was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984 in his sixth year of eligibility. The first table below presents Luis Aparicio's
career as measured by Player won-lost records.
Basic Player Won-Lost Records
| ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ |
|CAREER (reg. season)|| || |
| || || || ------ || ------ || ------ || || || || ------ || ------ || || || |
|PostSeason (career)|| || |
|1.2||1.5||0.428|| ||-0.1||1.2||1.5||0.461|| ||0.0|
| || || || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || || ------ |
|COMBINED|| || |
Luis Aparicio and the Hall of Fame
As noted above, Luis Aparicio was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984. Without having surveyed the 341 BBWAA voters who voted for him back in 1984, it's hard to know precisely why he was elected, but, generally speaking, his Hall-of-Fame case seems to rest on three markers: he was a brilliant defensive shortstop, winning 9 Gold Gloves
, he was a brilliant base-stealer, leading the American League in stolen bases 9 consecutive seasons (1956 - 1964), and he was the leadoff hitter for two teams
which won American League pennants for the first time in more than twenty years.
All three of these arguments tend to be viewed fairly poorly within the general sabermetric community. Defense is important (especially at a key defensive position like shortstop), but Gold Gloves are not necessarily a good measure of actual defensive value (e.g., 5-time Gold Glove winner Derek Jeter
). Stolen bases tend to be overrated and their value is frequently offset by the negative value of caught stealings (in which Aparicio led the AL four times). And most sabermetric observers are loath to give extra credit to players for team accomplishments, especially leadoff hitters with below-average on-base percentages (Aparicio actually led the major leagues in outs made in both 1959
Players in Hall of Fame, not Hall of Merit
One example of how Luis Aparicio is viewed by the sabermetric community is the fact that he has not been elected - or come even remotely close to being elected - to the Hall of Merit
. In the Hall of Merit's "1984" election - which corresponded to the year when Aparicio was elected to the Hall of Fame - Aparicio finished 59th
in Hall-of-Merit voting, appearing on 3 of 55 15-person ballots (one vote each for 8th, 13th, and 15th place).
In a separate article
, I looked at the Hall of Fame and Player won-lost records. In that article, I included a table showing career Player won-lost records for all players in the Hall of Fame but not the Hall of Merit. That table is reproduced next.
|Players in the Hall of Fame, but not the Hall of Merit (debuting since 1937)
Luis Aparicio ranks first in pWins
over replacement level
(pWORL) among all players in the Hall of Fame but not the Hall of Merit for whom I have calculated Player won-lost records.
Of course, in theory, if the sorting of players via Hall-of-Merit voting and Player won-lost records matched up perfectly, then one could, perhaps, argue that the player with the most pWORL in the Hall of Fame, but not the Hall of Merit, was merely the best player not actually qualified for the Hall of Merit. It seems unlikely, however, that the Hall-of-Merit membership would line up so perfectly with Player won-lost records. Comparisons to a couple of fellow Hall-of-Famers who are also in the Hall of Merit may be instructive in understanding what Player won-lost records are seeing that Hall-of-Merit voters may be missing.
Luis Aparicio vs. Ozzie Smith
The shorthand Hall-of-Fame cases for Luis Aparicio
and Ozzie Smith
are pretty similar: brilliant defensive shortstop, excellent baserunner, player whose batting rises to the level of "not a complete zero" in his best seasons. That said, Smith
fairly handily in traditional Hall-of-Fame markers: 15 - 10 in All-Star games (not counting extra appearances in years when there were two All-Star games), 13 - 9 in Gold Gloves, even 3 - 2 in World Series appearances. And, indeed, Ozzie Smith was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility with 91.7%
of the vote; Aparicio was elected in his sixth year of eligibility with 84.6%
of the vote.
Looking at their career Player won-lost records may be instructive.
||Decomposition of eWORL
||Wins over Average
Ozzie Smith was a better batter and fielder than Luis Aparicio over the course of their careers. Aparicio makes up some of that with better baserunning, he makes up some of it from the fact that shortstops were worse hitters on average during Aparicio's career than during Smith's (Smith's career coincided with the careers of Cal Ripken
, Robin Yount
, and Alan Trammell
, among others), and he makes up some of the remaining difference in extra "replacement value" thanks to 452 more plate appearances and 621 more innings at shortstop for Aparicio in his career compared to Ozzie Smith.
Given a choice, I'd take Ozzie Smith
. But being worse than Ozzie Smith is not an automatic disqualifier for the Hall of Fame.
Luis Aparicio vs. Ron Santo
is viewed by sabermetric observers as an obvious Hall-of-Famer who nevertheless took 32 years (and his own death) to finally be elected to the Hall of Fame. Luis Aparicio
is viewed by sabermetric observers as obviously undeserving of the Hall of Fame who was nevertheless elected to the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA.
I think that a comparison of Aparicio and Santo using Player won-lost records helps to explain the difference in Hall-of-Fame voters' reactions to these two players. The next table compares the career records of Luis Aparicio and Ron Santo.
Ron Santo has two clear advantages over Luis Aparicio as measured by Player won-lost records. First, Santo was better relative to positional average
than Aparicio. Aparicio, however, makes much of this back when comparing to a lower replacement level
, thanks to 19% more player decisions (because of 16% more games, 20% more plate appearances, and 16% more defensive innings) for Aparicio.
Second, Santo looks much better when controlling for context
, so that, even with Aparicio's advantage in player decisions, Santo beats Aparicio by a decisive 6.0 eWins
over replacement level
Most sabermetricians like to compare players to a non-zero baseline, so they tend to prefer comparisons relative to average (e.g., OPS+, ERA+) rather than relative to zero (e.g., career counting stats, such as hits or runs scored). And sabermetricians love to neutralize contexts (again, e.g., OPS+, ERA+). But if you do consider context, the numbers flip, and Aparicio beats Santo by 4.0 in pWins
over replacement level. Because of the timing of their performance and the quality of their teammates, Luis Aparicio's performance actually translated into a few more team wins (and two American League pennants) than Ron Santo's performance. It is left to the reader to decide what, if anything, that means regarding the relative Hall-of-Fame worthiness of Aparicio and Santo.
Luis Aparicio's Fielding
Luis Aparicio won 9 Gold Gloves as a shortstop between 1958, the first year that separate Gold Gloves were awarded for the two leagues, and 1970, the last season when Aparicio started at least 140 games at shortstop (when he was 36 years old). The only two shortstops to have won more Gold Gloves are Omar Vizquel
(11) and Ozzie Smith
(13), who won their first Gold Glove between them seven years after Aparicio retired. So, Aparicio had the most Gold Gloves of any shortstop in major-league history when he retired. Of course, they started awarding Gold Gloves in Aparicio's second major-league season, so players like Joe Tinker and Rabbit Maranville (and even Phil Rizzuto
and Pee Wee Reese
) had no opportunity to win any Gold Gloves.
Still, at a minimum, Luis Aparicio was widely regarded as the best fielding shortstop of his generation. Of course, Derek Jeter
won five Gold Gloves, so, y'know, they need to be taken with a grain of salt and all of that.
Fielding won-lost records are a more objective measure of players' fielding value. The next table presents the top 25 players in net fielding wins at shortstop among players for whom I have calculated Player won-lost records (generally since 1921).
One could argue that the above table under-rates Luis Aparicio, who played shortstop regularly through age 39. As measured by Player won-lost records, Aparicio's fielding
was somewhat below-average (but still major-league caliber) his last four major-league seasons. Being able to play even a slightly below-average shortstop at age 38 or 39 is both fairly impressive and also at least somewhat valuable.
The next table looks at all fielding positions and compares Player winning percentages against positional replacement levels. In this way, players are given credit for being merely slightly below-average defenders at more valuable defensive positions (e.g., Luis Aparicio in the 1970s). The top 10 players in fielding wins over replacement level are shown in the next table.
In other words, Luis Aparicio
is arguably the third-most valuable fielder in the major leagues of the last 70+ years.
Luis Aparicio's Baserunning
As I noted above, Luis Aparicio led the American League in stolen bases six seasons in a row. He is also 36th in career stolen bases with 506 (17th among players for whom I have calculated Player won-lost records). Although, as I also noted above, Aparicio did lead the American League in caught stealing four times, he was actually an excellent percentage base-stealer at 78.8%, well above break-even. Because of this, he ranks in the top 10 for net Component 1
(basestealing) baserunning wins for his career. The top 10 players in net Component 1
baserunning wins among players for whom I have calculated Player won-lost records are shown in the table below.
There is more to baserunning than simply basestealing, and Aparicio was excellent at the other aspects of baserunning as well. The table below presents the top 10 players in net non-Component 1 baserunning wins for their career among players for whom I have calculated Player won-lost records.
Finally, putting the results of these two tables together, the final table below presents the top 10 players in career baserunning wins over non-pitcher average among players for whom I have calculated Player won-lost records.
So there you have the Hall-of-Fame case for Luis Aparicio according to Player won-lost records: elite fielding, excellent baserunning, average hitting for his position, and his performance translated into a few (5.7) more actual wins than expected.
All articles are written so that they pull data directly from the most recent version of the Player won-lost database. Hence, any numbers cited within these articles should automatically incorporate the most recent update to Player won-lost records. In some cases, however, the accompanying text may have been written based on previous versions of Player won-lost records. I apologize if this results in non-sensical text in any cases.
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