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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 MLB Hall of Fame Ballot

 Warning: this is a lengthy post.

Last year I wrote a post detailing the Hall of Fame credentials of each candidate on the ballot using a system I devised called Hall of Fame Score (HOFSc).  I thought it worked well but I wasn't finished tweaking.  I messed around with the formula some more during the summer until I came up with something I think works better.  The main difference is now performance relative to the league has more weight than just WAR.

Craig Biggio was the odds on favorite to be elected last season but he only garnered 68% of the votes (75% is necessary) and therefore was not elected.  Now the ballot is gaining several other players who many feel are deserving of enshrinement including Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, and Curt Schilling.  These players plus the carryovers from last season make for one heck of a dilemma for voters.  If multiple players are not elected this time around it's conceivable in the near future there will be up to twenty players who are legitimate candidates.  Until the voters come to a consensus on how to treat the players who dabbled in PEDs (or those who are speculated to have done so) or until the Baseball Writers Association allows more than ten players to be selected on a ballot, we're going to have quite a mess on our hands.

Here's what the ballot looks like this time with their respective HOFSc:

Catchers - Avg/Median HOFSc = 74.00/75.15
Paul LoDuca (24.6): LoDuca had one really nice season with the Dodgers in 2001 where he batted .320/.374/.543.  He never matched those lofty numbers again but managed to stick around for another decade as a decent hitting catcher.

Mike Piazza (92.40): It's a bit of a shame Piazza didn't get in last season because now the ballot is filled with other great candidates. I think he'll get in next year but not this year.  My scoring system puts him fourth among catchers so there's no excuse for shutting him out for too long.

First Basemen - Avg/Median HOF Sc = 96.25/89.15
Jeff Bagwell (122.6): Maybe the fourth time will be the charm for Jeff.  I have Bagwell ranked as the fourth greatest first baseman of all time in my scoring method and as a result he has a slam dunk case for enshrinement.  Unfortunately his era is working against him despite the fact he's never been linked to PED's.

Sean Casey (18.10): The Mayor hit for a good average and threw in a healthy amount of doubles but only had two seasons where he played at an all-star level. Finished his career with a .302 batting average.

Don Mattingly (61.55): I'm a fan of Mattingly but just don't see how his supporters justify him as a worthy candidate. He was a career .307 hitter and the 1985 AL MVP award winner, but even newer defensive metrics don't see him as an above average fielder.  He had a very good career.

Fred McGriff (73.60): McGriff nearly hit 500 home runs in his career and his seven straight seasons with at least 30 home runs is impressive. The problem with McGriff's case is that he peaked in the late 80's and early 90's just before the "Steroid Era" went into full effect.  As offensive numbers increased and records fell, McGriff put up the same consistent numbers he had previously.  In a vacuum his numbers look good but when put into the context of his era they cause him to fall a bit short.  If there was a HOF for nicknames he'd be elected.

Mark McGwire (94.50): My updated scoring system moved McGwire from a slightly below average Hall of Famer to above average.  His peak seasons were incredible and he finished with nearly 600 home runs.  Big Mac takes some slack for being a one dimensional player and not hitting for a high batting average. I think we can all agree on-base and slugging percentage are both more important than batting average and McGwire's .982 OPS ranks 10th all time.

Rafael Palmeiro (98.10): I'm not a big fan of Palmeiro's. I don't ever recall feeling that he was one of the best players in the league but he did perform at a high level for many years. His milestones make his case look sexy and his Hall of Fame score says he should be in. I digress.

Richie Sexson (20.80): Sexson hit 45 home runs in a season twice in his career and he finished with 306 when he hung 'em up.  A giant in the batter's box (he's 6'6"), Sexson had an above average batting eye but was one of the worst defenders at first base I can remember.  If he'd played in a different decade he'd be remembered for his legendary power. Instead he's just another guy from the "Steroid Era" who could hit a lot of home runs a long ways.

JT Snow (7.50): Snow had a few seasons where he hit for power though the majority of his career he was more like a poor man's Mark Grace.  I always thought he was an incredible defender but the defensive metrics hate him too.  Maybe they don't know how to grade first basemen as Mattingly also has trouble rating well.

Frank Thomas (108.20): This is Frank's first time on the ballot and the numbers say he should be in. A winner of two MVP Awards and
owner of 521 career home runs, the Big Hurt was one of the greatest offensive performers of all time for a few seasons.  His outspoken stance against PED's should add support to his cause.

Second Basemen - Avg/Median HOFSc = 104.37/96.20
Craig Biggio (93.10): Biggio came close last season but not close enough to give me confidence he gets in this time.  His 3000 career hits and "gritty" attitude will win him a lot of votes and he'll eventually get in.

Ray Durham (42.7):
 A solid but unspectacular player for the White Sox, Durham will go down as one of my favorites.  He was blessed with good speed though was never a great base stealer.  He had quick reflexes but was just an average defender and had some good pop but wasn't a power hitter. He was fun though.

Jeff Kent (79.4): Kent gets a lot of support for winning an MVP and for being the all time home run leader for second basemen.  I don't really buy him as a great candidate and his score backs up my assertion.  He wouldn't be a terrible selection but as long as players like Lou Whitaker and Bobby Grich are out I'm not buying Kent's stock.

Third Basemen - Avg/Median HOFSc = 99.16/106.60
Edgar Martinez (101.6): If you count Edgar as a third baseman (and I do) then he slides in at the exact middle of the thirteen enshrined at the hot corner.  If you count him as a DH then he's number two behind the Big Hurt and should be in.  I hope he gets more support.

Shortstops - Avg/Median HOFSc = 96.84/98.85
Alan Trammell (105.9): This is Trammell's thirteenth time on the ballot and I don't feel any more confident he'll get more support this year than last.  In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if he fell off the ballot entirely. My metric would put him ninth among shortstops in the HOF; he ranks behind Luke Appling but ahead of Lou Boudreau and Ernie Banks.

Left Fielders - Avg/Median HOFSc = 101.22/89.35
Moises Alou (55.4): I'd be lying if I said his score surprised me. I thought it would be lower.  He was consistently an above average hitter who provided both power and the ability to hit for average. However, he just could not stay healthy. He missed two entire season due to injury and failed to play in 150 games in a season until he was 30 years old.  He definitely could have done more but it's not like his career was a disappointment.

Barry Bonds (254.00): I have Bonds as the most qualified hitter who played and second most qualified player (Babe Ruth).  Yet he will not be elected this year or next because he cheated and/or was a jerk his entire career.  What goes around comes around, buddy.

Luis Gonzalez (71.4): At the age of 31, Gonzalez signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks to be their everyday left fielder. Prior to this he'd played ten seasons in the big leagues with career highs of 23 home runs, 84 runs scored, a .300 batting average, and 71 walks. In eight years with Arizona he more than 23 home runs seven times including 57 in 2001. He batted over .300 four times, scored over 90 runs seven times including 128 in 2001, and more than 70 times on four occasions.  This goes to show you that sabermetrics and predict trends but when it comes to individual players you just never know.

Tim Raines (100.40): Raines' numbers calculate to being the average Hall of Fame left fielder and above the median score for his position.  Why then do so few people believe in his candidacy?  Sometimes it takes a while to convince others and Raines did earn 52% of the votes last year.  This is his seventh season on the ballot (out of 15).  It sure looks like this one's going to the wire.

Center Fielders - Avg/Median HOFSc = 107.48/77.90
No one this year since Kenny Lofton and Bernie Williams both fell off the ballot.  Both deserved better and I'm coming around to the opinion that Lofton definitely got screwed over.

Right Fielders - Avg/Median HOFSc = 104.27/91.70
Jacques Jones (9.00): Every list has it's best and worst.  This one's worst happens to be Jacques Jones. Jones was a decent player but never solved left-handed pitchers. His first year in Wrigley Field saw him hit 27 home runs and bat .285/.334/.499.

Sammy Sosa (87.4): Sosa's best argument rolls into a five year window between 1998 and 2002.  In those seasons he averaged over 6 WAR and 61 home runs per 162 games.

Larry Walker (113.10): Last year I said Walker would get my vote and with the new scoring system in place that's still the case.  He struggled to stay healthy for the majority of his career, costing himself a chance at milestones in the counting stats.  He also rates as a strong defensive player and base runner.

Starting Pitchers - Avg/Median HOFSc = 105.17/98.30
Roger Clemens (211.7): No matter what metric you prefer to look at, Roger Clemens is one of the greatest pitchers of all time. He's in a similar situation to Bonds in that even though he was the best, he's still got the stink of PEDs on him. And he was a jerk, too.

Tom Glavine (107.2): Glavine never seemed like a dominant pitcher but he still managed to win 20 games five times and also was a two time Cy Young Award winner.  He's a slightly above average Hall of Famer according to HOFSc.  One thing not that I haven't seen mentioned about Glavine is his time spent as the head of the player's union.  During his term the labor strife was resolved and a long term agreement was put in place.  I think this should be taken into consideration regarding his candidacy.  Either way Glavine should get in on his first three tries.

Greg Maddux (158.4): Maddux was an absolute joy to watch. The movement he could get on his pitches was otherworldly and he had the uncanny ability to outthink every hitter he faced.  If his two best seasons ('94 & '95) weren't shortened by the labor strike or perhaps he could have finished with four straight 20 win seasons.  In the two shortened seasons he went 35-8 with a 1.60 ERA only walked 54 batters in 411 innings pitched. He's a lock to get in this year.

Jack Morris (57.3): I'm not a Jack Morris hater but I'll be honest in saying that I took pleasure in seeing that he fails to rate as a HOFer in my metric.  If elected he would rank as the fifth worst pitcher in the Hall, ahead of just Bob Lemon, Catfish Hunter, Rube Marquard, and Jesse Haines.  This is not saying Morris was not a good pitcher. He clearly was. He pitched a great game in the 1991 World Series. He threw hard and got a lot of strikeouts and he started three All Star games. None of these makes him a great pitcher. Let's stop trying to stretch the truth here.

Mike Mussina (121.9): Moose is one of those guys that just kind of sneaks up on you.  He didn't win 20 games until his final season, never won a Cy Young Award (six top 5 finishes), never led the league in strikeouts or ERA, and did not win 300 games in his career (270).  Despite this I feel he deserves strong consideration as he was consistently one of the best pitchers in the American League for his entire career.  He literally only had one bad season and for his other seventeen years you knew you were getting over 200 innings with an ERA that was 30% better than league average. He rates ahead of Ferguson Jenkins and in a dead heat with Steve Carlton in my metric.

Hideo Nomo (30.5): Nomo was one of the coolest things to happen to baseball in the 1990's.  His awesome windup was unlike anything people had seen before and it earned him the moniker t"he Tornado." His first season in the U.S. saw him lead the league in strikeouts and win the NL Rookie of the Year Award. He was never quite that good again but he did manage to throw two no-hitters and lead the league in strikeouts one more time.
I would argue Nomo deserves a place in the Hall of Fame but for his accomplishments on the field.  He was the first player to leave the Japanese leagues for the majors and without him we might never have gotten Ichiro, Hideki Matsui, and Yu Darvish.  Perhaps there's a spot for him as a trail blazer?

Kenny Rogers (71.7): Kenny Rogers will never be confused with a Hall of Famer, but it's worth recognizing what a nice career he had. Early in his career he was a successful reliever even leading the league in games pitched in 1992. Then he was moved to the rotation where he became a stalwart for the next sixteen years.  He threw a perfect game, made four all star teams, and had the best (legal) pickoff move I've seen from a left-hander.  He might not have been great but he was memorable in his own right.

Curt Schilling (126.1): There will be many who argue Schilling deserves to be elected to the Hall due to his performances in October (11-2 2.23 ERA in the playoffs) and while he was unquestionably great when it mattered, I don't think we need to focus on the bonus 1% of his career. Schilling finished second in Cy Young voting three times.  He struck out over 300 men three times, twice leading the league.  He led the league in complete games four times, wins twice, innings pitched twice, and WHIP twice.  He was one of the most dominant pitchers of his generation and he would probably be thought of more favorably if Clemens, Maddux, and Randy Johnson weren't all his contemporaries.

My Theoretical Ballot:

  1. Greg Maddux
  2. Frank Thomas
  3. Jeff Bagwell
  4. Roger Clemens
  5. Mike Piazza
  6. Tom Glavine
  7. Curt Schilling
  8. Tim Raines
  9. Alan Trammell
  10. Mark McGwire
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