In today’s link dump, Parkes mentioned the WARGraphs feature on the nerd’s choice for baseball stats: Fangraphs. A great way to not only compare the relative peaks of players (listing the best seasons from highest to lowest) but the cumulative effect of playing at a high level for a long time.
WAR is not perfect. Let’s not pretend it is. It does a good job of tackling a lot of the issues Jonah Keri presented today in one fell swoop. WAR, as you may or may not know, rewards players who stay on the field, who play premium defensive positions, and who excel in all facets of the great game of baseball.
That, my friends, is valuable. A lot more valuable than batting averages and folklore and Nebulous Steroid Fear-Mongering®. It is a way to form the foundation of reasoned support of Player X over Player Y.
Tim Raines aka the Internet’s cause célèbre has a pretty airtight Hall of Fame case. Not only is Raines a famously great guy, he basically did all the things Ricky Henderson did at a level more consistent with carbon-based human life forms. Despite not clouting prodigious dingers, Raines preserved outs, stole bases frequently and effectively, and played into his 40s.
Raines’ case is well-established as a potential Hall of Famer. Consider Jim Edmonds. Best known for his half-shirts and highlight reel catches; learning how strong a career he built continues to shock me. Premium defense and consistently high offensive production. Though dogged by ugly splits and injury woes at the end of his career, Edmonds can hang with Raines on any day of the week.
Though he falls just below Raines cumulatively, Edmonds thrust himself squarely in the conversation with his age 29-34 seasons. Will we see a write-in campaign for Edmonds, noted hot dog and all around unlikable douche? Will his best years be left in the wake of his more-famous teammates? The numbers suggest Jim Edmonds is due a second look, at the very least.
Amidst a groundswell of support from Mariners bloggers and baseball aficionados alike, Edgar Martinez has a great Hall of Fame case. As an offensive player, he sits in truly elite company. Though he got a late start to his career, his impact with the bat was astonishing. Hopefully the voters realize Edgar is no more specialized in his role than other Hall of Famers like Bruce Sutter and Dennis Eckersley.
The contribution of offensive stars like Edgar is easy to quantify, what about great players with excellent defense as their calling card? Consider Scott Rolen, one of the greatest third basemen of all time and author of one of the finest single seasons of the last decade. Battered by injury troubles which sapped much of his power, Scott Rolen continues to produce. To wit:
Rolen’s career matches up quite evenly with Edgar, boding well for the Manmountain’s future Hall case. A few more strong seasons within the warm embrace of the Great American Ballpark and Rolen might just be a shoe-in.
I encourage you to throw the bulk of your afternoon down the drain by heading over the Fangraphs to create your own comparisons. Dave Winfield versus Jeff Bagwell? No contest. Barry Larkin versus Derek Jeter? Who’s overrated now? This is a great tool for not only promoting conversation and debate but challenging the assumptions we all hold so dear.