For this round of Hall of Fame fun, we are going to take a look back at the players I put into the holding tank. At the time, I felt I did not have enough information on comparable players to judge them fairly, or they were too close to the borderline for me to make a decision. As of right now, there are fifteen players in the holding tank. However, three of them, Heinie Groh, Billy Pierce, and Burleigh Grimes have come in the last two groups of players. I’m going to take a closer look at Grimes here, but nothing has changed for Pierce or Groh, so I’m not going to consider them right now. As for the others, I’ll update you with my thoughts, even if I am still undecided.
Earl Averill and Kenny Lofton
I covered these two Cleveland center fielders pretty early in this project, but since then, the only other center fielder I have inducted is Larry Doby, who is also from Cleveland. I have rejected Dale Murphy, Cesar Cedeño, and Earle Combs since then. Averill is similar to Combs but clearly a step better. Averill is somewhat lower than Al Simmons, who did play center field, and did make my Hall, but that basically comes down to Simmons playing a fuller career. If Averill does make it he’s at the bottom of my Hall of Fame, but I’m going to let him stick around the Holding Tank for a bit longer. I want to make sure I’m not shorting too many center fielders.
Lofton is looking pretty strong. While they aren’t exactly similar players, in terms of production, Lofton matches Dale Murphy pretty well, until they reach age 32, when Murphy became worthless. Lofton continues from there to produce into his forties. Actually, Larry Walker is also quite similar to those two, but he starts to break away from Lofton in the opposite direction at about the same age. Lofton looks to be a step above Averill right now. Again, I want to see more center fielders, but he’s pretty close right now.
Magee is another outfield I stuck in here a while ago, but he primarily played in the corners. Last time I talked about him, I compared him to Earl Averill. Reviewing both of them again, Magee certainly comes out on top. What I’m more concerned with is how similar Magee is to Joe Medwick. In fact, the more I compare them, the better Magee looks. I said that I considered Medwick just over the line between induction and the tank, so Magee isn’t exactly safely in, but I don’t see anything changing in the future to make me regret inducting him.
Darrell Evans and Jeff Kent
Not much has changed for these two. I’ve inducted Nettles, who was a contemporary of Evans, and I think Nettles is a fair bit better. I was fairly optimistic about Evans’ chances at the time, but I’ve soured on him a bit. There is still a glut of third basemen around the borderline that I’ve yet to cover, so he’ll have to wait. I’m still feeling good about Kent, but I’m still not quite ready to go with him. Both get to wait a bit longer.
Since I looked at Tinker, I’ve inducted Barry Larkin and rejected Travis Jackson among shortstops. Larkin isn’t exactly comparable, but Jackson is dwarfed pretty badly by Tinker. Tinker’s induction basically comes down to two things. How strong the shortstop position is and how much I trust his defense being spectacular. I’m still not much closer on this decision
Jim Kaat, Rick Reuschel, and Luis Tiant
The first time I looked at these two guys, I wasn’t really feeling either, but I probably preferred Tiant. The more I’m looking at it though, the better Kaat looks. First of all, he is a lefty, and so far, I’ve inducted three times as many right-handed pitchers as left-handed ones. Second of all, Kaat’s peak, on further reconsideration, does not look much worse than Tiant’s. He also lasted much longer than Tiant. That said, I’m still not feeling either of them very strongly.
As for Reuschel, I was feeling the love pretty strongly for him last time. I’m still feeling it. He looks a decent bit better than Kaat. Furthermore, I think I might have been a bit harsher on pitchers than hitters so far. Last time around, I was pretty close to inducting him, so I think I’ll bite the bullet and roll with it. Welcome, Rick.
Verdict: REUSCHEL IN
Red Faber, Burleigh Grimes, Eppa Rixey, and Urban Shocker
And here’s where the fun begins. So far, I have looked at six pitchers from this era. I’ve inducted Stan Coveleski and Dazzy Vance and I’ve postponed a decision on these four. I still think this was the right choice. Vance is clearly the best of this group and, while he is closer to the others than to Vance, Coveleski looks like the number two guy. In a previous edition, when looking at Faber, I guesstimated that Rixey was a bit better than Faber who was a bit better than Shocker. Instead of looking at it that way, I’m going to split them into two pairs. Grimes and Rixey are both long career type pitchers while Faber and Shocker have more defined peaks.
Between Rixey and Grimes, Rixey looks significantly better to me. At their best, they were about the same level, but Rixey was a very good pitcher for much longer, while Grimes was mostly average. In fact, I’m having a hard time seeing Grimes as a good candidate at all. Every rate stat favors Rixey’s career by a significant margin. I’m going to rule against Grimes and in favor of Rixey. My biggest issue with Eppa was a lack of true ace caliber seasons, but looking back, I think he actually did have a few (1916, 1923-25). Grimes had about the same amount of seasons as an ace, but his career bulk pales in comparison to Rixey.
Verdict: RIXEY IN; GRIMES NOPE
As for Shocker and Faber, I’m still pretty mixed up on them. I think that Shocker had a longer tenure as one of the best pitchers in the game (1919-1926) while Faber peaked a bit higher and lasted significantly longer as an averageish pitcher. It’s worth noting that Shocker had heart troubles that shortened the end of his career. In his last full season, 1927, he was still an effective pitcher, and probably better than Faber was at the same age, but his health made it nearly impossible for him to pitch in 1928, and he would die shortly after. Also worth noting is that Faber was a bad hitter, while Shocker was pretty good for a pitcher. I mean he was no Babe Ruth, or even a Wes Ferrell, but Shocker wasn’t an automatic out like Faber was. Both fWAR and bWAR agree that, for their careers, Shocker was about six wins better than Faber with the bat. I’m still feeling iffy on both these guys, but at this point I’m leaning toward Shocker being the better player. Either way, they are both right on the borderline. I don’t think I can make a decision on them yet.
So, congratulations are in order for Magee, Reuschel, and Rixey. I was hoping to clear a few more players out of the tank, but I think a lot of these guys are so close to the borderline that it makes more sense to wait. I would say that Lofton is probably the best player in here, and unless I get a run of better center fielders pretty soon, he’ll likely make it in.