Category Archives: Player Profile

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dave stieb

Most baseball writers believe that Jack Morris will be elected into Baseball’s Hall of Fame and Museum in 2014, his final year of eligibility. Despite his lifetime 3.90 earned run average and otherwise pedestrian numbers (he does have 254 wins, but that’s more a function of his run support and rubber-armed ability to pitch deep into ballgames.). Stieb’s numbers, when you strip away circumstances beyond his control, are arguably superior to Morris’s, but there is no ground swell of support for his Hall of Fame induction. In his only year of eligibility (2004) Stieb only garnered 1.7% of the vote. Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Is HE, not Jack Morris, the best pitcher of the 1980s? Have a listen and make a judgment call!

Dave Stieb: Baseball Reference

Mopupduty: The Stieb-Morris Debate
Dave Stieb Squeezed out of a perfect game?
HuffPo: The Ryan Braun Suspension Timeline


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don sutton

Don Sutton looks, at first blush, like a no-doubt Baseball Hall of Famer. He won 324 games, struck out 3574 batters, and compiled 58 shutouts in his career. He never missed a start and, had the 1981 player’s strike not happened, would have pitched over 200 innings in 21 consecutive seasons. He NEVER missed a start. He struck out 207 batters as a rookie in 1966, and was a model of consistency that the Baseball Writers Association of America elected to the Hall of Fame in 1998 with 82 percent of the vote.

So why the controversy?

He was very, very good for a very long time, but rarely considered the best pitcher in baseball. He was an all star four times, and in the top five of the Cy Young Award voting five times, but never the winner or runner-up. He pitched in the Era of the Pitcher, also known as the “Second Dead Ball Era,” so while the numbers he posted seem outstanding, he was only 120th all time in Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement. He was very good. Was he good enough for the Hall? Listen to find out.

Email your reactions to scott@thebaseballexperience.com. You can follow me on twitter @scotteiland. Like us on Facebook at http://facebook.com/thebaseballexperiencebodcast. Or leave a comment below. Don’t forget to leave us a rating and written review at http://thebaseballexperience.com/itunes. Thank you for listening!


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kirby puckett

Scott discusses the Hall of Fame case of Minnesota Twins center fielder Kirby Puckett (1960-2006). Puckett was the face of the Twins franchise during the mid eighties and early nineties, coinciding with the Twins World Series titles in 1987 and 1991 (both World Series rings, not coincidentally, were won in seven game series in which the Twins had home-field (or is it home-warehouse) advantage. Puckett became a more controversial figure after his 2001 Hall of Fame induction (elected with 82 percent of the vote), with allegations of physical and emotional spousal abuse and one allegation of sexual assault and false imprisonment sullied his then-sterling reputation.

What, then, to make of Kirby Puckett’s case for the Hall of Fame? Should he be in? Answer the poll below! For Scott’s take, download the episode. You can email feedback to scott@thebaseballexperience.com. You can post in the comments below, or you can like us on Facebook. Don’t forget to follow Scott on twitter @scotteiland!

Kirby Puckett’s Baseball Reference Page


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lou whitaker

Scott discusses the Hall of Fame case of Detroit Tigers second baseman Lou Whitaker. Whitaker was never given serious consideration from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, getting only 2.9 percent of the vote in 2001, his only year of eligibility. Scott figures out possible reasons the BBWAA gave him the shaft, and makes a possibly-controversial call as to whether Lou should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Lou Whitaker’s Baseball Reference Page
Baseball Almanac: 2001 Voting Results


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sisler

It’s May 9, and fans of the Astros, Blue Jays, Marlins, Padres, and others are despairing. Their teams are off to terrible starts, and in some cases it’s hard to find hope.

That’s where the St. Louis Browns come in.

The Browns (1902-1951) hold the distinction of being the worst franchise in Major League Baseball history, a team so full of failure that the only time they won a pennant (1944) it occurred when most of baseball’s best stars were fighting World War II. So pathetic were they that a midget was signed as a publicity stunt (in 1951), they employed a one-armed outfielder named Pete Gray (1945), and finished with a winning record so infrequently it’s amazing they actually DREW WELL initially. They moved to St. Louis from Milwaukee in 1902 (they were the American League’s original Milwaukee Brewers) and stayed there until 1951 before slinking off to Baltimore to become the Orioles. They were such an embarrassment that the new Orioles have erased virtually every bit of evidence of their St. Louis past, with the notable exception of retaining the same color scheme.

Notably, the Browns tried to fix the 1910 American League batting title for Cleveland’s Nap Lajoie, orchestrating the infield so that Lajoie could get five bunt hits in six times at bat. When Lajoie reached on an error in the sixth at bat, the manager and another coach tried to bribe the official scorer to give Lajoie another hit. When AL President Ban Johnson found out about the way the Browns tried to fix the batting championship, he ordered the Browns’ ownership to fire both men, informally banning both of them from baseball for life.

Check out the baseball E-Cyclopedia on the Browns and check out their logos therein.

I discuss George Sisler‘s career and note the difference between baseball’s first “Dead Ball Era” (1901-1920) and the lively-ball era that followed, showing the difference in Sisler’s offense numbers.

Email the show at scott@thebaseballexperience.com. Leave us a rating and review on iTunes! It really helps!


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rogershornsby

Rogers Hornsby (1896-1963) is one of the greatest players in the history of Major League Baseball. Thanks to Babe Ruth (who was the player who saved baseball after the destructive Black Sox Scandal) and Ty Cobb (another contemporary who is the only player to finish his career with a higher composite batting average), Hornsby is one of those players well known only to baseball junkies and historians. The brash, opinionated Texan was the best hitter in the 1920s not named Ruth or Cobb, and for a six year stretch (1920-1925) was absolutely unbelievable. He led the National League in batting in each one of those years, with averages of .370, .397, .401, .384, .424(!), and .403, an unheard-of run that will never happen again. He was also a power hitter, leading the NL in homers in 1922 with 42 (the second-place guy, Ray Grimes, hit only 21.) He regularly boasted OPS (on base average plus slugging percentage) numbers over 1.000. Because of a steep decline that occurred as the 1920s wore down (Hornsby had his share of injury problems), he finished his careeer with 2930 hits, seventy short of the almighty mark of 3000 hits. (more…)


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Mark McGwire gives testimony to Congressman Lacy

Mark McGwire gives testimony to Congressman Lacy

Mark McGwire is one of the most controversial figures in the “steroids era” and has fallen short of Hall of Fame election by the Baseball Writers Association of America. He will forever be linked with Roger Maris, as his storybook 1998 season in which he and Sammy Sosa both broke Maris’s 47-year-old single-season home run record (McGwire finished 1998 with 70 homers; Sosa finished with “only” 66). A huge, lumbering power hitter who didn’t field or run well, McGwire relied on his prodigious power to carve out what looked like a surefire Hall of Fame career.

Unfortunately, he used steroids during his playing career, and he wasn’t a good defender or baserunner. By the same token, he did hit 583 home runs for his career and had OPS numbers that are nothing short of stratospheric late in his career. He is one of two people to hit over sixty homers in a season twice, along with fellow baseball limbo-dweller Sammy Sosa.

One of the things that doesn’t help McGwire is his congressional testimony, which reads like a “what not to do” video in regards to public testimony. His famous quote “I’m not here to talk about the past” in response to Congressman Ed Lacy’s questions made him look even guiltier than he turned out to be. He eventually admitted to using steroids, citing “health reasons” for doing so. What I had such a hard time with was making a decision as to his Hall worthiness. If he never used a performance enhancing drug, would McGwire be a first-ballot Hall of Famer? Probably. 583 homers is an automatic entry into the Hall for most writers, and many of those writers would look at a .263 lifetime batting average and decide it’s more than outweighed by McGwire’s superior on base percentage.

What is the verdict? Download the podcast to find out.

Links for this episode:
Mark McGwire’s Baseball Reference Page
Sammy Sosa: Heck Yes we’re HOFERS
Marshall: McGwire is a Hall of Famer
Why McGwire doesn’t belong in the Hall

Be sure to subscribe to the show through iTunes. OUr feed address is http://feeds.feedburner.com/thebaseballexperiencespodcast. Copy and paste that into any podcatcher and you’ll be able to subscribe that way.


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Roger Maris
I was PLANNING on breaking down both Maris and the player to whom he will forever be tied to, Mark McGwire, today. However, the amount of content available for both players is so vast I decided to make two episodes. So, without further ado, let’s discuss the Hall of Fame case of Yankees, Athletics, and Cardinals outfielder Roger Maris.

Roger Maris’s reasons he SHOULD be in the Hall of Fame

-One of only three two-time MVP winners to not make the Hall of Fame (Barry Bonds and Dale Murphy are the others)

-He hit 61 home runs in 1961, breaking a record many said would never be broken.

-He hit his 275 career homers before the advent of steroids. His 61 home run season is also apparently blameless.

-In his short career, he participated in seven World Series

-He was considered the best corner outfielder in the game during his prime

Roger Maris’s detractors will point to the following:

-Career batting average of .260, the lowest of any Hall Of Fame outfielder.

-Only twelve seasons of major league service, plus only four years where he played more than 140 games.

-Without 1961, there’s no way he’d be featured on this podcast.

I really thought that, after looking at the data, I would look at the back-to-back MVP seasons, plus the single-season home run record (under tremendous media scrutiny, death threats, and a frustratingly antagonistic New York fan base that revered Babe Ruth but treated Maris like a carpetbagger)

The case is much more difficult than I expected it to be. On one hand, the 61* movie by Billy Crystal colored my judgment and made me believe that Maris was a sure-fire Hall of Famer. Sabermatrician Rob Neyer wrote last year that Maris isn’t a Hall of Famer. and it isn’t close. The question, of course, is what is MY verdict? Tune into the episode to find out. You might want to revisit Bill Simmons’ mythical five-level Hall of Fame as you listen to the show.
Links:
The 1961 Major League Expansion Draft
Why Isn’t Roger Maris in the Hall of Fame (Moran)
Neyer: Nope, Roger Maris Isn’t a Hall of Famer
61*


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Today, we take a look at another controversial case for Baseball’s Hall of Fame, examining the career of Atlanta Braves outfielder (with short stints in Philadelphia and Colorado) Dale Murphy. We also take a quick look at another strange career from yesteryear, evaluating Detroit Tigers hurler Virgil Trucks.

First, let’s take a look at Dale Murphy. Many old-school journalists loved Dale Murphy, and many Braves fans clamored for him to be in the Hall of Fame, citing his two MVP awards and amazing six-year peak as rationales for his inclusion in Cooperstown. His detractors point to his precipitous decline, the abrupt end to his career in 1993, and his pedestrian “counting” stats. Which side is correct? Let’s look at his career.

Dale Murphy was born on March 12, 1956 in Portland, Oregon. After excelling in high-school ball at Woodrow Wilson High School in Portland, the Atlanta Braves made him the fifth pick in the 1974 Rule IV Draft. He got cups of coffee in the majors as a catcher in 1976 and 1977, then had his first full season as a 22 year old in 1978.

His rookie year did not go well, posting a triple slash line of .226/.294//394, numbers that are considered so awful today sophisticated writers would be howling for his demotion to the minors. He improved quite a the following season (splitting time between catcher and first base), hitting .276/.349/.510 in 104 games, hitting 21 homers in 394 at bats.

As a 24 year old in 1980, hitting 33 homers and driving in 89 in an era when 30-homer seasons were rarer. Murphy hit .281/.378/.507 and came in 12th in MVP voting. This impressive year was followed by mediocre numbers in the strike-shortened 1981 season before Murphy’s meteoric rise occurred.

Dumping the “tools of ignorance” for good, Murphy won the National League Most Valuable Player award in 1982 AND 1983. He smacked 36 homers in each year and led the league both seasons in RBI. He was the best player in the league in both seasons, but in 1983 he was otherworldly, joining the then-unheard of club of players who hit 30 homers and stole 30 bases in the same season. He was extremely durable during his peak, going over four years without missing a game and piling up Silver Slugger awards and Gold Gloves (Gold Gloves are subjective, yes.) Murphy went on to post great seasons (albeit non-MVP seasons) in 1984, 1985, and 1987 (finishing in the top-12 in MVP consideration those years) before his numbers started to fall off.

Rob Neyer wrote a Sweetspot blog post in 2009 explaining what happened next. Murphy underwent knee surgery in 1989 and was never the same player. His career, which began with so much promise as a 20 year old, was over by age 37. In that way, his career was similar to current Dodger manager Don Mattingly’s; like Mattingly, Murphy had an amazing peak. His “decline phase” (seasons between ages 34 and retirement) was so precipitous that by the time he was up for election in 1998, it had been more than a decade since his last amazing season. Add that to the gaudy numbers being put up in the same time frame (70 homer seasons, anyone?) and Murphy’s great 1982 and 1983 seasons pale in comparison.

For that reason, voters never seriously considered him for inclusion in the Hall of Fame. His numbers hovered between 18 and 28 percent in each of his fifteen seasons on the ballot, which unfortunately concluded this past season. Murphy will have to wait for the Veterans’ Committee to put him in the Hall; I’m not holding my breath, but stranger things have happened.

Does Dale Murphy merit inclusion in Baseball’s Hall of Fame? Rob Neyer says no. Stay tuned for my verdict.

Virgil Trucks links:

Virgil Trucks Baseball-Reference page
1952 Standings and results


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hoffman
Trevor Hoffman presents the Hall of Fame voter with a dilemma. How do we evaluate elite closers in this era of specialization?

Let’s take a look at Hoffman’s career. He was drafted as a shortstop in the 11th round of the 1989 Rule IV draft by the Cincinnati Reds. He struggled with the offensive side of the game, so the Reds made him a pitcher due to his cannon of a throwing arm. He wasn’t deemed good enough to protect by the Reds brass, though, so he was selected in the 1992 Expansion draft by the new Florida Marlins. He pitched for the Marlins as a rookie, then was traded to the Padres in the Gary Sheffield deal. He became the full time closer in 1994 and kept that job for 14 years. He led the league in saves twice and averaged 41 saves from 1995 through 2002 before missing the 2003 season after he had shoulder surgery. He returned in 2004 and barely missed a beat. saving over 40 games in each of the next four years. He was the closer for the 1996 National League Champion Padres. but never won a World Series. He retired in 2010 after pitching his final two years for the Milwaukee Brewers with 601 total saves, the 2nd most ever to Yankee stalwart (and a likely Hall of Famer himself) Mariano Rivera. He never won a Cy Young (a difficult achievement for any reliever) but did finish 2nd in 1998, when he led the league with 53 saves.

Hoffman’s candidacy depends on how you view the save rule. He never pitched more than 90 innings in a season (he did this as a rookie for the Marlins). He was a classic “one-inning” closer. His numbers reflect today’s tendency of managers who force pitchers to pitch only one inning. a practice that I object to. Comparing Hoffman to other relievers in the Hall (Bruce Sutter and ESPECIALLY Rich Gossage) is a joke.

Anyway, here’s the history of the save rule. And how I feel about it can pretty much be summed up this way.

The “Save Rule” was invented by a sportswriter named Jerome Holzman. A SPORTSWRITER made up a rule. Here it is:
A pitcher gets a “Save” when:

He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his team;
He is not the winning pitcher;
He is credited with at least ⅓ of an inning pitched; and
He satisfies one of the following conditions:
He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning
He enters the game, regardless of the count, with the potential tying run either on base, at bat or on deck
He pitches for at least three innings
If a relief pitcher satisfies all of the criteria for a save, except he does not finish the game, he will often be credited with a hold (which is not an officially recognized statistic by Major League Baseball).”‘

Because of this, I consider Hoffman to be a fringe hall of famer at best. It’s a very tough call. Download the show for my verdict.

I also broke down Cap Anson‘s career and discussed how his careder correlates to today’s PED argument.