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The King of Nothing

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A couple commenters here (and I’ve heard this elsewhere) compared Mark McGwire to Dave Kingman. This really couldn’t be more absurd. Let’s start with their lifetime OBPs:

Kingman: .302
McGwire: .394

So, except for the fact that McGwire is vastly better at the most important hitter’s skill, they were very similar. Or compare the OPS+s from their first seasons up to age 30:

Kingman: 113, 109, 102, 117, 128, 96, 131, 146
McGwire: 164, 134, 129, 143, 103, 176, 138

And even this understates McGwire’s superiority, because OPS substantially overvalues power and undervalues OBP. With a better metric, the gap would be even larger than this. Comparing the two is like comparing George Bell with Ted Williams.

In addition, McGwire was a decent first baseman when he was younger, while Kingman was a complete butcher. True, McGwire was a slow slugger, and lost his defensive value early. But even if he was largely “one-dimensional,” so what? Derek Bell is more “multi-dimensional” than Frank Thomas. Who cares? The point is to win, and the enormous amount of runs McGwire created (in addition to adequate defense when he was younger) was extremely valuable.

Reasonable people can disagree about how much PEDs should affect Cooperstown. I, personally, would but virtually no weight on it, but I understand people differ. But unless all alleged steroid users are removed from consideration McGwire is not merely a Hall of Famer but an overqualified Hall of Famer.

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