There are so many ways to enjoy baseball. From an early age, I was enthralled by the history of the game. In the last few years, I’ve become deeply interested in the statistical and analytical side of the game. My interest in both led to the creation of the Hall of Stats.
Naturally I became very interested in the players in the Hall of Stats who are not in the Hall of Fame. The list is dominated by modern players for a couple reasons. First, it’s getting harder to get into the Hall of Fame. Second, modern players simply haven’t had as many attempts to get in through the BBWAA and the various Veterans committees. For those reasons, there were only four players who started their careers before 1955 who comfortably cleared the Hall of Fame borderline. One was Joe Jackson (who, of course, is banned). The other three—Deacon White, Bill Dahlen, and Jack Glasscock—played in the 19th century.
In early 2013, I joined SABR’s Overlooked 19th Century Base Ball Legends committee. Last fall, I became the Chair of the committee. As a result, my interest in these overlooked 19th century stars has gone from an interest to a passion.
White, the Overlooked Legend selection in 2010, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013. Dahlen, our 2012 Overlooked Legend, came just two votes shy. The third, Glasscock, is the most overlooked of them all. He is actually so overlooked that he has not yet been selected as an Overlooked Legend (though he placed second this year). He didn’t even appear on the Hall of Fame’s Pre-Integration ballot in 2013.
What makes Jack Glasscock so Hall-worthy?
The Hall of Stats is powered by a formula called Hall Rating. Glasscock, called “King of the Shortstops” in his day, has an impressive Hall Rating of 129. That’s 14th all time among shortstops. Glasscock ranks ahead of eleven current Hall of Fame shortstops and even ranks (slightly) ahead of Derek Jeter.
Let’s see how that’s possible.
WAR and WAA (and My Adjusted Versions)
Hall Rating 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 215 players in the Hall of Fame. The 215th best eligible player by Hall Rating is given a Hall Rating of 100. This illustrates where, again objectively, the Hall of Fame borderline would be if 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.
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||66.4||31.9||119||Yes||Yes|
Glasscock ranks 18th in WAR. That may not sound that impressive, but he happens to rank ahead of eight Hall of Famers. By WAA, he looks better, ranking 15th (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). Glasscock remains 15th in adjWAA.
My adjustments to WAR do help Glasscock, though. Glasscock played 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 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 I feel the shortstop position is among the strongest in the Hall. The lowest ranking shorstops are Phil Rizzuto and Rabbit Maranville. Both were inducted for good reasons, though their cases are still flawed (particularly statistically). Still, it’s not like we’re comparing Glasscock to Tommy McCarthy-type mistakes. These are almost all legitimate 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||31.3||42.94||-0.9||117.0||131.63||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 (while both Smith and Tinker were below average hitters).
Again, when looking at Glassock’s rankings compared to other Hall of Fame shortstops, it is very hard for me say he doesn’t belong.
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 5,000+ plate appearances, behind only McKean)
- 7th in on-base percentage (but 3rd among players with 5,000+ plate appearances, behind McKean and Long)
- 10th in slugging percentage (but 3rd among players with 5,000+ plate appearances, behind McKean and Long)
- 7th in OPS+ (but 2nd among players with 5,000+ 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 2,129 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 helped his case.
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 (by advanced or traditional metrics). Ward also was a below average hitter. Ward certainly could pitch (before ruining his arm) and was a great 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 (by Total Zone). He could hit about as well as Glasscock, but not nearly as long (he managed just 1,159 hits).
So, I think it’s pretty clear—Jack Glasscock was the best shortstop of the 19th century.
The comparisons above show that quite a bit of Glasscock’s value came from his defense. That holds true for plenty of Hall of Fame shortstops, but can we really trust these advanced metrics for 19th century players?
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, take a look at these:
- Fielding Percentage at SS: 14 times in Top 3, 6 times led league (and a second place finish in his only season at 2B)
- 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
The Pre-Integration committee meets every three years at the Winter meetings to vote. Deacon White was inducted in July of 2013, but he was selected for the Hall in December 2012. That means the earliest Jack Glasscock could appear on a Hall of Fame ballot is December of 2015 (for a 2016 induction). It is pretty obvious that Glasscock won’t be inducted in 2016—even a ballot appearance appears to be a long shot. Bill Dahlen has the momentum and I hope that carries him to induction.
My sights are set on 2018. It will be difficult for Glasscock’s case to go from dormant to successful in just four years, so my goal is progress.
Some may wonder what the point of all of this is. Jack Glasscock died in 1947. The point is that if a player was worthy of the Hall of Fame, he should be a Hall of Famer—whether he retired five years ago or 125 years ago.
Last Updated: August 9, 2014