The Hall of Fame officially recognizes a player by where they played the most games, so the Hall will eventually see Alex Rodriguez as a third baseman. Since at this point in his career his splits at short and third are very close, I’ll include him on both lists. I’m also including Ernie Banks here even though he ended up playing more games at first. Seven of his eight peak years were played at shortstop.
Hall of Fame standards vary by position, but a C-WAR score of 100 is usually the minimum of being Hall worthy. Ideally a player’s peak is 40+ (averaging 5 or more wins a year during their peak) and his career average is 60+. The average C-WAR line for a Hall of Fame shortstop is: 64.9 career average/43.4 peak/108.3 C-WAR.
How to read the chart below:
The player’s name is followed by their career WAR from Baseball-Reference (BR), FanGraphs (FG), and Baseball Prospectus (BP). Those three numbers (or two, BP doesn’t publish historical WAR data prior to 1950) are averaged out (AVG). The AVG is the first half of C-WAR. Next you will find the player’s five best years in a row (BR-5), followed by the player’s three best additional seasons (BR-3), both according to Baseball- Reference’s WAR. Next to that is the total peak value (PK) of the five best years, and three best additional years added together. PK is the second half of C-WAR. Adding AVG+PK=C-WAR. The seasons next to PK are the five best years in a row (5 YEARS), followed by the three best additional years (3 YEARS +). The last number is C-WAR. Players highlighted in gold are members of the Hall of Fame. Players in blue are still active. You can zoom in and out of the chart with the magnifying glass symbols on the right, and download the entire PDF.
Please note that Baseball Prospectus’ WARP system is very unstable and produces frequent changes to a player’s value. The numbers below are up to date as of 11/24/12
Below is the chart for shortstops:
Some notes on the chart:
1. Honus Wagner 138 AVG/71.5 PK/209.5 C-WAR
Wagner was dominant in his day, he averaged 8.9 wins a year during his eight year peak. That’s 7th all-time in peak value behind only Ruth, Mays, Hornsby, Bonds, Cobb, and Gehrig. Wagner ranks first among shortstops in career WAR, wOBA, wRC+, OPS+, and batting average. Despite Wagner’s complete dominance it’s important to note that he played in a segregated league in it’s primitive form against grossly inferior competition by today’s standards.
2. Alex Rodriguez 110.6 AVG/69.7 PK/180.3 C-WAR (and counting)
Rodriguez has played at a level few post World War 2 era players have seen. During his peak he averaged 8.7 wins a year. Five of his peak years were played at short, three at third. Using his career numbers he ranks 2nd at shortstop in WAR, wOBA, wRC+, OPS+, trailing only Wagner in all of them. Among shortstops with at least 3,000 plate appearances his .560 slugging % and .945 OPS rank first. His 647 home runs dwarf his competition, as do his 1,950 RBI. From 1994-2003 when Rodriguez played almost exclusively at short, he was worth 61.6 wins (Baseball- Reference), a career total higher than nine shortstops enshrined in the Hall of Fame. However, Rodriguez has admitted to using steroids from 2001-2003 when he played for the Texas Rangers. His best five years in a row were 2000-2004, so at least three of his peak years experienced some boost by performance enhancing drugs. Dismissing Rodriguez all together because of his PED use is a mistake. Two of his best seasons (05,07) came in the testing era, and he was just one of many players using steroids in the early 2000’s when use of performance enhancing drugs was encouraged and widely overlooked. The system failed, punishing players and players alone retroactively is a gross misrepresentation of history. With the current voting group in place, Rodriguez will not get into the Hall. If Barry Bonds isn’t going to get enshrined neither will Rodriguez. Both are egregious errors. If the voters and Hall of Fame brass continue to ignore many of the best players of a generation, unfortunately the Hall will have rendered itself irrelevant long before Rodriguez will have ever appeared on the ballot.
3. Cal Ripken 88.2 AVG/58.4 PK/146.6 C-WAR
Ripken is another guy with significant differences in his career WAR totals. FanGraphs calculates Ripken as being worth 100 wins over his career, Baseball-Reference has him at 90, but Baseball Prospectus has him at 76. It’s those kind of discrepancies that make a system like C-WAR that uses all three valuable. Ripken averaged 7.3 wins a year during his peak, and is one of just 28 players to reach the 3,000 hit plateau. FanGraphs ranks Ripken as the third best defensive shortstop ever to play, behind only Mark Belanger, and Ozzie Smith. Baseball-Reference has him 4th. In 1991 Ripken was worth 11.3 wins (Baseball-Reference) tied for the highest number ever posted by a shortstop. Ripken’s consecutive game streak of 2,632 is one of those unbreakable records in sports, it helped bring fans back to the game after the labor strike cancelled the World Series in 1994. Considering Wagner played against grossly inferior competition, and Rodriguez will have played significantly more time at third than short when his career is over, you can easily make a case for Ripken as the best to ever play the position.
4. George Davis 83.3 AVG/43.6 PK/126.9 C-WAR
Davis averaged 5.4 wins a year during his peak, that falls just a notch below the Hall of Fame average of 5.5. Davis’ wRC+ of 117 ties him for 13th all-time at short, his .wOBA of .366 ranks 16th.
5. Arky Vaughan 72.4 AVG/53.7 PK/126.1 C-WAR
Arky Vaughan averaged 6.7 wins a year during his peak. Vaughan’s .399 wOBA, 138 wRC+, and 136 OPS + all rank third all-time at short. Due to a conflict with his manager Leo Durocher, Vaughan retired after the 1943 season. He returned in 1947 but missed his age (32-34) seasons.
6. Robin Yount 74.9 AVG/50.5 PK/125.4 C-WAR
Yount is a guy with almost no difference in his career WAR values across the three sites, that’s a rarity. Yount split his career between shortstop and center field, but six of his eight peak were played at short. He averaged 6.3 wins a year during his peak, and is a member of the 3,000 hit club finishing with 3,142. In 1982 Yount hit .331/.379/.578 with a .957 OPS. He led the American League in slugging, OPS, OPS+, and total bases, finishing the season with a rare WAR (Baseball-Reference) over 10, at 10.4. A single season WAR of 10.0 or higher has been reached only eight times by non-pitchers since 1980.
7. Luke Appling 77.3 AVG/43.3 PK/120.6 C-WAR
Appling averaged 5.4 wins a year during his peak. He played for 20 seasons but essentially missed two full years (age 37-38) due to his military service in WW2. in 1943 the year before his deployment, Appling led the American League in batting average .328 and on-base percentage .419.
8. Ernie Banks 64.8/AVG/52.9 PK/117.7 C-WAR
Banks ended up playing more games at first than short but seven of his eight peak years happened at shortstop. During his peak Banks averaged 6.6 wins a year, and is one of only 25 players to hit 500 or more career home runs, finishing with 512. From 1954-1961, the time Banks spent at short, his 51.5 WAR (Baseball-Reference) ranks 5th in the majors trailing only fellow Hall of Famers; Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Eddie Mathews, and Hank Aaron.
9. Derek Jeter 68.4 AVG/45.1 PK/113.5 C-WAR (and counting)
Jeter averaged 5.6 wins a year during his eight year peak. His wRC+ of 122 ties him for 6th at short, and his OPS+ of 117 ranks 13th just ahead of Barry Larkin and Robin Yount. Among shortstops Jeter also ranks in the top ten in batting average, on-base percentage, and OPS. Jeter is a member of the 3,000 hit club, and from 1995-2009 the only players worth more wins were Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Chipper Jones, and Albert Pujols. However, FanGraphs calculates Jeter to be the worst defensive shortstop in the history of baseball and the defensive metrics at Baseball Prospectus, and Baseball-Reference don’t give him a boost either. His offense more than makes up for his poor defense, five years after Jeter’s retirement, he will walk right into Cooperstown, deservedly so.
10. Bill Dahlen 75.5 AVG/38.9 PK/114.4 C-WAR
Dahlen averaged 4.8 wins a year during his peak, a number slightly below the 5 win mark you want from most Hall of Famers. He played for 21 seasons and appears to be more of a compiler than a truly great player. C-WAR has Dahlen meeting Hall of Fame standards, but considering he played in a segregated league against inferior competition, his candidacy is more borderline than is numbers would suggest. His WAR calculations are also boosted because of his defense and the accuracy of defensive metrics used for retired players from the early 20th century are questionable at best.
11. Joe Cronin 68.7 AVG/45.5 PK/144.2 C-WAR
Cronin averaged 5.6 wins a year during his peak. His wRC+ of 120 ties him for 8th at short, his OPS+ of 119 also ties him for 8th, and his wOBA of .393 ranks 4th trailing only Wagner, Rodriguez, and Vaughan.
Skipping around a bit:
Ozzie Smith averaged 5.7 wins during his peak. Smith’s defensive war of 43.4 ranks 1st all-time at any position. Using FanGraphs only five players in history have saved 200 runs or more, those players are Brooks Robinson 294, Andruw Jones 280.5, Mark Belanger 241, Ozzie Smith 239, and Roberto Clemente at 204. From 1980-1989 Ozzie Smith ranks 6th in WAR (Baseball-Reference) behind only Rickey Henderson, Wade Boggs, Mike Schmidt, Robin Yount, and Alan Trammell. Smith was rightfully inducted into the Hall his 1st year on the ballot.
Lou Boudreau averaged 6.1 wins a year during his peak. His OPS+ of 120 ranks 7th at short, his wOBA of .375 ranks 1oth, and his wRC+ of 122 ties him for 6th. He played 15 seasons in the majors, retiring at the age of 34.
Barry Larkin averaged 5.7 wins a year during his peak. Among shortstops with at least 3,000 plate appearances his wRC+ of 118 ties him for 10th. Using Baseball-Reference’s WAR from 1990-1999 Larkin was worth 50.6 wins, 1st among shortstops, and tied for 5th overall in major league baseball. Larkin is an obvious Hall of Famer, it took him three times to win over the BBWAA, a microcosm for many of the flaws with the current voting process.
Alan Trammell’s exclusion from the Hall of Fame is a mistake. He averaged 5.8 wins a year during his eight year peak, slightly more than his Hall of Fame contemporaries Ozzie Smith, and Barry Larkin. From 1980-1989 Trammell ranks 5th in WAR (Baseball-Reference) behind only Rickey Henderson, Wade Boggs, Mike Schmidt, and Robin Yount. Yes according to Baseball-Reference, Trammell was slightly more valuable than Ozzie during the 80’s, and the 5th best player in baseball for the decade. FanGraphs ranks him 6th, still ahead of Ozzie. Ozzie was voted into the Hall his first year on the ballot with over 90% of the vote (rightfully so), Trammell is heading into his 12th year on the ballot and has yet to receive even half of the 75% of votes needed for entry. Trammell was one of the best players of the 80’s, and was a better player than at least nine other Hall of Fame shortstops. One would think that since the voting members of the BBWAA have devalued the performances of so many who played in the “steroid era” that they would reward deserving players who played before the era began, but Trammell (and others) have not yet benefited from that kind of logic. Trammell will likely get voted in by the veteran’s committee some day, but his failure to get recognized by the BBWAA is yet another example of the inconsistent standards used for admission and another call for change.
Nomar Garciaparra averaged 5.2 wins a year during his eight year peak, a peak that includes his 2001 season where he played only 21 games. Among shortstops with at least 3,000 plate appearances, Nomar ranks 5th in OPS+ at 124, 5th in wRC+ at 124, and his .376 wOBA ranks 9th. He also ranks 5th in batting average, 2nd in slugging %, and 2nd in OPS. According to Baseball-Reference from 1997-2003 Nomar was worth 39.9 wins, trailing only Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and Andruw Jones over that stretch. Nomar’s peak was without question Hall worthy, however his entire career is pretty much represented in that peak. His career WAR on Baseball-Reference is 42.0, his peak value is 44. That shouldn’t even be possible, but as injuries persisted throughout Garciaparra’s career, his production eroded and he was worth negative wins for a few seasons. Enshrinement to the Hall of Fame is about finding the balance between career and peak value, while Nomar has the peak, he has truly nothing else to show for himself after that. Injuries got the best of Garciaparra, he only played 100 games or more eight times in his career and one of those seasons his WAR was -1.7. Nomar is a borderline Hall of Famer who is unlikely to get enshrined by the BBWAA, a decision that is statistically the right call.
Omar Vizquel has played more games at short than anyone else in history and he will likely get enshrined into the Hall of Fame at some point. The writers will probably vote in him around his 9th or 10th year on the ballot, if not, the veteran’s committee will put him in right away. Either way, from a statistical standpoint the decision to include Vizquel in the Hall will be a mistake. Vizquel averaged 3.4 wins a year during his eight year peak, the average shortstop in the Hall averaged 5.4. Only one shortstop in the Hall averaged fewer wins during his peak, Monte Ward at 3.1. Ward played from 1878-1894, while playing short he also pitched over 2,000 innings and had a career ERA of 2.10. Perhaps, not the best comparison. Vizquel is known for his glove, he is perceived as the second coming of Ozzie Smith, but statistics don’t support those claims. FanGraphs ranks Vizquel 16th all-time among shortstops in defensive runs saved, Baseball-Reference’s defensive war ranks Vizquel 9th at short, and 12th in major league history. His .984 fielding percentage is 2nd among shortstops, just a few ticks below Troy Tulowitzki, who in fairness to Vizquel is likely to fall from the top as he ages. Vizquel does have over 2,800 career hits, however among shortstops with 3,000 plate appearances or more he fails to crack the top 100 in OPS+, wRC+, or wOBA. Vizquel ranks 32nd in career WAR among shortstops on FanGraphs, and 30th on Baseball-Reference. By comparison Ozzie Smith ranks 13th in career WAR on FanGraphs, and 5th on Baseball-Reference. Ozzie Smith was a much better player than Omar Vizquel. It’s important to note that defensive metrics often conflict and are really still in their infancy. It’s possible that Vizquel is a better defensive player than the current defensive numbers suggest, however it’s also possible that the sniff test is over valuing Vizquel’s defense and overall value.
Only one Hall of Famer who started his career after 1950 has a C-WAR lower than Vizuel’s, Bill Mazeroski at 60.8. The next lowest C-WAR’s from Hall of Famers who started their careers after 1950 are Lou Brock (83.7), Jim Rice (85.5), and Luis Aparicio (85.9), all considerably higher than Vizquel’s 66.8. Vizquel is beloved among Latin American players, perhaps the most revered player in their culture since Roberto Clemente. He has been active with several charities both domestically and in his native Venezuela, and is widely considered to be an ambassador for the game. Those are all very good things, but unfortunately for Vizquel the character clause is never used to put borderline candidates into the Hall of Fame, it’s only used to keep people out. That’s embarrassing, a huge flaw to the current admission system, and another reason why the character clause should be dropped altogether. Vizquel was a great defender, but his defensive prowess was not enough to make up for his offensive shortcomings. I believe Vizquel will eventually get into the Hall of Fame and when he does that does not mean that Tony Fernandez, Jim Fregosi, or Dave Concepcion should also be enshrined. That’s the logic of a fool, don’t let one mistake lead to a dozen others.
Since Baseball Prospectus does not publish WAR data for players before 1950, this does create a bit of unfair advantage for those players. This is because of the three sites, Baseball Prospectus tends to have the lowest WAR values for a player (especially with pitchers), so it puts modern players (1950-present) at an unfair disadvantage. So to adjust for this, below is the shortstop chart excluding Baseball Prospectus’ WAR altogether.
Alan Trammell and Ozzie Smith both experienced significant bumps up on this list. BP values Trammell and Smith roughly 35% less than FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference.
Since I calculated peak using only rWAR, below is the chart using just Baseball Reference’s WAR. Another words this is a player’s career WAR plus his eight year peak using on Baseball-Reference. FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus are not factored in to the chart below at all.
This list produced more modest changes from the previous list, but again Trammell and Smith benefited.
One other note, because C-WAR focuses only on WAR, it makes it impossible for me to include Negro League players who have been elected to the Hall of Fame. Nothing distorted stats like the exclusion of black players for over fifty years. While I can’t include them in C-WAR, I do want to mention Pop Llyod, and Willie Wells both of whom were elected to the Hall of Fame as a shortstops. Who knows how great they could have been, or how different the record book would look if they were simply allowed to have played in the majors.
Many thanks to the incredibly smart people who work at Baseball-Reference, FanGraphs, and Baseball Prospectus. Without their tireless efforts to improve and maintain their sites and information none of this research would be possible.
Any questions or comments about the Hall, or a player listed or not listed above, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Twitter @Rosscarey
Originally posted 7/17/12