As you may recall, a few weeks ago, we asked for your feedback on FanGraphs Prep, a new project we’re embarking on in light of many parents suddenly having their school-aged kids learning from home. We thought we might be able to use baseball as a teaching tool, and give parents a way to keep their kids engaged with their school work. Since then, we’ve spoken with a few current and former educators to get our bearing and try to design units that are useful to parents and students. For instance, Jake, the author of today’s unit, has a Masters in Teaching with a certification in Secondary (Middle & High School) Social Studies. He taught in Washington public schools from 2010 to 2012, and also worked for a local non-profit serving at-risk youth from 2010 to 2014, where he developed curriculum and a behavior management system.
This is our first effort in the series, and before we get to our lesson, we thought we should lay out what FanGraphs Prep is, and what it is not. These are not meant to be a substitute for your student’s existing curriculum. Curriculum design is not our primary occupation, and if the last few weeks have reinforced anything, it’s just how much skill and expertise it takes to guide students’ learning and design educationally enriching materials for them. What we hope is that these lessons offer a thoughtfully designed, baseball-themed supplement to the work your student might already be doing. We’ll endeavor to provide clear learning objectives, as well as activities or problems for each unit, and offer some pointers for how to tailor the lessons for students who might not fall into each unit’s target grade level. And we want to hear from you on what works and what doesn’t. This week’s lesson skews more heavily toward the writing side of things, but others will tackle math subjects more directly. They’ll be pitched to a variety of grade levels. We welcome your feedback on what other subjects would be useful to you. Thank you for reading the site. Now, on to this week’s lesson! – Meg Rowley
Build Your Own Team Hall of Fame
Overview: A two-week unit centered around the Hall of Fame.
You’ve just been appointed the director of your favorite team’s Hall of Fame. Your first task is to evaluate a single player for possible election to the Hall. Then, you’ll build a new set of criteria for election and determine which players are eligible.
- Identify a main thesis or point
- Form arguments to support the thesis or main point
- Research facts and data to support arguments
- Construct a compelling persuasive essay with proper structure
- Review criteria for evaluation and suggest changes or improvements to your team’s Hall of Fame
- Explain the reasoning behind making those changes or improvements
- Evaluate a dataset using a set of criteria to identify data points that fit
- Project potential fits based on historical data
Target Grade-Level: 9-10
Select a player from your favorite team. This player is eligible for election to your team’s Hall of Fame. They do not have to be a historical player, and they can be already elected to a real-world Hall of Fame. For reference, here is a list of real-world Baseball museums and Halls of Fame for specific teams.
Form a thesis statement answering the question, “Why does this player deserve to be enshrined in your team’s Hall of Fame?”
Remember to consider both on-field performance and off-field citizenship. Your final argument does not need to take both into account, but you should think about both while forming your thesis.
Organize your arguments into a rough outline. Each argument should build on what’s come before to form a compelling presentation of the support for your thesis. This is where the skeleton of your paper should take form. The more detailed your outline, the easier it will be to flesh out your arguments with specific facts, data, and statistics later on.
Begin forming supporting arguments for your thesis. Research facts, data, and statistics that will help you explain your arguments.
Begin writing your introduction using your thesis statement as the foundation. Develop a strong hook to lead with. What will make readers want to continue reading? Is there a unique angle or story that you can use as an example of why your player deserves to be inducted?
Finish putting everything together with a conclusion that wraps up your argument. The conclusion to your paper should serve as a recap of your main point and your arguments. If there’s another unique angle or story you can use to put a final flourish on the paper, consider doing so.
Research election guidelines for other teams Halls of Fame. Begin outlining your proposed criteria for election into your Hall of Fame.
Most teams have very generalized guidelines. Usually the only specific criteria mentioned is the amount of playing time with the team. For this exercise, your criteria should be more specific and should consider on-field accomplishments of both batters and pitchers.
Finalize your new criteria for election and write explanations for your decisions.
Using your new criteria, analyze historical players for your favorite team and determine if any new players are now eligible for election.
Using your new criteria, analyze current players and project their performance to see if any will become eligible for election in the future.
Projecting performance based on the past isn’t an exact science. The most simple method might be to determine what an average season looks like for a particular player and then extrapolate that average performance over an estimated number of future seasons. If you want to create a more complex projection, you can research how an aging curve would affect your projection.
What differences are there between your favorite team’s actual Hall of Fame and the players you selected using your new criteria? Why do you think this is? Are there players you selected who you believe should be enshrined in real life? Are there players who are actually enshrined who weren’t selected by your criteria? Are your criteria that excluded certain players too narrow or restrictive?
Adaptations for a younger or older audience:
To increase complexity
- Focus the second activity on the National Baseball Hall of Fame. A larger pool of candidates means the criteria for election should be honed even more precisely so that only the top players are eligible.
- Propose differing sets of criteria based on different eras in baseball history. The way baseball has been played has changed throughout the years. Different sets of criteria based on the different eras in baseball history could result in a very different group of eligible players.
To decrease complexity
- Stretch the first activity over two weeks. Simply focus on building a strong argument for your favorite player with plenty of research and data to back up your main point.
- Preselect the new criteria for the second activity. Coming up with entirely new criteria is a difficult process, especially since the existing criteria are so generalized. By providing the criteria for the exercise, the student can focus on analyzing the player pool for eligible candidates and examining the differences between that pool and the enshrined players in reality.
- Skip creating a projection for current players. This part of the exercise is also fairly complex if the student is unfamiliar with how to project for the future. Focus instead on examining the differences between their new criteria and the enshrined players in reality.
Additional resources and links:
- The National Baseball Hall of Fame
- FanGraphs’ coverage of the Hall of Fame
- 2020 Election Coverage – This excellent series by Jay Jaffe has plenty of examples of in-depth coverage of individual candidates
- An Introduction to JAWS – Jay Jaffe’s formula for measuring a candidate’s worthiness
- Baseball-Reference’s JAWS Leaderboards
- First Base
- Second Base
- Third Base
- Left Field
- Center Field
- Right Field
- Starting Pitcher
- Relief Pitcher
- The Bill James Hall of Fame Monitor
Submit your students’ essays and we’ll publish the five best ones at FanGraphs! Don’t worry – we’ll turn the comments off. Submissions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have suggestions for things you’d like to see in a future FanGraphs Prep lesson, please leave them in the comments.