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Pirates Have Their Share of Controversial HOFers

Bill Mazeroski probably isn’t HOF worthy, but there are worse picks than him. Photo by Flicker user daveynin.

On Sunday, the Today ?s Game era Hall of Fame ballot announced two new elections to the Hall of Fame. One is Lee Smith- a fairly uncontroversial pick, even if saves are overvalued. The other is Harold Baines. To put it nicely, he ?s a pretty controversial pick, if not laughable.

Baines was by no means a bad player. He was actually pretty darn good, racking up 2,866 hits, 384 home runs and 1,628 RBI over a 22 year career. Those are some good counting stats, but he only reached 3 fWAR twice in his career with a good, but not outstanding 121 OPS+. He ?s a career sub-40 WAR player. His best statistical comp is Dave Parker, who finished with 40 career WAR and a 121 OPS+. Now Parker had his off the field problems, but he wouldn ?t have been a Hall of Famer even if he was a boy scout.

Baines may be a poor selection, but people need to stop acting like he is the least deserving member in Cooperstown. For example, the Pirates have 37 player alums in the Hall of Fame. Baines is comparable or better than these four:

4. Rabbit Maranville: 42.5 fWAR, 42.9 rWAR, 83 wRC+, 82 OPS+, JAWS 36.7 (average at position: 55)

There are more egregious players in the Hall than Maranville, but that doesn ?t mean he deserves a plaque.

Maranville made a four year pit stop in Pittsburgh from 1921-1924 during his 23-season career. He is rated as one of the best defensive players of all-time and has some impressive counting stats, racking up 2,605 hits and 291 stolen bases.

But those high totals aren ?t nearly as impressive with a little bit of context. He has a career slash line of  .258/.318/.340, which is bad considering he spent the majority of his career in the live ball era. He only had three seasons with a wRC+ or OPS+ of at least 100.

Even his base stealing is overvalued. Due to poor record keeping by teams, we only know how many times he was caught stealing in nine of his 23 years played. Fortunately, those nine years were during his age 21-33 seasons– the prime of his base swiping career. In that time, he swiped 176 bags and was caught stealing 112 times (61.1% conversion rate). A player needs to steal roughly 75% of his attempted steals to make it worth the risk. Even if he was a perfect 116-0 on his other attempts, he would be short of that mark.

The Hall of Fame shouldn ?t just be for great offensive players, but Maranville ?s glove wasn ?t good enough to make up for his bat.

3. Bill Mazeroski: 30.9 fWAR, 36.5 rWAR, 82 wRC+, 84 OPS+, JAWS 31.2 (average at position: 57)

If you were to Google ?worst MLB Hall of Famers, ? chances are Mazeroski will be near the top of the list. Maz is in the Hall because of a home run he hit on Oct. 13, 1960. Take that way and he ?s probably not even worthy of the ?Hall of Very Good. ?

During his 17 year career, Mazeroski never had a season with an OPS+ or wRC+ of 100 or better. He never had a five WAR season and only cracked 3 fWAR three times. He was a good guy to have on a team, but he wasn ?t the type of guy a club could build around.

In his defense, Mazeroski at least was a very well respected player during his career. He deservedly won eight Gold Gloves and was named an All-Star 10 times. No second baseman has turned as many double plays as him. Those benchmarks aren ?t enough to be in Cooperstown, but they are better qualifications than what the next two have on their resumes.

2. Freddie Lindstorm: 30.6 fWAR, 28.4 rWAR, 109 wRC+, 110 OPS+, 27.3 JAWS (average at position: 55.7)

Unlike the other players on this list, Lindstrom was elite at his position for an extended period of time. From 1926-1930, he had two near-seven win seasons and never dipped below 3 fWAR in a campaign. He was the most valuable and best hitting third baseman in the game for a five year stretch.

Unfortunately, injuries slowed him down and forced him to hang it up at just 30 years old. The Pirates had him for two of those slowed down years in 1933 and 1934, but he still produced a healthy 4.6 fWAR and a 112 OPS+ with the Bucs. He was still a quality ball player, and he probably could have earned a legitimate enshrinement if he had five or six more healthy seasons.

Lindstrom is in Cooperstown because of Frankie Frisch. Frisch was a Hall of Fame player who eventually became the chairman of the Veterans Committee. In his time as chair, a disproportionate amount of his ex-Giants and Cardinals teammates were enshrined. That includes Jesse Haines (36.2 career fWAR), Chick Hafey (32.7), Ross Youngs (36.2), George Kelly (28.9) and Lindstrom.

The best case for Lindstrom is his performance at his peak, but even then he was still a class below other players of his era like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby, Al Simmons and Paul Waner. Speaking of Waners…

1. Lloyd Waner: 25 fWAR, 24.1 rWAR, 99 wRC+, 99 OPS+, 22.2 JAWS (average at position: 57.9)

The Hall of Fame is supposed to be for the those who were the best of their generation. Lloyd Waner was not one of the best of his generation. He was not one of the best on his team. He wasn ?t even the best outfielder named Waner of his team.

?Little Poison ? had four 3 WAR seasons in his career, but never eclipsed 4. His bat was remarkably average and he graded as an ok defender at a premium position. That ?s a fine ball player to have on your team, but it isn ?t enshrinement worthy.

The Pirates have a storied history of elite outfielders. That includes Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente, WIllie Stargell, Fred Clarke, Paul Waner, Max Carey and Ralph Kiner, and eventual enshrinee Barry Bonds. Lloyd Waner ranks 15th in franchise history in WAR for an outfielder, below guys like Dave Parker, Brian Giles, Andy Van Slyke and Ginger Beaumont.

In the end, Waner ?s 2,459 career hits and the right last name were enough to squeak into Cooperstown. Baines may be a poor selection, but he ?s better than the lesser Waner.

Alex is a Pirates and Duquesne basketball contributor to The Point of Pittsburgh. He graduated from Point Park University with a degree in Journalism and Mass Comm. and a minor in English in 2014. Everything can be explained with numbers. If you want to keep up to date on both teams or have a story idea, you can follow or reach him @AlexJStumpf.

2 Comments on Pirates Have Their Share of Controversial HOFers

  1. Phillip C-137 // December 12, 2018 at 2:02 AM //

    Alex normally does an excellent job on his articles, but this one is akin to the local guy on the radio who for YEARS has used Steve Howe playing after being suspended 7 time as some sort of justification for Pete Rose to get elected to the Hall. Is pointing out that other guys are undeserving supposed to make me feel better about the atrocious election of Baines?

    Seems I recall some saying about 2 wrongs.

    Back in the day Frisch used his position to gain induction for some guys he held in high regard. Fast forward to 2018 and it happens again (it’s just different guys doing it).

    Instead of “you messed up, now try to do better” the election of Baines is “they got away with it and so can we”.

    Also this may be a good time for someone to explain to me why the Pirates retired the #1 for Billy Meyer. Did he douse a fire that was going to burn down a school of handicapped children or he led all the rats out of the city? Because I sure don’t see it in his numbers.

  2. one thing to keep in mind about Ross Youngs is that he died when he was 30 and played his last season at 29.

    Maranville must have been very respected as a player, he did well in MVP voting. 5 times in top 10, a couple at the beginning of his career and a couple times at the end. His years with Bucs were his best on offense.

    I would put Al Oliver in Hall before Baines. Overall good article.

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