Personal Hall of Fame, Part 5: The Outfield

Mar 1, 2013 by Adam Darowski

In the first four parts of this series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4), I finalized the pitchers, catchers, and infielders in my Personal Hall of Fame. 41 outfielders have already been named and I have twenty more to debate.

Let’s get into it…

Left Fielders

For some reason, there are a ton of left fielders I’m undecided on.

Name Pos adjWAR adjWAA Hall Rating Bat Run DP Fld Pos Pit
Sherry Magee * lf 57.5 31.6 110 325 22 0 25 -98
Jim O’Rourke *# lf 70.5 23.1 109 375 -5 0 -37 -63 -2
Zack Wheat *# lf 58.8 29.7 108 341 -5 0 54 -118
Bob Johnson * lf 54.2 30.9 105 382 -1 0 18 -78
Joe Medwick *# lf 53.8 30.1 104 326 1 0 45 -87
Willie Stargell *# lf 54.2 29.8 104 434 -13 -2 -70 -117
Joe Kelley # lf 51.5 27.7 97 371 1 0 18 -89
Harry Stovey lf 49.3 27.4 96 321 31 0 28 -57 -4
Pete Browning lf 45.3 28.2 92 405 -3 0 -17 -52 -3
Ralph Kiner # lf 47.4 26.7 92 369 -1 -5 -40 -63
Charlie Keller lf 41.7 29.1 90 286 5 0 38 -48

The Hall of Famers

Five players on the “maybe” list are actually in the Hall of Fame. Let’s start there.

Joe Kelley finished his career in 1908 with 2,220 hits, a .317/.402/.451 slash line and a 129 wRC+ in 8,139 plate appearances. Those aren’t bad numbers, but from an average-fielding corner outfielder, that’s only going to get you 47.3 WAR. Kelley only led his league in one category (stolen bases), compiling a Black Ink score of two. He received no support in the first BBWAA elections and wasn’t added via the Veterans Committee until 1971. Good player, but a no for me.

Zack Wheat also is the owner of a 129 wRC+, but he did it in just under 10,000 plate appearances (2,884 hits, .317/.367/.450 line). That, plus the fact that he was worth 54 runs in the field, brings him to 56.9 WAR. Wheat won a batting title in 1918, two years after leading the league in slugging and total bases. It all adds up to a 108 Hall Rating, which is good enough for me.

I’m actually surprised by how low Joe Medwick’s Hall Rating is (104). He had a ton of Black Ink (even winning a Triple Crown and MVP award in 1937). He had a 132 wRC+ and was a solid defender. He started eight All Star Games (named to ten altogether). I have no problem putting Ducky in.

Willie Stargell is someone I don’t often hear questioned as a legitimate Hall of Famer. With 475 homers, 2,232 hits, a (ludicrous) MVP award, and 145 wRC+. But his –70 runs via Total Zone bring his WAR down to 54.2. That said, he still is over the line with a 104 Hall Rating. I’m saying yes.

Last, Ralph Kiner had a very short career. After spending nearly three seasons serving in World War II, he made his debut in his age 23 season in 1946. He led the league in home runs in each of his first seven seasons. He then payed three more seasons before leaving the game. He had just 1,451 hits, but 369 of them were home runs. On a rate basis, he was tremendous with a 146 wRC+.

Last time, I introduced a War adjustment for players who missed time because of military service. I’m not sure how to handle Kiner. He hadn’t started his career yet. His minor league numbers didn’t look like someone ready for the call when he left to serve. But upon his return, he went directly to the major leagues (and led in homers, no less). I think it’s safe to assume he missed a season or so. I’m going to say yes, considering him like a Dizzy Dean. The peak was just so good.

Of course, this adds four left fielders already (bringing the current Personal Hall total to 19).

19th Century Stars

Jim O'Rourke is a yes for me. Despite the short schedules of his early career (he started in 1872), he still collected 2,639 hits, 1,729 runs, and a .310/.352/.422 line with a 127 wRC+. He was a regular player all the way through age 42.

Meanwhile, it’s hard not to say yes to Harry Stovey. He played about 500 games less than O’Rourke, but he sure could hit. He had a .289/.361/.461 slash line (130 wRC+). He led the league in homers five times, slugging three times, runs scored four times, triples four times, stolen bases twice, and total bases three times. Stovey was an excellent overall player, but I’m going to draw the line right before him and have him on the outside. This one’s hard, but our left field population is really swelling.

Lastly, Pete Browning has gotten plenty of Hall support over the years. Like Stovey, I’m going to put him right on the outside. But also like Stovey, I’d be thrilled to see him actually get inducted. Browning played only 1,183 games, but he hit like crazy. The original "Lousville Slugger" hit .341/.403/.467 (148 wRC+) and had a Hall Rating of 92 (because of lack of longevity).

The High Peak Guys

Bob Johnson and Charlie Keller both had very short carers (particularly Keller) that coincided with World War II. Johnson did not serve in the War and seems to be dismissed because he played against weakened competition. Keller did serve nearly two seasons. Other players served more, so some of his top seasons were also against weakened competition.

To top things off, Johnson got a very late start to his career (at age 27). Because of this, his numbers lag behind other top players. It’s not particularly fair, but that makes me put him on the outside. Keller is a bit more tricky. He has a 90 Hall Rating. but if you give him a War Adjustment, we see that his Hall Rating shoots to 111. For a short career guy like Keller, that’s pretty remarkable.

But I’m still not ready to put him in. First, he didn’t provide that extra value. Second, he obviously had longevity issues, so these types of calculations are trickier with Keller. Third, some of his better seasons happened when many stars were already off to the War. Basically, the War both helps and hurts Keller’s case. He’s close—a lot closer than people give him credit for—but ultimately I have him on the outside.

Last But Not Least

As if I’m not having enough trouble with left field, Sherry Magee is the most difficult player for me. He had a 134 wRC+ in over 2,000 games. He had 2,169 hits and a slash line of .291/.364/.427. He led the league in RBI four times—but each time with relatively modest totals. His 1910 season was covered in black ink. He led the league in batting, OBP, slugging, OPS, OPS+, total bases, RBI, and runs.

His 110 Hall Rating is very impressive. He’s closer to his Hall of Fame-level left field peers (Fred Clarke, Jesse Burkett, and Wheat) than the tier below (Kelley, Jimmy Sheckard, and Bobby Veach). In the end, he’s right on the borderline for me. If he had received more Hall of Fame support or was actually in, I probably would have him there. But instead he is just on the outside. Not an easy one.

The New Additions

There are five new left fielders for my Hall:

That brings the Hall population to 196 and the left fielder count to twenty.

Center Fielders

Center field has the exact opposite problem of left field. My Hall only has ten center fielders so far. And the “maybe” list is pretty sparse.

Name Pos adjWAR adjWAA Hall Rating Bat Run DP Fld Pos Pit
Jim Wynn * cf 53.2 34.3 110 294 19 6 -28 -42
Paul Hines cf 59.0 23.3 98 291 -6 0 19 -71 -1
Max Carey # cf 52.9 25.2 95 117 88 0 86 -85
Kirby Puckett # cf 49.0 26.8 93 234 13 8 -14 -13

Max Carey strikes me as his era’s Kenny Lofton—the exception being that Carey stayed on the ballot for fourteen years, steadily climbing to 51.1% before finally being inducted via the Veterans Committee. Lofton, of course, was one-and-done.

By black ink and Total Zone, both players appear to be among the best defensive center fielders ever (Lofton is tied for 7th by Total Zone while Carey is 13th). Both could also run like the wind and rate among the best baserunners of all time (Carey 5th and Lofton 8th). Both could also hit really well. Carey was worth 117 batting runs while Lofton was worth 140.

The biggest difference between the two (besides a couple wins here and there on the components) is actually their positional adjustment. Carey played at a time when center field wasn’t quite as valuable a position (apparently—I’ll admit I don’t have the best explanation for this). Carey’s positional adjustment is a whopping –85 runs while Lofton is at +27. While Carey’s Hall Rating of 95 suggests he might be below the Hall standards, I’m still putting him in. Compared to his position, he was one of the best. And the positional adjustment gap seems a bit too large to put so much emphasis on.

Carey is one of just two Hall of Famers on the center field “maybe” list. The other is Kirby Puckett—and I’m putting him in, too.

I grew up with Puckett and he certainly passed my sniff test as a Hall of Famer of the highest caliber. I had him on the same level as Wade Boggs and Cal Ripken Jr. as well as… well, Don Mattingly and Jack Morris. It turns out, Boggs and Ripken were even better than I thought. Mattingly and Morris, not so much—although I think if Mattingly didn’t suffer his injury problems he would have been a clear cut Hall of Famer.

The fact that the carpet was yanked out from under Puckett’s career while he was still a very productive player pushes him back over the line for me. Plus, there’s the issue of defense. Puckett won six Gold Gloves, yet he rates as a slightly below average defender. I’m guessing the truth lies somewhere in the middle. He was a little, stocky guy. That probably limited his range compared to other players. But, gosh what he did with that body type. He likely looked like a tremendous defender because he was at such a natural disadvantage.

He also was a postseason hero who carried a small market team to a pair of World Championships. If I’m going to let banned players in my Hall, I’m not going to worry about Puckett’s personal transgressions. He’s in for me.

Then there’s the curious case of Jim Wynn. Is it possible to walk to the Hall of Fame? Wynn reminds me of Gene Tenace. Tenace managed just one Hall of Fame vote while Wynn didn’t receive any. Wynn was done early (at age 35) and collected 1,665 hits in a career that sported a .250/.366/.436 slash line. Yes, that walk total (1,224) comes very close to his hit total and gives him a 130 wRC+.

It’s very rare for a player to have three 7+ WAR seasons and not make the Hall of Fame, but it’s also very rare for a player to have a career unfold like Wynn’s. To top it all off, many of his context-adjusted numbers need to be taken with a strong confidence in the translative powers of park factors. Wynn played in two of the worst places to hit—the Astrodome and Chavez Ravine. If those context adjustments pushed Wynn higher than a 110 Hall Rating, I might be on board. Instead, he’s just on the outside for me.

Lastly, we have Paul Hines. I go back and forth on him, too. With a Hall Rating of 98, he’s close. He was the game’s first Triple Crown winner. He has excellent counting stats, despite the short seasons early in his career. He didn’t play 100 games until his 13th season in the Majors. I also tend to think WAR undersells him a bit. He is hit with a –71 positional adjustment despite being a center fielder for basically his entire career. I kept a lot of players out based on gut instinct. I’m putting Hines in on gut.

The New Additions

There are three new center fielders for my Hall:

We’re now at 199 Personal Hall of Famers and thirteen center fielders.

Right Fielders

We already have sixteen right fielders in the Personal Hall. Let’s see if we’ll add anymore.

Name Pos adjWAR adjWAA Hall Rating Bat Run DP Fld Pos Pit
Sammy Sosa * rf 55.8 36.0 116 333 -15 -13 86 -102
Bobby Bonds * rf 55.8 33.9 112 271 38 2 48 -81
Enos Slaughter # rf 52.6 24.0 92 282 2 10 20 -94
Chuck Klein # rf 42.6 26.0 86 340 -2 0 -40 -74
Sam Thompson # rf 46.9 22.8 85 387 -19 0 11 -85

Enos Slaughter has a Hall Rating of 92, but it’s hard to find a player’s value hurt more by World War II than his. Slaughter enjoyed a 6.1 WAR season at age 26 in 1942. He then served for three seasons. Upon his return in 1946, he was worth 4.1 WAR and led the league in RBI. If you average those two years and assign the result to those three seasons, Slaughter’s Hall Rating becomes 122, making his addition pretty easy.

No player other than Willie Randolph made me think as hard as Chuck Klein, but here’s the deal: Larry Walker was twice the player Chuck Klein was. Klein’s statistics were inflated by his era and his park—the same things killing Walker in his quest for Cooperstown. The thing is, Walker was better for longer, was a great baserunner, and was an elite defender. Klein won a Triple Crown playing in the Baker Bowl, but once context-adjusted, Klein looks more like Gavvy Cravath than Walker. I’m going to have to say no.

I’ve also thought a lot about Bobby Bonds since featuring him in Part 1. There’s no doubt he had Hall of Fame talent. A bit more longevity and he would be in with me. However, he falls just short.

Sammy Sosa is a borderline Hall of Famer, strictly by the numbers. He used to be an average-hitting, slick-defending outfielder. Once he bulked up, he was useless in the field. If I thought Sosa’s numbers were legit, I’d say yes. But to me, he doesn’t have the McGwire/Palmeiro type numbers that would allow me to overlook the baggage.

Lastly, we have Sam Thompson. My first impressions were surprise that his WAR isn’t higher, given all the black ink on his Baseball-Reference page. But there are several things working against him. He had a late start, not debuting until his age 25 season. He also was essentially done at age 36, giving him just a dozen seasons to make his case.

But he sure hit in those dozen years. He captured a batting title in 1887, but also also hit .415 in 1894 and .392 in 1895. In those seasons, his teams hit .350 and .330, so there were clearly some crazy park factors at play here. For example, in 1894, all four Phillies outfielders with 380 or more plate appearances hit .400. The pitching staff was 71–57 despite a 5.63 ERA. Thompson also led the league in home runs twice, runs batted in three times, hits three times, doubles twice, slugging three times, and total bases two times.

He was pretty close to average as a defender, but he was a bit below average on the bases. What hurts him is his positional adjustment. Right field has always been a weaker value position. You could compare Thompson’s context-adjusted numbers to King Kelly. The big difference between the two is that Kelly caught in over 40% of his games, giving him a positive positional adjustment.

Like Klein, I’m going to chalk Thompson up as a product of his environment and say no. It’s not easy, but I feel it’s the right call.

The New Additions

Just one new right fielder for my Hall:

That brings us to 200 Personal Hall of Famers, exactly (that wasn’t on purpose) and 17 right fielders.

What’s Next?

I plan to take these 200 and make sure I’m accounting for the best players at each position for each era. Like positional populations, I don’t believe every era needs to be equally represented for every position. But any large gaps should at least be analyzed.

If you’d like, take a look at a rough list of my 200 Hall of Famers. This page will eventually be replaced by something on the Hall of Stats site.

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