Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My Hall of Fame Ballot

With much of the recent baseball talk revolving around the Hall of Fame balloting (the results of which will be announced on Wednesday), I felt it would be appropriate to spark a bit more discussion on the subject. What better way to do that then to allow our faithful readers to tear my figurative ballot to shreds?

Roberto Alomar
12 All-Star Games, 10 Gold Gloves, 4 Silver Sluggers
162-Game Average: .300/.371/.443, 14 HR, 32 SB, 4.3 WAR

Alomar ranks tenth among second basemen in WAR. The top-six are in the Hall of Fame (Joe Morgan, Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, Frankie Frisch, Nap Lajoie, Charlie Gehringer), the next two should likely be there (Lou Whitaker and Bobby Grich), and the next will likely be inducted in a couple of years (Craig Biggio). His defense may have been a bit overrated, but he was certainly a solid defender with a well-above average bat for the position.

Jeff Bagwell
4 All-Star Games, 1 Gold Glove, 3 Silver Sluggers, 1 MVP, Rookie of the Year
162-Game Average: .297/.408/.540, 34 HR, 15 SB, 6.0 WAR

Bagwell was one of the best players of the 1990s, although it seems as if he has slipped from our collective memory. He spent the better part of his career on middling teams in a pitcher's park, which likely plays some part, and his arthritic shoulder cost him a shot at some sexy round numbers (such as "500" and ".300"). That being said, he has the most WAR of any first baseman between Jimmie Foxx and Albert Pujols (by a fair margin), and his glove and base-running ability separate him from contemporaries like Mark McGwire and Frank Thomas.

Bert Blyleven
2 All-Star Games, 3 Top-5 Cy Young Finishes
162-Game Average: 245 IP, 183 K, 1.20 WHIP, 118 ERA+, 4.4 WAR

Seriously - how has this taken so long? 13th all-time in pitching WAR, including nine top-five finishes. 14th in innings pitched. 5th in strikeouts. 9th in shutouts.

Barry Larkin
12 All-Star Games, 3 Gold Gloves, 9 Silver Sluggers, 1 MVP
162-Game Average: .295/.371/.444, 15 HR, 28 SB, 5.1 WAR

While Larkin did miss quite a few games over the years, it's difficult to overlook the fact that only six twentieth-century shortstops accumulated more WAR than the Reds stalwart. Honus Wagner, Cal Ripken, Arky Vaughan, and Luke Appling are all Hall of Famers, and I doubt that anyone questions their merits. Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter are likely to sail right in as well, with good reason. Larkin may not have reached the heights of Wagner and Rodriguez, but I feel that he fits comfortably with the other four.

Edgar Martinez
7 All-Star Games, 5 Silver Sluggers
162-Game Average: .312/.418/.515, 24 HR, 4 SB, 5.3 WAR

Edgar Martinez is one of the finest hitters to ever play the game. Few, if any, would dispute that his bat compares favorably to all but the Ruth's, Cobb's, and Williams' of the game - and therein lies the problem. Many would argue that Martinez's role as a designated hitter all but negates his candidacy - all he had to do was hit and sit, rarely donning a glove over the last ten years of his career. While that may be true, I cannot overlook Martinez's prowess with the bat, nor will I concede that someone like Harmon Killebrew was greater due to their ability to stand around in the field. Prior to the advent of the DH, a player's bat would carry his glove at first base or in left field, and I suspect that Martinez's bat would have done so, as well. If kept out, Martinez would certainly be the greatest hitter on the outside looking in.

Tim Raines
7 All-Star Games, 1 Silver Slugger
162-Game Average: .294/.385/.425, 11 HR, 52 SB, 4.2 WAR

Forget the comparisons to Rickey Henderson - were the standard for the Hall of Fame that high, its membership would be slashed in half. Raines was one of the best players of the mid-1980s and one of the very best base-stealers of all-time (84.7% success rate in 954 attempts). He racked up 30.7 WAR between 1983 and 1987, stealing seventy-one bases per year with a 142 OPS+, giving him a fantastic peak that many seem to overlook.

Larry Walker
5 All-Star Games, 7 Gold Gloves, 3 Silver Sluggers, 1 MVP
162-Game Average: .313/.400/.565, 31 HR, 19 SB, 5.5 WAR

Yes, Walker benefited a great deal from pre-humidor Coors Field. He also batted .282/.361/.489 in his non-Rockies days - a period of time that includes his breaking into the league at 22 and retiring at 38. In his last season in Montreal at age 27, Walker hit .322/.394/.587 with 44 2B, 19 HR, and 15 SB - it isn't unreasonable to expect that his numbers would have been stellar in any ballpark at that juncture. In addition to his bat, Walker was also a fine base-runner and tremendous right fielder, according to both his reputation and his defensive metrics - he was far from a one-dimensional player. While I hate to make comparisons to lower-tier Hall of Famers, that does give Walker a huge leg-up on players like Chuck Klein and Jim Rice - corner outfielders bolstered immensely by the home park, while providing little value elsewhere.

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