While doing research for a later installation of this series, I stumbled across this thread from the beginning of the month over at Baseball Think Factory. If you’re not familiar with BTF, it’s an analytics-focused, SABR-heavy site that we all have to go visit on major holidays and send our senior pictures to. Anyway, the fine folks over at BTF are having themselves a debate about Edgar’s candidacy. Generally, I would classify the majority of responses as “not impressed.” Some of the arguments are not worth your time (there is a long speculative sidebar on whether Edgar was a steroid user who got by on his “good guy” image that would have been smacked down pretty ruthlessly here), but several of them provide stats or ideas that I grudgingly have to admit merit consideration (this doesn’t mean we can’t still disagree with them, just that they are things to think about). Here are the most compelling arguments I saw, summarized:
- Being considered “the greatest DH of all time” doesn’t actually mean that much:
DHing has only existed for a (relatively) short while in half of baseball, and the position is usually filled by someone who had worn other hats throughout his career. Therefore, the field is small, and not particularly impressive. Following from that logic, having the DH award named after you doesn’t matter, either. Ergo, calling Edgar the greatest DH, or pointing to the award named after him, shouldn’t factor into his candidacy.
- Counting stats vs. rate stats:
Honestly, I was surprised to find so many commenters of this august saber baseball website holding so tightly to the idea of RBIs, but there they are.
- Comparison to similar players:
Here we have much dissension and rabble. The chief bone of contention seems to come down, for some reason, to Harmon Killebrew, who is a fairly close comparison for Edgar, with Edgar having the edge in rate stats, and Killebrew—who is a HOFer—having the edge in counting stats, specifically dingers. FYI:
Killebrew (9833 PAs): .256/.376/.509; 2086 H, 573 HR, 1584 RBI bWAR 60.3
Edgar (8674 PAs): .312/.418/.515; 2247 H, 309 HR, 1261 RBI, bWAR 68.3
One person suggests (somewhat disingenuously, I think) that if you trim the edges of Killebrew’s career, the two have very similar rate stats. This sets off a long trip down the garden path into “what if”-ness where some people raise the Mariners’ mismanagement of Edgar’s career and other people argue he wouldn’t have stuck in the big leagues anyway. I resisted the urge to register so I could comment and ask if anyone on the board had actually watched any Mariners games in 1989, and I only strained my arm a little patting myself on the back over that.
The other interesting tidbit I gleaned from this conversation was a discussion of how many “great” players there are per era (“great” here being defined as career 150 OPS+). User “Booey” has some eye-opening stats that would indicate that in the steroid era (or “sillyball” as they call it), the perception of there being a glut of “great” hitters is more of a reflection of the depressed offense of the 70s and 80s, during which no players topped 150 OPS+. In fact, the ‘90s as an era had just as many players who achieved a 150 OPS+ as in the ‘40s and ‘10s, and one less than the ‘60s and ‘30s.
What do you think? Do any of these arguments have merit? How would you challenge or respond to some of the questions that are raised in the discussion?