The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

 

The New New VC

In today's Prospectus Hit and Run, I turn my attention to the re-revamping of the Baseball Hall of Fame's Veterans Committee. Changes to the New VC, which has gone a self-congratulatory 0-for-3 since it was last restructured -- were announced a couple weeks back, but amid the Bonds home run chase, the trading deadline, and the Hall's annual induction ceremonies, the news flew beneath the radar. Here's the skinny:
According to the Hall's press release, the New New VC will split the player, manager/umpire, and executive voting into three separate ballots that will be screened and voted upon by three separate processes. Furthermore, players whose careers started before 1943 will be treated on a separate track from later ones. The details:
  • Post-1943 Players: a BBWAA-appointed committee will narrow the list of eligible candidates (players with 10 years in the majors, not on the ineligible list, and not under consideration on the BBWAA ballot) to 20. Concurrently, a screening committee of six Hall members that gets appointed by the Board of Directors will identify five players total. The slate of 20-25 candidates (depending on overlap) will be screened by the living Hall of Fame members, narrowed to 10 finalists, and then voted upon, with candidates needing at least 75 percent for election. The next set of players will be voted upon in 2009.

  • Pre-1943 players: a Board-appointed committee of 12 Hall of Famers, historians and writers will review eligible candidates every five years starting in 2009.

  • Managers and umpires: a BBWAA-appointed committee will narrow the list of eligible candidates to 10 candidates. A Board-appointed committee of 16 electors, consisting of Hall members, executives, writers, and historians, will vote on a semiannual basis starting in 2008.

  • Executives: a Board-appointed committee of Hall members, executives, and writers (but apparently no historians?) will review of ballot of executives. The timing of this has yet to be determined, and no further details were announced in the release.
I think the new changes bode particularly well for non-players, who are likely to get better traction from a better-informed electorate than the unwashed former players. I also think that putting the pre-1943 players -- of which there were seven on the 2007 ballot, none save for Wes Ferrell a very good candidate -- on a separate track will clear away some of the deadwood. However, I worry that while the electorate is more likely to recognize Ron Santo as a Hall of Famer, the other players at the top of its latest vote -- Jim Kaat (63.4%), Gil Hodges (61.0%), and Tony Oliva (57.3%), for starters -- are more than a little shy in the qualifications department according to JAWS. The thing that needs to happen to show that the New New VC is moving forward is a consideration of Bobby Grich, Lou Whitaker, Dwight Evans, and Darrell Evans, all of whom fell off the BBWAA ballot after their first try and none of whom have reached the VC ballot since, despite stronger JAWS cases than warhorses like Roger Maris and Thurman Munson who, great as they were, don't really have Hall of Fame chops or momentum behind their candidacies.

Elsewhere in the piece, I begin working through a considerable backlog of JAWS cases, starting with Craig Biggio, who comes up a hair shy of the average HOF second baseman -- a very high bar, if you'll recall. It's a moot point given the fact that he's got 3,000 hits and that it's defense dragging him down; with few exceptions (Ozzie Smith, Bill Mazeroski, Brooks Robinson), BBWAA voters don't place too much emphasis on defense, let alone value it properly.

However, there's one other point about Biggio that bears making, and I intend to do so in an Unfiltered entry: he's not a pure second baseman, having played 427 games at catcher and another 366 in the outfield, roughly 2/3 of which were in centerfield. On an Adjusted Games (i.e., innings) basis, he spent about 28 percent of his career at positions even more demanding than second base. As such, it's appropriate to consider him not only in the context of second basemen but also in the context of the cross-positional groupings I include with the JAWS standards:
POS        #  BRAR  BRAA  FRAA   WARP   PEAK   JAWS
C 13 425 215 70 95.7 59.0 77.3
1B 18 744 489 -9 106.1 62.8 84.5
2B 17 579 304 92 122.8 71.5 97.1
3B 11 668 385 69 117.4 67.3 92.4
SS 20 453 153 120 112.3 67.1 89.7
LF 18 752 477 7 111.1 62.6 86.8
CF 17 720 466 15 109.1 63.7 86.4
RF 22 795 519 36 119.6 65.4 92.5

CI 29 716 450 20 110.3 64.5 87.4
MI 37 510 222 107 117.1 69.1 93.1
IF 66 600 321 69 114.1 67.1 90.6
OF 57 759 490 21 113.8 64.0 88.9

Middle 67 547 283 77 111.0 65.8 88.4
Corners 69 751 479 22 113.5 64.3 88.9

Hitters 136 651 383 49 112.3 65.0 88.6
Given his rather unique resume, it's not inappropriate to consider Biggio in the light of a "Middle" hitter, that is one who spent his career mostly at catcher, second base, shortstop and centerfield. At 123.7/69.5/96.6 he's just shy of the second base standard but well over that of the Middle players as well as hitters at large. Biggio's on his way to a pretty inglorious end, but I'll have no beef when he's elected in 2013 or so.

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