The Hall of Fame Inner Circle Project

Hi everyone,

When I’m not posting here, I can be found at Baseball: Past and Present. I’ve kicked off a project at my website today having people vote on a 50-player inner circle for the Hall of Fame, and I’d like to invite anyone who’s interested to take part. I could also use some help getting the word out.

To vote, please visit this Google form. More info about the project can be found at this post or by emailing me at

63 thoughts on “The Hall of Fame Inner Circle Project

  1. 1
    mosc says:

    50 is so limiting. I mean, look at the guys who were voted in by the BBWAA directly. I have a hard time weeding out almost anybody from that list and there are several more that I would have to say were just as good as those guys that went through other channels. Even cutting the hall in half would leave out plenty of excellent players which I don’t think was ever the intent. 50 is just unmanagable with a game like baseball with such a long history and so many varied positions.

    • 2

      Hi mosc, I hear you.

      For what it’s worth, I intentionally try to make for difficult voting decisions with my projects. I feel it makes things more interesting, though it’s certainly not meant as any slight to players who fall just short.

      I’m not trying to denigrate any players with this project. Wherever possible in general, I try to celebrate as much as I can about baseball history.

    • 21
      Michael E Sullivan says:

      Every number you could choose is limiting unless your personal estimation of who belongs is much smaller.

      No matter where and how you draw the line, there are a bunch of guys right below it who are almost as good as the last guys you have above it.

      Even the existing hall, there are guys I wouldn’t put in that I only consider a whisker below guys I would.

      And there are plenty of guys that don’t even make the hall of merit who were great players and had something worth remembering.

  2. 3
    Blandman says:

    Even though you’re only including hall members, have you considered including Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson in your list, I believe they would get some votes, even though they are not in the hall.

    • 4

      I thought about it (and I’d like to see Shoeless Joe and Rose enshrined) though I decided against it. This project is only for people who’ve already been voted in.

  3. 5
    mosc says:

    50 is such a restrictive number that I’m not even sure I WOULD vote for Pete Rose gambling stuff aside. How messed up is that?

    • 22
      Michael E Sullivan says:

      Yeah, he’d be right on my borderline too, and I’d probably not put him in over any of the guys I voted for. The only players under 76.7 career WAR I put in were Rod Carew, Nolan Ryan, Joe DiMaggio, Ozzie Smith, Jackie Robinson, Johnny Bench and Gary Carter.

      Which of those guys do I leave off for Pete? No way on Dimaggio, Robinson or Bench.

      So it’s down to Nolan Ryan, the most unhittable pitcher ever, Ozzie Smith the most spectacular defensive infielder ever, the second best Catcher of all time (s/Fisk/ if you think he’s better than Carter, I see but a hair’s breadth between them.), or Rod Carew, a guy with essentially the same WAR in 2/3 the PAs.

      And OH Crap, I need to redo my bloody ballot, because I just realized I never went back and put in any Negro League players.

      Can I get a redo Graham?

      and if so, then I have to decide which of those guys I leave off to put in Satchel and Cool Papa and Oscar Charleston, or do I leave out one of them? Am I missing somebody else as crucial?

      How about 53? Can I get 53?

      • 23

        I’d prefer if we keep the votes as-is. If I allow you to change your votes, I have to allow everyone to do so, and that could create complications. I also think a small degree of human error is to be expected in everyone’s votes and that it keeps things interesting.

        For what it’s worth, this kind of thing goes on in actual Hall of Fame voting all the time. It’s why no player, not even Ty Cobb or Babe Ruth ever got 100 percent of the vote.

      • 39

        Josh Gibson maybe.

        • 44
          Michael E Sullivan says:

          yeah, realized that seeing his name mentioned a couple times after my postings.

          weird. you have the same name as a cousin of mine. You aren’t perchance a lawyer in SF are you? If so, never knew you were a baseball fan. 🙂

  4. 6
    no statistician but says:


    I just tried to vote, and the space for name and e-mail threw me. I entered the name, then hit return for another line and zap, the ballot was sent off. You might need to clarify the instructions or enlarge the space there. I don’t know whether to re-vote, or if your site will pick up the e-mail address automatically.

    Otherwise, my comment is not exactly the opposite of mosc’s, but a different take: I went through the list picking the guys I really thought were inner circle, trying to be impartial, avoiding players like Eddie Plank, for whom I have an irrational positive attachment, keeping a high general standard—Koufax’s peak was great, but his career was too short and half of that was mediocre—and recognizing special accomplishment: Jackie Robinson, Old Hoss Radbourn. When I was done I had 47 players selected. The additional three were the hard ones.

  5. 9
    Nick Pain says:

    I was daunted by the idea of going trying to compare every Hall of Famer without any criteria other than coming up with 50, so I decided to go by position, 5 at each of the 9. That obviously is only 45, so I went with 5 Negro League players. I was pretty pleased with the list I compiled.

    • 19
      PP says:

      not a bad strategy, actually, I did consciously pick 4 catchers, but are there 5 inner circle 2Bs?

      • 30
        Nick Pain says:

        Like much of say players 30-75, you could make a decent argument for them being in the circle of 50. I would say Hornsby is a lock, and I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to add Collins, Lajoie, and Morgan, all of whom are in the top 30 in career WAR. My fifth was Gehringer, though that could be Biggio in a few years.

  6. 11
    Brent says:

    I get why you limited to current HOF players, but it caused a problem for my methodology, because I was going to pick 4 at each infield position, 12 outfielders and 18 pitchers. The problem with this method is that when I started at 1st base and after I clicked Gehrig and Foxx, my next two choices were Thomas and Pujols, and I cannot pick them. I guess I will rethink my method.

  7. 13
    Tmckelv says:

    I just submitted.

    This was not easy. Tough decisions were made.

  8. 14
    Scott says:

    Wow. This was much harder than I imagined. At first it was simple because there are some guys out there that are no brainers. But then it started to get tough and well, you get the idea. But I will say that was quite fun.

  9. 15
    Jimbo says:

    I chose 39 quickly. Now I need to figure out who the last 11 will be.

  10. 16
    Jimbo says:

    I did what I felt was 50, but I felt I might’ve been off. I assumed I would get some sort of error response if I had 49 or 51 or whatever, but it went through. Out of curiosity, what happens if you choose an amount that isn’t 50 and then click submit?

  11. 17
    PP says:

    I left out a few pretty good players, hah, but inner circle to me means like 30, starting with Ruth and ending with…?

  12. 24
    Phil says:

    First 25 were easy; second half took me 10-15 minutes. I didn’t look at numbers, else it would have taken four times as long. So I know my second 25 has some names who are indefensible in terms of WAR. It was more like…”Well, Brooks Robinson casts such a large shadow over the game, I feel like he should be one of the 50.” Exactly the kind of thinking sites like this one are working hard to eliminate!

    • 25
      Phil says:

      I took a quick look, and I think 33 of my picks are in the top 50 for career WAR. But…this is embarrassing…I think I accidentally left off Musial. I don’t want to open up a whole Pandora’s Box of people requesting changes, but if I’m right, maybe Graham can fix that. (I guess I’d have to give you a name for deletion.)

      • 47
        PP says:

        I didn’t pick him up until my 3rd time down the list and had to say bye to Kaline. He’s inner-inner cicle…

    • 37
      Michael E Sullivan says:

      you know, I think that kind of thinking is totally reasonable once you get past the top of the top in WAR and into the guys who are more borderline, and as long as you are lifting guys up who are *clear* current HoFers.

      So for instance, I pulled Nolan Ryan and Ozzie Smith in over some other guys largely based on their uniquely impressive aiblities in particular areas. The next guy I would have put in on based on similar reasoning would have been brooks robinson, but he was behind those other guys in WAR, didn’t have a prime case over them, nor did I think his shadow/unique ability was *more* impressive than theirs, so he just missed my cut.

      My basic algorithm was to start with the top 50 WAR guys, and then edit from there. That left 75.8 WAR as the cutoff for #50 Dan Brouthers. (we have to ignore the 14 guys not eligible or not in who are above that WAR line). Since my mind, like everyone elses, tends to gravitate to round numbers as Schelling points, that seemed to suggest, modulo extreme considerations, 80 WAR as a good automatic in point, and about 70 WAR as good automatic out point, with everybody in between as worth picking and choosing by how important they seemed or what kind of peak they had.

      Now there were some other key adjustments I had to make.

      My own personal belief is that in the early pro era, and pretty much the whole time before desegregation it was easier for the top guys to acquire WAR because the replacement level was much weaker than in the modern era.

      So I considered anybody in the 80-100 WAR range who played most of their career before desegregation to be potentially suspect. If I didn’t know their name well before I started digging into baseball stats deeply, and there was nothing in their record/peak or great stories to suggest that I should have known them as well as Ruth, Hornsby, Wagner, et al. — I dropped them. Casualties from this decision were Dan Brouthers, Charlie Gehringer, John Clarkson, George Davis, Roger Connor, Tim Keefe, and Eddie Plank. Great players all, but I am not convinced they were really better than the sub 75 WAR players who took their places, and certainly not better than Jackie Robinson, the only sub 70 WAR non-catcher I voted in. My last in for pre-desegregation players were Cap Anson and Jimmie Foxx, and if I had remembered to go back for Negro league players, one or both of them would probably have missed the cut, which would have put the line at ~97 WAR with lefty grove and Christy Mathewson last in.

      So next I had to consider who wouldn’t be at the top of the WAR list that really deserved consideration. The aforementioned Jackie Robinson has to be at the top of that list, and there’s simply no way to leave him out — his peak was as good as the ~100 WAR guys, he probably would have done that well if allowed to play in the majors from the day he was good enough, and he’s arguably the most important player in the history of the game. So he is of course in.

      Now if I weren’t a dumbass, the next guys here would have been the ones who we know were great, but weren’t allowed to play *any* of their career (or prime) in MLB. Oscar Charleston, Cool Papa Bell and Satchel Paige. There’s more, and maybe I’m missing somebody who was as good as those guys, but those three were who came to my mind, and voting properly I think I would have put them all in. Would they definitely have done better than the guys they replace in a just world and for sure belong in the top 50? One small symbolic tragedy of segregation is that we’ll never know for sure. But I believe we have to give the benefit of the doubt to the players who dominated the only leagues they were allowed to play in as much as anyone ever dominated in MLB.

      Catchers was another serious consideration. There is no catcher with WAR over my 75 cutoff, and only one over the 70 WAR borderline. This is the one position I had to make exceptions for, so I put in two catchers, Johnny Bench and Gary Carter. Carlton Fisk was a tough leave off. I debated whether I should really put in 3 or even 4 catchers, but when push came to shove I had trouble displacing the last other guys I had in.
      See, I’ve already got 6 guys to replace the 7 pre-1947 players I displaced. So that leaves one more.

      Go down the WAR list from Brouthers, let’s see who we’ve got.

      The next four options are Nolan Ryan, Joe DiMaggio, Ozzie Smith and Brooks Robinson, in that order.


      Did we really not have Joe DiMaggio on there? Holy crap! Oh, I see what happened there. 3 years in his prime missed to WWII. That 75WAR would have been 93 if you can use the 3 years before and 3 after for an average. hm. You know I picked DiMaggio in my actual vote, but honestly, I’m not sure I would going again and squeezing in the Negro League players. He only played 5 years post desegregation. Which means if I’m thinking about pulling Foxx and Anson, I gotta consider pulling Joltin’ Joe as well. Whoda thunk it, but he’s a borderliner in this hall for me. I think the fact that he was still a star level player in his mid 30s after 1947 tips him over those other two, so he’s either my last in or last out from that group, and I’ll be weighing him against the other guys I put in on my real ballot:

      Nolan Ryan and Ozzie Smith.

      Sorry Joe, you can’t go in over those two. Each of them was on of the kind, the best in history at an important aspect of the game and casts a long shadow.

      And I’m still leaving out Brooks Robinson who is close to those them in both WAR and importance.

      So that’s two guys that seem to miss the cut that I really want to put in: Joe D and Brooks. So who else is at the bottom of my WAR list that they could displace?

      There’s three guys under 80 WAR that are still on my list and don’t have the kind of intangibles of the guys I want to put in. They are Rod Carew, Robin Roberts and Fergie Jenkins.

      I think I go with DiMaggio and Robinson over any of these guys. So my next choice is which of these three to take: Pitchers get a raw deal in the current hall with some of my inner circlers and potentials (blyleven, Jenkins) actually being considered borderline by the BBWAA. So I gotta say goodbye to Rod, even though he too is much better than his rep as a slap hitter suggests.

      Robin or Fergie? That is the question. These guys are so close it’s not funny. I went with Ferguson but I could go either way.

      In my actual vote, to my great embarrassment, I left off the three negro league players. left in Cap anson and Jimmie Foxx, and left out Brooks Robinson, so I ended up taking Carew and Roberts. But on reflection I put Robinson ahead of all these other borderline players, he should have been on my ballot.

  13. 26
    Jason Z says:

    tough tough tough.

    I got it to 52. Didn’t know who to remove. I ended up
    taking down Cool Papa Bell and Josh Gibson. Leaving me
    with zero Negro Leaguers.

    • 27
      no statistician but says:

      Jason Z:

      Negro League players are in the Hall of Fame on the basis of hearsay and anecdote, by and large, which is not to say that they wouldn’t have made it if they’d been allowed into the organized power structure—but they weren’t. So, actually, without more compelling evidence than the very spotty Negro League Records and the reports of observers, I think you have to be agnostic about their place in the inner circle. We know what Babe Ruth or Steve Carlton accomplished against big league competition. We only have a few reports, usually by enthusiasts, about the occasional performance of someone like Gibson, for instance, in a few exhibition games against that competition. I don’t think it’s enough to base an informed decision on, and informed decisions are what Graham is looking for, I’d say.

      • 29
        John Autin says:

        nsb — It’s true that we have incomplete and imperfect records from the Negro Leagues, the various winter leagues where those same players starred year in and year out, and the various barnstorming competitions in which they competed against white stars.

        But I think that dismissing as “anecdote and hearsay” the opinions of dozens of respected MLB stars and managers, as well as white reporters, on the subject of top Negro Leagues stars such as Josh Gibson and Oscar Charleston, is like saying that the Great Wall isn’t so great unless you know just how long and tall it is.

        What do you think of the following point Bill James made in the course of explaining his rankings of Charleston and Gibson as #4 and #9 all-time, respectively?–

        “The Negro Leagues [] produced 5 of the [consensus] top 100 in seven years in their death spasms” — Mays, Aaron, Robinson, Banks and Campanella. “If those leagues could produce five players like that in seven years, what about the previous forty?”

        Also, isn’t there an implicit bias in the statement that “we know what Babe Ruth [] accomplished against big league competition”? Unless you think that all of the world’s finest baseball players were in the Major Leagues at that time, is it really fair to draw such a bright line between the AL/NL as “big league” and the Negro Leagues as not?

        I, too, would prefer to base a HOF inner circle on more than inference. But if the choice is between omitting the very best of the pre-integration Negro Leagues, or using reasonable inferences — such as the one that argues from the pace and breadth of black players’ rise to the top ranks of MLB once the doors were opened, to reach the conclusion that the top black stars were likely always at the same level as the top whites — in order to see past the gaps in objective measurement that were caused by segregation, then I’ll go with the inferences.

        • 32
          PP says:

          I picked Gibson, Charleston, and Bell, thinking just on %s that some of those guys would have been among the greatest ever, don’t know really though

        • 33
          no statistician but says:


          I went through your line of reasoning myself as I was voting, but I also had some other thoughts: what if Ray Chapman hadn’t been killed? What if several payers hadn’t lost time to World War II? What if George Sisler hadn’t suffered the eye problem that undermined his excellence? Some people will have Koufax among their top fifty, but I passed because he was only great for half a short career, and that isn’t enough, given the competition. “Hearsay and anecdote” are too harsh and I regret my word choice, but if the task is to pick the best, even the “opinions of dozens of respected MLB stars and managers as well as white reporters” and the considerable reasoning powers of Bill James don’t provide true grounds for comparison. I don’t doubt the excellence of Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleston, and several others, but I left many other excellent players off my ballot for reasons I could justify to myself even if you or someone else wouldn’t agree. I think, as I said in my previous post, that without sufficient statistical evidence it’s better to be an agnostic in the matter.

          I expect to be in the minority, perhaps of one, on this issue. And it’s ironic that I’m the one pressing for verifying statistics, given my handle and opinions, but I can only go with my own reasoning powers, however weak they may be.

          • 34

            In Sisler’s .400 seasons, he batted .473 and .445 at home.


          • 35
            John Autin says:

            nsb, I respect your position, and I recognize that there are lots of excellent players who were deprived of the chance to amass HOF-caliber numbers by a variety of circumstances beyond their control. Applying the inferential standard fairly across the spectrum is a challenge.

            I’ll admit that I got charged up over the “hearsay” phrase. Absent that, we’re left with a mere difference of opinion, and that’s fine with me.

          • 45
            MatthewC says:

            Of course, statistics are only useful if they are comparable. If everyone couldn’t play, how can one truly compare? That goes for white players of MLB just as much as black players in the Negro Leagues. It is easy to compare white players to one another pre-integration, but not to compare pre-integration white players to post-integration players, white or black.

            Just 74 players have been elected to the HOF who played MLB only after Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby integrated the game in 1947. These 74 players represent the best of those who played a game in which the league as a whole (setting aside the shameful Boston Red Sox) was at least nominally open to fielding the best available talent.

            I picked my 50 from this pool of 74, not to denigrate the achievements of Ruth and Young and Johnson, but to acknowledge that integration changed the game too much to allow for effective comparison. If one must choose, then I choose to select from the largest pool of comparable talent.

          • 46
            no statistician but says:


            Sisler batted a mere .393 away in 1922. Out of curiosity I looked up Hornsby’s record for the same years as a kind of check on park factor, since the Cards and Browns both played in Sportsman’s Park. Hornsby’s percentages don’t show much consistency, home and away, or not until AFTER 1922, when he suddenly starts to go crazy at home. During all those years, by the way, Sportsman’s is rated as a pitcher’s park by Baseball-ref.


            Message read. Thanks.

      • 36
        Jason Z says:

        That is why I removed them, and when I did it
        left me with 50. So it worked out fine.

        It is very difficult to compare a Negro Leaguer
        with an MLB player of the same time.

        The exhibition games betwenn the two were probably more entertainment and not reliable as a fair comparison.

  14. 28
    MikeD says:

    Easy to to quickly list 40, also easy to get to the next level and quickly have 60. The issue was cutting back to an even 50 and deciding who gets cut. I have to say that in order to make the cut I did not vote for a single player from Negro Leagues. I believe that Josh Gibson would have been one of the best players, but it’s hard for me to cast a vote for a non-MLB player, or even Satchel who did play in the Majors, but at the end.

    Other than that, it’s not easy to click and unclick on players, while ensuring you have exactly 50 listed. I believe your rules said no ballots will be counted with less than 50. I hope I counted right. It would be great if there was a warning before submission.

    Should be interesting to see where you end!

  15. 38
    topper009 says:

    This sort of already exists as the top 50 in the ELO rater, although that splits batters and pitchers

    • 41

      Well, it kind of exists with the Hall of wWAR, too. 🙂

      Here’s what wWAR picks (the new version based on B-R’s WAR update that I still have to publish):

      160.6 Johnny Bench c
      147.2 Gary Carter c

      216.5 Lou Gehrig 1b
      173.0 Jimmie Foxx 1b
      170.7 Cap Anson 1b
      144.9 Dan Brouthers 1b
      143.9 Roger Connor 1b

      248.0 Rogers Hornsby 2b
      210.8 Eddie Collins 2b
      178.2 Nap Lajoie 2b
      159.9 Joe Morgan 2b
      125.9 Charlie Gehringer 2b

      178.7 Mike Schmidt 3b
      154.8 Eddie Mathews 3b
      144.4 Wade Boggs 3b
      135.3 George Brett 3b

      240.1 Honus Wagner ss
      144.7 Cal Ripken ss
      125.2 George Davis ss

      229.9 Ted Williams lf
      224.8 Stan Musial lf
      176.0 Rickey Henderson lf
      143.2 Carl Yastrzemski lf

      287.5 Willie Mays cf
      268.7 Ty Cobb cf
      235.7 Tris Speaker cf
      190.7 Mickey Mantle cf
      123.7 Joe DiMaggio cf

      371.6 Babe Ruth rf
      245.3 Hank Aaron rf
      172.2 Mel Ott rf
      156.8 Frank Robinson rf
      146.4 Roberto Clemente rf
      131.4 Al Kaline rf

      309.3 Walter Johnson p
      271.6 Cy Young p
      211.5 Pete Alexander p
      196.3 Christy Mathewson p
      192.0 Lefty Grove p
      182.5 Kid Nichols p
      174.1 Tom Seaver p
      152.0 Bob Gibson p
      149.3 Warren Spahn p
      142.1 Phil Niekro p
      139.9 Eddie Plank p
      138.7 Bert Blyleven p
      133.2 Gaylord Perry p
      133.2 Steve Carlton p
      130.3 Robin Roberts p
      122.8 Fergie Jenkins p

      Is that what I’m going with? Nope. But it’s my starting point.

      • 42
        PP says:

        I thought it was more fun not to look at WAR, though I was tempted to several times, there’s a bunch of guys on that list I didn’t pick, starting with Carter, Brouthers, Connor, and Gehringer…

        • 43

          Yeah, I thought I’d deviate from it more than I did. Looks like I’m leaving off:


          and adding

          JRobinson (All that without his peak years?)
          Fisk (Too light on catchers… he was damn good. I like Carter, too.)
          Feller (Missed probably a good 25 WAR to… well, war)

      • 51
        Baltimorechop says:

        This actually eneded up being very close to mine.


        J. Robinson

        I consider Arky better than Ripken and Davis, and couldn’t leave off Jackie Robinson who probably missed some of his best years but still had amazing numbers.

        Looked long and hard at Koufax, but realized his four year peak (34.9 pitch War, 33.7 total war) was pretty much matched by Robin Roberts (33.5 pitch, 33.9 total) and Rube Waddell (36.7 pitch, 35.7 total) and Marichal (32.1 pitch, 33.9 total). I couldn’t justify Koufax as enough of a dominate period to dub him top 50. (Also, this is why i left Roberts in, when I did consider dropping him).

        Wanted to add Fisk, couldn’t do it. Really thought about Feller & Mize considering their totals and missed years.

        Other close calls were Clarkson (1800s pitching), Keefe (1800s + AA + PL), Carew (opted for Robinson). I just looked at MLB players, obviously.

  16. 48
    Tmckelv says:

    Using WAR to determine the top 50 is dangerous. Maybe use it for the top 15 or so to ensure you get the guys with really high WAR. But then it gets a little dangerous. If you decided beforehand to have 15 pitchers (for example), Bert Blyleven would fit EASILY in there if you go by WAR (9th out of the HOF pitchers).

    I supported Blyleven for the HOF but, to me, it would be strange to see a guy that barely made the Hall (less than 80% in his 14th year of voting) get into the inner circle.

    • 49

      Just to be clear:

      – I didn’t use WAR. I used WEIGHTED WAR, a version I’ve been working on for a couple years specifically for ranking Hall of Fame cases.

      – I didn’t use WAR to determine the list. I used it as my starting point.

      – Regarding Blyleven, so many fought for him because they believed he WAS inner circle material. This was the frustrating part. In my group of final five cuts was Ron Santo. Same thing. Just because it took so long doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve it. It means a lot of people made the wrong decision.

      • 52
        Tmckelv says:

        I know you didn’t use WAR. I said “WAR”.

        I didn’t say “wWAR”.

        Apparently we have a difference of opinion on Blyleven and his worthiness of the inner circle. There is no problem with that.

        I see the inner circle as a place reserved for players where “a lot of people” CAN’T POSSIBLY make “the wrong decision”. But again that is just my opinion, and admittedly I might be way off.

        • 53

          Ah, sorry about the WAR/wWAR thing.

          Regarding Blyleven, many in the baseball world clearly have very different feelings about him.

          Another example might be Phil Niekro. I don’t expect him to do well in this exercise, though I do expect him to do better than Blyleven (because he won 300 and Bert did not). It feels like there’s a perception that Niekro is only thought of as great because he lasted long enough to win 300. That’s just not right. Niekro was a great pitcher—one of the best of all time.

          Overall, I think pitcher valuation is way off. When it seems guys like Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling aren’t slam dunks for the Hall, there’s a big problem.

          Regarding the inner circle… if that’s the definition (“a lot of people” CAN’T POSSIBLY make “the wrong decision”), then I think 50 is too many. I think 30-40 would be better.

          • 54
            topper009 says:

            Niekro is quite the compiler, 8th in WAR (since 1901) but 39th in WAR/IP

            Players with 50 WAR since 1901:

            # WAR/100IP Player
            1 2.92 Pedro Martinez
            2 2.71 Roger Clemens
            3 2.63 Lefty Grove
            4 2.52 Johan Santana
            5 2.45 Walter Johnson
            6 2.42 Roy Halladay
            7 2.38 Randy Johnson
            8 2.36 Curt Schilling
            9 2.19 Mike Mussina
            10 2.19 Bret Saberhagen
            11 2.17 Pete Alexander
            12 2.16 Sandy Koufax
            13 2.11 Tom Seaver
            14 2.09 Cy Young
            15 2.04 Dazzy Vance
            16 2.01 David Cone
            17 2.01 Ed Walsh
            18 2.00 Kevin Appier
            19 2.00 Bob Gibson
            20 1.98 Greg Maddux
            21 1.98 Kevin Brown
            22 1.97 Stan Coveleski
            23 1.96 Rube Waddell
            24 1.95 Tim Hudson
            25 1.92 Christy Mathewson
            26 1.90 Urban Shocker
            27 1.86 Hal Newhouser
            28 1.85 Dave Stieb
            29 1.82 Bert Blyleven
            30 1.82 Eddie Plank
            31 1.82 Rick Reuschel
            32 1.82 Carl Hubbell
            33 1.80 John Smoltz
            34 1.78 Dennis Eckersley
            35 1.77 Luis Tiant
            36 1.74 Andy Pettitte
            37 1.72 Fergie Jenkins
            38 1.70 Chuck Finley
            39 1.70 Phil Niekro
            40 1.67 Don Drysdale
            41 1.66 Eddie Cicotte
            42 1.66 Juan Marichal
            43 1.65 Robin Roberts
            44 1.64 Warren Spahn
            45 1.64 Gaylord Perry
            46 1.63 Mordecai Brown
            47 1.60 Jim Palmer
            48 1.60 Whitey Ford
            49 1.57 Tom Glavine
            50 1.57 Bob Feller
            51 1.51 Red Faber
            52 1.51 Billy Pierce
            53 1.51 Jim Bunning
            54 1.51 Steve Carlton
            55 1.46 Ted Lyons
            56 1.44 Nolan Ryan
            57 1.38 Jerry Koosman
            58 1.36 Jack Quinn
            59 1.26 Frank Tanana
            60 1.21 Tommy John
            61 1.19 Don Sutton
            62 1.19 Eppa Rixey

          • 56
            no statistician but says:


            Seven of the top ten in your list pitched have pitched in the last ten years. Are they that much better? Really? Or does this fact reveal a design flaw in WAR that favors the more modern skills over the skills of pitchers of earlier times.

            Gosh all Hemlock, Walter Johnson and Lefty Grove must be good if they can put up stats like Mike Mussina and Johan Santana!

          • 57

            See, calling Niekro a compiler, to me, just isn’t fair.

            Yes, he’s 8th all time in WAR and then 39th in WAR per 100 IP. Does that have to mean he’s a compiler? I mean, 39th all time! That’s still Hall of Fame level!

            Is he expected to be 8th in both WAR and WAR/100 IP? If that was the case, he’d be a 127 WAR pitcher.

            He’s got a Hall of Fame WAR RATE. The fact that he threw so many innings just means he has more career WAR than he would have with a typical workload. But he would have still been a Hall of Fame-level pitcher if he threw 33% fewer innings.

            I’ve been using Wins Above Average lately to weed out compilers. That cuts all the “value” pitchers are rewarded for pitching in between the league average level and replacement level. This “value”, perhaps, shouldn’t even be included when discussing a Hall of Fame candidacy.

            Niekro was worth 50 wins above AVERAGE. The two pitchers ahead of him on the rate list are Chuck Finley and Fergie Jenkins. They were worth 28.6 WAA and 42.3 WAA, respectively.

            Niekro wasn’t a compiler. He pithed at a Hall of Fame level for an extremely long time. That doesn’t make him a compiler. That makes him a Hall of Famer with longevity.

            You want compilers? That’d be:

            Tommy John
            56.9 WAR
            22.0 WAA

            Jim Kaat
            40.4 WAR
            8.0 (!) WAA

            Joe Niekro
            25.3 WAR
            -2.4 WAA (!!!)

            I just can’t call a player as valuable as Phil Niekro a “compiler”.

        • 55
          Michael E Sullivan says:

          that makes sense to me, but I think applying that consistently will either leave you with only 30-40 players, or it will have you reaching down for guys who are, to me, *clearly* not as good as Blyleven, but whose greatness is just more obvious to a casual fan, or to someone who insists on looking only at pre-Bill James stats often solely because of luck (better run support, what park they played in, etc.)

          To my mind, taking that position is basically committing yourself to any mistake that a lot of people are making.

          Here’s what I realized when I started making that list.

          50 players includes guys I don’t automatically think of as “oh yeah, inner circle for sure.”

          The real hall has 200 players, but almost half of them are below the line that I (and most others today) are using to decide whether new guys belong in. So the hall of merit project has dozens of great players that the writers gave no thought to on the ballot, and that never got or get any serious support from the sabre community either. The guys we think of as the “hall of very good”.

          The guys getting pushed hard by many on this site and others are guys like Tim Raines, Kenny Lofton, Alan Trammel, Lou Whitaker, Ron Santo, Larry Walker, Kevin Brown — guys in the mid 60s to 70s WAR range — top 100 players according to the sabre viewpoint. And even the people who push somebody like Jack Morris are doing it because they think he is actually a better choice than these guys I’m saying are top 100 players.

          Blyleven was the most egregious almost mis-selection I’ve seen. And the *reason* that he was so egregious, is that he was not just a clear HoFer, not just better than *half* the guys already in, but because he was arguably inner-circle level: top 25% of pitchers in the hall. Maybe you don’t think he is, maybe you do, but that’s why so many of us were apoplectic about his failure to be elected on the first few ballots. He’s better (IMO) than a couple guys who went first ballot with 90%+ of the vote.

          Honestly I didn’t really think of him as “inner circle” until I thought about this project. The reason? because my normal understanding of “inner circle” is 25-30 guys, not 50. and with that understanding, I can see why you’d both leave him out, and also why you’d say that anybody who a large group of people wouldn’t even put in the current hall doesn’t really belong.

          But when I tried to put *50* players down, when I saw who my choices were in the 40-45 range, there was no question in my mind that the Dutchman belonged on this list.

  17. 50
    Jimbo says:

    I put Blyleven in my top 50, seemed like an easy choice. I can’t remember if I put Santo in.

    I didn’t look at WAR, I’ve looked at those tables and lists enough over the year to get the picture. If I made any homers, it would’ve been leaving off some old timer that’s pretty forgotten. I’m pretty sure I didn’t put Eddie Collins on, for example. I also left Cap Anson off out of random spite.

  18. 58
    Hartvig says:

    I love this kind of stuff but I’ve been too busy to give it the thought it deserves. Tonight I whipped up a list and I’m sure that tomorrow I’ll be wondering just what I was thinking in some of the selections I had to make. I find 50 way too restrictive, even for the inner circle. Leaving out guys like Brooks Robinson or Charlie Gehringer or Harmon Killebrew or Paul Warner is just too narrow a list for me.

    My starting point was to pick 4 players at each position (including left, right & center in the outfield), 8 pitchers and 4 Negro League and then make adjustments from there. I strongly discounted pre-1900 performance and slightly discounted pre-WWII, My only concession to playing favorites was to pick Al Kaline over Clemente and Warner. If my memory is right I wound up with 12 pitchers, 5 Negro League players and I think the position with the most selections wound up being center field with 6

    • 59
      bstar says:

      Yeah, I’m late to the party on this one too, Hartvig. I think tonight I will just set up parameters about how and why I’m going to pick who I pick.

      For one, I’m not going to look at position much at all. I fully expect off the top of my head to only pick 2 catchers for my list but that’s because I truly believe only those 2 are among the 50 greatest players in baseball history. Bill James talked once about the dearth of catchers in Cooperstown and said that maybe, just maybe, there weren’t that many backstops enshrined because they rarely were the best players on their team growing up. They weren’t the best athletes, so it’s just rarer to find a catcher who’s also a great all-time player than it is a player at other positions.

      At least, that’s what I’m telling myself now.

      • 60
        Hartvig says:

        Actually my 4 at each position was just the starting point, bstar. I did wind up with that many players at every position but only because I included Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard at catcher and first base.

        I look at catcher from almost the opposite perspective. Guys like Jimmy Foxx, Rudy York, Gil Hodges, Dale Murphy and Craig Biggio weren’t good enough to cut it as catchers but put up near Hall of Fame or better numbers at less demanding positions. But I don’t know that that’s the right take on it either.

        Truth is, as I look at the selections that I made I’m already having a lot of doubts about them. Even with Wagner and Young as the only players who made my cut who played before 1900 I still had just a couple of handfuls who retired after 1980 make the cut and I think only Ripken and Henderson who would have played in the current century. If players have gotten better over time, even if it’s just a little bit, then that seems like it should be different.

        • 63
          Michael Sullivan says:

          problem is, most of the great players who have played in the current century weren’t eligible for this list.

          I can think of 6 guys off the top of my head who will displace 6 of my 50 the day they become eligible for this list, if/when they do: Bonds, Arod, Pedro, Randy Johnson, Clemens, Maddux. I’m gonna guess there are a couple more if I think on it some.

          That’ll put a lot more players from the 90s/2000s on my list than are there right now.

  19. 61
    PP says:

    One of my favorite quotes:

    Let me tell you about Cool Papa Bell. One time, he hit a line drive right past my ear. I turned around and saw the ball hit his rear end as he slid into second.
    Satchel Paige

  20. 62
    Luis Gomez says:

    It took me almost a whole week to come up with the 50 Inner Circle ballot. I started with a random list without thinking about any position, just the ones that i think are the greatest. I came up with only 32, after that, well, that´s what took me so long.

    While most of the ballots will include players like Ruth, Mays, Aaron, Cobb, Williams, Mathewson, et al, I think I made some interesting choices. For instance, I included Tony Gwynn, Rod Carew and Wade Boggs because there is a lot of batting titles among them and I just couldn´t overlook that. I also vote for Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige and Martin Dihigio because I think those players represent the very best of the Negro Leagues.

    As for hispanic players, after Carew and Dihigio, Roberto Clemente and Juan Marichal, in my opinion are one of the greatest at their position.

    I also included Goose Gossage, the most intimidating reliever of all time, as far as I´m concerned.

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