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Comparing Sadaharu Oh to Hall of Famers

A good way to get a handle on whether or not a player is qualified to be honored in Cooperstown is to compare him to players who have already been honored there. In this article, I will compare the projected major league career of Sadaharu Oh, which I detailed here to two separate groups of Hall of Fame first basemen and outfielders. Those two groups have a lot of overlaps, but are not identical. The first group is the tougher of the two, first ballot HOF selections, and the second is of Ohís major league contemporaries.

The reason I have limited the comparison to outfielders and first basemen is quite simple: Oh played first, and the hitting standards applied to outfielders and first basemen are higher than for other positions due to the greater defensive demands of other positions. Consequently, comparisons of Oh to middle infielders and catchers based upon offensive production only would be of limited usefulness at best.

The first ballot group is made up of the guys who rarely are controversial selections to the Hall because there is a clear consensus they belong. In fact, they are generally the guys people first think of when they think of the Hall of Fame. Iíve defined first ballot HOFers as players selected in the first ballot by the writers that the players were eligible for starting in 1960. The 1960 part of the definition exists for two main reasons. The first and most important of these reasons has to do with the Hall itself. The Hall didnít exist until 1936, so there was a time where a backlog of candidates existed, which kept players we would normally consider first ballot types (Mel Ott and Joe DiMaggio, for instance) from receiving the honor of a first ballot selection. By about 1960, this problem had largely disappeared. Therefore, what the standard for first ballot selections has really only developed since 1960. The second reason is that using a 1960 cutoff helps us avoid the apples and oranges comparisons of players from the 60ís and 70ís to the lively ball era of the 20ís or 30ís, the earlier deadball era, or 19th century baseball. Different standards of excellence apply to each group, and it is best to apply the appropriate standard of excellence to Oh.

Using this definition of 1st ballot HOFers, there are 16 such players. I have listed them alphabetically in the spreadsheet below. I have calculated the average performance of these players as well as Ohís placement if he were considered a member of the group. The placement in the group is more significant than the comparison to the average, since players like Aaron, Mays, Musial and Ted Williams tend to somewhat inflate the average above the standards actually used. Anyone falling in the top or middle of this group is quite well qualified for being honored by Cooperstown. A 10th place finish in this extremely elite group means 5 players in this elite company finished below you in that category and entitles you to be considered a legitimate member of the group in that category. One note: 1) the Runs Created formula I used is the Johnson formula introduced in the Bill James Abstract of 1985.

The below chart lists 15 categories of measurement of positive achievements (strikeouts were omitted). Oh averages just above an 8th place finish in those categories. He has 4 top 5 finishes, and 10 top 10 finishes. Two of the four categories he missed the top 10 in are triples and nobody gets in the Hall based solely on his performance in that category. Beyond that, Oh need not apologize to 372 career doubles or a career .279 average, even in this elite company, given the positives he presents in his favor. Not only does he do well in the traditional counting categories such as games, at bats, homers, walks, runs scored and RBI, but he also does very well in the last 4 categories. Those last 4 categories are metrics designed to try and get a more complete picture of a player

Player Name G AB H 2B 3B HR TB BB AVG OBP Slg sec avg  ops RC RC/G
Hank Aaron  3298  12364  3771  624   98  755  6856  1402  .305  .376  .555  .382 .930  2425  7.20 
Lou Brock 2616  10332  3023  486  141  149  4238  761  .293  .341  .410  ..282 ..751  1503 5.24 
Roberto Clemente 2433  9454  3000  440  166  240  4492  621  .317  .359  .475  .232 .835  1484 5.86 
Reggie Jackson 2820  9864  2584  463  49  563  4834  1375  .262  .352  .490  .391 .842  1709 5.99 
Al Kaline 2834  10116  3007  498  75  399  4852  1277  .297  .376  .480  .322 .856  1753 6.29 
Mickey Mantle 2401  8102  2415  344  72  536  4511  1733  .298  .422  .557  .491 .979  1840 8.25 
Willie Mays 2992  10881  3283  523  140  660  6066  1464  .302  .385  .557  .421 .942  2229 7.48 
Willie McCovey 2588  8197  2211  353  46  521  4219  1345  .270  .373  .515  .412 .887  1540 6.56 
Eddie Murray 3026  11336  3255  560  35  504  5397  1333  .287  .359  .476  .316 .836  1884 5.94 
Stan Musial 3026  10972  3630  725  177  475  6134  1599  .331  .416  .559  .376 .975  2324 8.07 
Kirby Puckett 1783  7244  2304  414  57  207  3453  450  .318  .358  .477  .239 .835  1145 5.91 
Frank Robinson 2808  10006  2943  528  72  586  4373  1420  .294  .382  .537  .405 .919  1971 7.12 
Willie Stargell 2360  7927  2232  423  55  475  4190  937  .282  .358  .529  .367 .886  1431 6.41 
Ted Williams 2292  7706  2654  525  71  521  4884  2019  .344  .481  .634  .555 1.114  2132 10.76 
Dave Winfield 2973  11003  3110  540  88  465  5221  1216  .283  .354  .475  .323 .829  1804 5.83 
Carl Yastrzemski 3308  11988  3419  646  59  452  5539  1845  .285  .381  .462  .345 .843  2080 6.19 
Oh Projection 2995  9939  2778  372  39  527  4809  2235  .279  .412  .484  .438 .896  1996 7.11 
composite 2722  9843  2928  506  88  469  5016  1300  .297  .379  .510  .321 .889  1828 6.74 
Oh Place 5th  10th  11th  15th  16th  6th  11th  1st  15th  4th  10th   3rd 7th  6th 7th 

 

Key:

RC= ((BB + TB) * 0.32) + ( H * 0.26) + (SB * 0.16) - (AB * 0.10)

RC/G = (RC * 25.5) / (AB-H)

The second group for comparison are those HOF outfielders and first basemen who were Ohís contemporaries. The contemporary HOFers establish the statistical standards for the era, and being among the very best of oneís own time is a key element of being qualified for the HOF. The notes and key which applied to the first ballot HOF chart also apply here, except that the contemporaries are defined as those players who played in at least five major league seasons during the period of Ohís projected major league career from 1962-1980.

Oh averages just below a 7th place finish for the 15 categories against the 16 contemporary HOFers, and is in the top 5 7 times and in the top 10 11 times. He missed the top 10 in average and slugging by a mere .006 in each case. He neednít apologize for 372 doubles even in this elite crowd, and as noted earlier, the triples are irrelevant to a consideration of his career. He does very well in the 4 metric categories finishing in the top 5 each time.

Player Name G AB H 2B 3B HR TB BB AVG OBP Slg sec avg  ops RC RC/G
Hank Aaron  3298  12364  3771  624   98  755  6856  1402  .305  .376  .555  .382 .930  2425  7.20 
Lou Brock 2616  10332  3023  486  141  149  4238  761  .293  .341  .410  ..282 ..751  1503 5.24 
Orlando Cepeda 2124  7927  2351  417  27  379  3959  588  .297  .345  .499  .295 .845  1296 5.93 
Roberto Clemente 2433  9454  3000  440  166  240  4492  621  .317  .359  .475  .232 .835  1484 5.86 
Reggie Jackson 2820  9864  2584  463  49  563  4834  1375  .262  .352  .490  .391 .842  1709 5.99 
Al Kaline 2834  10116  3007  498  75  399  4852  1277  .297  .376  .480  .322 .856  1753 6.29 
Harmon Killebrew 2435  8147  2086  290  24  573  4143  1559  .256  .376  .509  .446 .884  1555 6.54 
Mickey Mantle 2401  8102  2415  344  72  536  4511  1733  .298  .422  .557  .491 .979  1840 8.25 
Willie Mays 2992  10881  3283  523  140  660  6066  1464  .302  .385  .557  .421 .942  2229 7.48 
Willie McCovey 2588  8197  2211  353  46  521  4219  1345  .270  .373  .515  .412 .887  1540 6.56 
Tony Perez 2777  9778  2732  505  79  379  4532  925  .279  .342  .463  .284 .805  1487 5.38 
Frank Robinson 2808  10006  2943  528  72  586  4373  1420  .294  .382  .537  .405 .919  1971 7.12 
Willie Stargell 2360  7927  2232  423  55  475  4190  937  .282  .358  .529  .367 .886  1431 6.41 
Billy Williams 2488  9350  2711  434  88  426  4599  1045  .290  .361  .492  .323 .853  1590 6.11 
Dave Winfield 2973  11003  3110  540  88  465  5221  1216  .283  .354  .475  .323 .829  1804 5.83 
Carl Yastrzemski 3308  11988  3419  646  59  452  5539  1845  .285  .381  .462  .345 .843  2080 6.19 
Oh Projection 2995  9939  2778  372  39  527  4809  2235  .279  .412  .484  .438 .896  1996 7.11 
composite 2703  9715  2805  470  80  472  4852  1220  .289  .368  .499  .356 .867  1731 6.39 
Oh Place 3rd  8th  9th  14th  15th  7th  8th  1st  13th(tie)  2nd  11th   3rd 5th  4th 5th 

 

 

When compared to either group, Oh once again proves his superior qualifications for Cooperstown by measuring up quite well against stiff competition. This is especially notable in the case of the first ballot group, which is a best of the best group. Anyone who can stand up as well as Oh does to such competition is very deserving of a plaque in Cooperstown. Oh retired 1n 1980, yet an honor he richly deserves continues to be denied him. Oh is not debased by this denial, but baseball in general and Cooperstown in particular are. It is high time those two institutions do right by Oh and themselves, recognize the truth of Ohís greatness as a ballplayer, and give him the honor of induction into Cooperstown.

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