchers who  pitch to contact and induces a lot of weakly hit balls in play.  Hitters who faced Greg Maddux reported that they had calm and comfortable at-bats but at the end of the day, they didn't have any hits.

As for the Hall of Fame, I will always vote for a player with 3,000 hits legitimately but if you can't hit .250, I vote NO even if you have over 500 HRs.  If you're a little short of the milestones, I may vote YES if a player has an outstanding slash line.  For pitchers, I say 275 wins is the new 300.  If you are short,  you need a high winning percentage and low ERA.

Back to running and health posts from now on.

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