Nate Silver, who, before he became famous as a political data analyzer on his FiveThirtyEight website (now hosted by the NY Times), was famous to a much smaller group of folks for his similar data analysis of baseball data at Baseball Perspectus. Every so often, he jumps back to baseball analysis, such as with his recent effort to question some of the common wisdom concerning the Baseball Hall of Fame. There’s a common complaint among fans and some in the press that the Hall of Fame has become “watered down” in some way, and that they’re letting in players who really shouldn’t qualify. The comment that is repeated way too frequently is “It’s the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Very Good.” However, Silver breaks down the actual data, and notes that percentage-wise significantly fewer players are getting into the Hall of Fame today than in the past. He shows the following chart to help prove the point:
As he notes, the point is not to say that one period is correct, and the other is not, but simply to challenge the suggestion that admission to the Hall of Fame has become much easier today. And, yes, he also discusses some of the obvious counterpoints — such as the fact that, thanks to expansion, there are now more players — and why there are other equalizing forces (the internationalization of the game, for example).
The data shows that substantially fewer people get into the Hall of Fame as a percentage of all the players than before. In the 80, perhaps 4% of the active players made the Hall. IN the 90s this dropped to less than 2%.
Yet, people act like it is easier to get into the hall and that they are letting all sorts of people in.
It’s an interesting article if you’re interested in that kind of thing. But, what’s most entertaining is that a large number of the comments on the story seem to simply refuse to accept what the data says. They don’t refute the data. They don’t suggest explanations that would explain the data. They flat-out ignore it and insist that the Hall of Fame has been watered down these days. I noticed this thanks to King Kaufman who aggregated some of the sillier comments. Here are a few:
- “Too stringent”? Au contraire. Over the last couple of decades they have admitted so many bums that it defies description. If anything, the standards should be tightened. There are perhaps six active players who should EVER be considered.
- We’ve dumbed down America and now you want to water down what makes a true athlete great. They should measure up or not be considered!!!! That’s the problem with America continually relaxing standards and codes.!!!!
- The statistical look at the question is entirely misdirected. There have been a handful of standout players in the game, something less than 50 in total.
- i thought the hall was for extraordinary accomplishments not just very good …the hall is so diluted these days.
The data demonstrate that it is not easier to make it in but people think it is. And even when shown that it is not, simply ignore the data? Tats is pretty typical for most people.
Much easier to ignore facts that require some real thought and simply keep spouting no nothing statements.
Let’s try to see why people keep talking about bums getting in so easily when the numbers show this is not true.
Baseball is a very different sport now in many ways than it was 50 years ago. The players are in much better shape, platooning of pitchers has made it much harder for hitter to dominate as they used to.
30 game winners just are not seen regularly. No .400 hitters. Stephen Jay Gould wrote abut this in his book, Full House – while we do not see .400 hitters anymore, the overall batting averages have stayed about the same. What has also disappeared is the awful players batting .190.
It is not that the players as a group are worse today – they are much better. The variation is much smaller than it used to be. This makes it harder to truly stand out.
Looking at statistics may make it seem that players are not as good today. In fact, the numbers indicate that, as a group they are better. But the whole group does not get into the Hall of Fame.
With less variation, the lows may not be as bad but the highs are not as obvious. Thus it appears that lesser players make it in than before, when it may well be that just as talented payers make it in as before. It is just that the entire caliber of the league is higher.