Circle of Greats 1969 Results: Junior Prom-ptly Inducted

It was billed as a battle of the titans between two players who just turned old enough to join the High Heat Stats Circle of Greats (COG), Ken Griffey, Jr. and Mariano Rivera.  But Griffey proved strongest from early in the voting and becomes the 39th inductee in the COG.  More on Junior, and the voting, is available for you, but only if you prove that you want to read the rest of this entry by, well, clicking on “Read the rest of this entry”.

Most Position Player Wins Above Replacement (WAR, baseball-reference version), Age 26-27 Seasons Combined:
1. Babe Ruth (1921-1922) 19.2 WAR
2. Ken Griffey, Jr. (1996-1997) 18.72 WAR
3. Ron Santo (1966-1967) 18.65 WAR
4. Willie Mays (1957-1958) 18.5 WAR
5. George Brett (1979-1980) 18.04 WAR
6. Eddie Collins (1913-1914) 18.02 WAR


Most Regular Season Home Runs, Age 26-30 Seasons Combined:
1. Ken Griffey, Jr. (1996-2000) 249
2. Sammy Sosa (1995-1999) 241
3. Ryan Howard (2006-2010) 229
4. Alex Rodriguez (2002-2006) 223
5. Ralph Kiner (1949-1953) 215


Most Position Player Wins Above Replacement Through Age 27 Season, AL History:
1. Ty Cobb 68.8 WAR (baseball-reference version)
2. Mickey Mantle 67.4
3. Alex Rodriguez 63.3
4. Jimmie Foxx 62.4
5. Ken Griffey, Jr. 59.0
6. Tris Speaker 55.0
7. Eddie Collins 54.8
8. Babe Ruth 51.4
9. Rickey Henderson 50.1
10. Lou Gehrig 49.1
11. Al Kaline 48.9
12. Joe DiMaggio 48.8
13. George Brett 45.4
14. Ted Williams 45.1
15. Robin Yount 44.5

If you run this same list through age 29 seasons instead of age 27, Junior is still 8th all-time in the AL, as only Ruth, Collins and Speaker have nudged ahead of him.

Junior’s closest comparables through age 30 are the greatest players in history.  After age 30, his closest comparables might be guys like Tom Paciorek and Bill Robinson:

Griffey, age 31 season and after: 991 G, 114 OPS+, 7.5 WAR
Paciorek, age 31 season and after: 945 G, 110 OPS+, 9.1 WAR
Robinson, age 31 season and after: 950 G, 110 OPS+, 7.3 WAR

In addition to Griffey’s impressive showing in this round of voting, Mariano Rivera and Gaylord Perry also received impressive levels of support: Mo appearing on nearly 50% of the ballots and Perry on nearly 40%.

That didn’t leave a lot of room for others. Rick Reuschel fell one vote short of the level needed to remain on the ballot, as his return via the redemption vote route proved short-lived.  Four long-time holdovers with a cushion of guaranteed eligibility also failed to make the 10% vote threshold: Craig Biggio, Edgar Martinez, Bobby Grich and Ron Santo.  Santo had only a two-round cushion, so he falls on to the bubble: another sub-10% showing next round would knock him off the ballot.  Biggio, Martinez and Grich still have some leeway, though less than before.

So with Reuschel falling off the holdovers list and Mariano joining it, the total number of holdovers remains stable at 15.  And with Reuschel gone but Santo joining the group of bubble boys, the number of players at immediate risk of falling off the ballot also remains steady at seven.

The full spreadsheet showing this round’s vote tally is here: COG 1969 Vote Tally.

The current vote summary for Circle of Greats voting rounds, now updated to include the 1969 round, is here: COG Vote Summary 2 .  An archive with fuller details of the 1968 through 1939 rounds is here: COG 1968-1939 Vote Summary .  In both cases, raw vote totals for each past round listed appears on Sheet 1 and the percentage totals for each past round listed appears on Sheet 2.

Here’s the Circle of Greats membership thus far, currently in order of date of birth, from earlier to later:
Phil Niekro
Carl Yastrzemski
Pete Rose
Ferguson Jenkins
Joe Morgan
Tom Seaver
Steve Carlton
Rod Carew
Jim Palmer
Reggie Jackson
Nolan Ryan
Johnny Bench
Carlton Fisk
Mike Schmidt
Bert Blyleven
George Brett
Gary Carter
Ozzie Smith
Robin Yount
Paul Molitor
Alan Trammell
Wade Boggs
Rickey Henderson
Tim Raines
Tony Gwynn
Cal Ripken
Roger Clemens
Randy Johnson
Barry Larkin
Barry Bonds
Tom Glavine
Greg Maddux
Curt Schilling
Larry Walker
Jeff Bagwell and Frank Thomas
Mike Piazza
Mike Mussina
Ken Griffey, Jr.

17 thoughts on “Circle of Greats 1969 Results: Junior Prom-ptly Inducted

  1. 1
    Voomo Zanzibar says:

    Congratulations to the man they call Junior.

    Mariano falling short of 50% may prove deadly for his cause.
    There seem to be enough voters here who dont seem to believe that a relief pitcher can be one of the top 120 players.
    And the competition is about to get impossibly tough.
    I do not see him getting elected until the weaker elections in the 1920s.
    And without multiple rounds of him getting 4 holdovers (ala Grich), he may be joining Eckersley in purgatory.

    I’m interested to see how Wilhelm does.

    • 3
      brp says:

      Let’s say Justin Tucker of the Ravens hits a few more 61-yard GW field goals in his career and somehow makes like 95% of his kicks the rest of his career. Probably not, just making an argument. He’d be the best kicker of all time, were that to happen. But would he be in the top 112 NFL players? What about Jan Stenerud, the only “pure” kicker in the HOF – is he in anybody’s top 100? 200? 300? What about Adam Vinatieri or Morten Andersen?

      I still may vote for Rivera someday because this isn’t an apples-apples comparison, but I think a field goal kicker is as close as you can get, analogously, to a modern closer… and that’s what makes it tough for people.

      My guess is this is holding back Edgar Martinez and was certainly a point of contention about Frank Thomas, too, though I think a good DH is more valuable than a good closer. I would imagine Boston feels the same way – Big Papi or Papelbon? Not even a tough call, to me.

      • 5
        birtelcom says:

        Interestingly, the last year they both played for the Red Sox, Boston paid them almost identical salaries: $12M for Papelbon and $12.5 for Ortiz. Their salary ranges generally have been pretty comparable.

      • 6
        Voomo Zanzibar says:

        Well, as birtelcom demonstrated in the last thread (with math), the 3.3 WAR that Rivera averaged for 16 years was approx. 2 wins more than the AVERAGE closer over the same time frame.

        That means that every year, for 16 years, the Yankees automatically had a 2-win advantage over (almost) every other club, because of a guy who pitched 70 out of the teams 1450 innings.

        His numbers are so preposterous that I think our minds have a hard time grasping his true value.

        And then there’s the 0.70 era in 141 postseason innings…

      • 7
        Voomo Zanzibar says:

        Regarding the comparison to football kickers…

        Yes, if there was a guy who split the uprights at 95% for 16 years,
        was accurate from 60 yards,
        booted every kickoff out of the back of the endzone,
        and was a contributing part of 5 Super Bowl winners,
        yeah, that guy might crack the top 120.

        But that’s the point.
        That guy has never existed.
        And he never existed in MLB until the fella from Panama.
        Only Wilhelm is even in the same category of player from the relief position.

        But why compare to football?
        The equivalent in baseball would be the Late Inning Defensive Replacement.

        First off, the average closer clocks in at 1.3 WAR
        (I havent charted that – I’m extrapolating from Birtelcom’s data – someone please point out if this is wrong)

        The average Position Player is about 2.0 WAR.

        Not terribly significant, as a counting stat.
        More significant in terms of %.

        So, Mariano is 2 wins better than average.
        Or, 250% better than average.

        Say you have a LIDR, the speedy guy who can’t really hit, and only comes in to tighten up the lines late in the game.

        Imagine that guy averaged 4 – 5 WAR for a decade and a half, playing 100 – 150 innings a year.

        And then performed in the playoffs at a level that I can’t even find words for with this analogy.

        And he taught Roy Halladay his cutter while dicking around before a game.

      • 8
        Artie Z. says:

        I’ve been thinking about Rivera’s case. In looking at the top 70 in career saves (why top 70 – because it’s a round number and I get rid of Smoltz and I already have to deal with Eck no matter how I slice and dice), Rivera is way ahead on a per inning WAR basis. He’s at 4.4 WAR/100 IP, and three closest pitchers have less than half of his innings (Soria, Papelbon, and Bryan Harvey). Then comes Billy Wagner at 3.07 WAR/100 IP. It’s a quick recap for those not following the discussion – everyone following the discussion already knows this.

        Billy Wagner pitched 903 innings to Rivera’s 1283.2, so he’s still behind by 380 innings. That’s a lot of innings – part of Rivera’s career value is tied up in longevity, which I think we miss because he only pitches 70 innings a year, but he basically pitched as many innings as Lee Smith, and more innings than any modern “1 inning closer”.

        Looking at Billy Wagner, if he pitched another 380 innings at the same WAR/100 IP level it would put him up at about 40 career WAR, still well shy of Rivera who is at 56.5 (and this is the 2nd highest WAR of all the top 70 savers, behind Eckersley’s which includes his years as a starter). Basically, just looking at the raw WAR totals and not adjusting for IP differences, Rivera has double the career total of everyone in the top 70 except Eck, Wilhelm, and Gossage (it’s also just shy of doubling Lee Smith who is at 29.5). While part of that is due to his high (relative to the comparison group) IP totals, the question is: What else is driving the difference?

        What is the difference between Billy Wagner and Rivera on a per inning basis? Rivera has a 204 ERA+, but Wagner’s is 187. Was it leverage? Rivera’s is 1.8, Wagner’s 1.7. Trevor Hoffman’s is 1.9, Lee Smith’s is 1.8, though their ERA+ numbers aren’t close to 204 (they are 141 and 132, respectively). Is it the combination of leverage and ERA+? This seems to me to be the crucial question.

        One thing I am curious about is how inherited runners factor into WAR (I really don’t know – if anyone knows I’d like to know – do they factor in through leverage?) Because one thing that Rivera was not out of this world in was stopping inherited runners from scoring. Rivera inherited 367 runners in his career. I looked at everyone with more than 200 career inherited runners (data only goes back to 1916, but given all the complete games back then, I’m guessing not too many pitchers are missing). Rivera allowed 29.16% to score, which ranks 116th out of the 474 pitchers who inherited 200 runners or more in their careers.

        The guys who do the best at stopping inherited runners tend to be LOOGYs. There are 6 pitchers under 22% – Ricardo Rincon, Joe Thatcher, Javier Lopez, Randy Choate, and Scott Eyre are 5 of them. The other one is Trevor Hoffman, who inherited 346 runners but only allowed 20.23% to score (3rd best of everyone with 200+ inherited runners, behind Rincon and Thatcher). When looking at closers, Randy Myers is the only other one under 24% (Foulke is at 24%). Maybe the 20% to 29% doesn’t seem like a big difference, but it’s an extra 37 runs that Rivera allowed relative to Hoffman that are not on Rivera’s record.

        Now maybe Rivera always came in with runners on 3rd and 1 out in a 2 run game and so his situation was more difficult than other pitchers, but wouldn’t that show up in leverage (which, about checking a few random closers from the 90s-10s, seems to always hover between 1.7-1.9 for their careers)?

        While I don’t put all my faith in WAR, it generally does a pretty good job (in my view), but this is one of the places where I don’t quite understand where all of Rivera’s difference in WAR is coming from, and before I start voting for him I’d like to understand it better.

        • 10
          Voomo Zanzibar says:

          Might defense have something to so with it?




          Though, Wagner struck everybody out and Mo rarely induced solid contact. But it still feels good blame it on

          “past a diving Jeter.”

        • 11
          bstar says:

          Artie: Mariano vs. Wagner

          -as Voomo says, about a quarter-run difference per 9 in team defense.

          -another quarter-run difference for Mo as he faced tougher opposition (and he and Wagner’s careers almost perfectly coincided so we can make a direct comparison of their RA9opposition marks). 4.94 for Mo, 4.68 for Wagner. So Mo’s opposition, on a neutral field, would score a quarter-run more per 9.

          -way, way more RAR (runs above replacement) for Mo because of AL superiority and (I guess) facing DHs instead of pitchers.

          -park factors and leverage look really similar

          -Mo’s RA9 edge before these adjustments (2.38 for Mo, 2.61 for Wags).

          • 12
            birtelcom says:

            Closers almost never face pitchers, regardless of whether they are in the NL or AL, though NL closers presumably face more pinch-hitters from far down the bench than AL closers, due to the DH rule. Blly Wagner faced a pitcher at the plate only nine times in his whole career.

          • 14
            bstar says:

            Can anyone shed some light on why Mo has so very many more replacement level runs than Billy Wagner?

            Part of it is extra IP for Rivera, so let’s take care of that by equalizing their innings.

            Since Wagner pitched only 903 innings, Mo’s replacement level runs (instead of 482 in almost 1300 IP) would be 482 x (903 IP/1283.2 IP) = 339.

            So assuming equal IP, Rivera would have 339 RAR, while Wagner has 240 for his career. That’s over 40% higher.

            I understand the AL is/was superior, but 40% better? Scrolling to the bottom of this page here (, the table suggests that AL replacement level runs were about 5% higher than the NL for Mo/Wagner’s careers.

            So why is Mo’s RAR 40% higher when the AL is only 5% better than the NL? Anyone?

          • 15
            Voomo Zanzibar says:

            I’m pretty sure it’s because Rivera’s replacement player would have been Hideki Irabu.

          • 16
            John Autin says:

            bstar @14 — I can’t address Mariano’s outsized Rrep edge on Wagner, but for a tangent, here’s my pseudoscientific approach to the value issue as reflected by WAR:

            1. Mariano’s average leverage index during his reliever seasons was 6% higher than Wagner’s, and his competition was somewhat tougher. Let’s say those things alone give him a 10% edge, per inning.

            2. So if we break off a part of Mo’s career equal to Wagner’s IP and runs, Mo should earn about 10% more WAR for that same chunk of innings. So, if Wagner got 27.7 WAR, Mo would get maybe 30.5 WAR.

            3. Now let’s deal with Mo’s excess over Wagner: 381 more career innings, 78 more runs. That’s a 1.84 RA9. What’s that worth, in the AL East, in that era?

            I don’t know, exactly. But Pedro Martinez in 1999-2000 earned 21.4 WAR and totaled 430.1 IP and 100 runs allowed — 22 more runs in 49.1 more IP than Mo’s overage vs. Wagner.

            That feels like a decent ballpark for the value of Mo’s overage. And that would carry our estimate of Mo’s WAR (using Wagner’s base) to about 52. That’s not all the way to the actual number, but it’s close enough to satisfy me.

            Here’s a different approach: Instead of likening Mo’s overage to 2 prime Pedro years, let’s focus on Save conversion rates. The difference between Mo’s 89.1% and Wagner’s 85.9% might not seem big in the abstract, but it means that Mo’s 230-Save edge took only 241 more save opps.

            So if we broke off a piece of Mo’s career equal to Wagner’s IP, runs, saves and BS, then Mo’s overage is 381 IP, 78 runs, 230 saves and 11 BS.

            That’s akin to 6 years of about 64 IP, 13 runs, and 38-for-40 in save conversions.

            Wouldn’t that be worth 20 to 25 WAR? Again, that would bring us into the ballpark of Mo’s actual WAR edge on Wagner — not all the way there, but in the ballpark.

            I know that wasn’t your question, but maybe it was mildly interesting anyway. 🙂

          • 17
            bstar says:

            Thanks, John. Let me be clear: I in no way doubt the veracity of Mo’s WAR per inning edge over other closers or his career WAR total. I was merely trying to understand it and explain it.

            But I see my big error: the differing Rrep totals for Mo/Wagner aren’t reflecting the differing strengths of the two leagues. Those adjustments are embedded in B-Ref’s strength of opposition measure.

            I realized late last night that runs above replacement is simply WAR*10 (because 10 runs equals one win) before adding the leverage component for relievers.

            Mo: (480 RAR/10) = 48 WAR. Add 10 WAAadj(the leverage bonus) and that’s 58 WAR. Mo’s career WAR is 57.

            Wagner: (240 RAR/10) = 24 WAR, + 3 WAAadj (leverage) = 27. Wagner’s WAR is 28.

            The rest of Mo’s edge in WAR is because of more innings, a worse defense behind him, tougher opposition, and a better RA9 than Wagner.

  2. 2
    Hartvig says:

    There was a point in this round- I think it was when the 64th ballot was cast- when it was possible to see a scenario where we could have had as many as 10 players with exactly 7 votes apiece.

    Which could conceivably have meant that a 7th ballot could have cost a total of 10 rounds of eligibility and knocked 4 players off of the ballot entirely. That’s probably never going to happen but I wouldn’t be surprised to see something similar to this round happen in all but a couple of the next 10 rounds or so.

    • 4
      birtelcom says:

      Actually, a large-scale tie at the under 10% level would only result in a mass reduction in eligibility if there were at least 9 players with vote totals higher than the mass group tied under the 10% level. That’s because the rules provide for no loss of eligibility in the case of players in the top nine, including ties. So if we had ten players all under 10% but tied for the sixth spot, for example, or the seventh or eighth or ninth spot, or indeed any spot higher than tenth, all the tied players would retain their then-existing level of eligibility, with no reduction.

      • 9
        Hartvig says:

        I had forgotten about the top 10 aspect of the voting- I could see something like that coming into play during the 1931 voting fairly easily.

  3. 13
    Dan Flan says:

    Here’s a great article from The Onion that every Junior fan should read.

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