C-WAR Hall of Fame Project: Right Field

Hank Aaron-Baseball Digest-1960
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 C-WAR is a Hall of Fame monitoring system using career and peak WAR. C-WAR is the career WAR(P) totals from Baseball-Reference, FanGraphs, and Baseball Prospectus added up and averaged out, plus an eight year peak (five best years in a row, plus 3 best additional years) from Baseball-Reference. Click here for more information on C-WAR.

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 eight year peak) and his career average is 60+. The average C-WAR line for a Hall of Fame right-fielder is: 71.3 career average/43.9 peak/115.2 C-WAR. It’s important to note that the average(s) for anything are greatly skewed by the top and bottom numbers. Only ten right fielders enshrined in the Hall actually meet those standards. So many all-time great players played right field, Ruth, Aaron, Robinson, Ott, and Kaline all greatly shift the averages up. Obvious Hall of Famers like Tony Gwynn, and Dave Winfield fall short of those standards, that doesn’t mean they are not deserving, they are, as are several others. 24 right fielders are currently enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

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 right fielders:

Download (PDF, Unknown)

Some notes on the chart:

1. Babe Ruth 168.5 AVG/88.5 PK/257 C-WAR

Babe Ruth has the highest C-WAR rating at 257, and the highest peak (88.5) averaging an incredible 11.1 wins a year during that stretch. Ruth is the career WAR leader on both Baseball-Reference (159.2) and FanGraphs (177.9). He ranks 1st all-time in slugging percentage (.690), wOBA (.513), wRC+ (197), OPS (1.163), and OPS+ (206). Using Baseball-Reference’s WAR, Ruth has four of the top ten individual seasons ever posted by a non-pitcher, including the top two. There are many, many, more career and single season records Ruth holds, he has more black ink on his resume than anyone else. There is no disputing Ruth’s complete dominance but it’s important to note he played his entire career when the game was segregated and still developing. Ruth should be considered an all-time great and deserves to be in the conversation as the best to ever play, however considering the inferior level of competition he played against taking all of his numbers at face value is a mistake.

2. Hank Aaron 144.5 AVG/65.1 PK/209.6 C-WAR

Hank Aaron averaged 8.1 wins a year during his peak, and is one of only ten players with a C-WAR rating over 200. Aaron is the career leader in both RBI (2,297), and total bases (6,856). Aaron led the National League in home runs four times, hits twice, runs three times, RBI four times, batting average twice, slugging percentage four times, and OPS three times. From 1955-1973 Aaron posted an OPS+ of 140 or greater every year, not even Ruth put together a stretch like that. Aaron is on the short list of players with a legitimate claim to be the best to ever play.

3. Mel Ott 110.1 AVG/57.2 PK/167.3 C-WAR

Mel Ott averaged 7.2 wins a year during his eight year peak. Ott led the National League in home runs six times, and on-base percentage four times. Among right fielders with 5,000 plate appearances or more, Ott ranks in the top five in OPS+ (155), wOBA (.430) and wRC+(156). Ott made his major league debut at the age of 17, tying him with Jimmie Foxx as the youngest debut age for any player enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

4. Frank Robinson 111.5 AVG/54.5 PK/166 C-WAR

Frank Robinson averaged 6.8 wins a year during his eight year peak. Robinson won the triple crown in 1966 posting a WAR (Baseball-Reference) of 7.3 while doing so. Among right fielders with 5,000 plate appearances or more Robinson ranks top five in runs (1,829), RBI (1,812), walks (1,420), home runs (586), OPS+ (154), and wRC+ (153).

5. Al Kaline 95.6 AVG/52.3 PK/147.9 C-WAR

Al Kaline averaged 6.5 wins a year during his peak, and is a member of the 3,000 hit club. Kaline was also an elite defensive player, saving 156 runs over his career, third all-time among right fielders. Kaline made his major league debut at the age of 18.

6. Roberto Clemente 88.9 AVG/58.9 PK/147.8 C-WAR

Clemente averaged 7.4 wins a year during his eight year peak, third best among right fielders trailing only Ruth and Aaron. Clemente led the National League in batting average four times, and is a member of the 3,000 hit club. From 1960-1969 Clemente’s WAR (Baseball-Reference) of 64.1 ranked third in baseball trailing only Willie Mays (81.7), and Hank Aaron (78.5). Clemente was an elite defensive player, he ranks 1st among right fielders in runs saved (204), and is one of only five players to have saved 200 runs or more over their careers.

7. Reggie Jackson 76.9 AVG/49.3 PK/126.2 C-WAR

Reggie Jackson averaged 6.2 wins a year during his peak. Interesting to see how differently Baseball-Reference views Jackson’s career value, 68.4 WAR compared to both FanGraphs (81.4) and Baseball Prospectus (82.1). Jackson led the American League in home runs four times, finishing his career with 563. Jackson is the all-time leader in strikeouts with 2,597, striking out 22.7% of his plate appearances, the highest K% percentage of anyone enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

8. Harry Heilmann 72.7 AVG/49.1 PK/121.8 C-WAR

Harry Heilmann averaged 6.1 wins a year during his peak. He led the American League in batting average four times, including in 1923 when he hit . 403. Among right fielders with 5,000 plate appearances or more, Heilmann ranks in top five in batting average (.342), wOBA (.427), and on-base percentage (.410). Heilmann played his entire career in the segregated era.

9. Paul Waner 74.5 AVG/45.1 PK/119.6 C-WAR

Paul Waner averaged 5.6 wins a year during his eight year peak. Waner led the National League in batting average three times, and is a member of the 3,000 hit club. From 1926-1937 Waner’s WAR (Baseball-Reference) of 62.3 ranked 6th in all of baseball, trailing only fellow Hall of Famers Lou Gehrig (101.1), Babe Ruth (79.9), Jimmie Foxx (68.9), Charlie Gehringer (63.2), and Mel Ott (63.2). Waner played his entire career in the segregated era.

10. Sam Crawford 73.2 AVG/41 PK/114.2 C-WAR

Sam Crawford averaged 5.1 wins a year during his eight year peak, and is the all-time leader in triples finishing with 309. He is the only player in MLB history with over 300 triples, and 300 stolen bases. Crawford played his entire career in the segregated era.

11. Larry Walker 67.7 AVG/44.6 PK/112.3 C-WAR

Larry Walker averaged 5.6 wins a year during his peak. Walker finished with a slash line of .313/.400/.565 with an OPS of .965. He also hit 383 home runs. Those are the numbers of an obvious Hall of Famer, however with Walker it’s important to look at his home and away splits. Walker’s career numbers at home look like this .348/.431/.637 with an OPS of 1.068, and 215 home runs. Those aren’t just the numbers of an obvious Hall of Famer, they would make him one of the greatest hitters ever to play. Walker’s career road splits look like this .278/.370/.495 with an OPS of .865, and 168 home runs. Those are very good numbers, but very different from his home splits.

Let’s just look at his road numbers for a moment. Walker’s .865 road OPS is higher than the Hall of Fame average of .837, and a greater number posted by 102 members of the Hall. That group includes Eddie Murray (.836), Reggie Jackson (.846), Carl Yastrzemski (.841), Roberto Clemente (.834), and Dave Winfield (.827). That’s pretty good company. Walker’s career OPS+ (which factors home ballpark and era in its equation) is 141. The same number posted by future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones, and  a tick higher than his outfield contemporaries, Gary Sheffield, and Vlad Guerrero. The Hall of Fame average is 128, Walker’s 141 ranks higher than 111 members of the Hall, a group that still includes Eddie Murray (129), Reggie Jackson (139), Carl Yastrzemski (130), Roberto Clemente (130), and Dave Winfield (130).

Walker isn’t Lou Gehrig as his home numbers would suggest, but his road numbers are also Hall worthy. The exercise above while interesting to look at, is also a bit ridiculous, you can’t just use someone’s road numbers when evaluating their career. Walker’s career slash line is .313/.400/.565 with an OPS of .965. His numbers were without question boosted by playing nine and a half seasons at Coors Field, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a Hall of Famer. Are we going to omit every hitter who has ever played for the Rockies? What does that accomplish? It’s grossly unfair. Imagine if when MLB added a team in Colorado they told every hitter who played there that they would never have a chance of being enshrined in the Hall of Fame because of the air in Denver. No one would have played for them. Walker can’t help that he benefited from playing at Coors anymore then he can control the quality of pitchers he competed against. Beyond offense Walker was an excellent defensive player saving 86 runs over his career, he was also a solid base runner finishing with 230 stolen bases. Neither of those things have anything to do with the ballpark he was playing in. Walker’s numbers can’t be taken at a face value, but is omission from the Hall of Fame is a mistake.

Skipping around a bit:

Gary Sheffield averaged 5 wins a year during his eight year peak. He finished his career with a slash line of .292/.393/.514 with an OPS of .907, and 509 home runs. Sheffield was named in the Mitchell Report for allegedly purchasing steroids from BALCO. Sheffield has denied ever intentionally taking steroids. Because he was named in the Mitchell Report the BBWAA moral police will do everything they can to keep Sheffield out of the Hall of Fame. They will continue to ignore many of the best players of a generation, thus ignoring a generation of fans and risk turning the Hall into what both boxing and horse racing have become. Irrelevant. Sheffield is a deserving Hall of Famer, his future omission will be a mistake.

Sammy Sosa averaged 5.8 wins a year during his eight year peak. Sosa hit 60 home runs or more three times, and finished his career with 609. From 1998-2002 Sosa hit a ridiculous 292 home runs, however his career WAR (54.8), OPS+ (128), and OBP (.344) all fall significantly short of the Hall of Fame averages at Right Field (WAR 66.8/OPS+136/OBP .382). Sosa allegedly tested positive for steroids during the 2003 survey test, and was called in front of Congress due to suspicions of his PED use. He has become one of the figureheads of the “steroid era”. If he used (I think he did) he was just one of many players using steroids in the late 90′s and 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. There is a reasonable case to keep Sosa out on numbers alone. If the voters looked beyond PEDs and traditional counting numbers they would see Sosa is borderline at best, and that his “assault on the record book” was not really a thing.

Rather than ignoring a generation of players, I think the Hall should simply acknowledge that they used and that it was a problem in the game during that time. Put something online, in interactive videos, and even on their plaques like “Mark McGwire played during a time when the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs was widespread and overlooked throughout the sport. During that time Major League Baseball was not testing and there were no punishments in place for using. McGwire has admitted to using steroids during his playing career.”

Back to players not associated with steroids.

Bobby Bonds averaged 5.5 wins a year during his peak. Bonds is one of only eight players to finish his career with 300 or more home runs (332), and 300 or more stolen bases (461). From 1968-1977 Bonds’ first ten seasons in the league he posted a WAR (Baseball-Reference) of 48.9 tied for 7th in all of baseball with Carl Yastrzemski. The reason why Bonds isn’t in the Hall of Fame already, he wasn’t Willie Mays. He didn’t live up to the impossible expectations placed on him when he joined the Giants and showed a brilliant combination of power and speed. Hopefully the Veterans Committee will put him in when they have the chance, he was a better player than at least nine right fielders enshrined in the Hall.

Dwight Evans averaged 4.6 wins a year during his eight year peak, a number slightly below the 5 win mark you want from most Hall of Famers. Evans was a late bloomer, at least offensively, that contributed to him being overshadowed for much of his career. First impressions are powerful, after Evans’ played his first three full seasons (72-75) his slash line looked like this .264/.338/.423 with an OPS of .761 and an OPS+ of 110, averaging 8 home runs a year. From 1976 on his slash line looked like this .273/.375/.478 with an OPS of .852 and an OPS+ of 130, averaging 22 home runs a year. Evans was a solid defensive player with hall-worthy career value, however his lack of a truly great peak makes him a borderline candidate. If nothing else he was a better player than at least seven right fielders enshrined in the Hall, that’s pretty good.

Bobby Abreu averaged 5.4 wins a year during his peak. Despite his rather impressive career slash line of .292/.396/.477 Abreu appears to have been chronically underrated. From 1998-2007 Abreu posted a Baseball-Reference WAR of 49.2, good for 8th in the majors during that stretch. Did you ever think of Abreu as a top ten player in the game? I’m not sure I did either. Abreu is the textbook example of someone that does lots of things well, but nothing exceptionally well, that’s one of the ways a player can end up undervalued during his career. Abreu is a borderline Hall of Famer, his carer OBP of .396 would rank 35th among those enshrined in the Hall, and he was a better player than at least nine right fielders residing in Cooperstown.

Vladimir Guerrero averaged 5.4 wins a year during his eight year peak. Guerrero finished his career with 449 home runs and an OPS of .931. The .931 OPS ranks 5th among right fielders with at least 5,000 plate appearances, as does his .553 slugging percentage. Guerrero never drew 100 walks in a season, nor did he ever strikeout 100 times. Guerrero is a deserving Hall of Famer, he will likely get in a few years after he first appears on the ballot.

Ichiro Suzuki averaged 5.6 wins a year during his peak. Ichiro led the American league in batting average twice, and hits seven times. Ichiro didn’t start playing for the Mariners until he was 27 years old, had he been playing in the majors starting at age 22 his career WAR would likely be approaching 80. Ichiro saved 134 runs over his career, 5th best among right fielders. He will likely get enshrined his first year on the ballot, rightfully so.

Right field might have produced the best player enshrined in the Hall of Fame, but it also produced the worst. Tommy McCarthy averaged just 2.2 wins a year during his peak. His career WAR (Baseball-Reference) of 14.1 is the by far the lowest number of any member enshrined in the Hall. McCarthy’s C-WAR of 33 falls 81.9 wins shy of the right field Hall of Fame average.

Right field has the most depth at any position. 24 right fielders are already enshrined, and you can easily make a case that Walker, Sosa, Abreu, Bonds, Evans, Guerrero, Sheffield, and Ichiro should join them. If that were to happen, the 25 best players to ever play the position would be enshrined, that would be kind of cool.

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 right fielders chart excluding Baseball Prospectus’ WAR altogether.

Download (PDF, Unknown)

This list produced mostly modest changes.

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.

Download (PDF, Unknown)

Again only modest changes from list-to-list here, however I still I find all three valuable to look at.

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 and the integrity of the game like the exclusion of black players for over fifty years. While I can’t include them in C-WAR, I do want to mention Pete Hill, and Willard Brown both were elected to the Hall of Fame as outfielders. Who knows how great they could have been, or how different the record book would look if they were all 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 contact@replacementlevelpodcast.com or find me on Twitter @Rosscarey

Originally posted 8/10/12

Updated 11/24/12

Trackbacks

  1. Ross Carey says:

    Check out some Hall of Fame stats using career and peak WAR for Right Fielders http://t.co/dr96GsAJ #HOF

  2. Ross Carey says:

    @AroundTheHorn Saw you mentioned WAR today, thought you might enjoy my HOF research based on career & peak WAR. http://t.co/3Jr9udPj

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