The Hall of Fame Index: Matt Holliday
One of my favorite arguments from popular baseball media folk and fans alike is that they know a Hall of Famer when they see one. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. The history of the voting process is rife with examples of players they have been overlooked because they didn’t “look” like Hall of Famers. This is what the Hall of Fame Index is all about. It’s all about finding those players that have been overlooked for whatever reason.
What we do know is that players that are overlooked in the awards voting are normally overlooked when it comes to becoming a Hall of Famer. Matt Holliday may not be ready yet, but it is amazing how close he is when you look at the current numbers. He’s finished second for the MVP award once. Other than that, he’s never finished in the top ten for the award. Obviously, he’s not good enough for the Hall of Fame. Right? Well, that remains to be seen.
The Hall of Fame Index was designed to find gaps in data. We see a significant gap between the top seven guys on the BBWAA list and the bottom three guys. That doesn’t necessarily mean those guys definitely shouldn’t be Hall of Famers, but it does present a problem for those that love to use the “if…then” argument. If those three are Hall of Famers then shouldn’t Holliday be a Hall of Famer if he retired today? This becomes much more problematic if he earns four or five wins over the next few seasons. Suddenly, he would become better than those guys and still people would want to deny him.
With Brock we see another example of voters being blinded by counting numbers. He got 3000 hits so he must be a Hall of Famer. Jim Rice and Ralph Kiner are other concerns entirely. Either their careers were too short or the voters were blinded by counting numbers rather than actual production. Rice led the league in double plays four times in a row during his prime. He also struck out more than twice as often as he walked. As the joke goes, I don’t know how he got to the podium, because he sure didn’t walk. He finished in the top ten in the MVP voting six times despite finishing in the top ten in WAR only twice. When he won the MVP he actually finished third in WAR. Go figure.
We see the same kind of separation as we did with the career value numbers. The only minor difference is that Ralph Kiner comes out looking better because his career only lasted ten seasons, so his career and peak value are the same. If we are looking for any separation from the final three it is Lou Brock sinking to the bottom. Mind you, he wasn’t a bad player. Anyone that averages between three and four wins over the course of a decade is pretty darn good. Unfortunately, the Hall of Fame wasn’t meant for pretty darn good.
The problem in Holliday’s case is that his peak value will not move from this point. He is solidly in the bottom of the group, so if he is to make himself a solid Hall of Fame candidate he must follow the Willie Stargell career model. This is the same Willie Stargell that won an MVP award after his ten-year prime. At his current rate of production he will need about ten more wins to get in that neighborhood. That might take him this season and another four seasons to get there. That’s probably not going to happen.
The Hall of Fame Index
As we make our way through the index we find that a general rule of thumb is that Hall of Famers should finish with at least 300 wins. Sure, hard and fast rules shouldn’t stop us from arguing for our guys, but it’s a good rule of thumb. Matt Holliday is likely one productive season from surpassing Jim Rice on the final list. Ralph Kiner may be a bit more difficult to pass. Holliday’s presence in the Hall of Fame is certainly debatable, but the standard probably stands somewhere in between Kiner and Stargell. Rice and Brock were clearly mistakes, but mistakes do happen.