When Deacon White was inducted into the Hall of Fame last December, I saw more than a couple commenters around the web asking why they’re still inducting 19th century players. After all, they’re dead. What’s the point, right?
The point is that if a player had a Hall of Fame career, he should be in the Hall of Fame. I don’t care if he’s been retired for five years or 125 years. The Hall should be for players who deserve it. All of them.
I feel we are not (or should not) be done electing 19th century players. Bill Dahlen came two votes away from getting in with the Deacon. Dahlen is absolutely Hall-worthy with a Hall Rating of 143. Dahlen has a lot of support from the saber (and SABR) crew. But Dahlen’s near-inevitable induction shouldn’t close the book on the 19th century quite yet.
There are a few 19th century players in the Hall of Stats who are not yet in the Hall of Fame. Most of them hover near the borderline with Hall Ratings slightly above 100. But one stands out above the rest.
Glasscock was a 19th century shortstop. Check that… he was the best 19th century shortstop. In fact, he was called “King of the Shortstops”. He was the best shortstop before Bill Dahlen. In fact, I find it interesting that Dahlen receives a lot of support from objective-minded folks while Glasscock garners very little. The difference between the two is not nearly as large as the gap in their support.
Comparing Glasscock to Bill Dahlen should be taken as incredibly complimentary towards Glasscock. The problem, of course, is that Dahlen is not actually in the Hall of Fame, despite very strong credentials. I also like to compare both to Alan Trammell, which is similarly problematic. All three are similarly valuable. All three are not Hall of Famers. All three should be.
The Hall of Stats is powered by Hall Rating. Glasscock has a relatively awesome Hall Rating of 129. That’s #14 all time among shortstops (with Dahlen and Trammell among those in front of him). Glasscock ranks ahead of eleven current Hall of Fame shortstops. He’s even (slightly) ahead of Derek Jeter.
Let’s see how that’s possible.
WAR, WAA, and My Adjusted Versions
Hall Rating is my metric that combines Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and Wins Above Average (WAA) into a single Number that represents how good—purely objectively—that player’s Hall of Fame case is. There are 211 players in the Hall of Fame. The 211th best eligible player in history is given a Hall Rating of 100. This illustrates where, again objectively, the Hall of Fame borderline would be of the Hall was populated simply by this metric. Everyone with a Hall Rating above 100 is in the Hall of Stats. Everyone below 100 is out.
Glasscock’s Hall Rating of 129 (as of 2/28/2014) means his case is 29% better than the borderline, putting him quite comfortably alongside several no-question Hall of Famers like Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, and Paul Waner. He also ranks alongside close contemporaries Billy Hamilton and Sam Crawford.
The following table includes the WAR, WAA, and Hall Ratings for all 21 Hall of Fame shortstops, the three outside the Hall who rate as Hall-worthy (Dahlen, Trammell, and Glasscock) and the two active shortstops who are already Hall-worthy (Alex Rodriguez and Jeter).
|Player||WAR||WAA||Hall Rating||Hall of Stats?||Hall of Fame?|
|Pee Wee Reese||63.1||31.7||120.4||Yes||Yes|
Glasscock ranks 18th in WAR. That doesn’t sound all that impressive, but he happens to rank ahead of eight Hall of Famers. By WAA, he rates a bit better. He ranks 15th then—and even rates ahead of Jeter (and ten Hall of Famers). For Hall Rating, I use an adjusted version of WAA that eliminates negative seasons (and makes some other adjustments that Glasscock doesn’t take advantage of). He moves up a slot to 14th in adjWAA, ahead of eleven Hall of Famers (and also Jeter).
My adjustments to WAR do help Glasscock, though. While his case isn’t as extreme as Deacon White, Glasscock did play at a time when the schedules were shorter, hurting his ability to compile the same WAR totals players do today. My adjusted version of WAR accounts for this (splitting the difference between Glasscock’s team’s schedules and a 162-game schedule). Glasscock moves up seven slots to 11th in adjWAR (ahead of 13 Hall of Famers and also Mr. Jeter).
When you consider that there are 21 Hall of Fame shortstops and Glasscock is ahead of most of them, his case starts to look even more solid.
It’s worth noting here that the shortstop position, I feel, features far fewer mistakes in the Hall than other positions. The lowest ranking shorstops are Phil Rizzuto and Rabbit Maranville. Both have very good reasons why they were inducted, though their cases are indeed flawed. Still, it’s not like we’re comparing Glasscock to Tommy McCarthy-type mistakes. These are almost all legit Hall of Famers.
Next, let’s look at the components of WAR, particularly batting and defense. Among our group of shortstops, Glasscock is in the middle of the pack in terms of positional adjustment. While he may not have played as many games as others (largely because of his era), he was almost exclusively a shortstop.
Here are the WAR components (along with plate appearances) for the group:
|Pee Wee Reese||31||43||-1||117||130||9470|
Glasscock was a solid hitter and ranks 13th in batting runs (ahead of 11 Hall of Famers and even in front of Dahlen and Trammell). Defensively is where he really stands out. He ranks 4th on the list in fielding runs, behind only Ozzie Smith, Cal Ripken, and Joe Tinker. Ripken is the only player ahead of him on both lists.
Again, when looking at Glassock’s rankings compared to other shortstops, it is very hard for me say he doesn’t belong.
Compared to Peers
From 1871–1900, 24 players had 2,000 or more plate appearances and played shortstop in over half their games. Glasscock ranks very well among his peers:
- 1st in games
- 2nd in plate appearances (behind Ed McKean)
- 2nd in runs (behind Herman Long)
- 2nd in hits (behind McKean)
- 1st in doubles
- 4th in triples (behind McKean, Dahlen, and Tommy Corcoran)
- 8th in home runs
- 3rd in runs batted in (behind McKean and Long)
- 2nd in stolen bases (behind Long)
- 6th in batting average (but 2nd among players with 5000+ plate appearances, behind only McKean)
- 7th in on-base percentage (but 3rd among players with 5000+ plate appearances, behind McKean and Long)
- 10th in slugging percentage (but 3rd among players with 5000+ plate appearances, behind McKean and Long)
- 7th in OPS+ (but 2nd among players with 5000+ plate appearances, behind only McKean)
- 2nd in WAR Batting Runs (behind Hughie Jennings)
- 2nd in WAR Fielding Runs (behind Germany Smith)
Let’s run down his competition:
- Ed McKean appears quite often. McKean could hit, collecting a 114 OPS+ and 150 batting runs in 1655 games. But he was a dreadful defender, considered the worst of the 19th century according to historians and advanced metrics. As a result, his Hall Rating is just 68.
- Herman Long played a long time and compiled 2129 hits. But he was a below average hitter (94 OPS+ and -83 batting runs) and not quite the defender Glasscock was. His Hall Rating is just 56.
- Tommy Corcoran and Germany Smith were great defenders, but they couldn’t hit at all. Their Hall Ratings are 20 and 34, respectively.
- Hughie Jennings, of course, is already in the Hall of Fame. He basically got in through an incredible 5-year peak, as his Hall Rating is just 87. He also won three pennants as manager of the Detroit Tigers, so that likely had something to do with his induction.
One shortstop who didn’t appear in these rankings was Monte Ward. Ward split time as a pitcher and shortstop, so he has something of an odd career. In 1890, W.I. Harris of the Wheeling Register compared Glasscock to his peers and the name that appeared most often was Ward’s:
There are only two short stops who can approach Glasscock in fielding. These are Ward and Williamson; only one who can equal him in brilliant plays-Ward; none that can excel him in batting, and only one-Ward again-who can equal him in base running.
Ward was a great fielder, though he doesn’t rate as highly as Glasscock. He also was a below average hitter. Ward certainly could pitch (before ruining his arm) and was a somewhat legendary baserunner though. Ned Williamson rates as an excellent fielder, but he only played four seasons at short (the rest at third). Those happen to be his worst defensive years. He could hit about as well as Glasscock, but not for anywhere close to as long (he managed just 1159 hits).
So I think it’s pretty clear—Jack Glasscock was the best shortstop of the 19th century.
In the comparisons above, it is clear that much of Glasscock’s value comes from his defense. That holds true for plenty of Hall of Fame shortstops, but can we really trust these metrics?
Glasscock, like Dahlen, was considered one of the top fielders of his time (if not the best). But if you’re skeptical of advanced defensive metrics and more into traditional ones, here they are:
- Fielding Percentage at SS: 14 times in Top 3, 6 times led league
- Fielding Percentage at 2B: 1 time finished 2nd
- Assists at SS: 8 times in Top 3, 6 times led league
- Putouts at SS: 9 times in Top 3, 2 times led league
- Range Factor at SS: 9 times in Top 3, 3 times led league
So, yeah. He could field.
SABR’s Overlooked Legend Project
I recently (finally!) joined SABR. One of the reasons I joined was so I could be a part of the 19th Century Research Committee and take part in voting for the 19th Century Overlooked Legend. The award honors a 19th century player or pioneer (one not enshrined in the Hall of Fame) each year. In 2009, Pete Browning was the first selection. Deacon White followed in 2010, Harry Stovey in 2011, and Bill Dahlen last season. I just received the preliminary list of candidates for this year’s vote and Glasscock is on there. He’s the player I’m throwing my support behind the most.
Last year, Glasscock finished behind Dahlen, Ross Barnes, Tony Mullane, Doc Adams, Jim Creighton, and Bob Caruthers. All are incredibly good candidates. But in terms of their playing records, Glasscock stands above the rest for me (though I’d like to see Caruthers and Barnes enshried, too).
Adams and Creighton are pioneers who made huge contributions to the game (starting in the 1850s). I will certainly support both in the first round of the voting, but I really need to learn more about their pioneering roles.
What I do understand is numbers. And from that angle, Glasscock is above and beyond the rest. This is why I emphatically support Jack Glasscock for both SABR’s 19th Century Overlooked Legend and the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
In the meantime, we’re honored to have him in the Hall of Stats.