Thursday, December 17, 2015

My Least Favorite Ballot

Hall of Fame season brings out some silliness. This tweet summarizes it pretty well

That was in reference to Juan Vene, who voted for Griffey, Hoffman, Piazza and Lee Smith. But, that's not my least favorite ballot. There is not rhyme or reason to that ballot, so it's hard to figure what exactly to be mad at.

No, my least favorite ballot, I've decided is any ballot that has the name Sammy Sosa checked but not Jeff Bagwell. It's my least favorite because the error is so obvious, and so easily fixed.

So far, there have been four such ballots (out of only 9 total Sosa voters). Each one has voted less than 10, and also voted Bonds, Clemens. These are the voters who have no qualms voting for steroid implicated players. It is obvious that the reason they are voting Sosa but not Bagwell is that they believe Sosa was better than Bagwell. And it's equally obvious that the reason is about the dingers.

Here's the thing, though. Bagwell was much better than Sosa. The vote for Sammy Sosa is exclusively about his hitting, and Bagwell did that better.

Their career lines tell the story

Bagwell .297/.408/.540 wRC+ 149 9431 PA's
Sosa       .273/.344/.534 wRC+ 124 9896 PA's

This isn't a question of what you value more in a hitter. If you a batting average guy, that's a 24 point advantage. OBP, 64!. To put that in perspective, if Bagwell had come back and failed to get on base in another 1,600 PA's, roughly three seasons, he would still have a a higher OBP than Sosa. He even outslugged Sosa and his 609 HRs by 6 points. There is no argument that Sosa was a better hitter than Bagwell.

Hitting 609 home runs did not make Sosa a better hitter than Jeff Bagwell, any more than hitting 573 made Harmon Killibrew a better hitter than Stan Musial. No one would argue that last point. This is the value of WAR - not as an absolute measure of value - but as a check to keep you from getting blinded by shiny numbers. Bagwell has a 20 WAR lead on Sosa. The reason is because he destroys him in rate stats. You don't have to rely exclusively on WAR, but if it give you big of a difference, you should probably try to figure out why.

This matters because guys like Vene, and others like Chass or Shaughnessy, will never vote for Bagwell because of steroid suspicions. If he is going to get in, he can't afford to lose votes from people who just do not realize how good he was. So, I urge Chris De Luca, Dave Borges and Steve Wine to reconsider. Keep voting for Sosa, but check Bagwell's name as well. He was just better.