May 18, 2013
And here's the full roster.
Now availableHardball Times Baseball Annual 2013, with 300 pages of great content. It's also available on Amazon and Kindle. Read more about it here.
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Monday, January 07, 2013
We've started a Change.org petition to ask the Hall of Fame Board of Directors to change their voting process. It's related to my article today (Time to push the reset button) and can be found at this link:
Petition to Change the Hall of Fame's Voting Process
If you believe that the Hall's voting process needs to changed, please sign the petition. Send a message.
One hundred years ago today, one of the greatest first baseman in National League history was born: Johnny Mize.
If you read much in sabermetric circles, and especially if you read much about Hall of Fame arguments, you’ll hear some talk about how Mize might be the best Hall of Famer the BBWAA ever took a pass on. Oh, you can find some 19th-century or early-20th-century players who were better, but that hardly counts, as those guys generally predated the BBWAA electorate itself. Mize might be the best player to retire during the Cooperstown era to get into the Hall of Fame via the Veterans Committee.
When I first heard those points being made, I checked his stats at Baseball-Reference.com, and my initial reaction was one of bewilderment. At the very least, I can understand why he got passed over.
First off, he had a very short career, with just 15 seasons in the majors, and he played over 130 games in fewer than half of those season. He was a good hitter with one batting title and one 200-hit season, but that’s not enough to overcome a short career. He had 359 homers, which is nice but less than Gil Hodges or Rocky Colavito (or even Gary Gaetti). Mize had some big home seasons, most notably 51 in 1947, but ultimately topped 30 just three times.
So how come he’s considered such a clearly deserving Hall of Famer? Well, just looking at black ink and a few obvious, cursory stats doesn’t tell the whole story.
First, let’s start with the career length. Yup, he played in just 15 seasons. Then again, he missed three full campaigns in the middle of his career due to World War II. They were ages 30-32 for him, which is typically a bit past a player’s peak but Mize’s big 51-homer season came at age 34, and then he hit 40 more at age 35. Those were three prime years Mize lost.
Players normally get war credit, so give Mize around 400 more games and three more seasons. Suddenly, his career numbers look more respectable. That might give him 100 more homers, giving him over 450. And while 359 doesn’t look so hot to our 21st-century eyes, it’s worth noting that when Mize retired in 1953, he was No. 6 on the all-time homer list. Ahead of him? Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Mel Ott, Lou Gehrig, and Joe DiMaggio. That's a nice group of players. Heck, all the guys just behind Mize were Hall of Famers, too: Ted Williams, Hank Greenberg, Ralph Kiner, Al Simmons, Rogers Hornsby, and Chuck Klein.
300 homers was a lot more impressive back then, and by rights Mize should’ve had 400.
And as noted, Mize could hit. He batted .300 in each of his first nine seasons. He played in the NL in the 1930s, and in those days the AL was the hitter-friendly league, not the NL.
What’s more, Mize also had a good eye at the plate. He often drew 70 or more walks in the season, helping him to a .397 career on-base percentage. Mize also led the league in OPS three straight times, from 1938 to 1940.
The best modern comp for Mize would be Jeff Bagwell. On a per-year basis, Bagwell might be a bit better, but then again, Bagwell doesn’t get the wartime credit Mize did.
Frankly, a good case can be made for Mize as best NL first baseman of the 20th century. His main competition is Bagwell and Willie McCovey. Admittedly, it helps that guys like Foxx and Gehrig played in the AL, but still Mize was a legitimately great player. And today is his 100th birthday.
Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim.
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