In my last post, I discussed some eligible players who have not made it in yet who I believe have good sabermetric credentials. I mostly discussed their career rankings by various measures. Here I look at how those players ranked in their best 3-straight seasons by BFW.
Retrosheet has a link with each year called ML Players By Positions. It lists BFW or batting plus fielding wins, which comes from Pete Palmer's linear weights. I took all of that data from Retrosheet then tried to find the best 3-year periods in BFW. This link has the top 500. The Cons3 is their BFW over the 3-year period. The year is the last year in the period. So for Bonds it was 2001-3.
The table below has the highest ranked 3-year period for all the players I looked at in my last post. They are in order starting with the best. So Ron Santo's 1965-67 BFW of 21.1 is tied for the 24th best all-time and is the best among the group I have been looking at. Now Santo's 1964-66 is 37th best, but that is not listed here since it is his 2nd best 3-year period. Players with a * are eligible for the first time in 2010.
I found about 20,000 3-year periods. So anything in the top 200 is in the top 1%. I really don't know how high a player needs to rank here to be considered impressive. There are, of course, overlapping periods for players. So the greatest players often appear several times early on in the rankings. That can push many players down quite a bit. But consider this. The players on the list below are the only players ever to have a better 3-year period than Ron Santo.
So these are the only guys Santo takes a back seat to. Just 9 players.
Three players, Grich, Bell and Dawson all had very good years in 1981, a strike-shortened season when only about 2/3 of the games were played. Here are their BFWs that year:
Andre Dawson 8.4 (T140)
Buddy Bell 5.2 (T69)
Dwight Evans 3.7 (1017)
If you increase each of those by 50%, and then re-calculate their 3-year totals, their ranks would change. Those are the numbers in parantheses. I don't know if that kind of adjustment needs to be done, but some guys might have just been having their best years ever in 1981. Maybe they get short changed (I think that Fred McGriff would have made 500 HRs and Harold Baines might have made 3000 hits without work stoppages and games lost).
One other thing about adjusting for lost time due to strikes. Mike Schmidt had a BFW of 7.2 in 1981. Increasing that to 10.8 would give him 24.2 from 1980-82. Then the only guys better than that are Ruth, Hornsby and Bonds.
I also checked to see how these guys did in Win Shares (WS) during their given 3-year periods. The next table shows this. The numbers in parantheses are their rank in that given year. The players in red were in the top 10 all three years. That seems pretty impressive.
The guys that really stick out are Santo, Dick Allen and Tim Raines. They each had 30+ WS in their years, a level Bill James says is MVP caliber. Raines was clearly the best in the NL for three years running (and I think he has more WS than anyone from the AL, too). Two guys from my last post that I was high on, Barry Larkin and Keith Hernandez just barely miss being in red. They each had two top 10 finishes and an 11th.
But the three guys who were in the top 200 BFW from the first table who also were in the top 10 all three years in WS are Santo, Bobby Grich and Darrell Evans. Both measures, WS and BFW, confirm their elite status for a 3-year period. And this is a very tough test to pass because a player might have had a very high 3-year period in WS that does not match up with their best 3-year BFW. But I required that.
Some additional observations: Roberto Alomar also had a 1st and a 5th in WS in 1992-3, plus a 3rd in 1996. Larkin had a 2nd in 1995. Dick Allen followed his 3-year run with a 7th and then a 4th. Then another number 1 in 1972 as the AL MVP. The players from the early 1900s like Jimmy Sheckard & Sherry Magee also had more pitchers in the top dozen or so than later players. Their ranks could be higher.
I also noticed some guys like Dwight Evans, Reggie Smith and Bill Dahlen who had many seasons well over 20 WS but few, if any, 30+ seasons. Bill James said that 20 is an all-star season. So these guys consistently exceeded that level but maybe really never stood out for very long.
Here are the other top 5 finishes in WS for the players discussed here (outside of their 3-year BFW period)
Magee-1, 3T, 5
McGwire-3, 4, 5T
Now ALL of the top 5 finishes in BFW for this group of players.
Dahlen-1, 2, 2, 4
Magee-3, 3, 4
Hack-2, 4, 5
Santo-1, 1, 1, 2, 4, 4
Allen-1, 2, 2, 4
DA Evans-2, 4, 4
Grich-1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 4, 4T
Raines-2, 3, 3, 4
Larkin-1, 4, 4, 4, 4
Martinez-1, 2, 3, 4, 4
McGwire-1, 4, 4
Alomar-1, 1, 3
In some cases my accounting may not be clear. Santo had 3 top 5 finishes in WS and 6 in BFW. Dick Allen had 5 & 4. Grich has 3 & 7. Raines had 4 & 4. Alomar had 5 & 3. McGwire had 4 & 3. Magee had 4 & 3. I think these are all the guys that had at least 3 seasons in the top 5 in both WS and BFW. Seems like they were often among the best playes in their league. Add that to their career values established in the last post, and we have good cases for the Hall of Fame.