Lou Brock is no Hall of Famer

Lou Brock / Icon SMI

Lou Brock played 18 seasons in the majors. He took over the career lead for stolen bases from Billy Hamilton in 1978 and led until 1991 when Rickey Henderson passed him.

Brock was a 6-time All-Star, received MVP votes in a staggering 10 different seasons, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1985, his first year of eligibility.

I don’t actually have any problem with Brock being in the Hall of Fame–regardless of what the numbers say, he was held in extremely high regard during his era as the preeminent base stealer of the day as well as one of the best leadoff batters.

However, a pretty good devil’s advocate case can be made that he doesn’t deserve to be enshrined.

The first number that my eye is drawn to when looking at any batter’s career is OPS+. Brock’s is a pedestrian 109, behind 126 other Hall of Famers. Even his best 5-year OPS+ is only 121, behind the full-career OPS+ of more than 300 other retired players.

Of course, OPS+ is not the best metric for a leadoff hitter, who traditionally was not someone with a high slugging percentage. Brock’s job was to get on base by any means possible, not necessarily to drive the ball. His career OBP was .343 and his peak period from 1970 to 1975 saw him get on base at a .366 clip. Over that 6-year range, though, Brock barely cracks the top 50 in OBP (minimum 1000 plate appearances.) This, from a guy who was supposed to be a fantastic leadoff hitter?

One of the big knocks against Brock was that he didn’t walk very much. This really hurt his on-base percentage and makes his career .293 batting average fairly soft. Over his career, he averaged 14.76 plate appearances for every walk. Of the 34 Hall of Famers who had at least 2000 plate appearances from 1960-1979, only a handful walked less frequently than Brock. For the record, those were Ernie Banks (14.77), Luis Aparicio (15.51), Nellie Fox (16.11), Bill Mazeroski (18.36), Robin Yount (19.10), and Andre Dawson (20.85), and these numbers are all limited to the portions of careers in just the period 1960-1979. Most of those guys, however, also struck out a lot less often than Brock, who had a 2.27 K/BB ratio in his career. Banks (1.84), Aparicio (0.97), Fox (0.35), Mazeroski (1.46), and Yount (1.96) had more balanced attacks, while Dawson (3.64) was just getting going with his own (HOF-questionable) career.

Brock also took over the lead in career caught stealings in 1974 and kept that lead until 1999, when Rickey Henderson passed Brock, 8 years after he passed him in stolen bases. In fact, looking at the top 10 guys in all-time stolen bases, Brock has the worst success rate of all (ignoring Hamilton and Arlie Latham, for whom caught stealing data doesn’t exist.) Brock’s rate was 75.3%. By comparison, Henderson was at 80.8%, Ty Cobb at 80.9%, and Tim Raines at 84.7%.

For his career, Brock ranks 35th in games played and 19th in at bats, but only 45th in runs scored, 63rd in total bases, 67th in doubles, 63rd in triples, and 58th in times on base, while 21st in strikeouts and 17th in outs made.

So what’s all the fuss? Brock was a really good player, but should he really be in the Hall of Fame?

 

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241 Comments on "Lou Brock is no Hall of Famer"

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kzuke
Guest

The Billy Hamilton you’ve linked to is the wrong one. Although the current minor leauger is no slouch when it comes to SBs himself.

kzuke
Guest

mediocre batting average, pedestrian walk rate, sub-par K/BB ratio, bad defense, a ton of steals…billy hamilton might actually be the NEXT LOU BROCK

Kahuna Tuna
Guest
Three responses. In three seven-game World Series, two of which his team won, Brock hit .391 with a 1.079 OPS, 16 runs scored, 13 extra-base hits, 13 RBI, and 14 stolen bases against two times caught stealing. He was one of the greatest post-season players ever. Yes, Brock struck out quite a bit. He also grounded into a double play, on average, just a hair more than once for every 100 career plate appearances. If I had time right now, I’d compare Brock’s .351 OBP for the 13-year period forming the heart of his career, 1964 to 1976 (ages 25… Read more »
Doug
Guest

The average of the annual OBP rates for the NL, 1964-76, was 0.317. I didn’t weight by PAs so as give the pre-expansion and post-expansion years equal weighting.

Kahuna Tuna
Guest

Brock hit leadoff only twice in 1964, if I recall correctly.

Brock’s slash stats, 1965-76: .297/.350/.415/.765. Slash stats of all other NL leadoff hitters, 1965-76: .265/.329/.361/.690. Differences of 32/21/54/75 points.

Brock’s BABip as a leadoff hitter, 1965-76: .342. BABip of all other NL leadoff hitters, 1965-76: .291. Difference of 51 points.

Tmckelv
Guest
Tuna, You brought up all of the points I wanted to make, and Doug, thanks for the OBP info. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see Lou play all that much in his prime, maybe a couple All-Star Games in the mid-70’s and then some mop-up time at the end of his career. I am not sure if this is a “Tim Raines needs to be in the Hall” inspired post, or what. I do think Tim belongs, but I also think Lou belongs. Maybe I am just a little tired (grumpy) because of the negative HOF discussions – “this one… Read more »
Brett
Guest
Stumbled across this post, skimmed through the comments…. SABR evidence. The HOF is a SUBJECTIVE honor not matter how much you try to make it purely based on facts and statistics. The way you read the statistics and the “bar” you set for what is HOF-worthy (according to SABR) is going to have a measure of subjectivity. I know that in this setting what I’m about to say is anathema, but I’ll say it anyway: It’s called the Hall of FAME, and not the Hall of SABR, for a reason. Popularity, likability, the “eye test”… have been and should always… Read more »
Brett
Guest
Stumbled across this post, skimmed through the comments…. SABR evidence. The HOF is a SUBJECTIVE honor not matter how much you try to make it purely based on facts and statistics. The way you read the statistics and the “bar” you set for what is HOF-worthy (according to SABR) is going to have a measure of subjectivity. I know that in this setting what I’m about to say is anathema, but I’ll say it anyway: It’s called the Hall of FAME, and not the Hall of SABR, for a reason. Popularity, likability, the “excitement” factor, impact as a team leader/motivator,… Read more »
AlvaroEspinoza
Guest

Worst player ever to have 3000 hits and 900 steals.

John B
Guest

Haha. I thought it was funny. Also factual, as the only other player to meet those criteria is Rickey Henderson.

Morten Jonsson
Guest
Ty Cobb’s stolen base rate wasn’t anywhere close to 80%. That 80.9% figure is his total steals divided by his known caught stealings, which represent less than half his career. For the seasons we do have caught stealings for (mostly his later ones), his rate is 62%, and for the seasons we have in his prime, it’s 71%. I’d guess that overall he was caught about a third of the time. That’s pretty bad by later standards, but those standards don’t really apply–base stealers took a lot more chances in Cobb’s time, and his rate in context is actually quite… Read more »
Steven
Guest

Yeah, he belongs in the Hall of Fame. He did get in on the first ballot. He deserved to be MVP in 1974. During the entire decade of the 1970s, he and Ted Simmons (who should also be in the Hall) were the main reasons to go to Cardinal games. It’s kind of like a re-evaluation of Koufax, which has been going on for the last few years. Every baseball fan who followed the game when these guys retired knew they were going to be first ballot Hall of Famers without a doubt.

Hartvig
Guest
The 60’s were when I started following baseball as a kid and even though I didn’t follow as closely as a teenager and in college in the 70’s you are right. It was a pretty foregone conclusion when he retired that he was a Hall of Famer. It seems a little odd now that even though he played his best years at a time when Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Carl Yastrzemski, Al Kaline and Mickey Mantle (for a couple of years at least) were still roaming the outfield he seemed to belong with that group. You… Read more »
Lawrence Azrin
Guest

Hartvig,

Interesting how you compare Brock to his OF peers, and “one of these things is not like the other”. Nowadays, people like us would probably put him in an OF group of say Bobby Bonds, Jimmy Wynn, Curt Flood, Reggie Smith, and Bobby Mercer, none of whom have gotten much HOF support, let alone being elected to the HOF.

Also, all of these players I mentioned had considerably more defensive value than Brock.

Dr. Doom
Guest

Really excellent point about the “group” in which he fits. In fact, I think he’d be near the bottom of the group you suggest – ahead of Bobby Murcer and Curt Flood, behind the other three.

Howard
Guest

No way did Brock deserve the MVP in 1974. If the MVP went to the best player it would have been Mike Schmidt. If it went to the best player on a division winner it would have been Jimmy Wynn. If it went to anybody better than Lou Brock then it could have been any one of twenty or so players

SocraticGadfly
Guest

AGreed that Simmons should be in. Brock is indeed a HOFer; it’s arguably not necessarily a first-ballot one, perhaps. That said, should some players get a bump for “affecting the game”? Maury Wills had started it, but Brock really brought the SB back into baseball.

kds
Guest
He got in so easily for three reasons, the SB records, 3000 hits, having a descent batting average. The voters ignored the CS, the so-so OBA, and the poor fielding from a very fast guy. The Cubs (mistakenly) traded him because they thought someone with his speed should be a good CF, when he was actually a poor LF. Most of his value is as a slightly above average long career player, he had a poor peak by HoF standards. No eligible player with 3000 hits has been denied Cooperstown, (Palmiero with his PED issues is in limbo.) Andy, could… Read more »
Doug
Guest
We tend to forget how highly regarded stolen bases were back in the 1970s. In fact, the speed game and putting baserunners in motion (by whatever means), was seen then, whether rightly or wrongly, as a huge advantage for teams who could do this effectively. I believe that mindset was a huge factor in how Brock was perceived in his time. That, plus those 3000 hits. Brock and Yaz were only the 14th and 15th players to get to 3000 when they both got there at the end of the 1979 season. Today there are 28 guys, so it seemed… Read more »
Lawrence Azrin
Guest
Lou Brock presents a textbook example in the divergence of “mainstream” vs “advanced statistics” in the evaluation of HOF qualifications. By the conventional standards in late 1984 (when he was elected) his qualifications of the single-season and career stolen base records; 3000+ hits; and great performances over 21 games/three years in the World Series, make him a good candidate for the HOF. He received MVP votes in ten different years (five in the Top-10,#2 in 1974), and was an All Star six times. Looking at Brock through a wider lens of advanced stats, though, a different picture emerges. While from… Read more »
Dr. Doom
Guest
A little sad you asked a question at the end, Andy, but didn’t give us a poll by which to respond. Oh well. Anyway, as a Big-Hall guy, I don’t really have a problem with Brock being in the Hall. But for a LF, he certainly sets a pretty low bar. I’m sure there have been at least 25 (probably more like 35 or 40) LF to have better careers than Brock. That’s pretty elite company. Brock was a great player. Not Hall of Fame great, but great nonetheless. Not the Hall’s worst selection, and even a moderately defensible one.… Read more »
Doug
Guest

Brock was the #2 out maker for the period 1962-79, just behind Pete Rose. Those two and Yaz were all over 7300 outs, well ahead of #4, Rusty Staub, at just over 6600. However, on a per PA basis, Brock ranked only 45th for the period (min. 5000 PAs), at 68.8% . The leaders were these guys, all well above 70%.

Aurelio Rodriguez, 73.8%
Ed Brinkman, 73.6%
Sandy Alomar, 72.3%
Joe Pepitone, 71.9%
Mickey Stanley, 71.8%
Bill Mazeroski, 71.7%
Julian Javier, 71.7%
Tommy Helms, 71.6%
Clete Boyer, 71.3%
Cookie Rojas, 71.3%
Paul Blair, 71.1%
Lee May, 71.0%

Doug
Guest

I was at this 1977 game when Brock tied and then broken Ty Cobb’s career stolen base mark. The game was stopped after he broke the record and second base was uprooted and given to Broack as a momento. Ironically, he really didn’t pass Cobb that day as it seems B-R has now found 5 additional SBs for Cobb that we didn’t know about back then.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/SDN/SDN197708290.shtml

DaveR
Guest

Hey! I was there, too! Third base field level (WAAAY down towards the bullpen). My brother said the record breaker was shown on TV during a commercial break.

Doug
Guest

I was on the first base side, pretty much level with first base (my usual preferred vantage point). I was in San Diego on holiday, so just lucky to have the opportunity to see the game.

SocraticGadfly
Guest

Not quite as spectacular, but I was at the game where Lee Smith set the NL single-season saves record. (One of the games moved from Montreal because of crumbling Olympic.)

Dr. Remulak
Guest

This piece mentions a far less deserving HOFer: Mazerowski. .299 OBP, OPS+ of 84. One swing in 1960 no doubt tipped the scales. And while 8 Gold Gloves are outstanding, if excellent fielding paves the way then consider Don Mattingly, a 9-time Gold Glover with a .307 lifetime batting avg, an MVP, and a multi-year stretch during which he was one of the most dominent offensive players in MLB.

CursedClevelander
Guest

Brock is in that spectrum where it’s hard for me to get fired up about him. There are better guys not in the HoF, but there are also worse guys in the HoF.

Paul E
Guest
In the era in which he played Brock was regarded as an All Star – this isn’t Luis Melendez we’re talking about here. If you wanted a lead-off guy, in the NL of the 1960’s & ’70’s, which other top of the order hitter would you want? Pete Rose & Joe Morgan, of course. Wills? No. Kessinger/Beckert? No. Mateo Alou? No. His position was LF and he was a mediocre fielder – like most LFers of his day. But, his other position, leadoff hitter, he was probably amongst the elite of his day. And, as has been pointed out already,… Read more »
Kerry W
Guest

From a purely sabermetric standpoint, Brock is probably not a Hall of Famer unless yours is a pretty big Hall. That being said, Hall-of-Fame worthiness shouldn’t necessarily rely on one single criteria, such as WAR. Someone who was an all-time leader in a positive statistical category like SB probably deserves it, especially if he otherwise in the Hall of Very Good. Even though he also led in CS, his base stealing rate was still well above break-even, especially in an low-scoring era. I don’t have any problem with his being in the Hall.

Lawrence Azrin
Guest
Kerry, You could make the same argument for Maz’s HOF qualifications (counterpoint to comment #22); that someone regarded as the best-fielding second baseman ever does belong in the HOF, even if their offensive contibutions do not quite match up to the usual HOF standards. Of course, it’s much harder to objectively quantify that statement, as opposed to Brock’s very concrete Stolen Base records of 118 SB in 1974, and 938 for his career. You made another good point about WAR. A reminder, for the nth time: “WAR” is just a STARTING POINT in any discussion of player comparisons, not the… Read more »
Adam Darowski
Guest

Isn’t Bill Mazeroski just Mark Belanger with better timing?

Kerry W
Guest

Lawrence,

Yes, defense is another area than hitting that could be used (and has been used) to justify entrance into the Hall. As you say, it is harder to quantify, both how much better someone is and how much it actually contributes to winning.

Regarding WAR, not all WARs are the same, especially for defensive value and pitching; yet another reason that it should only be considered part of the argument.

Hmm, looking at Brock’s defensive values on bbref, he was actually a plus fielder through 1968, but negative every year after that.

John B
Guest
From the article: “I don’t actually have any problem with Brock being in the Hall of Fame–regardless of what the numbers say, he was held in extremely high regard during his era as the preeminent base stealer of the day as well as one of the best leadoff batters.” That, along with Kerry’s comment #26, is basically how I feel. He probably wasn’t valuable enough, but there’s a little more to the Hall (for better or worse) than how good you actually are at baseball. Brock was held in high esteem and he retired as the all-time leader in stolen… Read more »
Ed
Guest
Unfortunately in the mind of Hall of Fame Voters, Raines falls short of Brock in two regards. One is the obvious fact that Brock had over 3,000 hits and Raines didn’t (of course, if Brock had walked at a rate comparable to Raines, he wouldn’t have over 3,000 hits either). Second is that Raines peaked early and remained a good player but was basically out of the limelight the last 10 years of his career. His last all star game was at age 27, his last MVP votes at age 29. Which means there was a big gap between his… Read more »
Kahuna Tuna
Guest
One thing I never realized about Brock is that he has fantastic BABip numbers. Brock, 1964, 147 games batting second. Brock’s BABip compared to BABip of all other NL hitters batting second: .373 to .277, +96 points. Brock, 1965, 70 games batting 1st. Comparison: .318 to .283, +35 points. Brock, 1965, 55 games batting 2nd. Comparison: .356 to .284, +72 points. Brock, 1965, 29 games batting 3rd. Comparison: .333 to .305, +28 points. Brock, 1966, 117 games batting 1st. Comparison: .323 to .303, +20 points. Brock, 1966, 29 games batting 2nd. Comparison: .398 to .283, +115 points. Brock, 1967, 155… Read more »
Doug
Guest

Just think what Brock could have done if he hadn’t struck out so much. Even 25% fewer whiffs with that career BABIP would have added 13 or 14 points to his career BA, making him a career .300 hitter to go along with over 3150 hits, about 10 spots higher on the all-time hits list.

John Autin
Editor

Doug, that’s an interesting point. The flip side, though, is that cutting down on strikeouts might have cost Brock his mid-range power.

From 1964-70, Brock averaged 14 HRs, 10 triples and 33 doubles, giving him a .140 isolated power — 40 to 50 points above the average leadoff man in that era.

Tim P
Guest

Why can’t we acknowledge that players like Brock, Ichiro, Brett Butler, and Juan Pierre play a different game, and that the best measurement for their success is from their peers. My favorite player comparison is Gary Carter vs. Joe Carter. If you ignore the positions of each player and take away the politics invested in the hate Joe Carter movement, you will see two players with almost the same batting numbers. One is a HoF icon loved by New York fans, and the other is hated for breaking Philly fans hearts. Quite remarkable.

Dr. Doom
Guest
First of all, I’m not really sure that “If you take away all the differences, they’re the same!” is a valid argument. Second of all, Gary’s OBP is about .030 higher, Joe’s SLG is about .025 higher. Big advantage to Gary. Additionally, Joe played in more favorable hitter’s parks, so his OPS+ is ten points lower. And, because they DID play different positions, I’ll take the 115 OPS+ catcher with great defense over the 105 OPS+ leftfielder with horrible defense. I don’t really see how they’re comparable at all, actually, other than the fact that their careers overlapped for ten… Read more »
Hartvig
Guest
At the risk of overstating the obvious on your comparison of the Carter brothers: 1) one was an outstanding defensive catcher, the other was a mostly mediocre outfielder. 2) one spent part of his prime in a below average offensive era, the other spent part of his in an above average offensive era 3) one played mostly in poor or neutral hitters parks, one played mostly in better than average hitters parks Their numbers, on the surface without these adjustments, are somewhat similar (although Gary’s are still better) but there is little doubt as to who was the better ballplayer.… Read more »
Timmy Pea
Guest

Disagree that Gary was a much better hitter!
Gary 9019 PA 371 2b 324 HR .262 BA 42 SB 1225 RBI .773 OPS
Joe 9143 PA 432 2b 396 HR .259 BA 231 SB 1445 RBI .771 OPS

John B
Guest

Robbie Alomar has about the same career OPS+ as Dave Kingman.

Guess what? One’s in the HOF, the other was 1 and done with 0.7% of the vote.

You can’t ignore position – it’s a critical part of the equation. And that’s not even to speak of actual defensive caliber.

Tim P
Guest
I never mentioned OPS+, that is a stat that is foreign to me. I am simply asking a question of die hard statistical people to make a comparison of Joe and Gary’s numbers from the plate. It’s not an exercise of great complication. I believe that R. Alomar or Ryne Sandberg could have played 3rd base as well as they played 2nd base. However both get a boost in HoF consideration because they played second base. Poor Ron Santo and Craig Nettles get unfairly judged because as 3b they were suppose to have monster numbers. Well Ronnie got his finally… Read more »
Lawrence Azrin
Guest

As several other people have pointed out, there are very large era and park adjustments between Gary and Joe Carter in their offensive performance. Their totals may superficially look similar, but Gary is clearly better as an offensive player.

When you consider the huge difference in defensive value, it’s not even close:
– GARY Carter was a deserving HOFer
– JOE Carter was a good player, but not close to Gary Carter in value

abarnold2
Guest
Really sorry I’m late for this party. Anyway, I recently posted this at vivaelbirdos: What people forget about Brock is how exciting he was to watch. Every time he came up, there was an expectation that he would change the game. Being at the stadium with a game on the line and him at bat or on the bases was electric. He was leverage in a bottle. I accept that sabermetrics, which I embrace, do not embrace Lou. The man wasn’t much of a fielder and didn’t take that many walks. For all of his stolen bases he got thrown… Read more »
dannyc
Guest

I certainly embrace sabermetrics, but sometimes you need the EYE CHECK! Brocks peak was in an era of scarce runs and he had the ability to dominate a game with one hit and a couple stolen bases. There is a reason he was a first
ballot famer.

Ed
Guest

Brock’s career WAR was 39.1. Next closest among left fielders was Ken Williams with 37.3. Of course, Williams had almost exactly half of Brock’s plate appearances (11235 vs 5616). Another left fielder, Ralph Kiner, is considered to be one of the worst Hall of Fame selections. But he managed more WAR (45.9) than Brock in only 56% of Brock’s plate appearances. Just saying…..

John B
Guest

Is Ralph Kiner a really bad HOF selection? I mean, he only had 46 WAR, but he also only played 10 seasons – and led the league in HR for his first 7 seasons, which stands as a record for consecutive years leading the league in HR. He was THE elite power hitter of his day. His 149 OPS+ puts him in a tie with the likes of Jeff Bagwell and just ahead of gentlemen like Willie’s McCovey and Stargell.

Seems like a good pick to me. Lacked the longevity but was the premier slugger when he played.

Ed
Guest

I didn’t say that I personally think he’s a bad selection. But I’m sure if you polled experts, they’d probably say that Brock is much more deserving of the HOF than Kiner. And yet Kiner has more WAR in a lot fewer at-bats.

Fireworks
Guest

Comparing Gary Carter and Joe Carter. Didn’t expect the funny in this post.

Timmy Pea
Guest
Did you look at the Carter’s hitting stats? Gary and Joe have remarkably similar stats from the plate. Never did I say that Gary should not be in the HoF and Joe be in the HoF. But I’ll bet if you were honest, before you did the comparision you would be sure that Gary’s bat was much better than Joe’s. It wasn’t! That small edge for Gary in OBP is stupid because both were not that great. Joe ran better and hit more clutch HR’s in the World Series while playing Philadelphia. Also before someone says Gary was a great… Read more »
John Autin
Editor
I agree that Brock is a marginal HOFer. But because of his awesome WS performance, and the fact that his 3 best years coincided with Cardinals pennants, I’m glad he’s in the Hall. In the 11 World Series games St. Louis won with Brock, he went 23 for 47, slugged .851, scored 12 runs and drove in 9, and had 11 SB with 1 CS. The comparison of Brock’s all-time ranking in PAs and Runs is inapt, due to the low-scoring environment in which he played. He was the MLB runs leader for the 10-year period 1964-73 (averaging 105 runs),… Read more »
Steven
Guest

In 1967 and 1968, if the Cardinals had won in fewer than seven games, Brock could have been Series MVP both years. Gibson was 3-0 in ’67, and Lolich 3-0 in ’68.

Timmy Pea
Guest

Gary 9019 PA 371 2b 324 HR .262 BA 42 SB 1225 RBI .773 OPS
Joe 9143 PA 432 2b 396 HR .259 BA 231 SB 1445 RBI .771 OPS

Amazing really if you stop to take a look at it. Yes, yes, I understand that Gary was a catcher, but it’s damn interesting to compare these 2. Also Gary was an average catcher for his career. I would also say their careers were very similar as to the W/L records of their respective teams.

Hartvig
Guest
” Also Gary was an average catcher for his career” Then you were watching a different game than I and a lot of other people- like Eric Gregg, long-time NL ump, who considered Carter a better defensive catcher than even Bench- were watching in the 70’s & early 80’s. In spite of the fact that Gold Glove voters often tend to give the award based on past performance and reputation, the moment that Bench’s defense started to slip they gave the award to Carter instead. And the reality is that even at Bench’s peak, Carter was probably more deserving of… Read more »
Dr. Doom
Guest

Hartvig, we’re doing a pretty good job of replying to Timmy Pea at exactly the same time. 🙂

Hartvig
Guest

I’m just happy to be able to help the team.

Tim P
Guest

Gary Carter allowed a lot of SB’s, he was run against a lot. His arm was no better than Mike Sausage Pizza. Gary allowed more SB than any catcher in the modern era. He threw a lot of guys out only because they were running wild on him. Not trying to drag on Gary, but I am trying to figure out the hate for Joe.

Howard
Guest
On what evidence do you base your contention that Carter’s arm was no better than Piazza’s? I doubt that anyone except for you and maybe his parents ever made that claim and the stats certainly don’t support it. Carter led the NL in % of base stealers thrown out three times while Piazza only threw out as many as one third of base stealers once in his entire career. It seems like you make things up and ignore valid counterpoints in order to support your contentions. This is the wrong forum to do that because you will get called out… Read more »
kds
Guest

Timmy Pea = CS.

Tim P
Guest

I didn’t make anything up. GARY CARTER GAVE UP MORE SB’s THAN ANY CATCHER IN THE MODERN ERA. Go look it up my friend. What’s even worse is the best base thief in the NL of that era played on the Expos as his teammate, it could have been worse. Joe Carter was an average fielder, but for a power man he had good speed and could get to some balls that say, Manny Ramirez could not get to.

DaveR
Guest

Apples and oranges, Tim P. Joe was a little better than average left fielder, where you stuck power hitters, and Gary was a HUGELY better than average catcher where hitting is involved. And allowing the most stolen bases, as well as the MOST attempts, well, that’s just accumulated stats over 19 seasons. How many runners advanced on Joe because of his outfield play? Too bad they don’t keep stats on THAT.

Michael Sullivan
Guest

Gee, is it possible that Gary Carter’s incredibly long career as a catcher was what resulted in that number? And not some failure to catch runners at an acceptable (or even excellent) rate?

Do you likewise think that the pitchers who populate the “most career losses” weren’t really very good? Even though every last one of the top 10 is in the hall of fame and only one is even a borderline questionable selection.

Timmy Pea
Guest
So you are saying longevity alone is to blame for Gary’s high total of SB? I will admit Carter was a very good defensive catcher in his youth. But by the time he went to the Mets he was getting run on a lot. I don’t like your comparison to pitchers that have high lose totals. An average pitcher is run out of baseball because of economics and will never have a chance to reach the all time lose category. An average defensive catcher with a good bat cat stick around baseball for a long time, which is what Gary… Read more »
Brent
Guest

Not to mention that he played in the same divsion as the St. Louis Cardinals for his entire career. Further, he also played in the same division as the Chuck Tanner Pirates. Lou Brock, Omar Moreno, Vince Coleman, Ozzie Smith, etc. ran a lot more than teams do now, so a catcher for the Expos/Mets had a lot more people running on him than someone like Yogi Berra or Mike Piazza.

Dr. Doom
Guest
I don’t think it’s an issue of groupthink at all. You’ve decided that Carter was an average-at-best catcher. What makes you say that? That he played other positions 1/9 of the time? Berra (13%) and Bench (21%) both played other positions more than that. That doesn’t make them average catchers. It makes their bats good enough to stay in the lineup, even when they’re not catching. And yes, most of those numbers are the similar, but it doesn’t account for run environment or position. Those things HAVE to be considered when comparing players to one another. If Ozzie Smith had… Read more »
Tim P
Guest

As I said above Mr. Doom, Gary’s catching stats don’t lie. Gary Carter allowed more SB’s than any catcher in the modern era. You’re a stats guy so live and die by those stats.

Ed
Guest
I’m really just adding to what DaveR said in comment #95 but there’s no reply button there, so I’ll write here instead. While it’s true that Carter allowed the most stolen base attempts, it’s not surprising given that he had a long career as a catcher during a time in which there were lots of stolen base attempts. Using that as evidence to say Carter was a poor defensive catcher is like saying Cy Young wasn’t a good pitcher because he has the most career losses. BTW, I normally don’t respond to Tim P’s posts cause I’m never sure if… Read more »
Timmy Pea
Guest

Ed is that your picture on your avatar? Is that a beret? I think the Gary vs Joe argument is very interesting and as I said I’m not dumping on Gary, he should be in the HoF for sure.

Ed
Guest

Yep, that’s my photo. Not sure what kind of hat it is….borrowed it from a friend.

John B
Guest

Gary Carter ranks 3rd in all-time in WAR-fielding runs, behind Ivan Rodriguez and Jim Sundberg.

So yes, he’s an “average catcher for his career”, if the only catchers you’re looking at are him, Sundberg, Rodriguez, Bob Boone, and Brad Ausmus.

Ed
Guest
I’m still surprised by the discussion re: Brock. Of 72 players with 10,000 or more career PAs, Brock is 68th in career WAR with 39.1. 68th!!! Just a few of the players above him: Luis Gonzalez: 46.3 Vada Pinson: 49.3 Luis Aparicio: 49.9 Fred Mcgriff: 50.5 Tony Perez: 50.5 Max Carey: 50.6 Sam Rice: 51.1 Johnny Damon: 51.9 Harry Hooper: 52.5 Andre Dawson: 57.0 Billy Williams: 57.2 Except for Gonzalez, all of these players have 10+ more WAR than Brock with Dawson and Williams close to 20+. And yet if we were to discuss any of those players, I’d doubt… Read more »
dannyc
Guest

Again folks I believe sabermetrics is a great tool, but that’s exactly
what it is a tool. Seeing is beleiving if you saw Brock play. If my life depended on winning one baseball game nobody on this list would start ahead of Brock regardless of their WAR. Why are we even debating this? Because a computer tells us otherwise? He was a slam dunk first ballot HOFamer!

Ed
Guest

Sorry but the “seeing is believing” mentality can be used to justify any and all of the worst Hall of Fame selections. It’s weak tea and really doesn’t belong in a hall of fame discussion.

Latefortheparty
Guest

By the way Andy, I appreciate how you headlined your post. I think it got people reading and then got people commenting. While I have my own point of view, reading what other people have to say is useful and worthwhile. Thanks.

dannyc
Guest

Brock was even good enough to pinch hit for another HOFamerin the middle of a game. Check out http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1893&dat=19680723&id=vMcfAAAAIBAJ&sjid=iNgEAAAAIBAJ&pg=916,2146890
Was there other instances of one HOFamer PH for another?

Hartvig
Guest

How odd is it that right in the middle of the game article is another article announcing the selection of 3 HOF outfielders, all of whom have had their detractors…

Ed
Guest
Sorry but I’ll have to respectfully disagree that “seeing is believing” is a legitimate argument for what makes someone a hall of famer. Nor is the “Player X was highly regarded as a HOFer during his career” any better. I’m pretty sure that phrase DOES apply to Joe Carter. As it does to, I don’t know, Steve Garvey, just to pick someone off the top of my head. And you know who it doesn’t apply to? Again, just a few names off the top of my head. For much of their careers Paul Molitor and Nolan Ryan were not regarded… Read more »
dannyc
Guest

Do we watch the games or do we just look at stats? The eye test is legit, as is stats and many other variables. I agree Joe Carter and Steve Garvey are not HOFamers. Bill James the sultan of sabermetrics agrees Brock is a HOFamer, and you know why? He is old enough that he SAW him play.

Ed
Guest
The problem with the eye test, as noted by Andy, is that it’s subject to error and bias. And subjectivity. My eye test isn’t like yours, which isn’t like Andy’s. The eye test also can’t take into account the context of what’s happening – it would tell you, for example, that just about any batter for the Colorado Rockies is a great hitter. Brock got elected due to his steal record and his 3,000 hits. And obviously advanced stats weren’t around at the time to impact the evaluation of Brock. Ultimately though great players help their teams win games. And… Read more »
Lawrence Azrin
Guest
Ed, Another major liabilty of the “eye test” is that it only takes you back so far; MLB has been around about 135 years, and there is no one alive who remembers the players of the first 40 years or so. There are hardly any fans around who remember say Cobb or Speaker or Walter Johnson in their primes. There are some fans around who remember pre-WWII players, but there are fewer every day. In short, for almost half of MLB history, the “eye test” is not possible, and when it is, it’s rather subjective, with all the distortions of… Read more »
Brent
Guest
Add in that baseball started to be on TV only in the 50s, maybe once a week, but mostly only in the postseason. Then in the 60s and 70s teams started televising the local teams’ road games and a Game of the Week. Highlight shows didn’t exist. If I lived in Cleveland, to see a Lou Brock or Billy Williams play, I would need to go to another city and see them play live. Now, the “eye test” is much easier because every game is available all the time and ESPN and other such sports channels show us the highlights… Read more »
Dr. Doom
Guest

Speaking of people who remember pre-WWII players, where has Frank Clingenpeel been?

Ed
Guest
Brent – those are very good points re: the increased accessiblity of watching games on tv. Even the important games weren’t televised nationally. As a child living in Ohio, I had to listen on the radio to the Yankees-Red Sox one game “playoff”. Now the downside of Sportscenter and other programs is that they tend to only show highlights which leads to a skewed perception of a player. For example, many people think that Kobe Bryant is the best clutch player in basketball because they’ve seen the highlights of his buzzer beaters over and over and over again. But the… Read more »
Ed
Guest

Hate posting on such an old thread but I wasn’t sure where else to put this. It’s an excellent article called “You watch the games, so what?” which gets at the fallacies of the eye test. The article is about basketball but is applicable to any sport (or situation really) and includes a faulty memory from Bill James.

http://wagesofwins.com/2012/03/22/you-watch-the-games-so-what/

Hartvig
Guest
I have to vote with dannyc on this one. While I don’t think Brock is near the equal of Mays or Aaron I’m a big Hall guy and not only am I comfortable with his being in, I probably would have voted for him myself. I don’t recall a lot of HOF talk for Joe Carter when he was playing but you are right about Garvey. In fact, I would bet that the writers would have elected him long ago had he not been caught with his pants down. And there’s always the chance the veterans committee will do something… Read more »
Ed
Guest

It’s not a question of whether or not he’s the equal of Mays or Aaron. The problem is that he wasn’t as good as many players who barely got any HOF attention. And many of them were also substantial parts of successful teams as well.

Richard Chester
Guest

I don’t know if it has been mentioned but Brock is one of only three players to hit a home run into the distant center-field bleachers at the old Polo Grounds. The other two are Joe Adcock and Luke Easter (while he was playing in the Negro Leagues).

e pluribus munu
Guest
Sitting in those bleachers was like watching the game from a blimp. Hank Aaron actually hit one there too – the day after Brock. The reaction in the New York press (as I recall it) was to treat both home runs as reflections on Mets pitching (well on the way to 120 losses), not as testaments to the two hitters – after all, Brock was a Cub rookie with just a handful of home runs. There was no clue then he’d come to anything. . . . And of course he was a shoo-in for the Hall when the time… Read more »
Richard Chester
Guest

e pluribis munu:Thanks for the update. My original source said three guys did it but I just checked Charlton’s Chronology and it does mention Aaron’s homer. It also mentioned that Schoolboy Rowe, a good hitting pitcher, reached those seats during batting practice.

Timmy Pea
Guest

Exhibit B: Gary Carter vs Lance Parrish. WOW! This was really eye-opening. IF Joe Carter plays for the Mets, and he hits a game winning WS HR against the Blue Jays, he might me in the HoF.

Hartvig
Guest
Again, context- and remember, this is coming from a Tiger fan who loves Lance Parrish. First, Parrish put up his most impressive numbers while playing in Tiger Stadium, an excellent hitters park and in an excellent lineup. Second, look at Parrish’s Caught Stealing % by year- first 10 years, never below 38%, usually in the 40’s, TWO year combined stolen base high of 127. Next 2 seasons in Philadelphia- Caught Stealing % of 28! 142 stolen bases one year, 127 the next. Why? Because a) they were stealing a lot of bases in the National League and b) in spite… Read more »
Timmy Pea
Guest
I went to Lou Brock’s stats page and a few things jumped out at me. He led the league in doubles one year, he hit 21 HRs one year, he had quite a few extra base hits for his career, he didn’t lose his speed until age 38, he led the league in doubles and triples in the same year, he was on 3 WS teams winning 2, 3000 hits, 900 steals, first ballot HoF. I said it last year and I’ll say it again, it seems like the number one use for SABRmetrics is to try to keep guys… Read more »
Hartvig
Guest
” I said it last year and I’ll say it again, it seems like the number one use for SABRmetrics is to try to keep guys out of the HoF” I would argue that people use SABRmetrics to try to get deserving people elected to the HOF. Few people are trying to make the argument that Lou Brock doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame. What they are saying is that if you think that Lou Brock does belong in the Hall of Fame then certainly Tim Raines belongs, because he is a similar player to Brock but demonstrably better.… Read more »
Ed
Guest
I’ve said it earlier in this thread but I’ve been truly shocked at the level of support Brock’s received in this forum. The SABR evidence shows pretty clearly that he doesn’t belong and isn’t even close. Obviously the 3,000 hits helps though I think the posters on this forum are generally savvy enough to see through such arbitrary criteria. So ultimately I think a lot of the support is based on the fact that he’s a relatively recent player who several people on this forum saw play and feel a connection to. If Brock had played in the 20’s and… Read more »
Cody
Guest

I was just thinking since Brock basically got into the Hall primarily based on the strength of his 3000 hits, how does he compare to Johnny Damon, who would likely not be in the HOF even if he reached 3000 hits, despite a higher WAR than Brock.

Timmy Pea
Guest
I really think JD gets in with 3,000 hits for sure Cody. He has been so steady during his career and I know he’s not ever been the most elite player in the game or even at his position, but the HoF is not just a talent contest. I think there is a place in the HoF for good players that accomplish great things, and 3000 hits is a great thing. IF! JD gets to 3,000 he will have 250 HR, 400 steals, almost 700 doubles and triples, and 2 WS rings. Let’s hope JD has a couple of decent… Read more »
Adam Darowski
Guest

Who does WAR and its components consider a similar player?

Lou Brock:
39.1 WAR
+99 offense
+79 baserunning
-49 fielding

Davey Lopes:
39.3 WAR
+82 offense
+88 baserunning
-27 fielding

Ed
Guest

Interesting comparison. Of course Lopes achieved his WAR in a few shorter career. Advantage Lopes!

BTW, it’s always amazing how passionate baseball fans are about the Hall of Fame. I doubt a discussion re: the football or basketball Hall of Fame would generate nearly as much discussion.

Adam Darowski
Guest

Football and basketball have Halls of Fame? 🙂

Ed
Guest

Yep, the football one is located in my hometown of Canton, OH! 🙂

Lawrence Azrin
Guest

Ed,

To play the “contrarian”, you’d have to ask a similarly devoted group of football or basketball fans, to see what their level of interest is in their HOF.

If you go to a site such as “oldhardootballfacts.com”, you’ll see some very passionate discussion of the Pro Football HOF selections. They certainly do not rubber-stamp the annual NFL HOF selections (which just came out last weekend, TBTW).

Ed
Guest
Well yes. Perhaps it’s just “easier” to have these discussions for baseball since it’s a more “independent” game than football or basketball. And everyone has the same stat categories. Now when I say baseball is easier I obviously don’t mean we’re always going to agree, but at least we can look at common statistics and use common language. And the advanced stat categories have been around longer and have gone through several cycles of improvement. In football, it’s just hard. Not as many statistics and no statistics in common among all players. And then you get into issues such as… Read more »
Lawrence Azrin
Guest

WOW, I really butchered that web site: try “coldhardfootballfacts.com”

Sorry, I’ve still got the Super Bowl on my mind…

topper009
Guest
Sorry I haven’t read through every single comment so hopefully this wasn’t mentioned, but why does Brock have such a low WAR? 1 reason is his defense, but there is a long established tradition of ignoring poor defense for players with big offensive numbers. The second is his low OBP, but why was is it low according to modern standards? When he was playing was it ever mentioned? Did he have a reputation for not walking enough or was he known as a rally killer? Did one of his coaches ever tells him he needs to be more patient at… Read more »
Adam Darowski
Guest
topper009 – there are several things that drag Brock’s WAR down. He was a good baserunner, but was caught stealing a LOT. So, not QUITE as huge a boost as you’d expect. In fact, he was worth more with the bat than on the bases, go figure. The OBP was certainly an issue. The defense was weak, and it also came from a position that doesn’t contain any additional value (left field). If he had weak defense for, say, a shortstop, he would get a boost because shortstop is a much harder position to play (and therefore fill). Basically, take… Read more »
Timmy Pea
Guest
Basically, take Juan Pierre in his prime and make a whole career out of it. You have Lou Brock. That’s silly! Pierre is a slap hitter with no power. Brock had a ton of extra base hits and could hit for power if needed. I think a better comparison would be Carl Crawford. I defend Pierre here often because I like players that play that game and I don’t stats can properly gauge players like him. BUT, unless something cataclysmic should happen in the next 4 seasons, Juan will be remembered as a blazing fast baserunner with a small head… Read more »
Adam Darowski
Guest

Well, I wasn’t saying the exact TYPE of player. I was talking about the value breakdown of what he provided. Pierre got on base more while Brock had more power.

Crawford, on the other hand, is a terrible comp. Before his all-around terrible 2011, he simply dominated his position while Brock was a liability.

Michael E Sullivan
Guest

Brock was rarely a liability. You don’t accumulate 39.1 WAR by being a liability. He was never as good as people thought, and he’s a dubious hall selection on career or peak value, but he was an excellent baseball player and provided his teams with plenty of value. 39 WAR is nothing to sneeze at. That puts him 296th on the list of position players, out about 5000 that played for at least a full year and over 60,000 that got at least 1 PA in MLB.

kds
Guest
I would have a little more respect for your opinion if you did not make ludicrous assertions that can be checked in seconds. Over 8000 players have had 600 or more PA in MLB, not “about 5000”. (Plus pitchers, of course.) Even worse, “over 60,000 that got at least 1 PA in MLB.” B-ref has every player who ever appeared in a MLB game. They put the total number on the front page, so every time you go to the website there it is. (Updated daily during the season.) 17,734 was the total at the end of 2011, including pitchers.… Read more »
Timmy Pea
Guest

I’m not sure about that. Brock vs Crawford, the first ten years.

Lou .287/.332/.434 387 SB
Carl .294/.333/.441 427 SB

They had very similar numbers of extra base hits also.

Lawrence Azrin
Guest

Adam,

You need to take era/park adjustments into account comparing Brock and Juan Pierre. Once you do, it’s no contest; Pierre’s best year is bnarely equal to Brock’s average year. Brock has _much_ more power (Pierre averages one (!) HR a year, and few doubles), even his OBA is better, when adjusted for era/park by the B-R Neutralized feature.

It’s Pierre’s .338/.354, versus Brock’s .352/.423 when neutralized; not at all close. Pierre does have more defensive value, though.

Timmy Pea
Guest

An honest question, was Lou Brock that bad of a fielder?

Hartvig
Guest
He wasn’t very good but I’m not certain that he was as bad as some portray him either, although I have to admit that most of my memories of him are from the ’60’s and compared to how often we get to see someone play come from a very limited number of televised games. Even most of the World Series games of that era were listened to on a transistor radio while I sat in class (at least as often as I could get away with it). And while it may not make a lot of difference in Brock’s case… Read more »
Ed
Guest
A few comments: 1) You make some interesting points re: defense and how certain players might be getting shortchanged. 2) Is there any actual proof that the hitters behind him benefited from him being on base? If so, I’d be interested in seeing it. 3) Your giving him credit for what he did as a leadoff hitter. I’m not sure that makes sense. There’s plenty of evidence that lineup construction simply doesn’t matter. Which means that – all else being equal – the Cardinals would have scored the same number of runs regardless of where Brock batter in the lineup.… Read more »
Adam Darowski
Guest
Popular misconception. The problem is oWAR and dWAR are horribly named. The positional adjustment is actually included in oWAR. dWAR is SIMPLY the Total Zone runs. So, when looking at total value on defense, you want to add the positional runs to the Total Zone runs. In that case: Murphy: -48 and -33 = -81 runs (or about 8 wins) Rice: -131 and +24 = -107 runs (or about 10.5 wins) So, by looking at defense AND position, they have about a two and a half win difference. Still seems low to me, but Murphy was terrible in short stints… Read more »
Ed
Guest

Thanks for the clarification Adam. I’m glad you’ve joined the discussion since you seem to know more than most of us re: WAR. There’s one thing that bothers me…fangraphs shows Brock with a much higher career WAR than baseball-reference (53.4 vs. 39.1). Any idea why that is?

Adam Darowski
Guest

Ed, I was curious about the differences between rWAR and fWAR, too. I wrote about the issue on Beyond the Box Score. The response was basically that they’re on different scales (technically, it’s a slightly different replacement level, which can add up over a career).

http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2010/11/29/1839730/are-fwar-and-rwar-on-different-scales

Ed
Guest

Thanks Adam, interesting reading. I do agree with some of the commenters to your article that it would be nice to have consensus re:WAR. It definitely undermines credibility with the general public and provides them with justification for sticking with more traditional stats like BA, RBIs, etc.

kds
Guest

Sean Forman’s decision to call the net fielding vs average for the position played “dWAR” was an error because it separates the value of the position and says that it is not part of defense. (and is part of offense.) Murphy played little CF in his last 8 years. Even so, his total defensive value, adding the position adjustment to his rfield shows him to have given more value in the field than Jim Rice.

Adam Darowski
Guest
Right. What I meant by my original comment was the total value he provided. Brock was a much better hitter. Both were good-but-not-as-good-as-you’d-think on the bases. Brock played weak positions poorly. Pierre was neutral in both defense and position. Pierre’s best seasons put him as about a 3-win player in his peak. To go back to my original comment: Basically, take Juan Pierre in his prime and make a whole career out of it. You have Lou Brock. A whole career (or 13 years) of Pierre’s peak (about 3 WAR per season) = Brock (39 WAR). They got to it… Read more »
topper009
Guest
Juan Pierre in his prime extrapolated into an entire career may produce the same numbers as Brock, but it would be a totally different thing because we know Pierre doesn’t walk enough and he knows it too. He gets a lot of hits because he never tries to hit HRs and puts more balls in play, something that is rare today even for leadoff type guys. Leading the league in hits using the Juan Pierre approach today is not that special and everyone knows it. For Brock, everyone in the league was trying to lead the league the hits by… Read more »
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Guest

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DaveR
Guest

I’m sorry. I don’t understand gibberish.

Joe R.
Guest
An interesting fact about Brock and the Cubs’ trade for Ernie Broglio is the parallel to another left-handed Cub outfielder, George Altman. Altman was an outstanding corner outfielder for the Cubs in ’61 and ’62, and was traded to the Cardinals for a veteran right-handed pitcher, Larry Jackson. Altman, however, was the one whose career soured after the trade, while Jackson pitched very well for the Cubs (including 24 wins in ’64), and was traded in ’66 for Ferguson Jenkins and Adolfo Phillips. So, the initial trade for Jackson was very sucessful indeed. (I realize I left out a mention… Read more »
birtelcom
Guest
Has Brock been the NL’s greatest World Series player (non-pitchers) of all-time? Has he been the greatest 7th-game-of the World Series player (non-pitchers) ever? Brock had 92 World Series PAs in his career. Altogher, 83 players have had at least 63 career World Series PAs for NL teams. Among those 83 men, the top career World Series OPS numbers have been: 1. Lou Brock 1.079 2. Albert Pujols .968 3. Willie Stargell .955 4. Duke Snider .945 5. Mel Ott .901 And that doesn’t even take into account Brock’s 14 World Series stolen bases in 16 attempts (the only other… Read more »
The Inn on the Green provides best holiday accommodation throughout Tiverton along with excellent foods and also real beer
Guest

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DaveR
Guest

And your grammer is awful, as well as your puntuation.

DaveR
Guest

I guess the joke’s on me. Punctuation!

MikeD
Guest

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CursedClevelander
Guest

But he’s offering excellent food *and* REAL beer! I think we should give him a break. 🙂

Mike L
Guest
Aren’t we being a little unfair here, in that we are applying standards, based, in part, on back-testing data, that were not consensus in Brock’s era? Contemporary evaluation thought very highly of Brock-he was a ten time MVP vote-getter, and a first ballot Hall of Fame. We aren’t talking about some bizarre Vets Committee choice. Now we say Brock was mediocre, based on stats that have been invented since he retired. Baseball is played differently than it was when Brock played. We don’t know what type of player Brock would be today-maybe he would had adjusted his game to adapt… Read more »
Hartvig
Guest

It’s pretty hard to explain how a team like the ’68 Cardinals could have so thoroughly dominated the National League based on Bob Gibson’s performance alone. Steve Carlton had an ERA+ of 97. Cepeda put up an OPS+ of 106 at first base. Roger Maris hung up his spikes when the season was over. Maxwell and Javiar were well known as glove men first. Yet only Cincinnati had a significantly more potent offense than St. Louis.

Something had to be driving their offense.

dannyc
Guest

What in the hell is going on here? Comparing Lou Brock to Juan Pierre? Brock received MVP votes 10 different years (I was shocked to see Pierre did twice!) Brock was a six time all star, Pierre zero. Brock on avg scores 10 more runs per year and 33 more total bases in what amounted to a dead ball era while Pierre put up most of his in a live ball era. OPS+ for (the saber crowd)15 points higher (see http://www.baseball-reference.com/compare.cgi?top=%2Fplayers%2Fw%2Fwillibe02.shtml
All I can figure is Cub fans must be hilacking this site!

John Autin
Editor
But isn’t it a bit simplistic to say that recognizing the value of OBP is purely a modern phenomenon? It’s more widely recognized today than in decades past, but I’m sure that when Lou Brock drew a walk with nobody on base, he knew he’d done a good thing. Brock’s willingness to take a walk certainly developed over time. He averaged 39 walks per 700 PAs in his 20s, but 53 per 700 PAs thereafter, a 38% rise. His career high of 126 runs in ’71 coincided with a career-best (by far) 76 walks. The value of walks should not… Read more »
Steven
Guest

He also became more of a singles hitter as he grew older. I think he hurt his shoulder in the early seventies, and had a lot of base hits to the opposite field.

kds
Guest

No, we are not being unfair to Brock. The fact that baseball people, including the media, misunderstood the values of events in games at that time should not prevent us from applying the best knowledge we have today in rating players. That they undervalued BB, OBP, and CS while they overvalued SB and BA is interesting historically, but no reason we should do so. He was seen at his time as a great player. That was an error, he was good, not great.

Lawrence Azrin
Guest

kds,

Agreed. The point isn’t so much that Brock should not have been in the HOF, but that in the future, players with similar accomplishments to those of Brock should not be overvalued. …And I think that’s true; the high-average, low-walk, medium-power base-stealer is no longer seen as a great player.

Some of that, though, is due to the high run-scoring context since the mid-90s.

Somerset West Photographer
Guest

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Mike L
Guest
John A @157, and kds@151, it is simplistic to consider the value of walks as a purely sabermetric notion. But they weren’t valued as highly then as they are now, and players who want to advance in their careers will emphasize those skills that seem to be most in demand. If Brock were a second year player right now, his batting couch would probably tell him to work the count. Andy started this with a “Lou Brock is No Hall of Famer”. The people who saw him play had very little doubt he was. Brock gave them what they thought… Read more »
Ed
Guest
Who says walks weren’t valued back then? I think it’s pretty simplistic to say that. Babe Ruth valued them. Ted Williams valued them. Joe Morgan valued them. Carl Yastrzemski valued them. Mickey Mantle valued them. Etc, etc, etc. If walks weren’t valued in the past then why were these players taking so many walks? Wouldn’t their managers have told them to stop walking so much and to start swinging away? The truth is that smart hitters have always understood the value of the walk. Lou Brock is the one who didn’t value walks. And to the extent that it calls… Read more »
Dr. Doom
Guest

Really good point, Ed. That’s what I was just going to say. Particularly Joe Morgan, Gene Tenace, and Jimmy Wynn come to mind. Those were players of (about) the same vintage as Brock, and they aren’t necessarily the big power hitters who got the ol’ intentional-unintentional-walk treatment. I don’t doubt that Brock (and others) may have been encouraged to swing away more than they would be now. But it’s not like there weren’t any players walking back then. So I think it’s totally a valid criticism.

Ed
Guest

Always like it when people agree with me. 🙂 Personally I think it’s instructive that arguably the two greatest hitters in MLB history – Williams and Ruth – both drew a ton of walks. Granted there was probably some pitching around going on but they were also both patient hitters who understood that it was better to take a walk than to swing at a bad pitch in the hopes of getting a basehit.

Mike L
Guest
Actually, gentlemen, you might have noted that I didn’t say “walks weren’t valued”, what I said was they weren’t valued as highly then as they are now. There’s a difference, and I’ll stand by that statement. There were plenty of old-fashioned managers who wanted their players to swing and disdained players who walked too much, and Ted Williams, in particular, used to get slammed by the Boston writers (who didn’t like him anyway) for being too picky with men on base. There were good points made that walks are valuable, and caught stealings really cost, and I’m not disputing them.… Read more »
Adam Darowski
Guest

Good stuff, Ed. At the very least, Brock knew that steals and hits were his best way to achieving stardom and money. I’d be willing to bet players understood the value of a walk more than ownership (particularly when it came to contract time).

“Well Lou, you didn’t hit .300.”

After that, damn the walks.

I do go back and forth on this. I mean, Wade Boggs certainly knew walks were as good as hits.

Ed
Guest
Mike L…so if Brock had led off with a walk, stole second, went to third on a soft grounder, and scored on a sac flys, fans and announcers wouldn’t have said the exact same thing as if he had gotten a hit??? Come on man, you know that’s not true. As for walks being more valued now, I do agree there’s more awareness of the value of a walk. But I would say that’s among a very small percentage of the “baseball population”. There are still lots and lots of naysayers out there. And it doesn’t seem to have effected… Read more »
e pluribus munu
Guest
It seems to me that Mike L and Adam Darowski are focusing on the most relevant issues. Thinking back to the ’60s from the standpoint of someone who followed closely as a fan, the sudden return of the stolen base after Aparicio and Wills led to a period where it was clearly wildly over-valued (and CS was under-attended to); walks were associated with Eddie Yost more than Ted Williams (as Mike L notes, Williams was often criticized for his walks – and positive comments often concerned how good his eye was, not the value of the walks). Brock was aiming… Read more »
Adam Darowski
Guest
e pluribus munu – good points. I’ve got this project called the Hall of wWAR where, based on a weighted version of WAR, I kick everyone out of the Hall of Fame and only invite back the top 208, according to wWAR. Why 208? That’s how many people are currently in the Hall, so it gives us a good idea of what the cutoff *could* be. 63 players got cut. Brock was one. That surprised me at first. He’s actually nowhere close. Only 14 Hall of Famers have a worse wWAR than he does (Maranville, Traynor, Kell, Bottomley, Lindstrom, Haines,… Read more »
Lawrence Azrin
Guest

Ed,

I think that throughout MLB history, most of the best managers understood the value of having a leadoff hitter who drew lots of walks. For example, Connie Mack had Topsey Hartsel and Max Bishop, Hughie Jennings had Donie Bush, John McGraw had George Burns. None of them had very high batting averages, but they all got on base a lot, and scored a lot of runs.

They weren’t using the term “on-base percentage”, but they were certainly aware of the concept, and the importance of getting on base.

Mike L
Guest
Ed, you are one tough cookie. I need to be at the top of my game to just stay within a city block of you (and my back hurts today, so I’m just going to have to wave as you motor by) The short answer is that there’s absolutely no difference between Brock leading off with a walk or a single, stealing second, etc. And I’m certainly not dissing walks nor am I discounting the value of the new math. What I’m saying is that, from a PR perspective, when the sabermetric nation goes out there and says to the… Read more »
Ed
Guest

Wow, kudos on having written Bill James and getting a response! You are now my hero! One question for you…can you explain what you mean say (i’m paraphrasing here) that the sabermetric nation questioning Brock’s election, diminishes the value of the more sophisticated analyses”? I’m not sure I follow.

Mike L
Guest
Love to be someone’s hero. I found the letter-it’s from September 1986, and my memory (also to Lawrence Azrin @180) was incorrect. It was not about Total Average, but about Secondary Average, and Bill put me in my place (good for him, reading the letter after 25 years made me realize he was correct, if a tad blunt) And, Ed, I should have been more articulate, so I’m going to give it another shot (with added comments to John A @172). I am old enough to have seen Brock play. Being a Yankee fan, it was the 64 World Series… Read more »
Ed
Guest

I hear what you’re saying and I think you make some valid points. At the same time, I don’t know. People didn’t like learning that the earth revolves around the sun, but ultimately the truth had to and did win out. (a bit of a strained comparison but the best I could come up with on short notice).

Lawrence Azrin
Guest
Mike L, The formula “Total Average” was actually created c.1979-1980 by Washington Post sportswriter Thomas Boswell. It divides total bases gained by total outs made. It was used in baseball reference books such as “Total Baseball” for a while, though its popularity has diminished. It’s in B_R under Advanced Batting. The formula: (Total Bases + Walks + Stolen Bases + HBP – Caught Stealing) divided by (Batting Outs + GIDP + Caught Stealing) The league average was around .750 in the early 1980s; .800 was good, .850 very good,.900 excellent,and 1.000 and above great. It was an early attempt to… Read more »
John Autin
Editor
I wonder if any of us really has a handle on how Brock was viewed during his career. People above have said that the reason Brock was elected on his first ballot is that he was seen as a HOF-caliber player during his career. But I don’t think his election proves anything about how he was viewed while he was playing. Brock was named to 6 All-Star teams, twice as a starter. Both are low for a HOFer. And he only made it once during the STL pennant years; his other 5 selections came from age 32 onward. In my… Read more »
Adam Darowski
Guest

Times on base:

46th Tim Raines (3977)
47th Tony Gwynn (3955)

49th Harold Baines (3942)
50th Omar Vizquel (3911)

52nd Dwight Evans (3890)
53rd Darrell Evans (3863)
54th Luis Gonzalez (3857)
55th Jeff Bagwell (3843)
56th Bobby Abreu (3836)
57th Fred McGriff (3834)
58th Lou Brock (3833)

Interesting company.

Ed
Guest

I’ll push back on that a little. He did receive MVP votes 10 different times, including 5 top 10 finishes. Plus, I think the stolen base record plus anything north of 2,800 hits probably would have gotten him elected. Though obviously I’m just speculating.

e pluribus munu
Guest
Very interesting points, John. Brock’s low All-Star rate in mid-career was a surprise to me, especially in ’67 and ’68, when the Cardinals were coming off championship seasons. I did a check on B-R splits and found that Brock had very slow starts those two years. In ’68, his line on June 30 was .261/.301/.415 (he’d been .236/.278/.387 a month earlier) – didn’t look like a good year, but from July 1 on his line was .295/.352/.421. So his omission from the A-S team may have reflected the perception of a poor year in the making. In ’69 he was… Read more »
Lawrence Azrin
Guest
#171/ Adam D. – Yes, I have read quite a bit about your pet project “the Hall of wWAR “, combining peak and career value by WAR. I believe that it was discussed extensively both at the old B-R blog and also baseballthinckfactory.com (I know that there’s some crossover from there to here). Quite fascinating, but once again, I need to caution, WAR is just the _starting_ point not the end point, for player comparisons. Of the players with worse WAR than Brock, I would still put Maranville* and Maz in the HOF as defensive superstars, amongst the best at… Read more »
Richard Chester
Guest

I have a vague memory of reading somewhere that after he retired Maranville spent some time working for journalist William Randolph Hearst who in turn used his influence to persuade writers to vote for Maranville for the HOF. Can anybody out there confirm or deny?

Ed
Guest

Not sure how well this link will work but it seems to confirm your report. It’s a story from the Oct. 1989 issue of baseball digest.

http://books.google.com/books?id=17YDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA34&lpg=PA34&dq=William+Randolph+Hearst+rabbit+maranville&source=bl&ots=fnXXt8x1mR&sig=FUeufT_3_3hVB7gkdApOF1i4FCw&hl=en&sa=X&ei=GoIxT-CgIoLF0AHw2PX6Bw&ved=0CDEQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=William%20Randolph%20Hearst%20rabbit%20maranville&f=false

The whole story is a hoot. The writer seems to think batting average is the primary criterion for judging HOF worthiness. And this was less than 25 years ago!

Richard Chester
Guest

Ed: Thanks a lot.

Ed
Guest

Yeah, apparently Hearst pressured the Committee to elect Rabbit cause he was dying of cancer. Too bad the same courtesy wasn’t extended to the much more deserving Ron Santo.

Adam Darowski
Guest
Lawrence… definitely a starting point. I think wWAR focuses it a bit better, but still, my main goal is to use it as a conversation starter. I think Maranville and Vizquel might be two of the most similar players of all time if you era adjust and look at WAR components. It’s really interesting. If you’re willing to put Mazeroski in as a defensive stud, I’m not sure how someone like Mark Belanger can be left out. He seems to have been ignored by the defense-first club. I suppose it’s because his offense was just even more subpar than the… Read more »
Lawrence Azrin
Guest
#179/ Adam, Yes, when I typed “defensive superstar” I immediately thought, “what about Belanger?”. I believe there is a certain offensive _floor_ that even the very greatest defense-first players have to meet, to be considered HOF-worthy. For the likes of Aparicio, Ozzie Smith, Maranville, and Maz, a minimum OPS of 85-90 is required to justify their HOF credentials. Unfortunately, Belanger at 68 OPS, is just too weak an offensive player to be HOF-worthy. I’m not buying that his SS defense was that much better than Ozzie to make up for the offensive gap. Tough, but ya gotta draw the line… Read more »
Adam Darowski
Guest

I love talking about this stuff. 🙂

Curious of your thoughts on the Hall credentials of these three defensive superstars…

Buddy Bell (109 OPS+)
Robin Ventura (114)
Paul Blair (96)

Lawrence Azrin
Guest
#183/ Adam, Ok, I’ll bite. First thoughts: When you say “defensive superstar”, I agree with Blair, but not Bell or Ventura. For third basemen, I’d think of Craig Nettles first. As for Bell or Ventura’s HOF credentials, I’d place them ahead of Freddie Lindstrom and George Kell; of course, these are two of the _worst_ HOF selections, as you point at in your Hall of wWAR peak/career sorting. As for whom I think BELONGS, I’d put Stan Hack and Ken Boyer ahead of those two. Let’s be honest, if it took Ron Santo 30+ years to get in, Bell or… Read more »
Ed
Guest

I was surprised to see how high Bell and Ventura’s career WARs were. They definitely deserved more of a look than they received. Blair would have needed to sustain his offensive peak for a few more seasons to be a serious candidate.

Dr. Doom
Guest
There are just too many good HOF cases to look at. At every position, there are probably 3-5 guys who deserve enshrinement. But it’ll never happen. I’d LOVE to see Robin Ventura in the discussion, but more because I just really like him as a player than because of his awesome stats. I actually don’t see Nettles as really any different a player than Brooks Robinson. Similar peak values, similar overall game, similar World Series heroics. Of course, Brooksie has the MVP, which matters in HOF selection, but is taken much more seriously than it ought to be.
Ed
Guest

Robinson played his entire career with one team which in the minds of the HOF voters gives him an advantage over someone like Nettles who played with 6 teams. Not saying it should but playing with one team seems to help.

Timmy Pea
Guest

Brock’s Doubles and Triples! I think this gets overlooked not only with Lou, but many other players as well. I would compare doubles to singles the way you would compare a 100 mph wind to a 50 mph wind. It may be twice as big, but it does 5 times the damage.

birtelcom
Guest
Pea @ 186: Tom Ruane did a systematic study (available on Retrosheet’s web site) of the average run value of different baseball events in each season. This study shows that in 1968, one of Brock’s best years, in the NL a single added, on average, .423 runs to the runs a batter’s team would have expected to score before he came to bat, while the same number for a double was .708 runs. In the 2004 NL, to pick another example, a single was worth on average .448 runs and a double was worth on average .770 runs. The respective… Read more »
Dr. Doom
Guest

Good point, birtelcom. It’s not even close to 5 times the damage. Linear weights systems (like wOBA) have a single (usually) at about .47 runs, and a double around .72 runs. The (fairly accurate and) easy way to remember it is:

Out=-.3
Walk=.33
Single=.5
Double=.75
Triple=1
Home Run=1.5

Those are pretty solid, and (I think) easy to remember. If you plug anyone’s stat line in to those weights, you’ll get a pretty good estimate of how many runs they created.

Timmy Pea
Guest
Mr. Doom, I never said a double was 5 times better than a single. I said a 100 MPH wind does 5 times more damage than a 50 MPH wind. I don’t really know if it’s 5 times or more, but you miss the point as usual. I mentioned it because of the stupid comparison of Brock and Pierre. As for your chart, I disagree with it and it has nothing to do with what I’m talking about. A double usually clears all bases and ends with a man in scoring position. A single might score a runner from second.… Read more »
birtelcom
Guest
Timmy @ 211, I’m not sure what it even means to say one “disagrees” with the linear weights chart. The chart is merely the result of adding up all the times there’s a single in a major league game and all the times there is a double in a major league game, and calculating how many runs result from those events. These are just arithmetical facts. If you think about it for a inute you will realize why a double is only worth about 0.3 runs more than a single. With no men on, and also with a man on… Read more »
Dr. Doom
Guest
birtelcom is right, of course. There’s nothing with which to agree or disagree. It’s just the actual facts of what happens in a baseball game. That may not matter to you, Timmy, but it does matter to most people here. I understand that you don’t think that a double is worth 5 times as much as a single. But the analogy you used said that specifically, so I was going with that. Anyway, it’s closer to doing 1.5 times the damage. But it’s not five, it’s not two. And yes, a double often “clears the bases.” That’s true, when the… Read more »
Timmy Pea
Guest
double is worth exactly one base more than a single I could not disagree more. It’s like saying a person with a .08 blood alcohol content is twice as sober as a person with a .16 BAC. That’s what a 3rd grader or cop might think, because arithmetic is easy, but the reality is that someone is a little buzzed and someone else is really loaded. I would say that a guy with 600 doubles compared to someone with 300 doubles over the same type career would be 5 times more valuable. And I would use for my measuring stick… Read more »
birtelcom
Guest
Timmy@223: You have lifted my words completely out of context. I dd not write that a “double is worth exactly one base more than a single”. I wrote that with no men on, and with just a man on third, a double is worth exactly one base more than a single. An extra base by itself (in the form, for example, of a successful stolen base)is worth on average about 0.2 runs, or slightly less. A double, in contrast, is worth about 0.3 or so more than a single. So you can say the difference in run-scoring value between a… Read more »
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