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A Hall Comparison - Matt Williams vs. Graig Nettles
by Asher B. Chancey, Baseball Evolution
January 16, 2006



So, I am really starting to get into the whole "comparing two players to gain clarity as to whether they should be in the Hall of Fame or not" thing. In case you missed it, recently I was trying to decide whether I thought Gil Hodges belonged in the Hall of Fame. After finding myself trying to decide if he was better than Kent Hrbek, I decided he did not belong in the Hall.

Another player that I have been trying to make up my mind about is Matt Williams. Williams has a high homerun total in common with Hodges Williams hit 378 while Hodges hit 370.

Williams will be an interesting candidate when he becomes eligible (2008). He played in 1866 games, with exactly 7000 at-bats. He was a four time Gold Glover at third base, third base of course being a Hall of Fame commodity. He ended his career with 378 homeruns and 1218 RBI, but Giants fans will remember that he was on pace to break Roger Maris' homerun record in 1994 when baseball went on strike his 43 dingers in 112 games put him on pace for 62 by the end of the year. It would have been close, but it would have been exciting. Point being, he may have hit 20 more that season, who knows. He drove in 100 RBI four times, scored 100 once, and scored 997 runs overall.

Williams impressive offensive power numbers are made more impressive by the relative shortness of his career. He didn't play a full season until 1990, and he played his last full season in 1999, at the age of 33. He had seasons of 84, 52, and 84 games at the beginning of his career, and 96, 106, 60, and 44 at the end. So, Williams' effective part of his career lasted on a decade.

Williams was also no defensive slouch, either. He managed four Gold Gloves in his career, with a range factor and fielding average well above league average. He converted 30 plus double plays as a third baseman four times, and only once committed more than 19 errors in a season.

Williams peripheral stats are less impressive, however. His career OPS is just over .800, which is only 13% more than the league average for his career, and his on-base percentage was a meager .317 to go with an unimpressive .268 average. He struck out way more than he walked (469/1363), a ratio of almost 3 to 1.

Despite his questionable qualifications, I just couldn't seem to get my mind past those homeruns, and those good seasons in 1990, 1993, 1994, and 1999. It just seemed like Matt Williams was one of the best third basemen of the 1990s, and he should be in the Hall. Then I compared him to another former third baseman, and the other third baseman had very similar numbers.

This other player played longer 17 full seasons, 22 overall. He had 8986 at-bats, during which he hit 390 homeruns, 1314 RBI, 1193 runs, and 2225 hits. His career average was .248, less than Williams, but his career on-base percentage was .329, and even though his career OPS was only .750, because of the era in which he played this was 10% better than the league average, similar to Williams. He had a much better walk to strikeout ratio (1088/1209) and even struck out 150 fewer times than Williams in 1986 more at-bats. Even though he won only two Gold Gloves, he was just as good of a fielder than Williams, converting many more double plays, but making more errors, while maintaining a fielding percentage and range factor significantly above league average. He would have won more Gold Gloves if not for having played third base in the same league as Brooks Robinson at the beginning of his career and Buddy Bell at the end of his career.

So, at this point, I look at Williams and I look at Nettles, and I see essentially the same player in different eras. The difference in their eras is made even more obvious by the fact Graig Nettles once led the league in homeruns with 32, finished 2nd with 37, and finished 6th with 22, while Williams led the league with 43 in 112 games, finished second with 34, 3rd with 38, fourth with 33, but also failed to place in the top ten with seasons of 22, 23, 32, and 35.

In the end, while I really want to think that Matt Williams belongs in the Hall, it is quite clear to me that Graig Nettles does not belong in the Hall. And as long as Nettles doesn't belong in, neither does Williams.

This whole discussion is, of course, moot. We don't even have to worry about Williams or Nettles until we get Santo, Hack, and Darrell Evans in before them.


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Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Asher B. Chancey resides in Alexandria, Virginia, and can be reached at asher@baseballevolution.com.


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