Beating a Dead Horse
What hasn’t been written about the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot? You’ve got the law and order folks keeping out Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, the traditionalists putting in Jack Morris and Dale Murphy, and those of questionable sanity voting for Sandy Alomar, Jr. And let’s not forget the blank ballots. On second thought, let’s try to. That being said, everyone has a voice, regardless of whether or not they are a part of the BBWAA.
That’s where I come in. Player-by-player analysis and commentary after the jump.
According to the exit polls, updated relentlessly by the good people over at Baseball Think Factory, no one is slated to make it into the Hall aside from the Veterans Committee selections.
This is a crime. We have one of the most stacked ballots in baseball history, and not one player is “worthy” of selection? Give me a break. Time to take things into my own hands.
We’ll go alphabetically here, much like the physical ballot. My projected percentages are in parentheses.
Sandy Alomar, Jr. (1%) — One very good season a career does not make. Will eventually be a manager.
Jeff Bagwell (59%) — Career Astro that shares a birthday (same day, same year) with another should-be future HOFer, Frank Thomas. Top-ten first baseman of all-time, possibly top-five. Kept out thus far due to steroid speculation, but just that: speculation. No proof of PED usage and 14 straight years of 3.4+ WAR production.
Craig Biggio (69%) — Receives the compiler label from some, probably unfairly. That being said, he has probably the greatest chance of getting in, drawing support from the saber folk due to lofty WAR totals and the traditionalist due to the 3000 hits threshold.
Barry Bonds (40%)– The greatest player of my lifetime, possibly anyone’s lifetime. Numbers that are off the chart in every possible category. However, there’s that nasty little PED issue…
Jeff Cirillo (0%) — Solid player with nice career, and a prime example of the Coors effect (2000-01: .854 OPS, 99 OPS+).
Roger Clemens (39%) — The Bonds of pitching. The guy won 7 Cy Youngs and was tainted by PEDs, among a litany of other character issues.
Jeff Conine (0%) — Two World Series rings and the face of a franchise. That being said, that franchise is known for frequent roster overhaul.
Steve Finley (0%) — One of the few players to total 300 HRs and 300 SBs. And that’s where the discussion ends, really. Fine player, no ticket to Cooperstown.
Julio Franco (1%) — Fountain of Youth visitor and prime example of compiling. Great 3-year peak (1989-91), average otherwise (0.5 WAA rest of career, as a matter of fact).
Shawn Green (0%) — A good amount of pop, leading to three 6-WAR seasons. Poor defense and lack of extended peak, though. Completely forgot about his speed (had a 35-35 year in 1998).
Ryan Klesko (0%) — Gloveless 1B/LF with respectable numbers around the millennium. Plenty of postseason play, with one shining year (1995).
Kenny Lofton (3%) — A tale of two careers: A Tribe loyalist and centerpiece followed by one of a nomadic nature. It is for the latter that he is slighted, despite being very effective (13.7 WAR in 2,825 PA in 2002-07 for eight teams).
Edgar Martinez (32%) — Very good counting stats, other-worldly rate stats. Part of the .300/.400/.500 club. Would likely have been elected in his first few years if he played a position regularly.
Don Mattingly (12%) — Peak (1984-89) accounts for over 80 percent of his career value. Good, yet overrated glove. Candidacy can certainly be re-evaluated after his managerial days are over.
Fred McGriff (22%) — Great bat, unfortunately overshadowed by the video game-esque numbers of the PED era. Think about this: Seven more homers, and he would likely have double or triple the BBWAA support.
Mark McGwire (13%) — Polarizing figure who was rewarding with lower vote totals after coming clean. A key figure in bringing baseball out of the strike slump. 7+ qualifying seasons with over 163 OPS+.
Dale Murphy (25%) — If the character clause trumped everything else, he’d be a first-ballot HOFer. Tore up the eighties (44.2 WAR), got torn up otherwise (-1.6 WAR 1976-79, 1990-93).
Rafael Palmeiro (11%) — Hall of Fame caliber finger-wagger and part of the elite 500 HR/3000 H club. Unlike Bonds and Clemens, actually failed a drug test near the tail-end of his career. Blamed it on a tainted Vitamin-BS, errr I mean, B-12 shot.
Mike Piazza (55%) — Best-hitting catcher in baseball history, his candidacy is currently serving to bring the term “backne” back to the lexicon. 155 OPS+ for a decade (1993-2002) as a catcher(!).
Reggie Sanders (0%) — Another member of the 300 HR/300 SB club. Played far better defense than many thought (10+ Rfield in four separate seasons).
Curt Schilling (37%) — Through Age 33 was a very good, but not great pitcher. Proceeded to notch 30.1 WAR over the next four seasons and build a reputation as one of the greatest postseason pitchers in history. Prickly personality.
Aaron Sele (0%) — Notable for finishing 5th in Cy Young voting with a 4.79 ERA in 1999. Average career pitcher.
Lee Smith (42%) — All-time leader in saves upon retiring. Respectable for sure, but if you’re a frequent HHS reader, you know how much we value the save. Very good pitcher for a career and never posted an ERA+ under 103 in a season with 30+ innings pitched.
Sammy Sosa (13%) — Surprising to think that his best season was not given much recognition, but I suppose there’s a good reason for that (see Barry Bonds). Forgot how to speak English before Congress and was a likely PED user. Which offense is greater escapes me.
Mike Stanton (0%) — Don’t call him Giancarlo! Tremendous World Series reliever, and a decent career, but not much beyond that.
Alan Trammell (33%) — Overshadowed by Cal Ripken, but had numbers not far at all from Barry Larkin, who was elected in his second year. Was part of one of the greatest double-play combinations of all-time alongside the unsung hero Lou Whitaker.
Larry Walker (14%) — Detractors will cite the Coors effect, apparently unaware that OPS+ corrects for park effects. He had the power of Bichette and Castilla, but unlike them, paired it with plus-speed and fielding. Good eye at the plate too.
Todd Walker (0%) — Nice to see him on the ballot. Good guy. Hit for decent average and did a whole lot of nothing else.
David Wells (3%) — Fine career, highlighted by a perfect game and very good postseason play. The lack of a real peak (Wells never had a season above 4.5 WAR) and above 4 ERA will hurt him.
Rondell White (0%) — Nice guy and proof that juicing doesn’t immediately lead to astronomical numbers. Only played 100 games in a season six times.
Bernie Williams (5%) — Centerfielder for a Yankees dynasty with good hitting numbers (including an .850 OPS in 545 playoff PA). But they were just that: good. Also a major liability in the field.
Woody Williams (0%) — A career of mediocrity with one 4-WAR season, picking up an All-Star nod (2003), and that figure was largely due in part to 1.1 offensive WAR.
My ballot (if held to the BBWAA standard of 10):
You may notice there are a few omissions, most notably Roger Clemens. I’ll be the first to admit that personal feelings clouded my judgment here (he was a schmuck to 13-year old Dalton), but it’s my pretend-vote and I’ll do with it what I please!
Also, as far as PEDs are concerned, I look at it like this: There is always something in the game that enables players to succeed that isn’t exactly legal, per se. The fifties through the seventies had amphetamines, the nineties had steroids. Babe Ruth? Well, he had performance-enhancing segregation. No chance he or his contemporaries would have put up the numbers they did if blacks were allowed to play. I refuse to believe it.
Moreover, the Hall of Fame is a museum to showcase the players with the greatest on-field contributions. Steroids were a part of the game, and such a museum would be woefully incomplete without having representatives from the era.
Now, according to a metric I’m in the process of creating*, there are 13 players worthy of enshrinement, with Clemens, McGwire and Palmeiro not making my 10-man ballot. Adam Darowski’s fantastic site, Hall of Stats, puts in a 14th, Sammy Sosa. Naturally, once my system is fine-tuned and I have a more clear explanation of it, I’ll post it here for all you lovely folks to scrutinize.
Right off the bat, I was able to knock thirteen players off the 2013 ballot according to the following criteria: <35 WAR for a hitter/starter and <20 WAR for a reliever.
You know who I’m supporting, so I’ll let my above blurbs serve as their defense. As for the players who fall between HOF-level and the 35/20 cutoff, the rationale is as follows:
- Murphy and Mattingly had tremendous peaks in the 80s, but were not able to accumulate enough career value to put them in.
- Sosa has a fine career WAR, but despite a gaudy peak, failed to post a high enough WAR/162 to justify inclusion.
- Wells had an almost identical HOF worthiness level, again according to my metric, as Luis Gonzalez, a good career player who was most certainly a compiler.
- Fred McGriff. Sigh. I adore McGriff and would vote for him on any other ballot. I feel he got shafted by playing clean in a dirty era. That being said, in the context he played in, along with poor fielding, he misses the cut.
- Bernie Williams was good for a while. Never great. JAWS says no, Hall of Stats says no, I say no.
- Steve Finley was good, but rarely stood out. Two AS games and a WAR a tad over 40 is a fine resume. For the Hall of Very Good.
- Julio Franco has, I believe received one vote thus far. Good for him, and his career average and hit totals can rival others in the Hall. However, the other parts of his game don’t pass muster.
- Reggie Sanders made one All-Star team and deserved it; he posted 6.4 WAR in the slightly-shortened 1995 season. Apart from that, he was merely good.
- Lee Smith was a quality relief pitcher. But it takes more than saves (a stat that does not differentiate between a 1/3 IP, 2 R performance and a 2 IP, 0 R one) to put someone in the Hall of Fame. They need to either have accumulated value as a starter at some other point in their career, or be incredibly dominant out of the pen, like Mariano Rivera.
- And finally… the curious case of Jack Morris. I’ll avoid a lengthy anti-Morris diatribe by saying this: Morris and Tom Candiotti provided identical pitching value (39.3 WAR) in their careers. Also, I understand the postseason heroics. Fun fact, the game that is single-handedly keeping his HOF candidacy alive is the last MLB game played prior to my birth. But please, let’s not Mazeroski him.
Not electing players from this ballot has quite a few repercussions. The group of players eligible in 2014 boasts 4 bonafide HOFers, along with Jeff Kent, who stands a decent chance. This will cause an unprecedented logjam, with almost 20 players of HOF quality on the ballot. Greg Maddux will make it, but aside from him, there are no other locks. And excellent and underrated players like Kenny Lofton will have no place on many ballots, that is, if he even makes it to next year’s ballot!
Many bloggers have called for shaking up the BBWAA voting system due to the possibility of a 2013 HOF induction attended solely by Deacon White‘s descendants and Adam Darowski. I would agree, but at the same time, many of these issues wouldn’t be present if the writers simply voted
the way we wanted them to according to statistical merit. If they did that, there would never be a logjam, since every new crop of eligible players doesn’t contain 10 HOFers.
However, there are some rule changes I would like to implement, regardless of the given ballot:
- Throw out the 15-year rule, and bring it down to 8 or 10.
- A player becomes ineligible if they receive <1% in their first year or less than 5% their second or subsequent year.
- I’m actually okay with the 10-player max ballot. It will eventually not be an issue after the next few cycles.
- Doing away with the notion of not voting a player in on the first ballot to “send a message” or “make a statement,” only to vote him in on a later ballot. I don’t care that no player has gone in unanimously; if you don’t vote for Maddux next year, you don’t deserve voting privileges. Period.
- (This rule new as of 1/11): All ballots should be public. This lets us hold writers accountable. Lewie Pollis, a Cleveland Indians and Beyond the Box Score blogger knocked this one out of the park.
Got all that? There was a lot to cover, and seeing as the results are announced today at 2pm EST, this is too late to influence any voter (of course, the only ones who would consider reading us here are the ones who would likely vote along our lines anyway) but still should provide some fodder for the argumentative fan. Hopefully the writers make the choices in the best interest of baseball fans. I wouldn’t bet on it though.
Also, on a more self-serving note, I’m launching my own site
due to Andy’s frequent abuse called The Thinking Fan, which will cover a variety of sports from primarily statistical perspectives. Don’t fret HHS brethren, I’ll still be posting here with relative infrequence! All baseball posts will simply now be on both sites.
* If anyone has any ideas for a name for this, please let me know!
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