Last year’s Hall of Fame ballot was arguably the most stacked in our respective lifetimes. Legitimate cases could be made for over a dozen of last year’s candidates, and many of said cases were lucidly spelled out on blogs, television or other media. How did the BBWAA respond? By not voting a single player in.
This year, we’ve lost only Dale Murphy and Bernie Williams from the ballot, but have gained the likes of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Jeff Kent and Mike Mussina. Sean Casey too I suppose, but most voters don’t give a ton of credit for jovial jocularity, regardless how far it is above replacement.
Simply put, we’ve got an even stronger ballot this year, and there’s not a chance that the BBWAA completely blows it again. Much like last year, I’m going to be predicting percentages, analyzing players and hammering out my own ballot. This, and probably a bad joke or two, after the jump.
Once again, Baseball Think Factory is doing a fantastic job keeping tabs on the public ballots, so we’re beginning to get an idea of which players will be elected. As of now, it looks like Maddux, Glavine, Thomas and Biggio could make it, although the latter is not quite set in stone.
The votes and the rationale behind them grow quite puzzling, from Dan Shaughnessy’s claim that Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell “just don’t look right,” to Pat Caputo who finds it “ridiculous that Morris’ feats in the postseason aren’t more acknowledged.” Really, Pat? Without Game 7 in ’91, Morris wouldn’t have sniffed 50 percent. Having said that, Caputo also lamented Lou Whitaker‘s early ballot exit and voted for Alan Trammell this year. So he’s not entirely in the doghouse.
Like last year, I immediately eliminate position players and starting with sub-35 WAR, along with relievers with sub-20 WAR from my ballot. Hard to make an argument for a player fitting that bill, especially in a year like this. In addition, I’m not going to bother writing those players up, as a Mike Timlin breakdown would be for a decidedly niche audience.
Here are the legitimate candidates in alphabetical fashion along with Dalton’s own predicted percentages:
Moises Alou (0%): Had 3+ WAR seasons for five separate NL franchises. Respectable slash line, classic (332/1287/.303) or otherwise (.303/.387/.516). Lacked longevity and fielding ability to give him even 5%.
Jeff Bagwell (59%): His birthday mate will sail in on his first attempt, but Bags will still be on the outside looking in. A crime, as Bagwell is 6th all-time among first basemen by the JAWS measure. Would have made it on first or second ballot without PED speculation.
Craig Biggio (75%): Another of the Killer B’s, Biggio figures to just sneak into the Hall of Fame on this ballot. A 3060 hit man, 668 of which were doubles (most ever for a right-handed hitter). Somehow linked with PEDs, however a better, yet still erroneous criticism would be saying that Biggio was a compiler.
Barry Bonds (37%): Maybe the greatest to ever play the game. No reason, nor space to recite his credits. PEDs will haunt his legacy forever, and will keep him out of Cooperstown for years to come.
Roger Clemens (37%): The Bonds of pitching, on a slightly smaller scale. Hall of Fame résumé, not even considered by many voters.
Luis Gonzalez (1%): Along with Kenny Rogers, has a chance to be the rare 50+ WAR player to not receive a single vote. Insane 2001 campaign, slamming 57 homers. Naturally overshadowed by a man with an additional 16.
Jeff Kent (17%): Undoubtedly one of the greatest hitters at his position. Actually an average career fielder, save for his final three seasons. Would have a much higher percentage with a weaker ballot.
Greg Maddux (98%): Universally recognized as a pitching legend. His seven-year stretch from 1992 to 1998 featured 4 consecutive Cy Young awards, a 190 ERA+, a 127-53 record and 54.6 rWAR. Not a hint of PEDs. Will somehow not get 100%, despite no legitimate argument against him, presumably because the BBWAA is pure evil.
Edgar Martinez (23%): Rate stats that have Cooperstown written all over them. A position that has yet to truly have Cooperstown written all over it (Paul Molitor maybe). His projected 10-point drop this year is and will always be preposterous.
Don Mattingly (10%): Hall of Famer from 1984-87. Less than one Win Above Average (WAA) the rest of his career. Fine player, can maybe follow in Torre’s footsteps and be elected as a manager one day.
Fred McGriff (16%): Any column that discusses him at length will inevitably bring up the fact that his home run total is identical to Lou Gehrig‘s, and as such, the highest among non-500 HR club members. Largely irrelevant, but a very good hitter that led the league in HRs as many times as Sammy Sosa. Will not be elected.
Mark McGwire (10%): Not here to talk about the past, not seeing above 20% in the BBWAA future. Incredible slugger that averaged 70 Batting Runs per 650 PA from 1995-2000.
Jack Morris (67%): Will lift directly from last year’s piece: “The most divisive figure in the advanced metrics vs. traditional numbers debate. More wins than Bob Gibson, lower ERA+ than Ted Lilly.” Definitely had intestinal fortitude, grit also likely. Thank goodness this is his last year on the ballot.
Mike Mussina (28%): Consistently good to great pitcher. In spite of nickname, hardly resembles a moose. No sane argument could ever put Morris ahead of him. Should be a Hall of Famer now, will probably be down the road. 270 wins, you know…
Rafael Palmeiro (6%): Absurdly good résumé from traditional and sabermetric perspective (569 HR/3020 H, 71.8 WAR). Once won a Gold Glove despite playing 128 games at DH. Finger wags at Congress followed by a positive test–it’s just a bad look, Raffy.
Mike Piazza (69%): A joke that he’s not already in, will join Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and possibly John Smoltz in next year’s class. Best-hitting catcher ever, combining average and power. One of four catchers with four or greater 6+ WAR seasons (Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Ivan Rodriguez).
Kenny Rogers (0%): A surprise at over 50 WAR, alongside a 20-flat WAA. Would maybe grab a few votes on a thinner ballot, but the 4.27 career ERA is too dirty for voters (better ERA+ than Morris for what it’s worth).
Curt Schilling (38%): Similar in career value to Mussina and Glavine, yet the three are judged wholly differently. Great postseason performer, 1 Bloody Sock Above Replacement and a dozen seasons with 4+ WAR. Not Mr. Nice Guy.
Lee Smith (30%): Mid-level ballot performer will likely experience the most precipitous drop-off of any candidate. It’s about damn time–Smith, despite retiring as all-time Saves leader, was a very good reliever but notches somewhere between John Hiller and Kent Tekulve by more objective figures.
Sammy Sosa (7%): Tale of two careers–First nine seasons (18 Batting Runs, 107 Fielding Runs), second nine seasons (312 Batting Runs, -22 Fielding Runs). Likely juicer and frightening skin whitener. The latter may be more reprehensible. 609 HRs is nice; his Pinterest account is even better.
Frank Thomas (88%): Possibly the best pure hitter of the 1990s. Great plate discipline, 521 longballs and was the only player to help out with the infamous Mitchell Report. A .321/.440/.579 slash through age 32. The Big Hurt simply hit.
Alan Trammell (21%): The should-be 1987 MVP, alongside double play mate Lou Whitaker, deserves a spot in Cooperstown. For some reason, their starting pitchers commands far more BBWAA support than both combined. Both were good at nearly everything, not eye-popping at any particular one.
Larry Walker (14%): Another .300/.400/.500 man like Martinez and Thomas. The knock on him is that he benefited far too greatly from the Coors effect. My colleague Adam Darowski shot that down in style here. Also good on his feet and with the glove.
My ballot (if held to the 10-man maximum BBWAA standard)
This ballot was even harder than last year’s, and we see a few players drop off from a year ago. Much like Adam’s Hall of Stats, I too use a mathematical formula to determine who’s Hall-worthy and who’s not. Mine’s not as aesthetically pleasing, but it produces similar results–the Hall of Stats deems 18 players worthy from this ballot, my system has 17 (Jeff Kent is the only one I haven’t got, but he’s among the 10 just below the borderline).
From the public ballots available thus far, I have an identical ballot to one man: Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. Interestingly enough, we had nine of ten spots in common last year. He’s a local columnist for me…maybe I should read him more often.
Feel free to make arguments for some of the players I snubbed. Shouldn’t be too hard for Martinez, Raines, Palmeiro, McGwire, Biggio, Sosa and Trammell–I think they belong anyway. This 10-man business has got to go. Although, if the BBWAA voted in a more sensible fashion, the 10-man limit would not be much of a concern. As for Kent, it shouldn’t be too hard of a sell for me. Hell, if I’m in a good mood, I’ll even listen to pitches for Luis Gonzalez and Kenny Rogers, but that’s about it.
Luckily, this election will see a few players make the 75 percent cut-off, somewhere between three and five likely. That being said, more great players are coming through the pipes and had better get elected, otherwise some great talents will go the way of Kenny Lofton–out of consideration well before their time, squeezed out by an obscenely stacked ballot. We can only hope the BBWAA gets its act together. Or at minimum, they can rescind voting rights from Juan Vene.