Monday, May 25, 2009

Why Isn't Steve Garvey In The Hall Of Fame?

It seems like he would have been elected based on the voters preferences in recent years (I have been analyzing voting patterns and what I write below will be based on that-scroll down to see these studies). But first I want briefly to discuss the sabermetric case for or against.

Garvey had 279 career "Win Shares" (WS), the Bill James stat which incorporates all phases of the game. That tied him for 222nd place all-time among all players and pitchers through 2001. Not bad, since about 200 guys are in the Hall. But this is marginal.

His career TPR or "total player rating," from Pete Palmer, editor of the Baseball Encyclopedia was actually -6.1. That means that if an average first baseman had played instead of Garvey, those teams would have won 6.1 more games during his career. Most of his seasons were negative and his best was only +1.2.

But the baseball writers who vote don't necessarily take sabermetric stats into account. The analysis I have posted recently used more conventional stats. In one model I used logit analysis to predict the probability of any player getting elected. That model had career AVG, seasons with 100+ RBIs, ALLSTAR games, career plate appearances (PAs), MVP awards, a variable for world series performance, being in the 3000 hit club and a positional adjustment for being a catcher. That model gave Garvey a 94.7% probability of being elected to the Hall of Fame. The model itself was 98.9% accurate

Another logit model (also 98.9% accurate) had the following variables:

Career HRs
Career NON-HRs
3000 HIT

The variables after Career HRs are positional adjustments. The WSIMP is for world series play. This model had Garvey's probability at 64.8%. Tony Perez has 52.6% and Jim Rice has 10.6% and both are in the Hall.

Another model simply predicted the % of votes received in the first year of eligibility. This model took into account MVP awards, a variable for world series performance, being in the 3000 hit club, ALLSTAR games, being in the 500 HR club, being in the 500 SB club, Gold Glove awards and career PAs. It predicted that Garvey would be named on 48.9% of the ballots in his first year while he actually got 41.6%. His predicted 48.9% is more than what was predicted for the following players who did eventually make it:

Ryne Sandberg -0.460
Kirby Puckett -0.418
Gary Carter-0.380
Carlton Fisk-0.375
Tony Perez-0.299
Jim Rice-0.219

And Garvey's actual first year % of 41.6 is higher than that of Rice (29.8%) and very close to Carter's 42.3%.

So from 3 different regressions, it looks like Garvey had the stats or qualifications to make it in, based on what the voters seem to like.

It is also very easy to find some impressive achievements that would go on Garvey's plaque, if he ever made it. They include:

-5 100 RBI seasons
-.294 career AVG
-batted over .300 7 times
-had 200 or more hits in a season 6 times
-1974 NL MVP
-batted .319 in 5 World Series
-batted .356 in 5 league championship series
-batted .393 in 10 all-star games
-won 4 Gold Glove awards
-2 time MVP of the all-star game
-2 time MVP of the league championship series
-finished in the top 5 in total bases 7 times
-set a NL record by playing 193 straight games without committing an error
-set a ML record with his .996 fielding percentage at first base.
-played in 1,207 consecutive games, an NL record and 4th longest overall

He also has 2.46 Career MVP Shares which is the 55th best total. An MVP share is what % of the total possible points a player got in the voting in a given year. A first place vote is 14 points, 2nd place 9, 3rd, 8points, etc. A guy might come in 5th but if he had 40 points out of a maximum of, say, 400, he gets a .10. Garvey's high rank here means the voters liked him when he played, alot more than they liked other players. He finished in the top 6 in MVP voting 5 times.

Baeball Reference lists the Hall of Fame Monitor for which they say:

"This is another Jamesian creation. It attempts to assess how likely (not how deserving) an active player is to make the Hall of Fame. It's rough scale is 100 means a good possibility and 130 is a virtual cinch. It isn't hard and fast, but it does a pretty good job. Here are the batting rules."

Garvey gets a 130 which is 104th best among position players. Now this is a very complicated point system with so many points for this or that. But this shows that Garvey fits the statistical profile of the kind of player the voters very much like to put in the Hall.

So why isn't he in? I found some theories.

The Baseball Page said, among other things, the following:

"In the 1980s it became clear that "Mr. Dodger" was far from wholesome. Several paternity suits and a tell all book from his ex-wife tarnished his image irreparably. Where he once was considered a candidate for state or even national office, Garvey became a leper, destined to host game shows and infomercials (really).

He had the reputation as a selfish, egotistical player. The media didn't like him as much as it seemed. His "Mr. Dodger" persona was created by Dodger PR and a few well-placed friends in the press. More than a few teammates quickly tired of Garvey's habit of staying in front of the camera or microphone.

In August of 1978, Garvey took offense to a comment made by teammate Don Sutton and the two men ended up wrestling their way across the visitors' clubhouse in Shea Stadium. The fight cemented a bitter feud between the two men and it damaged Garvey's reputation in the league.

He aged quickly. By the time he was 31-32, his skills were rapidly diminishing. He would have benefited from a day off here and there, but he didn't do it."

Chris Jaffe over at the Harball Times had an interesting article called Hitler. Stalin. Garvey. Here is an exerpt:

"There was always a sense he was a fake. With the Dodgers, he got in a big fistfight in the clubhouse with teammate Don Sutton. He had a nasty divorce in the early 1980s. When he started to get hit with paternity suits, though, his reputation was shattered.

In some ways, though, it's even deeper than that. Our society can forgive—or at least cease baiting—a hypocrite, provided he asks for some degree of atonement. Jim Bakker wrote his book, I Was Wrong, for instance.

Garvey hasn't done that."

Jeff Sackmann also has an interesting article called Steve Garvey Gets No Respect

Update Dec. 3, 2010: I did a follow up post in July, 2010. Click here to read it.


8 said...

You make some very interesting points here.

In my own mental Hall Of Fame, Garvey doesn't even get a whisper. I don't know exactly why.

He makes my first ballot for the Hall of Very Good, though.

Cyril Morong said...

I never though of him as a Hall of Famer, either. But he seems to have some of the stats and accomplishments the writers like. And I see that Bill James (who works for the Red Sox) sees it that way, too.

Anonymous said...

It is actually perplexing to me why Garvey has not been voted into the HOP long ago. ANYONE who watched him play from the 70's into the mid 80's was certain he was an HOF shoe-in. Garvey was a complete player, he hit for power, average, in the clutch, good fielder and matched Pete Rose in his all out 100% hustle. He was also a monster in the post season - terrorizing the Pirates, Phillies, Expos, Yankees and Cubs at various times. NOBODY rooting for the other team wanted to see him walk up to the plate in the post season. You can also throw in that he started 10 all star games, hit .393 in them, as was twice MVP - and the all star game was taken seriously back then.
Most importantly he was an incredibly reliable player on Dodger teams that were consistanly excellant. All Alston /Lasorda had to do was write "Garvey, 1B" somewhere in the middle of the lineup for about 10 straight years - and Garvey would mash, and the team would win. They did not have, VORPs and OPS's back in the 70's - Garvey was paid to swing the bat and produce runs. Sure he could have drawn more walks if he let pitchers pitch around him... but that was NOT the teams offensive philosophy back then. He was the hammer in a high powered offense - and he filled that role 162 games a year.
Unfortunately the recent "steroid era" has made his power numbers look weaker in comparison - but those who remember the 70's & 80's know he was a feared hitter.
Also, holding the number of childeren he fathered against him is WEAK. Keep in mind he was divorced at the time (although it's true he apparently had 2 girlfriends) he has openly admitted his mistakes, and taken responsibility for all his children.
Hopefully the HOF veterens committee will show more competence then the writers .... and while they are at it should vote in Gil Hodges so he and Garvey can be rightlfully inducted the same day.

Cyril Morong said...


Thanks for dropping by and commenting. I certainly agree with some of your points since I had them in my post, too. It could be that his power numbers are unfairly looked at now. But he still has the stats that voters seem to like, so I don't think that is it.

As for the off field stuff, I don't know what happened when and I have not yet been able to come up with any kind of good way to incorporate scandals into my voting analysis.

He certainly did what his manager asked him to do: hit the ball and with a little power and drive in runs. Maybe it is not his fault that he contributed less to winning than he could have because his managers did not ask him to walk more often.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
JW said...

Garvey was good, some years very good, never great. Two main reasons:

1. Lifetime .775 OPS. This is slightly above comtemporary 1B like Chris Chambliss (.749), but below John Mayberry (.799). Garvey's best OPS year was .852. He made the top 10 in OPS only once (10th in 1978), and was top ten in slugging twice (10th in 1974 and 9th in 1978). His OBP was quite low (.329). While he put up some big RBI numbers, it is commonly believed that RBI are one of the most overrated stats.

2. 272 career homers. Fairly modest for a "power" guy who had nearly 9000 ABs. Even in his biggest power year (33 HRs in 1977), he only had one HR every 20 ABs, and wasn't even in the top 10 in slugging that year.

It is true that his numbers look worse b/c he played during the early and mid 70's when pitchers had the upper hand, but even comparing him against his contemporaries like Chambliss and Mayberry show that he wasn't as fearsome as his reputation was made to believe.

He was fearsome in the playoffs (OPS over 1.000), but tame in the World Series (.749 OPS). The All-Star games are pretty meaningless overall.

Overall, I think he was a good to very good, very durable player who benefited from being a white matinee idol living in Los Angeles who maintained the image of being a clean cut kid who played the game "the way it was supposed to be played." As a result, when the scandals hit, he lost his image of being a good guy and now must solely make his case based on his stats, which makes it much more difficult for him.

Cyril Morong said...


Thanks for dropping by and commenting.


Phil said...

The answer to why Garvey is not in the HOF is the same as it is for many great players that fall short: Lack of prominent milestones. Nevermind his consecutive streaks of games played and errorless play at 1B. He didn't get 3,000 hits, he didn't reach 300 HRs, he didn't hit over .300 for his career. The hits milestone is almost a magic gate. 3,000 hits and he's a shoe-in. If he reaches both of the other two without getting to 3,000 he's still very likely. But since his career stats put him on the margins of HOF status, any knock on him personally will keep him out.

Cyril Morong said...


Thanks for dropping by and commenting. I agree that miletones matter, so I did include them in my analysis, like having 3000 hits. And I tried lots of milestones and Garvey still gets a high chance by the model. And Bill James method gives him a high probability. Yes, 3000 hits is almost automatic (well, let's see with Palmeiro). But the voters have let other guys in who did not get it and Garvey does have the accomplishments that normally get you in.


Anonymous said...

I've never thought of Steve Garvey and the Hall of Fame in the same breath. It just never came to mind that he was a canditate. I've always thought of him as a phony even before all the probems he got himself into. The smile just didn't seem real.

Cyril Morong said...

Thanks for dropping by and commenting. I never thought of him as a hall of famer, either. But it surprised me how much his profile fits who makes it.

Anonymous said...

Of course Garvey should be in the Hall of Fame durable, effective , professional and a great clutch hiter and team leader way way way better than Jim Rice and A Dawson
Media isnt always right
He was the cornerstone of a very great Dodger generation

Cyril Morong said...

Thanks for reading my blog and commenting. But why do you think the media got this one wrong?

Anonymous said...

Dude,Steve Garvey was a BETTER HITTER AND TEAM LEADER THAN JIM RICE????Listen,buddy,"The Padre of Sou-
thern California couldn't carry "Jim Ed"
Rice's bat OR glove to the plate or field.
(At 56,I remember when the 5'10''-though I
really don't think he was quite my 5'83/4'' height-Garvey was one of the VERY few white major college DB'S at Michigan State in the late 60's.)

Cyril Morong said...

This post was not an argument for putting him in or comparing him to anyone else. It was that he seems to have had the kind of career that the voters normally like. So the question is, why did they not vote him in when guys with his credentials normally get voted in?

Anonymous said...

I attended many Dodger Games when Steve Garvey played. He was the hometown hero and fun to watch. Obviously he was a fan favorite as indicated by his All Star appearances....I thought he was one of the greatest Dodgers who ever played the game...Durng his career we loved him....So he had a few kids out of wedlock, big deal....He deserves to be in the is a travesty he is not.....He meant alot to the game when he played.....He gets my vote....I was there and loved Garv when he played first...

Cyril Morong said...

Thanks for dropping by and commenting. I am definitely not making the case that his affairs should keep him out. I was just trying to figure out what the writers thought because he seems to have alot of accomplishments that might get him in. I raised the question as more of a puzzle.

Anonymous said...

Garvey should be in the Hall of Fame. Period. Too bad the usual politics of MLB interfere with acknowledging solid stats. Pete Rose deserves the same. Look at the freaks playing baseball now. A bunch of thugs...

Cyril Morong said...

Thanks for dropping by and commenting. How did you come across it after all this time?

I did a follow up post in July, 2010. Click here to read it.

Anonymous said...

Seriously Steve Garvey in the Hall of Fame...I would hope not! The man has no integrity, morals,and is a hypocrite, his phony smile and is lack of judgement are just a few of his character flaws. If you add that with his baseball stats he does NOT belong in the HOF.

Cyril Morong said...

Thanks for dropping by and commenting. I think alot of people will agree with you and I find it interesting that people are still commenting almost 2 years after I first posted this

Anonymous said...

This is a great long lasting discussion on Garvey. I grew up in LA during the Garvey era. He was my easily my favorite player as a kid, so I am admittedly biased.
However, any Dodger fan just knew he was on his way to the HOF. I remember him as the guy who always got what the team needed. Whether he had to hit a homer or slide into 2nd base to take the player out, he did so. While other players dogged it when hitting a grounder to 3rd, Garvey ran it out hard every time.

It must be remembered that Dodger Stadium at that time was the consummate pitchers park. It was not friendly to hitters. Had Garvey played in another stadium, he would have likely hit even better. He was the best player on the Dodger team in the 70's. In my opinion, Don Sutton took Garvey's spot and should thank him and Cey every day for the spot. Sutton was a solid good workhorse, nothing more. It was the bats that got him the wins. Longevity got Sutton in and that is what Garvey lacked over the long haul. Had Sutton left 3 season earlier and ended with 295 wins, he would be outside the Hall just like a very similar pitcher - Tommy John. Garvey could have stayed and gotten his 3000 hits. Had he done so, he would have made it. But when it was time to leave, it was time to leave. Leaving early didn't make him any less deserving. Writers tend to put too much value on milestones rather than peak performance. If you need evidence, just look at the lists that have Sandy Koufax ranked outside the top 20 pitchers of all time and put guys like Sutton ahead of him.

One last comment. As a Dodger fan, I will admit that Rose, Bench and Morgan deserve the Hall more than Garvey. Did Tony Perez deserve it more? Not in a million years.

Cyril Morong said...

I would not put Perez in, either. And I agree on Sutton. Wins by pitchers are highly influenced by the team behind them and he benefits alot from that. Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

James Chriss said...

Well, Garvey was in the middle of those very good Dodgers teams of the mid-70s. I remember the really solid infield of Cey-Russell-Garvey (who was the second baseman?). Garvey was the anchor of the team, a clutch hitter as far as I remember. A guy who got timely hits and had some pretty good pop with the bat. A superb fielder, although somewhat short by today's standards for 1B.

Anyway, I can understand why Garvey is not in the hall. He fell just short in many important statistical categories. But Darrell Evans didn't make the hall either, and I believe on balance he was a better player than Garvey. But that of course is another discussion.

Cyril Morong said...


Thanks for dropping by and commenting. Lopes was the 2B man. If you look at his splits on Retrosheet, he hit about the same in the clutch as he normally did. Evans, I agree, was probably better.


Anonymous said...

Six 200 hit seasons, MVP award, and many post season appearances. And he was as well known as any player. That has to count for something. I would put him in the HOF before Rice, Dawson, Gary Carter, Sandberg and a number of pitchers from his era who are in. It's now become customary for borderline guys to make it in their last year of eligibility. Garvey's eligibility predated that trend.

Cyril Morong said...

Thanks for dropping by and commenting. I mentioned some similar stats in the follow up I did.

Anonymous said...

I have no issues with your statistical analysis however who cares about his girlfriends? While it may be a detractor it is not relevant. Can you say Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth just to name two of the hundreds in the hall who was/is a drunk, racist, adulterer, etc etc. It's about what you do between the lines that should count.

I also do not care for the method of comparing players by position. Let's compare players vs other players and even then it's apples and oranges as players from different periods may not have played the "same" game.

Cyril Morong said...

Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

The girl friends are not an issue to me. But I think Chris Jaffe was just trying to guess what it was the voters cared about that kept him out of the Hall of Fame.

I think it is a good idea to adjust for position

Anonymous said...

All I remember as a kid were those freakishly huge forearms of his. When he hit the ball it was a boomer. Quite a consistent hitter when it was needed.

Anonymous said...

Garvey should be in the Hall of Fame. His stats and ability place him there. Anyone who does not agree must be a Giants fan.

How does Cepeda make it and Garvey not???? It's a travesty...

Cyril Morong said...

Thanks for dropping by and commenting. I am not a Giants fan and I don't think he should be in.

In addition to the numbers I provide here on Win Shares and TPR, Garvey only had 2 top 10 finishes in WAR in his career, 8th in 1975 and 8th the next year. His career WAR is 36. That is 338th all-time.

But my main point was not to make a case for or against him. It was to try to explain why, when a good "conventional" case can be made, he is not in.

Cepeda is not a great choice either. He is only 197th in WAR and only had 3 top 10 finishes.

Robert James Hughes said...

Steve Garvey should be in the HOF. Hopefully, he will make it soon. It would be disrespectful to wait for the Veterans Committee to do the honor.
Garvey's career has HOF all over it, except for his RBI total.
Tony Perez, an excellent contemporary for comparison, made it a few years back. The ONLY things Perez's career had over Garvey's are more RBIs and more world titles. As good as the Dodgers were back then the Reds were better in the early 1970s [ouch, hard to say that]. My guess is that over his career Perez had a lot more base runners on while at the plate than Garvey did. The Reds were better at getting to the post season and won two World Series, Neither because of Perez. Garvey didn't break thru until 1981, but the Dodgers were better later on. Garvey's career had defining moments that transcended baseball. Garvey was a great guy with the media. There really is no reason to keep Steve Garvey out of Cooperstown.

Cyril Morong said...

Thanks for dropping by and commenting. I think alot of people have been comparing him to Perez. But why do you think the writers have not voted him in? Also, I think his eligibility has already expired. If you want to see who had more ABs with runners on base, you can look at Baaeball Reference under splits for each player

metsfan said...

The problem I have with keeping Garvey out is the minimizing of what was deemed important when he played and the elevation of metrics that were not much noticed in his day. Garvey played everyday for a decade for which he was praised for being reliable, durable and tough. Now we are told that streak means nothing and in fact he should have taken days off. Garvey was a monster in all star games when it meant something and was a spotlight event. Now we are told those performances are meangless. Garvey was the run producer on a glamour team that was always a winner. He was paid to rake and he did that in a
hitters park in a lousy era for sluggers. Now we are told he was overrated because he didn't walk. That wasn't the prevailing philosophy when Garvey starred. Pitchers went the distance then. Walks were harder to draw and trying to get pitchers to 100 pitches wasn't invented yet.

Cyril Morong said...

Yes, I do point out his all-star and post season stats.

From 1971-86, most of Garvey's career, starting pitchers in the NL completed 18.6% of their starts. So pitchers did not go the distance that often.

If we look at his neutraized stats at Baseball Reference (which correct for park and era), he gets a .463 slugging percentage. Not bad. But I don't think that his Hall of Fame worthy for a first baseman. Just looking at all 1B men (without adjusting them or neutralizing their stats), he would not be in the top 50 all-time with a 5000 PA minimum.

His neutralized AVG of .306 would be 20th. Now I would have to neutralize all 1B men to see what his real rank is. But it would be close to what I found since some guys would pass him and some would move up.

Maybe you are right that he should not be judged on OBP because it was not that important in his time (or was incorrectly seen that way). But only two seasons in the top 10 in WAR? None in the top 5? OBP probably is a big part of WAR, but this is a week showing for a Hall of Famer.

Cyril Morong said...

Cecil Cooper had a higher neutralized AVG and SLG than Garvey, .308 & .481 and his time period is about the same as Garvey's.

Bob Watson, another guy from the same period who played alot of 1B,
had a higher neutralized AVG and SLG than Garvey, .309 & .468.

Joe said...

Steve Garvey was one of my favorite players growing up. I think it is all politics. If you check out baseball reference, he was last a regular player at the age of 37 years old and retired at 38. He ended one hit short of 2600. If he had hung around for a few years or went to the AL to try to DH, HOF for sure. I think his case is enough as it stands now. I think you should get extra credit for retiring when you are no longer producing. That should be built into the HOF equation. If Garvey averaged 181 hits a year for 19 years, I think that is pretty HOF worthy. That is really incredible considering that he only had 11 seasons with more than 500 bats and in 3 seasons he had 100 or less at bats. Therefore if you really look at the seasons he was a regular, his average numbers compare with most HOF'ers. Vote him in. Others that should also get in include Pete Rose, Tommy John and Jim Kaat.

Joe said...

Correction. I can give him credit with 12 years as full time regular status because I forgot about the strike shortened season of 1981. HOF worthy

Cyril Morong said...

Thanks for dropping by and commenting. I don't necessarily agree that total hits is enough to put someone in. Everything else has to be taken into account.

Gary Carnot said...

I am not a great baseball fan, but I did play a lot of sandlot ball with Steve . We lived a dozen houses from one another and were friends during high school at Chamberlain HS in Tampa. I remember him as hardcharging player of baseball as well as football. He was very popular and alwyas friendly to everyone. Although we did not travel in the same social circles in school, he was a genuinely nice person. I never knew him to be in any way phoney or insincere. If personal behavior off field or out of occupational context is a disqualifying factor, Bill Clinton would never had been re-elected in 1996. Should he be in the HOF? That question should have to do with his performance on-field and in the game, period!

Cyril Morong said...


Thanks for dropping by and commenting. I really don't know if we can compare presidential elections to Hall of Fame elections. The HOF is either in or out and has no policy implications. For President, it is one person vs. another.

Here is what the Hall of Fame rules say:

"Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played."

It does not specify integrity or character to be an off field or on field issue.

People change. A person could be nice in high school but be different later in life. I have no idea if this is true about Garvey or not.

Do you think his playing record merits his induction?


Cyril Morong said...

Some people want Gil Hodges in the Hall of Fame based partly on his service as a marine during WWII.

Anonymous said...

Never thought Garvey was a "clutch" player nor that he was a player other teams had to pitch around.

Cyril Morong said...

Thanks for dropping by and commenting. If you go to this link you can see Garvey's clutch numbers. They are not bad

Don't forget he hit well in the post-season. And it looks like he generally hit well in Sept when his team was in a close pennant race. See these links

One notable exception is 1974. He hit poorly in Sept when the Reds chased the Dodgers and he still won the MVP award.

He only finished in the top 10 in IBBs twice in his career with his highest being 4th. So maybe he was not feared

Pedro said...

This is one of the better and balanced exchanges I've read on Garvey. As a Garvey fan, it's always tough reading anything that suggests he isn't HOF worthy. And consolations of being in the Hall of Very Good seem to suggest that he was a cut below the greats (even of his time and even in his prime). So I like what Joe said on 8/14...if you take the decade from 73-83 (not to mention the '84 NLCS), he was on a HOF pace, and that's good enough for me, even if it's not good enough for others.

Cyril Morong said...

Glad you enjoyed the post. Maybe if he had kept on that pace he would have made 3000 hits and he would have most likely gotten in on the first ballot.

Anonymous said...

I have long thought that Steve Garvey should be in the Hall of Fame. He was a superstar all through the 70's and 80's and a model of consistency. Believe me, I know how good he was, I grew up a Giant's fan in the Bay Area and watched with angst as he would pummel my Giants. These reporters are a joke. So what if you don't like him or he had some bad press after he retired....What does that have to do with his play on the field?....Besides that, they elect (as they should) guys to the Hall like Ty Cobb, who was a horrible person by most accounts....Doesn't matter. As long as they didn't cheat at the sport (ie..steroids)..Who cares what they do off the field.....Garvey deserves least as much as Gary Carter and Jim Rice....Come on!

Cyril Morong said...

Great to get input from a Giants fan. Yes, the voters are not consistent in deciding what kind of off field issues to take into account

metsfan said...

Garvey accomplished a lot and is a hall of famer in my book as one of the best players of the 1970's. The HOF in my opinion would be enhanced by welcoming him not diminished in any way. I guess the actual voters feel differently.

Cyril Morong said...

Thanks for dropping by and commenting. Why do you think that the voters don't like Garvey?

Anonymous said...

I think that Steve Garvey not being in the HOF is an absolute joke. 'He was a hypocrite!!' Yikes then he should have ran for public office, or become a sportswriter. Where were the writers during the 70's and early 80's when in so many high profile arenas this guy was not only excelling but also being named the MVP. Who voted for him then?
I do love the stat guys as well, I guess you never should watch baseball but instead just read the boxscores. We should change the name to the Hall of Longevity and Statistics since if you hang around long enough you can compile stats that give you automatic entrance as opposed to being a dominant player of your day. Steve Garvey was one of the most dominant players of his day [unlike Chambliss and Mayberry -PLEEEEEASE] and his 10x selection to the All Star game is proof of that besides his All Star stats, post season stats and his others numbers. There are a bunch of undeserved players in the Hall of Shame who were never as dominant during their time, they might have had more longevity but that only tarnishes what the Hall should represent. I know you agree with some of this in your post but seriously you must have not been watching baseball when I was.

Cyril Morong said...

Thanks for dropping by and commenting. I actually watched alot of baseball back in the 70s when I should have been doing homework. I grew up in Chicago and at that time almost every Cub and White Sox game was on free TV.

We should remember that when we are watching baseball to take everything into account, not just the good (like Garvey's hits & RBIs) but also the bad, like the outs.

He never finished in the top 10 in OBP once in his career. He finished in the top 5 in GIDPs 6 times. You might say that was because he had alot of men on base.

But several years ago I did study and calculated each guy's RBI to GDP ratio. It was everyone since WWII up to about 2005 who had 5000+ PAs. Of the 274 righties, Garvey was 160th with 5.21. The average for all those guys was 5.58. He also grounded into DPs 14% of the time there was an opportunity while the league average was just 11%.

He only had 2 top 10 finishes in SLG, an 8th and 10th. He did play in a tough park hitting wise but he actually slugged better at home than on the road. But if we just look at away games during his career, he slugged just .434. That does not seem dominant for 1B man.

He does not have even one of the top 50 seasons among 1B men in Offenisve Winning Percentage from 1969-1987, the years he played. He had only one top 10 in OWP, a 9th in 1974. OWP is adjusted for league average and park factors and tells us the winning pct a team would have if all 9 batters were identical.

Anonymous said...

it is a shame that Garvey is still not in the hall. Players who he was certainly "just as good as, or even better than", are IN. Garvey was also the leader and a pereniel all star with some very solid dodger ball clubs. he then helped the Padres get to their first ever world series. He was a Champion in every sense of the word. Played the game the RIGHT way,--- everday. It's true he didnt have the milestone numbers, ie:3000 hits, 300 career avg (he was close at 2.94) that his opponents speak of ; but had he not been the IRONMAN of his generation he could have played who knows how many more years and amassed greater numbers. Having said this , he has some pretty darn impressive accomplishments/ stats at the plate, and in the field. And he most certainly was clutch. i hope he'll get the credit which he rightfully deserves very soon, and that the writers can set the off the field stuff aside. He is not a criminal and should not be judged as such.

Cyril Morong said...

Thanks for dropping by. He does have some notable accomplishments, as you point out. Was he clutch? See his splits at Retrosheet

He hit a bit better than normal with runners on and in close and late situations, but nothing huge. His post season numbers were excellent, though.

Did he play the game the right way? In some ways. But a .329 OBP and grounding into alot of DPs are not the right way to play.

Unknown said...

if it's a question of morality to be in the hall of fame? Then a majority of the early players would not have even made it.. One must look at stats, he was a solid player a with a solid career. It's just he's one of the many over looked by the sporting press during these ballots. He should have got in, then again a lot of other players passed up over the years should have too. Just take a look at past ballots

Cyril Morong said...

Thanks for dropping by and commenting. Which early players do you think would not have gotten in and why?

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm not so smart on these kind of things, but I'm more than a little confused as to what Steve Garvey's character has to do with his HOF worthiness. Last I heard, the HOF was completely about on field accomplishment over the course of a player's career. Everyone seems to care about his post playing reputation as if that had anything at all to do with his playing ability. I'm also a little perplexed at what people are thinking is HOF worthy stats. Garvey's overall playing stats are FAR superior to Jim Rice's, but everyone seems to romanticize Rice as being some larger than life player. Maybe those of you that think the record holder for NL consecutive games played (among many other feats) doesn't belong in the HOF should re-evaluate your criteria, or perhaps even establish some.

Cyril Morong said...

Rule #5 from the Hall of Fame site: "5. Voting: Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played."

So character does matter. After the career is over, I don't know. Why do you think Garve was better than Rice? Also, Ruth told Gehrig he didn't think the consecutive games played record was a big deal. Thanks for dropping by and commenting

Anonymous said...

I grew up in LA during the 70's & was a Dodger fan. There was nobody I'd rather see coming to the plate in any big situation than Steve Garvey. The guy had a knack for gettig a big hit at the clutch moment. He was a hustler, despite his celebrity. He ran out every play (take a lesson Manny Ramirez). His defense was second to none for a large portion of his career, & 2nd only to K. Hernandez for another large portion, which was even more impressive given his lack of ideal height.

He was part of that Eternal Infield, Garvey, Lopes, Russell & Cey, 8+ years together as starters, & he made that happen. I remember reading in an interview w/ Bill Russell, he told a reporter that Garvey was the reason he stayed in the bigs. Early on, he had a tendency to throw the ball away, high. Garvey went to him & said, if you throw it in the stands, I can't help you. You throw it low, & I'll dig it out, which he did the vast majority of the time.

10 All-star appearances, & the first guy ever to make it as an all-star starter as a write-in. An MVP, & a 2nd place finish for MVP. Monster post-season numbers, including the shot against the Cubs in '84 that sent SD to their first WS, & left Cubbie fans heart-broken. The longest consecutive games played streak in NL history, 4th overall, an accompishment tht was herlded regulraly at the time, & now used against him. He was a premier power-hitter (for the 70's) in a seriously pitcher-friendly ballpark. He did exactly what his team asked, provided power & produced runs EVERY DAY.

The fact that a guy with this kind of career didn't make the Hall in 15 tries is bad. The fact that it was likely off-field character issues that led this era's sportswriters to never even give him as much as 50% of the votes is downright disgraceful. It has been a long time since I've respected sportswriters in general, but these guys need to wake up.

I know there have been many comparisons made, guys like Bob Watson, Tony Perez, John Mayberry, even Jim Rice. Rice in the Hall I get. He was the most feared hitter in the AL from the late 70's to the mid 80's, & likely would have continued to bash the ball for longer if he'd had access to the kind of medical vision techniques commonly available today, & I despise the Red Sox, but always respected Rice. As for the others, Perez was good, but Watson & Mayberry couldn't touch the Garv.

I remember going to picture day w/ my folks at Dodger Stadium in the 70's. My brother & I got our picture taken w/ Ron Cey, Dusty Baker & Bill Russell, but nobody got a picture w/ Garvey. He had to be walked around w/ a couple of LA cops because the year before, fans mobbed him & literally tore off pieces of his uniform. That was how popular the guy was in LA.

Imagine the kind of career numbers he'd have put up playing 81 games a year in one of the itty-bitty AL band-box parks of the 70's & 80's.

In a time when I'e lost a massive amount of respect for the game of baseball (hello steroids era) & especially for sportswriters, the ultmate slap in the face will be if the Veterans' Commitee upholds this farce & keeps Garvey out of the Hall.

Cyril Morong said...

Thanks for dropping by. He does have some notable accomplishments, as you point out. Was he clutch? See his splits at Retrosheet

He hit a bit better than normal with runners on and in close and late situations, but nothing huge. His post season numbers were excellent, though.

Did he play the game the right way? In some ways. But a .329 OBP and grounding into alot of DPs are not the right way to play.

He actually slugged higher in home games in his career that road games, .458 vs. .434. Neither number is that great.

colin said...

I lived in LA during Garvey's hey dey...he was so important to a real solid LA team. The durability is now unheard of and should get more merrit. The fact he had a Cubs killing homer as a Padre in the NLCS i think is a baseball moment that many remember. Don Sutton, really...Rice and Perez and Dawson...all the guys I listed, not as deserving as Garvey

Cyril Morong said...

Career WAR and rank among position players

Dawson 60.6 (96th)
Garvey 34.4 (358th)

Anonymous said...

The one poster is right. Steve garvey was the most dominant 1st baseman for a decade. That right there gives him the edge. And his team was successful and he was the main leader. Comparing garveys stats to even dawson isnt actually accurate as dawson played in the exagerated 1987 home run year. If u compare their decade before they are pretty close to being the same. And both great fielders. Dawson has speed but garvey was part of one of the best teams during the period (5 world series) so he should edge there. Jim rice and mike schmidt were definitely the biggest home run hitters during garveys heyday. I have no problem with them being in. There is a top top tier of hall of famers. Those that are the most dominant and have the stats to prove it. Like a Brett or Robin Yount of this time period. What is robin yount known for anyways? Longevity and a mvp or two? Garvey eclipses him as well without a doubt if he had 401 more hits. A stat often overlooked is 200 hits in a career. How many players have had 4 or more 200 hits years and not have been in the hall of fame? Garvey was 3 hits shy of 7 straight. It would be interesting to see how many players has 10 all star appearances or more and not in HOF. And the consecuitive games played streak and post season stats. He has pretty much everything covered for highlights. Lets not compare him to those before and those after. If players, coaches and fans say he was the best first baseman at the time and for a decade that says a lot. He definitely deserves to be there. Dale Murphy another for most dominant players durimg hia career. A good person to compare garvey with is ryan sandberg who recently got in. Imo sandberg gets the pity vote for being a second baseman and being with the same team for his career in a beloved sports town. Sandberg was so so superstar. Second tier superstar compared to all shoe in players that came in the league from 1983-1989. Its sad to think stats have this much say so on who goes in and who doesnt. Garvey was on par with eddie murray, dave winfield and paul molitor but just played a few years less. Would 3 years in the american league as a DH cemented a HOF career for the statistics? Shouldnt be like that.

Garvey was the best 1st baseman of his timw

Anonymous said...

In the past 25 years if i am not mistaken steve Garvey has the highest ballot % of anyone who did not get in besides Lee Smith and another i am forgetting. All unser 50% i believe but over 40%. Veterans committee shoiuldbe putting him in in the coming years.

Side note: all these valid but not focused on, statistics like WAR were important back then i am sure players would have focused on them.more. but players focused on winning games. What team won more games than a team Garvey was on from 1974-1983. I am going to guess 0 did

Anonymous said...

Never seen OWP on any hall of fame plaque before. Stats overkill for those who never played a sport surely.

I want to rephrase dominant. Not dominant as in stats. Dominant as widely considered the best first baseman of his prime.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to post again. Lol

Garvery 8800 at bats roughly. Dawson 9900. If u factor in 1100 extra at bats and roughly estimates on production Garvey would have about 1450 rbis to dawsons 1530 or so. Runs would be fairly close. As would be doubles and hits would nearly be spot on. Home runs would be about 438-338 by dawson.

So pretty much exact statistics except for home runs and stolen bases (with 1987 stats on dawson beign exagerates by about 15 hrs and 30 rbis)

Garvey= better team record, better post seasons, more world series's, better average, consecutive game streak, 10 all star games to 8 (and dawson has more opportunities as an OF / yes all star game starters are fan selected i get that) but 2 alk star mvps. Both have 1 mvp.

Why was dawson added? Because he is considered to be one of the most dominant power hitters of his era.
Was garvey not considered one of the best of his eras?

Again, judge to those in the same period. Dave winfield is also similar if you compare at bats.

Anonymous said...

One last comment. Besides the horny guy theories as to why he wasnt in the HOF from Baseball Page (who cares what guys do outside of the sport as long as they didnt kill or gamble on the game) the other theories could be looked at positively as being a leader and a winner.

Two sides to evry story.sounds like they want to hear the one they like

Cyril Morong said...

Yes, you can compare Dawson to Garvey and yes 1987 was a big offensive year. But WAR adjusts for the context, so if you hit .300 in a high offensive year, it does not help you as much as other years.

I think Hall of Fame voters are always comparing guys to who came before and after.

Teams now employ lots of people (like Bill James), who never played the game and they are inventing new stats all the time to help their teams win.

Players are supposed to help their teams win and WAR captures that pretty well. So even if a player knows nothing about the stat, the more he does to help his team win the higher it will be. Maybe a guy like Garvey tried to drive in runs more than get walks. But I doubt this would affect his WAR very much. He would never have had a very high OBP.

Maybe he was dominant in some sense, since he did so well in the MVP voting. But then why does he not do well in the Hall of Fame voting?

On the 200 hit issue, see my post

This next post shows that his probability of getting in the Hall was very high using the standards and criteria normally used by the voters

Based on things like Gold Gloves and All-star games and other stats that the voters seem to care about, Garvey had a probability of 95.7%

As for RBIs, that depends partly on the guys who bat ahead of you.

See his splits at Retrosheet

He hit a bit better than normal with runners on base, but nothing huge.

Also, he led the league in grounding into DPs twice had finished in the top 5 6 times. You have to look at the negatives, too.

His career RBI to GDP ratio was 5.21. The average for righties from 1946-2005 with 5000+ PAs was 5.71. He is 160th out of 274 guys. So you can bring up his RBIs, but don't forget GDPs. And this shows he produced RBIs at a high cost.

Was he the dominant 1B man of his time? From 1970-1990, he was 4th in AVG and 9th in SLG among 1B men with 4000+ PAs. There were 23 such guys. That looks good but hardly dominant. If I do relative to league AVG he stays 4th in AVG but falls to 10th in SLG

Anonymous said...

Nobody cares about grounding into double plays. Come on. Does anyone say anything about reggie jacksons 2500+ strikeouts? Exactly

Fact is if you polled sportswriters, fans, managers and players when garvey was playing i would guess 80% or higher would say he was the best first baseman inbthe game at the time. If we could go back. Clearly the fans did with his starts over the lackluster tony perez who rode the benefit of the best lineup for a decade, and as you said his mvp votes, the sportwriters said so.

So clearly is not in the hall for not having any of the automatic career milestones.

A prime example is craig biggio will be an automatic shoe in for 3000 hits. Hmmm. Astros. What maybe 2 division titles ? No world series appearances? Hes getting in for hits and doubles? Biggio wouldnt be in the top 20 best players during his career.

Factoring that garvey was 5 foot 10 and the best pitchers park in the league are important side notes. I understand u compared road to home but im sure he would have another 3-5 homers a year at home.

Nobody cares about WAR, GDP or any other lower tier stat. Garvey is not in the hall for career milestones. Yet if u compare his numbers to hall of famers of his period they are on par. Robin yount, eddir murray, dave winfield and many other good hitter / second tier sluggers.

And to your point there are plenty of talking points to what are a near great career highlights.
He has the plaque written. Popeye forearms for legends to speak to. Mr.clean was a bad nickname and it wasnt popular in the west. Popeye was a more fitting name. I dont remember anyone calling him mr.clean. i suppose that nickname hurts him now. Being from los angelea i never hears mr clean.

Anonymous said...

All of the reasons why he isnt in the hall of fame except his production diminishing are opinions. So I will give my opinion. He deserves the nod .
One unfortunate thing about Garvey was that dodgers didn't play him regularly until 1974 and he was 24/25 years old by then. If he would have gotten more play from when he was 20-24 he would have gotten 3000 hits.

The Hacker said...

Steve Garvey is a Hall of Famer period. You mean to tell me Barry Larkin is a Hall of Famer? Please!!!!!!!!!!!

Cyril Morong said...

Career WAR from Baseball Reference

Larkin 67.1
Garvey 34.4

Anonymous said...

Yeah, larkin is twice the player garvey was. Sarcasm!
Reds were good maybe 5 years of his 20 years?

Larkin was about as outstanding and transecending a player as biggio. Utterly forgetable were on mostly bad teams throughout their career. Hardly leaders even.

Brownie points for hitting milestone numbers playing biased positions (ss) while playing for the same team their entire career. Which also gets biased votes.

Anonymous said...

Lets compare larkin and garveys career since his name got brought up.

.295 and .294 average. Garvey hit a better milestone with 2500 to 2300. Advantage garvey

12 all star games to 10 for larkin. Is shortstop easier to get into the all star game than 1st base? Im sure we can agree it is based on talent in that position. Larkin hit .111 in 12 all star games and didnt play in 3 of them. Garvey hit over 300 and won 2 mvps. And didnt garvey start more of them too? Advantage garvey

Post season. Both his .338 strangely enough. Garvey 3 times as many plate appearances and on better teams. Larkin 3 rbi's in his entire post season history?? That might be an all time low. Even if its not its pathetic. 5 world series versus 1. Garvey has a memorable game winning home run of course too. Advantage garvey

Other stats are pretty similar. Doubles. Home runs and rbis are of course better with garvey and steals with larkin. No obvious huge numbers on either there.

Larkin missed a good amount of playing time. Garvey mr. Consistent.

Garvey better fielder as well. Stats wise

Then there is also baseball legend. Legend as in how players are spoke of. Like a josh gibson being better than a babe ruth. Does anyone even remember larkin having any great plays? Or a great story? Will anyone even remember larkin? Do they now??

Its sad certain positions get a nod for consistency like a catcher, ss or 2b. While 1st baseman needs some huge numbers. Oh but not too big to have any possible steroid rumours attached to them.

What it comes down to is what 1st baseman was better than garvey during his 10 year stretch? Nobody. Nobody in all facets of the game. Dependability, clutch hitting, fielding, winning teams.

He will get in.

Unknown said...

It never ceases to amaze me how anyone could possibly think Garvey doesn't belong in the HOF....his games played streak & fielding pct. record alone should qualify him for entry. But add in his post season stats, MVP awards, All Star game appearances, etc. & this should be the proverbial "no brainer." As for his personal reputation OUTSIDE the game, if someone like Garvey is to be denied his rightful place in the HOF because he turned out not to be the squeaky clean PR persona that the Dodgers created, let's remove a few other current HOF residents for their sordid personal lives, guys like Ty Cobb (all around bigoted a-hole), Babe Ruth (drinking, carousing, once actually urinated on a team mate), Mickey Mantle (alcoholic), but hey, why bother? If HOF voters are going to hold a player's personal life against them when considering their baseball accomplishments (as idiot sports writers constantly do), then we might as well empty the HOF & start over, as a sizable pct. of HOF inductees had some kind of low moral behavior issues. The HOF has really become more of a joke in recent years, all but ignoring truly relevant stats in favor of nostalgic sentimental nonsense about how "imposing" a batter someone was, or how "acrobatic" a fielder someone was, or how someone just happened to be a member of numerous championship TEAMS. Although the process is, at the end of the day, subjective, if we really just examine the obvious, there shouldn't even be a discussion about guys like Garvey going into the Hall.

Cyril Morong said...

Thanks for dropping by and commenting. You're right about the morals issue. But what do you think about the sabermetric measures? Garvey does not look so good on those.

Baseball Geek 23 said...

As we Cubs fans did for decades for Ron Santo.... you are in a losing battle when you start comparing to the lowest common denominator players who are in the Hall. Here is what I like - 5 WS appearances, and he was a money player in all of those playoffs. 1 WS title. The "Cubs" game in '84. The ironman streak and playing with a broken jaw at one point. The glove. The .300+ average that slid late in his career to .294. The epitome of the 70's California ballplayer, and All American dude. I think there is enough there for Garvey, and do not understand why you fault a guy for playing 1st base. If Garvey was a true 3B, he'd be in already.

Cyril Morong said...

Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

Where do I "start comparing to the lowest common denominator players who are in the Hall."

Where do I "fault" him for 1B?

You want to use batting average and that just is not a good stat to look at. OBP and SLG are better.

What is an "All American dude?"

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

.329 on base percentage - way not good enough.

Cyril Morong said...

Thanks for dropping by and commenting

Anonymous said...

Great post Cyril. I think the arguments you’ve made and most of the commenters outlined support that Steve Garvey is indeed Hall-of-Fame worthy – albeit not a no brainer. To answer your fundamental question I think there are a few events overlooked in your post and subsequent comments that doomed Garvey’s candidacy with the HOF writers.

1. Despite ranking as the all-time active hits leaders in his injury-shortened, final season, Garvey’s exit from the majors was highly anticlimactic for a player whose star had shined as bright as anyone in his era for a prolonged stretch. He retired rather suddenly late in the offseason, off a lengthy DL stint, in a sleepy media market.

2. Just as Garvey retired, a cadre of key steroid-era first basemen (McGwire, Palmeiro, Clark, and Galarraga) was emerging. By the time Garvey was eligible for the HOF ballot, this group and other heavy hitters were in their primes, resetting the perceived productivity bar at the position each critical year Garvey was under consideration.

I’m sure questions about Garvey’s character influenced a handful of HOF writers, but I bet they’ll hurt him more with the Veteran’s Committee.

Thanks, TeddyK

Cyril Morong said...


Thanks for the interesting comments. Changing perceptions by the writers does seem possible. Maybe if he had reached some major milestone late in his career as a Dodger, that might have helped.


Anonymous said...

Then again, why isn't Jeff Kent in?

Cyril Morong said...

Kent would not be a bad choice
In WAR Position Players he is 144th

Unknown said...

Garvey is not in the HOF because people didn't like his off-the-field personal problems. What a stupid reason not to vote for a player who hit those stats over a a career. All I hear is personal reasons or the over-rated JAWS machine rankings as reasons. Terrible bias.

Unknown said...

Thanks for this very fun read. I don't understand a lot of the 21st Century metrics and their relevance to games gone by from a different era but I did watch Steve Garvey's career closely.
Garvey was a star player, clutch in the postseason and as an All-Star, usually one of the best players on the field when he played. He had career-defining moments, he played in and won the World Series. It's puzzling that he didn't make it into the Hall within a few years of eligibility. Every game opposing teams had to game-plan for his presence. His teams won and his contributions were key to those wins. During his playing days it was pretty clear he was a HOF-er. Paternity suits? Really? Nowadays, that's nothing. Back then it was a little more egregious in the eyes of the people
But the biggest WTH? is that Tony Perez, his counterpart on a good division rival [yes, children, the Dodgers and Reds for a long time were NL West rivals] got the nod. They were very comparable players, although Perez had a lot more RBI. But even when they were playing Garvey was the better first-baseman, more important to his team's success. If Perez is HOF so is Garvey.

Cyril Morong said...

Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment

Unknown said...

What are Garvs main teammates like Cey,Baker,Lopes, and Smith and Wynn in 74 WARs compared to him? Cuz I REMEMBER THOSE Dodgers as a team where everyone contributed.

Cyril Morong said...

Jim Wynn 7.7
Ron Cey 4.8
Steve Garvey 4.4
Davey Lopes 3.6
Willie Crawford* 3.5
Joe Ferguson 3.5
Bill Buckner* 3
Bill Russell 3
Steve Yeager 2.7

Unknown said...

Bet you boys don't know that Garvey played DB with the Michigan State football team in the late 60's.(Hard to picture,since he was five-nine and slow,but he wasn't bad.)
Garvey amassed some pretty but ultimately over-rated numbers.He drove in 100 runs four or five times,but used a tremendous number of outs to get them.Thus,he was inefficient offensively.He was a good,though also overrated fielder,nowhere nearly Keith Hernandez,Bill Buckner or for us older lads,Vic Power.He simply isn't Hall Of Fame caliber,though a very good player.

Cyril Morong said...

Great points. Thanks for reading and posting. No, I did not know that he played FB at MSU

Jane Elizabeth said...

It is amazing how long these threads go. There was also a very embarrassing Inside Sports interview with Garvey's wife in which she delved deeply into Ball Four/Joe Pepitone types of revelations about their marital relationship. It was yuck right at the end of that period where reporters stopped caring about ball players who cheated and moved on to players that used drugs as their crusade. I think that I still have the issue among my huge boxes of old sports magazines. I was probably 12 when the article came out and it wasn't to my taste and I still wish that I could forget reading about her complaints about missing him when he was on the road (and that is the nicest way that I can phrase what she actually said.)