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.

Monday, January 12, 2009


JAWS Attacks the 2009 Ballot

Happy New Year, dear readers! It's been about three weeks since I checked in here, a time during which I've been plowing through my winter workload, with a weeklong trip to England over Xmas and New Years thrown in as well. In the meantime, I've completed the entire JAWS series on the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot for Baseball Prospectus:

• Oh Rickey You're So Fine: Rickey Henderson

• A Rock-y Road: Tim Raines

• Throwing Rice: Jim Rice

• Andre and Onward: Andre Dawson and the other outfielders

• The Infielders

• The Pitchers

There's also a WWZN "Young Guns" radio segment from last week, focusing on Rice as well as a two-part video series at Bronx Banter featuring Alex Belth, Cliff Corcoran and myself. In Part One, we discuss Henderson, Raines and Alan Trammell. In Part Two, we hit Rice, Dawson and Bert Blyleven.

But wait! There's more! For those who didn't feel like reading over 20,000 words worth on the topic, I penned an express version for which briefly covers the cases of the five players whom the JAWS system tabbed as vote-worthy (Henderson, Raines, Mark McGwire, Trammell and Blyleven) as well as the two players from outside that group who had polled more than 50 percent in the balloting last year, Rice and Dawson.

As you probably know by now, Henderson and Rice were the two who got the call, while Raines' vote total actually dropped. I'm elated about Henderson -- about whom Bill James once famously wrote, "If you could split him in two, you'd have two Hall of Famers" -- making the Hall, but that was a no-brainer; what was surprising was that 28 writers left him off the ballot, thus committing mail fraud. As for Rice, I've railed against his candidacy and the late groundswell of support he received, support which is founded in mythology rather than performance (Joe Sheehan hit this one out of the park) and, in my mind, some amount of guilt on behalf of the writers who covered Rice and with whom he sparred. That he could get in while Raines is on the outside has me burn-an-overturned-car angry. Or it would if I didn't need some sleep to catch up with all of this.

Anyway, I'm glad the JAWS project is done for another year, the sixth time I've done this for BP and the eighth time I've reviewed the BBWAA ballot at length overall. My timing wasn't great this year, not only since I needed to deliver the last three installments covering 21 of the 24 players on the ballot in the span of five days. The system's underlying valuation metric, Wins Above Replacement Player, is in the midst of a recalibration which has raised the offensive replacement level, with the conversion to a play-by-play system for defense still pending. The changes remain unpublished, so essentially I've been on the bleeding edge, working with a system that's still in beta, with all of the hazards that entails.

In any event, I'm proud of the work but even more glad than usual that it's done, as is my work for the Baseball Prospectus annual and the Fantasy Baseball Index. Might just find time for the occasional blog post now and then...

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