Personal Hall of Fame, Part 4: The Infield

Feb 22, 2013 by Adam Darowski

So far in this series (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) I named 184 players to my Personal Hall of Fame and started chipping away at my “maybe” list. Time to finalize my infield.

First Basemen

Name Pos adjWAR adjWAA Hall Rating Bat Run DP Fld Pos Pit
Jake Beckley *# 1b 61.1 28.5 108 331 -19 0 39 -29 -6
Bill Terry *# 1b 53.5 32.4 107 339 -4 0 73 -74

It’s easy to see why Jake Beckley eventually got into the Hall of Fame. 2,934 hits, 1,602 runs, 1,578 runs batted in, and a .308 average are pretty compelling raw numbers. But as far as first basemen are concerned, his 117 wRC+ isn’t all that impressive. He also lagged behind first base peers Cap Anson, Dan Brouthers, and Roger Connor. Beckley’s good, but he’s a no for me.

Bill Terry, on the other hand, gets a yes from me—even though his Hall Rating is basically the same as Beckley. There’s just more to Terry’s case. He had a shorter career—and therefore a hell of a peak. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA. He was also the last National League player to hit .400. I don't believe he's a Hall of Famer by an overwhelming margin, but he has enough to get in for me.

Second Basemen

Name Pos adjWAR adjWAA Hall Rating Bat Run DP Fld Pos Pit
Willie Randolph * 2b 63.6 36.9 125 120 42 -8 114 52
Billy Herman # 2b 53.9 27.1 99 148 -3 0 55 67
Bobby Doerr # 2b 48.6 28.9 97 144 -7 -5 43 81
Bid McPhee # 2b 53.6 25.4 96 105 12 0 154 40
Nellie Fox # 2b 47.4 25.1 89 -53 19 16 120 80

There are only 14 second basemen in my Hall so far, so there’s some wiggle room. Let’s start with the biggie.

The One That’s Been Killing Me

Willie Randolph is an easy Hall of Famer, according to WAR, WAA, Hall Rating, the WAR components, and everything else in this world that I enjoy. Why am I having such a hard time with it then? I guess it’s because his case relies on quite a bit of defensive value (3rd all time in Total Zone runs for a second baseman) that he wasn’t recognized for during his career (with Gold Gloves). So, let’s look a the raw numbers instead.

I’m going to go with yes on Randolph. I can’t fight it anymore. All the numbers point to a Hall of Famer. I’m a numbers guy, so I’m going to agree.

The One That Still Shocks Me

I mean, how weird is it that Bid McPhee is even in the Hall of Fame? His final season was 1899. He died in 1943. He played his entire career with the Cincinnati Red Stockings/Reds and was not in the team’s Hall of Fame. But in 2000, the Veterans Committee put him in.

McPhee hit .272/.355/.373 in an 18-year career with a wRC+ of 104. He was inducted mainly for his defense—which is very interesting since anyone who saw him in the field had been deceased for decades. But a look at the black ink on his fielding numbers suggests he probably was as good as his 154 Total Zone runs suggest:

The 154 Total Zone runs (which I don’t doubt) combined with 105 runs at the plate are just enough for me. He’s in.

War-Adjusted WAR

Billy Herman and Bobby Doerr both missed time because of World War II (two seasons for Herman, one for Doerr). This is not reflected at all in Hall Rating, but I do consider it in my Personal Hall. In 1943, Herman was worth 4.6 WAR at age 33 for the Dodgers. After missing two years, he returned at age 36 and barely missed a beat. He was worth 3.6 WAR splitting the season between Brooklyn and Boston (with the Braves). If you average those two seasons and double the average and apply the result to the two seasons he missed, his Hall Rating moves from 99 to 114. I don’t feel guilty about doing this sort of “what if” scenario with Herman since one of the seasons we’re averaging is an age 36 season after a two-year layoff. The dude could play.

Doerr missed just one season, but he missed it during an impressive peak. In 1944 he was worth 5.5 WAR (at age 26 in only 125 games). After a one-year layoff, he was worth 5.3 WAR at age 28. Applying this War Adjustment moves his Hall Rating from 97 to 109.

Interestingly, Herman and Doerr are each other’s #1 most similar player, too. Neither had an increidbly long career, so they had nice peaks. I’m putting both in.

Last and Probably Least

Nellie Fox was an excellent player. His lack of power made him a below average hitter (despite pretty good on-base skills) but his defense was terrific. He rather legitimately won an MVP award in 1959. In the 1950s, he averaged 4.4 WAR per season for the entire decade. However, he didn’t provide much beyond those ten seasons and just falls a little short for me.

Third Basemen

Name Pos adjWAR adjWAA Hall Rating Bat Run DP Fld Pos Pit
Darrell Evans * 3b 55.8 30.1 106 232 -7 5 37 -57
Jimmy Collins # 3b 53.1 28.1 100 118 -11 0 121 55
John McGraw 3b 47.5 30.0 97 306 11 0 3 36
Stan Hack 3b 52.0 25.4 94 235 -9 0 2 16
Heinie Groh 3b 48.3 27.2 93 160 -7 0 35 44

So far, my Personal Hall only has a dozen third basemen—and that’s after adding the Boyer/Bando/Bell/Nettles quartet. What that quartet did do was leave us woefully short of pre-1950s third baseman (essentially the same problem we had with catchers).

The Last Modern Third Baseman

There are a lot of reasons to like Darrell Evans. He’s (still) in the Top 50 in home runs. He’s #12 all time in walks. He rated as an average third baseman defensively and a rather dazzling first baseman after moving there late in his career. He hit 40 homers at age 38 in an offensively depressed era. He was just as good two years later at age 40. There’s even reason to believe Total Zone isn’t giving him enough defensive credit at third base, since his Range Factor per Nine innings is the best of all time at the position.

I might take issue with the Total Zone figures if Evans had ever won a Gold Glove. But he didn’t—and he also didn’t have to compete with the ridiculous 1970s American League pool of third basemen, either. Instead, Doug Rader won five straight National League Gold Gloves (before Mike Schmidt started his run), despite also grading as an average third baseman by Total Zone.

I like Evans. Bill James has called him the most underrated player in history. I tend to think he wasn’t even the most underrated third baseman of his era. That’d probably be Buddy Bell. He’s just on the outside for me, but I’d have no issue with his induction.

Filling the Early Century Gap

From 1871 to 1950, the top third basemen by WAR are Home Run Baker, Stan Hack, Jimmy Collins, Heinie Groh, Deacon White, and John McGraw. Baker is comfortably in my Hall. White is too, but he’s a complicated case who probably should be considered a catcher (short seasons early in his career skew both his position and his WAR total). The other four appear on the “maybe” list.

The first easy call for me is Collins. From 1871 to 1910, he grades out as the top third baseman by WAR. He also is the one from the group who is actually in the Hall of Fame or the Hall of Stats (he’s in the Hall of Fame and misses the Hall of Stats by percentage points). With both a wRC+ of 110 and other-worldly defense, he’s a solid choice.

Secondly, I’m adding McGraw. He’s in the Hall of Fame as a manager, but that sells short the kind of player he was. No 19th century third baseman had more WAR. His career may have been short (less than 5,000 plate appearances), but he was an OBP machine of the highest caliber, posting a .334/.466/.410 line with a wRC+ of 141. He may not have made the Hall of Stats, but his 97 Hall Rating was second highest among players with fewer than 5,000 plate appearances (after Charlie Bennett).

The last question becomes Hack, Groh, both, or none? No third baseman earned more WAR from 1920 to 1950 than Hack. That seems to be a huge vote of confidence, but Groh is right behind him in total value. Both are decent average, high OBP hitters with average to slightly above average defensive skill. I find it very hard to draw a line between them, but much easier to draw a line above them. And that’s what I’ll do for now. Like catchers, I feel third basemen are still a little light before 1950. But I tend to think that’s not a problem with a process, but more random variation. The Golden Age of the position simply came later.


Name Pos adjWAR adjWAA Hall Rating Bat Run DP Fld Pos Pit
Joe Tinker *# ss 52.0 30.6 103 -37 9 0 180 116
Dave Bancroft # ss 48.0 27.5 94 16 -7 0 93 125
Luis Aparicio # ss 52.2 24.7 93 -197 92 18 149 149

There are already 16 shorstops in my Personal Hall and I feel quite comfortable with all of the selections. Joe Tinker, @bancr01, and Luis Aparicio were all revered. Each was exceptional defensively. Honestly, I think I’d either put all three of them in or all three of them out. Right now, I think I’m going to stick with all three of them being out.

Tinker’s Total Zone figure of 180 is incredible. But he still ranks behind many of his peers in total WAR because he was a slightly below average hitter. Bancroft is probably the one that gave me the most pause. He rates as a slightly above average hitter and he actually has the lowest Total Zone boost of the three (despite a defensive reputation on par with the others). Aparicio gets a tremendous Total Zone boost, but he was such a weak hitter that his speed and defense don’t quite make up the gap.

I’ll admit—each player is pretty difficult to leave off.

New Inductees

We now have seven new inductees:

That brings us to 191 members of my Personal Hall of Fame. Next, we’ll wrap up with the outfielders in Part 5.

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