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dale-murphy-not-a-viable-hall-of-famer | January | 2012 Articles

Dale Murphy: Not a Viable Hall of Famer

Written by Joe Lucia on .

With Hall of Fame announcements on the horizon (next Monday, for those scoring at home), many Braves fans are jumping on their proverbial horses and championing the "Murphy for the Hall" cause. I hate to break it to you all, but Murphy isn't getting in this year. 2012 will be Murphy's second to last year on the ballot, and the highest percentage of votes he's ever received is 23.2% in 2000. His support has steadily decreased since since, sitting at 12.6% last season. It would require some sort of Herculean effort for Murphy to even get within sniffing distance of the Hall, but to be honest, he doesn't deserve to be there. And here's why.
When looking at Murphy's career, he pretty much had a 14 year career, with a pair of seasons each at the beginning and end of his career combining for 260 plate appearances and -1.3 fWAR. So to be fair to him, I'm going to exclude those years from my analysis of his career and look at the time period from 1978-1991, which was essentially Murphy's prime.

For those 14 years, Murphy ranks 20th among all hitters in fWAR with 48.7. Ahead of him are guys like Keith Hernandez, Willie Randolph, Dwight Evans, and Jack Clark; players that aren't even mentioned in the same breath as the Hall of Famer. The famed Tigers middle infield duo of Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell are both also ahead of him, but that's another post for another site.

Now, when looking at fWAR, you have to realize that UZR and DRS weren't around in the 1980's. Instead, Fangraphs uses Total Zone to determine a fielder's value. The same scale is used for Total Zone as is used for UZR and DRS; ten runs equals one win. Murphy's career TZ is -19.0, worth roughly a loss of two wins over his prime. The distrust that many people have for defensive metrics come into play here. "Murphy was a Gold Glove player! No way are those stats accurate!" Well as we all know in 2012, Gold Gloves are largely a pile of bunk given to players with great reputations and great offensive skills (SEE: Jeter, Derek and Palmeiro, Rafael). Murphy won the Gold Glove each from from 1982-1986. Over those five years, his Total Zone was 1.0, 1.0, -8.0, -21.0, -17.0. So the metric says that the Gold Glove voting was a pile of garbage.

But is the metric actually a pile of trash? Maybe, maybe not. Ozzie Smith is widely regarded as the best defensive shortstop of all-time, and his TZ is 206.0. Gary Carter was a great defensive catcher, and his TZ is 100.0. Whitaker and Trammell were the finest double play combo of their time, and they check in at 88.0 and 91.0.

Let's go ahead and assume that the metric is full of crap, and Murphy's actual defensive value is much higher....we'll give him a 5.0 for each of those five Gold Glove seasons, which would add an additional 6.8 wins to his career fWAR total. That puts him at 55.5 fWAR, which still ranks below Evans, Whitaker, Trammell, and Randolph. Uh, yeah. He's still not exactly in exalted company here.

How about we throw the defensive numbers out the window, and look at pure offense? From '78 to '91, Murphy had a .360 wOBA. That's not too bad. It's uh, 61st among all hitters during that time period. If we set the minimum plate appearances to 4000 (which is roughly 1000 games, or between six and seven seasons), Murphy ties for 28th on the list...tied with Robin Yount, and Reggie Jackson, a pair of Hall of Famers. But then you realize that Reggie's career started in the late-'60's, and Yount had a number of excellent years in the '70's, and those names look a little less appealing. Some of the names ranking above Murphy on the list include Kent Hrbek, Pedro Guerrero, Fred Lynn, Ken Singleton, Alvin Davis....you get the picture. These guys are not Hall of Famers.

The only way you can justify Murphy as a star is to use pure counting stats. His 394 homers are the most during that time period, his 1183 runs are sixth, and his 1229 RBI are fourth. But keep in mind, these counting stats are the *prime of Murphy's career*. The other players that played during this time period had years outside of the range. Mike Schmidt and Eddie Murray may have had fewer homers during Murphy during that stretch of time, but they both finished with more than 100 more than Murphy for their careers. If you're going to continue to focus on counting stats, why not point out that during my cherry picked time period, only Murray played in more games than Murphy, and only Murray and Yount had more plate appearances? He had more of a chance to set himself apart from the rest of the pack, and he couldn't. Plain and simple.

Dale Murphy is not a Hall of Famer, and I've outlined the reasons why. If you want to come up with a counterpoint, I am absolutely open to your opinion. But it's not changing my mind at all. And by the looks of things, about 85% of the BBWAA voters agree with me. 

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