Auditioning for Cooperstown – Who Makes The Cut?

November 14, 2012 by TheUmpire

Auditioning for Cooperstown Andre Lower over at has released his new book, “Auditioning for Cooperstown:  Rating Baseball’s Stars for the Hall of Fame,” in which all 3,000+ qualifying players are systematically evaluated as to whether they belong in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Using a formula based primarily on Win Shares, players are equally rated by their total regular season career production, their five “peak” seasons of production and their positional dominance (that is, were they the best players at their position when they played?).

This book uncovers (and corrects) the reason why 19th Century hitters, particularly those from the 1870’s and 1880’s, as well as Dead Ball Era stars are underrepresented in the Hall of Fame.  This plus adjustments to the imbalance between starting pitchers of various eras allows for a truly even-handed comparison of every player’s Hall of Fame credentials.

The raging issue today concerning players (e.g., Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens) now eligible for the Hall of Fame is steroids. That issue, as well as gambling, is discussed in the player commentaries section for the affected players. These and other observations make the 550 player commentaries memorable reading.

From Chapter Two – How the Ratings Work:

A tale of two Hall of Fame teammates (for the 1966 season, anyway) demonstrates the difference between career and peak values. Sandy Koufax was the ultimate pitcher of his generation, ranking 23rd in adjusted peak Win Shares. Since he retired after 1966 due to a debilitating elbow injury and would assuredly have achieved so much more in good health, he was rewarded with election to the Hall in his first year of eligibility.

On the other hand, Don Sutton was the ultimate plodder, never dominating and winning 20 games only once. Yet, he parlayed a dozen 15 win seasons into a 324 win career. He ranks only 125th in peak value, well below Koufax. But their career values are virtually mirror opposites of the peak values, Sutton’s 19th career value ranking trumping Koufax’s 132nd ranking. Adding in the positional dominance factor to the other two factors, Koufax ranks 64th all-time among starting pitchers and Sutton 68th.

More exceprts here.  Available in paperback and for the Kindle here.

Up next:  A comparison of this year’s Pre-Integration Era ballot candidates using Baseball Ink’s avgWAR vs Lower’s rating system.


Players with 8+ seasons Career Batting Career Pitching
Rank Player avgWAR Career WAR G Seasons G GS Seasons NB HoF
132 Sandy Koufax 4.66 48.7 397 2.45 397 314 10.46 Y
533 Don Sutton 2.92 65.6 785 4.85 774 756 22.50 Y

(WAR scale:  8+ MVP, 5+ All-Star, 2+ Starter, 0-2 Substitute, < 0 Replacement)

Typically, we here at Baseball Ink consider an avgWAR value of 5 (+/- .5) as a cutoff point.  Koufax is arguably worthy; Sutton is not.  And this coming from a guy who really likes Don Sutton.

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