Circle of Greats: 1968 Results

Deacon White, voted into the Cooperstown Hall of Fame less than two weeks ago, was professional baseball’s first “greatest-ever hitting catcher”. From 1871 through 1879, which was White’s final season before shifting to other positions, the following (after the jump) were the top career Batting WAR numbers (or as it is referred to in various places in the baseball-reference Play Index, “WAR Runs Batting”, “runs_bat”, “Rbat” or “the number of runs better or worse than average the player was as a batter”) for players who had played at least half their games at the catcher position:

1. Deacon White 152
2. John Clapp 47
3. Emil Gross 11
4. Lew Brown 5
5. Doc Kennedy 4

Not much question there about who the best-hitting catcher had been during the first decade of pro baseball league competition. So it may be fitting that just thirteen days after the announcement of Deacon White’s election, we at HHS conclude a vote that puts Mike Piazza in as the first member of the “Circle of Greats”. Let’s apply the same test as we did above, except instead of 1871-1879, let’s do those career Batting WAR numbers (again, for all players who played at least half their career games at catcher) from 1871 all the way through to today:

1. Mike Piazza 419
2. Mickey Cochrane 270
3. Johnny Bench 269
T4. Bill Dickey and Gene Tenace 262
6. Gabby Hartnett 232
7. Yogi Berra 230
8. Ernie Lombardi 211
9. Jorge Posada 206
10. Joe Mauer 195

As was true with Deacon White in the 1870s, this list suggests there is little question who has been, by the numbers, the greatest hitting catcher in the history of the major leagues, by a wide margin. Welcome, Mike Piazza, to the Circle of Greats.

61 ballots were submitted in the 1968 round of COG voting. Here’s the final tally of who appeared on how many of the three-man ballots:

1. Mike Piazza 48 (78.7% of the ballots)
2. Jeff Bagwell 44 (72.1%)
3. Frank Thomas 41 (67.2%)
4. Mike Mussina 21 (34.4%)
5. Roberto Alomar 18 (29.5%)
6. Jeff Kent 6 (9.8%)
7. John Olerud 2 (3.3%)
T8. Sammy Sosa, Hideo Nomo and Matt Stairs 1 each (1.6%)

You can double-check my vote tally here: By the rules, Piazza as the top vote-getter is inducted into the Circle. Bagwell and Thomas, having appeared on at least 50% of the ballots cast, are eligible to be included on ballots through at least the 1964 round of voting. The rest of those who received at least one vote, by falling within the top 8 vote-getters (including ties), remain eligible for (at least) the 1967 round of voting. That 1967 round will begin with another post later today.

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JamesS
JamesS
9 years ago

Is there a reason my vote wasn’t counted?

Brooklyn Mick
Brooklyn Mick
9 years ago
Reply to  JamesS

JamesS: you clearly voted @83 on the Circle of Greats thread. Your votes were for Frank Thomas, John Olerud, and Mike Piazza. You are correct that your vote is note listed on the spreadsheet posted by birtelcom. Obviously an oversight that I’m sure Birtelcom will correct.

Bryan O'Connor
Editor
9 years ago
Reply to  JamesS

Did you provide proof of age?

JamesS
JamesS
9 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom

Thank you.

Bryan,
Yes but I may have left a hanging chad.

bstar
bstar
9 years ago

A question, birtelcom. Since Mussina and Alomar didn’t get 50% of the vote and are only awarded one extra year of voting, what happens if they don’t win the 1967 vote but get over 50%? Are they then awarded an extra five years after that, or are both Mussina and Alomar flat out eliminated if they don’t win the ’67 vote?

bstar
bstar
9 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom

Got it. Thanks for the response.

John Autin
Editor
9 years ago

It will be very interesting to see how grouping players by year of birth affects the ultimate standards of the Circle of Greats. This may have been noted already, but the year we just voted on, 1968, had 9 players with 50+ career rWAR — 8 position players, and 1 pitcher. We shall not see its like again. No other year has seen the birth of more than 6 total players with 50+ career WAR, nor more than 5 position players. Looking ahead, the next eight years average about 3 players with 50+ WAR: 1967 has 4 total, 2 pos… Read more »

John Autin
Editor
9 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Of the years from 1901-1980, no 50-WAR players were born in 1901, 1904, 1908, 1910, 1922-24, 1929-30, 1932-33, 1950, 1952, 1961 and 1976.

Lance Berkman, born in ’76, has 49.0 WAR. No player born in 1961 or before is still active; Jamie Moyer was born in ’62.

Hartvig
Hartvig
9 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Pretty remarkable how big an impact that war has had. 1901 World War 1 1917-1918 Many of the soldiers were as young as 16 years old. 1922-24 World War 2 1941-1945 There may have been a few of the 1929 group here too. 1929-1939,1932-1933 Korean War 1950-1953 1950,1952 Vietnam 1959-1975 Peak ground troop levels in the late 60’s That leaves a few years at the beginning of the century plus 1961 and maybe 1976 (depending on Berkman’s future) unaffected by war. I don’t see voting getting any easier as we move forward either. Yes there will be fewer new big… Read more »

John Autin
Editor
9 years ago

Sorry to go way off topic, but can someone explain the little spots of color on some players’ batting averages on B-R pages? I can’t figure it out. They seem to be almost always on league-leading BAs, but not always: Ty Cobb has them on all 11 batting titles, but also on 1910, when he lost the race to Nap Lajoie. Honus Wagner & Tony Gwynn have them on all 8 of their batting titles. Rod Carew and Rogers Hornsby have them on all 7 batting titles. Larry Walker has them on his 3 batting crowns, ditto George Brett. Ed… Read more »

Bells
Bells
9 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Well, it’s addressed here (the ‘news’ section of B-R where the old blog used to be, sob sob):

http://www.sports-reference.com/blog/2012/09/how-i-think-well-handle-melky-and-the-batting-title/

It sounds like, from my reading, B-R must use the spots of colour to denote the official league champion, not the leader, so Delahanty over Lajoie in 1902, Cobb over Lajoie in 1910, and Posey over Cabrera this year.

bstar
bstar
9 years ago
Reply to  Bells

Apologies, Bells, I was typing and researching while your post came up.

Bells
Bells
9 years ago
Reply to  bstar

No need for apologies, your post went into it in much more detail and so the fact that it is the product of at least 25 minutes of research is evident from its quality.

bstar
bstar
9 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

The subtle graying around the black ink is the recognized champion(Cobb in 1910) while the higher average but unrecognized champion gets black ink but no color(Lajoie in 1910). Cobb was proclaimed the winner not due to a PA issue but to the controversy around the third baseman backing up and letting Lajoie bunt for base hits on the last day of the season to make sure Nap won. I admit, I’m confused about 1902 also. Lajoie is listed as the winner on the BA leaderboards, but he has no color which suggests Delahanty was credited with the title so he… Read more »

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
9 years ago
Reply to  bstar

bstar: In the SABR Bio Project there is an explanation of what happened with Lajoie and Delahanty in 1902. Here is the describing paragraph: Big Ed battled former Phillies teammate Nap Lajoie of the Cleveland club for the batting crown in 1902. Though unofficial figures at season’s end showed Lajoie with a 15-point lead, .387 to .372, the official statistics released two months later declared Delahanty champion by a seven-point margin, which would have made Big Ed the only player ever to win both an NL and AL batting title. Research in later years, however, uncovered that Lajoie actually bested… Read more »

John Autin
Editor
9 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Thanks for all the replies about the “mysterious” color blobs on B-R.

On MLB.com:

For 1902, Delahanty is the recognized batting champ, with Lajoie not listed. B-R has Lajoie’s BA in bold, but Delahanty gets the color. Apparently, B-R recognizes Lajoie based on a standard of playing in 60% of the team’s games.

bstar
bstar
9 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Except Delahanthy has neither color nor boldness on his B-Ref page in 1902. It’s just like he finished second no matter what. He’s not getting recognized there for even possibly winning it.

MikeD
MikeD
9 years ago
Reply to  bstar

I see no color on the B-R pages. Just black “ink” or normal.

Time to visit the eye doctor? Time to buy a new computer?

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
9 years ago
Reply to  MikeD

The “color” is a very pale yellow background in the pertinent cell.

bstar
bstar
9 years ago
Reply to  MikeD

Mike, check out Nap Lajoie’s page and you’ll see some of his BA black inks have color and some don’t (1902 and 1910 don’t). That’s what we’ve been discussing.

Ed
Ed
9 years ago
Reply to  bstar

Bstar – Actually Delahanty DOES have color for 1902. It may be a bit hard to see in comparison to his 1899 color (since that one also has the black) but it’s definitely there. Also see my post #24.

bstar
bstar
9 years ago
Reply to  Ed

I just saw it, Ed, thanks. I actually have to tilt my laptop to see it. Why doesn’t he also have black ink? That’s what I don’t get. Also, Steve McCatty for 1981 ERA has the color but no black ink. I thought from your link that Sean said both players would get black ink. Now I’ve ended up the most confused of everyone.

Ed
Ed
9 years ago
Reply to  Ed

Bstar – This is what Sean says: “For the purpose of the black ink test we’ll give both of them credit.”. I interpret the “black ink test” to refer to the Bill James “black ink” that’s listed under Hall of Fame Statistics.

Ed
Ed
9 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

John – Actually the “mysterious color blobs” apply to all ERA titles, BA titles and record holders.

See the first three bullets of Sean’s post here:

http://www.sports-reference.com/blog/2012/10/2012-baseball-reference-end-of-year-updates/

You can see an ERA title example via Sandy Kofax:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/k/koufasa01.shtml

And a record holder example via everyone’s favorite player:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/k/koufasa01.shtml

Ed
Ed
9 years ago
Reply to  Ed

Oops…”everyone’s favorite player”:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/b/bondsba01.shtml

Ed
Ed
9 years ago

Have to share this with my fellow HHSers. This may be the stupidest thing I’ve ever read. How do people like this keep their jobs??? “The emerging Generation M, influenced by its Godfather, Bill James, and his capo, Billy Beane, is also deeply culpable for allowing their calculations to blissfully ignore steroids and, through that omission, attempting to legitimize the whole dishonest era (and themselves) by attempting to make the game revolve around only numbers. It is no surprise, then, that two of the Gen M standard bearers, power and on-base percentage kings Manny Ramirez and Jason Giambi (directly linked… Read more »

Jim Bouldin
Jim Bouldin
9 years ago
Reply to  Ed

Definitely a big time rant against sabermatricians.

However, I’m never in my life going to understand why people invest so much energy into the issue of who should and should not get into the Hall of Fame. Do away with the damn thing for all I care.

MikeD
MikeD
9 years ago
Reply to  Jim Bouldin

You’re in the wrong place. 🙂 Well, on this one issue.

Jim Bouldin
Jim Bouldin
9 years ago
Reply to  MikeD

Let me amend my statement because it came off as quite arrogant.

I actually like the fact that people are interested in that issue, because it represents (one reason) why HHS is such a great site: people have interests in lots of different topics here. Some are really into the Hall of Fame and it helps spur discussion about comparative value, which makes you look at numbers and think about things. That’s all good. Also, some people are more focused on individuals, others on team issues. I’m guess I’m just more interested in the latter, that’s all.

John Autin
Editor
9 years ago
Reply to  Ed

Ed — From what I’ve read of Howard Bryant’s work (especially his Aaron bio), all I can say is: I won’t be reading any more of it.

And even though I depend on ESPN for mainstream content, I never forget that about half their output represents the deliberate elevation of style over substance.

Ed
Ed
9 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Thanks John. I decided to look at Bryant’s book an Aaron on amazon.com. One particular review caught my eye and I read through it and then decided to see who wrote it. It was none other than YOU! (unless there’s some other John Autin going around reviewing baseball books).

John Autin
Editor
9 years ago
Reply to  Ed

Yes, Ed, and I’ll admit, you prompted me to re-view my review. Seems I liked the book more than I recalled in my prior comment — but that surely had more to do with the subject than the author. It remains the worst-edited mainstream publication I’ve ever read.

Mike
Mike
9 years ago

Why does it seem like my vote wasn’t counted? Not that it would have mattered- I went with the Bagwell/Piazza/Thomas triumvirate- but I am not any of the four Mikes listed. (Maybe I should use my last initial from now on, too? It probably didn’t help that I happened to have voted sandwiched between two other Mikes.)

Nick Pain
Nick Pain
9 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom

birtelcom, when can we expect the 1967 post?

Nick Pain
Nick Pain
9 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom

L’chaim and Merry Christmas birtelcom!

Dr. Remulak
Dr. Remulak
9 years ago

Jorge Posada #9 All-time among catchers. HOF for Jorge.