Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Settling a Score

The Wall Street Journal's daily sports page features a set of projected scores from AccuScore. Today's scores had the following two college men's basketball games:

NCAA Basketball: (5) Duke 77.1, Iowa St. 74.4

NCAA Basketball: (10) Michigan St. 68, (17) Wisconsin 63

I don't know how AccuScore makes projections, though I intend to find out. But I find it curious that Duke, the 5th ranked team in the country, is projected to beat unranked Iowa State by a mere 2.7 points, while 10th ranked Michigan State is expected to beat 17th ranked Wisconsin, its Big Ten rival, by 5.0 points. So Michigan State is projected to beat Wisconsin by a wider margin than Duke is projected to beat Iowa State, even though Michigan State is ranked lower than Duke, and their opponent, Wisconsin, is ranked higher than (unranked) Iowa State. As I said, I don't yet know how AccuScore makes these projections (or why one game has decimals in its projections, while the other does not). But something doesn't figure.

One Hall of a Problem

Later today, the inductees for the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2010 will be announced. I have long wanted to cover this upcoming ballot and discuss the pros and cons of several candidates, but time, like youth, has escaped me. So what I will do instead is share a few brief thoughts in advance of the announcement, and revisit this topic later with some more depth attached.

Before starting with mentions of individual players, one topic that I'd really like to explore is that of the extremely good player vs. the best-in-class player. The Hall of Fame has both types, and I'm not sure there's necessarily a mathematical relationship, but there's certainly an implied relationship between those players who get in on the first ballot, and those who make it on their eighth, twelfth or even fifteenth try. The latter group appears to be judged differently than the former, and I think there are inconsistencies between how people vote for those late ballot players and how their statistics compare to those who got in on early ballots. This distinction will frame some of the discussion in the more in-depth follow-up to this post.

Quick thoughts on players:

Fred McGriff: I always liked McGriff, but I don’t think he’s a first ballot guy (more because of the way the voting is done, than as an indictment of his worthiness, though I do think first ballot guys should be Lou Gehrig-esque, no doubters). I do think he belongs in, because his career numbers are really, really good. His numbers are reasonably comparable with Reggie Jackson’s and Reggie got in on the first ballot with over 93% of the vote. McGriff never had the signature moments Reggie did, which always seems to hurt candidacies of the long-term producers like McGriff. The Crime Dog should get in, maybe in year four.

Edgar Martinez: I think Edgar Martinez is a Jim Rice-type candidate. A guy who was a feared hitter for 10+ years, whose numbers look a lot better post-juice. I think he won’t get in now, but will someday, just because some writers will scoff at his DH role. But you give me a near .420 career OBP over that many years, and I give you my vote (or will should I get one).

Andre Dawson: Now that Rice is in, Dawson should be in, too.

Roberto Alomar: No doubter for Hall of Fame, but will need another year. Voters will hold the spitting incident against him, and say, "he's great, but because of that, I'm not letting him in on the first ballot." Ty Cobb's voters had lower character standards, perhaps.

Tim Raines: I think Tim Raines is a Hall of Famer, coke vials notwithstanding. He was dominant in his time, AND he was a compiler. He’s Rickey-lite, but Rickey was first ballot. And Rock had a better stolen base percentage than Rickey, by 4 or 5 points. Also lacks signature moments, which of course, is partly a reflection of being on some non-playoff teams.

Dale Murphy: I think Dale Murphy should be in. He won’t be, because his numbers look so bad cumulatively. But when he played, he was neck-in-neck with Mike Schmidt statistically for the bulk of his injury-shortened career.

Bert Blyleven: Blyleven is a compiler, and the compilers have gotten in (Don Sutton, for example). He was never the most dominant pitcher for even one season. To me, his strikeout/walk ratio is his most truly outstanding stat. I think there are other compilers who shouldn’t be in, but since they are, Blyleven should be with them.

Barry Larkin: I think Larkin was/is underappreciated. He’s not noticeably that much worse in terms of total career package than Yount or Ripken, both of whom were first ballot guys (Yount not by much). Taking 3 straight Gold Gloves while Ozzie Smith was still in the league is no small feat either. I’m amazed how many All Star teams Larkin made, and I know that carries weight with some voters. The Hall of Fame really isn’t for just the Piazzas of the world, based on prior votes. It appears to also include the consistently really good. Larkin was that, and I find it hard to prove that Larkin doesn't belong in the same general category as Yount and Ripken. So while he's not likely a first ballot guy (or even second or third, based on how Raines has fared these past two years), he could be an eighth or ninth ballot guy.

More to come.