One of the rites of passage to be a successful or quixotic baseball writer is to invent a new statistic. Last fall, I joined this exclusive and imagined inner circle by crafting, in tandem with my colleague Joel (twitter: @CajoleJuiceEsq...
One of the rites of passage to be a successful or quixotic baseball writer is to invent a new statistic. Last fall, I joined this exclusive and imagined inner circle by crafting, in tandem with my colleague Joel (twitter: @CajoleJuiceEsq), a statistic called FAME. It's inspired by Bill James's Blank Ink, a neat little stat that collates the number of times a player has led the league in various categories, and thus how dominant a player was in his era. Black Ink is often one of the tools used to gauge a player's Hall of Fame candidacy.
If Black Ink is a descriptive statistic, FAME (or: Fanfare and Acclaim Measurement Extraordinaire) is predictive: it counts the number of accolades awarded to the player by the media, and thus how strong his Hall of Fame case will appear to be. Essentially, it measures how much a player was talked about during his career, and how important he seemed. Points are awarded to players as follows:
Award or Milestone
Most Valuable Player
MVP (Top 5)
MVP (Top 10)
Rookie of the Year
All-Star Game appearance
Gold Glove Award
World Series victory
World Series appearance
Memorable, good nickname
3,000 hit milestone
400/500/600/700 HR milestone
FAME scores are intended to compare with WAR, although some modifications need to be made now that Cameron and Forman have aligned their statistics. Still, I think it's a useful tool. My highlight as a statistician came with the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot, where I predicted that Sandy Alomar, Jr. would receive a surprising level of support. Despite a career WAR of 13.8, hardly more than Kenji Johjima, Alomar received 16 votes, two less than Kenny Lofton.
Meanwhile, in Seattle, the city has always felt its place on the periphery of both baseball history and geography. What does FAME have to say about the Mariners greats of today and yesterday?
Ken Griffey Jr.
(A full breakdown of the results can be seen here.)
By these standards, the famous Mariners are surprisingly famous. Griffey and Ichiro are both first-ballot Hall of Famers, with the latter showing one of the highest FAME-to-WAR ratios in baseball history. (Note that this number will go down, however, as he plays out his twilight years, and also fails to reflect his younger years in Japan.) Alex Rodriguez's score is uncannily accurate, though he too has his autumn season before him.
The news is less cheery for other M's hopefuls. Edgar Martinez is unsurprisingly underrated, and will continue to be throughout his fifteen long, sad years on the ballot. He's actually eclipsed in FAME by Omar Vizquel, who should see a sturdy and likely futile support from a cadre of voters.
Adrian Beltre's candidacy will be an interesting one. He has the unfortunate quality of being a stellar defensive player without retaining any of the useless, memorably physical qualities of a stellar defensive player. He is not small or lithe, and he also plays third base, which means he already faces a sizable disadvantage. Still, amazingly, he's only 33 years old, and if he can even hold out for another three or four years, he'll be within reach of both 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. That low FAME score is worrisome, but he's got a pretty good shot at the Hall if it isn't broken by the time he gets there.
Finally, we conclude with two sadly neglected characters in John Olerud and Mike Cameron. Olerud may have hurt his cause with an early .400 chase, which