Baseball Player Won-Loss Records
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Lee Smith
2014 Hall of Fame Ballot Series: Lee Smith

The first table below presents Lee Smith's career as measured by Player won-lost records.

Lee Smith
Basic Player Won-Lost Records
Value Decomposition
Season Team Age Games pWins pLosses pWin Pct. pWOPA pWORL eWins eLosses eWin Pct. eWOPA eWORL
1980CHN22
18
0.60.70.462-0.1
0.0
1.10.80.5640.10.2
1981CHN23
40
3.14.20.424-0.7
-0.2
3.33.60.485-0.20.2
1982CHN24
72
6.15.60.5240.2
0.8
5.95.20.5300.30.9
1983CHN25
66
8.75.10.6281.5
2.4
5.23.70.5840.61.1
1984CHN26
69
9.65.50.6391.8
2.7
4.74.40.516-0.00.5
1985CHN27
65
10.26.00.6291.8
2.9
5.14.40.5360.20.8
1986CHN28
66
8.76.90.5590.7
1.6
4.64.10.5320.10.7
1987CHN29
62
7.55.70.5680.6
1.4
4.33.60.5480.20.7
1988BOS30
64
7.75.30.5931.0
1.7
4.13.60.5340.10.6
1989BOS31
64
5.13.70.5830.6
1.1
3.42.80.5420.10.5
32
64
8.74.20.6772.0
2.8
4.03.20.5560.30.7
1991SLN33
67
8.55.30.6181.4
2.4
3.63.20.5330.10.6
1992SLN34
70
7.14.70.6041.0
1.7
3.73.40.522-0.00.5
35
62
6.04.60.5660.6
1.3
2.82.80.499-0.10.3
1994BAL36
41
4.73.20.5920.7
1.2
2.01.70.5350.10.3
1995CAL37
52
5.53.80.5890.6
1.2
2.42.00.5480.10.4
38
54
2.42.50.493-0.1
0.2
2.62.50.513-0.00.3
1997MON39
25
0.81.20.394-0.3
-0.1
1.01.20.464-0.10.0
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER (reg. season)
1,021
111.378.20.58713.3
25.1
63.756.00.5321.99.3
------ ------ ------ ------ ------
PostSeason (career)
4
0.30.90.262 -0.20.30.40.398 -0.0
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
COMBINED
1,025
111.679.20.587
24.9
64.056.40.532 9.2


This is Lee Smith's twelfth year on the Hall-of-Fame ballot. In my 2013 Hall-of-Fame ballot series, I looked at how Smith ranked among all relief pitchers in career pWins over positional average and replacement level. Smith actually ranked very high (top 5) on both lists (among players for whom I have calculated Player won-lost records - although I have complete records since 1951, so that's probably an unnecessary caveat for relief pitchers).

The last relief pitcher elected to the Hall of Fame was Goose Gossage. This article compares Lee Smith to Goose Gossage for their careers.

Lee Smith Rich Gossage
Age Games Wins Losses Win Pct. WOPA WORL Games Wins Losses Win Pct. WOPA WORL
20
 
364.44.10.5190.10.6
21
 
211.83.80.324-1.1-0.7
22
180.60.70.462-0.1
0.0
393.75.20.416-0.9-0.4
23
403.14.20.424-0.7
-0.2
6212.16.80.6402.43.6
24
726.15.60.5240.2
0.8
3112.813.80.481-0.40.8
25
668.75.10.6281.5
2.4
7211.17.30.6051.82.9
26
699.65.50.6391.8
2.7
6310.38.30.5540.82.0
27
6510.26.00.6291.8
2.9
364.22.90.5950.51.0
28
668.76.90.5590.7
1.6
649.04.50.6692.13.0
29
627.55.70.5680.6
1.4
324.72.40.6651.01.5
30
647.75.30.5931.0
1.7
568.74.80.6451.62.5
31
645.13.70.5830.6
1.1
578.86.20.5891.02.0
32
648.74.20.6772.0
2.8
629.55.80.6201.72.5
33
678.55.30.6181.4
2.4
507.33.10.7002.02.6
34
707.14.70.6041.0
1.7
456.86.50.509-0.10.7
35
626.04.60.5660.6
1.3
404.03.30.5480.20.6
36
414.73.20.5920.7
1.2
463.13.70.453-0.4-0.0
37
525.53.80.5890.6
1.2
421.52.00.424-0.3-0.1
38
542.42.50.493-0.1
0.2
39
250.81.20.394-0.3
-0.1
442.02.70.423-0.4-0.1
40
 
301.51.60.481-0.10.1
41
 
392.22.10.509-0.00.3
42
 
361.50.80.6540.30.5
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER RECORDS1,021111.378.20.58713.3
25.1
1,003131.3101.90.56311.725.7
CAREER RECORDS
(common rows)
967108.975.80.59013.5
24.9
841119.889.40.57312.525.0


That's a remarkably close statistical match. You can certainly build an argument around those numbers that Goose Gossage had the more valuable career: his 1975 season was better than any season in Lee Smith's career, he had somewhat more career pWORL. But, it's almost just as easy to build an argument that Lee Smith had the more valuable career: more career pWOPA, higher career pWinPct, more seasons with at least one pWORL (13-10). It's very hard to see how one could plausibly draw a statistical line between these two that puts Goose Gossage in the Hall of Fame and leaves Lee Smith out of it.

But here's the catch. Statistically, if you compare relief pitchers to other players at other positions, they basically all end up falling short. The best relief pitcher of all time is almost certainly Mariano Rivera. His career statistics match up extremely well with his long-time teammate and borderline, at best, Hall-of-Fame candidate, Andy Pettitte. Heck, on this year's Hall-of-Fame ballot, Lee Smith has fewer career pWins over replacement level than Kenny Rogers.

Which means that if you're going to build a purely statistical Hall of Fame, you're going to end up with essentially no relief pitchers in the Hall of Fame. And if you believe the statistics and are looking at pure value, well, that's probably fair enough.

But if, on the other hand, you think that the best relief pitchers deserve their place in the Hall of Fame - and that's pretty much what the actual Hall-of-Fame voters have decided (as well as the Hall of Merit, actually) - then it seems to me that Lee Smith has a very strong case.

2014 Hall of Fame Ballot Series


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