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2019 Baseball Hall of Fame Class Lowers The Bar

Mariano Rivera, Edgar Martinez, Roy Halladay, Mike Mussina, Lee Smith, Harold Baines – that is the 2019 Baseball Hall of Fame class. It is the largest Hall of Fame class this century, and it is the largest Hall of Fame class since 1964 when there were seven players inducted into the Hall of Fame.

It is quite the interesting class made all the more interesting by the surprise choices of the Veterans’ Committe (or whatever they call themselves now) and because of the fact Rivera became the first ever player unanimously elected to the Hall of Fame. It should be noted there were rumors about Lou Gehrig who was inducted in a special election after his ALS diagnosis and retirement.

Another reason why this Hall of Fame class is so interesting is because it has lowered the bar for future Hall of Fame elections.

When looking at starting pitchers, the average Hall of Famer had a 73.4 WAR, 50.1 WAR7, and 61.8 JAWS. Put another way, your average Hall of Fame pitcher had a strong and prolonged peak surrounded by seasons where he was a good starting pitcher.

Of course, those numbers are derived almost by accident. Before modern voting, voters would elect anyone who hit the magic number of 300 wins. Other factors like Cy Young awards, 20 win seasons, ERA, strikeouts, and other standards would apply. That said, as we have moved into this current era of voting, more advanced statistics are used to adjudge candidates.

In fact, it was the justification to push for the election of Bert Blyleven. For his part, Blyleven amassed a 95.0 WAR in his career putting him well above the threshold. His induction also paved the way for someone like Mussina to get inducted into the Hall of Fame.

In his career, Mussina only had 20 wins once, and that was in the final year of his career. Mussina never won a Cy Young award and was never in the top three. He was just a five time All-Star. Belying those numbers was greatness. Mussina had an 83.0 WAR and a 130 ERA+. Simply put, he was great, and it was due to modern numbers we have been able to recognize that greatness and see a push for his induction.

The questionable candidate is Halladay, who actually garnered a higher percent of the vote than Mussina. Behind Halladay’s two Cy Young Awards and no-hitter in the 2010 NLDS was a pitcher who fell short of the Hall of Fame standards. His 64.3 WAR and 57.5 JAWS was close but below standards. It should be noted his 50.6 WAR7 did crack the list making him a more than justifiable, albeit borderline candidate.

The Hall of Fame isn’t harmed inducting a player of Halladay’s caliber, especially with his peak years meeting the standard. What is curious is how someone who should’ve been a borderline candidate was inducted on the first ballot with 85.4 percent of the vote while Mussina, a better pitcher over his career, barely cleared the 75 percent threshold in his sixth year on the ballot.

With respect to Rivera, there was no doubt he was a Hall of Famer. He’s the All-Time leader in saves, and he has all the postseason exploits to bolster his case. He also leads all relievers in baseball history in WAR, WAR7, JAWS, and entrance music. He was clearly the greatest at what he did, and there was no debate. Literally, there is no debate as he received 100 percent of the vote.

Where things became dubious was the election of Smith. During his time, Smith was a feared closer who had the most saves in baseball history until he was surpassed by Trevor Hoffman, who was another dubious selection.

When it came to Smith and Hoffman, the cases were basically made on the amount of saves and superlatives like dominating. However, in the grand scheme of things, they didn’t measure up to other great relievers. Respectively, each fell far short of the 38.1 WAR, 26.5 WAR7, and 32.3 JAWS the average Hall of Fame reliever had amassed.

Inducting both Hoffman and Smith has lowered the bar to the point where we cannot be sure where it is going. Is it going to be a 475 career saves standard asking to 300 wins or 3,000 hits? Who knows? But at a certain point, someone is going to have to figure out the line because with recent inductions, Billy Wagner‘s case is all the more justified as are cases for players overlooked in voting like John Franco and Jeff Reardon. Coincidentally, at one time Reardon battled back-and-forth with Smith to claim that all-time saves record.

As troubling as that may be, the election of the designated hitters into the Hall of Fame may be the most troubling.

Looking at the proverbial magic numbers, neither Martinez nor Baines clears the mark despite both of their job duties being JUST hitting. Previous Hall of Famers who spent more time at DH than as a fielder, Frank Thomas and Paul Molitor, did clear each of those marks with Thomas having over 500 homers and Molitor having over 3,000 hits.

For both hitters, there have been cases spelled out, but at their core, they were just hitters, which should thereby negate any argument over whether defense should count against someone like Jeff Kent.

It should be noted Kent had more games played, hits, doubles, triples, homers, RBI, stolen bases, and sacrifice flies than Martinez despite playing one fewer year. He had more doubles and stolen bases with having a better batting average and slugging percentage than Baines while having the same OBP. Yet, somehow voters are not enticed to vote for Kent because he had poor defense, and he was cranky with the media.

Ponder that for a moment, Kent put up all-time great numbers at second base including being the all-time leader in homers as a second baseman, but he’s not going into the Hall of Fame now because he was a poor defender. Meanwhile, Martinez and Baines are being rewarded for just hitting and never having to field.

As bad as that may seem for Kent, who cannot find a way to crack 18.1 percent in his sixth year on the ballot, imagine how Fred McGriff feels. Like Kent, he was dinged for defense and even base running, and yet, he’s not a Hall of Famer despite hitting nearly 500 homers and being one of the most clutch hitters all-time.

While they’re overlooked, Larry Walker and his seven Gold Gloves and an OPS+ just behind Martinez’s is being penalized for playing in Coors Field. Of course, Martinez is not facing the same penalty for playing in the Kingdome. Same thing can be said for Andruw Jones and his 1o Gold Gloves and 434 homers. Really, we have discovered defense does not matter whatsoever even if Walker has a higher WAR than Martinez.

The point is the Hall of Fame standards have been driven down. You no longer have to be among the greatest relievers of all-time. You just have to be good in your era. You don’t have to be a complete ballplayer. You just have to hit. That’s a lowering of standards, and if those standards are now universally applied, there should be a bevy of previously borderline or overlooked candidates who should now be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

26 thoughts on “2019 Baseball Hall of Fame Class Lowers The Bar”

  1. jon skywalker says:

    I’m a huge Edgar Martinez fan, so I am not going to let you say he doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame. How dare you! He’s awesome, and you don’t know what you are talking about. I do becuase i played high school baseball,a nd it’s clar you havne’t because of that stoopid things you said aobut Edgar

    1. metsdaddy says:

      Guess there’s not much to say here other than you should ask your high school coach about why you’re being an idiot on blog message boards instead of being a DH at the even the collegiate club level.

      1. Mykel Hainer says:

        You really want to claim that Edgar Martinez does not belong in the Hall of Fame, just because he doesn’t have some of the “counting numbers” that you think defines the Hall of Fame? Even as the baseball world evolves and realizes that counting numbers are not the end all be all, you are stuck in the past? It turns out a lot of Edgar’s numbers are on par, or better, than Hall of Famers, just not his counting numbers. And his counting numbers don’t match up, simply because the Mariners were a stupid organization that would not give him a chance, despite him destroying AAA pitching. But I digress. Instead of finding and pasting a bunch of the numbers to make my point, I will simply paste this link and let you do your own research: http://www.sportingnews.com/us/mlb/news/edgar-martinez-hall-of-fame-vote-ballot-stats-seattle-mariners-greatest-dh-designated-hitters/1dwopulzkbw2d14uikwv9k69ld

        Edgar Martinez is arguably the best DH in history (which alone means he qualifies for the Hall of Fame) and the link I shared shows just how well many of his stats match up with Hall of Famers like Stan Musial, Willie McCovey, Frank Robinson, and Hank Aaron. Claiming Edgar does not belong in the Hall shows you either have a bias against DHs or are simply not willing to keep up with the evolution of the baseball world.

        1. metsdaddy says:

          1. It’s more than just the counting numbers. The reason they were brought up was because they have been historically used as an automatic induction. When you strip those away, you’re left with someone who just doesn’t measure up.

          2. We judge on MLB careers, and there’s no grading on a curve because you don’t like when he was called up. Arguing that is just arguing.

          3. That Spaeder article was a highly flawed puff piece.

          – First, he’s not comparing player to player. Rather, he’s comparing one stat to one stat while ignoring the players he’s comparing Edgar to weren’t DHs.

          – Second, the quotes from and performance against one pitcher is completely meaningless.

          – Third, he’s creating his own subjective standard calling Edgar the best ever DH, while conceding he’s not, Frank Thomas is.

          4. Match up Edgar to whomever you want, but he’s going in as a DH, and not a RF like Aaron. That matters much in the same way you don’t compare a second baseman to a slugging first baseman.

          5. It’s not about being against a DH. It’s about making proper assessments. All of his stats fall short, especially ones like WAR and wRC+. Remember, you’re electing Edgar solely as a hitter. He has neither the counting stats nor the advanced stats to say he was such a great hitter he needs to be a Hall of Famer.

        2. metsdaddy says:

          1. It’s more than just the counting numbers. The reason they were brought up was because they have been historically used as an automatic induction. When you strip those away, you’re left with someone who just doesn’t measure up.

          2. We judge on MLB careers, and there’s no grading on a curve because you don’t like when he was called up. Arguing that is just arguing.

  2. Mike G says:

    Jeff Kent belongs in the hall. McGriff will get in when the committee who put Smith and Baines in votes again. Does Vizquel belong? Is he the new Mazoroski? But with better offense. Lou Whittaker? It’s hard to compare players from one era to another. Until Jackie some of the best players we absent. Players went by train , played double headers weekly, played exhibitions between series, played hurt in fear of losing their job, and worked during the off season. Outfield s were 400′ in the alleys or farther. Now down the lines in 330′ and under. How can you compare with new numbers that are made up every year to try and value or devalue players. There are many in the HOF who don’t belong ( Veterans Committee from the Frisch era) but all they do is lower the numbers to compare players who are up for election. Maybe to compare with position players and pitchers you drop the top and bottom 5 and then compare stats. I enjoy the HOF voting and collecting signatures from as many of the 300+ I can afford. I look year’s ahead and read many books and articles to see who from the past could be deserving and try to purchase ahead to the rise in prices. I’ve never had Baines in my list.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      I agree on the some people don’t belong point, which is why I try to look at the mean instead of the floor.

  3. Mykel H says:

    I am absolutely astounded that you are willing to admit that Mariano Rivera, one of the best closers of all time, deserves to get into the Hall of Fame, but are equally adamant that Edgar Martinez, one of the best DHs of all time, does not deserve to get in. Even more astounding, you acknowledge it is not fair to compare Mo to starting pitchers in the Hall, but then decide to compare Edgar to players who played other positions. If you believe, correctly I might add, that Mariano is one of the best closers of all time and deserves to get into the Hall of Fame, how can you logically argue that Edgar Martinez, one of the best DHs of all time, does not deserve to get in?

    1. metsdaddy says:

      If you’re comparing Edgar to Rivera, you’ve already lost the argument.

      Mariano Rivera was the best ever at what he did. He took his game to another level in the postseason. There is zero argument to suggest Rivera wasn’t the best ever.

      As for Edgar, he wasn’t the best DH, nor was he the best ever hitter, which is what a DH is – just a hitter. It’s not even close. Just stack Edgar up to Frank Thomas, and you’ll see just how far he falls short.

  4. Andrew says:

    One thing to note: some positions are much more shallow than others in hall of fame representation, so in those positions standards should be lowered slightly to better represent those positions (CF, 3B, C, RP).

    1. metsdaddy says:

      I’m not at all in favor of lowering standards.

  5. Mike G says:

    Edgar should not have had to wait. The DH award is named after him. He is a different circumstance. He was a good 3rd Basemen till injury. Before the DH was a Rob Deer, Pete Incavigila types giving 30-40hr .220 average with 150ks. Oh wait like it is now. In a few years David Ortiz will get in on the first ballot as a DH and the arguments will come up again. No defense ever, 2003 failed drug test and he improved as he got closer to 40. Hmm? When Jim Rice was voted in the standards fell. He had 3-5 years of excellent play. He wasnt a HOFer for 14 votes but the 15th. Lets throw in Tommy John and Jim Kaat to who might belong. There is not going to be many more magic numbers reached to give that automatic election, 300 wins will become a relic. 500 hrs does not matter now when you can hit a check swing home run

    1. metsdaddy says:

      1. The Willie Mays Award is the World Series MVP. Mays was a horrible postseason player.

      2. Who cares what the reason is for his being a DH? Fact is, he was a DH, and he should be judged accordingly.

      3. We judge Edgar by who’s in and not who you think will eventually be in. You also don’t eliminate standards which still apply to clean players just because you see fit.

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