Monday, August 19, 2002

Good Company

Let's start out slow. I won't be throwing around any modified numbers or sabermetric mumbo-jumbo in this one. In the future, I'll bring plenty of those new-fangled doo-dads to bear, but for now I prefer to deal with the indisputable. Too many people start taking pot shots once the data is manipulated, even if the manipulations make perfect sense. So let's look at Jim Ed's actual numbers in some kind of context, shall we?

Today's tidbits:For everyday players, home runs, RBI and batting average - a.k.a. the Triple Crown categories - are the ones most heavily cited in Hall of Fame cases. I'm not saying it's right or wrong, it just is. So, what would constitute a reasonable set of minimum threshholds in each of these categories if a player wanted to be seriously considered for the Hall? Playing with the numbers a bit reveals that there have been a total of 63 men in the history of the game who posted at least 300 home runs, 1000 RBI and a batting average of .270. Nineteen of those men are not yet eligible for the Hall, leaving 44 who are. Of those, 28 have been inducted. That's 63.6%, almost two thirds, so these would seem to be decent credentials. Not a certain HOFer, but a pretty solid case.

But what if we ratcheted them up a notch? If we set the theshholds at 325 HR, 1100 RBI and a .280 average, we find just 24 eligible men in the game's history. Almost 90% of them, 21 to be exact, have already been inducted to the Hall, so now we're clearly in an area where election in almost certain.

But what about the next level? Pushing the minimums up even further, to 350 HRs, 1200 RBI and a .290 average, reveals just seventeen eligible men in the history of baseball. Another seven - Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Ken Griffey Jr., Juan Gonzalez, Jeff Bagwell, Frank Thomas, and Albert Belle - have also achieved these levels, but obviously aren't eligible for induction yet. Of the 17 who are, 16 have already been elected.

As you've probably guessed, the only eligible man in the history of baseball who met or exceeded each of these lofty numbers without being elected to the Hall of Fame (yet), is James Edward Rice. Check out the 16 men he is sharing company with (in ascending order of homers):
  • Johnny Mize
  • Joe DiMaggio
  • Orlando Cepeda
  • Al Kaline
  • Duke Snider
  • Billy Williams
  • Stan Musial
  • Lou Gehrig
  • Mel Ott
  • Ted Williams
  • Jimmie Foxx
  • Mickey Mantle
  • Frank Robinson
  • Willie Mays
  • Babe Ruth
  • Hank Aaron
It would be quite easy for anyone else to look these up. Even if you don't have a computer to take you to the sortable historic stats at, "Total Baseball" has been available for better than a decade. Why, then, doesn't anyone mention the fact that Jim Rice's actual career Triple Crown numbers are of historically significant proportions? Beats me. Hopefully, using this space, I can help fill that void.