Bernie Williams, Post Season and the Hall of Fame

The Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum will release its list of  soon-to-be inductees on Monday. Some discussion has focused on Bernie Williams and how much his postseason performance should count towards his hall candidacy. I’ll look at a simple way to add postseason plate-appearances into a player’s career WAR.

Of all the candidates eligible for the hall of fame in 2012, Williams had the most postseason plate appearances — and by a large margin. He had 545 of them, which is more than twice as many as any other hall-eligible player. Javy Lopez is second with 225, and Fred McGriff comes in at 218. Impressively, 141 of Williams’ 545 plate appearances came during the World Series. For reference, Williams’ World Series total is nearly three times as many as  Mark McGwire, who had 53.

The extra PAs should lend some extra weight when determining if Williams gets into the hall of fame — especially when you consider that his postseason plate appearances amount to nearly an entire additional season.

To get a weighting of postseason games, I calculated all the hitters’ lifetime WAR, per 650 PA. It would have been too complicated to figure out the postseason stats, adjust them for the difficulty of the postseason play and then determine a true WAR. By using this simple method, I assumed that a player’s postseason production would be reasonably close to what they accomplished during the regular season. Williams’ production was actually very similar in that he had a regular season triple-slash of .297/.381/.477 and postseason triple-slash of .275/.371/.480.

With the WAR/650 calculated, I multiplied it times the hitter’s post season PAs. Since the postseason PAs are more important than the ones during the regular season, I added a weighting to those plate appearances. I doubled the WAR for all postseason games, and I also created another value that gave World Series games a weight of four times a regular season game. Other postseason games got a two-times weighting. Here are the results:

Name WAR WAR/650 1x 1x Total 2 times 2x Total 2x & 4x 2x & 4x total PS PA WS
Jeff Bagwell 83.9 5.8 1.1 85.0 2.3 86.2 2.5 86.4 129 10
Rafael Palmeiro 74.3 4.0 0.6 74.9 1.1 75.4 1.1 75.4 91 0
Larry Walker 73.2 5.9 1.1 74.3 2.2 75.4 2.5 75.7 121 17
Tim Raines 70.9 4.4 1.0 71.9 1.9 72.8 2.2 73.1 142 16
Barry Larkin 70.6 5.1 0.6 71.2 1.2 71.8 1.5 72.1 78 17
Mark McGwire 70.6 6.0 1.4 72.0 2.8 73.4 3.8 74.4 151 53
Edgar Martinez 69.9 5.2 1.2 71.1 2.4 72.3 2.4 72.3 148 0
Alan Trammell 69.5 4.8 0.4 69.9 0.9 70.4 1.1 70.6 58 18
Fred McGriff 61.0 3.9 1.3 62.3 2.6 63.6 3.2 64.2 218 52
Bernie Williams 47.5 3.4 2.9 50.4 5.7 53.2 7.2 54.7 545 141
Dale Murphy 47.3 3.4 0.1 47.4 0.1 47.4 0.1 47.4 11 0
Don Mattingly 45.8 3.9 0.1 45.9 0.3 46.1 0.3 46.1 25 0
Juan Gonzalez 38.6 3.5 0.4 39.0 0.7 39.3 0.7 39.3 66 0
Tim Salmon 36.7 3.4 0.4 37.1 0.7 37.4 1.0 37.7 68 31
Brian Jordan 33.8 3.9 0.9 34.7 1.8 35.6 2.0 35.8 154 17
Javy Lopez 33.6 3.8 1.3 34.9 2.6 36.2 3.1 36.7 225 44
Jeromy Burnitz 27.9 2.8 0.0 27.9 0.0 27.9 0.0 27.9 0 0
Bill Mueller 25.6 3.4 0.8 26.4 1.7 27.3 1.9 27.5 160 18
Eric Young 23.5 2.2 0.1 23.6 0.2 23.7 0.2 23.7 24 0
Vinny Castilla 23.0 2.0 0.2 23.2 0.4 23.4 0.4 23.4 66 0
Ruben Sierra 18.0 1.3 0.2 18.2 0.4 18.4 0.5 18.5 105 5
Phil Nevin 17.4 2.4 0.0 17.4 0.0 17.4 0.0 17.4 3 0
Tony Womack 4.3 0.5 0.1 4.4 0.3 4.6 0.3 4.6 167 47

Initially, Williams was 10th overall in WAR among hitters. He’s grouped closely with Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy. And they’re behind Fred McGriff by more than 12 WAR.

Williams had the most postseason WAR of any player. Mark McGwire was next with about half of Williams’ WAR production. McGwire made up some ground on all the games Williams played by having a higher career WAR/650 (6.0 vs. 3.4). After adding a weighted amount of postseason WAR to Williams’ career total, it still wasn’t enough to get his WAR value into the hall of fame.

Certainly, Williams had an impressive career. But even with all those postseason appearances, his career falls short of getting his name enshrined in Cooperstown.

We hoped you liked reading Bernie Williams, Post Season and the Hall of Fame by Jeff Zimmerman!

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Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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I appreciate the effort on this, but I’m sorry, it kind of reads like this: “Hey, I don’t think Bernie Williams should be in the Hall of Fame, but here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to create a complete arbitrary evaluation system where he falls short. And then I’m going to tell you he falls short.”

Again, I like the exercise, but you’re asking us to buy into this evaluation system without explaining why we should. For instance, why double WAR for playoffs and quadruple for WS? Why not 4X and 8X?

It’s typical, and completely fair, to look at the team results in postseason play when determining bonus credit for HOF consideration. To drill postseason play down to a pure WAR bonus seems to ignore the entire reason for crediting players for the postseason. Bernie should get credit for being a key cog, and at times the best player, on an historic dynasty that won many rings.

To say, “each player gets rewarded a certain amount of WAR for each postseason at bat,” regardless of what happens in that postseason seems to completely miss the forest for the trees.

Honestly, if Bernie has the same amount of at bats and had zero World Series rings instead of four, do you think the same bonus should apply?

Yes, I know his rings have no bearing on his skill. But they have a huge bearing on his FAME.

Back to the drawing board I say!

Travis L
Travis L

“Honestly, if Bernie has the same amount of at bats and had zero World Series rings instead of four, do you think the same bonus should apply?”

Absolutely, assuming that his performance was constant. Do you think a team’s position in the standings should be included in a player’s MVP performance?


“Do you think a team’s position in the standings should be included in a player’s MVP performance?”

I don’t see how the two are the same. MVP is most value player. Hall of Fame means a lot of different things. Being an important member of an historic team is meaningful for hall of fame and meaningless for MVP.

Donny Zimmer
Donny Zimmer

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