(Here’s my similar blog on pitchers.)
And, the list of all hitters.
That said, I have a bone to pick, a small one, with Baseball-Reference’s HOF lists. The comparative sabermetric tools we value, like WAR, OPS+ and ERA+? Why aren’t they included on these lists? It would make the comparisons much easier.
And, why are HOF pitchers who ever, even just once, swung a bat in their lives, listed again under the “batters” category? Ditto for managers who had a cup of coffee in the major leagues.
I start with one basic stat; that’s OPS+.
Unless you’re in a fielding-primary position like shortstop, you should be at 110 or higher, and ideally, 115 or better. Kind of like how Baseball-Reference tweaks its fielding sabermetrics per positional difficulty, I tweak the OPS+ bottom line per position. Shortstop? A 100 is OK, or even less than 100 if you bring a LOT to table as a fielder. (Think Ozzie Smith, while noting Omar Vizquel is NOT in the same category.) As for pre-“modern” players in the sense of pre-1960, I’ll cut infielders as fielders yet m ore slack based on infield quality of the old says.
Catcher? If you have a reputation as a pitcher’s catcher, I’ll lower it below 110. Second and third base, 110 is really the minimum. 115 for outfield positions and 120 or better at 1B.
Overall WAR gets looked at next, and dWAR gets an extra look for “fielding” positions especially. Overall WAR should be 50 or higher except for a career shortened by acute injury.
Beyond that, I look for a mix of longevity and a peak set of years. It's subjective, but a good candidate should have some of both. And, of course, every such discussion has an element of subjectivity, no matter the number of sabermetric stats at hand.
OK, so whom should we consider tossing out? Here's my list, with brief notes on each.
- Jim Bottomley? Probably the worst 1B in the HOF. Crappy numbers, given the era in which he played.
- Roger Bresnahan. He passes the OPS muster, but didn’t play long enough.
- Max Carey. OPS too low; WAR on borderline; don’t think he was outstanding, though he was above average, as fielder.
- Earle Combs. Didn’t play that long a career, not a defensive outfielder.
- Frank Chance. Borderline, but really, shortness of his career is part of the problem.
- Kiki Cuyler? Borderline, but I’d lean “no.”
- Bobby Doerr? Should have racked up better numbers playing all through WWII in a diminished MLB. And didn’t. If those numbers came 10 years later, I might cut more slack.
- Elmer Flick? Didn’t play that long. But, impressive stats from the dead-ball era. Borderline.
- Rick Ferrell? Not that good of a defensive catcher to make up for offensive limitations. In fact, he was below average defensively as well as at the plate.
- Nellie Fox? Borderline. Near-great defensively, but perhaps a touch overrated. Not that good offensively.
- George Kell? Out. Especially given that he played 1B as well as 3B.
- High Pockets Kelly? Also out. Not that long of a career, and other things. If he were a full-career 1B, I’d rank him below Bottomley.
- Chuck Klein? Out. Five-year flash in the pan.
- Freddie Lindstrom? Out! Not that good of a fielder, not a great hitter, too short a career.
- Ernie Lombardi? Borderline. Not sure his above-average, for a catcher, bat, makes up for below-average defense.
- Heinie Manush? Just not quite good enough for quite long enough.
- Rabbit Maranville? Nice nickname, but even for being primarily a SS, not sure his fielding makes up for a weak bat.
- Phil Rizzuto? Iffy. I’ll give him the missed wartime years benefit of the doubt. Edd Roush? Out, I think. It’s like looking at Harold Baines.
- Bill Terry? Great stats, but, in the very life ball era of the 1930s, and too short of a career. Borderline.
- Pie Traynor? Negative career dWAR. Time to get this icon out, I think! He’s overrated in the field.
- Lloyd Waner? “Little Poison” probably shouldn’t be there. Contra another blogger, to whom I saw WTF?, Paul Waner aka Big Poison, is a perfectly legit HOFer.
- Hack Wilson? Too short a career, fielding liabilities, very live ball era inflation.
You'll note 22 players on that list. That's a fair chunk of the HOF. Before worrying if we have too few third basemen in there, maybe we ought to instead address the "too many" at a number of positions.