John Olerud Overlooked Hall Of Fame Case
When Carlos Delgado was five percented off the Hall of Fame ballot, there was shock from fans. Almost yearly, people look to point out the absurdity.
While understood, Delgado did not have a career as good as John Olerud‘s, and yet, we rarely hear about how Olerud should not have been five percented off the ballot.
Olerud played 17 years in the majors hitting .295/.398/.465 with 500 doubles, 13 triples, 255 homers, and 1,230 RBI. He won one batting title, was a two time All-Star, and won three Gold Gloves.
In terms of the advanced numbers, he has a 58.1 WAR, 39.0 WAR7, and a 48.6 JAWS.
Looking at the average Hall of Fame first baseman, he’s fairly well behind the 66.9 WAR and 54.8 JAWS. However, he’s closer to the 42.7 WAR7. Examining his career past these numbers you see a more compelling case.
Notably, by WAR, Olerud is the 20th best first baseman of all-time. When looking at the top 20, the only three eligible players not tainted by steroids not in the Hall of Fame are Todd Helton, Keith Hernandez, and Olerud.
Behind these players are nine Hall of Famers. Those players include Hank Greenberg and Orlando Cepeda. Other players behind him are Fred McGriff, Delgado, and Don Mattingly, three players who have very vocal advocates.
First and foremost, the 500 doubles is significant. Olerud is one of 64 players to accomplish that feat. Of those 64, there are few eligible players not in the Hall of Fame.
When you eliminate steroids tainted players like Rafael Palmeiro and players currently on the ballot like Helton, there are only members of the 500 doubles club not in the Hall of Fame.
Digging deeper into that, putting aside Barry Bonds and Palmeiro, Scott Rolen and Helton are the only players with 500 doubles and three Gold Gloves who aren’t in the Hall of Fame. Notably, Rolen and Helton are still on the ballot.
Beyond that, Olerud deserves a bump for his postseason play. In his postseason career, he was a .278/.365/.435 hitter. When you look at his performance prior to the final two seasons of his career, he had a .816 OPS. He won two World Series and was part of several memorable games.
There are also some very unique and noteworthy aspects of his career. Olerud became the only first baseman and just the second overall to hit a cycle in both leagues.
Like Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, he went straight from the draft to the Majors. In fact, Olerud would be the only second round pick to accomplish the feat.
While Hernandez is seen as the best defensive first baseman ever, Olerud is the all-time leader in defensive WAR at first base. He’s fifth in total zone rating.
Even with his being part of the best defensive infield in history, Olerud is overlooked for being one of the greatest defenders at the position. In fact, he was so good Bobby Valentine was able to utilize him holding on runners without Olerud having to stand directly on the bag.
Nearly everything about Olerud’s career was unique right down to his wearing a batting helmet in the field. Looking at his entire career, Olerud left an indelible mark on the history of baseball.
He was a great defensive first baseman, one of the best ever, and he was a very good hitter who would hit .350+ three times and have eight seasons above a 124 OPS+. In fact, in 16 of his 17 seasons, Olerud was an above league average hitter.
Overall, Olerud was an outstanding player who was one of the more complete first baseman of not just his era but MLB history. While you may still fairly look upon as his career as just short, he certainly deserved a deeper look into what might’ve been a Hall of Fame career.