Baseball Player Won-Loss Records
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Steve Garvey

2018 Modern Era Hall of Fame Ballot: Steve Garvey

The Baseball Hall of Fame recently announced their 2018 Veterans' ballot. One player on the ballot is former Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres first baseman, Steve Garvey. Garvey most recently appeared on the 2014 Veterans' ballot. This article is an update of an article I wrote at that time.

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

Steve Garvey
Basic Player Won-Lost Records
Value Decomposition
Season Team Age Games pWins pLosses pWin Pct. pWOPA pWORL eWins eLosses eWin Pct. eWOPA eWORL
1969LAN20
3
0.00.00.070-0.0
-0.0
0.10.10.427-0.00.0
1970LAN21
34
1.82.90.384-0.6
-0.4
2.62.80.479-0.20.1
1971LAN22
81
8.06.50.5500.6
1.1
7.27.10.502-0.10.4
1972LAN23
96
9.39.90.484-0.4
0.4
9.88.90.5250.41.1
1973LAN24
113
10.39.40.522-0.0
0.8
8.88.70.503-0.40.4
1974LAN25
156
20.214.00.5902.3
3.6
18.214.90.5500.92.1
1975LAN26
160
21.117.00.5541.0
2.5
19.815.90.5540.92.3
1976LAN27
162
19.914.90.5721.6
2.9
19.815.90.5551.02.4
1977LAN28
162
18.114.90.5480.8
2.1
18.115.20.5450.72.0
1978LAN29
162
22.415.90.5842.3
3.8
18.915.10.5551.12.4
1979LAN30
162
19.417.30.5290.2
1.6
18.316.00.5330.31.6
1980LAN31
163
21.616.10.5731.9
3.4
18.815.90.5430.72.0
1981LAN32
110
11.311.00.505-0.3
0.6
11.010.10.5200.10.9
1982LAN33
162
15.215.40.496-0.8
0.4
16.315.70.510-0.40.8
1983SDN34
100
11.89.90.5440.5
1.3
11.910.20.5370.41.2
1984SDN35
160
15.716.00.495-0.9
0.3
14.915.30.493-0.90.2
1985SDN36
162
17.717.40.504-0.8
0.5
17.817.00.513-0.50.8
1986SDN37
155
14.115.50.477-1.4
-0.3
13.714.50.486-1.1-0.0
1987SDN38
27
1.42.30.384-0.5
-0.4
1.31.90.404-0.4-0.3
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER (reg. season)
2,330
259.3226.50.5345.4
24.1
247.2221.10.5282.420.5
------ ------ ------ ------ ------
PostSeason (career)
55
6.95.30.563 1.06.95.00.581 1.2
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
COMBINED
2,385
266.2231.80.534
25.1
254.1226.10.528 21.7


In the late 1970's, Steve Garvey was a STAR! From 1974 through 1980, Steve Garvey had 200 or more hits 6 times in 7 years, with 192 hits the 7th season (1977) - interestingly, he got exactly 200 hits three times during that stretch. He drove in 100 or more runs 5 times over those 7 seasons, with 95 RBI in one of the other two seasons. He batted over .300 6 of 7 times (.297 in 1977). He made the All-Star team all seven of those seasons, plus 3 others. He received MVP votes all seven of those seasons (plus two others), winning the 1974 NL MVP award, finishing 2nd in 1978 and finishing 6th three other times. He won 4 Gold Glove awards. He played in five World Series in his career. He set the National League record for consecutive games played. Really, he was a star!

He first appeared on a BBWAA Hall-of-Fame ballot in 1993 and was named on 176 of 423 ballots (41.6%). Debuting over 40% is usually a first step toward eventual election. But Garvey got no traction at all. He managed to hold fairly steady for six elections, before gradually losing ground. In his 15th and final appearance on the BBWAA HOF ballot in 2007, he received barely more than half of his original vote percentage (21.1%).

Part of that was character. But part of it was that I'm not sure there's ever been a player who, when people looked back at his career objectively, it turned out, there wasn't as much there as people had thought at the time. Yes, Garvey played a lot of games and, partly because of that, he got a lot of hits. But he never won a batting title and only finished as high as 2nd once (1978, .316) - and he never finished in the top 10 in the NL in on-base percentage. He only hit 272 career home runs - longtime teammates (and definite non-stars, compared to Garvey) Ron Cey and Reggie Smith hit more in their careers.

I almost wonder if the tide has turned and some people have become so convinced of how overrated Steve Garvey is that he's actually become underrated.

The next two tables try to put Steve Garvey in the best possible light that I can. The first table shows the top 10 first basemen of the 1970s, ranked by (context-neutral, teammate-adjusted) wins over positional average, earned only at first base.

Top 10 First Basemen of the 1970s
eWins eLosses eWinPct eWOPA
1Willie Stargell69.952.70.5705.1
2Rod Carew69.055.70.5534.7
3Steve Garvey121.2100.60.5464.7
4Tony Perez126.8105.20.5474.5
5Andre Thornton74.760.70.5524.4
6Dick Allen78.561.90.5594.4
7John Mayberry Sr.125.9108.30.5384.0
8Willie McCovey107.990.30.5443.3
9Bob Watson87.573.00.5453.2
10Gene Tenace52.142.50.5512.9


That table is probably about the strongest Hall-of-Fame argument that one can make for Steve Garvey. Willie Stargell and Rod Carew are Hall-of-Famers, so there's no great shame finishing behind them. On the other hand, Stargell did not move to first base until 1975 and Carew did not move to first base until 1976.

The next table looks at the top players in pWins over replacement level over a time period cherry-picked to match up precisely with Steve Garvey's prime, 1974 - 1980.

Top Players, 1974 - 1980
(ranked by pWORL)
Player pWins pLosses pWOPA pWORL
1Joe L. Morgan143.5103.921.631.1
2Mike Schmidt158.3115.219.129.6
3Reggie Jackson148.9112.914.925.5
4Steve Carlton124.5103.615.825.1
5Dave Concepcion141.7124.113.723.9
6Ron Cey146.2115.313.023.1
7Jim Palmer105.278.914.222.8
8George Brett133.8106.013.522.8
9George Foster141.2107.212.822.4
10Toby Harrah135.8117.512.021.8
11Bobby Grich123.2103.513.121.8
12Amos Otis129.9102.712.521.5
13Graig Nettles132.5108.711.520.8
14Tom Seaver108.492.212.520.7
15Davey Lopes131.4113.010.720.1
16Nolan Ryan121.1105.59.619.9
17Steve Garvey142.8110.210.119.8
18Dave Parker142.3113.09.519.4
19Johnny Bench108.584.711.919.4
20Phil Niekro134.2129.68.019.0
21Jim Rice121.9100.08.918.8
22Rod Carew125.4103.49.718.7
23Luis Tiant98.680.010.418.6
24Dave Winfield155.9130.57.418.5
25Ken Singleton141.1117.28.418.5


Again, to repeat, the above time period was cherry-picked to match up precisely with Steve Garvey's prime.

The top 4 players on the list were all well-deserved first-ballot Hall-of-Famers: no shame being behind any of them. But Steve Garvey isn't even the best Los Angeles Dodger on the list: that would be Ron Cey. In fact, Garvey is behind two other Dodgers infielders in the above table.

Don't get me wrong: Steve Garvey was certainly not a bad player. He was a very good player in his prime. He helped five teams make the World Series, even if he wasn't as important to most of those teams as was believed at the time. And he really was the most valuable player of one pennant winner: the 1978 Los Angeles Dodgers. But Hall-of-Famer? Not really.

2018 Modern Era Hall of Fame Ballot



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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