Sam Crawford • RF • HOF

12th in JAWS: (75.1 career/39.7 peak/57.4 JAWS)

Teams: Red 1899–1902 • Tigers 1903–17
Stats: .309/.362/.452 • 144 OPS+ • 2,961 H • 97 HR • 367 SB
Rankings: 11x top 5 SLG • 10x top 10 WAR • 9x top 5 OPS+ • 7x top 5 AVG
All-time: 1st 3B
Voting: Veterans Committee 1957

samcrawford

“While we are no sculptor, we believe that if we were and were looking for a model for a statue of a slugger we would choose Sam Crawford for that role. Sam has tremendous shoulders and great strength. That strength is so placed in his frame and the weight so balanced that he can get it all behind the drive when he smites a baseball.”—F.C. Lane, Baseball Magazine, 1916

Though he collected 2,851 hits through 1915, his age 35 season, and declared reaching 3,000 to be his “chief ambition,” Wahoo Sam tailed off over the next two seasons. Supplanted by fellow future Hall of Famer Heilmann in 1916, he was released after the ’17 season and spent four years with the PCL’s Los Angeles Angels, who gave him a 47% raise. He never returned to the majors despite flickers of interest, and thus never got to 3,000.

Though that milestone didn’t interest him as much as money did, Crawford did have an affinity for the numbers. It pained me to cut this passage from the Casebook, which comes from H.G. Salsinger in the February 13, 1957 issue of The Sporting News, just following his election:

Ten years ago, Sam decided what baseball needed was a book containing the records of major league players of the past. He spent his spare time in libraries, going through old files and asking friends to fill him in. He expected to sell thousands of copies.

“How many people can tell you in what year Elmer Flick won the American League batting championship?” he asked. “What was his average? Did he bat right or lefthanded? How did he throw? What was his height? His weight? You could have all those questions answered in my book.”

No one told Sam that the idea had already been carried out by others, that Hy Turkin had authored a book, “Encyclopedia of Baseball,” and that J.G. Taylor Spink had produced “Daguerrotypes.”… For years, Sam was exploring a field that had already been fully cultivated.

John Clarkson • RHP • HOF

11th in JAWS (84.0 career/74.9 peak/79.4 JAWS)

Teams: Worcester Ruby Legs 1882 • Chicago White Stockings 1884–87 • Boston Beaneaters 1888–92 • Cleveland Spiders 1892–94
Stats: 328-178 • 2.81 ERA • 133 ERA+ • 4,536.1 IP • 1,978 K
Rankings: 6x top 5 W • 6x top 5 WAR • 5x top 5 ERA • 5x top 3 K • 4x led IP
All-time: T-10th ERA+ • 12th W • 20th ERA
Voting: Veterans Committee 1963

johnclarkson

From the cutting room floor, here’s “The Nineteenth Century Pitchers Digression”…

Clarkson owns the highest JAWS ranking among a quintet of enshrined 19th-century hurlers — Pud Galvin, Tim Keefe, Old Hoss Radbourn and Mickey Welch are the others — who made their bones prior to 1893, when the pitching distance was set at 6’6″. During that time, the rules of the game were particularly in flux regarding the distance, type of delivery, ability of the batter to request a high or low pitch, number of balls required for a walk, and equipment.

In that era, top pitchers carried workloads that would now be unthinkable, routinely throwing more than 400 innings in a season, and even topping 600 on occasion, accompanied by astronomical totals of starts, complete games, wins and WAR as well. On that last note, a total of 32 pitchers combined for 52 10-WAR seasons from 1871-1892, an average of 2.4 per year; the aforementioned quintet accounted for 12 such seasons. Clarkson had three such seasons (13.1 in 1885, 14.9 in ’87 and 16.7 in ’89), with at least 620 innings in the two bookend seasons and 523 in the middle one.

By comparison, from 1893-1919, 17 pitchers combined for 35 10-WAR seasons, an average of 1.3 per year. Since 1920, 20 pitchers have combined for 28 such seasons, an average of 0.3 per year. What’s more, of the 45 pitchers who accumulated at least 20 WAR prior to 1893, only 18 even pitched after the distance change; five of them were gone by the start of the 1895 season, 12 by the start of 1898. Only three of the 18 tallied more than 20 WAR after the change, namely Cy Young (147.2), Kid Nichols (84.6) and Amos Rusie (44.8), and only three others, guys you probably haven’t heard of — Sadie McMahon, Jack Stivetts and Bill Hutchison — totaled more than 10 WAR. Of the enshrined quintet, only Clarkson (4.4 WAR in 1893-94) and Keefe (1.2 WAR in ’93) pitched to the new distance at all.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying that the numbers of these pre-1893 guys — and those with comparable numbers who aren’t in the Hall, such as Jim McCormick, Tommy Bond, Charlie Buffinton, Tony Mullane and Bob Caruthers, to reel off the next five names in the JAWS rankings — should be taken with a grain of salt. While I’ve considered the possibility of removing the aforementioned quintet from the set before calculating the standards, ultimately, it doesn’t move the needle very much. Including all 62 starters, the averages are 73.9/50.3/62.1, while without those five, they’re 73.7/49.0/61.3, less than a full JAWS point. The two guys who slide above the standard are Bond and Buffinton, not that anybody should rush out to put them on the Early Baseball Era Committee ballot. If anything, voters should regard Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina as being further above the standard.

Duke Snider • CF • HOF

7th in JAWS (66.5 Career/50.0 Peak/58.2 JAWS)

Teams: Dodgers 1947–62 • Mets 1963 • Giants 1964
Stats: .295/.380/.540 • 140 OPS+ • 2,116 H • 407 HR • 99 SB
Rankings: 9x top 10 HR • 8x All-Star • 7x top 10 WAR • 7x top 10 OPS+ • 5x top 5 SLG • 4x top 5 AVG • 4x top 3 OBP
Voting: BBWAA 1980 (11th, 86.5%)

“He played center field as if he owned it. Duke ran up walls, dived in the grass and never even seemed to get his uniform dirty. He was so good, he played the position in New York at the same time as Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle and some people weren’t sure who was best.” — Jim Murray

When Snider passed in 2011, I not only wrote an an obituary for Baseball Prospectus but also a follow-up for the Pinstriped Bible. From the latter:

Though Snider’s career numbers fall well short of those of Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle, it must be remembered that he was about five years older than both, debuting earlier (1947, compared to 1951 for the other two) and reaching stardom earlier (his first All-Star berth was 1950, compared to 1952 for Mantle and 1954 for Mays), so he was the standard by which the other two were measured — though the specter of the incomparable Joe DiMaggio loomed beyond all three.

Snider was well into his peak by the time Mays and Mantle both made cases that they’d surpassed him, the former with his 51-homer 1955 season, the latter with his Triple Crown 1956 campaign (52 homers, 130 RBI, and a monster .353/.464/.705 line). Snider began to decline significantly after his age 32 season (1959), playing in just 486 games and hitting 53 homers over his final five seasons. Mantle wound up playing 258 more games than Snider, and while his post age 32 career was similarly brief (518 games), he hit 82 homers in that span. Mays played 10 seasons and 1,301 games after his age 32 season, racking up 254 homers in that span and winding up with 849 games more than Snider.

…Terry Cashman’s famous song, “Talkin’ Baseball,” which immortalizes the triumvirate, wasn’t written until 1981, and it was released during that summer’s players’ strike.

Tim Raines • LF • HOF

8th in JAWS (69.1 Career/42.2 Peak/55.6 JAWS)

Teams: Expos 1979–90, 2001 • White Sox 1991–95 • Yankees 1996–98 • A’s 1999 • Orioles 2001 • Marlins 2002
Stats: .294/.385/425 • 123 OPS+ • 2,605 H • 170 HR • 808 SB
Rankings: 9x top 5 SB • 7x All-Star • 7x top 10 WAR • 6x top 5 OBP • 4x top 10 AVG
All-time: 5th SB
Voting: BBWAA 2017 (10th, 86.0%)

From “Slouching Towards Cooperstown,” the final chapter of the Casebook:

The bigger blow struck for analytics, of course, was the election of Tim Raines in his 10th and final year of eligibility. For far too long, the speedster had taken a backseat—to Fernando Valenzuela among 1981 NL rookies, to Andre Dawson in Montreal, to Rickey Henderson among leadoff hitters, to Tony Gwynn among corner outfielders elected in the late 2000s, and to all too many candidates whom voters squeezed onto their ballots at his expense.

For 10 long years, on the pages of Baseball Prospectus and SI.com, I drew the comparison between Gwynn, he of the 3,141 hits, eight batting titles, and 97.6% share of the vote in 2007, and Raines, with “only” 2,605 hits and one batting title, showing that the latter’s advantages in power and walks plus his 808 steals with an 84.7% success rate put him on the same level—slightly ahead, even—by whatever version of WAR was in vogue that year, and among the top 10 leftfielders of all time.

Yet a year after Gwynn received the seventh-highest voting share of all time, Raines debuted with just 24.3%. Particularly with his eligibility window trimmed from 15 years to 10 by the Hall’s rule change, it took a combination of analytics and grassroots support to jump-start his candidacy. After he dipped to 46.1% in 2014 and then lost those five years, the voters treated his case with urgency. Raines gained 39.9% over the next three years, finally reaching 86.0%.

Watching the 57-year-old Raines beam at the Hall of Fame press conference at New York’s St. Regis Hotel the day after the results were announced—“The writers finally got it right,” he joked—it was difficult not to think of the late Ron Santo, and all the other Hall of Famers who never got to bask in the limelight after being elected, or to recall Minnie Minoso’s plea in his final interview (“I don’t want it to happen after I pass. I want it while I’m here, because I want to enjoy it”).

Links to several of my Raines-related pieces from 2017 and prior:

JAWS and the 2017 Hall of Fame ballot

Rock’s road: Tim Raines on his long journey to the Baseball Hall of Fame

• 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot results: Player-by-player breakdown

The fifth modern player elected in his final year of eligibility after Red Ruffing (1967), Joe Medwick (’68), Ralph Kiner (’75) and Jim Rice (2009), Raines experienced the ballot’s biggest jump, that after gaining 14.8% from ’15 (55.0%) to ’16 (69.8). His share of the vote exceeds that of any other last-call honoree (Ruffing’s 86.9% in a run-off, after getting 72.6% on the regular balloting, doesn’t count) and that of any other modern (i.e. post-1966) candidate in his fifth year or later save for Bagwell and 11th-year honoree Duke Snider (86.5%).

This one has some personal resonance, as Raines was both one of my favorite players growing up and one whose Hall of Fame case I’ve been making from the outset, including via one of my first forays at SI.com, back when the site had a content agreement with Baseball Prospectus.

The Class of 2008: The Hitters, Part Two

• Unconventional Wisdom: Who deserves to be in the Hall of Fame?

George Davis • SS • HOF

4th in JAWS (84.7 Career/44.3 Peak/64.5 JAWS)

Teams: Cleveland Spiders 1890–92 • Giants 1893–1901, ’03 • White Sox 1902, 1904–09
Stats: .295/.362/.405 • 121 OPS+ • 2,665 H • 73 HR • 619 SB
Rankings: 7x top 5 in WAR • 5x top 10 SB • 3x top 10 AVG
Voting: VC 1998

“It’s as if he were discarded nearly a century ago into a time capsule that was forgotten until now… For too long, George Stacey Davis has been his era’s most forgotten best player.”Dave Anderson

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Eddie Mathews • 3B • HOF

2nd in JAWS (96.4 Career/54.4 Peak/75.4 JAWS)

Teams: Braves 1952–66 • Astros 1967 • Tigers 1967–68
Stats: .271/.376/.509 • 143 OPS+ • 2,315 H • 512 HR • 68 SB
Rankings: 9x All-Star • 9x top 5 HR • 8x top 5 WAR • 8x top 10 SLG • 7x top 5 OBP
All-time: T-22nd HR
Voting: BBWAA 1978 (5th, 79.4%)

Though he was sixth on the all-time home run list when he retired, Mathews was the first modern member of the 500 Home Run club not to get elected on the first ballot (Jimmie Foxx and Mel Ott hailed from a time before the five-year waiting period was in place). He needed five years of eligibility to get elected and even then required one of the biggest gains in modern history in order to go over the top. Revising a table from my 2016 article on big jumps:

Player

Year 1

%

Year 2

%

Gain (%)

Barry Larkin

2011

62.1

2012

86.4

24.3

Yogi Berra

1971

67.2

1972

85.6

18.4

Luis Aparicio

1983

67.4

1984

84.6

17.2

Eddie Mathews

1977

62.4

1978

79.4

17.0

Ralph Kiner

1974

58.9

1975

75.4

16.5

Tony Perez

1999

60.8

2000

77.2

16.4

Roberto Alomar

2010

73.7

2011

90.0

16.3

Tim Raines

2016

69.8

2017

86.0

16.2

Rollie Fingers

1991

65.7

1992

81.2

15.5

Duke Snider

1979

71.3

1980

86.5

15.2

Ryne Sandberg

2004

61.1

2005

76.2

15.1

Mathews was the cover subject on Sports Illustrated’s debut issue, dated August 16, 1954. Though he received only a passing mention in the pages within, the famous photograph of the slugger was used again for the magazine’s 40th anniversary in 1994 and — via a mosaic made up of thousands of tiny photos submitted by readers — the 60th anniversary in 2014.

MathewsSI

Johnny Bench • C • HOF

1st in JAWS (75.2 career/47.2 peak/61.2 JAWS)

Teams: Reds 1967–83
Stats: .267/.342/.476 • 126 OPS+ • 2,048 H • 389 HR • 68 SB
Rankings: 14x All-Star • 10x GG • 8x top 10 WAR • 5x top 5 SLG • 4x top 5 HR • 4x top 10 OPS+
Voting: BBWAA 1989 (1st, 96.4%)

“You don’t compare anyone to Johnny Bench. You don’t want to embarrass anybody.” — Sparky Anderson, quoted in All Roads Lead to October by Maury Allen

In his entry in the book, I noted, “Catchers heavily used in their twenties don’t tend to accrue much value in their thirties, and Bench was no exception.” Indeed of the 18 catchers with 1,000 games caught through their age-29 seasons, only 11 were worth more than 10.0 WAR in their 30s while playing any position.

A more drastic point of inflection is through age-32, in that none of the 18 — and remember, this is now a more lenient cutoff, with three extra years to reach the 1,000 games caught mark — was worth more than 10.0 WAR afterwards, and only three catchers, Ivan Rodriguez (9.3), Jim Sundberg (6.8) and Benito Santiago (5.8) were worth more than 5.0. Gary Carter (3.9) is second among Hall catchers in this context, while Bench was worth just 2.2 WAR from his age 33 season (1981) onward.

• Sports Illustrated, “Johnny Goes Job Hunting in a Tight Market,” March 30, 1981

Jackie Robinson • 2B • HOF

10th in JAWS • (61.5 Career/52.1 Peak/56.8 JAWS)

Teams: Dodgers 1947–56
Stats: .311/.409/.474 • 132 OPS+ • 1,518 H • 137 HR • 197 SB
Rankings: 6x All-Star • 6x top 5 SB • 5x top 3 OBP • 5x top 10 OPS+ • 3x led WAR
Voting/JAWS: BBWAA 1962 (1st, 77.5%)

jackie-robinson-plaque

In March 2007, just after deciding to take the plunge to move to Brooklyn and buy the apartment that a realtor friend had shown me, I stumbled across the plaque at 215 Montague St., the bygone site of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ business offices, where Branch Rickey signed Jackie Robinson to his first contract in 1945. I took my discovery of the plaque, a 5-10 minute walk away from my new home, as a sign that after 12 years in the East Village, I was making the right move. The plaque has featured in a few of my Jackie Robinson Day anniversary writings (below). After 10 years and countless walks past it, I discovered the plaque’s text had been written by Stephen Spector, father of writer/pal Jesse Spector. It was dedicated in 1998, with former Dodgers Ralph Branca and Gene Hermanski (who figures prominently in one of my favorite Robinson stories, as told by Vin Scully) in attendance.

In the Hermanski story, the team-wide wearing of the number 42 becomes an act of unity and defiance in the face of the forces attempting to keep Robinson from playing.

 My Jackie Robinson Day links:

2010: MLB Should Step to the Plate on Jackie Robinson Day

2011: Remembering Jackie Robinson and the Man Who Taught Me About Him

2013: Reminders of Jackie Robinson’s Resonance in Brooklyn and Beyond

2015: Jackie Robinson’s Debut: Dodgers, and Baseball, Win on Long-Awaited Day 

Dan Brouthers • 1B • HOF

7th in JAWS (79.4 Career/47.2 Peak/63.3 JAWS)

Teams: Troy Trojans 1879–80 • Buffalo Bisons 1881–85 • Detroit Wolverines 1886–88 • Boston Beaneaters 1889 • Boston Reds (PL) 1890 • Boston Reds (AA) 1891 • Brooklyn Grooms 1892–93 • Orioles 1894–95 • Louisville Colonels 1895 • Phillies 1896 • Giants 1904
Stats: .342/.423/.520 • 171 OPS+ • 2,303 H • 107 HR • 257 SB
Rankings: 8x led OPS+ • 6x led SLG • 5x led OBP • 5x led WAR • 4x led AVG • 3x S/S TC
All-time: 7th OPS+ • 8th AVG • 11th OBP
Voting: Old Timers Committee 1945

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“For baseball fans in the mid-20th century, the name Dan Brouthers was as well known as Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle is to today’s fans. The time span is the same, and Brouthers was in the conversation of who was the greatest 19th century player.” — Marty Appel

In April 2017, during the First Pass review — my first chance to see the manuscript laid out in the format of the book and basically the last chance I would have to make changes to the text — of The Cooperstown Casebook, I was meticulously poring over the statistical information for each player, checking to make sure what was going in the book matched what was on Baseball-Reference.com. I did a spit-take when I saw that Brouthers’ career numbers had changed slightly; no longer was he credited with a .519 slugging percentage, or a 170 OPS+, and he had somehow gained seven hits, a home run and a stolen base. Had he risen from the dead? Was I losing my mind? The latter option seemed likely given the weight of the task at hand.

Comparing Brouthers’ numbers against an archived version of his page, I traced the source of the discrepancy to his 1890 season in the Players League, then emailed the good folks at B-Ref, asking whether that was a glitch or there had been some kind of update to the data from that season while noting that the career totals of fellow Hall of Fame first baseman and sometime teammate Roger Connor, also an 1890 Players League participant, haven’t budged.

Eventually, I received a message forwarded from the great Pete Palmer, who provides the MLB stats that drive the site. According to Palmer, three protested games between Brouthers’ Boston Reds team and the Pittsburgh Burghers form July 10-12 of that year had been thrown out because Boston used Gil Hatfield on loan from New York without league approval. In the spirit of the precedent that had been set by John Tattersall in compiling revised 19th century stats, Palmer had finally decided to include them — his first change of such data since 2000.

While not as exciting a revision as those of Ty Cobb’s career hit total (from 4,191 to 4,189), Walter Johnson’s career strikeout total (from 3,508 to 3,509) or Hack Wilson’s 1930 RBI total (from 190 to 191), under the circumstances I was happy to welcome Brouthers’ seven extra hits, extra homer and stolen base to the book at just about the last minute.