Hall of Fame Hitters’ Statistics Over Time

MLB, Bubble Plots, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Hall of Fame


(Note: we know the names are small in this format, click the image to go to the full resolution version and be able to zoom!)

This is Part 2 of a series on MLB Hall of Fame players and their career statistics, showcasing change over time. For Part 1 on pitchers see stattrackblog.com/hall-fame-pitchers-statistics-time/.

The graphic above showcases Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame Hitters, as voted in by the Baseball Writers Association of America. The chart at left displays career batting average over time with a negative trend line to demonstrate the gradual decrease in batting average of hall of fame inductees. Ty Cobb leads the way for all players with a career batting average .366, being inducted into Cooperstown in 1936. The lowest career batting average of all HOF’ers is Harmon Killebrew, whose .256 mark is akin to the career average of Josh Willingham. Granted, Killebrew did hit 573 home runs in his career, which puts him at 11th on the all-time leaderboard. Though the r2 of the best fit linear regression is only 0.3809, there is a negative correlation between time and batting average among HOF’ers. The bubble size of players’ points is scaled by percentage of votes received in year of induction.

The second graph, at top right, displays the career stolen bases of HOF’ers over time. Very different from the batting average chart, the stolen bases show no clear linear trend over time. There are two notable spikes in the number of career stolen bases with the first around 1940 and the second around 1990, with Rickey Henderson almost off the chart at his induction in 2009. This could just be a matter of small sample size with the vast majority of HOF players under the 500 career stolen bases mark. For this reason, we only included names on the top 10 bubbles. The rest are so tightly grouped it would be illegible. Once again, on this chart, bubble size correlates to percentage of votes received in induction year.

The final chart displays career slugging percentage of HOF hitters over time (slugging percentage=total bases/total at bats). There is a slight negative trend over time but it is mostly exacerbated by the five highest HOF’ers in career slugging all being inducted before 1970. When put in this chart it really is stunning how Babe Ruth‘s slugging compares to other legendary greats. Peaking just under .700, Ruth’s slugging is more than double the slugging percentage of the lowest Hall of Fame inductee, Ozzie Smith. Taken literally, this means: for every at bat, the great Bambino earned twice as many bases as Ozzie. For every Ozzie single, Babe hit a double, for every double, a home run. Granted, “The Wizard” is known for his base-running and defense, not his slugging. Still, it’s an impressive comparison. Again, names were only featured here for a few because of the tight grouping.


  • Batting average of Hall of Fame inductees has decreased overtime, while slugging has remained relatively constant and stolen bases has had two main peaks.
  • That by no means is an indication that BBWAA voters have different characteristics in mind in HOF voting. Rather, the correlations could just be a sign of a changing game.

All statistics courtesy espn.com

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