Maz, Oz, Brooks, Ray, and Jimmy
by Asher B. Chancey, Baseball Evolution
January 1, 2005
Alright alright alright.
I can't fault you, Keith, for assuming that when I listed ten doubtful Hall of Famers and didn't include Mazeroski, that I was saying that Mazeroski was a valid Hall of Famer. Perfectly understandable.
In truth, despite his defensive greatness, Mazeroski was a non-contributor on offense. In fact, he was a liability. He was a Pedro Feliz – career on-base percentage under .300. He didn't score runs, with rare exception he didn't drive in runs, and he was pretty good at hitting into double plays.
Maz played on two World Series winning teams. Both of those teams led the league in runs scored, while their pitching was better than average. What this means, I am not sure – it could mean that their pitching depended on his defense, and their hitting was good enough that having his bat in the lineup didn't hurt them. I dunno.
Ultimately, I don't think Maz's defense made him a difference maker, and I don't think I would include him in the Hall of Fame.
The key difference between Ozzie and Maz (other than position) is that Ozzie was not an offensive liability. Despite his (way) below average OPS, Ozzie walked about twice as much as he struck out, and rarely struck out at all. He hit into few double plays. He was an efficient base stealer. He scored runs. Overall, Ozzie did little to hurt his team in the lineup.
I was a bit alarmed at how quickly Ozzie was put into the Hall. But Ozzie, the Wizard of Oz, had become an icon. And his iconic status allowed voters to overlook his flaws. Like Nolan Ryan, Cal Ripken, Jr., and Sammy Sosa (for a time), Ozzie was so popular with fans that it made his flaws easy to overlook, and he went quickly into the Hall.
I have no real problem with Ozzie being in the Hall, but I am not convinced that he belongs there any more than Bo Jackson.
Keith, at some point you are going to have to admit a distinction between Mazeroski, Ozzie, and Brooks Robinson. Let me explain it like this.
If the two components of a player are explained simply as offensive and defensive, then there are various combinations we can come up with. Players like Tris Speaker and Alex Rodriguez are excellent offensive and excellent defensive players, while players like Corey Patterson and Rafael Belliard are bad offensive and defensive players. In the middle, we find players like Ted Williams, an excellent offensive player, but miserable defensive player, and we find players like Bill Mazeroski, excellent defensive players and miserable offensive players.
There are many players who fall into the category of players who are excellent offensive players and merely above average defensive players. The Hall of Fame has many of these. These players are still very valuable. The opposite player, however, it not quite as valuable – the excellent defensive player who is merely better than league average on offense.
Brooks Robinson falls into this latter category. An excellent defensive third baseman, he won every gold glove from 1960 to 1975. But he was no Maz, and no Oz. He managed 268 homeruns, 1357 RBI, 1232 runs, 2848 hits. He hit 20 plus homeruns 6 times, drove in 100 twice, and finished with an OPS 4% above league average. Keith, I know you are jumping up and down by now, so I will reiterate – all I am claiming is that he was above average offensively.
Like I said before, the excellent defense above average offense player is less valuable than the excellent offense above average defense. Think Babe Ruth vs. Brooks Robinson. So, I am not claiming that my characterization of Robinson makes his claim to the Hall as valid as Babe Ruth's claim. But I am saying that it makes his claim to the Hall more valid than that of Bill Mazeroski or even Ray Schalk.
I goofed. No really, I goofed. I failed to consider Schalk in the proper context. Fact is, he played in an era in which catchers did not usually catch as many games as he did. He was offensively worthless, but this is not unique in his era. And, he caught some pretty remarkable White Sox staffs in the teens and twenties.
I will object, however, to Keith's characterization of Schalk as a "good man" because he didn't take part in the Black Sox scandal. Not being asked to throw the World Series does not make someone a good man.
Keith, your Jimmy Collins explanation was downright maddening. It makes little logical sense, and paints things remarkably one-sided.
"Collins also pioneered the procedure of charging bunts and fielding them barehanded. It seems to me that if you pioneer a means of defense against one of the most prolific offensive weapons of your era, you boost your Hall of Fame credentials."
This makes no sense. This is like saying that Torii Hunter's Hall of Fame credentials are boosted by the fact that he often jumped over fences to catch homerun balls, since homeruns are this era's most potent weapon. If people bunted constantly back in those days, and as you said Collins was "reportedly one of the last third basemen to begin to use" a glove, then fielding bunts barehanded is not that impressive. Furthermore, if we are going to start putting anyone who pioneered anything into the Hall, then we need to figure out who the first person to throw the ball overhand was, and put him in the Hall.
But what you really ignore is the reality of Collins' era. The league average fielding percentage in Collin's career was .907, which is legitimately terrible by today's standards. There were lots more errors, and hence lower fielding percentages. You acknowledge that his fielding percentage of .929 is an unprecedented 22 points higher than the league, but what you fail to acknowledge is that it worse the league is, the easier it is to be significantly better than the league. The extreme example of this, of course, would be if the league average was .978, and thus a player would have to be perfect to be 22 points better than the league. Nevertheless, there is a pliable middle ground.
For example, in 1900, Collins finished with a .935 fielding percentage, 40 points above the league average, which is impressive. But he did this despite committing 40 errors. A whopping total to be sure.
Now consider Brooks Robinson, in 1967, when he committed 11 errors, a slim total by third base standards. Robinson finished with a .980 fielding percentage, which was 25 points better than the league average of .955. It would have been nearly impossible, or at least unheard of, for Robinson to have finished with a .995 fielding percentage required to match the 40 points over league average that Collins managed in 1900.
Collins performed above league average, that much is true, and even without adjusting for era, his stats look very good. Nevertheless, Collins played in an era in which it was easier to best the league average. So, for my money, I would at least have them even, but I certainly don't think Collins is better than Robinson.
In terms of range factor, Robinson's was better versus league average than Collins, but both were significantly higher, so the difference is negligible.
But my issues with Collins were not defensive. Rather, my issues with Collins were that he played a significant part of his career before 1901, he enjoyed most of his best playing time before 1901, and that his OPS was only 13% better than the league. Nevertheless, if Collins shouldn't be in, then Robinson shouldn't be either. For my part, I would take both of them out in favor of Santo and Hack.