Archive for January, 2006

Murphy for Cooperstown

Mac Thomason is looking into Dale Murphy’s Hall of Fame credentials with a series of articles over at Braves Journal—THE online home for thinking Braves fans. I’ve been doing a smaller version of this (here and here), but Mac’s doing the heavy lifting. The goal is to “objectively” examine Murph’s accomplishments according to several well-known criteria for evaluating HOF worthiness. I put objective in quotes because, thought both Mac and I are using tools the objective researcher would use, we both feel that he is worthy based on these criteria. So, I want to make it clear that we are both advocates for him. Might we be a little biased? Absolutely, but so what. Murphy clears some tough hurdles, and it’s easy to forget just how good he was. And we are asking other fans to start making the case. Whenever a journalist says Murph isn’t worthy, send him an e-mail with links to Mac’s new category, Murphy for Cooperstown, and/or mine.

Here are the most recent links from Mac’s site:
Most Runs Created, 1980-1989
Murphy’s Keltner List

It is our hope that we can finally put Murphy in the Hall of Fame by showing that his pros outweigh the cons.

Why Are HOF Voters Ignoring Murphy?

The Hall of Fame voting this year reveals some information about the voters. Mainly, they’re not very consistent. For one, Bruce Sutter gets in but Goose Gossage does not. Have any voters posted their reasons for voting for Sutter but not Gossage? Goose received 100% of ESPN writer’s votes, while Sutter only got 80%. Well, enough people have pointed this out, but I want to look at how voters treated the hitters.

Jim Rice and Andre Dawson were the only position players with a majority of the votes. Dale Murphy comes in with a measly 10.8% of the vote. The thing is, all three of these guys are very similar.

Player		Career		Gold Gloves	MVPs	OPS+	HOF Votes
Jim Rice	16		0		1	128	337
Andre Dawson	21		8		1	119	317	
Dale Murphy	19		5		2	121	56

They all played outfield. They had similar offensive numbers. They all had a few spectacular years, each winning an MVP. All had few post-season opportunities. They played in the same era. Both Dawson and Murphy won several gold gloves. So, come on Braves fans, it’s time to start lobbying. Dawson and Rice have Boston and Chicago fans going for them. It’s time to start up the comparisons to guys who are receiving serious HOF consideration. It may be that none of these guys ever make it, but I think they all should be treated the same by the voters.

Letter to Bryan Burwell

In today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch, columnist Bryan Burwell writes the following:

Bill James, baseball’s ultimate seamhead and statistical guru, tried Tuesday to explain to me why Jim Rice should never get into the Hall but Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and many of their chemically enhanced contemporaries should. It was a dazzling bit of stat geek mumbo-jumbo that basically came down to this:

Stats and baseball’s integrity are very relevant to baseball … unless I don’t want them to be.

This prompted me to write the following to Mr. Burwell in an e-mail:

I believe your assertions about several MLB players using steroids to create a home run chase are misguided. While there is a cloud of suspicion surrounding some players this is hardly evidence that they cheated their way to success. Please read the following paper for a discussion of the statistical variance of home runs ( The achieved excellence by the sluggers you mention is all within the natural variance of home run hitting in baseball history.

I don’t expect to hear back, but it bothers me that so many people are willing to convict players of using steroids with evidence that wouldn’t meet the weakest of legal standards. If you have not read De Vany’s paper, which I posted a link to above, you should. Art De Vany is a retired economics professor with an excellent research reputation. I wish more people would take notice of his work. I have yet to see someone successfully refute De Vany’s findings.

Future Hall of Famers

With the announcement that Bruce Sutter will be the only inductee into the Hall of Fame in 2006, I thought I’d post my list of hitters still playing or too recently retired to be eligible whom I predict will be in the Hall of Fame. The methodology I use is the same one I used to examine which eligible players who should be in the HOF. Here they are, with their probabilities of getting in. This list is only for hitters.

Player			P(in HOF)
Barry Bonds		100.00%
Rickey Henderson	99.80%
Frank Thomas		97.44%
Ken Griffey		95.63%
Larry Walker		95.03%
Cal Ripken		91.22%
Roberto Alomar		88.01%
Jeff Bagwell		86.85%
Rafael Palmeiro		83.96%
Barry Larkin		81.51%
Alex Rodriguez		74.10%
Ivan Rodriguez		66.90%
Edgar Martinez		64.03%
Tim Raines		63.32%
Fred McGriff		62.86%
Gary Sheffield		60.90%
Tony Gwynn		60.78%
Mark McGwire		58.73%
Craig Biggio		56.77%
Juan Gonzalez		55.64%
Sammy Sosa		51.77%

There you have it. I don’t think there are too many surprises here.

Happy New Year

I want wish a belated Happy New Year to everyone. I’ve been on the road visiting family throughout the south, and I just arrived back in Tennessee this weekend. Because of my travels my e-mail has suffered. If your waiting for a response from me, please be patient. I’m going to get back to you shortly. I also hope to have a few new blog posts here soon. Here are a few things that may interest you.

— Fellow economist Cyril Morong has posted an interesting study over at Beyond the Boxscore: The best, eligible Non-Hall of Famers. Using Win Shares and Total Player Rating he looks at who should be in the Hall of Fame but isn’t. He has some similar names to what I found, and some different names as well. It’s good stuff, and thanks to Repoz for the link.

— Matt Nelson at Mets Geek evaluates the Mets using PrOPS. First, thanks to Matt for doing this. I look forward to seeing how useful PrOPS is as a tool. It’s good work by Matt, as usual. Matt also makes a familiar point that PrOPS seems to punish the quick and reward the slow. This is something I wrestled with when I first published the system, but I’m not so worried about it and here is why. When I look at PrOPS from 2002-2005, few players seem to consistency over/under perform their numbers. While there are some speedy and slow players on the top over/under performing lists, there are also some of those same players on the other side of the list. I want to remind everyone that you can read more in The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006. Again, thanks to Repoz for the link.

–Speaking of THTBA (or “thut-buh” as I like to call it), I enjoyed reading it quite a bit during my travels. Dave has been posting glowing reviews of it, and was I not a contributor I would most certainly post my own review. The book is really impressive, and I just feel lucky to have been involved with the project. I don’t have any official numbers, but it seems to be doing well. I was happy to see it for sale in Borders in Atlanta.

–On the WSJ Econoblog the other day, Skip and I discussed the reason why assistant coaches like Leo Mazzone aren’t paid more given the results they can (possibly) bring. One reason we came up with this that the market is just beginning to adjust. Well, the Washington Redskins are did nothing to dissuade me by signing Gregg Williams to be the “assistant head coach-defense” for $8 million over the next three years. We will soon see whether or not this is a trend.

Review: The Undercover Economist

Well, it’s a short review. I’m still on the road, where I’ve gotten the chance to do some reading, and I wanted to post my brief review of Tim Harford‘s The Undercover Economist. It’s very good, and I’m kind of surprised no one has written an introductory economics book for laymen like this before. The best ideas always seem obvious in hindsight. Many people often ask me for one book to better understand economics, and I have several. But none of the ones on my list are as comprehensive as this one. If you read this book, you will have a good grasp on what every college student ought to be learning in Econ 1o1. The important micro and macro concepts are well-covered simply and with real-world examples. And the writing quality is excellent.

There are a few examples that I don’t agree with (for example, I don’t fully agree with his take on the healthcare market), but those are outweighed by the examples he includes that are far better than the ones I often use in class. All coffee drinkers (lots of good examples about coffee) ought to earn As in their Intro courses. It’s a book that I wish I could have written, and Harford should be commended on the excellent service to the discipline…or scolded for breaking the knowledge cartel of academic economists. 😉