Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Cases for Larkin and McGriff

Barry Larkin and Fred McGriff are two players that I forgot to discuss in my previous installment of my reworking of the MLB HOF. I’ll tackle that here.

Let’s start off with a couple of wonderful graphics done by Adam Darowski for Beyond the Boxscore ( and
Simply by looking at those two graphs, and understanding my love of WAR you can probably deduce where this argument is going but for the sake of entertainment let’s play the argument out a little further.

First the case for (or against) Fred McGriff:

I realize that McGriff nearly has 500 homeruns and 1500 RBI, which used to be automatic qualifiers, but he played in an era in which hitting .285 with 30 HR and 100 RBI wasn’t all that special. I realize that he was never implicated in the steroid scandal, and based on his career WAR arc he probably wasn’t a user. However, until St. Peter questions every player on their usage with the penalty for lying being an eternity of fire and brimstone, I’m taking the Bill James route and pretending that everyone was on a level playing field. McGriff was never a top 3 MVP finisher (4th once in 1993) and only in the top ten 5 times (4th, 6th twice and 10th twice). He was only in the top 10 for WAR among position players three times (3rd, 4th and 7th) and his career WAR of 50.4 ranks him 164th all time behind guys like Cesar Cedeno, Bob Elliot and Jack Clark. He did finish in the top 4 in his league home runs from 1988-94 (AL from 88-90 and NL from 91-94) and in the top 6 of adjusted OPS+ for those same seasons (leading the AL in 1989) but his overall gray and black ink scores on baseball reference (a metric based on how many times a player led or finished in the top ten in a certain category) leave him far short of the average hall of famer. I think McGriff falls into the very good category, but comes up far short of being great and he is left out of my HOF. In fact according to the fangraphs WAR graph, Fred McGriff looks a lot more like Will Clark (who I left out) than Jeff Bagwell (who I put in).

Now the case for Barry Larkin: going back to the images by Adam Darowski, you can see that Larkin makes the cut compared to the HOF median in terms of wWAR. Let’s compare him to some other middle infielders who have made the cut into my HOF already:

You can see that his career is basically on par with Ryne Sandberg as far as WAR goes and he is not far off from Roberto Alomar either. Cal Ripken is in another galaxy though. Larkin won a MVP in 1995 (although he has fewer career MVP shares than Fred McGriff) and his gray ink score is very similar to McGriff. Why am I arguing for Larkin’s inclusion then? Simple, he played shortstop. Larkin was no Ozzie Smith with the glove, but he was at least average with the glove posting a better than average RF for his career, and posting a dWAR of 2.3 for his career. Combine that with the fact that he hit nearly .300 for his career (.295), stole 379 bases, got on base at a .371 clip and sligged .444, you have yourself a member of my new and improved HOF. Thankyouverymuch.

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