Monday, March 28, 2005

McGwire Correction

As I was sitting around today thinking, as I am wont to do, I thought, wait a moment - comparing McGwire to Bonds is a bit unfair. I mean, if only players as good as Bonds made it into the Hall of Fame, it would be a club more exclusive than my bedroom.

So, I thought to myself, I should compare McGwire to the other first basemen in the hall before judging him so harshly. Just like looking at his numbers compared to Bonds, this surprised me as well. When I think of first basemen, I think of the strongest offensive position in the game. Either the Hall doesn't represent that, or McGwire is really one of the best all time. But, let's get to the analysis and let you judge for yourself.

First off, there are 20 first basemen or DHs in the hall. I took out Buck Leonard since I don't have win shares information for him and added McGwire to the comparison. Then, I looked at four categories: total win shares, win shares per season, high win share season and number of 30 win share seasons.

As we saw in my last post, McGwire had 342 total win shares, a high of 41 and three seasons of 30 or more win shares. Compared to Bonds that was extremely average. But, in the context of the other first basemen, it was pretty decent - but the big category where McGwire shined was WS per season. Here is the list:

Lou Gehrig - 28.76
Johnny Mize - 22.53
Jimmie Foxx - 21.75
Mark McGwire - 21.38
Eddie Murray - 20.81
Hank Greenberg - 20.54
Roger Connor - 20.17
Bill Terry - 19.86
Paul Molitor - 19.71
George Sisler - 19.47
Dan Brouthers - 18.68
Willie McCovey - 18.55
Orlando Cepeda - 18.24
Cap Anson - 17.32
Harmon Killebrew - 16.86
Jim Bottomley - 16.13
Jake Beckley - 15.90
Tony Perez - 15.17
Frank Chance - 13.94
George Kelly - 12.06

Not looking closely at the others to give you details, I just know that McGwire's first year was one win share, his last was eight and he had two in the middle of only six win shares. The fact that the other 12 seasons brought him up to fourth place is pretty impressive.

(Here I'd like to make a note - it should be obvious, but Lou Gehrig led every category. By a wide margin. He had 12 seasons with over 30 win shares. His high was 44. He had 489 total. Next high in those categories were Jimmie Foxx with eight 30 win share seasons, Foxx and McGwire at 41 for a season, and Eddie Murray with 437. The average you can see above.)

If you take all of the categories and rank them 1-20 with equal weights here is what you get:

Lou Gehrig - 4
Jimmie Foxx - 10.5

To me this is the first group. These guys are the elite at their position. Like Ruth, Bonds, Cobb, Mays and Aaron in the outfield. Here is the second group:

Mark McGwire - 26
Willie McCovey - 26.5
Johnny Mize - 27
Eddie Murray - 29
Roger Connor - 29.5
Harmon Killebrew - 32.5
Hank Greenberg - 36

I include Greenberg in this group since he lost some of his best years to the war. But, truthfully, he belongs there with his limited playing time. Third group:

Paul Molitor - 42
Dan Brouthers - 42.5
Orlando Cepeda - 49.5
Tony Perez - 50
Bill Terry - 50.5
Cap Anson - 54.5
George Sisler - 55.5
Frank Chance - 58

Last group:

Jim Bottomley - 68.5
Jake Beckley - 69.5
George Kelly - 78.5

So, as you can see, McGwire is among elite company. Of course, that is assuming we keep the post steroid numbers. But, even if we downgrade those numbers, there is still something special about him - in context.


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