This isn't one of the posts I had lined up for the new year, but with the Hall of Fame announcements approaching and The Blogfathers both having weighed in with their Hall of Fame ballots, I feel peer pressure to note my own preferences. They follow some preliminary issues.
I look at park-adjusted offensive measures, and take those park adjustments with a grain of salt because they're an imperfect science. I look at FRAA and Total Zone on defense because I have no present ability to actually evaluate these stats, but I know they're based on mostly objective data, and I try to get a sense of the contemporary qualitative opinions of the man's skill. I combine this in my head in a highly imperfect way that won't matter for the vast majority of players. Position matters a lot. I'm not a huge-Hall guy, but I probably err on the side of inclusion. I don't like that Jim Rice is in, but I think it's a lot smaller problem than keeping out guys like Bert Blyleven and Ron Santo for as long as they were kept out.
To the players.
Jeff Bagwell: Yeah. He hit hella homers, seemed like he was probably pretty good on defense, and, most importantly, got on base more than a [redacted totally inappropriate metaphor]. Even with the high standards of his era and position, he was comfortably one of the very best players in the game for over a decade. Also, c'mon dude, that goatee. That's a HOF of a goatee.
Jeromy Burnitz: I just signed him as a free agent to shore up my A's outfield in MVP Baseball 2005 for my brand new Playstation 2. He hits lefties and righties quite well and has surprisingly good defensive ratings. Also, he's not a Hall of Famer.
Vinny Castilla: I got into an argument one time with a guy from Denver who I was teaching with. He was an older dude, a smart guy who knows math, but who was pretty well blinded by home loyalty into discounting the Coors Factor. My Cousin was still a good player, even with the air taken out of his lines, combining just-above-average hitting with maybe-adequate defense for his three-year peak from 1996 to 1998. And if you think that description belongs on a Hall of Fame plaque, then we've got some fundamental differences in our approach.
Juan Gonzalez: He's in the Tiger Hall of Fame already because of the eight-year, $140M contract he rejected in the winter of 2000. He wound up playing five years (plus one PA in 2005) after that, and you'd only call one of those years "good." He had a monster 1993 (80 XBH in 140 games) but never got on base enough (he wasn't bad at it, but far from elite) and probably didn't play good enough defense to make up for it, especially once his back problems flared up in the 21st Century.
Brian Jordan: Two-sport Hall of Famer, sure, and props for putting in 15 years and almost 1500 games despite getting his body smashed around by large men wearing armor for a number of years. Eight million dollars a year in the early part of this century was probably an overpay, though, and that wouldn't be the case if he were a Hall of Famer.
Barry Larkin: Yeah. He got what you might consider a late start for a Hall of Famer, playing a semi-full season, but not well, at 23, before breaking out with a monster season at 24. You'd be forgiven for not realizing that it was a monster season, because he only slugged .429, but this was 1988. The National League slugged .363 that year. Larkin added more power later on, managed a .370 OBP for his career, and had a good defensive reputation and numbers in the early going. He was the best shortstop around until the American League trinity broke through. He was well above average for over a decade straight despite injury troubles. If you're a fan of inner circles and outer circles and whatnot, injuries are the only thing keeping him from the inner circle, but they don't keep him from the outer circle.
Javy Lopez: The thing about Hall of Famers, even Hall of Fame catchers, is that they put up multiple seasons like Lopez's awesome 2003. Even accounting for the fact that catchers are probably underrepresented in the Hall (the reliance on counting stats and lack of understanding of positional adjustment is surely to blame), I have to put Lopez on the outside.
Edgar Martinez: Preposterously good hitter with on-base ability, power, contact, and even a 14-stolen-base season back in 1992. You hold being a DH against him, but not in an arbitrary way. You just adjust for it. All the WAR systems do so in some fashion or another (I don't know if anyone's really fully satisfied that DHs are treated correctly in positional adjustments) and they all rate him as Hall-of-Fame worthy. The man put up a five-ish-win year in his age-38 season and was still above-average at 40. Edgar is in.
Don Mattingly: If you're going to retire at 34, you'd be better excellent all the way up to that point, but Mattingly stopped being more than just ok at 28. Maybe he can get in as a manager.
Fred McGriff: He didn't retire at 34, but he only had occasional flashes post-29. He aged better than Mattingly, certainly, but I don't think Hall of Fame first basemen can have .271 TAvs when they're 33, especially if they're apparently not providing defensive value. Semi-meaningless side note: McGriff is given a -32 in FRAA in 2000. I don't even know what to do with that.
Mark McGwire: I also don't know what to do here. He had some big years in Oakland (1987, 1992) and had a great run from 1995 to 2000. He also knocked the snot out of the ball in 1993-94, but was hurt. His defensive rep, which I remember being solid, is better than his numbers, which grade out to -29 and -52 for his career by TZ and FRAA. Based on my understanding of Jay Jaffe's work on defining the Hall of Fame standard, it seems that McGwire comes in just below. But like I said, biggish Hall, so he's in.
Jack Morris: No.
Bill Mueller: I love Bill Mueller, and he did manage one Hall of Fame season (2003), but that doesn't get you in.
Terry Mulholland: Tempted to vote yes on the condition that his plaque only talk about his pickoff move, but I don't think that'll fly.
Dale Murphy: He had a nice eight-year run, except for his lost 1981, and was nearly valueless outside of that. FRAA has him at -54 ... just in 1985-86. Holy cow. Even if you add five wins to Murphy's career on the grounds that he just couldn't have been that bad a fielder, his career value doesn't stand up. Cool peak, though, bro.
Phil Nevin: I get him and Phil Plantier mixed up sometimes, so no.
Rafael Palmeiro: Less peak than McGwire, but more career. If you weight those things more heavily toward peak, then you probably won't like Palmeiro. If the reverse, then ... well, the reverse. If you don't know and just sort of throw up your hands and weight them about equally, then you vote for both. I actually lean a little more on the career side of things, I think, but I vote for both anyway.
Brad Radke: Courtesy votes are for suckers.
Tim Raines: They'll take away my Nerd Card if I say the wrong thing here.
Tim Salmon: He's better than I thought he was, and his career doesn't have the same freakish shape that Dale Murphy's does, but he kind of ends up in the same place. He had some great seasons and some crap ones, and the balance doesn't really work out for me. Plus, if we're talking about courtesy votes, I'd give Salmon an courtesy "no" simply for being a career-long Angel.
Lee Smith: If he were that good, he'd have been a starter.
Alan Trammell: Thirteen out of fourteen years from 1980 to 1993, the man brought it. He hit like a first baseman in many of those years but played 18,000 innings at shortstop. Total Zone thinks he was good at it (+81), FRAA thinks he was not (-24). I don't know what to think, but I know that he was still playing shortstop at the age of 38. He's in.
Larry Walker: Opposite problem from Trammell. "Coors Coors Coors" shouts the crowd. WAR systems, of course, adjust for this, however (as I said) imperfectly. 60 wins, says Baseball Prospectus. 67, says Baseball-Reference. 73, says Fangraphs. That's a lot. He didn't have a sustained, consecutive peak, which might hurt the perception of his career a bit, but given my affinity for players who are still pretty great when they're old, I think he's in.
Bernie Williams: Williams, by contrast, had the definition of a consecutive peak, from 1994 (strike-shortened, remember) to 2002. He fell off far too quickly over the next four years, ending up a replacement-level player at ages 36 and 37, despite playing full seasons both years. I think I prefer his career to Kirby Puckett's, but you can't pick and choose your comparables. I think he's not quite in.
Tony Womack: Dude, that's a great song. You're in.
Eric Young: Nah.
So that leaves me with nine: Jeff Bagwell, Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Tim Raines, Alan Trammell, Larry Walker, and Bobby Womack.
Wait, which Womack?
Oh. Eight, then.