By The Numbers: A Hall Of An Oversight

By Father Gabe Casta

Professor John T. Saccoman is the Chairman of the Mathematics and Computer Science Department at Seton Hall University. An accomplished mathematician, he is also an author, lecturer and well known sabermetrician. He is our guest blogger for this episode of By The Numbers. Enjoy the following essay!

John T. Saccoman: Let’s play a game. Does a player with these credentials belong in the Baseball Hall of Fame?

• Retired as the leading right handed home run (HR) hitter in his league’s history (when the league was 90+years old);
• Won the first three Gold Gloves at his position, including two years when only one was awarded for each position in the major leagues;
• Drove in 100 runs in the seven consecutive seasons, during which his team never finished lower than second place;
• Made eight All-Star teams;
• For a decade, he was second among all players in HR and runs batted in (RBI), third in total bases (TB) and eighth in Runs Scored (R), ranking him fourth in the National League;
• In each of his 15 years on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot, there were between four and ten players who finished that year with fewer votes than he but who were ultimately elected to the Hall;
• He was prayed for, not booed, while mired in a colossal slump during the 1952 Brooklyn Dodger-New York Yankee World Series;
• And, for good measure, he managed the unlikeliest of World Series Champions, the 1969 New York Mets.

By now you probably figured out the player: Gil Hodges.

I have been considering the question of Hodges’ Hall-worthiness for the better part of two decades. This April, as part of Mathematics Awareness Month (theme: The Mathematics of Sport), I gave a short talk expounding on Mr. Hodges’ qualifications.

One statistic I mentioned is Bill James’ Runs Average (RA). It is a simple formula:

RA=(R + RBI)/AB,

where AB stands for at bats. In a typical year, a league’s RA will be close to batting average (BA). In 2009, for example, the American League had RA = (10938 +10437)/77965 = 0.274, while its BA = .267

A first ballot Hall of Famer like Frank Robinson had a lifetime RA =(R + RBI)/AB =
(1829+1812)/ 10006 = 0.364.

Gil Hodges’ career RA sits right in the middle among all post-19th century Hall of Fame first basemen:

Gehrig 0.485
Foxx 0.452
Greenberg 0.448
Mize 0.381
Bottomley 0.348
Terry 0.342
McCovey 0.340
Hodges 0.338
Chance 0.325
Cepeda 0.315
Murray 0.313
Kelly 0.307
Perez 0.299
Sisler 0.297

The second statistic I used is Allen Barra’s SLOB (SLugging times On Base). While most people prefer OPS (On base Plus Slugging), my mathematical aesthetic prefers not to add two fractions with different denominators. Thus, we multiply them.

To get a feel for this statistic, consider the NL in 2009, which had SLOB= OB X SLG=0.331 X 0.409 = 0.135. For individuals, Albert Pujols in 2009 had SLOB = 0.291. Once again, Hodges’ Career SLOB ranks him higher than some first basemen already enshrined in the Hall:

Career SLOB
Gehrig 0.283
Foxx 0.261
Greenberg 0.248
Mize 0.221
Terry 0.198
McCovey 0.193
Bottomley 0.183
Sisler 0.176
Hodges 0.175
Cepeda 0.172
Murray 0.171
Perez 0.158
Kelly 0.153
Chance 0.149

For my third statistic, I chose Bill James’ Secondary Average (SA). As James has said, batting average only tells half of the story; SA tells the other half: SA = (TB -H+BB+SB-CS)/AB. Note that Bases on Balls (BB), Stolen Bases (SB) and Caught Stealing (CS) are components of SA. This metric measures the ability to produce extra bases beyond batting average. It is another statistic that tends toward batting average-type magnitudes; the DH-less NL in 2009 had SA = 0.261, while the AL had SA = 0.273.

In his career, Gil Hodges produced a SA that placed him in the top half of post-19th century first basemen:

Career SA
Gehrig 0.481
Greenberg 0.467
Foxx 0.464
McCovey 0.41
Mize 0.387
Hodges 0.352
Chance 0.321
Murray 0.312
Cepeda 0.295
Bottomley 0.285
Perez 0.284
Terry 0.257
Kelly 0.231
Sisler 0.231

We need not mention his service as a Marine Sergeant and Bronze Star recipient in the Pacific Theater of World War II. As his late teammate and Hall of Famer Roy Campanella said, “Gil Hodges is a Hall of Fame man.”

Next Blog: Modified Slugging Percentage

  • Mike Getz

    Not to mention Gil’s 14 grand slammers, a National League record when he retired, a game with four homers and a single, and the only two rbi of the day on the afternoon Brooklyn won the World Series. 370 homers for a career. 18 seasons and never thrown out of a game. He would have passed Stengel, Durocher and Alston in total wins as a manager if his teams won only half their games and he managed as long as they.

  • Dominick Yodice

    No matter what the statistics say it is the Baseball Writers who select the players for the Hall of Fame. Gil was never popular with the Baseball Writers since he gave very few interviews if any. As in any unjustice situatiuon it is the politics that rule the outcome. Such is the case of Gil Hodges.

  • Marty Greene

    I wonder if this article will even make a dent in what so far has been an anti Gil Hodges demeanor amongst Hall of Fame electors

    • Lu Patterson-Sisco

      I have heard it is Gil’s lifetime batting ave that is keeping him out of the Hall but when you have guys like Maz, Cepeda, Perez, and Gordon (Gil certainly should have been in before Gordon)with similar batting averages in the Hall, there is no excuse in the world to keep Gil out.

  • Arline Conroy

    When you think of all of Gil’s achievements, it so very hard to believe that he is not in the Hall of Fame. Just look at his stats! Everyone needs to continuing pushing for Gil Hodges for the 2011 Vet voting for 2012 induction.

  • Joe d'Agostin

    GIL belongs in HALL but we must wait for 2011 VET voting for 2012 induction as HALL just changed VET format but now only 15 vote and GIL needs 75% to get in–lchances look good
    Joe d’Agostin, Norwalk CT

    • Nick Riggio

      Gil Hodges has long been overlooked for admission to the Hall of Fame. he is more then worthy. He had agreat caree and went on to be a succesful manager of a World Series team.

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