The View From Wisconsin

Just a random set of rants from a Sports Fan from Wisconsin.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Adjusting Hall Of Fame Standards

One of my favorite books happens to be written by Bill James - and it's not his Historical Baseball Abstract (though I have both editions of that tome). It would be his work regarding the Hall of Fame, titled Whatever Happened To The Hall of Fame? (or The Politics of Glory).

Anyone who knows James also knows that he has a history of using a shorthand "point" system for approximating the value of a player. In fact, during his Abstracts of the 1980's, he used the Approximate Value method to rate players and teams. He came up with his "ultimate" version of AV in the aforementioned book, the Hall of Fame Standards method.

Basically, players are awarded points for reaching career milestones - 1 point if you're a career .300 hitter, etc. The total number of points would be expressed as the "percentage" of Hall of Fame Standards that a player or pitcher meets. James' intent was that the "average" Hall of Famer would score 50 points on the list.

The list isn't perfect, though. There are three major shortcomings that James probably didn't think through completely when he first drew up the list - which was actually back in 1983, when he first posited about what it would take for players to make the Hall of Fame. The shortcomings are:
The only way you could really adjust for the first problem (other than a complete overhaul of every single step of the formula) is to award 0.6 points for players who are actually in the Hall of Fame. The other two issues can be tackled in a straightforward manner by just tweaking a few parts of the two lists.

For fielders, instead of awarding points for just the player's primary fielding position, you count the number of games played at each position by the player during his career. Divide that number by the total number of games played, and then multiply the result by the "award factor" for that position.

For example, Carlton Fisk played in 2,499 career games. 2,226 of those were at catcher, 27 were at first base, 4 were at third base, and 41 were in left field. James awarded 20 points for games played as a catcher, 1 point for first basemen, 14 for second basemen, 13 for third basemen, 16 for shortstops, 3 for left fielders, 12 for center fielders, 6 for right fielders - and zero for everything else. Thus, Fisk's points for his positions are [20 x (2226/2499)] + (27/2499) + [13 x (4/2499)] + [3 x (41/2499)] = 17.9 points. That gives Fisk a HOFS score of 52.3; Baseball Reference lists him with a HOFS of 49.1, so he actually does a little better with the credit for his games played while not behind the plate.

What about the player who really gets hosed by HOFS - Ernie Banks? BR has him listed at 46.1; using this method, he earns a solid 8.0 points: (1259/2528) + [13 x (69/2528)] + [12 x (1125/2258)] + [3 x (23/2528)]. His new HOFS score is 49.8.

As to what to do about relievers: this isn't as difficult as it may seem. First of all, with now a handful of relievers in the HOF, it's actually easier to determine what the standards are. Relief Pitchers are defined here as a pitcher who had fewer starts than relief appearances (or, more than half of his appearances were in relief). An additional requirement is that a pitcher must average less than 4.5 innings per appearance. If a pitcher meets these requirements, instead of awarding points for wins over 100 (as in rule 1 of the HOF Standards method), you do the following:
For all pitchers, you also have a rule to award points for saves. Award 1 point for 100 saves, 2 for 150, 3 for 200, 4 for 250 and 5 for 300 or more saves.

These new standards help Bruce Sutter immensely: he's listed with a 17.0 HOFS score on BR, but his adjusted score is now 48.4 with the new rules. Some other players under the new rules: