19th Century Pitcher Adjustment Means Five New InducteesJan 5, 2013 by Adam Darowski
I recently proposed an adjustment meant to deal with the fact that too many 19th century pitchers were making it into the Hall of Stats. Today, I’ve implemented that adjustment.
Because of this change, I’m happy to welcome five new members of the Hall of Stats!
Nap Rucker, for quite a while, was the guy on the outside looking into the Hall of Stats. Now he finds himself inside the virtual walls. Rucker, at 134–134, was the best .500 pitcher in baseball history. He managed his mediocre winning percentage while posting an ERA of 2.42 and an ERA+ of 119 for Brooklyn.
In 1912, Rucker went along with Walter Johnson to have his velocity tested at the Remington Arms Plant in Bridgeport, CT. He was well-known for his speed, but by 1913 he had arm troubles and was then known for a strange, slow pitch that may have been an early version of the knuckleball.
Rucker earned 43.6 WAR through age 28 (6.2 WAR per season), when the arm troubles appeared. It was a relatively short, but electric peak that pushes him—just barely—over the borderline. Rucker’s best Hall of Fame showing was 6.4% received in 1942.
Red Ruffing is a Hall of Famer and now he has the Hall of Stats honor to go along with it. The only reason he missed out before was because of time spent in the military (though that came later in his career).
Ruffing makes it on the strength of his 13.3 WAR as an offensive player. Without the bat, he falls considerably short (and looks a lot like a 1930s-era Jack Morris).
In just about every Hall of Fame calculation I’ve done, César Cedeño has been a borderline Hall of Famer. That continues as he’s one of the guys who goes from out to in because of a relatively minor adjustment.
Through his age 29 season, Cedeno had 47.2 WAR, powered by 216 batting runs and 55 baserunning runs (he was also slightly above average in the field). It would have taken a catastrophic turn in his career to derail him from the Hall of Fame—and that’s exactly what happened. He was worth just 2.5 WAR over the next seven seasons.
Cedeno received 0.5% of the Hall of Fame vote in 1992, as the voters clearly remembered him more for the second half of his career. But the Hall of Stats recognizes how wonderful he was in the first half.
The position where the Hall of Fame and Hall of Stats differ most is probably third base. That trend continues as yet another non-HOF hot corner specialist is honored by the Hall of Stats.
Robin Ventura was “one-and-done” in his only chance at the Hall of Fame in 2010. He didn’t reach 2000 hits or 300 home runs, but he rode an excellent eye and a mix of offensive tools to a 114 OPS+ and 130.6 WAR Batting Runs. On defense, he won six Gold Gloves and was worth 145.2 runs. The combination of skills brought him to the Hall of Stats borderline, even if Hall of Fame voters didn’t notice.
Jimmy Collins is a Hall of Famer who gets his spot back. He’s more similar to Robin Ventura than you might realize, worth 117.6 runs at the plate and 121.0 runs in he field. He had more hits than Ventura, but fewer walks and much less power.
Sadly, to add some, you have to remove some. These 19th century pitchers were casualties of the change:
- Al Spalding: He’s right on the doorstep.
- John Ward: I feel pretty bad about Ward and Spalding missing the cut, but they are easily worthy for other reasons (Spalding as an executive and Ward as a pioneer).
- Bobby Mathews: He’s back to the borderline, which is where he has sat for a century.
- Mickey Welch: The only 300-game winner to be removed… and I don’t feel all that badly about it.
- Silver King: Inducted earlier on the power of a couple freakish seasons.
Several other 19th century pitchers moved closer to the borderline, but still within the Hall of Stats.