Debunking the Sammy Sosa, HOFer myth -- Part 2

Following up on Part 1 of our examination of the Sammy Sosa Hall of Fame case, we have this afternoon Part 2, comparing Sosa to the right fielders who have been voted into the Hall by the BBWAA.

There are 12 major league right fielders who have been voted into the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA. They are:

Hank Aaron
Roberto Clemente
Tony Gwynn
Harry Heilmann
Reggie Jackson
Al Kaline
Willie Keeler
Mel Ott
Frank Robinson
Babe Ruth
Paul Waner
Dave Winfield

So...let's look at how Sosa stacks up with these 12 HOF right fielders in career EQA, OPS, OPS+, and WARP3, along with their total major league games:

Name EQA EQA Rank OPS OPS Rank OPS+ OPS+ Rank WARP3 WARP3 Rank Games
Aaron .326 2 929 4 155 t2 210.7 2 3298
Clemente .302 9 834 11 130 10 126.8 7 2433
Gwynn .307 t6 847 9 132 9 124.1 10 2440
Heilmann .311 5 930 3 148 5 103.4 13 2148
Jackson .306 8 846 10 139 6 124.6 9 2820
Kaline .299 11 856 8 134 t7 126.3 8 2834
Keeler .290 13 803 13 127 13 109.2 11 2123
Ott .330 2 947 2 155 t2 179.7 3 2730
Robinson .324 4 926 5 154 4 164.8 4 2808
Ruth .368 1 1164 1 207 1 237.6 1 2503
Sosa .294 12 878 6 128 12 105.7 12 2344
Waner .307 t7 877 7 134 t7 128.7 6 2549
Winfield .301 10 828 12 129 11 131.3 5 2973

It is only in the one non-contextual category -- raw OPS -- that Sosa's ranking is respectable. He's next-to-last in EQA, OPS+ and WARP3, all stats that adjust for league, park and era impact.

Looking at WARP3, Sosa is well behind almost every other player, clumped at the bottom with Heilmann and Keeler. However, if you look at WARP3 on a per 162 game basis, Heilmann has a .5 WARP per 162 edge on Sosa, and Keeler has a full WARP per 162 edge on Sosa.

On a WARP rate basis, Sosa is in the bottom group with Reggie Jackson, Al Kaline, and Dave Winfield, with a slight (.15 per 162 or less) edge on each of the three. This, however, is a result of Jackson, Kaline and Winfield hanging around as role players well after their primes. Sosa, unlike the other three, does not appear capable of hanging around into his early 40s.

This is what makes the games played category so revealing...Sosa has played fewer games than most of the rest of the right fielders on this list, with a correspondingly lower WARP3. However, a star player whose career ends relatively early -- who doesn't have a "long tail" to his career, where he hangs around during his decline phase -- should have a higher EQA and OPS+. The fact that Sosa is near the bottom in each category suggests that he isn't a player, like Heilmann, who was great in his prime but retired early, or a player, like Winfield, who was great in his prime but was able to hang around for years after he started his decline phase. Rather, it suggests that he wasn't as great as the rest of the players on this list.

Of the 13 right fielders looked at here -- the 12 BBWAA HOF selections, and Sosa -- the bottom of the list is clearly Sosa and Keeler, the only 19th century player to make this cut.

This sort of exercise can, however, understate single-season dominance...let's compare the number of top-5 and top-10 finishes Sosa had with these other right fielders:

Name MVP-5 MVP-10 OBP-5 OBP-10 SLG-5 SLG-10 OPS-5 OPS-10 OPS+-5 OPS+-10
Aaron 8 13 7 11 15 19 15 19 13 18
Clemente 4 8 2 6 2 6 3 8 2 10
Gwynn 1 7 6 10 0 2 2 6 2 7
Heilmann 4 5 7 8 6 12 7 10 7 12
Jackson 5 7 2 5 8 12 6 10 7 11
Kaline 4 8 7 9 5 9 5 11 5 9
Keeler N/A N/A 3 8 1 5 2 5 2 6
Ott 3 6 11 16 12 16 13 18 14 18
Robinson 5 9 11 16 11 16 12 15 14 16
Ruth 2 3 16 16 15 16 16 16 16 16
Sosa 2 7 1 1 4 7 3 5 4 5
Waner 4 5 7 13 5 7 5 8 5 8
Winfield 3 7 3 3 2 7 3 7 3 7

Keep in mind that the MVP, as we know it, didn't really arrive until the 30s, and voting was done differently (or not at all) before then, so the MVP balloting data for players who spent some or all of their careers in the majors before then is going to be less applicable.

Again, though, this exercise shows what we saw before...Sosa doesn't compare well to the rest of the group. Not only is it clear he isn't in the Ruth/Aaron/Ott/Robinson class of elite HOF right fielders, he suffers in comparison to the rest of the class.

Heilmann, who (along with Keeler) was clumped with Sosa in WARP3, stands out clearly as more dominant in his time. And more modern contemporaries, Kaline, Jackson, Clemente and Winfield, all grade out higher than Sosa. And Kaline, Clemente and Winfield were all multiple gold glove winners who were considered exceptional defensive right fielders, while Sosa has been viewed as adequate, at best, in the field.

Comparing Sosa to the 12 BBWAA elected HOF right fielders, he appears better than Wee Willie Keeler, but pretty clearly worse than every other right fielder who has been elected.

So the case for having the BBWAA vote Sosa into the Hall boils down to, he's better than a guy who played in the 1800s who was voted in by the BBWAA more than 70 years ago.

That's not a real strong case.

Next, in part 3, I'll compare Sosa to some additional right fielders who have either been voted in by the Veteran's Committee, or who haven't been elected at all.

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