Friday, January 9, 2015

Hall of Fame: how many are too many?

Jan. 7, 2015 Bill James was a guest on the Brian Kenny MLB Tonight program for the full hour.  I was somewhat disappointed.  James mumbled and stumbled and seemed to at least not oppose any player suggested for the Hall of Fame.  Along the way James seemed to suggest that ten percent was a reasonable amount of players to be selected.  My take is that it should be no more than one percent.  Don't quote me on the James position but it made me wonder if a big part of the problem, aside from voting writers being dumb and rules being silly, is that there is no guideline about how many players or what percent of players should be put into the Hall of Fame, even ignoring integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to team(s).  I'm not talking about a percent each year but the total percent of players all time.

Ten percent is ten times one percent.  And percent of what?  All players, including cup of coffee September call ups?  As a reasonable measure the percent should be based on the number of players with careers long enough to qualify: play ten seasons.  To make this simple, I'll try to count the number of players with enough plate appearances (PA) or innings pitched to have played ten seasons without looking at the actual number of seasons.

For batters, how about 500 PA times ten: 5,000.  For pitchers, 162 innings times ten: 1,620.  Those seem like bare minimums.  So if 10,000 players have at least 5,000 PA, then one percent would be 100.  That seems about right to me.  Maybe some people prefer something closer to ten percent which might yield 1,000.  That seems like a lot.  So you can see the dilemma.  Until we define some reasonable parameters all this noise about stuff like the number of players a writer may vote for is pretty meaningless.

215 former Major League Baseball players have been elected to the Hall of Fame.

Hall of Fame criteria: 66% about character, which is all but ignored.

5. Voting: Voting shall be based upon
- the player's record
- playing ability
- integrity
- sportsmanship
- character
- contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.

There have been about 17,000 players.  215 Hall of Famers is about 1.3%, which is plenty for me.  Ten percent would obviously be 1,700, which seems like way too many.

Rosters allow 25 players most of the season.  So, if you randomly select four teams on particular days that would be 100 players and one percent would be one player.  That's one Hall of Fame player for every four teams.  That seems like a lot.  Yet, most of the current commentary is that too few players are being inducted in recent years.

Let's apply my common sense definition and see how many players played enough to even qualify.

Through 2013 about 2,320 players had at least 5,000 PA; I used AB+BB to keep it simple.  One percent of 2,320 is 23.  Gee, that seems like very few.

Through 2013 about 633 players pitched at least 1,620 innings.  One percent of 633 is 6.  Also very few.

Maybe ten percent is the right number if applied to players who might qualify:
- batters: 232
- pitchers: 63.

That adds up to 295, quite a bit more than the 215 currently elected.  Certainly no more than ten percent of qualified players should be used, maybe less.

OK, you get the idea.  Pick something and go with it until it becomes a problem, then adjust.  At least something like this would provide a framework in which to operate.  Simply trying to elect players without guidelines or context is absurd.  Complaining about something that is absurd is stupid.  Both should stop.

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