Should Mike Piazza be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame? In short, yes. Below is a statistical look at how he compares to the Hall of Fame averages both as his position and overall.
In addition to the numbers listed above, Piazza exceeds standards in C-WAR. C-WAR is a Hall of Fame monitoring system I created 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.
The average C-WAR line for a Hall of Fame catcher is: 51.0 career average/34.0 peak/85.3 C-WAR. Piazza’s line looks like this 66.2 AVG/44.8 PK/111 C-WAR. That ranks third all-time at catcher trailing only Johnny Bench (122.7) & Gary Carter (116.9).
I’ve written about the PED/Hall of Fame issue many times on posts throughout this site, and have discussed it with just about every guest who has appeared on the podcast. To summarize, if Piazza used he was 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. 2013 marks the first year Piazza will appear on the Hall of Fame ballot, he will not get in, or come even close. If Barry Bonds isn’t going to get enshrined neither will Piazza. For the record Piazza never tested positive, never was the subject of a federal investigation, he wasn’t named in the Mitchell Report, no eyewitnesses have ever claimed to have seen him use or provided him with PEDs, and he has denied ever using steroids. He has admitted to using Androstenedione when it was a legal product sold over the counter.
Rather than ignoring a generation of players and putting sports writers in the ridiculous position of having to judge morality and character, I think the Hall should simply acknowledge that some players 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.”
A Hall of Fame that ignores a generation of players simply is not legitimate or credible. The Hall is risking alienating a generation of fans and turning the museum into what both horse racing and boxing have become, irrelevant.
More detailed analysis to come. I wanted to post this quickly for Wendy Thurm who recently posted this on twitter: “I’m doing some historical research on catchers. Tell me again how the BBWAA is going to keep Piazza out of the HOF with a straight face?”
Many thanks to the incredibly smart people who work at Baseball-Reference, and FanGraphs, without their tireless efforts to improve and maintain their sites and information none of this research would be possible. It’s also worth noting that sometimes FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference have slightly different numbers for the same player. For example, FanGraphs has Willie Mays with 12,493 plate appearances, Baseball-Reference has him at 12,496. These slight differences are common with historical players, the differences aren’t enough to skew the averages but it’s worth mentioning that the statistics represented in the chart above were compiled using data mostly from FanGraphs.
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