Archive for Murphy for Cooperstown

Rep. Waxman, Please Do Something Productive

Representative Henry Waxman is upset about Bud Selig’s Congressional testimony that positive steroid tests declined from five percent in 2003 to one percent in 2004.

But the accuracy of the picture provided by Commissioner Bud Selig, his deputy Rob Manfred and the players union’s executive director, Donald Fehr, about how the testing was conducted has come into question. The committee’s chairman, Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, has said he is troubled, and the committee’s staff is planning to send letters to Selig and Fehr seeking answers to what Waxman has called “misinformation.”

At the heart of the issue is the fact that the committee was not told that the 2004 testing, with its significantly lower positive test results, had been partly shut down for much of that season, what Selig’s office later called an emergency response to an unforeseen situation. Specifically, the shutdown arose from the federal investigation of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative steroid ring.

As a result, players who apparently tested positive in 2003 were not retested in 2004 until the final weeks of the season, and might have been notified beforehand, perhaps skewing the overall test numbers for that year.

“It’s clear that some of the information Major League Baseball and the players union gave the committee in 2005 was inaccurate,” Waxman said in a written statement. “It isn’t clear whether this was intentional or just reflects confusion over the testing program for 2003 and 2004. In any case, the misinformation is unacceptable.”

First, there is nothing “inaccurate” about this claim. It could have been misleading, in that the lower positive-test rate had a cause other than decreased steroid use, but baseball appears to have presented correct numbers.

Second, is this news to Waxman? The shutting down of testing in 2004 is such common knowledge that I cannot even recall where I learned of it many months ago. I believe it was included in the Mitchell Report.

UPDATE: Here is the relevant text from the Mitchell Report (pp. 281–282).

In April 2004 federal agents executed search warrants on two private firms involved in the 2003 survey testing, Comprehensive Drug Testing, Inc. and Quest Diagnostics, Inc.; the warrants sought drug testing records and samples for ten major league players connected with the BALCO investigation. In the course of those searches, the agents seized data from which they believed they could determine the identities of the major league players who had tested positive during the anonymous survey testing.

Shortly after these events, the Players Association initiated discussions with the Commissioner’s Office regarding a possible suspension of drug testing while the federal investigation proceeded. Manfred said the parties were concerned at the time that test results that they believed until then raised only employment issues had now become an issue in a pending criminal investigation. Ultimately, the Commissioner’s Office and the Players Association agreed to a moratorium on 2004 drug testing. While the exact date and length of this moratorium is uncertain, and the relevant 2004 testing records have been destroyed, Manfred stated that the moratorium commenced very early in the season, prior to the testing of any significant number of players. Manfred stated that the Players Association was not authorized to advise its members of the existence of the moratorium.

According to Manfred, the moratorium lasted for a short period. For most players, drug tests then resumed. With respect to the players who the federal agents believed had tested positive during 2003 survey testing, however, the Commissioner’s Office and the Players Association agreed that: (1) the Players Association would be permitted to advise those players of this fact, since that information was now in the hands of the government; (2) the testing moratorium would continue with respect to those players until the Players Association had an opportunity to notify them; and (3) the Players Association would not advise any of the players of the limited moratorium.

Sometime between mid-August and early September 2004, Manfred contacted Orza because the Players Association had not yet notified the players involved. The 2004 season was drawing to a close without those players having been tested because they remained under the moratorium. Manfred said that he pressed Orza to notify the players as soon as possible so that they could be tested. All of the players were notified by early September 2004.

The problem is that the owners and players agreed to suspend testing for a portion of the 2004 season after the I.R.S. seized previous test results that were supposed to be anonymous. It was the seizure by a government organization that impeded the testing, not MLB or MPBPA.

But, what really annoys me, is that if Waxman really cared about getting steroids out of baseball, he would have used his powers to suppress the seized evidence. Baseball entered into its drug testing program with good intentions, despite the fact there are incentives for individual players and owners to skirt the system. It took major concessions for both sides to begin testing, and anonymity of the early tests was important. Th raid threw all of that good will out the window, and players were once again suspicious of what would happen to the personal health information contained in the blood samples.

Instead, of blaming baseball, Rep. Waxman should have helped baseball negate these seizures, so that all the parties involved could have used their resources to protect player confidentiality while trying to rid the sport of doping. That is to goal of all of this, isn’t it?

Disappointed Again

For several years, Braves fans have had two post-season rituals: watching the Braves lose in the playoffs and seeing Dale Murphy fall short of Hall of Fame induction. The Braves didn’t even make the playoffs this year so I thought that might be a good omen for Murphy. But with all the Hall of Fame talk, I soon became scared that Murph might fall off the ballot. That didn’t happen—he garnered 9.2% of the votes—but I’m not sure it’s much of a victory.

Last season, I developed a list of position players not in the Hall of Fame but should be. Murphy was on that list.

Player            	First    Last    P(in HOF)
Bill Dahlen        	1891    1911    80.18%
Pete Rose        	1963    1986    78.39%
George Van Haltren    	1887    1903    72.86%
Keith Hernandez        	1974    1990    70.99%
Dwight Evans        	1972    1991    68.46%
Dale Murphy        	1976    1993    68.43%
Jimmy Ryan        	1885    1903    66.83%
Bob Elliott       	1939    1953    58.84%
Phil Cavarretta       	1934    1955    57.99%
Bob O’Farrell        	1915    1935    55.68%
Vern Stephens        	1941    1955    52.99%
Bob Johnson	        1933    1945    52.79%
Dolph Camilli        	1933    1945    52.59%
Cupid Childs        	1888    1901    51.64%
Larry Doyle        	1907    1920    50.56%
Deacon McGuire        	1884    1912    50.09%

As a side project, I also looked at the Hall of Fame chances of not-yet eligible players.

Player			P(in HOF)
Barry Bonds		100.00%
Rickey Henderson	99.80%
Frank Thomas		97.44%
Ken Griffey		95.63%
Larry Walker		95.03%
Cal Ripken		91.22%
Roberto Alomar		88.01%
Jeff Bagwell		86.85%
Rafael Palmeiro		83.96%
Barry Larkin		81.51%
Alex Rodriguez		74.10%
Ivan Rodriguez		66.90%
Edgar Martinez		64.03%
Tim Raines		63.32%
Fred McGriff		62.86%
Gary Sheffield		60.90%
Tony Gwynn		60.78%
Mark McGwire		58.73%
Craig Biggio		56.77%
Juan Gonzalez		55.64%
Sammy Sosa		51.77%

One year later, Ripken and Gwynn made it, but McGwire did not. I do think that McGwire will eventually get in, but I wonder about Barry Bonds and that 100% probability.

Thinking about who gets into the Hall of Fame is a great way to introduce people to sabermetrics. One of the first books Doug Drinen handed me on sabermetrics was Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame? by Bill James. After that, I was hooked.

For more on Murph and the HOF see Mac Thomason’s excellent series.

More Love for Murph

Frank Stephenson at Division of Labour pointed me to Kyle Wingfield’s column in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. It’s a pay site, but I’ll post a brief quote.

…if voting patterns for the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s are any indication. In each of those decades, an average of 22 Hall of Famers played the most significant part of their careers — meaning a majority or near-majority of their statistical production came in that decade. …

So far, the corresponding number for the ’80s is only 13. Three more players — Tony Gwynn, Rickey Henderson and Cal Ripken Jr. — are sure to enter Cooperstown in the coming years. But that still leaves the ’80s six Hall of Famers short of the three previous, and largely comparable, decades.

Wingfield attributes the current “Steroid Era” as the cause of 80s players getting less respect. While I think the growing offensive numbers may be part of the reason, I don’t see much evidence that steroids is the cause of the rise in those numbers.

Murphy for Cooperstown

Mac Thomason is looking into Dale Murphy’s Hall of Fame credentials with a series of articles over at Braves Journal—THE online home for thinking Braves fans. I’ve been doing a smaller version of this (here and here), but Mac’s doing the heavy lifting. The goal is to “objectively” examine Murph’s accomplishments according to several well-known criteria for evaluating HOF worthiness. I put objective in quotes because, thought both Mac and I are using tools the objective researcher would use, we both feel that he is worthy based on these criteria. So, I want to make it clear that we are both advocates for him. Might we be a little biased? Absolutely, but so what. Murphy clears some tough hurdles, and it’s easy to forget just how good he was. And we are asking other fans to start making the case. Whenever a journalist says Murph isn’t worthy, send him an e-mail with links to Mac’s new category, Murphy for Cooperstown, and/or mine.

Here are the most recent links from Mac’s site:
Most Runs Created, 1980-1989
Murphy’s Keltner List

It is our hope that we can finally put Murphy in the Hall of Fame by showing that his pros outweigh the cons.

Why Are HOF Voters Ignoring Murphy?

The Hall of Fame voting this year reveals some information about the voters. Mainly, they’re not very consistent. For one, Bruce Sutter gets in but Goose Gossage does not. Have any voters posted their reasons for voting for Sutter but not Gossage? Goose received 100% of ESPN writer’s votes, while Sutter only got 80%. Well, enough people have pointed this out, but I want to look at how voters treated the hitters.

Jim Rice and Andre Dawson were the only position players with a majority of the votes. Dale Murphy comes in with a measly 10.8% of the vote. The thing is, all three of these guys are very similar.

Player		Career		Gold Gloves	MVPs	OPS+	HOF Votes
Jim Rice	16		0		1	128	337
Andre Dawson	21		8		1	119	317	
Dale Murphy	19		5		2	121	56

They all played outfield. They had similar offensive numbers. They all had a few spectacular years, each winning an MVP. All had few post-season opportunities. They played in the same era. Both Dawson and Murphy won several gold gloves. So, come on Braves fans, it’s time to start lobbying. Dawson and Rice have Boston and Chicago fans going for them. It’s time to start up the comparisons to guys who are receiving serious HOF consideration. It may be that none of these guys ever make it, but I think they all should be treated the same by the voters.

Who’s Missing From the Hall of Fame?

Well, I probably shouldn’t post this, but why not? If things get out of hand I can just start talking about abortion and crime to settle everybody down. Baseball fans love to talk about who ought to be in the Hall of Fame. And now that the ballot is out and baseball diamond is empty, this is a good time to discuss who belongs and who doesn’t. It’s kind of a silly club, but the exclusiveness of it’s membership gives it some real integrity, which keeps our attention. Very few unworthy baseball figures have a plaque at Cooperstown.

Last week, over at The Baseball Analysts, long-time Bert Blyleven advocate Rich Lederer took his case to the people with a slew of celebrity guests columnists. Bill James also made a strong case in The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006. I’m convinced, Mr. Blyleven should be in, let’s just hope that 75% of the BBWAA agrees this year. Now, I have to admit, I feel ashamed. Ashamed that I haven’t taken the time to put up a similar case for my own personal baseball hero.

To put my baseball life in context, I’m 32 years old. I grew up in Charlotte, NC, and both of my parents’ families are from the Atlanta area. When I discovered baseball after throwing out first pitch at a AA Charlotte O’s game, I needed a major league team to follow. One Thanksgiving, I asked my uncle who his favorite team was, and he said “the Braves.” So, from that point forward, I was a Braves fan. And it just so happens that the Braves were starting to have some success. As I approached my 9th birthday the 1982 Braves had me believing that being a Braves fan was fun. Unfortunately, the following seasons were not so fun years to be a Braves fan. But there was always one thing right with the Braves: Dale Murphy. The first thing I used to look at in the paper every morning was Murphy’s standing in the NL home run race. Why even bother to look at the box score or standings? Dale Murphy was the Braves in my mind.

So, of course, I want Dale Murphy in the Hall of Fame for all the wrong reasons. But, that isn’t going to deter me from making a semi-objective inquiry as to Murphy’s HOF credentials. I want to look at all the players who are in the HOF, by any means, and see how Murphy stands up to the credentials of this club’s members. It just so happens, that my method doesn’t isolate one players but looked at all eligible players to see if Murphy clears a benchmark that has been arbitrarily set my the HOF. I approached this project as James did in Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame? (a.k.a. The Politics of Glory) on a much smaller scale. I wanted to use the data available to any jerk capable of downloading the Lahman Database—I don’t have anything against nice people, but what nice person takes joy in tooling around with the Lahman Database?—to evaluate the worthiness of baseball hitters for the Hall of Fame. I didn’t look at pitchers, because Murphy never pitched, (glances at B-R page) not even once. Let’s look at all the eligible players who played their last game prior to 1995, and try to predict the likelihood of a player being in the HOF in based on several characteristics. The HOF file in the Lahman makes this a very doable task.

Now, my method for predicting who is in and who is out requires me to pick characteristics of players that likely influence HOF voters. This is where things get tricky. I’m sure there is no model I could pick that would be perfect. But, I think few will argue that the criteria I selected are unreasonable. And if you do, the Lahman is at your disposal, so get to work.

My criteria are as follows:
Career linear weights: Hey, it’s the best measure of run production.
Run environment: I include variables in the regression estimate for the average runs per game scored in the league and the average ball park factor during each player’s career.

Position: I classified players by the defensive position at which they played a plurality of games. All outfielders were treated the same.
Gold Gloves: The number of gold gloves won by a player. For players who played prior to the award, I include a variable in the regression to control for this lack of opportunity. I didn’t include defensive stats, because I HATE all publicly available defensive stats. They are stupid and tell us very little. If a guy is going to get into the HOF for his defense, he’s going to win gold gloves and/or play shortstop or catcher.

Awards: In addition to gold gloves, I include the number of MVP awards won.
Longevity: I include the number of seasons played in the league.

Using all of these factors, I employ a probit regression model to estimate the probability that a player is in the Hall of Fame. I include only those players who stopped playing prior to 1995 (arbitrary 10-year cutoff) to ensure players several opportunities to be elected. I then generated predicted probabilities of players being in the Hall of Fame.

Here is the list of players who are not in the HOF, who’s predicted probability of being in the HOF, based on the characteristics listed above, is greater than 50%.

Player            	First    Last    P(in HOF)
Bill Dahlen        	1891    1911    80.18%
Pete Rose        	1963    1986    78.39%
George Van Haltren    	1887    1903    72.86%
Keith Hernandez        	1974    1990    70.99%
Dwight Evans        	1972    1991    68.46%
Dale Murphy        	1976    1993    68.43%
Jimmy Ryan        	1885    1903    66.83%
Bob Elliott       	1939    1953    58.84%
Phil Cavarretta       	1934    1955    57.99%
Bob O'Farrell        	1915    1935    55.68%
Vern Stephens        	1941    1955    52.99%
Bob Johnson	        1933    1945    52.79%
Dolph Camilli        	1933    1945    52.59%
Cupid Childs        	1888    1901    51.64%
Larry Doyle        	1907    1920    50.56%
Deacon McGuire        	1884    1912    50.09%

I’m happy to report that Dale Murphy makes the cut! There are a lot of older players in here, but there are a few more recent names that are quite interesting. Keith Hernandez and Dwight Evans both make the list. Both of these guys James singles out in WHTTHOF? as being worthy, but not in. As for Rose, I don’t support his reinstatement or inclusion in the HOF. He knew what he was doing, and I don’t feel sorry for him.

So, if you have a ballot and you read this post, please take the time to consider Mr. Murphy, as well as the other players on this list. I know he didn’t play for many winners, but he couldn’t really help that. At least he never threw a tempter tantrum to complain about it. You’re not going to damage the high standards of the Hall of Fame that have kept it interesting by electing Murphy. Most of all, I believe Murphy deserves this honor, and I think it’s time he gets the plaque he’s earned.