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 thewomack@gmail.com.

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63 Comments on "The Hall of Fame Inner Circle Project"

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mosc
Guest

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.

Michael E Sullivan
Guest

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.

Blandman
Guest

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.

mosc
Guest

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?

Michael E Sullivan
Guest
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,… Read more »
Graham Womack
Guest

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.

Dan McCloskey
Guest

That will be an interesting part of this…to see if anyone will get 100% of the vote.

Dan McCloskey
Guest

Josh Gibson maybe.

Michael E Sullivan
Guest

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. 🙂

no statistician but
Guest
Graham: 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… Read more »
Nick Pain
Guest

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.

PP
Guest

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

Nick Pain
Guest

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.

PP
Guest

now that I see your picks, I selected your first 4, forgetting Collins was a 2B

Brent
Guest

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.

Tmckelv
Guest

I just submitted.

This was not easy. Tough decisions were made.

Scott
Guest

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.

Jimbo
Guest

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

Jimbo
Guest

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?

PP
Guest

agreed, there should be a counter

PP
Guest

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

Phil
Guest

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!

Phil
Guest

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.)

PP
Guest

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…

Michael E Sullivan
Guest
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… Read more »
Jason Z
Guest

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.

no statistician but
Guest
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… Read more »
John Autin
Editor
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.… Read more »
PP
Guest

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

no statistician but
Guest
JA: 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… Read more »
Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

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

Zoinks!

John Autin
Editor

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.

MatthewC
Guest
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… Read more »
no statistician but
Guest

Voomo:

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.

JA:

Message read. Thanks.

Jason Z
Guest

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.

MikeD
Guest
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… Read more »
topper009
Guest

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

Adam Darowski
Guest
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… Read more »
PP
Guest

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…

Adam Darowski
Guest

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

Perry
Carlton
Roberts
Gehringer
Davis
Jenkins

and adding

Gibson
Charleston
Paige
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)

Baltimorechop
Guest
This actually eneded up being very close to mine. Minus: Jenkins Perry add: Vaughan 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.… Read more »
Tmckelv
Guest

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.

Adam Darowski
Guest

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.

Tmckelv
Guest

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.

Adam Darowski
Guest
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… Read more »
topper009
Guest

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

no statistician but
Guest

Topper009:

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!

Adam Darowski
Guest
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… Read more »
Michael E Sullivan
Guest
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… Read more »
Jimbo
Guest

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.

Hartvig
Guest
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… Read more »
bstar
Guest
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… Read more »
Hartvig
Guest
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… Read more »
Michael Sullivan
Guest

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.

PP
Guest

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

Luis Gomez
Guest
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… Read more »
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