Looking at the Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot (Part Four): The Returning Players

12/20/12 in MLB   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Blog Photo - Looking at the Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot (Part Four): The Returning PlayersWe’ve finally hit the final part of our look at the 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. You can read Part One, which talks about the PED question, Part Two, and Part Three, which looks at the first year players on the ballot at the links provided. We conclude by looking at the 13 returning players. So far, I’ve given a yes vote to 5 players. Given the rules of voting, I can only vote for 5 more. I will also give more thoughts on their chances of being elected, since we have voting data for these players.

Jeff Bagwell: YES

Jeff Bagwell had big muscles and hit home runs in the 90s, so he must be a steroid user. This may well be the #1 reason Bagwell isn’t in yet, and given that there is no actual evidence, this is asinine unless you’re just voting against everyone that played from 1989-2007. Part One showed why I’m considering everyone, so obviously I’m not holding speculation against him. Like his longtime teammate Craig Biggio, Bagwell spent the prime of his career in the cavernous Astrodome. Despite that, Bagwell was one of the top hitters in the game throughout the 90s. He won the 1994 MVP by hitting a ridiculous .368/.451/.750 and leading the league in runs, RBIs, OPS, and total bases. That was the first of five seasons with an OPS over 1.000, all but one of those coming in the Astrodome, with two other seasons that just missed that mark. His career batting line is .297/.408/.540. His counting stats are a little low (2314 hits, 449 homers), an effect of injures forcing his retirement at 37. However, the sheer weight of his peak is enough for me to be sold on his candidacy.

Bagwell received 56.0% of the vote last year, his 2nd. It’s unlikely to happen, but it would be fitting if both Killer B’s can go into the Hall together this year.

Edgar Martinez: YES

What would this debate look like if the Mariners had given Martinez a full time job before he was 27? Then he would likely have counting stats that would make him less borderline (he ended up with 2247 hits and 309 homers). The other big knock on Martinez’s candidacy was that he was primarily a DH, but his advanced defensive numbers at third base were actually quite good, and the reason for his move was concerns about injuries. The overall point is that Edgar could rake; hitting .312/.418/.515 for the 2055 games he did play. He won the batting title twice and led in the league in OBP three times, part of 11 big league seasons where he had an OBP over .400. The last of those years was 2003, when he was 40 years old and playing home games at Safeco Field. He’s the best DH ever, and while the bar for DH should be high due to having no defensive value, I believe Martinez clears that bar, and in fact is the only DH to this point who has. (Note: Before you ask, I haven’t looked at David Ortiz, and won’t until he retires.)

Having received 36.5% of the vote last year, his third year on the ballot, Edgar has a long way to go.

Don Mattingly: NO

As I write this, Mattingly has 57% of the vote in our poll. In contrast, he received 17.8% of the vote in reality last year, his 12th year. Every year we conduct that poll, Mattingly is almost always the guy where our results are least in line with the actual vote. I side with the BBWAA on this one. At one point, specifically between 1984-1987, Mattingly most certainly was one of the best players in baseball. During that period, he won the 1985 MVP, and was even better in 1986, leading the league in hits, slugging, OPS, and total bases. He also won the 1984 batting title. He then had two more years where he was good, but clearly a step back from the elite level. After that, when he was only 29, it started to fall apart. He only had two years with an OPS over .800 in those final years, as his back problems became more and more of an issue and sapped his power. First basemen have high offensive standards to become Hall worthy. Mattingly just didn’t hit those standards long enough.

See the next page for more, including the player most likely to actually get elected.

Fred McGriff: NO (but close)

The facts for the Crime Dog are as follows:
  • From 1988-2000, he hit between 27 and 37 home runs every year but two
  • His average those years was always between .273 and .318. His OBP was always between .353 and .405.
  • Because of his almost metronomic consistency, he has few stand out seasons, although there are five seasons with an OPS+ over 150.
  • The standards for both first basemen and players in his era are high, high enough that 2490 hits, 493 homers, and a 134 career OPS+ feel borderline.
  • No one has made a serious accusation that McGriff used PEDs, but of course we have no way of knowing for sure.
I struggle with McGriff more than any other player on this ballot. He’s always been a no for me, and every time I wonder if I’m wrong. I could still be wrong, but the crowded ballot means I don’t have room for him at this time.

Mark McGwire: YES

Mark McGwire hit 49 home run his rookie season in 1987. Steroids or not, the guy could always hit home runs. The other thing he could always do is get on base, at a clip of .394 for his career. He led the league in OBP twice (the last full year in Oakland and the 70 homer year). Intentional walks helped, but only 150 of his 1317 career walks were intentional. The rest of his career is pretty well known: the 583 homers and a 163 career OPS+ (13th all-time), but also the disastrous Congressional testimony and his later admission of using steroids.

The bad is why McGwire can’t even get 20% of the vote, and will almost certainly end up around there again, if not lower. You know my position on PEDs, and in the end, the Hall is a museum, and you can’t tell the history of baseball without Mark McGwire, both for good or for ill.

Blog Photo - Looking at the Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot (Part Four): The Returning Players
Jack Morris: NO

Let’s be honest here, Morris is not about to get elected because of his stats. He will (probably) get in because of 1.) Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, 2.) the perception that he always took the ball, in contrast with today’s alleged babied pitchers, and 3.) a spite vote against steroids and stat guys. The only stat in his favor is the “most wins in the 1980s” thing, which has a twofold problem of pitcher wins being a team dependent junk stat and arbitrary endpoints. The biggest problem with Morris’s candidacy is his 3.90 career ERA, which would be the highest ERA of any starting pitcher in the Hall. Any of them. It comes out to a 105 ERA+, meaning for his career Morris was just five percent above average. His postseason numbers outside of that one incredible game aren’t even that great. Jack Morris was a fine innings eater for a long time. I have nothing against him personally and good for him if he gets elected, but he’s just not a Hall of Famer. As others have pointed out, it’s all narrative based with nothing concrete to back it up.

Dale Murphy: NO

This is Murphy’s final year on the ballot. Given that he received 14.5% of the vote last year, it’s almost certain that he will not make it this year and thus be the mercy of the Veterans Committee. Murphy won back to back MVPs in 1982 and 1983, and was just as good in 1984, 1985, and 1987. The last of those years he was 31 and hit .295/.417/.580. At this point, considering Murphy a future Hall of Famer made perfect sense. The next year, however, Murphy .226/.313/.421, and it only got worse from there. Every player has a decline phase, but this wasn’t a decline, this was falling off a cliff. It hurt Murphy’s career numbers to the point that it is kept him out, no matter how nice a man he is.

Rafael Palmeiro: NO

If Palmeiro had not tested positive for PEDs, his case would’ve been the big debate on whether the milestones of 500 homers and 3000 hits are locks for induction. He has 569 homers and 3020 hits, but very few truly outstanding seasons. Even with his enhancements and the era he played in, Palmeiro managed just one season with an OPS over 1.000. He was just a consistent, well, .288/.371/.515 or so (his career line) guy year after year. Obviously there’s a lot of value in that, but Palmeiro is basically McGriff with an extra 350 games or so. They are both close, and could be in, but it’s a tough ballot to get on. In addition, there’s the positive test, which for most voters makes all the above irrelevant. You know how I feel on the drugs question, but given that Palmeiro actually has a positive test on his record, I have to admit it colors my vision. I don’t want to say I wouldn’t vote for anyone with a positive test on their record, but in this case it’s certainly not helping.
Palmeiro received just 12.6% of the vote last year. Given the crowded ballot, he could easily get under 5% this time around and fall completely off.

See the next page for more, including the most overlooked player on the ballot.

Tim Raines: YESBlog Photo - Looking at the Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot (Part Four): The Returning Players

If I could have one thing happen from this year’s results, it’s Tim Raines getting in. Want a peak? Check out 1983-1993, particularly  1983-1987. In that span, Raines led the league in stolen bases twice, won one batting title, and his *lowest* OBP in that span was .393. Raines had an OBP of at least .350 every year he played from 1981-1998, when he was 38. He’s fifth all-time in stolen bases with 808, and second all-time in success rate for those with at least 300 steals (was first until passed by Carlos Beltran). He scored 1571 runs in his career. Every eligible player with at least 1500 runs scored in modern baseball is in. He reached base 3707 times in his career, which is more than Tony Gwynn. If 395 of his walks had been hits, he’d be up to 3000 and we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

Raines got up to 48.7% last year, but it’s still not nearly enough. Why is that? The cocaine issues? That didn’t matter with Paul Molitor. Playing the prime of his career in Montreal? That doesn’t seem fair. Sticking it to stat guys? If that’s true, then how did Blyleven get in? I don’t get it. I truly don’t.

Lee Smith: NO

Lee Smith received 50.6% of the vote in real life last year, and currently is close to election in our vote at 70%. I don’t see it all. A 3.03 career ERA for a reliever isn’t that special, he doesn’t have the saves record anymore, and he stopped being a 90-100 inning guy seven years into an 18 year career.

Alan Trammell: YES

I have for you a blind player comparison.

Player A: 2263 games (1977-1996), 2365 hits, 1231 runs, 185 HR, 1003 RBI, 236 steals, .285/.352/.415, 110 OPS+, 1 World Series MVP, 4 Gold Gloves

Player B: 2180 games (1986-2004), 2340 hits, 1329 runs, 198 HR, 960 RBI, 379 steals, .295/.371/.444, 116 OPS+, 1 MVP, 3 Gold Gloves

Fairly similar numbers, with Player B slightly better, but he played in the better offensive era. Player A is Trammell. Player B is Barry Larkin, deservedly elected last year. Trammell had a bit of disjoined peak, following up his best seasons with mediocre ones. At his best though, Trammell was an OBP machine at a position where defense is the calling card, defense which he also provided with aplomb. The offensive barrier for shortstops is lower than most other positions, so even though Trammell might not quite be as good as his contemporaries Robin Yount and Cal Ripken on offense, and Ozzie Smith on defense, he belongs in the Hall just the same. Unfortunately, after 11 years on the ballot, he’s only up to 36.8%.

Larry Walker: NO (but close)

Of Larry Walker’s 17 years in the bigs, 10 of them were spent in Colorado. As a result, his career numbers at home (which include 5 seasons in Montreal and 2 in St. Louis) are .348/.431/.637. His road numbers though are far from terrible: .278/.370/.495. Every full season in Walker’s career is well above average. He was not solely a creation of Coors Field. However, Coors Field is where most of his peak came. It’s where he won the 1997 MVP and three batting titles. The raw numbers of his career say yes; the video game ballpark he played in for 10 years for now puts him below the line. If the backlog clears up a bit though, I’ll give him a second look.

Bernie Williams: NO

A .381 career OBP from a center fielder is not something I can just ignore. However, his career ended pretty quietly and defensive statistics indicate he wasn’t very good in center. He was one of the best for a few years, just not enough of them.

So to review, if I had a vote, it would go to Bagwell, Biggio, Bonds, Clemens, Martinez, McGwire, Piazza, Raines, Schilling and Trammell. In reality though, I only expect Morris to definitely get in. Biggio is the only other player with a half decent shot of making it, although it wouldn’t be a complete shock to me if Schilling or Piazza got in or at least got close. I hope the momentum that Raines has had continues and get him over 50%. As for Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, and the rest of the steroid guys, I have no clue. Your guess is as good as mine.

Do you agree with my picks? Disagree? Want me to move out of my mother's basement and go watch a game? Let me know in the comments.
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