Baseball Player Won-Loss Records
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Ron Santo

Hall-of-Famers as Seen Through Player Won-Lost Records: Ron Santo

Ron Santo was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans' Committee in 2012.

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

Ron Santo
Basic Player Won-Lost Records
Value Decomposition
Season Team Age Games pWins pLosses pWin Pct. pWOPA pWORL eWins eLosses eWin Pct. eWOPA eWORL
1960CHN20
95
10.410.30.501-0.2
0.6
10.110.60.487-0.50.3
1961CHN21
154
17.318.80.480-0.9
0.7
18.617.40.5170.52.1
1962CHN22
162
17.221.70.442-2.4
-0.9
18.520.40.477-1.00.5
1963CHN23
162
23.020.60.5281.0
2.7
23.819.80.5461.83.5
1964CHN24
161
22.918.70.5501.7
3.3
24.017.50.5792.94.5
1965CHN25
164
23.718.90.5561.9
3.5
24.318.30.5712.54.2
1966CHN26
155
21.618.70.5361.0
2.5
23.117.30.5722.44.0
1967CHN27
161
23.417.10.5782.7
4.4
23.816.80.5863.04.8
1968CHN28
162
24.018.20.5692.7
4.4
23.418.90.5542.13.8
1969CHN29
160
23.318.20.5612.3
4.1
22.718.90.5461.73.5
1970CHN30
154
20.717.00.5491.3
2.9
20.017.80.5300.62.2
1971CHN31
154
19.917.50.5320.7
2.2
19.617.70.5250.41.9
1972CHN32
133
17.014.50.5401.1
2.4
17.514.10.5531.52.8
1973CHN33
149
19.618.30.5170.1
1.6
19.418.50.512-0.11.4
1974CHA34
117
10.110.90.481-0.3
0.6
9.611.30.460-0.70.2
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER (reg. season)
2,243
294.2259.50.53112.7
35.2
298.4255.20.53917.039.5
------ ------ ------ ------ ------
PostSeason (career)
0
0.00.0 0.00.00.0 0.0
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
COMBINED
2,243
294.2259.50.531
35.2
298.4255.20.539 39.5


Ron Santo was widely regarded in sabermetric circles as the best player not in the Hall of Fame for probably at least 20 years before he was finally elected, maybe longer. This is, of course, no longer true, since Ron Santo was finally elected to the Hall of Fame in 2012, although, personally, I think it was somewhat disgraceful that he wasn't elected until after his death.
Ron Santo vs. Other Third Basemen
The next table shows the top 10 players in career (context-neutral, teammate-adjusted) eWins over positional average earned at third base, among players for whom I have calculated Player won-lost records. (That includes full data going back to 1937 and at least partial data for every season since 1921.)

Top Career Third Basemen
eWins eLosses eWinPct eWOPA
1Mike Schmidt307.0234.30.56731.2
2Eddie Mathews294.8229.80.56227.7
3Chipper Jones259.7209.30.55421.7
4Ron Santo278.4237.00.54016.1
5George Brett223.4189.70.54115.8
6Wade Boggs276.7244.30.53115.8
7Scott Rolen249.3213.90.53814.9
8Adrian Beltre327.1295.50.52513.7
9Alex Rodriguez153.0125.70.54912.9
10Ron Cey243.1210.50.53612.0


As measured by Player won-lost records, Ron Santo rates as the fourth-best third baseman of the past 70-80 years. Perhaps even more impressive, at the time of his retirement (after the 1974 season), Ron Santo might well have been the second best third baseman in major-league history, behind only Eddie Mathews.

How does the second-best third baseman in major-league history fail to get elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame for over thirty years?

Ron Santo vs. Other Players of the 1960's
Basically, all of Ron Santo's prime fell within the decade of the 1960's. The next table presents the top 25 players of the 1960's as measured by (context-neutral, teammate-adjusted) eWins over both positional average and replacement level.

eWins over Positional Average
Top 25 Players
          eWins over Replacement Level
Top 25 Players
Player eWins eLosses eWOPA eWORL           Player eWins eLosses eWOPA eWORL
1Willie Mays234.4175.323.2
39.7
1Hank Aaron248.8184.622.5
40.0
2Hank Aaron248.8184.622.5
40.0
2Willie Mays234.4175.323.2
39.7
3Frank Robinson224.6165.520.0
35.8
3Frank Robinson224.6165.520.0
35.8
4Juan Marichal167.2140.119.1
32.3
4Juan Marichal167.2140.119.1
32.3
5Bob Gibson165.9140.418.2
31.6
5Bob Gibson165.9140.418.2
31.6
6Mickey Mantle153.4107.118.1
28.7
6Harmon Killebrew193.0141.618.0
31.6
7Harmon Killebrew193.0141.618.0
31.6
7Ron Santo212.3175.815.3
31.0
8Ron Santo212.3175.815.3
31.0
8Mickey Mantle153.4107.118.1
28.7
9Willie McCovey162.9117.015.2
26.7
9Al Kaline186.7144.213.5
27.0
10Al Kaline186.7144.213.5
27.0
10Roberto Clemente220.7181.010.7
27.0
11Eddie Mathews151.6119.813.2
24.1
11Willie McCovey162.9117.015.2
26.7
12Norm Cash162.8122.712.1
23.8
12Carl Yastrzemski202.3165.311.4
26.2
13Carl Yastrzemski202.3165.311.4
26.2
13Brooks Robinson205.9180.19.8
25.4
14Dick Allen128.398.411.2
20.4
14Eddie Mathews151.6119.813.2
24.1
15Sandy Koufax117.1101.711.1
20.8
15Norm Cash162.8122.712.1
23.8
16Larry Jackson149.2136.911.0
23.4
16Don Drysdale163.9155.59.8
23.6
17Jim Fregosi157.1143.610.8
23.0
17Larry Jackson149.2136.911.0
23.4
18Roberto Clemente220.7181.010.7
27.0
18Jim Bunning158.5148.49.7
23.2
19Dick McAuliffe146.0129.710.6
21.7
19Jim Fregosi157.1143.610.8
23.0
20Roger Maris140.8110.09.8
20.1
20Billy Williams204.8173.47.3
22.6
21Brooks Robinson205.9180.19.8
25.4
21Dick McAuliffe146.0129.710.6
21.7
22Don Drysdale163.9155.59.8
23.6
22Bob Allison170.5138.98.9
21.5
23Jim Bunning158.5148.49.7
23.2
23Rocky Colavito181.1151.87.8
21.2
24Joe Torre131.4110.79.5
19.4
24Orlando Cepeda170.4137.08.6
21.1
25Jimmy Wynn131.0104.59.5
19.1
25Sandy Koufax117.1101.711.1
20.8


By both of the measures shown above, Ron Santo was one of the 10 best baseball players of the 1960's. Yes, to some extent, this is to the advantage of Ron Santo, as the best years of his career lined up perfectly with the decade of the 1960's. But being one of the 10 best baseball players over any 10-year period is a damn impressive feat.

How does one of the top 7 or 8 baseball players of the 1960's fail to get elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame for over thirty years?

Putting Ron Santo in Context
The argument most commonly made as to why Ron Santo was ignored for so long by Hall-of-Fame voters was that Ron Santo's statistical record had to be put into its proper context. Santo's prime years - the late 1960's - were the lowest-scoring period of baseball history since the Deadball Era.

In 1967, Ron Santo finished third in the National League in home runs with 31. In 2001, Luis Gonzalez finished third in the National League in home runs with 57.

In 1968, Ron Santo finished second in the National League with 98 RBI. In 2001, Todd Helton finished second in the National League in RBI with 146.
There is certainly a great deal of truth to this. Ron Santo's raw statistics are lower because of when he played. He also excelled in certain statistics that were, perhaps, less well-regarded in traditional circles (Santo led his league in on-base percentage twice and in walks four times).

But looking at Player won-lost records, something almost the reverse of this argument also appears.

I calculate Player won-lost records two ways: pWins, which tie to team wins and eWins, which control for context and the ability of one's teammates. For players with more pWins than eWins, their Player wins contributed to more team wins than one might expect; for players with more eWins than pWins, just the opposite is true: their Player wins translated into fewer team wins than expected. Or more briefly: a player with more pWins than eWins was better in context, a player with more eWins than pWins was worse in context.

As shown above, Ron Santo is an extremely strong Hall-of-Fame candidate when evaluated using eWins.

The next table looks at the top 25 players of the 1960's as measured in context, i.e., as measured by pWins over either positional average or replacement level.

pWins over Positional Average
Top 25 Players
          pWins over Replacement Level
Top 25 Players
Player pWins pLosses pWOPA pWORL           Player pWins pLosses pWOPA pWORL
1Willie Mays239.0170.827.7
44.3
1Willie Mays239.0170.827.7
44.3
2Juan Marichal175.7131.627.6
40.9
2Juan Marichal175.7131.627.6
40.9
3Bob Gibson169.9136.422.2
35.6
3Hank Aaron248.0185.421.7
39.3
4Hank Aaron248.0185.421.7
39.3
4Frank Robinson226.0164.121.4
37.2
5Frank Robinson226.0164.121.4
37.2
5Bob Gibson169.9136.422.2
35.6
6Sandy Koufax126.492.320.4
30.1
6Harmon Killebrew192.2142.417.2
30.8
7Mickey Mantle154.9105.619.6
30.3
7Brooks Robinson211.0175.014.9
30.5
8Willie McCovey166.4113.518.8
30.2
8Mickey Mantle154.9105.619.6
30.3
9Harmon Killebrew192.2142.417.2
30.8
9Willie McCovey166.4113.518.8
30.2
10Jim Bunning164.6142.315.8
29.3
10Sandy Koufax126.492.320.4
30.1
11Brooks Robinson211.0175.014.9
30.5
11Jim Bunning164.6142.315.8
29.3
12Whitey Ford104.482.414.1
22.4
12Roberto Clemente221.4180.311.4
27.7
13Eddie Mathews152.4119.014.0
24.9
13Maury Wills204.8188.610.8
26.7
14Roger Maris144.9106.013.9
24.1
14Al Kaline186.3144.713.1
26.6
15Al Kaline186.3144.713.1
26.6
15Ron Santo206.8181.39.8
25.5
16Jim Maloney125.3107.413.0
23.2
16Don Drysdale165.6153.811.5
25.3
17Dick Allen129.597.212.5
21.6
17Eddie Mathews152.4119.014.0
24.9
18Dick McAuliffe147.4128.411.9
23.1
18Roger Maris144.9106.013.9
24.1
19Jim Fregosi158.0142.611.8
23.9
19Jim Fregosi158.0142.611.8
23.9
20Denny McLain101.884.211.8
19.8
20Larry Jackson149.2136.811.0
23.4
21Don Drysdale165.6153.811.5
25.3
21Jim Maloney125.3107.413.0
23.2
22Roberto Clemente221.4180.311.4
27.7
22Dick McAuliffe147.4128.411.9
23.1
23Larry Jackson149.2136.811.0
23.4
23Carl Yastrzemski199.0168.58.1
23.0
24Maury Wills204.8188.610.8
26.7
24Whitey Ford104.482.414.1
22.4
25Norm Cash161.0124.610.3
22.0
25Orlando Cepeda171.6135.79.8
22.3


Ron Santo still shows up in the above table, but only once, and even in pWORL, he's no longer a top-10 player; now, he's a top-25 player. To be clear, being one of the top 25 players in major-league baseball over a 10-year period is generally still good enough to get you into the Hall of Fame - the top 12 players in pWORL for the 1960's are all in the Hall of Fame, and 16 of the top 17. But Santo does look somewhat less impressive.

This is similar to an anti-Santo argument that I heard on occasion. The Chicago Cubs of the 1960's had four Hall-of-Famers, including Santo, and never won anything. Put that way, this argument falls apart at both ends. Ernie Banks's Hall-of-Fame peak was ending in 1960 and 1961, just about the time that Ron Santo's Hall-of-Fame prime was beginning, and Fergie Jenkins didn't join the Cubs until the middle of the 1966 season. And once Jenkins joined Banks (who was 36 years old by then), Santo, and Billy Williams, the Cubs had winning records every season that all four of them were in Chicago, from 1967 through 1971. They just could never quite win it all.

But the fact remains that Ron Santo spent a few years of his prime as the best player on 90- and 100-loss teams. It was certainly not Ron Santo's fault that the 1966 Cubs went 59-103, but, one could argue, how valuable can any player be if he's playing for a 59-103 team?



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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