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21 Jan

Peaking

Just a note… When I talk about “peak value”, like Bill James (whom I am shamelessly copying) I’m not talking about what a player did any one season. I mean, Ken Caminiti in 1996 had a season roughly equivalent to Chipper’s best season (1999); that doesn’t mean Caminiti’s “steroid”-enhanced peak was as high as Chipper’s. That was a fluke. For that matter, Chipper’s 1999 was a fluke, but less dramatic. “Peak” here means what a player did over a course of seasons, three or four or five. So if Willie McGee was roughly as valuable as Dale Murphy in 1985, that doesn’t mean his peak value was the same as Murph’s, because Murph had several seasons as good or better and McGee had a fluke year.

8 Responses to “Peaking”

  1. 1
    bamadan Says:

    I’ve been piddling around with Bill James’ Win Shares, looking at career and peak values for the HoF and Murph’s comparitors. For what its worth, here are a few lists to take up a bunch of space.

    A quick aside for anyone not familiar with Win Shares. It is a metric designed to properly credit hitting, fielding, and baserunning (as well as pitchers) when adjusted for the player’s parks and era of play. Three Win Shares is equal to one win.

    There are two groups that I averaged. First is all the OFs who have been elected to the HoF primarily for their post-WWII performance. That inlcudes Aaron, Mays, Musial, Mantle, Ted Williams, Robinson, Yaz, Jackson, Kaline, Winfield, Clemente, Billy Williams, Stargell, Snider, Brock, Ashburn, Puckett, and Doby. I didn’t include players who played OF but are primarily included for other positions (Yount, Killibrew, etc.) I also didn’t include players who played some after the War, but whose induction is primarily based on pre War performance (Slaughter, DiMaggio, etc.)

    On with the show …

    Career Win Shares
    HOF 445
    Murphy 294

    Best single year
    HOF 38
    Murphy 33

    Best three years (non-consecutive)
    HOF 108
    Murphy 97

    Best five years (non-consecutive)
    HOF 170
    Murphy 157

    Best eight years (non-consecutive)
    HOF 253
    Murphy 221

    Clearly, Murphy isn’t as good career or any of these definitions of peak as an average Hall of Fame outfielder. But that really isn’t the question. No one would suggest he was the player Ted Williams was or Willie Mays or the Mick.

    My next group is the non-inner circle Hall OFs. From the prior list, I excluded Aaron, Mays, Musial, Teddy Ballgame, Mantle, and F Robby.

    Career
    NICHOF 374
    Murphy 294

    Best year
    NICHOF 35
    Murphy 33

    Best 3
    NICHOF 98
    Murphy 97

    Best 5
    NICHOF 153
    Murphy 157

    Best 8
    NICHOF 225
    Murphy 221

    That closes the gap significantly. Murphy’s career isn’t close to the average, but his peak is within the margin of error in each of the categories.

    A few notes from the above. There are two players who had less career Win Shares than Murphy. Larry Doby, with 268, is one. Doby was inducted largely for his role as a racial pioneer, being the first African American to play in the AL and the second to manage in MLB. His peak was virtually identical to Murphy. Best year 34, best 3 97, best 5 152, best 8 221. He is 1 WS better in his best, equal in 3 and 8 and five worse in 5.

    The second with fewer career WS is Kirby Puckett. Puckett had 281 career, 32 in his best season, 90 in his best three, 138 in his best five, and 199 in his best eight. Murphy tops Puckett in each category.

    When I have a little more time, I’ll list each of these comparitors, but clearly Murph’s peak is within hailing distance of the Hall.

    But it would be an ever downward spiral to induct every player who is arguably better than the worst HoFer. So lets look at some of Murphy’s comparitors. I picked Outfielders from the 60s 70s and 80s who have been passed over for the Hall. I tried to select a group that, on average, would have about the same career value and then looked at their peak values.

    Lets start with their career Win Shares:
    Rusty Staub 358
    Dewey Evans 347
    Andre Dawson 340
    Dave Parker 327
    Reggie Smith 325
    Vada Pinson 321
    Jimmy Wynn 305
    Bobby Bonds 302
    Ken Singleton 302
    Dale Murphy 294
    Jim Rice 282
    Freddy Lynn 280
    Pedro Guerrero 246
    Tony Oliva 245

    Best year
    1. Parker 37
    2. Wynn 36
    t. Rice 36
    t. Singleton 36
    5. Guerrero 35
    6. Lynn 34
    7. Murphy 33
    t. Oliva 33
    9. Staub 32
    t. Pinson 32
    t. Bonds 32
    12. Evans 31
    13. Dawson 29
    t. Smith 29

    Murph’s best year is pretty much middle of the pack, but it is a bunched up group.

    Best 3
    1. Parker 101
    t. Singleton 101
    3. Wynn 100
    4. Murphy 97
    t. Guerrero 97
    6. Bonds 95
    7. Lynn 94
    8. Rice 92
    9. Oliva 91
    10. Staub 90
    t. Pinson 90
    12. Evans 86
    13. Smith 84
    14. Dawson 83

    Near the top of the list and significantly better than Dewey, Reggie, and the Hawk.

    Best 5
    1. Wynn 159
    2. Murphy 157
    t. Singleton 157
    4. Parker 156
    5. Guerrero 155
    6. Bonds 150
    7. Staub 145
    8. Oliva 143
    9. Rice 142
    10. Pinson 140
    11. Lynn 138
    12. Evans 135
    13. Smith 134
    14. Dawson 132

    Starting to separate himself from the trailers, but still in a tight group with Wynn, Parker, Singleton and Guerrero.

    Best 8
    1. Wynn 235
    2. Singleton 226
    3. Murphy 221
    4. Bonds 220
    5. Staub 219
    6. Parker 218
    7. Oliva 212
    8. Guerrero 210
    9. Smith 207
    t. Pinson 207
    11. Evans 200
    t. Rice 200
    13. Lynn 194
    14. Dawson 192

    Again near the top. Jimmy Wynn is a sabermetric darling and stands out here. Murph is in a group with Singleton, Staub, Bonds and Parker.

    Anyway, enough with the lists. The one thing that surprised me is how well Kenny Singleton does. I remember him better from his decline years in Baltimore, but he was a switch hitting outfielder with pretty much every tool but speed. He tops Murph in each of the peak measures as well as career value.

  2. 2
    Nate Says:

    Thanks Bamadan, great post.

  3. 3
    sansho1 Says:

    Great stuff, bamadan. If anything, the tightly bunched field is a fairly compelling argument that none of them should get in. To me, Wynn is the most interesting case. He shows up very well in these metrics — his problems were the Astrodome, a Murphy-esque early end to his effectiveness, and a tendency to toss in the occasional not-so-great season even when he was in his prime. But when he had it going, he was obviously one of the very best.

  4. 4
    Ted Says:

    Mac,

    Is Chipper’s 1999 season really a fluke? I don’t have the time or inclination to do the math right now, but isn’t it typical for a great player to have a season like that. I mean, Chipper should be a standard HOF player when he’s done, and don’t they usually have one or two seasons that are a little above their modal peak season?

    Great post bamadan

  5. 5
    Mac Thomason Says:

    It’s a “fluke” in the sense that it’s significantly above his usual norms; he set career highs in homers, doubles, on-base, slugging, batting… even stolen bases. It’s not a big fluke because he’s done almost as well in other seasons. Most great players do have a season like that, though, one where everything breaks right. Mike Schmidt, for example, put up a 199 OPS+ in 1981, right in the middle of all of six years in a row of 150 or better.

    Sometime I’m going to do a post about the Historical Abstract rankings. Murphy is tenth or twelfth, something like that, among CF, with only Wynn among eligible non HOFers ahead of him. And Wynn’s a lost cause with the writers.

  6. 6
    bamadan Says:

    Here is a player who is pretty much a direct comparator to Murphy. Murph came up for a cup of coffee in ’76 and was full time in ’78. Mystery player came up in ’79 and was a starter by ’81.

    Career WS
    Murphy 294
    NICHOF 374
    Player X 390

    Best season
    Murphy 33
    NICHOF 35
    Player X 36

    Best 3
    Murphy 97
    NICHOF 98
    Player X 102

    Best 5
    NICHOF 153
    Murphy 157
    Player X 163

    Best 8
    Murphy 221
    NICHOF 225
    Player X 237

    Player X is, of course, Tim Raines. I didn’t include Raines in the listing above because he hasn’t been eligible for Cooperstown yet. But I suspect he is going to be passed over. Raines, however, is clearly qualified. His career value is higher than the average of the non-inner circle HoFers, and each of these three peak measures are better.

    Beyond that, Raines best season was cut short in a fashion out of his control: collusion. I don’t give any extra credit for players missing time in ’72, ’81 or ’94 because of strikes / lock outs. I don’t give any credit for seasons missed due to injury. I figure those are, in a sense, within the players’ control. But in 1987, the owners colluded agreeing not to bid on other teams’ free agents. Raines got caught in that and was, by rule, required to sit out the first month of the season. Expanded to a full season, Raines’ best would have been, conservatively, around 40-42 Win Shares. (For perspective, the best year for Aaron was 41, Mays 43, Robinson 41, and Yaz 42.) He is listed above with what actually happened, but it could have been even more.

    Speaking of more, it would be unfair not to mention that, like Dave Parker, Keith Hernandez, John Mayberry, and dozens of others, Raines was caught up in the cocaine scandals of the early 1980s. He said at one time that he started sliding head first because of a fear that he would break glass vials of coke kept in his rear pocket. Raines, of course, came clean and was considered a positive role model in his later years.

  7. 7
    bamadan Says:

    …and a tendency to toss in the occasional not-so-great season even when he was in his prime.

    Getting stabbed with a knife by your wife will tend to do that to you.

  8. 8
    sansho1 Says:

    Getting stabbed with a knife by your wife will tend to do that to you.

    Yes, yes it would.

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