All but the most casual baseball fans know that Eddie Murray is a legend – first ballot Hall of Famer and a rare member of the exclusive 500 home run, 3000 hit club. There is nothing to be gained by debating something as obviously true as Murray's status as one of the greats. Similarly, serious fans understand that, despite having the most staggeringly awesome nickname in baseball history, Fred "Crime Dog" McGriff is not going to make it into Cooperstown. He probably won't even be on the ballot anymore after a few years.

We know Crime Dog's problem because we have all heard the argument: good but never great, no MVP awards, no singular defining moments in big games, and only six All-Star selections in 19 seasons. He is the classic "accumulator", a guy who approached big milestones simply by playing forever at an above-average level. Never a true star. If there was a Hall of the Very Good, McGriff would be in it. But not the Hall of Fame.

So it would be pretty silly to compare Crime Dog to Steady Eddie Murray, right? Of course it would, inasmuch as they were the exact same player. No, I take that back; McGriff was better.


McGriff retired with 493 HR and 2490 hits, both short of the magical 500/3000 markers. Murray posted 504 and 3255 hits, easily clearing the hurdle on hits but just squeaking by on HR. If McGriff had hit a paltry 7 more HR over 19 years, he would get into the HOF. Why? Because everyone with 500 HR gets in. Because it's 500! Which is a magical number! McGriff with 493 = good not great. McGriff with 501 = Hall of Famer.

Crime Dog matches up favorably with Murray in almost every category. 6 All-Star appearances in 19 season (8/21 for Murray). No MVP awards for either. One World Series ring each. A slash line of .284/.377/.509 (.287/.359/.476 for Murray). OPS+ of 134, five points above Murray's 129. Both played first base, and defense is one area in which Murray clearly outdoes Freddie (3 Gold Gloves, 6.5 career defensive Wins against Replacement). But let's not kid ourselves, nobody voted for Murray because of his D and no one will vote against McGriff on that basis either.

Here's the best part: McGriff's failure to hit the 500/3000 marks was nothing but a stroke of bad luck. Consider the following:

  • In 1994, McGriff fell victim to the players strike/lockout. That year he averaged 1 HR every 14 plate appearances. He played 113 games. Assume a normal season in which he plays 150 games at 4 PA per game. He lost 37 games, or 148 PA. At his HR rate, that means he lost 10 HR. So without the strike, McGriff ends his career with 503 HR. Murray hit 504.
  • McGriff's first season as a full-time player was age 23. Murray started at age 21. So on a per season basis, McGriff averaged 131 hits and 26 HR. Murray averaged 155 hits and 24 HR per season. Murray crossed 500 HR just by playing a little longer – he was an Accumulator.
  • Murray hung on until the dog-ass end of his career to reach 500 HR. McGriff tried but couldn't find a team to give him the at-bats. McGriff's last season, age 40, lasted only 27 games and a 53 OPS+. Murray's, age 41, was 55 games at the same terrible OPS+ (55). The big difference was that at age 40, Murray managed to convince the Orioles to bring him back for a sentimental homecoming…and 152 games/637 plate appearances of playing time. They put him out on the field that much even though he was horrible (87 OPS+). So basically Murray should have hung it up at age 40. But he didn't. He found a team to let him play a full season and tapped out 22 HR, including his 500th.

    In short, Murray was the classic Accumulator. He was never a true superstar and he crossed the 500/3000 because he played forever and never got hurt. None of his career statistics differ significantly from McGriff's (not to mention other Accumulators like Paul Konerko, Rafael Palmeiro, or Dave "I'll play until I'm 43 to get 3000 hits" Winfield). He was a better defensive player than the Crime Dog but that is about it.

    So the question is why Murray is a first ballot Hall of Famer and McGriff is not HOF-level. It boils down to the worship of arbitrary statistical milestones, namely the 500 HR barrier. In the most important stats like OPS+ or OBP, McGriff was actually better than Murray (and Winfield). A player's career does not become more impressive – certainly not in any meaningful way – when he moves from 499 to 500. Usually sportswriters and HOF voters fall back on the "no championships" argument, but Murray and McGriff each own a ring and the same number of WS appearances. Instead, they have to rely on dumb statistics like wins, total hits, and career HR totals to include or exclude players who never played in New York or Boston failed to meet the nebulous standards of true "stardom."

    (PS: If I really wanted to be mean we could have used Andre Dawson, Jim Rice, or Winfield as a comparison instead of Murray. WTF on Dawson. Nice 119 OPS+ and .323 OBP, loser.)

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  • 41 Responses to “NPF: CRIME DOG vs. NUMBER WORSHIP”

    1. acer Says:

      I don't really follow baseball, but I decided not to skip this, and it made an interesting point about status and how arbitrary it is. Witness the public disintegration of respectably successful politicians like Edwards and McCain when it occurs to them that they'll die with 499.

    2. JP Says:

      Don't forget that most of McGriff's career overlapped with the "steroid era" and we know that numbers accumulated during that period are no good, worthless piles of shit, even by players who were, as far as we know, clean (or simply juiced players who weren't breaking any rules at the time). That McGriff had his best power hitting seasons before 1994 is completely irrelevant to the fact that his numbers can't be taken seriously.

      I would like to know why the voter are so enamored with the wrong players from the late 70s and the 80s. They completely ignored Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell, they almost forgot about Blyleven and are not paying much attention to Tim Raines. At the same time they vote in guys like Dawson and Sutter and a lot of them really like Jack Morris.

    3. Daniel Says:

      Frank Thomas and Matt Williams were ripped off in 1994 as well. Both on pace for monster seasons.

    4. Jimcat Says:

      I'm disappointed. When you said "they are the exact same player", I wanted to see the expose of McGriff/Murray's double life, switching uniforms and racing between cities to play for two teams without anyone being the wiser.

    5. displaced Capitalist Says:

      LOL @ Jimcat, I was thinking the same thing!

    6. sluggo Says:

      Even through Eddie Murray played for a lot of different teams, he is really remembered as a Baltimore Oriole (when the Orioles were good). I have a hard time identifying McGriff with any particular team. San Diego and Toronto aren't classic baseball towns.

      Bucky Dent belongs in the HOF. You know why? Because right now you are saying all he ever did was hit a Texas league that went over the wall.
      That's why.
      It is the Hall of FAME!!!!

      Speaking of old Orioles who are in the HOF, and their peers who are not: Brooks Robinson vs Ron Santo.

    7. Michael Says:

      Oh my goodness, baseball, um, that's not the one with the kicking, right? All this sports talk makes my little gay head ache…

    8. Erin Says:

      Sluggo- McGriff played for fives seasons n Atlanta when they won the NL West/East 14 consecutive years. Not to mention this was the era when TBS showed 250,000 (maybe a little more if they could squeeze out showing Beastmaster) Braves game a year. I remember him as a Brave only by media attrition (and those Ted Emanski commercials, of course).

      I'm not chiding you, but I was a sophomore in high school when the "Worst to First" World Series took place and TBS was one of the 30 or so cable channels available in my tiny town. My Braves- (and Cubs-; thanks WGN!) hate shines like the sun.

      If Murray and the "@&%$ the Heck" induction of Dawson are indicators, McGriff is HoFer. Baseball writers are fucking idiots. I really think these assfucks are going to not elect Randy Johnson on the first-ballot just because he was an uncooperative interview. The most dominant pitcher of probably any era waiting a year because he was "mean" to the people that want to teach him a lesson.

      I just found out who had the highest election percentage for induction. It was someone I probably would have gotten to if I had a list of everyone elected and I still would have thought it was a lie.

      Rambling… This is Day 8 of Sober October and Day 37 of no days off. I'm surprised I actually used real words.

    9. tommytimp Says:

      Until Santo gets voted in or breaks in on his FAKE LEGS and puts a plaque in by himself, no one else should be voted in tothe HOF. Because baseball writers, for the most part, suck.

    10. acer Says:

      You hurt San Diego's feelings.

    11. c u n d gulag Says:

      Yeah, the HOF voters suck. But so does the Old Timers Committee, which actually sucks worse, because it basically put all of Ted William's and Frankie Frisch's drinking buddies in there.
      For baseball nuts, get a copy of Bill James' "Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame." It was previously called, "The Politics of Glory," which I liked much better as a title. It does a great job of talking about who does, and who doesn't belong, and the BS that got some pretty mediocre players in there.
      My all time accumulator? Don Sutton. The guy's in the HOF and was never even the best pitcher on any staff he was ever on. He was just 'The Energizer Pitcher.' And a lot of those better pitchers are NOT in the hall.

      I'm actually surpirised that Murray was a 1st ballot entry. He was a surly prick to the press, and usually they punish guys like that.

    12. bb in GA Says:

      Hitting major league pitching is arguably one of the most difficult athletic achievements on the planet. Once upon a time being able to do that credibly for a long, long time was respected in itself as a qualification factor for the HoF. Now we have disrespectful words like 'Accumulator' for people who succeed in that most difficult endeavor.


    13. Baltimore Says:

      I am with Sluggo, I think the difference is team recognition. Murray was and still is beloved by us in Baltimore. But more importantly, Murray benefited from a long time with the O's and was well remembered by the Baltimore and DC sporting press. That gives him a lot more recognition then McGriff who should be in the HOF, but wasn't with a team long enough to establish a fan base with local sports writers. That and he didn't hit 500 HRs.

    14. Rick Says:

      “Accumulators like Paul Konerko”? How dare you!!! You besmirch one of the most beloved South Side Polski's in recent history. The man who help end an 88 year championship drought! Your name is now mud at Syrena Baltyk Lounge at 4276 S. Archer!

    15. JohnR Says:

      I know you know that the "He's in, so HE should be in" argument about the HOF is an old and essentially pointless one. Numbers are arbitrarily chosen, people are voted in, or not, on "intangibles", and baseball writers are, as a class, idiots. I like Eddie, and I enjoyed watching him back when the Orioles were a real team and not a deformed, second-rate version of the 1970s Yankees as they became under their present owner. But Hall of Fame? No, I didn't think then, and I don't think now, that he really belongs there. Of course, about a third of the players in it are in there mainly because the writers feel they just have to elect _somebody_, so they try to find someone they can justify statistically.

    16. BK Says:

      I'm actually with bb. I HATE the term "accumulator" used negatively.

      What is wrong with being good enough to demosntrate to a GM, Manager and Owner that you deserve to be on the field for seasons 15-20 of your MLB career when the average player *only lasts less than 6* and when your replacement is considerably less expensive to your company's bottom line?

      The fact is I think it's bad that McGriff isn't in is a travesty. It's the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Outstanding Statistical Achievements. I'd add Shoeless Joe, Joe Torre, Steve Garvey and Tommy John to the list of folks who should be in Cooperstown as well.

    17. Sam240 Says:

      "In the most important stats like OPS+ or OBP, McGriff was actually better than Murray (and Winfield)."

      Win shares are more important than OPS+ and OBP. Win shares take into account two key aspects that OPS+ and OBP don't:

      1) Playing time
      2) Defense

      Let's take the first one. Murray had 16 seasons with 150 games played; McGriff, 10. Murray was in the top ten in the league in games played 10 times; McGriff, just 4. Murray played 3026 games to McGriff's 2460 — a difference of 566 games. Those extra games have value. If you sit on the bench, you aren't helping your team win games.

      Defense? McGriff never won a Gold Glove, although the win shares system says he deserved one. Murray won three Gold Gloves, and the win shares system has him deserving of four.

      How does the win shares system compare the three players? Murray had 433 career win shares, compared to McGriff's 341. Yes, McGriff lost some games in 1994 and 1995 due a the strike, but Murray also lost some games in 1981 due to a strike.

      For peak seasons, I adjusted the win share totals to adjust for strike seasons. McGriff had 22 win shares in 1994, but that would work out to 31 win shares over a full season. I don't want to penalize someone for having a career year during a strike year.

      Murray had 95 win shares in his best three seasons overall, compared to 88 for McGriff. That's almost a full win per season.

      Consistency? During his five best consecutive years, McGriff had 132 win shares (giving credit for missed games in 1994-95), or 26.4 a season. That's pretty good. Murray had 152 win shares during his five best consecutive seasons, for 30.4 a season. That's wonderful.

      To put those figures into perspective, 20 win shares signifies an All Star-type season, while 30 win shares signifies an MVP candidate-type season. For a team to contend for a pennant on a regular basis, its top position player needs to have 25 or 26 win shares a year. (Some teams have hit 90 wins with no position player at 25 win shares, but they couldn't maintain that level of play for even two straight years.) For the record, Murray was in the top five in MVP voting during six different seasons; McGriff made the top five in the MVP vote just once.

      Murray's win share profile of 433-95-152 compares well to Johnny Mize's (338-100-154, but Mize missed three seasons due to war) and Harmon Killebrew's 371-105-147. McGriff's 341-88-132 is comparable to Norm Cash's 315-93-130 or Keith Hernandez' 311-93-139. For the record, Tony Perez is at 349-96-144, Orlando Cepeda at 310-93-130, and George Sisler at 292-91-142.

      For the record, someone whose average level of play over five straight years is at the level of the typical MVP candidate is, or at least should be, a superstar. Therefore, Murray would qualify as a superstar; he was not just an accumulator. McGriff, on the other hand, wasn't consistent enough to be the best position player on a regular pennant contender.

      That's why Murray is a deserving Hall of Famer, and McGriff doesn't deserve induction.

      Top ten seasons, win shares (adjusted for strikes)
      Murray: 33, 31, 31, 31, 29, 28, 28, 26, 24, 21
      McGriff: 31, 30, 27, 26, 25, 24, 24, 23, 22, 22

    18. bpasinko Says:

      Nobody is trying to say that the Crime Dog was inarguably better than Murray, it's just the fact that Murray got in first ballot no questions asked while McGriff won't even sniff.

      McGriff is the better hitter hands down, higher OPS+, career wOBA, really any non counting stat that you want to use.

      Murray was significantly better defensively and played longer which is why he has more Win Shares, WAR, or whatever "all-in-one" statistic you want to use. However, as a first baseman, defense shouldn't be the reason why one player would be a first balloter and the other nothing, especially since the guy left out is a better hitter.

      I totally agree with this premise though: McGriff was awesome and literally because of a handful of homers that he didn't get a chance to hit, he'll be left out.

      Chances of McGriff making the Hall if he played in Boston and had Dan Shaughnessy blabbering about him: 100%

    19. schooner Says:


      You must be a serious Dodgers or Padres fan because there is no,none,nada case that Garvey belongs.

    20. bpasinko Says:



      While it seems like a decent amount of 70s/80s sluggers are deserving of the Hall, Garvey is definitely not one of them

      Evans-ok, Whitaker-fine, Raines-I SAID GODDAMN YES!, Garvey- no.

    21. Comrade PhysioProf Says:

      The HOF is fucken stupid. Once these fucken douchebags hang up their cleats, I don't give a flying fucke about any of 'em except for the ones that played for the Yanks. I'd rather rub Preparation H on my fucken hemmorhoiuds than visit the stupid fucken HOF.

    22. Ed Says:

      Santo compared to Brooks Robinson….that was a joke, right?

      Ron Santo was a league average defensive player (career defensive WAR: 1) and Robinson was the single greatest defensive player, statistically and subjectively, in the history of the league (dWAR: 27).

      This doesn't speak to whether or not Santo belongs, but comparing his offensive numbers to Brooks Robinson and pretending that they were similar players is…silly.

    23. Comrade PhysioProf Says:

      And there is nothing more fucken mindnumbingly boring than discussing who does or doesn't belong in the HOF. NO ONE GIVES A SHIT EXCEPT BIZARRE FUCKEN STAT NERDS AND HEROWORSHIPPING DOUCHEWACKERS.

    24. Sam240 Says:

      "McGriff is the better hitter hands down, higher OPS+, career wOBA, really any non counting stat that you want to use." — bpasinko

      McGriff played 2460 games, with a career OPS+ of 134.
      After the 1992 season, Murray played 2444 games, and had a career OPS+ of 136.

      During the first 2460 games of their careers, Murray was a better hitter than McGriff. However, Murray had a lengthy decline phase, and that decline phase is the sole reason McGriff had a higher career OPS+ than Murray.

    25. schooner Says:

      There's nothing fucking dumber than some cockwallet commenting on a HOF post when he is a douchebag yank wanker who says he doesn't care about the hall of fame. DIAF

    26. Stoner Says:

      IMHO, it has nothing to do with the 11 extra home runs that Murray hit (especially since Sosa, McGwire, Palmeiro and Sheffield will never so much as sniff the Hall of Fame) and everything to do with the 765 extra hits. 765 is 3.5 full seasons worth of hits. That is HOF stuff.

      Methinks someone had a boyhood crush on the Crime Dog. Could be worse…my boyhood crush was Bobby Bonilla.

    27. Ed Says:

      765 hits. That would be a great point if making distinctions based on a counting stat wasn't retarded.

      I'm a White Sox fan and I don't think I saw Fred McGriff play more than a handful of times back in his Toronto days.

    28. Stoner Says:

      Making decisions based on a counting stat is only retarded if baseball solely existed on the computer. Stat guys get overly hung up on secondary average and Rfield and oWar and totally forget that baseball involves real, live people. There is a reason that baseball games aren't decided in the Bill James Handbook every spring, but are decided on the field using actual players and…wait for it…counting stats (like, you know, runs).

      And speaking of counting stats…

      Runs: Murray – 1627. McGriff – 1349
      RBI: Murray – 1917. McGriff – 1550
      Doubles: Murray – 560. McGriff – 441
      Steals: Murray – 110. McGriff – 72
      Walks: Murray – 1333. McGriff – 1308
      Strikeouts: Murray – 1516. McGriff – 1882 (Crime Dog finally got one)

      Only thing that seems retarded if you actually watched them both play is saying that McGriff was better.

    29. Ed Says:

      Congratulations, you have successfully proven that Eddie Murray had 2700 more plate appearances than McGriff. What do you not understand about that? He better have more of every counting stat. He had THREE THOUSAND additional trips to the plate.

      So, to undermine your "argument", Murray had 25 more walks than McGriff with THREE THOUSAND additional chances at the plate. That, um, sucks.

      Man, if only there were some way we could evaluate their stats relative to the number of games they played. That you do not understand why you are not making a good argument here is pathetic.

    30. Ed Says:

      And you realize your first paragraph is Joe Morgan's argument about why pitchers should be measured by Wins, right? Like, verbatim.

    31. Comrade PhysioProf Says:

      And of all the cumulative stats, runs is the single absolutely worst one to use to assess the quality of a player.

      Now I am boring *myself* to death! AHAHAHAHAH!

    32. Ed Says:

      RBI is still worse than Runs. Unless we compromise and say they are equally idiotic.

    33. Stoner Says:

      Maybe Joe Morgan is right…

      …or maybe I genuinely feel like eating a grenade sandwich now. Those are the only two logical options. Either way, I'm doomed. Guess I'm off to subscribe to Baseball Prospectus.

    34. BK Says:

      Ed – I play and manage a 28+ baseball team in Milwaukee and have one championship under my belt.

      Are there intangibles and do nerdy statistics help decide who is a better player in a game where head-to-head match-ups are rare? Yes.

      But all these stats do nothing to talk about productive outs, making throws to the correct base, positioning, pitchers throwing double play balls, catchers calling great games, etc…

      Get out of the stat book and onto the diamond.

      There is a reason Murray had 3700 more plate appearances – he was a better player for a longer period of time. If McGriff could have hacked it and broken in earlier and played longer wouldn't that make him an accumulator too?

      The ONLY stat that matters is a W in the win column. Either guys help you get those or they don't. All this BS about adjusted wins and combined stats is assinine.

    35. Daniel Says:

      I have a bit of a problem with counting Gold Gloves as a parameter for deciding HOF status. Voters hardly pay attention to this stuff and generally vote the same people in year after year or give it to one of the better offensive players who is also good with the glove.

    36. Daniel Says:

      Also MVPs can be dubious for deciding HOF status. Giambi over Big Hurt in 2000? A joke. A-Rod getting one when he was on a terrible Rangers team. All-Star appearances? Definitely can't put a lot of worth into that. I don't even think rings should have that much of an effect on being in the HOF or not. Do you think Jeter would have accumulated five rings if he was drafted by the Pirates or the Royals? Stick with the stats.

    37. bpasinko Says:

      The conclusion of this piece is asking why Murray is the first ballot HOFer while McGriff doesn't get a sniff.

      Playing poorly in a couple thousand more plate appearances just isn't a good enough answer.

      Murray fans can point to his edge in counting stats, McGriff fans can point to his edge in rate stats. If you call it even, or even give an edge to Murray, that still doesn't answer why he was a first ballot.

      Actually I take that back, it's like Ed answered already, we only care about pretty meaningless statistics.

      I just find it utterly amusing when anti-stat guys use stats. You disregard advance statistics in favor of…statistics. Think of it this way, if you were investing your money, would you put it in the hands of an old guy that just has a "feel" of the market and goes with his gut, or would you put your money in the hands of maybe a younger guy who has advanced models to determine what is best for your money?

    38. SaminMpls Says:

      1) Neither belong in the hall. But that's the case with at least a third of the guys in there.
      2) Murray was definitely more valuable than McGriff.
      3) Your point about arbitrary career totals is completely correct.

      Short answer: This isn't even a close comparison. Murray's career WAR total is 66.70 while McGriff's was 55.50. No, the disparity in games played does not account for that difference.

      The Long Answer: Yes, McGriff was better at reaching base and hitting for power. That's it though. Murray had a career AB per SO of 8.45 and a SO to BB of 1.14 while McGriff was at 7.80 and 1,44. You have to remember that while first base isn't a position that is difficult for teams to fill, the value of above average fielding there is higher in the aggregate than it is for the other corner positions because they rack up so many putouts.

      Here are the all-time career leaders in Adj OPS+ among SWITCH hitters: Mickey Mantle +172; Lance Berkman +145; Chipper Jones +142; Reggie Smith +137; Mark Teixeira +134; Roy Cullenbine and Ken Singleton +132; Eddie Murray +129

      This is a similar case to your argument for Thomas over Griffey. McGriff, like Thomas, has a better OPS+ but both Murray and Griffey offer very rare skill sets that cannot be replaced. The level of production put up by players like McGriff and Thomas cannot always be replaced via free agency yet their skill sets can almost always be replaced at a lower level of production.

      What matters when it comes to salaries or assigning values to performance it is not simply production but the value of the replacement. Being a unique type of player like Ichiro or A-Rod were and Joe Mauer is right now has its own intrinsic value similar to a prospect with a +100mph fastball like Strasburg or Chapman. The next best thing is having unmatched production in an area liked innings pitched or complete games. That's a case where a pitcher like Halladay or Randy Johnson is carrying more than 125% of the workload expected from a single roster spot.

    39. Ed Says:

      Sam, I see your point, but the problem is that the defensive prowess of both Murray and Griffey is greatly overstated by sportswriters (and fans of those players in general) in order to cover up gaps in the offensive statistics.

      6.5 dWAR for Murray – spread out over 21 seasons! – is hardly worth noting. Yes, he was a good defensive player. Yes, having a career dWAR over zero is more than some HOFers can say. But does it really do much to add or detract from his career as a whole? I am skeptical.

      That McGriff was an average defender at best should count against him. That Murray was above average is an asset. But neither was at the extremes of good or bad, so to the extent that McGriff was a superior hitter I don't think Murray's advantages on the diamond necessarily close the gap.

      Ken Griffey Jr. was not a good defender. -2.3 dWAR for his career. He was good at making highlight-reel catches, but he liked being on Sportscenter so much that he played extremely deep in center. Since his range wasn't great, he let far more fall in front of him than most CFs, and the runs he saved by going over the wall are vastly outnumbered by the runs he surrendered letting base hits drop in front of him.

    40. SaminMpls Says:

      Griffey was, and only needed to be, slightly above average defensively to be a historically great player. He certainly wasn't the same fielder after 1998 or in the NL but he had a career dWAR of 6.7 when he left Seattle in 1999 and that works out to 1.1 dWAR per 162 games*. The comparison to Thomas comes down to the fact that elite power hitters are rarely able to play center. Joe Posnanski made a similar point about Carlos Beltran — his type of performance is a historical rarity. The comparative advantage Griffey gave a lineup was greater than Thomas. As someone who watched both men in person 6-8 times a year until realignment, I can only say Thomas hit the ball straighter faster than any player I've ever seen and Griffey was as good at center as Puckett in 91 and 92. Then the former matured and the latter declined. Hunter was the best but I never saw 90's Andruw Jones in person.

      Murray's above average defense, plate discipline, switch hitting, lower strike out rate and average base running ability all more than make up for McGriff's advantage in raw offensive production.


    41. Pat Martigan Says:

      This is an example in support of a really good point, but it's the wrong example. You aren't the first to wonder why some guys just dwindle from Hall voting without a serious take—probably a thousand blog posts alone on Jim Rice vis a vis Dwight Evans, Fred Lynn, or Reggie Smith, and Joe Posnanski's been wondering about it w.r.t. Dan Quisenberry. It's a really interesting point.

      However, Murray vs. McGriff is not a compelling example in support of this point, and their statistical similarities really have to be winked at in order to look persuasive.

      The biggest difference is scoring context. I know it's been noted sarcastically in comments above, but it is true that McGriff ('86-'04) did play a lot of his career during the steroid era, while Murray ('77-'97) did not, or not nearly as much of it. This doesn't mean that McGriff used and Murray didn't, but it does mean that McGriff's offensive achievements, although similar to Murray's in an absolute numerical sense, mattered quite a bit less at the time they were achieved. Taking quite at random the two players' age-29 season, AL teams in 1985 scored an average of 737 runs, NL teams 658, while in 1993 AL teams scored 762, NL teams 728. In 1999, when Murray was retired and McGriff added another 164 hits and 104 RBIs to his career totals, the two leagues scored even more, AL 838 and NL 810. In 1985, the leagues hit .261/.252; in 1993, they hit .264/.267; in 1999, .275/.268. Maybe this was all the quality of expansion-era pitching, maybe it was the new ballparks, maybe steroids, but definitely it means that Murray's offense looks better against his comparatively run- and hit-stingy backdrop.

      New stats like WAR, VORP, and WARP exist partly to neutralize these differences. Baseball Prospectus has Murray at 72.7 career wins-above-replacement-player and McGriff at 59; that's not insignificant. If you don't trust those outputs and/or you'd like to see the sausage getting made, it's possible just by comparing each player against the rest of the league. Check out Murray's b-ref page as well as McGriff's, and you can see more detail on their contrasted careers. McGriff led the league in nine "black ink" categories and Murray led in eleven; both are well below the average HOFer. However, Murray rates "gray ink" in 181 categories, well above the "average HOFer" score of 144, while McGriff rates well below, with 105.

      You note the 500-HR plateau. Okay, but you should also note that it doesn't seem like it's an automatic entry anymore. Palmiero, Sosa, Thome, McGwire, Manny Ramirez, Sheffield—they all have 500 home runs, and I don't think anyone believes they're all going to get in. Again, you don't have to blame steroids for the home runs; it's sufficient to note that the 500-HR seems a heckuva lot less special now that there are 25 members than it did when Mickey Mantle became the sixth guy to do it. 3,000 hits, on the other hand, remains a gold standard for offensive contribution, and on that measure, McGriff and Murray aren't even close. Murray's 12th on the list of all-time hits leaders, ahead of Ripkin, Lajoie, Brett & Boggs….

      Maybe career hits shouldn't have the cachet it does—I would caution against taking that argument too far—but it seems silly to dismiss Murray being 12th all-time in the most respected category, when McGriff isn't 12th all-time in anything, in an effort to paint them as statistical twins. They're simply not.

      (Oh, and totally ditto c u n d gulag on Bill James's The Politics of Glory. Everyone needs to read that book if they enjoy baseball, or even just enjoy good writing.)