Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Revisiting Dawson

Thanks to Paul Noonan at Electric Commentary who has directed me to another site with the odd name Fire Joe Morgan (just guessing there is some slight animosity ... hopefully not with Joe's playing career). A contributor who goes by the name of Ken Tremendous (a spectacular name, btw) disagrees with another over Andre Dawson's Hall of Fame credentials. As his disagreement therefore becomes a disagreement with my thoughts on Dawson's eligibility, I thought I would showcase some of his arguments and discuss.

Mr. Tremendous disagrees with the argument that Dawson should be in the HOF because his numbers are comparable to others who have been elected like Kirby Puckett, Tony Perez, Ryne Sandberg and Gary Carter.

I happen to agree that comparing numbers is not always an adequate measure of a player's performance, but they do provide starting points for consideration. Tremendous says this:

Tony Perez shouldn't be in the Hall. Gary Carter is arguable, but he's a catcher. Ozzie Smith is in for defense and one memorable home run in the postseason. So, yes, you are indeed comparing apples to oranges. The closest actual comparison is Puckett, but Puckett's injury was non-baseball-related, which makes it a special circumstance.
I agree Perez shouldn't be in the Hall, and I agree that special dispensation be given to Carter because he was a catcher... blah blah. But I have an issue with the special circumstances that hurried Puckett's induction (and don't go nuts on me ... I loved Kirby Puckett).

Anyway, forgive me if I don't cry a river. While it is true that injuries are a part of the game and have sidetracked any number of promising careers, Dawson continued to play at a high level on knees that would eventually need to be replaced. His career was not sidetracked, he played through the pain and continued to put up HOF qualifying numbers. In fact, his slugging percentage was higher than Puckett's.

From 1977 to 1992, Dawson's 162-game average was:

Despite playing on knees that would have felled a lesser man, Dawson continued to put together consistently good seasons for horrible clubs, including one season that saw him win the MVP though playing for a last place team. When was the last time that happened?

Additionally, he played half those 16 years on a rock-hard surface that accelerated the deterioration of his knees and STILL won eight Gold Gloves. Mr. Tremendous downplays the fielding awards, but Dawson's peers and sportswriters don't. They understand the importance of defense. Dawson stood above the rest during that 16-year stretch.

With respect to Mr. Tremendous' opinion, Dawson deserves enshrinement.

5 Swings of the bat:

PaulNoonan said...

Ken (and I) don't disparriage fielding per se, we disparriage having awards that are voted on by fairly stupid baseball writers (Gold Glove, MVP) be criteria for an award that is voted on by fairly stupid baseball writers (Hall of Fame induction).

I would call that Meta-Stupidity.

Defense is super important, but the best defenders rarely win Gold Gloves, and the baseball writers votes (and even scouting) is often at odds with more advanced measures (see your post about Corey Hart v. Jeff Francoer.)

I'm always shocked when I find a baseball fan that's not a regular reader of FJM. For a good intro, read the glossary.

Other Side said...

The site is excellent. I will add it to my list, just hadn't gotten around to it. Thx, Paul.

PaulNoonan said...

The JAWS system also doesn't care for Dawson, although it likes him more than Rice. From Jay JAffe:

.285 662 325 -26 105.0 57.5 81.3

Like Rice, Andre Dawson has garnered significant support from the BBWAA voters, though he saw his percentage drop from 61.0 percent to 56.7 percent last year--not terribly surprising given the presence of first-ballot Hall of Famers Ripken and Gwynn. In his heyday, Dawson brought to the table an exceptional combination of power and speed. As an Expo, he was a Gold Glove center fielder who shifted to right after the Olympic Stadium turf took its toll on his knees. He left as a free agent following the 1986 season, and made a huge splash in his first year with the Cubs, hitting 49 homers, driving in 137 runs, and winning dubious MVP honors--he had just 7.3 WARP, which ranked 24th in the league and was only his sixth-best season--while playing for a last-place club, the first player to win the MVP from the basement. His stats that year were grossly inflated by Wrigley Field (.332/.373/.668 at home vs. .246/.288/.480 away), but for his career, the park effects were more even: .281/.330/.481 with 207 HR at home, .278/.316/.483 with 231 HR on the road. His Gold Gloves are somewhat overstated; the FRAA numbers show him a combined 15 runs below average in two of those seasons, but that's about par for the course. The biggest problem with Dawson's case is his lifetime .323 OBP, nine points below the park-adjusted league average for his career; he topped .350 just three times, while scraping the .300 range for too many years. That particularly depresses the value of his peak, which is tied for a rather unimpressive 250th all-time, though seven Hall of Famers--Dave Bancroft, Willie Stargell, Earl Averill, Hugh Duffy, Pie Traynor, Orlando Cepeda, and Luis Aparicio--are within half a win of his total. He's a better choice than Rice, but he still comes up short.

(Subscription Required)

PaulNoonan said...

Oh, and no prob on the FJM recommendation. The best part is generally Joe-Chats, because there are a few mispellings and word-usages that Joe always makes, and FJM readers always attempt to bait him into his routine. One thing to look for is the mispelled word "cocetrate." Any use of the word "consistent" is also applauded. See:

Jim (NYC): Do you feel it will be tough for the Rockies to concetrate

KT: Thank you, Jim.

next year after the run they had? They weren't exactly consistent

And again.

this season...running hot and cold.

Joe Morgan: Well, if you're asking if I think they'll win the division next year, I say no. Your assessment is right on the mark. No one even noticed them going into the last month of the season. Then all of a sudden they got hot. They were under .500. But they got hot and won the wild card. But I do think they were hurt by the layoff. But even without the layoff, they were not nearly as good a team as Boston.

I'm no 2nd grade-level expository writing instructor, but I think that the last three sentences are poorly composed. But can you figure out what I mean? But I bet you can, but if you look hard. But what if you can't? But I bet you can.

Other Side said...

I must say I'm a borderline Dawson supporter ... but a supporter nonetheless. I agree that his career OBA hurts his chances. But, it's really not that much lower than the league average for that period (I'll see if I can find those numbers).

His home/road numbers his MVP may have been skewed, but I don't worry too much since these numbers were fairly balanced throughout his career. He just had a fluke year.

I wonder if the Colorado effect will play games with future Rockie HOF candidates, like one of my personal favorite players, Larry Walker (I would not vote for him, though).