Thursday, December 2, 2010

My Hall of Fame Ballot

By Bill

Last year at this time (more or less), in connection with my Baseball Bloggers Alliance voting, I wrote up a big post passing judgment on every single player on that year's Hall of Fame ballot.

Well, this year's ballot just came out, and I just voted for the BBA again, so I figured it was time to do another one of these posts.  The nice thing, though, is that none of the seven guys I would have voted for last time made it in, and I haven't had cause to reconsider those seven or any others.  So that'll save me a lot of work: I'll just do the new guys.  If you want my take on any of the others, just click the link above!

My carryover yeses, in alphabetical order: Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven, Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, Mark McGwire, Tim Raines, and Alan Trammell.  Now on to the new guys:

Carlos Baerga: No.  But you know, there was a time when he looked like a Hall of Famer -- and arguably, in 1992 and 1993, a time when he actually played just a bit like one -- but mostly it was because I didn't know anything other than batting average, homers and RBI, and didn't really think about things like defense.

Jeff Bagwell: Yes.  I feel strongly about all seven of the guys I've already advocated up there, but I'm even more confident about Bagwell belonging than I am about any of those guys.  He's going to have a bit of a problem because he petered out quickly and that's what a lot of people remember best, but his peak was one of the best a first baseman has ever had, and considering his whole career, he's probably top-five at the position.  There really should be no doubt at all.

Bret Boone: No.  There should be a single-season Hall of Fame, and we can induct Boone's 2001.  I still think he should've been AL MVP (over his teammate, Ichiro).

Kevin Brown: Yes.  That's not going to be a popular one, at least among the actual voters.  But I think he belongs.  He got that huge contract and was perceived as a total failure at the end in New York (not all of that was deserved, by the way, and I would've liked to have seen what he could've done the following year at age 41).  But he was incredibly dominant from 1996 to 2003, and I'm not convinced he's any less deserving than Curt Schilling or Mike Mussina, both of whom will have much easier paths to Cooperstown.

John Franco: No.  I wrote about how I feel about relievers in the Hall last year (see the Lee Smith entry), and Franco is just nowhere near that extraordinarily high standard.

Juan Gonzalez: No.  Speaking of that younger version of myself, the one who didn't know anything?  He would've been shocked at how just-a-bit-better-than-mediocre Juan Gone really was, most of the time.  He had great moments, but he was a very ordinary player with one extraordinary, very noticeable skill.

Marquis Grissom: No.  He was a really exciting, fun, actually pretty good player for a few years early on, though.  His talent and (especially) speed seemed to die right along with the Expos' hopes for a championship in 1994.

Lenny Harris: Ha! No.  There should be a 5000-PA limit for position players to land on the ballot.  Eighteen years as purely a pinch hitter shouldn't get it done.  Remember how he was always called a "professional hitter" (whatever that means)?  .269/.318/.349, 80 OPS+, 83 wRC+.  He did hit .379 in 29 at-bats for the Diamondbacks in 1999.  So there's that.

Bobby Higginson: No.  I think there's a picture of him next to "old player skills" in the saber-dictionary (though arguably he didn't walk enough).  Very, very good hitter (mostly) from age 25-30, pretty much done after that.

Charles Johnson: No.  So much talent -- he was a sensation when he came up, compared to Ivan Rodriguez all the time -- but you do have to get a hit now and then.  He had one of the all-time great fluke years in 2000: .304/.379/.582, 31 homers in 478 PA between the Orioles and White Sox.  Outside of that, he topped out at a .259 BA and 20 homers.

Al Leiter: No.  Followed an odd path, but kind of a typically odd one for a lefty, suddenly becoming a good pitcher from age 29 to 38 (see, e.g., Jeff Fassero).  Not nearly good enough, but good.

Tino Martinez: No.  Good player, had that great first year with the Yankees...

Raul Mondesi: No. Another really, really talented player who never quite clicked.

John Olerud: No, but I think he's very close, and I might well have voted yes if (as you'll see) I didn't already have all ten spots on my ballot filled.  He came along at the wrong time, when other first basemen were tree stumps who couldn't do anything but hit home runs.  All Olerud did was everything else.  He was better than most of those guys, but you'd never have known.  I'll have to write a separate post on that some day.

Rafael Palmeiro: No, but again, it's a space issue.  I do think Palmeiro probably belongs, but if the steroid question keeps him out forever, it won't leave a giant gaping hole or anything.

Kirk Rueter: No.  I liked to watch Rueter, one of those guys who seemed to get it done with smoke and mirrors.  Didn't get it done that well, though (career 12.1 WAR).

Benito Santiago: No.  You'd have thought he was headed that way from how he was treated in his first five full years: a Rookie of the Year Award, four All-Star appearances, three Gold Gloves, four Silver Sluggers.  But it ends up looking like a kind of collective dementia: he won two of those Sliver Sluggers with OBPs under .300 (including one year in which he hit .248/.282/.362).  For the period as a whole, he hit .263/.298/.405.  What was everybody thinking?

B.J. Surhoff: No.  First overall pick, put together a pretty nice career for himself.  If Harold Baines keeps getting votes, Surhoff might as well get a couple too.

Larry Walker: Yes.  Tough decision for me (well, not that tough, since I obviously chose him over two people I think also might belong, but fairly tough).  His raw numbers are all screwy, as you know, but he was just a really, really, really good player.  His 67.3 (baseball-reference/Rally) WAR beats Hall of Fame corner outfielders like Dave Winfield, Al Simmons, Goose Goslin, Billy Williams, and Willie Stargell, and is right there with Tony Gwynn's.  What's more, not a single eligible outfielder ahead of Walker in career WAR is not in the Hall of Fame.  He won't get in for quite a while, if at all, but it seems pretty clear that Walker comfortably belongs among the guys we've already put in at his position.  

So that's it: the seven guys I voted for last year, plus Bagwell, Brown, and Walker.  I'm not really such a "big Hall" guy, but I've got ten on my ballot this year, and could probably use two more slots.  What can you do?  The scary thing is that come about 2013, it's going to get even (much) more crowded... 


Cyril Morong said...

Baerga's 1992-3 seasons of WAR, 5.5 & 4.8, are both in the top 50 for 2Bmen 25 and younger since 1901. Same for his OPS+, 127 & 124.

Cyril Morong said...

So I wonder what happened. He went way down after that. Was he hurt?

Field of Cards said...

I'm not doubting you, but I'd like to see more information on why you are so unimpressed with Juan Gonzalez.

From age 21-31 he averaged a .298 ba, 36 hr, 115 rbi. I know he didn't walk much and that's a problem, but his OPS over that span was still .919 and he won two MVP awards.

Perhaps he isn't a Hall of Famer because he fizzled out so young, but you make him sound like Joe Carter.

Bill said...

Thanks for the comments. Cy, I don't have an answer for that...I don't think anything really changed, so maybe Baerga was just never really as good as he looked for those two years?

Field of Cards: I was probably a bit too harsh on Gonzalez. He was a good player. 338th all-time in WAR, in the neighborhood of Maury Wills, Ron Gant, Garry Maddox. He's certainly no Joe Carter. But it's exactly those numbers you cite that caused him to be wildly overrated. The RBI don't matter -- he batted fourth in a high-offense lineup in a high-offense league, he's going to get RBI. The average and homers are also inflated by the era he played in. But the inability to get on base consistently is a big thing--OBP is much more important than SLG, wo the OPS overstates his case. For a guy for whom offense is his only tool, a sub-.350 BA in the Home Run Derby era does not an elite offensive force make.

And that's the big thing: offense, specifically hitting for power, was really the only thing he could do. In the field, he was something between a disaster and merely pretty bad, and he didn't give you anything on the basepaths. That's why, despite those big numbers in those 11 seasons you cite, he averaged 3.0 WAR in that time -- a good-but-unspectacular figure, but one bolstered tremendously by his three very good years in '93, '98 and '01. Outside of those three years, taking every aspect of his game into consideration, he was really pretty average (or worse).

Bill said...

yikes, typos. "so the OPS overstates his case. For a guy with a sub-.350 OBP in the..."

OK, I feel better now.

Field of Cards said...

Thanks, Bill. I have to admit it depresses me to find out guys I thought of as dominant superstars, have overall values much lower.

The whole thing also makes baseball card collecting confusing.

Anonymous said...

belles mvp awards went to gonzaelez

Bill said...

I think I would've given 'em both to A-Rod.