Sunday, January 2, 2011

My (Theoretical) Hall of Fame Ballot

Let me start out by saying that this isn’t how I planned on tackling the 2011 Hall of Fame election.  Originally, I’d planned on doing individual posts, both pro and con, on six or seven of the candidates.  After failing to complete three of the articles I had started, I decided to scrap that idea completely.  Instead, I’ve decided to touch upon each of my picks in one article.  Without further adieu, here is my 2011 Hall of Fame ballot.

Roberto Alomar - It’s baffling that Alomar didn’t make it into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.  While it was certainly wrong for Alomar to spit in umpire John Hirschbeck’s face, it’s unfortunate that certain members of the BBWAA felt the need to use their ballot as a means to pass moral judgment on a player who is more than deserving of enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.  Simply put, he was one of the best second baseman in baseball history.  He hit for average, got on base, showed decent power (especially later in his career), had blinding speed, above average range, and had a cannon for an arm.  His 68.2 fWAR is good for ninth best amongst second baseman during the modern era. 

Jeff Bagwell – Based on Fangraph’s WAR, Jeff Bagwell is the third best first baseman of all time behind only Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx.  (Note:  I removed Stan Musial and Pete Rose from that list because their primary positions were in the outfield.)  In fifteen seasons, he put up a triple slash line of .297/.408/.540, a .406 wOBA, and 449 home runs.  He wasn’t just great on with the stick, he was an excellent baserunner, and played Fielding Bible Award quality defense at first base.  Bagwell, unlike some of his contemporaries, has never been linked to steroids.  Still, that hasn’t stopped certain voters from leaving him off of their ballot due to irrational suspicions.  If there’s one (and only one) first baseman that deserves to be elected to the Hall of Fame this year, it’s Bagwell.  Take a look at this WAR graph from Fangraphs:

This graph plots Bagwell's WAR accumulation against Hall of Famers Harmon Killebrew and Willie McCovey, and sure-Hall of Famer Frank Thomas.  Note how Bagwell finished his career with a higher WAR than the three above named players despite having a much shorter career.  Still don't think he's a first ballot guy?

Bert Blyleven - I’ll be honest.  I can’t really do Blyleven justice.  Well, at least not like Rich Lederer of Baseball Analysts does.  Don’t think Blyleven is a worthy Hall of Famer?  Let’s take a look at the facts:
  • He’s 13th all time, sandwiched between Randy Johnson and Christy Matthewson, in WAR for pitchers with 90.1 wins above the replacement level.  Out of the 17 pitchers behind him (14-30), 12 are already in the Hall of Fame.  Four are either locks or strong candidates (Pedro Martinez, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, and Tom Glavine).  Only number 30, Rick Rueschel is not in the Hall of Fame.  Also, he finished in the top 10 in pitching WAR, 13 times during his career.  He led the league twice in 1973 and 1981.
  • He’s fifth all time in strikeouts with 3701, just ahead of pitchers named Tom Seaver, Don Sutton, Gaylord Perry, Walter Johnson, and Greg Maddux.
  • He’s ninth all time shutouts with 60.  Out of the top 25 all-time in shutouts only Luis Tiant is not in the Hall of Fame. 
  • A pitchers number one job is to limit his opponents runs.  He did it better that just about everyone.  He’s 12th all time in runs saved with 374. 
  • His 287-250 record was largely influenced by playing on teams with mediocre offenses.  Blyleven has won AND lost the most 1-0 games since the end of the dead ball era.  His record would be much more appealing if his run support had been league average.  
 Blyleven's time is now.  It's time to drop the charade, and elect him into the Hall of Fame. 

Edgar Martinez –He’s typically hurt for two reasons:  (1) he was a late bloomer who didn’t become a regular in the major leagues until his age-27 season, and (2) he spent the majority of his career as a designated hitter.  Both of these “demerits” are unfair.  Unlike most players in his situation, he was able to overcome his disadvantages due to his immense hitting abilities. 

It’s a fact that Martinez was one of the greatest pure hitters of our generation.  For his career he finished with a .312/.418/.515 triple slash line, a .405 wOBA, and 71.6 fWAR.  Think about that for a second.  He finished with a 71.6 fWAR despite being at a HUGE positional disadvantage (-17.5 runs per 162 games).  In 12 seasons between 1990 and 2001, Martinez topped 4.7 fWAR in ten of them.  The only two seasons he did not top that total was in 1993 and 1994 when he suffered from injuries. 

Mark McGwire – As I’ve mentioned a few times over the last week, I’m not exactly a proponent of the “Character Clause”.  I don’t feel it’s the voters right to place a judgment of morality on another player—especially when the voter is not without flaws himself.  While McGwire has admitted to using steroids, one major question remains.  How much did steroids help his ability to not only hit home runs, but also perform at a high level late into his career?  Those are questions that I can’t answer.  Since I don’t have proof either way, I can only use the information I have at hand, and adjust those numbers for era, league, and park effects.

McGwire is one of the most prolific power hitters of all time having hit 583 (tenth all time) in his career.  In two seasons. he topped 60 home runs; in four, he topped 50; in six, he topped 40.  His .588 slugging percentage is good for eighth all time, and his .394 on-base percentage is good for 79th all-time.  While McGwire did not accumulate many hits (only 1626 for his career), he was still able to reach base more than 3000 times (in 7660 plate appearances) due to his ability to draw walks (1317 unintentional plus an additional 150 intentional walks).  With 70.6 fWAR, McGwire is one of the best first basemen of all-time ranking 13th among those who played the bulk of their career at the position.  Based on the numbers, he’s a no brainer selection.

Tim Raines - If Rickey Henderson had never played the game of baseball, Tim Raines would've been a first ballot Hall of Famer.  Raines had a few of things going for him.  One, he had blinding speed.  Two, he was an incredibly accurate base stealer, racking up 808 SBs (fifth all-time) in only 954 chances.   His 85% stolen base percentage is the best out all player with at least 200 attempts.  Three, he had tremendous on-base abilities (.385 career OBP).  This ability allowed Raines to reach base more often than Tony Gwynn.  This fact is often overlooked due to the number of hits and batting titles Gwynn racked up over the years.  Lastly, between 1983 and 1987, Raines was the best player in baseball having racked up a .318/.406/.467 triple slash line with 355 stolen bases and 33.5 fWAR.  Raines was a spectacular player (likely the second best leadoff hitter of all time) that deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

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