New(est) Faces in the Hall of StatsNov 9, 2012 by Adam Darowski
While the Hall of Stats is brand new, it’s precursor—the Hall of wWAR—was actually around for a couple years. During that time, there were three “versions” of the Hall of wWAR due to tweaks to the formula.
- March 7, 2011: This was the original version.
- November 14, 2011: This second version made many changes (and was the longest-lasting version). wWAR now included pitchers’ hitting stats, adjustments for shorter seasons, simplified positional adjustments, and more.
- June 25, 2012: This version used the same formula as the previous one, but the inputs were different. This was the first version that used Baseball-Reference’s WAR (rather than the version created by Sean Smith and simply hosted at Baseball-Reference).
At the time that I published the third one, I was already hard at work in the formula for the Hall of Stats (which uses Wins Above Average over the arbitrary cutoffs of Wins Above Excellence and Wins Above MVP).
With each revision came some turnover. Often, the turnover involved familiar names—players on the borderline who move in or out depending on the formula tweaks. This time around, we had three new faces added for the very first time. They are:
Poor Bob Johnson. He didn’t reach the majors until he was 27 years old. Was he ready? Well, in his rookie season, he hit .290/.387/.505 (135 OPS+) with 21 homers, 44 doubles, 93 RBI, and 103 runs scored. It appears that “Indian Bob” was ready and could have been producing in the big leagues well before he finally got his chance.
Johnson hit very well right up until the end of his career, but those final seasons were during World War II against depleted competition. So, Johnson always played well, but at both the beginning and end of his career he was robbed of chances to show how he could do against the league’s top competition. Despite that, he still collected 2051 hits, 288 home runs, and a 139 OPS+ (thanks to a .296/.393/.506 slash line).
He was an All Star seven times in his thirteen seasons. He hit 20 or more home runs in the first nine seasons of his career (hitting 30 three times). He drove in 100 runs eight times (while reaching 90 two other times). He wasn’t bad in the field or on the bases, rating a bit above average in each.
Despite all this, his best Hall of Fame percentage was 0.8% (one vote) in 1948. In that same year, Herb Pennock and Pie Traynor both received over 75% and were inducted to the Hall. Johnson was much better than both of them.
I remember working on my earlier WAR spreadsheets and noticing Chet Lemon's high rank. He was still a little way off from the Hall of wWAR, but I was surprised to see him there. Lemon hit .273 in a 16-year career with 215 home runs, 1,875 hits, 884 RBI, three All-Star appearances, and no Gold Gloves. That doesn’t exactly scream “Hall of Famer.”
In 1996 (Lemon’s only year on the BBWAA ballot), he received just a single vote (0.2%). Bill Buckner (Hall Rating of 19) received ten votes. Frank White (Hall Rating of 50) received 18. Dave Concepcion (Hall Rating of 68) received 63.
Lemon’s case is one that requires an open mind. With a Hall Rating of 107, he’s a guy who was better than we remember and perhaps deserved to stay on the ballot for a few years.
While he never won a Gold Glove, Total Zone has him at 101.1 runs. He’s tenth all time among center fielders in Total Zone runs. Lemon didn’t hit for a ton of power, but he did hit for some power. Lemon didn’t walk a ton, but he did walk some. Lemon also showed a unique ability to get hit by pitches (he led the league four times and ranks 21st all time). Add it all up and his OPS+ is suddenly 121, similar to Hall of Famers Paul Molitor, Tony Perez, Ernie Banks, and Andre Dawson.
His 209.9 batting runs place him near Hall of Famers Yogi Berra, Frank Chance, and Barry Larkin. Add in some brilliant defense while playing nearly 1,500 games in center field, and you’re suddenly sitting on the Hall of Fame borderline.
Jack Quinn was fifty years old when he pitched for the last time. It’s not hard to love the story of how he got into the game:
While watching a semi-pro game in Connellsville, the 14-year-old Quinn threw a foul ball back from the stands to the catcher, hitting his mitt right in the middle. The visiting manager, from the nearby town of Dunbar, was impressed by the throw, and he offered Quinn a contract. (source)
Quinn, at 48, was the oldest player to play regularly for his team and held other age-related records that were recently broken. When Jamie Moyer became the oldest player to win a game (in 2012), it was Quinn’s record he broke. When Julio Franco became the oldest player to hit a home run (in 2006), it was also Quinn’s record he broke. He is still the oldest pitcher to start a game on Opening Day or during the World Series.
Quinn got his start with the Yankees at age 25, pitching successfully for a couple seasons. He bounced between the majors and minors for a couple more before joining the Federal League in 1914. He won 26 games in 1914, but followed that up with a 22-loss campaign. When the Federal League folded, he went back to the minors, joining the Pacific Coast League. By the time he joined the White Sox in late 1918, he was already 34 years old and had won only 79 games (35 of those in the Federal League). The fact that he hung on long enough to win 247 games is remarkable.
From age 34 on, Quinn produced 42.5 WAR. In fact, he is the All-Time leader for pitching WAR after the age of 40 (23.7). He did it without dominating. He never won 20 games or reached 5.0 WAR after his return to the majors. He simply turned in solid performances year in and year out.
In 1958, Quinn received 3.4% (nine votes) of the Hall of Fame vote. The only eligible non-Hall of Famers with more victories than Quinn are Jack Morris, Jim Kaat, and Tommy John. None of the three can match Quinn’s Hall Rating of 106.
Note: The Hall Rating formula has changed slightly since this article was published. The Hall Rating figures used are from the time of publication.