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?


241 thoughts on “Lou Brock is no Hall of Famer

  1. 1
    kzuke says:

    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.

  2. 4
    Andy says:

    The blog is getting bombarded with spam comments now–a sign that we’ve really hit the big time 🙂

    Bear with me as I get a spam filter in place…should be up and running today. For now, just ignore the spam.

  3. 5
    Kahuna Tuna says:

    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 to 37), to the overall NL OBP for that period. During that period, Brock averaged 100 runs scored per season, 188 hits, 50 extra-base hits, 63 stolen bases, 19 caught stealings, a .300 average, a .774 OPS, and a 116 OPS+.

    • 15
      Doug says:

      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.

      • 39
        Kahuna Tuna says:

        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.

    • 35
      Tmckelv says:


      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 doesn’t belong, and that one doesn’t belong”.

      Can’t wait for Pitchers and Catchers!

      • 240
        Brett says:

        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 be part of the process in electing a player to the HOF.

        With that in mind, Brock is a no-brainer. He is a Hall of Famer, as he should be.

      • 241
        Brett says:

        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, the “eye test”, etc. … have been and should always be part of the process in electing a player to the HOF.

        With that in mind, Brock is a no-brainer…he is a Hall of Famer, as he should be.

  4. 7
    AlvaroEspinoza says:

    Worst player ever to have 3000 hits and 900 steals.

    • 8
      Andy says:

      Your comment is dripping with facetiousness. Brock got those milestones thanks to longevity, as well as being a really good player. I just don’t think he’s a great as many others seem to think.

      • 28
        Skinny says:

        “Brock got those milestones thanks to longevity, as well as being a really good player”

        Couldn’t you say that about quite a number of players that got to 3000 hits (or 900 steals, I guess, since there are som may of them)?

        • 30
          Andy says:

          Sure, there are lots of players who reached plateaus thanks to longevity. Yaz is another. Looking at 3000 hits specifically, Brock has the 9th lowest BA and 3rd lowest OBP among the group of 28.

          Compare those 2 guys with someone like Boggs, Gwynn, or Paul Waner, all of whom had fewer lifetime PA than Brock and much higher batting averages. They didn’t get 3000 hits due to longevity–they got it due to being fantastic hitters.

    • 27
      John B says:

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

  5. 9
    Morten Jonsson says:

    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 good.

  6. 10
    Steven says:

    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.

    • 11
      Andy says:

      This is a good reiteration of a point I made in the original post, which is that Brock was certainly regarded as a HOFer when he retired. That’s important–how a player was perceived at the time is certainly a component of HOF candidacy.

    • 14
      Hartvig says:

      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 could make an argument that Brock was more deserving of the MVP in ’74 than Garvey (since he wasn’t even the most valuable Dodger) but it would be pretty hard to convince me he deserved it over Schmidt or Morgan or Bench however.

      • 17
        Lawrence Azrin says:


        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.

        • 19
          Dr. Doom says:

          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.

    • 33
      Howard says:

      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

    • 206

      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.

  7. 12
    kds says:

    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 you please use BB% and K%, (BB/PA and K/PA), rather than their inverse. They are easier to compare and to use mathematically.

  8. 13
    Doug says:

    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 a more eilte accomplishment back then. Plus, it probably helped Brock’s perception to reach 3000 at the same time as Yaz (actually, a month earlier than Yaz), despite Brock starting his career a year later.

  9. 16
    Lawrence Azrin says:

    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 1964-74 he was in the Top-10 in Runs Scored every year but one, he was only in the Top-10 in Runs Created four times. He was in the Top-10 in Outs Made EVERY year from 1964-74, and not coincidentally also in the Top-10 in Plate Appearances every year from 1964-74.

    In short, his high Runs Scored totals came at the cost of many many outs, which were not accounted for by the mainstream media of the time. Looking at WAR, he was NEVER in the seasonal Top-Ten for positional players, and in the Top-Ten in Offensive WAR just once (1971). He was twice in the Top-10 in Defensive WAR, which is kinda odd since he was considered a below-average outfielder.

    As shown by similarity Scores, Brock was not really comparable to any other player – his #1 comp, Tim Raines, who is more the type of player many people think Brock was) is at 863, and #2 Max Carey is at 825, neither very similar.

    He was a very good player for many many years, but rarely a great one (1964, 1967-68). I’d have put him in the HOF, but only after many years, like Perez or Dawson, certainly not on the first ballot.

  10. 18
    Dr. Doom says:

    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. But definitely not up to the standard of the other players in there with him.

  11. 20
    Doug says:

    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%

  12. 21
    Doug says:

    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.


    • 48
      DaveR says:

      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.

      • 156
        Doug says:

        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.

    • 208

      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.)

  13. 22
    Dr. Remulak says:

    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.

  14. 23
    CursedClevelander says:

    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.

  15. 24
    Paul E says:

    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, when he retired it was just a “given” and “known” that he was a sure Hall of Famer. It’s probably a bit like Max Carey – he’s in because he was a known entity qualified for Cooperstown.

    Go to his page at baseball-reference and scroll down to the 4.42 R/G scenario, and he appears to improve greatly – not Rickey Henderson, but, he’s in the Hall and it ain’t keeping me up at night. If you didn’t see him play, WAR will not suffice in casting an argument against the validity of his Cooperstown posterity.

  16. 25
    Kerry W says:

    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.

    • 122
      Lawrence Azrin says:


      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 final word.

      • 123

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

      • 125
        Kerry W says:


        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.

  17. 26
    John B says:

    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 bases while cracking the 3,000 hit plateau. I have no problem with his enshrinement.

    The ridiculous thing, of course, is how anyone can view Lou Brock to having had a superior career to Tim Raines.

    Brock had well over 1,000 more plate appearances and reached base FEWER TIMES than Raines. Brock stole 130 more bases, but had to get caught an extra 150 times to make that happen.

    • 40
      Ed says:

      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 peak years and his HOF eligiblity. Brock’s biggest accomplishments, on the other hand, came later in his career so they were fresher in the voter’s mind when he came up for vote.

  18. 29
    Kahuna Tuna says:

    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 games batting 1st. Comparison: .332 to .284, +48 points.

    Brock, 1968, 156 games batting 1st. Comparison: .334 to .293, +41 points.

    Brock, 1969, 144 games batting 1st. Comparison: .347 to .294, +53 points.

    Brock, 1970, 130 games batting 1st. Comparison: .342 to .300, +42 points.

    Brock, 1970, 20 games batting 3rd. Comparison: .324 to .310, +14 points.

    Brock, 1971, 137 games batting 1st. Comparison: .359 to .281, +78 points.

    Brock, 1971, 18 games batting 3rd. Comparison: .419 to .295, +124 points.

    Brock, 1972, 143 games batting 1st. Comparison: .360 to .274, +86 points.

    Brock, 1973, 156 games batting 1st. Comparison: .348 to .292, +56 points.

    Brock, 1974, 150 games batting 1st. Comparison: .351 to .294, +57 points.

    Brock, 1975, 121 games batting 1st. Comparison: .339 to .298, +41 points.

    Brock, 1976, 42 games batting 1st. Comparison: .323 to .290, +33 points.

    Brock, 1976, 76 games batting 3rd. Comparison: .359 to .293, +66 points.

    • 31
      Andy says:

      My first thought is infield hits, plus having a good batting average overall on batted balls. I bet Ichiro is way over average too for the same reasons.

      • 32
        Andy says:

        Ichiro’s career BAbip is .351, which isn’t as much higher than his BA of .326 as I expected, but is still probably above league average similar to Brock.

      • 37
        Tmckelv says:

        If your point is to compare Brock to someone you think won’t be in the HOF, I think you might be disappointed. I find it hard to believe Ichiro won’t make it (for good or bad).

    • 36
      Doug says:

      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.

      • 45
        John Autin says:

        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.

  19. 34
    Tim P says:

    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.

    • 41
      Dr. Doom says:

      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 years, they both played for a number of teams, and they have the same last name.

      They’re comparable batters aren’t even close. Gary has 4 HOF comps in his top ten, and 3 in his top 4 – Bench (#1), Fisk (#3), and Berra (#4). And they’re all in the 800s for matches, which means that Gary’s highly unique (a good thing) but also that his closest matches are HOF players, and they’re reasonable comps. Joe, on the other hand, is much less unique, has only 2 of his top 10 as HOFers, and they’re numbers 8 and 9, meaning he’s a lot more like Chili Davis and Don Baylor than he is like Jim Rice and Orlando Cepeda.

      And this isn’t a fan bias cooked up after their careers were over. The writers of their own times viewed them very differently. Gary was an 11-time All-Star. Joe was 5 times. Gary had four top-6 MVP finishes, including finishing 2nd in ’80 and 3rd in ’86. Joe finished 3rd in ’92 and 5th in ’91 (plus 9th once and 10th once). Finally, the HOF voters put Gary in to the Hall very fast, and didn’t give Joe much consideration, in spite of the fact that he hit one of the most famous home runs in baseball history.

      So if they weren’t equivalent hitters, if they’re most comparable hitters are of vastly different quality, and they haven’t been viewed as comparable by the media then or now, how are they the same player? And that’s without even looking at the sabermetrics, because it’s not even necessary. Not comparable players. Although the same-last-name thing is certainly interesting…

    • 43
      Hartvig says:

      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.

      I certainly don’t hate Lou Brock or Joe Carter or Juan Pierre. But you have to acknowledge that there are many people who look at 1 or 2 aspects of their game and consider them a great player because of it without considering their many shortcomings.

      • 51
        Timmy Pea says:

        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

        • 60
          John B says:

          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.

          • 85
            Tim P says:

            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 this year.

        • 120
          Lawrence Azrin says:

          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

  20. 38
    abarnold2 says:

    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 out more than he should have to really contribute. Bill James put it this way is 1988 edition of The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract: “Lou Brock represents an offensive player of a type with which I am not enamored. … He was the greatest World Series performer of my lifetime …. When he became eligible for the Hall of Fame he slid in without a throw, as indeed he should have.”

    Just sayin’.

  21. 42
    dannyc says:

    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.

  22. 44
    Ed says:

    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…..

    • 62
      John B says:

      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.

      • 65
        Ed says:

        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.

  23. 46
    Fireworks says:

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

    • 49
      Timmy Pea says:

      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 fielding cather they should double check. One out of every 9 games Gary played he was not catching, and he took days off like all catchers do. Bottom line is that group think has prevailed once again.

      • 53
        Andy says:

        I agree that the Carter twins have similar raw offensive numbers. But there are two things that cause a huge divide between their offensive performances: 1) the era in which each guy played, as the average run-scoring was much higher on average for Joe’s career as opposed to Gary’s and 2) their comparison group, as Gary (from an offensive standpoint) was an outstanding catcher while Joe was, at best, an average outfielder.

        • 81
          Tim P says:

          Well if Joe played in an era of higher run scoring then you can’t overlook the fact that for the same number of PA’s, Joe has 50 more HR’s, 240 more RBI’s, more triples, more doubles, and more SB.

  24. 47
    John Autin says:

    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), and various other periods.

    I wouldn’t say that leading the majors in runs for a 10-year span should be an automatic ticket to the HOF, but I just checked a dozen 10-year periods at random and the only runs leader not enshrined was the ineligible Pete Rose.

    • 67
      Steven says:

      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.

  25. 50
    Timmy Pea says:

    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.

    • 54
      Hartvig says:

      ” 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 at least a couple of the Gold Gloves that Bench got. That isn’t just what I think or what most advanced baseball defensive metrics think, it’s what many knowledgable baseball people thought at the time.

      If you’re going to judge Carter’s fielding ability for his entire career based on his last couple years in New York I would suggest that you look more closely at just about every Hall of Fame catcher, since there are a lot of catchers with long careers. Once a catchers gets to around 1200 games, the physical toll that playing the position takes starts to affect their performance. In the history of the game, 70 players have caught as many as 1200 games. Only half of them caught as many as 1400 and only 5 were good enough to catch as many as 2000. Carter was one of them.

      And you have twice posted side by side comparisons of Joe & Gary Carters numbers, while refusing to acknowledge context. So tell me which of the following players had a better season at the plate:

      Player A PA 679 2b 45 HR 43 RBI 145 BA .356 SB 5 OPS 1.065
      Player B PA 664 2b 32 HR 23 RBI 74 BA .301 SB 13 OPS .922

      Which player had a better season and was more valuable to his team? Looks pretty obvious on the surface, doesn’t it? But the reality is that not only was Player B’s season (Carl Yastrzemski, 1968) better than Player A’s (Chuck Klein, 1929) it’s not even close. Why? Context. Klein played in an extraordinarily high offensive era in the best hitters park in baseball history prior to early Coor’s field. Yaz’s season was the apex of the second deadball era.

      Gary was a significantly better hitter than Joe and the difference in defensive value is astronomical wether you choose to acknowledge it or not.

      • 56
        Andy says:

        I’m sad to say that ever since that Livan Hernandez World Series game that Gregg called, I have no respect for the guy’s opinions at all. That was the worst home-plate umpiring I’ve ever seen. Sorry to kick a guy after he’s passed away.

      • 57
        Dr. Doom says:

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

      • 82
        Tim P says:

        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.

        • 88
          Howard says:

          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 every time.

          • 90
            Andy says:

            Furthermore, it’s been shown that any given catcher’s numbers are largely random, to a certain degree. If a catcher stinks at throwing (for example if he’s very slow to get out of the crouch and make an accurate throw), he stinks all the time. But even the really good catchers occasionally have years with poor throw-out percentages because of the pitchers–guys with slow deliveries, or who tip the runner and give them good jumps, etc. Not the catcher’s fault. I don’t put any stake in a catcher’s numbers for throwing out baserunners unless they are consistently poor.

          • 92
            kds says:

            Timmy Pea = CS.

          • 94
            Tim P says:

            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.

          • 95
            DaveR says:

            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.

        • 99
          Michael Sullivan says:

          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.

          • 100
            Timmy Pea says:

            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 did.

          • 199
            Brent says:

            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.

    • 55
      Dr. Doom says:

      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 put up the same offensive stats as a first baseman, he wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame, even if he HAD been a Wizard with the glove. He would have been Willie Montanez. Gary was better at baseball than Joe. He was a much better defender, and a better hitter. Factoring in the era, Joe MIGHT have had a little more power, though it’s hard to say and I don’t feel like calculating a SLG+ for their careers.

      One last thing: Gary’s OPS+ was over 100 12 times (though one of those was only a 92-game season, and I’m not including his 9-game first season). Joe’s OPS+ was over 100 9 times (though one of those was a 66 game season). Joe’s best OPS+ was 130. Gary topped that 4 times. It’s pretty clear that Gary’s the better player, EVEN THOUGH their batting numbers are very, very similar.

      • 83
        Tim P says:

        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.

        • 96
          Ed says:

          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 he actually believes what he write or if he just enjoys being a contrarian. I suspect it’s a bit of both.

          • 98
            Timmy Pea says:

            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.

          • 146
            Ed says:

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

    • 66
      John B says:

      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.

  26. 52
    Ed says:

    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 that they’d get the level of HOF support people are showing for Brock. Weird. People can spin it any way they want but the bottom line for me is that Brock isn’t a HOFer and it’s not even close.

    • 69
      dannyc says:

      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!

      • 71
        Ed says:

        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.

        • 73
          Andy says:

          in dannyc’s defense, Ed, his comment is akin to “Brock was highly regarded as a HOFer during his career”, which I think is what dannyc was getting at, and holds more water.

          And frankly, the “seeing is believing” argument doesn’t bother me all that much since anybody who saw Joe Carter would know that he was not only not a HOFer but not even a very good player.

          • 84
            Tim P says:


          • 93
            Solace says:

            Two points, I guess. I never “saw” much of Lou Brock, but I watched a lot of Tim Raines. As good as Rock’s numbers look on paper, he seemed like an even more dominating player in action. I don’t think I have ever heard anyone who saw him play every day in his prime call him anything but a HOFer. And as for Joe Carter, I think it is a bit of a stretch fo call him “not even a very good player”. I understand, and accept, all the negatives. But he was a guy whose job was to drive in runs, and he did his job. When I look at the two WS posters on my wall, I can forgive a little of the other stuff.

  27. 58
    Andy says:

    BTW, Timmy P changing his name every time he posts reminds me that I’ve set the “top commenters” widget to go by email, so you can make your name whatever you want, as long as you use the same email address, it counts toward your total.

    • 97
      Tim P says:

      I wasn’t trying to be sneaky, I post from different machines sometimes. BTW I’m on facebook, I have a picture of my cat Sally and my silver 2007 Cadillac Deville I drive. I love that car.

  28. 61
    Latefortheparty says:

    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.

    • 63
      Andy says:

      I used my typical tactic with this post, which is to write a really blunt and controversial title, and then immediately back off it in the post itself… 🙂

      Truth is, with these posts going up on Twitter, short meaty titles like that do well.

      • 64
        Ed says:

        Not sure if you noticed this Andy but if you look at Lou Brock’s home page on Baseball Reference, under his player page, there’s a link to this article.

        • 68
          Andy says:

          Yeah, that’s the built-in player linker newsfeed feature at B-R. If you’re on their list of outside sites/blogs, as of course I am, when you link back to one of their players, your post gets put into the newsfeed automatically. That’s why you always see player names linked here.

  29. 70
    dannyc says:

    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?

    • 72
      Hartvig says:

      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…

  30. 74
    Ed says:

    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 as Hall of Famers. But isn’t the HOF a better institution because it does include Molitor and Ryan and doesn’t include Carter and Garvey?

    • 75
      dannyc says:

      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.

      • 76
        Andy says:

        dannyc, I agree that eye test has some value, and stats have some value but the eye test is FAR more susceptible to bias and error. I also highly doubt James values Brock just because he saw him play.

      • 86
        Ed says:

        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 WAR shows us that Brock helped his team far, far less than almost every player with a comparable career length. Ultimately that matters a lot more than “the eye test”.

        • 89
          Andy says:

          Ed’s criticism of the eye test get specifically to the error part–that everybody’s eyes judge differently. But I think the bigger issue is the bias–people tend to remember major events (both positive and negative) and then better remember future events that reinforce those previous impressions.

          Derek Jeter makes a great flip throw to nab a runner at home plate–fantastic play we all agree. Then every time after that Jeter makes even a “very good” play, we say…damn, that Jeter sure is awesome. Maybe he makes an error here or there, but that’s not what we remember because it doesn’t reinforce our earlier predominant observation. Suddenly it’s 10 years later, Jeter has no range or arm anymore, and few people realize it because of their biased memory.

        • 137
          Lawrence Azrin says:


          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 one’s own memory.

          Sure, we have plenty of written sources for first-hand accounts of perfomances, but no one observer can claim to process all the player-to-player comparisons over MLB’s history.

          • 200
            Brent says:

            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 of the games on a nightly basis.

            Put another way, we all think Willie Mays was a great defensive player. Why? Well, before advanced metrics, probably because our father or grandfather told us so and because of one WS highlight. Could Richie Ashburn, for instance, had been as good? Well, unless you lived in Philly, or saw him a number of times in another NL park, I doubt you could use the “eye test” to make that judgement.

          • 204
            Dr. Doom says:

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

          • 219
            Ed says:

            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 problem is that his misses don’t get played over and over and over again. The actual statistical evidence shows he actually isn’t that good in the clutch. See this for example:


          • 234
            Ed says:

            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.


    • 79
      Hartvig says:

      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 stupid.

      As far as Ryan and Molitor go, I’d say the knock on Molitor was not so much that he didn’t belong but that no one thought that he could stay healthy enough to put up HOF caliber numbers. As far as Ryan, he did look like he might be flaming out around the time he turned 30 and in spite of some impressive single season strikeout numbers he was still pretty well short of where he would need to be for serious consideration. In fact, I would say that by the time he retired he had probably picked up more sabermetric detractors who were saying that he wasn’t as good as people were saying than he had naysayers 10 years prior.

      WAR may not show Brock as having much of a peak but there is not doubt that he was a substantial part of a very successful team over several years.

      • 87
        Ed says:

        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.

  31. 91
    Richard Chester says:

    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).

    • 101
      e pluribus munu says:

      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 came. Just as Steve (#10) wrote: That’s how we saw the game then, and the Hall (at least the writers’ ballot) preserves the history of how baseball fame was understood over time.

      • 103
        Richard Chester says:

        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.

  32. 102
    Timmy Pea says:

    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.

    • 104
      Hartvig says:

      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 of having a bunch of left-handed starting pitchers, the Phillies weren’t very good at holding runners. Parrish then moved to California where his CS% stayed at 28 his first year before returning to his customary 40+%.


      Lance Parrish is a great catcher. Lance Parrish is as good as or better than 5 of the 13 catchers in the HOF (counting Lopez as a manager, otherwise it’s 6). But not only is Lance Parrish nowhere near as good as Carter, he’s not even the most deserving Detroit Tiger catcher not in the HOF (Bill Freehan is, if you were wondering).


      Joe Carter was an OK player who was fortunate to come to the plate with an above average number of guys in scoring position for a number of years. There are, at a minimum, 50 more deserving outfielders not in the HOF.

  33. 105
    Timmy Pea says:

    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 out of the HoF, and part of that is you occasionally have to go back and dig players up to make the case for keeping say, Johhny Damon out of the HoF. There may be players not deserving of the HoF, but Lou Brock is not one of them.

    • 106
      Hartvig says:

      ” 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. If you think that SABRmetrics had anything to do with Joe Carter NOT being selected then how do you explain Kevin Brown being on the ballot for only 1 year? I’d guess that 90% of people who understand SABRmetrics believe that Brown belongs in the Hall. Exactly 2.1% of the people eligible to cast votes for the HOF agreed.

      And while the SABRmetric community argued pretty vociferously against Jim Rice’s selection one of their primary points was that Dale Murphy (and many other outfielders as well) was far more deserving. Unfortunately BBWAA has been even slower than MLB to embrace SABRmetrics but with more clubs coming around that day seems inevitable.

      • 112
        Ed says:

        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 30s for example and all people had was the SABR evidence, I can’t see him receiving nearly as much support.

  34. 107
    Cody says:

    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.

    • 108
      Timmy Pea says:

      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 years left in him.

      • 110
        Andy says:

        If Damon got into the HOF it would be on the strength if those 2 rings with 2 different teams. I would vote for him but I don’t see others doing it.

    • 109
      Andy says:

      A fantastic point, Cody. This shows how numbers-based perceptions have changed. 3000 hits or 500 homers used to be strictly automatic milestones for HOF but not anymore. Sosa and McGwire aren’t getting in, and Damon probably wouldn’t. Vizquel has an outside shot at 3000 and probably won’t either.

      • 113
        Mike L says:

        I think there’s a qualitative difference between 500 HRs (in the steroid and swing for the fences era) and 3000 hits. There have been 304 seasons of 40+ HRs, and more than half of them have occurred in the last 20 years. Apply that ratio-12 1/2 years to make the threshold, and you would need 240 hits per season. There have been only 15 seasons of 240+ or above in baseball history-and only three of those since 1930, despite having the longer season. If anything, it’s probably harder to get to 3000 now. There are 92 seasons of 220 hits or above-only 11 in the last 20 years. I’m not making a case that Damon or Vizquel should be in the Hall, just that 3000 hits is still a long way to go given the the current range of seasonal performance.

  35. 111

    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

    • 114
      Ed says:

      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.

      • 117

        Football and basketball have Halls of Fame? 🙂

      • 124
        Lawrence Azrin says:


        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).

        • 127
          Ed says:

          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 “is Peyton Manning really a great quarterback or does he just appear that way because he has a great offensive line/receivers”. Sure, you get some of that with pitchers but I think it’s easier to tease out the effects.

          And the basketball hall of fame is just odd. It includes your college career. And there’s no requirement to have played in the NBA so you get women and foreign players elected. Hard to have much of a conversation under those circumstances.

          (I wrote this is a hurry and I’m not sure I made much sense but hopefully the basic gist came through).

        • 131
          Lawrence Azrin says:

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

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

  36. 115
    topper009 says:

    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 the plate and walk more because his .290+ batting average wasn’t getting it done?

    Even today managers put fast guys who never walk in the 1-2 spots in the order because they learned baseball during Brock’s days. So, should we be accounting for this as a part of his era in the same way we would not penalize Ty Cobb for only hitting 117 HRs?

    A parallel might be that say after years of number crunching someone figures out it is better for a quarterback to fumble than take a sack (just an example…we now know that batting average is basically meaningless and OBP rules, something that probably would have been considered nearly as ridiculous to a 60s baseball fan). Currently no one knows that so no one does it, so would it be fair to say Peyton Manning was overrated because he took too many sacks and didn’t fumble enough?

    Then one of us future old guys would come in and say in Manning’s day he was considered the best and a sure HOFer and some kid would tell us according to the numbers Manning was overrated, then he would list out all the numbers as proof that he was correct and make fun of us for not having a flying car.

  37. 116

    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 Juan Pierre in his prime and make a whole career out of it. You have Lou Brock.

    As for Cobb… you can be incredibly valuable without hitting home runs. Ichiro has been doing it for a while. Cobb is such a good hitter that he doesn’t need home runs. Plus, Cobb hit 295 triples. That’s 221 home runs right there. Nobody hits triples anymore. They’re home runs now.

    What’s interesting is that you essentially ask what to do if a Hall of Famer is inducted based on what is valued at the time. Should he no longer be considered a Hall of Famer? It’s a great question. I don’t think the Hall of Fame should kick people out. But I do think we need to acknowledge when we get smarter about these things.

    • 128
      Timmy Pea says:

      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 and a United Nations approved birth name.

      • 130

        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.

        • 134
          Michael E Sullivan says:

          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.

          • 147
            kds says:

            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. Only off by about 250%. Should we take anything you say seriously?

        • 138
          Timmy Pea says:

          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.

    • 129
      Lawrence Azrin says:


      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.

      • 132
        Timmy Pea says:

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

        • 136
          Hartvig says:

          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 since he played on the low end of the defensive spectrum I do have a lot of issues with dWAR and how it’s used. I used an example earlier of Dale Murphy being much more worthy of the HOF than Jim Rice and yet their over all WAR values are very similar- Murphy’s career WAR was 44.2 and Rice’s was 41.5 and that’s almost entirely attributable to Rice having a career dWAR of + 2.3 and Murphy having a dWAR of MINUS! 4.5.

          And that’s just wrong.

          Murphy was an excellent center fielder (and I did get to see him play a lot on TBS) while Rice was a decent left fielder who moved to DH the moment he couldn’t get it done in the field anymore. To somehow punish Murphy for playing a more demanding position and more games in the field just doesn’t pass the smell test as being either fair or logical.

          I also think we are short changing Brock in many ways with the arguments we are using against him. Yes he made a lot of batting outs. He also had more plate appearances than anyone else during that time frame. He got thrown out stealing a fair amount. But it was in an era when runs were harder to come by and there were a lot fewer home runs plus when he got on base he altered how defenses were set up, much to the benefit of the people hitting behind him plus he single-handedly had more to do with how much pitchers have altered and shortened their deliveries since the early ’60’s than any other player. He didn’t get on base as often as Henderson or Raines who came after him. But for his era he was on-base and in scoring position more often than any other lead off hitter.

          • 139
            Ed says:

            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. I know people don’t like accepting that, but plenty of analysis have shown it to be true. Leadoff hitter isn’t a position anymore than batting 7th is a position.

          • 140

            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 at catcher and first base. He has -48 TZ runs overall, but was just -5 in the outfield.

          • 142
            Ed says:

            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?

          • 144

            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).


          • 145
            Ed says:

            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.

          • 149
            kds says:

            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.

      • 133

        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 different ways. I wasn’t trying to compare them as players.

  38. 118
    topper009 says:

    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 putting as many balls in play as possible, but Brock was excelled at it.

    If Pierre played in the 70s he would not have made the majors because he would have had to complete against hundreds of other guys with his same game style. (If Ichiro played in the 70s he would have won 3-4 MVPs) Today, Pierre is a rare bread which is unfortunately still overvalued by managers so he hangs around the league, but everyone knows that the OBP and SLG he gives up to get a lot of singles is a big knock on him. In Brock’s day every player would trade anything to get 200 hits with a .300 BA, but only 31 guys ever did it during his career and only 16 did it more than once.

    Seasons with 200+ hits, BA of .299+ from 1961-1979:
    Rose 9
    Garvey 5
    Brock 4
    Carew 4
    Clemente 4
    Garr 3
    B Williams 3

    For the era that is a very strong group of mostly HOFers who were all very highly respected in their time. Many players tried for these numbers but only the best from the generation reached them, and the best players from a generation make the HOF.

  39. 121

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  40. 126
    Joe R. says:

    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 of the other tangential players involved in both deals.)

    It’s not surprising the Cubs believed a similar result was possible, even likely when they traded Brock. Brock had conclusively shown he couldn’t handle center field, had not hit particlularly well and was blocked in left field by Billy Williams.

  41. 135
    birtelcom says:

    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 player in either league with more then 10 World Series SBs was Eddie Collins, who had 14 WS SBs in 17 attempts).

    33 players (in either league) have more than 10 career PAs in World Series Game Sevens. Among those 33 guys, the top Game Seven OPS numbers are:

    1. Lou Brock 1.357
    2. Lonnie Smith 1.321
    3. Phil Rizzuto 1.045
    4. Clete Boyer 1.000
    5. Yogi Berra .973

    If a guy is somewhat below HOF level based on his career regular season play but has a multi-season World Series career on his record that is one of the greatest of all-time, how much additional HOF credit should that World Series record legitimately and appropriately grant him?

  42. 141
    Andy says:

    140 comments…geez. I seem to have hit a nerve.

    • 143

      I mean, what challenges the conventional wisdom of baseball more than saying a 3000 hit man who was the all time stolen base leader shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame? 🙂

  43. 148

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  44. 150
    Mike L says:

    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 to modern conventional wisdom, but what we do know is that what Brock did was highly valued at the time he did it.

    • 151
      Hartvig says:

      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.

    • 157
      John Autin says:

      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 be treated as a purely sabermetric notion.

      • 217
        Steven says:

        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.

    • 161
      kds says:

      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.

      • 220
        Lawrence Azrin says:


        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.

  45. 159

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  46. 162
    Mike L says:

    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 was great. Sabermetrics are wonderful in unearthing undervalued players (in a HOF context, Santo’s and Blyleven’s candidacies) and comparing contemporary players. But when we go down the road of telling people that they weren’t smart enough to understand that what they were seeing with their own eyes-and almost universally valuing-really wasn’t all that good, then we run the risk of diminishing the power of our argument.

    • 163
      Ed says:

      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 into question his value now, then that’s his fault.

      • 164
        Dr. Doom says:

        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.

        • 165
          Ed says:

          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.

          • 166
            Mike L says:

            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. But, in a low scoring era, when Brock led off with a single, stole second, went to third on a soft grounder to the second baseman, and scored on a sac fly, every single announcer and fan would nod their had and say “great player, that’s what a Lou Brock brings to the team”. I’m not saying Brock made the correct choices, but he certainly made the ones supported by the overwhelming majority of managers and fans of his era.

          • 167

            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.

          • 168
            Ed says:

            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 actual behavior. There was a slight decrease in walks in the late ’60s (likely due to the mound height) and an increase in the late ’90s (likely due to PEDs) but overall there’s been no change in walks between Brock’s time and now.

          • 170
            e pluribus munu says:

            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 for and excelling at the standards of success for his era. Lou Brock on the Hall ballot in 2012 probably would not get in (certainly not as a first-year choice), but if he’d played in the ’90s and ’00s, he’d have applied his talents differently and might have succeeded about as well. The game changes and the Hall appears differently over time – it’s part of the interest. It’s easy to understand the force of Andy’s headline and the general position Ed is taking, but that position is primarily a statistical one, not historical. One of the nice features of the approach Bill James introduced to Hall discussions was that it was interested in both dimensions (so long as Frankie Fisch didn’t get to write the history).

          • 171

            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, Hafey, Schalk, Marquard, Ferrell, Mazeroski, Kelly, Waner, and McCarthy).

            I’ve done a few related studies where I make blanket statements about none of the 63 belonging in the Hall of Fame, but of course that’s taking things too literally.

            I actually don’t have that much of a problem putting Brock in. I mean, by the metrics of the day, he was a superstar. He has 3000 hits and was the stolen base king. I don’t love his induction, but it’s not one of the 15 worst, in my opinion.

            Take a guy like Jim Rice. That one is far worse to me because WE KNEW BETTER. The science was there to say he didn’t belong. But it was ignored. It wasn’t there for Brock.

      • 202
        Lawrence Azrin says:


        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.

  47. 169
    Mike L says:

    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 80% of 1985 voters who voted for Brock on the first ballot “Brock is a dud, you guys are idiots”, it diminishes the value of the more sophisticated analysis. I’m not saying your science is wrong. And, if it makes you feel better, after reading an early Bill James Baseball Abstract that pushed the value of walks (I think through a formula he called “total average”) I wrote him a letter questioning the equating of walks to hits. He wrote me back (Lawrence, KS, postmark, I think) basically telling me I didn’t know what I was talking about. Both letters were machine-typed. I’m saving his original. I expect one day I can auction it off to help pay for retirement?

    • 174
      Ed says:

      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.

      • 184
        Mike L says:

        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 (a heartbreaker) his two other Series appearances, and the Game of The Week. Those are my memories of him, and at the time people really thought of him as terrific player and the Ernie Broglio trade a little like Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas. He got MVP votes ten times in a thirteen year period. I completely agree with John A that 3000 hits was the icing on the cake for HOF voters. But back to Ed’s point about the possible misuse of sabermetrics. Brock was an exciting, well regarded player, who starred in the post season in a notable way, broke the stolen base record, and got 3000 hits. To the voters at that time, he was a pretty obvious Hall of Famer. When we come back in 30 years later and tell those voters, that based on our analysis, he just wasn’t all that good, we deny that first hand experience. And that causes them to question our “science” These debates are great for intellectual exercises, but, in my opinion, they don’t build a public relations case for broader acceptance of advanced stats the way finding hidden value amongst less-heralded players does. That may not be scientific, it may not even be rational, but people do not like pleasing memories to be debunked.

        • 185
          Ed says:

          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).

    • 180
      Lawrence Azrin says:

      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 show how Batting Average was not very usefull in evaluating batting performance, give Boswell credit for that.

  48. 172
    John Autin says:

    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 opinion, the main reason Brock made the HOF so easily is that he had both 3,000 hits (which has been an automatic ticket so far) and the career & season SB records. Without those magic numbers, I don’t think he’d have made it.

    And since trading even 25 hits for their equivalent in walks would have kept him out of the 3,000-hit club, one could argue that Brock’s low walk rate is one of the main reasons that he’s in the HOF.

    • 173

      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.

    • 175
      Ed says:

      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.

    • 193
      e pluribus munu says:

      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 .294/.331/.457 vs. .301/.365/.410 pre-/post-July 1, but he was, again, very slow early on (on May 31, .265/.290/.380). In those years, the voting was by players, etc., not fans, and it may be that selection was a bit more reflective of current performance. (In ’70, he was .298/.352/.382 vs. .309/.368/.451 pre-/post-July 1.)

  49. 176
    Lawrence Azrin says:

    #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 their positions. Traynor gets consideration for being the best third baseman between Baker and Mathews. The rest frankly are very weak candidates; not coincidentally about half are FOFF (“Friends of Frankie Frisch” – Frisch had a lot of influence on the Veterans Committee, putting in a number of his team mates).

    * Maranville also gets HOF credit for being one the great “characters” of all-time in MLB

    • 177
      Richard Chester says:

      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?

    • 179

      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 others, but signs point to his defense being just that much better.

      • 182
        Lawrence Azrin says:

        #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 somewhat.

        This Lou Brock thread is truly “the thread that refuses to die!”

        • 183

          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)

          • 187
            Lawrence Azrin says:

            #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 Ventura don’t have any chance.

            PAUL BLAIR – while he was an all-time great defensive CFer, there’s just too way many outfielders with better qualifications to even consider him for the HOF. Again, if Tim Raines struggles to get elected, Blair has NO chance,nor should he.

            Without doing serious analytical work, I’d say that these are better-qualified (for the HOF) outfielders than Blair:

            – George Van Haltran
            – Jimmy Sheckard
            – Sherry McGee
            – George Burns
            – Terry Moore
            – Dom Dimaggio
            – Minnie Minoso
            – Vada Pinson
            – Jimmy Wynn (got NO HOF votes)
            – Tony Oliva
            – Reggie Smith
            – Ken Singleton (got NO HOF votes)
            – Bobby Bonds
            – Fred Lynn
            – Dwight Evans
            – Dave Parker
            – Dale Murphy
            – Tim Raines
            – Albert Belle
            – Ellis Burks
            – Larry Walker

          • 189
            Ed says:

            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.

          • 191
            Dr. Doom says:

            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.

          • 194
            Ed says:

            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.

  50. 186
    Timmy Pea says:

    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.

    • 190
      birtelcom says:

      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 values for these two events are are in that same general range every season.

      • 192
        Dr. Doom says:

        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:

        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.

        • 211
          Timmy Pea says:

          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. A ringing double can change a game fast and Pierre hits few of them.

          • 216
            birtelcom says:

            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 third, a double is worth exactly one base more than a single, no more and no less. With a man on first, a double will sometimes be worth two bases more than a single and sometimes just one base (a well-placed single with a man on first often results in first and third, many doubles with a man on first result in second and third). With a man on second a double always scores the runner on second but a single often scores the runners, in which case again the double is worth just one more base than a single. You can keep going through this analysis situation by situation, and you will find that most doubles are one base more valuable than a single, while some doubles are worth a bit more than that. With the bases loaded, a double often clears the bases as you say, but in most of those situations a single will score the runners from second and third and leave a first and third situation, an overall result that is just a bit less valuable than clearing the bases. In short, the results of the linear weights table are both logical and arithmetically correct.

          • 218
            Dr. Doom says:

            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 bases are loaded. But a single with the bases loaded usually scores two runs. Three runs vs. two runs is 1.5 times as much, for those scoring at home. So the reasoning holds, even in your example.

            And yes, in a scarce run environment like the one in which Brock played, that means more, because that one run means a whole lot. But WAR adjusts for that. So I don’t think it’s really a question of people underrating doubles and triples. It’s a question of ignoring the negative impact of making an out, which Brock did all the time. Look, I don’t have a problem with Lou Brock in the Hall of Fame. I just think there were a lot of LF who were better players than he.

          • 223
            Timmy Pea says:

            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 his salary.

          • 231
            birtelcom says:

            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 double and a single is roughly 50% greater than an individual extra base.

            If you want to compare me to a third-grader, at least quote me correctly.

  51. 188

    Cool, just curious. Of the three I mentioned, I like Bell the most, but not enough to be a pet case.

    I keep coming back to Bando and Boyer as the best 3B outside now.

    Wynn, Evans, Raines, and Walker are my favorites from the OF list.

    • 196
      Lawrence Azrin says:

      #188/ Adam –
      Non-researched instinctive reaction:

      Boyer might be a Veteran’s pick someday, as being comparable to Ron Santo (though not quite as good – I think Stan Hack is a more worthy choice). Bando has no shot – Brooks casts a large shadow.

      Raines will eventually be elected by the BBWAA, but will have to wait quite a while, similar to Dawson and Perez’s voting arc. Walker will get a lot of support, but fall short. Dwight Evans MIGHT have a chance with the Vet’s committee someday. Wynn has no chance.

      • 198

        As for likelihood of each occurrence, I agree.

        I think Bando and Wynn have no shot. I think Boyer probably has no shot as well. Hack, too.
        I think Evans and (perhaps) Walker have Vets committee cases.
        I think Raines will eventually get in by the BBWAA.

        • 221
          • 222
            Kahuna Tuna says:

            I’ve got a lot of charts here, but they’re very simple charts, and you’ll be able to follow along fine if you just read the numbers and keep your silly objections to yourself

            Ah, that Bill. What a sweet-talker.

          • 224
            Ed says:

            Yeah, it’s not a very good article. I just thought the timing was interesting.

          • 226
            Dave V. says:

            That is interesting timing – and I agree with you that it isn’t a very good article. Arguing that Evans is Hall of Fame worthy by comparing him to Dave Winfield, Dave Parker, Cesar Cedeno, Al Cownes and Jeff Burroughs is a very weird way to make a HOF argument IMO.

          • 227
            Dr. Doom says:

            I don’t think it’s really a bad article, per se. It’s definitely on the premise that Cesar Cedeno and Dave Parker are HOF-type-players, which of course not everyone buys into. What’s weird is that I would guess that most people who believe that about Cedeno and Parker probably ALREADY believe that Evans belongs in the Hall. I mean, Bill’s analysis was fine (I’d especially love to ‘get a dangle’ on the revised formula for Win and Loss Shares) and his writing was enjoyable enough. I’m guessing it came more out of boredom than of actually trying to convince anyone. Because I can’t really see it doing that.

          • 228
            Timmy Pea says:

            Dwight Evans? I think Bill James is 100% rignt! I read about a third of his article and he had me right away. He’s a fine writer and I like when he says things like Dave Parker was born that year; a lot of people think he’s a Hall of Fame candidate. It shows despite his love for stats, it’s not the end all.
            Also: On-base percentage is much more closely tied to scoring runs (and to winning games) than is batting average, and in the 21st century all baseball people know this. But in the 1970s very few people knew it.. I think that might be overblown. Baseball even in the 1970’s was a multi-billion dollar business and I imagine there were many folks in baseball that understood walks. I will grant you there were loudmouths in the media that might not have. A good example would be Ken “Hawk” Harelson knocking Frank Thomas for all his walks. That was in the early ’90s I know, and not the ’70’s but I imagine there was that line of thinking in the ’70’s. Great article though and I like his writing style. He is much less rigid than some of his diciples. 🙂

  52. 195
    Joe R. says:

    Reagarding Brock’s All-Star selection record, he had some pretty stiff outfield competion to beat out in the mid-60s to early-70s: Mays, Aaron, Clemente, Williams, Stargell, Flood, Carty, the Alou brothers (well, two of them), Agee, Staub, Callison, Rose, Willie Davis, Wynn, Bonds, Tolan – they all had a strong case to be made for them in various years through this period, not to mention one-year stars like Jim Hickman and Cleon Jones.

  53. 201
    Richard Chester says:

    This is a reply to post #200. Beginning in 1949 the Yankees, Giants and Dodgers began telecasting the majority of their home games. After the Giants left NY the Yankees began telecasting many road games.

    Willie Mays was great defensively but with his basket catches he made everything look easy, perhaps giving the impression of looking better than he really was.

  54. 205
    dannyc says:

    Alright everyone here is the real reason Lou Brock is in the hall of fame because we all know he couldn’t play. Here is the secret http://randylilleston.com/wordpress/?p=1498

  55. 212
    Mike Felber says:

    I have long argued that we should have a thread openly discussing which WAr version is better in what circumstances. What kinds of accomplishments & players are under or overvalued by the systems? What should we look to in order to get a better idea of things like true defensive & pitching contributions? What parts of offensive value, including base running, are under or over valued?

    Adam, while fWAR is on a different scale & is often higher, it also is frequently about the SAME as rWAR. The division for B rock is larger than usual, in terms of %, & sometimes it is larger still.

    Even to use WAR as a starting point-& if it is calculated fairly it can be more than that-we must know with a reasonable degree of certainty what systems are better when. Otherwise we are randomly picking one over another, & all the precision & complexity associated with it might be merely internal dynamics.

    • 215

      Mike, I tend to stick with rWAR/bWAR for a few reasons. First, my projects I work on need to have data back to 1871. rWAR can provide that while fWAR cannot. Also fWAR for pitching relies of FIP (what should have happened). I deal strictly with rating past performance, so I want to use what actually happened. rWAR for pitchers is just runs allowed with some adjustments (defense, strength of opponent, etc.).

      I like fWAR for projecting a pitcher’s performance, though.

      As for fWAR for hitters… in more recent years, fWAR uses UZR over TZ. But there’s still a difference beyond just the baseline. I have the feeling that this (in bold) accounts for some of the difference (this is from rWAR):

      Bat runs – This is park adjusted linear weights batting runs, using customized weights at the team level to ensure that total runs credited to players will equal the actual runs scored for that team.


  56. 229
    Mike Felber says:

    Thank you Adam. Though i just do not know which is more accurate where. So many players rank around or over 1/3 better on fWAR compared to rWAR. Some more than that, such as Brock. And many are just about the same.

    So don’t we need to figure out which is likely closer to the truth, & given what production circumstances?

    Whether WAR is a starting point or used as the major point to establish contributions, it is senseless to assess how much value a player added without discovering when to use which system, or more granularly, estimate what the “correct” # is.

    With Brock: on rWAR he is 39.1, & thus nowhere near, in peak or career value, what we would normally consider a HOF man. fWAR has him at 53.4, close in career & peak value, to worthy & if any value is accorded to his historic milestones, including his running changing the game & superb PS play, you will want to put him in.

    • 230
      kds says:

      His fWAR of 53.4 is 102nd among OFers. I would say that is strong evidence that he is not HoF quality. Among the players of his era or later he trails are; Jack Clark, Brian Downing, Jose Cruz, Brian Giles, Vlad, Abreu, Willie Davis, Bobby Bonds, Lofton, Sheffield, none of whom are in the top 50 OFers on this list, which seems to be about where the consensus dividing line between clear HoFer and “well maybe”. His fWAR may be more impressive than his rWAR, but it isn’t very impressive at all. (The WAR differences come from; about 66 runs on offense, batting and base running combined, about 39 runs in replacement level, about 8 runs in position adjustment, and there is a difference in converting runs to wins. All of the differences, in this case, serve to increase his fWAR over his rWAR.)

      • 232
        Dr. Doom says:

        I’m guessing that part of the offensive difference for Brock may be that the two websites use different park factors. That’s something I rarely hear mentioned when people are discussing the differences between the systems, but I know can sometimes have a pretty big effect on the results.

        For the most part, the two major WAR systems are close to one another for position players, with the caveat that fWAR will have a slightly higher number because of where replacement value is set. So most of the time, I don’t know that it’s even necessary to discuss which system is better. The responsible thing to do, I think, is to note it when there is a large difference, as in Brock’s case. Even so, kds is right – the 14.3 WAR with which Fangraphs credits him still only barely helps his case, so even though the numbers are drastically different, I’m not sure how much difference it makes in this instance.

  57. 233
    Mike Felber says:

    Since Brock did not have disproportionate peak value-which always should be considered as at least as important in determining greatness as career value-I agree that he falls short in either system. Only those who find the milestones important, which i think is a weak case-or value the way he help[ed change the running game, would tend to feel otherwise.

    Though Dr. Doom, the WAR system values are often very different, ever for position players. Even 10% is not insignificant, & 20 % is large, by any fair reckoning of finding more than a ballpark idea of how good a guy is. This difference is not at all uncommon. Even 1/3 or more is not rare.

    I had posted on the old B-R.com site a list of players who were weighed very differently, & some were raifly one dimensional sluggers like Stargell & Killebrew. Meaning that you do not need to throw in things like base running to have them treated very differently between the 2 systems.

    Seems to me that even if the difference is only around 10%, if you want to impartially discover how good a guy LIKELY was, you take a moment to argue why which system is at least closer to the truth.

    Even small distinctions mean a lot in assessing things like HOF worthiness. There is great effort put into each system: but ironically it seems that if you do not apply a larger/meta view to all the calculation, there is a huge risk of a final # being merely internally consistent.

    In terms of being closest to reality. Human judgement is needed beyond what #s come back, since there is zero reason to believe either system is better, or better in all circumstances of player skill & contexts such as park values.

  58. 235
    willie says:

    If Lou Brock is not inducted into the hall of fame then no one should be. He was one of the most outstanding baseball players ever. He was like the Muhammad Ali of baseball.

    • 236
      Lawrence Azrin says:


      I can think of at least 100 other baseball players who very clearly belong in the baseball HOF ahead of Lou Brock; he was closer to Ernie Shavers than Muhammed Ali.

  59. 237
    Larry says:

    Lou Brock was a lead-off hitter, and he got to second base on his own at a higher rate than almost anybody. To get to second base on your own, you have to single or walk and then steal, or you get an extra base hit. Brock excelled at this, and per plate appearance beats all but a handful. He does not beat Henderson in this regard, but I think he beats Cobb. I am not saying he was better than Cobb, but he had a special skill and very valuable to his team. WAR has its flaws, and does not capture value provided in some instances.

  60. 238
    Larry says:

    I have to correct myself. I can only find five ball players who reached second base on their own at a more frequent rate than Brock. This list includes Ty Cobb who edges Brock in this regard. The list also includes Sliding Billy Hamilton, and this one is probably suspect since stolen bases were awarded when a player advanced from first to third on a base hit in his day. The others I found are Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson and Vince Coleman, who had a shorter career relative to the others.

    It was always somewhat puzzling to me to see how many runs Brock was able to score, more runs than some players with higher OBP for their career. And scored more than some with higher stolen base percentages. It seems that some of these other players ended up languishing at first base stranded, while Brock was more adept at pushing the envelope to get into scoring position. Might have reached first base less often than some, but got to second base more often (via own hit or stolen base, not advancing on a teammate’s hit).

  61. 239
    Carl says:

    Your numbers are wrong. Nellie Fox walked 719 times in 10351 PA. That’s a ratio of 1:14.4. But that’s also deceptive because Fox got hit by so many pitches, which adds noticeably to his OBP. Secondly, Ty Cobb’s stolen base percentage was nowhere near as high as you say. They only kept track of caught stealing for about half his career. In the years the statistic was kept, Cobb’s percentage was less than 65 percent. The years it was kept tended to be later in his career when one might suppose Cobb was not as successful as frequently, but there is no way that Cobb’s career percentage was higher than Brock’s.

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