A few more thoughts on baseball's Hall of Fame voting
Players with 8,500 PAs have better than a 50-50 shot of making the Hall of Fame
Dave Parker's Hall of Fame case stacks up favorably against Jim Rice's
The 1981 players' strike hurt Dwight Evans' shot at a spot in Cooperstown
OK, so I was thinking that maybe we make this Hall of Fame stuff too complicated ...
Look: According to the remarkable Baseball Reference Play Index, there are 158 players in baseball history who have had 8,500 or more plate appearances in their career. I realize that's an arbitrary cutoff ... but this is an arbitrary exercise. Anyway, that's all -- only 158 players since 1901 who have had as many as 8,500 plate appearances in their careers.
We can shave that number down a bit, too. Seventeen of those players are active -- or at least semi-active like Barry Bonds. So, for the point of this discussion, let's discount those. We are now down to 141 players since 1901 who have 8,500 plate appearances or more.
OK, one more paring down. Sixteen more of those players retired in the last four years ... which would not make them Hall of Fame eligible yet. So now, we are down to our list ... 125 eligible Hall of Fame candidates who have had 8,500 plate appearances or more.
Do you know how many of those 125 are in the Hall of Fame now? Sixty-seven of them. That's 54 percent.
So, basically, if you are good enough to to get 8,500 plate appearances in the big leagues, historically, you have better than a 50-50 shot of getting into the Hall of Fame.
Here's a little chart to give you an idea how this works:
3,000-5,000 plate appearances: 622 players, One Hall of Famer. Hall of Fame chances: 16 percent. (Roy Campanella is the only player with this few plate appearances in the Hall of Fame, not counting those who got into the Hall of Fame as managers or those who played before 1901. Several Negro Leaguers have gone into the Hall with fewer than 3,000 plate appearances, including Monte Irvin and Willard Brown).
5,000 plate appearances: 653 players, 122 Hall of Famers. Hall of Fame chances: 18.6 percent.
7,000 plate appearances: 284 players, 98 Hall of Famers. Hall of Fame chances: 35 percent.
7,500 plate appearances: 225 players, 87 Hall of Famers. Hall of Fame chances: 39 percent.
8,000 plate appearances: 183 players, 83 Hall of Famers. Hall of Fame chances: 45 percent.
8,500 plate appearances: 125 players, 67 Hall of Famers. Hall of Fame chances: 54 percent.
9,000 plate appearances: 102 players, 64 Hall of Famers. Hall of Fame chances: 63 percent.
9,500 plate appearances: 78 players, 55 Hall of Famers. Hall of Fame chances: 71 percent.
10,000 plate appearances: 55 players, 43 Hall of Famers. Hall of Fame chances: 78 percent.
10,500 plate appearances: 37 players, 31 Hall of Famers. Hall of Fame chances: 84 percent.
11,000 plate appearances: 26 players, 23 Hall of Famers. Hall of Fame chances: 88 percent.
The three eligible players who had 11,000 plate appearances but have not made the Hall are Pete Rose (of course), Harold Baines and Rusty Staub.
If you go back to 10,500 plate appearances, the six who are not in the Hall are Rose, Baines, Staub and then Andre Dawson (who will probably get in soon), Dewey Evans and Darrell Evans.
Now, this is not perfectly accurate ... a handful of the Hall of Famers, on the low end of the plate-appearance scale, got in for something other than their play in the big leagues. Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby got in for being great players AND for being pioneers. And obviously several of those Hall of Famers had some of their prime years taken away because of World War II. So the percentages of making the Hall of Fame if you get 4,000 plate appearances are really quite a bit less than 18.6 percent ...
Still, this gives you a pretty decent idea about how the Hall of Fame works. The truth is, the more plate appearances you get, for all the obvious reasons, the more likely you will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. And the most obvious of those reasons is that, in the end, writers do not choose who goes into the Hall of Fame. Not really.
Yes, the writers chose Kirby Puckett (7,831 plate appearances) based on various factors, including the fact that his career was cut short and he may very well have reached 3,000 hits if it had not been for his eye problems.
They chose Joe DiMaggio (7,671 PAs) and Hank Greenberg (6,096 PAs) and numerous others who had their careers interrupted by World War II.
They chose Ralph Kiner (6,256 PAs) after much handwringing because he so dominated his short time.
But mostly, when it comes to who is going to the Hall of Fame, it is managers who choose. Opposing pitchers choose (and we could do the same thing here for pitchers). Time chooses. The GAME chooses. The players who can endure, who are good enough and respected enough to stay in the lineup, who punch up the numbers for 14, 15, 17, 20 full seasons, those players, more often than not, will go into the Hall of Fame.
What do you think of this list?
1. Babe Ruth*, .532
*Hall of Fame.
That list is simply: Players (9,000 or more PAs) with the fewest number of outs divided by number of plate appearances. That's it. By outs, we are including all outs -- double plays count as two, sacrifice flies, sacrifice bunts, caught stealing, the whole works. According to the list, Babe Ruth made outs only 53.2% of his plate appearances. Now, it's a flawed number because we don't have caught stealing numbers for the Babe and the other older guys, and we don't have grounded-into-double plays either. So you can add a few outs to their totals. It's telling that Barry Bonds is tops among modern players. I suspect if we had all the numbers, he would move up on the list. Still, that list includes the 15 players in baseball history who got 9,000 or more plate appearances and, best we can tell, recorded the fewest number of outs. All of them are in the Hall of Fame, excluding the two who are not yet eligible