Hall of Fame Day For Dale Murphy? Probably Not

Hall of Fame Doors Open To A New Class

This year’s Hall of Fame class will be announced on Monday. Barry Larkin is the most likely to get in based on historical evidence; only one player who got over 60% failed to get in the next year and Larkin 62.1%. There are lots of folks digging into statistics to decide who’s a Hall of Fame player and who isn’t. In the end the BBWA has the last word no matter what the PR machines roll out. The Fansided Baseball Blogs voted to see who they believe should be inducted. You can see those results over at Wahoos of First. As I believe everyone should, I’m posting my ballot.


For me Jeff Bagwell , Larkin, Fred McGriff, Jack Morris and Lee Smith were no brainers.  Ignoring Larkin, the numbers support Bagwell and McGriff beyond question. The reason Bags didn’t get more votes last time was a bunch of morons linking him with PEDs even though his name never came up in any investigation, report, testimony or rumor. Apparently being friends with Ken Caminiti and Roger Clemens is enough to convict you. This same bunch will vote for Jeff Kent  ( I probably would as well) even though he was around Barry Bonds, Bagwell, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte  all those years. Idiots abound.

McGriff was quietly one of the best in the game. His numbers are superb and unlike Bagwell who hurt us every game when he was healthy, Braves fans remember McGriff fondly. The PED issue should help McGriff who was largely overlooked as a power hitter in spite of falling just shorty of 500 homer runs.  Lee Smith was the all time saves leader when he retired. Saves are an over rated stat but if it was so easy to get them, why didn’t everyone roll them up?  He was head and shoulders above others and that is the mark of a Hall of Fame member isn’t it?

No lie is so false or inconclusive as that which is based on statistics.H. Belloc

Jack Morris . . . I get nightmares and goose bumps remembering game 7 but, Morris was an ace for three teams and was lights out when the chips were down winning four World Series rings.  Here’s where the stats guys and I start to disagree. To say that a guy who won 20+ games  for championship teams over and over again doesn’t belong is just silly. I don’t care if his ERA was league average, the men who faced him say he should be in and I agree. If ERA is considered an unrepeatable stat, why is it such a big thing for Morris?

I voted for Rafael Palmeiro as well. I’ve listened to him in rare interviews and for some reason believe him. I know most don’t and he may never get elected but that’s the way I feel. If you don’t nothing I can say will change that and there’s no point in getting into it.

I did not vote for Edgar Martinez. This is simple. A full time DH is not a baseball player, he’s a glorified pinch hitter. There are no pinch hitters in the Hall and there should not be.

The Case for Dale Murphy

If your experiment needs statistics, you ought to have done a better experimentErnest Rutherford

Full disclosure here, I was in the United Kingdom for almost all of Murphy’s career so I never saw him play. Therefore I,  like a lot of writers and sabernetricians, rely on stats and hearing the players who competed against him talk about that competition.

For many people today, a player’s contribution and qualification for greatness comes down solely to numbers, many of which weren’t in existence during the player’s career. Such is the case for Murphy. I look at his numbers and say yes others say no based on their perception of rows of numbers in a book (or spreadsheet.)

Brian Kenny whom I always thought was well versed in both sides of baseball appears to have veered hard into stats since coming to the MLB Network. Perhaps he was always there but it wasn’t evident. In any event last Wednesday he went into a long explanation about why Murph was good but not good enough.  I voted for Murph long before Clubhouse Confidential and after listening to  Kenny began to doubt my rational.

Kenny said Murphy’s peak wasn’t long enough (six years) and that he only led the league in runs created five times ( I counted three but maybe he used a different source) and was in the top three in total bases only seven times. They showed a graphic saying he was MVP twice. Appropriately chastised, I went back to see why I foolishly selected him.

Murphy’s 18 year career line was 265/346/465/815 with an OPS+ of 121. He had only 398 homers, 2111 hits however he was a silver slugger winner four times. Not exactly eye popping numbers but I’ve always thought a player who is the best among his peers over a long period has a shot at the hall. Murph had 14 years where he was a regular from 1978 through 1990, all with the Braves. Here’s an extended line for that period.

In order to compare him with his peers during that time I ran a search on Baseball-Reference for players  with numbers similar to his. Specifically they had to have:

  • Played 50% of at least 1900 games in LF, CF or RF
  • Had an OBP of at least .350 a slugging % of at least .475 and OPS+ of at least 120

The search turned up one name; Dale Murphy.

Kenny said in his presentation that because Murph played center field and wasn’t among the best (he didn’t say by what standard) he gets penalized in WARP but if he had played right field more often his WARP would have been higher. Since I had not used rWAR in my earlier search I ran it again using Murphy’s 78-90 WAR of 46 instead of OPS+. No change. In fact removing all criteria except WAR and the 1900 game mark changed nothing. Murphy’s name was still the only one.

I lowered the games played to 1800 games added the OPS+ back.  Finally someone else showed up on the list; Andre Dawson and Dwight Evans. When I lowered the games played to 1750 I picked up Dave Winfield as well. That’s pretty good company for Murphy to be in I’d say.

Andre Dawson 51.8 1855 125 23-35 7175 1057 2033 327 1159 .283 .329 .493 .822
Dwight Evans 46.2 1888 131 26-38 6781 1166 1865 314 1084 .275 .378 .483 .861
Dale Murphy 46.0 1946 124 22-34 7171 1117 1917 376 1148 .267 .351 .477 .828
Dave Winfield 43.2 1763 138 26-38 6641 1059 1933 302 1192 .291 .361 .496 .856
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/5/2012.

Winfield entered the Hall in 2001 and much ado was made about the Hawk being elected in 2010.Yet over the 14 years all were playing, the numbers are very close.  What about the numbers Kenny specifically mentioned – runs created and total bases – or for that matter leading the league in any statistical category?


rWar >2.0

Led their league in. . .


6 times

RC – 3, SLG –2 ,OPS –1, Own% –1, Pwr/Spd – 1,  TB – 1,
Runs –1, IBB –1, BB – 1 (not the same as his IBB leading year)


6 times

Hits – 1, TB – 2,SF –1 (all 3 in 1983), HR – 1, RBI – 1,
IBB – 1, Pwr/Spd – 3, HBP – 3,


12 times

Rbat – 1, OPS+ 1,   RBI –1, TB – 1, IBB – 1,
Btruns –1, BTwins –1 (all 1979)
  • OWn%Offensive Winning Percentage -The percentage of games a team with nine of this player batting would win. Assumes average pitching and defense.
  • BtRunsAdjusted Batting Runs - A set of formulas developed by Gary Gillette, Pete Palmer and others that estimates a player’s total contributions to a team’s runs total via linear weights.
  • BtWinsAdjusted Batting Wins – A set of formulas developed by Gary Gillette, Pete Palmer and others that estimates a player’s total contributions to a team’s wins with his bat
  • PwrSpd Power/Speed Number – 2 x (Home Runs x Stolen Bases)/(Stolen Bases + Home Runs) The harmonic mean of HR and SB. To do well you need a lot of both. Developed by Bill James.

Baseball Reference’s Hall of Fame comparative score for Murphy looks like this

Looks to me like there’s a very good argument that Murphy should be in the Hall of Fame. Will he get in?  I don’t think so.

The Braves just weren’t great teams for much of his career and unlike the Cubs are not followed by a fan base beloved by the media such that a player going there and playing well becomes an instant star. If Brian Kenny’s take is anything to judge by, the sabermetrics guys don’t think much of his chances either.

Wrapping all this up

I suspect the BBWA in their infinite inscrutability have ignored Bagwell, McGriff, Morris and Murphy, selecting only Barry Larkin and individually, largely unwilling to defend their votes. The greater shame will be if we get so wrapped up in comparing apples to oranges (1980’s Murphy to 1950s Mantle) that we forget we’re trying to make applesauce (Hall of Fame decisions.) Often the players know more than that which appears in the record book, their voice through existing Hall of Fame member votes, should be added along with seasoned baseball announcers like Vin Scully and Bob Uecker to the BBWA’s in making the decision. BBWA members should all publicly stand up for their votes, they risk nothing except having to justify their selection.  Their readers deserve to know.

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Tags: Barry Larkin BBWA Dale Murohy Fred Mcgriff Hall Of Fame Jack Morris Jeff Bagwell

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