Davidoff Takes Logic Out Of Hall of Fame Voting

An article by posted on December 20, 2012

ken davidoffKen Davidoff has spent the last week or so getting attention, not for the quality of his work but for the shock value of his work.

Most recently, Davidoff published his Hall of Fame ballot. Davidoff goes through every player in detail and does an excellent job at that. Davidoff also does an excellent job at proving why he should not be voting for the Hall of Fame.

In my honest opinion, I believe he is leaving Mike Piazza off his ballot to get people to talk about his ballot rather than uphold the value of the Hall of Fame. I will give a few examples of why I believe this to be true.

Davidoff uses four statistics to measure a players Hall of Fame credentials. To quote,

I looked at every candidate on this ballot and ranked him according to both WARs, Baseball-Reference’s WAR7 (which takes a candidate’s best seven seasons by WAR, to consider a player’s peak) and Jaffe’s JAWS. I rewarded a player one point for finishing first in a column, two points for second, etc. — and then ranked them by lowest score to highest.

He justified this method because according to him, “these statistics have no emotions”. This to me is flawed because the statistics he used also do not have a brain.

During the era in which Mike Piazza played, two catchers dominated the position. Himself and Pudge Rodriguez. How Piazza compares to others on a ballot makes no sense. In fact, Davidoff admitted he takes the position into account when he justified Alan Trammell getting into the Hall of Fame.

Davidoff says:

From 1980 to 1993, an impressive run for such a challenging position, Trammell was as good as any shortstop in the game.

So clearly at times, Davidoff chose to take the position into account and also how that player compared to the players in his era at said position. But why did he choose not to do that for Mike Piazza? Why did he shift gears and use a different standard?

Why does Trammell get to use players like Tony Fernandez, Scott Fletcher, and Gary Templeton to improve his candidacy by showing how much better he might have been against players at his position, but then the same methodology isn’t used for Mike Piazza in comparison to his contemporaries Jorge Posada, Jason Kendall, Javy Lopez, and Charles Johnson?

Davidoff justifies leaving Piazza out of the Hall of Fame by using the process explained above:

Using this process, Piazza placed 14th on my list of candidates

So when it comes to Mike Piazza’s candidacy, Davidoff is choosing to compare him to a player like Edgar Martinez (we’ll get to that). That is as useless as comparing a pitcher’s credentials to an infielder.

Taking Davidoff’s own system (which is flawed) I looked at who I consider the best catchers of all time (warning: I left Campanella off because Davidoff’s formula puts an emphasis on longevity).

So I looked at, Bench, Berra, Carter, Fisk, and then added Pudge and Piazza. I also threw in Jorge Posada who would probably rank third among catchers during the era Piazza played, just to see how far ahead Piazza is.

Johnny Bench would finish first with 8 points, followed by Gary Carter with 10, then Pudge with 14, Piazza & Fisk would be tied with 16, then Berra with 21 and Posada with 27.

So Davidoff is not putting in a top 5 catcher in the history of the game, but he’s putting in Alan Trammell because of how he compares to the SS’s of his era?

Trammell using Davidoff’s own formula was tied for the 2nd best SS of his era with Ozzie Smith behind Cal Ripken Jr. by a margin of 6 points (Ripken 5, Trammell/Smith 11, Larkin 13).

Piazza, using Davidoff’s formula finishes 2 points behind Pudge Rodriguez to finish as the 2nd best catcher of his era by a margin of 11 points over Posada.

Yet, Trammell being “as good as any SS in the game,” gets him in, but Piazza doing the same behind the plate and posting impressive offensive numbers, does not?

Then there is Edgar Martinez. Davidoff uses players like Martinez to keep Piazza off his ballot because of how they rank against one another using his formula.

Davidoff justifies Edgar Martinez in the Hall of Fame by saying,

Martinez was such a good offensive player, putting together a .933 OPS and 147 OPS+ over 18 seasons.

Martinez (whom I think is a legitimate contender) didn’t have to play the field for the final 10 years of his career.

Prior to becoming a full-time DH, Martinez’ OPS was .851 and his OPS+ was 133. Piazza played the most taxing position on a player’s body and while doing so posted an OPS of .931 and an OPS+ of 145 (this excludes his final year in Oakland when he was only a DH).

Where would Piazza’s offensive numbers have gone had he not played the field since 1998? So Davidoff is rewarding Martinez for not being good enough to play the field, but penalizing Piazza for being a catcher in 1,602 starts.

These facts alone prove the flaw in Davidoff’s method and also prove why using four statistical measures that have “no emotion,” is greatly flawed.

I believe Davidoff’s goal was to find a way to leave Mike Piazza off his ballot.

To weigh a player’s credentials versus an entire ballot and use four statistics that do not consider the position played is an enormous sign of willful ignorance.

Thoughts from Joe D.

To add to Mike’s well pointed and articulated argument against Davidoff’s ballot, let me add this.

To use some arbitrary statistics alone as your sole criteria in determining a players candidacy for the Hall of Fame, seems like a total jab at the sanctity and integrity of the process.

The reason the writers of the BBWAA get to select those players who are enshrined into Cooperstown is because it was assumed that they watched these players and saw them perform among their piers. They had the luxury of being paid to cover the candidates, and compare them to players in their own era or draw comparisons to former greats.

The measuring sticks that Davidoff uses aren’t indicative of the stats we use to measure which players were the greatest batters, or home run hitters , or base stealers. Instead he uses advanced metrics that are just flawed “catch-all” statistics that even the creators themselves can’t agree as to their computation or legitimacy in determining a player’s overall value.

If Mike Piazza does get selected into the Hall of Fame, baseball fans everywhere will remember that he hit the most home runs ever as a catcher and not because his JAWS and WAR7 ranked him with the immortals like Johnny Bench and Gary Carter.

If we wanted to use solely a statistical barometer to select players to the Hall of Fame, why have a vote at all?

Why not just develop the threshold for inclusion and get rid of the BBWAA and all their flaws altogether?

Too many writers use the ballot as a means to promote themselves rather than honoring the system and the institution they are supposed to protect and represent.

I have serious concerns about Ken Davidoff’s ballot, and wonder if he didn’t in fact use it to shamelessly promote himself – an act he accused R.A. Dickey of doing only days prior.

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About the Author ()

Michael Branda grew up a Mets fan watching the mid 1980's teams and his favorite Met of all-time is (and was) Wally Backman. When it comes to sabermetrics versus old school thinking, he's in the middle and believes adopting new ways to get answers is helpful, especially when the old way has not produced results.

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