Larry Mahnken and SG's

Replacement Level Yankees Weblog

"Hey, it's free!"

The Replacement Level Yankees Weblog has moved!  Our new home is:

Larry Mahnken
Sean McNally
Fabian McNally
John Brattain

This is an awesome FREE site, where you can win money and gift certificates with no skill involved! If you're bored, I HIGHLY recommend checking it out!


Disclaimer: If you think this is the official website of the New York Yankees, you're an idiot. Go away.

January 12, 2006

Don Mattingly - The Keltner List
by SG

With some of the discussion about Don Mattingly not getting any respect in the Hall of Fame vote, I thought I'd use one of Bill James's tools, the Keltner list, to examine Mattingly's Hall of Fame credentials. The Keltner list was designed to examine the credentials of borderline candidates through a series of 15 subjective questions. What follows below are the questions and then my attempts at the answers.

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?

Mattingly was considered one of the best players in baseball during his peak and often suggested as such.

2. Was he the best player on his team?

In Mattingly's MVP season of 1985, his OPS+ actually trailed teammate Rickey Henderson, although he edged Henderson in WARP3 11.5 to 11.4. I think we can say yes to this question.

3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?

According to VORP, Mattingly was the best offensive first baseman in 1985 and 1986, but trailed Eddie Murray in 1984 and Mark McGwire in 1987. In 1988 he was 6th in the AL, in 1989 he was 3rd, and by 1990 he was pretty bad.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

The Yankees went to the World Series in 1981. Mattingly was called up in 1982. Mattingly retired in 1995. The Yankees went to the World Series in 1996. Unfortunately for Mattingly, the Yankees never reached the World Series in his time there, and he only made the playoffs once, by which point he was a shell of his former self. In 1985, when the Yankees fell just short of Toronto, he hit .339/.390/.645 over the last 2 months of the season, with 20 HRs and 60 RBI, but other than that he did not have a lot of impact on any pennant races, not necessarily through any fault of his own.

5. Was he good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime?

Mattingly put up the following OPS+ numbers after age 28:
29: 81
30: 103
31: 108
32: 118
33: 113
34: 97

That is actually not as bad as I thought, but it's a quite a drop from his peak. Unfortunately for him, the back injury had him out of the game by 35, so I think we have to answer no to this question.

6. Is he the very best baseball player in history who is not in the Hall of Fame?

Not in my opinion. I think Bert Blyleven heads the list of players who belong more than Mattingly.

7. Are most players who have comparable statistics in the Hall of Fame?

His list of 10 most similar players on Baseball Reference is:
1. Cecil Cooper (934)
2. Wally Joyner (907)
3. Hal McRae (900)
4. Kirby Puckett (895) *
5. Garret Anderson (880)
6. Will Clark (879)
7. Tony Oliva (872)
8. Keith Hernandez (862)
9. Jim Bottomley (860) *
10. John Olerud (858)

Only Puckett and Bottomley are HOFers, and let's remember that Puckett was a CF, not a 1B.

8. Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?

If you go by Black Ink and Gray Ink, which are the number of times Mattingly was the league leader or among the league leaders in a statistical category, they do not. His black ink total is 23, whereas the average HOFer is 27, and his gray ink total is 111, whereas the average HOFer is 144. He does score well in the Hall of Fame Monitor, where a typical HOFer is > 100, and Mattingly is at 133.5.

9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?

He did win 9 Gold Gloves, which doesn't mean all that much, but he was pretty well acknowledged to be a great defensive player. He did seem to take unique advantage of Yankee Stadium over his career, hitting .313/.364/.495 at home, and .302/.353/.450 on the road.

10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?

Possibly, although Dick Allen, Will Clark, and Keith Hernandez all have reasonable arguments over Mattingly.

11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?
I think it's fair to say that Mattingly had 4 MVP-type seasons, from 1984-1987. He did win the MVP in '85, and finished second in '86.

12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the players who played in this many All-Star games go into the Hall of Fame?

I would say Mattingly was an All Star type player from 1984-1987, and possibly 1989. He actually made it six times, from 1984-1989. Most HOFers play in more than that.

13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?

In 1985 or 1986, definitely.

14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?

None that I'm aware of, although he did popularize the mullet in the New York area in the late 80s.

15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

By all accounts, Mattingly was one of the most well-respected and liked players in the game, by fans, his teammates, and the media.

I have to admit, if you look at this list, Mattingly has a stronger case than I would have thought in just looking at his career numbers. Unfortunately for him, I don't quite think he is a Hall of Famer. He was a great player for several seasons, but his peak, as good as it was, wasn't enough.

In other news, I've heard a rumor that the Yankees have offered old friend Jeff Nelson a one year contract, although I haven't seen it in print anywhere, although this article mentions that they met with his agent. This is a bit of head-scratcher to me, unless it means that the news on Octavio Dotel is not good. Even then, it still seems like a less than inspired move to me. Nelson's walk rate has been steadily climbing of late, and I just don't think he has much left at age 39.