Monday, November 6, 2017

From the Handbook: Mauer and the Hall of Fame

The annual Bill James Handbook arrived last week in my mailbox -- year 29 and counting of its publication. I have 'em all, which is probably indicative of something wrong with me, but so be it.

The bulk of the book -- identified in the table of contents as the Career Register -- is, frankly, obsolete. When the Handbook begin, it served as an annual update to the Baseball Encyclopedia, the best place to find accurate answers to such questions as "how many career homers has Kent Hrbek hit?" Today Baseball Reference has all those stats and more online. And if the Career Register were still all the Handbook offered, I probably wouldn't still be buying it.

But this isn't 1989, and there's a lot more in it. This year -- if only to give me an organizing principle to guide my persual of this reference work -- I'm going to go through the non-Regster portions, front to back, and examine something Twins-related in it. Some days there'll be news that supercedes this project. It may take to spring training to finish.

We start, as the book does, with Bill James' reworking of his Hall of Fame Monitor system. This, as James takes pains to point out, isn't about who should be selected for Cooperstown, but about identifiing the players who are compiling the things that typically get players selected for Cooperstown. It's a prediction system based on previous selections, a tracking system. James devised the Monitor almost 40 years ago, there's been dozens of additional honorees, and he has updated the system.

Players get points as they reach accomplishments "typical" of Hall of Fame players. The point scale is set up to balance at 100 -- a player scores 100 on the Monitor, he's probably done enough to get into the Hall. If he's under 100, he probably hasn't. The"gray area" -- in which players may get in and may not -- is roughly 80 to 130. Again, it's not about who should be in, but about who's doing things that the ever-changing selection process has valued in the past.

So ... Joe Mauer. Mauer is listed, for what should be obvious reasons, as a catcher for this purpose, even though he hasn't caught since 2013. His bounceback 2017 gave him his first real boost in the Monitor since his move to first base.

Mauer stands at 89 on the revised Monitor, which, as it happens, is the same score as Carlton Fisk (enshrined). He's six points ahead of Ted Simmons, eight up on Thurmon Munson, 13 ahead of the still-active Yadier Molina, none of whom are in.

Mauer added four points to his total in 2017, which equals his total from the previous three seasons put together. Let's imagine that:

  • he has another such season in 2018 and
  • decides to retire at age 35.

That would leave him with 93 Monitor points. That might suffice to get him into Cooperstown; it might not.

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