Friday, February 01, 2013


Hall of Fame voting and October glories-Rob Neyer

1/8/13, "Hall of Fame voting and October glories," Rob Neyer, SB Nation

"As near as I can tell, postseason performance has essentially been ignored throughout the history of Hall of Fame balloting. Of course, there's at least one very good reason for this: Very few Hall of Fame candidates finished their careers with enough postseason action to merit serious discussion.

Today, that's changed. Some of the longtime Yankees and Braves, especially, do have enough postseason action. Andy Pettitte has made 44 postseason starts. Derek Jeter has now played in 158 postseason games. Should we simply ignore those contributions?

The argument for ignoring them is fairness. If you give these guys extra credit, players who didn't get those chances in October are disadvantaged. The argument for not ignoring them is obvious: the postseason is really important.

But there's a problem with postseason statistics ... If players get enough postseason chances, they'll generally just do what they've done in the regular season. Andy Pettitte's numbers are the same. Derek Jeter's numbers are the same. Which doesn't mean those numbers aren't impressive. Their regular-season numbers are impressive, so merely matching them in October is also impressive. And of course the competition in October is tougher. So I don't mean to suggest for a second that Williams and Jeter and Pettitte don't deserve plaudits for their postseason work.

However, I'm inclined to give significantly more extra credit to players whose postseason performance is significantly better than their regular-season performance. Mariano Rivera's got a 0.70 ERA in 141 postseason innings. In 19 postseason starts, Curt Schilling is 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA.

On the other side of the coin, Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio were both terrible in the postseason.

I think postseason performance should count. But only as a sort of tiebreaker. If Bagwell and Biggio were marginal candidates, on the strength of their regular-season performances, I might countenance holding their postseason numbers against them. Both, though, are better than marginal candidates. Curt Schilling is a marginal candidate, at least if you're looking at just his 216 career wins. But Schilling did a great deal to help his teams win not one, not two, but three championships.

It's actually much easier for a pitcher than a hitter to help win championships. The Top 5 list of postseason WPA is Mariano Rivera, Curt Schilling, John Smoltz, Andy Pettitte, and Babe Ruth. But even that's misleading; half of Ruth's WPA derives from his pitching in the 1916 and '18 World Series. The only pure hitter in the Top 10 is Pete Rose, at No. 7.

By the way, I would probably give Pettitte my Hall of Fame vote, too. Because of the postseason victories. I just don't quite see it for Bernie Williams. But I'm willing to be convinced."


Ed. note: Another point in favor of considering post season work is players and especially pitchers have shorter off seasons in which to recover for following regular seasons. In regular season stats, they're judged the same as players who had more time to recover. I mention it because while post season isn't often acknowledged, the characteristic of "durability" is considered all the time. After the San Francisco Giants won the World Series with Brian Wilson as closer there were articles written expressing concern for Giants' pitchers and the fact that they'd have shorter off seasons and less time to recover for the following regular season. This was after just one year of extra pitching in one post season. I've never seen this concern mentioned for Mariano Rivera who had shorter off seasons for many years including pitching into November twice, in 2001 and 2009. Other factors can arise in post season such as longer games, close games, tie games, and often in cold and/or rainy weather. Rivera has pitched multi-innings in 57 out of  his 96 post season appearances. Jeff Passan noted the 53 mark after ALDS game 3 in 2009.
from 2009: ALCS game 2, ALCS game 6, World Series game 2, World Series game 6.

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