Hall of Fame

Reexamining David Cone’s Hall of Fame Case

Hall of Fame voting can be very inconsistent at times. For example, we have seen Lou Whitaker (75.1 WAR) and Willie Randolph (65.9 WAR) both get five percented from the ballot on their first appearance while we have seen Ryne Sandberg (68.0 WAR) inducted on his third ballot, and Roberto Alomar (67.1 WAR) inducted on his second ballot. Those same inconsistencies apply to other positions as well as we saw with this most recent Hall of Fame induction.

This past weekend, Roy Halladay was inducted on his first year on the ballot. In 16 Major League seasons, Halladay was 203-105 with a 3.38 ERA, 1.178 WHIP, 1.9 BB/9, and a 6.9 K/9. He would have a stretch of his career where he was as dominant as any pitcher in the game wining two Cy Young Awards and finishing in the top five seven times. From an advanced statistics perspective, he had a 64.3 WAR, 131 ERA+, and a 3.39 FIP.

Behind the numbers, there are a number of great starts and stories with him. Perhaps there is no bigger start than his first ever postseason start where he threw a no-hitter for the Phillies in Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds. You could also argue for his perfect game against the Marlins. Between the moments, the numbers, and the awards, it was determined Halladay was a first ballot Hall of Famer.

When you look at David Cone‘s career, he was not far off from Halladay.

Cone would pitch 17 seasons with the 17th season being a five game stint with the 2003 Mets. In his career, he was 194-126 with a 3.46 ERA, 1.256 WHIP, 3.5 BB/9, and an 8.3 K/9. While never seen as quite the dominating starter Halladay was over his career, Cone would win the 1994 American League Cy Young, and he would have five top five finishes in his career. From an advanced statistics perspective, Cone had a 62.3 WAR, 121 ERA+, and a 3.57 FIP.

Looking at Halladay and Cone, the numbers would indicate Halladay was the better pitcher. However, the separation is not as great as the Hall of Fame voting indicates. Whereas Halladay was a first ballot Hall of Famer, Cone would only receive 3.9 percent of the vote in his first and only year on the ballot. This would certainly suggest a lack of appreciation for what Cone accomplished in his career.

Cone is only one of 21 pitchers to throw a perfect game. He was as big a big game pitcher as there ever was. In the World Series, Cone has a 2-1 record with a 2.12 ERA. When his teams faced elimination, Cone made two starts. The first was a complete game gem against the Dodgers in Game 6 of the 1988 NLCS. The second was against the Mariners where he departed the game with the teams tied in the eighth. In those elimination games, he was 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA.

In his postseason career, Cone would make five starts with his team behind in the series. In those five starts, Cone was 4-0 with a 2.10 ERA. This includes his aforementioned complete game gem in the 1988 NLCS as well as his out-dueling Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in the 1996 World Series to get the Yankees back into that series and eventually win it. On that front, Cone has five World Series rings in his career. That’s one for each All Star appearance.

Considering the Hall of Fame is about honoring the best of the best, you can make the argument there is room for a pitcher like Cone who as at his best on the biggest stages. Looking at his numbers when the chips were down, there is maybe a handful of pitchers you would want over him. If Cone faced any of them, he would give them all he had.

With the understanding it’s not just postseason moments and World Series rings, going back into the numbers, Cone fares well against Hall of Famers. His 62.3 WAR ranks ahead of Hall of Famers like Juan Marichal, Early Wynn, Jim Bunning, and Whitey Ford. Looking at his peak, his 43.4 WAR7 ranks him ahead of Hall of Famers like Mordecai Brown, Don Sutton, and Jack Morris, and his 52.8 JAWS rates him ahead of Hall of Famers like Sandy Koufax, Dizzy Dean, and Bob Lemon.

His 121 ERA+ ties him with Don Drysdale, and it has him ahead of Warren Spahn, Bert Blyleven, Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan and Glavine. His 2,773 strike outs is 24th best all-time, and it has him ahead of Hall of Famers like Christy Mathewson, Koufax, Halladay, and Catfish Hunter.

He has more complete games than more recent Hall of Famers like John Smoltz and Pedro Martinez. He has more shutouts than Halladay, Pedro, and Smoltz. In terms of WPA (wins probability added), Cone is 52nd all-time among pitchers. His 25.42 mark rates him ahead of Hall of Famers like Lefty Gomez, Dean, and Phil Niekro.

Looking back, it is very likely Cone’s failure to reach 200 wins hurt him. After all, the average Hall of Fame pitcher has 246 wins, and there are just 11 Hall of Fame starters with fewer than 200 wins. It should also be noted a decade later there is fundamentally different emphasis put on the importance of the win, and with that newer perspective it may be time to reevaluate David Cone’s career.

Upon further review, it may be reasonable to determine Cone still falls short. In all honesty, his career may be the ultimate borderline case. However, it is also a much stronger case than a player who had received just five percent of the vote. Certainly, his all-time rankings in the aforementioned categories, his postseason performances, and his perfect game does deserve a fresher look. Hopefully, sometime in the ensuing years we see the Veteran’s Committee (or whatever it is called now) take another look at Cone, and upon a further examination, we may see him get inducted into the Hall of Fame.

 

Who Will Be The Next Mets Player To Enter The Hall of Fame

Come this July, the Baseball Hall of Fame will see the largest Hall of Fame class we have seen in over 50 years. In this class, there will be six new Hall of Famers, none of whom even wore a Mets cap during his career. As we know, Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza are the only two players inducted as the Mets in the Hall of Fame.

Looking further, there are questions as to where the next Mets Hall of Famer will come.

Seeing how the Veterans Committee, or rather the Today’s Game Era Committed, elected Harold Baines and Lee Smith into the Hall of Fame, there is a chance for previously overlooked candidates who played in the 1980s to bet inducted into the Hall of Fame. Foremost in most Mets fans minds is Keith Hernandez.

With his being the best defensive first baseman of all-time, his 1979 NL MVP, five All-Stars, and two World Series titles, Hernandez has a strong case. When you look further, you see how every player who has led his position in Gold Gloves is in the Hall of Fame. Breaking it down further, Hernandez and Andruw Jones, who is still eligible, are the only two players with 10 Gold Gloves or more who have not been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Put another way, Hernandez is a worthy candidate who may very well be inducted into the Hall of Fame in the near future. The problem when it comes to Hernandez is he will likely be wearing a Cardinals or blank cap. With his playing seven years in St. Louis along with his obvious love of the organization, it’s possible the Hall will push him to wear a Cardinals or a blank cap similar to how they chose an Expos cap for the late Gary Carter. Admittedly, the case for Hernandez wearing a Mets cap is stronger than Carter’s was.

Past Hernandez, the next best case is Carlos Beltran. Judging from WAR, Beltran is the eighth best center fielder of all-time. That puts him ahead of of Hall of Famers like Duke Snider, Andre Dawson, and Kirby Puckett. Combine that with his ranks among all-time switch hitters, being a nine time All-Star, and his postseason exploits, and we can all reasonably assume Beltran will eventually be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

However, like Hernandez, the cap may be an issue. In his career, Beltran played 44 games more with the Mets than the Royals giving him a reasonable option for either team. He may also feel a pull towards the Astros due to his postseason exploits and World Series ring, but he does not have nearly the time with them to wear an Astros cap.

When you consider how the Mets have consistently reissued Beltran’s number 15, the acrimony of Beltran receiving career saving knee surgery, and Fred Wilpon’s negative comments about Beltran in the infamous New Yorker article, it’s hard to imagine Beltran feeling a pull to wear a Mets cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.

After that, there’s an issue. While David Wright is a beloved player, he likely falls far short of meriting induction. Just look at Scott Rolen. Rolen had a better career than Wright, and he has only been able to muster 17.2 percent in his second year on the ballot.

After Wright, you are looking towards current Mets players. Among the group, Jacob deGrom probably has the best shot. So far in his five year career, he has a Rookie of the Year Award and a Cy Young along with his epic 2015 postseason. His career 143 ERA+ currently ranks 10th all-time putting him ahead of Hall of Famers like Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, and even Seaver.

It should also be noted deGrom is 30 years old, and he has only played five seasons. He is going to have to pitch at his 2018 level for a few more seasons to truly enter the discussion. While it may be an uphill battle, we have seen pitchers take off after turning 30. For an example, we need not look any further than Max Scherzer, who is making his own Hall of Fame case.

As for Noah Syndergaard and even Michael Conforto, both have age on their sides. They have shown periods of dominance, but they have had health issues, which have also prevented them from putting up big years early on in their careers from building a more solid foundation to their Hall of Fame chances.

Breaking it down, in an odd sense, the Mets player with perhaps the best chance of induction is John Franco – seriously.

The Today’s Era Comittee just opted to induct Lee Smith, and they opted to elect Baines from seemingly out of nowhere. When you stack Franco up against Smith, Franco has a better ERA+. Franco also has a higher ERA+ than Hall of Fame closers Bruce Sutter, Rich Gossage, and Dennis Eckersley. Moreover, Franco is just one of six closers in baseball history with over 400 saves, and he is the all-time leader in saves for left-handed pitchers.

For those who don’t believe in Franco ever being able to be inducted in the Hall of Fame, the doubt is understood. After all, Franco, like Baines, fell off the ballot in his first year after he garnered just 4.6 percent of the vote.

The dubiousness underlying Franco’s chances underlies just how long it may be before we ever see another Mets player inducted into the Hall of Fame. That should surprise no one as the organization did not see its first Hall of Famer until the franchise was 30 years old. It then had to wait another 24 years for its next Hall of Famer.

Perhaps, this is something the Mets should consider as they are passing on an opportunity to sign either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado this offseason.

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.

Edgar Martinez’s Stats Against Mariano Rivera Is Meaningless

Last year, Mariners DH Edgar Martinez narrowly missed out on induction to the Hall of Fame. It was a narrow margin with him falling just 20 votes short. With him falling that short, people who support his induction into the Hall of Fame are going to find any argument they can to push him over the hump.

With him now appearing on the same ballot as Mariano Rivera, you will be naturally inclined to look at their head-to-head stats. In fact, it is popping up all over the place already:

Do you know what Martinez’s stats against Rivera tell us?  It tells us he hit Rivera really well.  That’s it.  Trying to garner any more information from that is just plain wrong. Really, hitting well against Rivera is not a barometer for Hall of Fame induction.

If it was, this means the Hall of Fame is going to have to really open it’s doors to include far more players.

Andruw Jones, who is also on this year’s ballot is 3-for-5 with a homer off Rivera.  Since we are now looking at stats against Rivera, shouldn’t he now get enough votes to push him over the 75%? Shouldn’t the Veterans’ Committee also revisit the cases of Sandy Alomar (.462/.462/.846) and Aubrey Huff (.400/.429/.800)?

Looking forward, 2016 World Series MVP Ben Zobrist is 3-for-4 against Rivera with two doubles and a triple.  Curtis Granderson is 2-for-5 with a homer off Rivera. Are these both now automatic inductions when they reach the ballot?

Let’s look at things from a different perspective.  Martinez was 2-for-36 against Alex Fernandez.  This is the same Fernandez who did not receive one Hall of Fame vote.  Considering Fernandez did not garner even one Hall of Fame vote, and Martinez did not perform well against him, does this now mean Martinez should not receive any Hall of Fame votes?

Of course not because that is a vapid argument.

The success or failures against any particular pitcher does not define a career.  What defines a career is what was done on the field for at least 10 years, or in Martinez’s case 18 years.

Personally, I do not see him as a Hall of Famer.  He did not hit any of the proverbial magic marks like fellow DHs Frank Thomas (500 homers) or Paul Molitor (3,000 hits) reached. If you look at it, Frank Thomas is the standard bearer for inducting DHs into the Hall of Fame.

If you look at Thomas as the standard, Martinez falls short.  Others feel differently, and they raise some valid arguments.  That is what makes Edgar Martinez’s candidacy such an interesting debate.  That debate gets less interesting when you raise his stats against one pitcher or another.  That’s just raising interesting factoids which does not move the needle at all.

Because if it did, you wouldn’t give him one vote due to his numbers against Fernandez.

Chipper’s Hall of Fame Plaque Will Say Larry

It all began with Orel Hershiser. On the eve of the NLCS, he shared the information with Eddie Coleman. He was there and Steve Somers was here on our radios discussing it. In the pre-Twitter era, this was how you conveyed messages to Mets fans.

Mets fans would get that message loud and clear, and they would then deliver that message beginning with player introductions before Game 3 of the NLCS, and they delivered it every time he stood at the plate:

LAAAAAARRRRRRYYYYYY!

LAAAAAARRRRRRYYYYYY!

LAAAAAARRRRRRYYYYYY!

It was the only way Mets fans could try to torture Chipper Jones; the man who built a Hall of Fame resume by and large by his performance against the Mets.

Jones revealed in tweaking the Mets fans. He chided them one time saying, “Now all the Mets’ fans can go home and put their Yankees stuff on,” after he and the Braves had once again left the Mets for dead.

He named his first child Shea.

More than that, he hit .309/.406/.543 with 49 homers and 159 RBI against the Mets in his career.

In response, well, Mets fans had their beloved “LAAAAAARRRRRRYYYYYY!” chant. Whether or not, it worked didn’t matter. What mattered was the name got under Chipper’s skin.

Undoubtedly, Chipper got the best of the Mets in his playing days. The Braves knocked the Mets out of Wild Card position in 1998, and they won the 1999 NLCS. The Braves won the NL East from 1995 – 2005.

And now, he’s a Hall of Famer. Coincidentally, that may be where Mets fans win the war.

If you’ve ever seen a Hall of Fame plaque, it lists your given named with the nickname underneath in quotes.

It’s not Tom Seaver. It’s George Thomas Seaver.

It’s not Nolan Ryan. It’s Lynn Nolan Ryan.

It’s not Yogi Berra. It’s Lawrence Peter Berra.

It won’t be Chipper Jones. It will be Larry Wayne Jones.

That’s right. For all time, he will be Larry. It’s a warm reminder for Mets fans who loved to chide him with the name.

Hopefully, Chipper Jones gets a chuckle about that fact. Honestly, I hope it doesn’t detract from the moment from a great baseball player who was truly a worthy advisory.

Enjoy your moment Larry.

Trevor Hoffman Should Not Have Been Inducted Into The Hall of Fame

With Trevor Hoffman being inducted into the Hall of Fame, he now becomes just the sixth reliever ever inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Considering Hoyt Wilhelm, Rich Gossage, Bruce Sutter, and Rollie Fingers were relievers of a far different mold, and Dennis Eckersley had a career as a starting pitcher before becoming a one inning closer, Hoffman becomes a unique Hall of Famer in that he is now the first ever pure closer to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

With him being inducted, the question needs to be asked why it was him and not one of the other closers who proceeded him.

The first answer that will probably be injected as a reason is the fact Hoffman accumulated 601 saves.  At the time of his retirement in 2010, it was the record for most saves by a relief pitcher.  In reality, he had the record beginning in 2006.  The question that naturally follows from this is why is this now relevant?

It would seem odd to put 600 saves into a category with 3,000 hits, 500 homers, or 300 wins as those marks evolved over time.  The modern one inning reliever is something that arguably has only been around since the 1980s with Tony La Russa‘s use of Eckersley leading the charge.  Yes, at the time of his retirement, he had the most all-time, and he was 123 ahead of the highest retired closer.

That closer was Lee Smith.  What is interesting about Smith was he battled Jeff Reardon late in Reardon’s career for the most saves of all-time.  The year after Reardon retired, Smith passed him and the lapped the field.  At the time Smith retired in 1997, he had the all-time record with 478 saves, and he would hold the record for most saves in baseball history for 10 years.  Like Reardon, Hoffman would lose the title the year after he retired.

Speaking of Lee Smith, he is an interesting parallel for Hoffman, especially with both pitchers pitching 18 years and making seven All Star teams.

In Smith’s career, he was 71-92 with a 3.03 ERA, 478 saves, 1,251 strikeouts, 1.256 WHIP, and an 8.7 K/9.  He led the league in saves four times, led the league in games finished three times, and won three Rolaids Relief Awards.  From an advanced metrics standpoint, he had a 132 ERA+, 29.6 WAR, 21.1 WAR7, and a 25.4 JAWS.

In Hoffman’s career, he was 61-75 with a 2.87 ERA, 601 saves, 1,133 strikeouts, 1.058 WHIP, and a 9.4 K/9.  He led the league twice in saves, never led the league in games finished, and won two Rolaids Relief Awards.  From an advanced metrics standpoint, he had a 141 ERA+, 28.4 WAR, 19.6 WAR7, and a 24.0 JAWS.

In some areas, Smith is better, including WAR, WAR7, JAWS, strikeouts, and relief awards.  In others like ERA, ERA+, WHIP, and K/9, Hoffman is better.  Generally speaking, Hoffman and Smith are about equally as valuable as one another.  We only get to a true separator between the two relievers when we discuss saves.

Hoffman blows Smith out of the water there, but that’s not too dissimilar how Smith blew other contemporaries out of the water during his playing days.  He was 1-2 with Reardon much like Hoffman was with Mariano Rivera.

It would seem from a pure value standpoint, if Hoffman is inducted, then so should Smith.  However, we really know the end game was the amount of saves.

That’s why we won’t see Billy Wagner follow suit despite his having a much better ERA+ (187), more strikeouts (1,196), a higher K/9 (11.9), WAR7 (19.9), and having made the same JAWS and making the same number of All Star teams.

It’s also why we didn’t see John Franco get inducted into the Hall of Fame.  Sure, we can mock Franco all you like, but he has had the record for most saves by a left-handed pitcher since 1994, which is a record that has lasted for 23 years and does not appear of being eclipsed any time soon.

It should also be noted Franco led the league in saves three times, games finished two times, made four All Star teams, and won two Rolaids Relief awards.  This means Franco led the league in saves and games finished more times than Hoffman, and he won just as many relief awards.  His WAR (24.2), WAR7 (15.7), and JAWS (19.9) do trail Hoffman, but then again, we’ve learned this isn’t really about value.

It’s about total saves with the new bench mark apparently being 600 saves.  It is good that it’s a high bench mark, but at the end of the day, it seems odd this isn’t about greatness, value, or dominance. Rather, it’s about an arbitrary number decided upon because Hoffman just felt like a Hall of Famer.

Edgar Martinez Should Not Be A Hall of Famer

Last year, when contemplating who should be inducted into the Hall of Fame, I ultimately determined Edgar Martinez fell short.  Ultimately, the crux of the argument was due to the scarcity of DHs even available for Hall of Fame voting, it was hard to create a standard.  As a result, Frank Thomas, the only player in the Hall of Fame who spent more time at DH than in the field became the standard upon his election.  As Edgar was not the DH Thomas was, he should fall short of election.

Since that time, the IBWAA had decided to induct Edgar in what amounts to their own straw poll, and we have seen a groundswell of support of voters to induct him into the Hall of Fame.  Whether he does in fact get elected today remains to be seen, but at a minimum, it led to rethink how to approach Edgar’s Hall of Fame candidacy.

Ultimately, I decided that since a DH is just a hitter, Edgar should be looked upon as a hitter only first.  After collecting all that information, we can then make the determination about whether he was a good enough hitter to be in the Hall of Fame based upon his hitting alone.

Magic Numbers

The Steroids Era has blurred this somewhat, but we do know that there are certain magic numbers that get you into the Hall of Fame.  On the offensive side, those numbers are 3,000 hits and 500 homers.  With respect to both, Edgar not only falls short, but he falls well short.  In fact, he “only” had 2,247 hits and 309 homers.

Considering he averaged just 125 hits a year and 17 homers a year, he was going to need another six years to get to 3,000 hits and 11 years to get to 500 homers.  So from the magic number standpoint, we know Edgar falls well short.

Lesser Known Magic Numbers

To be fair to Edgar, he was not a home run hitter, and you do not have to be a home run hitter to be a truly great offensive player.  To that end, further examination is due to determine if he has the numbers in other categories that are worthy of Hall of Fame induction. For the sake of brevity in this section, the bars set are for all players eligible for the Hall of Fame who have not been implicated by PEDs.

Runs – Putting Johnny Damonaside for the moment as he is on the ballot, every player with more runs scored than Cal Ripken, Jr.‘s 1,647 runs scored has been inducted.  Edgar only has 1,219 runs scored.

Doubles– Again Ripken is the bottom line standard with his having hit 603 doubles.  Edgar falls short of this mark with his having hit 514 doubles.

RBI– Every player with more RBI than Ernie Banks‘ 1,636 RBI is in the Hall of Fame.  What’s interesting is Harold Baines, a career DH himself, was next on the all-time RBI list with 1,628.  Edgar finished his career with 1,261 RBI.

Walks – Walks are not as forgiving a category as the others as the Hall of Fame voters have not really rewarded that as a skill, at least not to the extent of the balls in play categories.  Thomas and his 1,667 walks is the floor, and Edgar again falls well short with 1,283 walks in his career.

BA -Like Walks, batting average is a bit unforgiving with Babe Ruth and his .342 setting the low water mark.  Edgar again is well short with a .312 batting average.

OBP –  This is where Edgar’s best case is.  Everyone with a higher OBP than Dan Brouthers and his .423 OBP are in the Hall of Fame.  However, if you remove Max Bishop, who played from 1924-1935 from the equation, that number drops to Stan Musial and his .417 OBP.  With Edgar having a .418 OBP, he meets the criteria of this adjusted standard.

SLG – For this one, some allowances need to be made as Larry Walker, Jim Thome, and Vladimir Guerrero remain on the ballot.  Another factor is Albert Belle and his .565 SLG is an outlier not being good enough for induction is an outlier.  Otherwise, the bar would be Rogers Hornsby and his .577 SLG.  Making those allowances, the new mark is Ralph Kiner and his .547 SLG.  Edgar again falls short with a .515 SLG.

Looking at these numbers, Edgar misses the bottom line standard on all of them.  In reality, he misses the mark by a big margin for most of them.  If we tweak the numbers, his OBP is the only one that matches.  It’s certainly impressive, but for a player whose sole job was to go out there and hit, it is really difficult to argue that one truly elite Hall of Fame level skill is enough to merit induction.

Advanced Statistics

As time passes by, we get smarter, and we learn new and better ways to evaluate hitters other than just their traditional back of the baseball card stats.  As we know, it is easier to hit in some parks than others, and as a result, we need statistics that adjust accordingly.  For a number of factors, including their goal of synthesizing a number of park and league neutral factors to derive an overall hitter value, I decided to use OPS+ and wRC+ for an advanced statistical analysis.

OPS+ If you look at the players eligible for the Hall of Fame and not tainted by steroids, Ty Cobb and his 168 OPS+ was the lowest “magic number” mark.  You could even push it down to 163 as Jimmie Foxx had that mark, but it should be noted he is tied with Pete Browning, who was not inducted into the Hall of Fame.  Edgar falls short of this mark again with his 147 OPS+.

Now, if we were to focus solely on modern players and just focused on those players who played over the last 50 years, the OPS+ threshold doesn’t really move as Dick Allen with his 156 mark was not inducted into the Hall of Fame.  However, Willie Mays and Thomas were.  So, if we were to treat Allen like an exception, that mark would move to Willie McCovey and Mike Schmidt, whose career OPS+ is 147, which as we know is Edgar’s career mark.

If we are making a case here for Edgar, which is what we are searching to do, it should be noted by this metric alone, he is tied for 42nd on the list.

wRC+Again, Dick Allen is the major impediment here as his 155 wRC+ was not sufficient for Hall of Fame induction.  That would make Tris Speaker and his 157 wRC+ the standard bearer.  Edgar and his 147 wRC+ falls well short of that mark.

If we were to make the same allowances that were made for the OPS+ mark, the threshold would move to the 145 wRC+ posed by McCovey, Willie Stargell, and the presumed to be inducted Thome.  Edgard has a higher mark than that.

Another factor in Edgar’s favor here is his 147 wRC+ ranks 33rd best in the history of baseball.

WAR
If we are going to discuss advanced metrics, we have to discuss WAR.  In reality, the WAR required for Hall of Fame induction is a moving target.  The high water mark is the 73.9 average for starting pitchers and the 40.6 average for relievers.  Putting pitching aside, the high water mark is the 73.2 WAR average for right fielders and the 53.4 average WAR for catchers serving as the low water mark.

Certainly, Edgar falls within all of those parameters with a 68.3 career WAR.  In fact, that mark puts him tied for 112th all time.  That’s ahead of first ballot inductees like Ivan Rodriguez(68.4) and Ernie Banks (67.4).  However, it also puts Edgar behind players never inducted into the Hall of Fame like Lou Whitaker (74.9) and Bobby Grich, both of whom were five percented in their first year of the ballot and were not inducted in the most recent Veteran’s Committee vote.

Overall, Edgar is 112th, which puts him well below some Hall of Famers, but it does put him ahead of many others.  The same goes for people not in the Hall of Fame.

Revisiting The Frank Thomas Argument

As of today, the DH position has only been in existence for 44 years thereby making it the newest position in all of baseball.  In the brief history of the DH, we have seen it used in a variety of ways.  It has been used as a spot for an aging veteran, and we have seen it used for a rotating spot to give players a rest.  Of course, with players like Edgar, we have seen it go to good hitters.

As of this moment, there is only one player in the Hall of Fame who spent more time at DH than in the field.  That player was Frank Thomas.  In his career, Thomas hit .301/.419/.555 with 495 doubles, 521 homers, and 1,704 RBI.  He had a 73.7 WAR, 45.2 WAR7, and a 59.5 JAWS.  If we are looking to create a standard to induct a DH, he’s it.

Edgar falls short having a lower OBP and SLG with significantly fewer homers and RBI.  His 68.3/.43.6/56.0 all fall well short of the numbers Thomas put up.

Other Considerations

If we are going to look at Edgar just among hitters, we also need to take other things into consideration.  Despite being just a DH, which is effectively a part-time player, Edgar only played over 150 games in just three seasons.  To be fair, we should make that four with him leading the league in games played in the shortened 1995 season.  Still, he was a DH that could not stay on the field.

Despite the current narrative that Edgar is the best DH ever, he really wasn’t as Frank Thomas was.  Moreover, Edgar wasn’t recognized as such in his playing days.  During his career, Edgar only won five Silver Sluggers and made just seven All Star teams in 18 years.  I know his name is on the American League award for DHs, but that doesn’t mean he was the best DH ever or even of his era.

One other argument I’ve seen is Edgar not playing the field helped his team.  Sure, his being utilized the best possible way was a benefit to the Mariners.  However, it’s hard to argue that is was also beneficial the Mariners had players like Mike Blowers, Russ Davis, David Bell, Jeff Cirillo, and Scott Spiezio at third base.

Summation

From this analysis, it is pretty clear that if you want to make a case for Edgar Martinez as a Hall of Famer, you certainly can.  He was certainly a very good hitter in his career, and based upon what metric you chose to use, he was among the best hitters in any particular category.  However, the question ultimately is whether he was a good enough hitter that we can overlook his never really playing in the field.

For me, the answer is no.

Right now, the standard for a DH is Frank Thomas, and Edgar falls well short of that.  He also did not put up anywhere near 3,000 hits or 500 homers.  You literally have to move the floors for any other statistical category for Edgar to be above the proverbial red line.  Worse yet, he was a DH that was not able to play over 150 games a season.  That’s a problem when you’re looking to induct a one-dimensional player.

No, it won’t be a travesty when and if Edgar is elected into the Hall of Fame.  However, it will ultimately be the wrong decision.

2018 IBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot

With the Hall of Fame results to be released tomorrow, this is my official IBWAA Hall of Fame ballot.  Unlike the BBWAA, the IBWAA has a 15 player limit, and the IBWAA will not continue voting on a player after they have reached the 75% threshold.  That remains true even if the player remains on the BBWAA ballot.  This year that applies to Vladimir Guerrero (who I voted for last year and would’ve again this year) and Edgar Martinez.

CF Andruw Jones

Stats: 17 seasons, .254/.337/.486, 1933 H, 383 2B, 36 3B, 434 HR, 1289 RBI
Advanced: 62.8 WAR, 46.4 WAR7, 54.6 JAWS
Awards: 5x All Star, 10x Gold Glove , Silver Slugger

With the average Hall of Fame center fielder having a 71.2 WAR/44.6 WAR7/57.9 JAWS, the one thing that stands out to you is Jones had about as good a seven year stretch of baseball than any center fielder in the history of the game.  Really, it was a tremendous nine year stretch of his career where he completely dominated.

From 1998 – 2006, Jones average season was .270/.347/.513 with 35 homers and 104 RBI.  In addition to being a middle of the lineup hitter during this stretch, he won nine consecutive Gold Gloves.  It goes a long way towards explaining how he put up 54.5 WAR during that stretch.  There are few center fielders who have dominated the sport on both sides of the ball for as long as a stretch as this.

There are some other finer points to consider with Jones.  Every Hall of Fame eligible center fielder who has hit at least 400 homers is in the Hall of Fame.  Every Hall of Fame eligible outfielder that has won at least 10 Gold Gloves has been elected to the Hall of Fame.  With Jones joining Willie Mays and Ken Griffey, Jr. as the only center fielders to hit over 400 homers and win 10+ Gold Gloves, he should also join them in the Hall of Fame.

3B Larry Jones

Stats: 19 years, .303/.401/.529, 2726 H, 549 2B, 38 3B, 468 HR, 1623 RBI
Advanced: 85.0 WAR, 46.6 WAR7, 65.8 JAWS
Awards: 1999 MVP, 2008 Batting Title, 8x All Star, 2x Silver Slugger

When it come to Chipper, the question isn’t whether he’s a Hall of Famer, but rather how high should he rank on the list of all time third baseman.  With the exception of triples and stolen bases, he is in the top 10 in every offensive category at the position with him being ranked second in runs and RBI and third in homers.  No matter what statistic or measurement you look at, Jones is going to be a first ballot Hall of Famer.

2B Jeff Kent

Stats: 17 years, .290/.356/.500, 2461 H, 560 2B, 47 3B, 377 HR, 1518 RBI
Advanced: 55.2 WAR, 35.6 WAR7, 45.4 JAWS
Awards: 2000 MVP, 5x All Star, 4x Silver Slugger

When looking at the newer parameters of WAR, WAR7, and JAWS, Kent falls well short of meeting Hall of Fame induction standards as the average Hall of Fame second baseman has posted a 69.4/44.5/56.9.  Really, Kent only comes close on the JAWS, but it’s not really that close.  Even with him falling short there, he still deserves induction into the Hall of Fame.

Looking at Kent’s career, you can make the argument this side of Rogers Hornsby, he is the best offensive second baseman in Major League history.  Certainly, you can make the case he’s the top slugger with him being the all-time leader in homers for a second baseman and second all-time in slugging.  In addition to that, he’s fourth all-time in doubles and third highest in RBI.

Every Hall of Fame eligible second baseman who has at least 445 doubles is in the Hall of Fame.  Every Hall of Fame eligible second baseman with at least 252 homers is in the Hall of Fame.  Every Hall of Fame eligible second baseman with at least 1200 RBI is in the Hall of Fame.  Every Hall of Fame eligible second baseman who has slugged at least .470 is in the Hall of Fame.  Well, that’s true for everyone except Kent, who is still awaiting induction.

One last note on Kent.  He is just one of 10 second baseman to ever win the award.  With the exception of Dustin Pedroia, who is still active, Kent is the only one of these players not in the Hall of Fame.  That should change as Kent certainly has merited induction.

LF Hideki Matsui

Stats: 10 years, .282/.360/.462, 1253 H, 249 2B, 12 3B, 175 HR, 760 RBI
Advanced: 21.3 WAR, 21.3 WAR7, 21.3 JAWS
Awards: 2x All Star, 2009 World Series MVP

A more detailed analysis of Matsui’s Hall of Fame case was previously published.  To put it succinctly here, as a professional, Matsui hit .293/.387/.521 hitter with 2,655 hits, 496 doubles, 508 homers, and 1,654 RBI.  If that all happened in the United States, he would be a no-doubt Hall of Famer.  However, due to the collusion and gentleman’s agreements between MLB and NPB, Mastui was never going to get the chance to spend his entire career in the MLB.  He should not be penalized for that.

1B Fred McGriff

Stats: 19 years, .284/.377/.509, 441 2B, 24 3B, 493 HR, 1550 RBI
Advanced: 52.4 WAR, 35.8 WAR7, 44.1 JAWS
Awards: 5x All Star, 1994 All Star Game MVP, 3x Silver Slugger

If McGriff only hit seven more home runs in his career, we would likely not be having this conversation because before the Steroid Era, hitting 500 homers was an automatic ticket into the Hall of Fame.  Perhaps knowing this, McGriff held on until he was 40 to try to get those homers.  It is a testament to him he was a productive hitter before his age 40 season.

Looking at all the numbers, it is fair to say McGriff has fallen short of 500 homers because it is assumed he was a clean player in another wise dirty Steroid Era in baseball.  He fell short because the players struck in 1994, which was when he was in his prime.

But looking at his advanced numbers, McGriff really falls short because of his defense.  That seems odd at a time when voters are pushing to elect Edgar Martinezto the Hall of Fame.  But that’s a debate for another day.  What is up for debate is his -18.1 dWAR and how reliable the defense metrics are, especially at first base, and whether those numbers can reliably be used to keep someone out of the Hall of Fame.  With the advent of DRS and UZR, it could be well argued dWAR is not reliable enough.

There’s some other considerations at play.  With the exception of Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, both of whom have taken PEDs, every Hall of Fame eligible first baseman with at least 490 homers is in the Hall of Fame.  The same goes for first baseman with at least 1,520 RBI.  Also, with the exception of players who are known to have used PEDs, every eligible first basman with at least 1,300 walks is in the Hall of Fame.

In addition to the regular season numbers, it should be noted McGriff was at his best when the stakes were at their highest.  For proof of that look no further than the 1993 season when he helped the Braves overcome a nine game deficit in the NL West.

But it’s more than the tangential evidence there.  As previously noted, McGriff bettered his career numbers with RISP, RISP with two outs, and high leverage situations.  Combine that with McGriff being an excellent hitter in the postseason (.303/.385/.532) with him putting up extraordinary World Series numbers (.279/.385/.605), and there is more than enough to make up for the fact McGriff never got those last seven homers . . . that is unless you want to count his 10 postseason homers.

RHP Mike Mussina

Stats: 270-153, 3.68 ERA, 2813 K, 1.192 WHIP
Advanced: 83.0 WAR, 44.5 WAR 7, 63.8 JAWS
Awards: 5x All Star, 7x Gold Glove

Given his being healthy throughout his entire career, and his coming off his only 20 win season, it does make you wonder why Mussina didn’t stick around long enough to get to 300 wins.  Arguably, he was 2 – 3 years away, and it would have only taken him until his age 41 season to get there.  Unfortunately, he didn’t stick around, so we have to have a more nuanced debate with his not reaching a magic number.

Now, the thing that really sticks out with Mussina is his career 3.68 ERA.  If he was indeed inducted, that ERA would be the third worst ERA by a starting pitcher with only Red Ruffing and Jack Morris.  Ruffing was only elected in a special runoff election after his time on the ballot expired, and Morris was inducted by the Veteran’s Committee.

However, lost in that ERA is the circumstances surrounding it.  Mussina not only pitched in the Steroids Era, but he also pitched the majority of his career in a hitter’s park like Camden Yards.  That’s where Mussina’s 123 ERA+ comes into account.  That mark matches Juan Marichal and puts him just ahead of Hall of Famers Eddie Plank, Bob Feller, and Don Drysdale.

There are some more considerations as well.  Aside from Roger Clemens and his complicated case, Mussina and Mickey Lolich are the only eligible pitcher with at least 2800 strikeouts not in the Hall of Fame.  Mussina and Tommy John are the only pitchers with 270 wins and over 2,000 strikeouts not in the Hall of Fame.  Mussina is the only pitcher with 270 wins and at least 2,300 strikeouts not in the Hall of Fame.

Combining that with his having a higher WAR, WAR7, and JAWS than the average Hall of Fame pitcher (73.9/50.3/62.1), and Mussina is well worthy of induction.

3B Scott Rolen

Stats: 17 years, .281/.364/.490, 2077 H, 517 2B, 43 3B, 316 HR, 1287 RBI
Advanced: 70.0 WAR, 43.5 WAR7, 56.8 JAWS
Awards: 1997 Rookie of the Year, 7x All Star, 8x Gold Glove, Silver Slugger

If we were basing it just off the WAR, WAR7, and JAWS, then Rolen would be an easy Hall of Famer as his marks surpass those of the average Hall of Fame third baseman (67.5/42.8/55.2).  However, judging from the voting on Rolen, many aren’t.  Instead, we hear many knock Rolen for not being that great, for being a complier, etc.

Looking at the criticism of Rolen, you begin to really understand why there are fewer third baseman in the Hall of Fame than at any other position.

Lost in any criticism was Rolen was a truly great defensive third baseman.  That’s evidenced by his three Gold Gloves that only trail Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt at the position.  He wasn’t Robinson with the glove, no one is, but he was a better hitter (122 OPS+ to 104 OPS+).  He wasn’t Schmidt with the bat, no other third baseman was, but Rolen was a better fielder than Schmidt (20.6 dWAR to 17.6 dWAR).  And you can certainly argue Rolen deserved more Gold Gloves with his being a better defender than players like Ken Caminiti and Mike Lowellwho won the award during Rolen’s prime.

Ultimately, Rolen did not have the bat that screams Hall of Famer, but he still had a 122 OPS+, which would rank him tied for eight amount the 16 third baseman already inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Overall, Rolen had a long and great defensive career, and he was better at the plate than how he is viewed upon by current writers.  With his defense and advanced stats, Rolen merits induction into the Hall of Fame.

Curt Schilling

Stats: 20 years, 216-146; 3.46 ERA, 3116 K, 1.137 WHIP
Advanced: 79.9 WAR, 49.0 WAR7, 64.5 JAWS
Awards: 6x All Star, 1993 NLCS MVP, 2001 World Series MVP

As we all know Schilling is not doing himself any favors with his being a lightning rod in an post playing days, which includes his tweets about lynching the media.  However, even with all that he does to shoot himself in the foot, it is still a matter of when and not if he gets inducted into the Hall of Fame.

When compiling the list of the greatest postseason pitchers of all-time, Schilling is on that short list with pitchers like Bob Gibson.  In the postseason, Schilling was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA and a 0.968 WHIP.  There are many things you can take away from Schilling’s postseason career – striking out the first five Braves he faced in the 1993 NLCS, pitching three games in the 2001 World Series, the bloody sock, and breaking the Curse of the Bambino.

All of those were great, but consider that in Schilling’s postseason career, he pitched in four elimination games.  His team won all four of those games with Schilling going 3-0 with a 0.34 ERA.  Schilling allowed no more than two earned in any game, pitched at least seven innings in each start, had two complete games, and one five hit shutout.  Basically speaking, if your life was on the, you wanted Schilling on the mound.

But Schilling was more than postseason greatness.  He has the best strikeout to walk ratio of anyone ever eligible for the Hall of Fame.  He is 15th all-time in strikeouts, and everyone not named Clemens, who has 3,000 strikeouts is in the Hall of Fame.

He has the advanced stats to be inducted as well with his WAR and JAWS being higher than the average Hall of Fame pitcher (73.9/50.3/62.1).  His 127 ERA+ ties him with Tom Seaver and Gibson and puts him ahead of pitchers like contemporary and fellow big money pitcher John Smoltz.

Simply put, Schilling was a great pitcher well deserving of induction into the Hall of Fame regardless of whatever trouble he has created in his post playing career.

1B Jim Thome

Stats: 22 years, .276/.402/.554, 451 2B, 26 3B, 612 HR, 1699 RBI
Advanced: 72.9 WAR, 41.5 WAR7, 57.2 JAWS
Awards: 5x All Star

With the Steroids Era, the fascination with 500 homers has certainly gone by the wayside.  In fact, of the 27 sluggers in the 500 Home Run Club, 12 of those players played during a time tainted by the steroids era.  Many will point out how McGwire, Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, and Gary Sheffield have not been inducted as proof positive of 500 homers not meaning the same thing anymore.

However, it could also be argued that doing it clean means all the more.  In fact, hitting 600 clean is even more astounding.  Given Thome never being implicated, he would certainly fall in that astounding category.

Really, you would be hard pressed to find a reason not to put him in.  His advanced stats are those of a Hall of Fame first baseman.  Even if you were to argue he played a lot of time at DH, it was really only 32% of the time.  Moreover, Thome hit 407 homers when he wasn’t a DH.  That alone would put him in the Top 20 among all-time first baseman.  As it stands, with the extra 205 homers, he’s second best all-time among players whose primary position was first base.

Overall, Thome was the epitome of a slugger, and he should be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

RF Larry Walker

Stats: 17 years, .313/.400/.565, 471 2B, 62 3B, 383 HR, 1311 RBI
Advanced: 72.6 WAR, 44.6 WAR7, 58.6 JAWS
Awards: 1997 NL MVP, 5x All Star, 7x Gold Glove, 3x Silver Slugger, 3x Batting Title

One of the main reasons Walker is not in the Hall of Fame already is because there remains a double standard regarding his candidacy.  Many a writer is willing to look the other way on steroids use, but will hold playing in Coors Field against Walker despite his legally playing there.  It’s also despite the fact his numbers are good enough regardless of his years at Coors Field.

For example, Walker has a 141 OPS+ and a 140 wRC+.  Both OPS+ and wRC+ stabilize offensive statistics for the park and league a player plays his games.  For every number above 100, that player is that much better than the league.  Using Walker as an example, he was 40% better than the average player during his playing time.Those numbers put him ahead of Hall of Fame right fielders like Reggie Jackson, Al Kaline, Tony Gwynn, Roberto Clemente, Dave Winfield, etc.

The Reggie Jackson parallel is an interesting one.  If you were to buy into Walker being a Coors Field creation, consider he hit .282/.372/.501 away from Coors Field (h/t CBS Sports).  Reggie Jackson, who was a no-doubt first ballot Hall of Famer, hit .262/.356/.490, and Reggie didn’t win any Gold Glove Awards.  Walker’s non-Coors slash line would compare favorably to a number of other Hall of Fame right fielders as well.

The point being is Walker wasn’t Coors Field creation.  Rather, he was a great hitter who played great no matter what ballpark he played.  Ultimately, Walker was a great hitter, fielder, and he was a great base runner.  He could do it all, and players that can do it all belong in the Hall of Fame.

Johan Santana Isn’t Koufax Or a Hall of Famer

Baseball can be cruel. For proof of that you need look no further than  Johan Santana

If two or three things reasonably happened, he’s a Hall of Famer instead of his teetering around the 5% thereby forever falling off the ballot. 

The biggest issue is his shoulder injury that ended his career. 

In 2012, it seemed like he was back. Through 11 starts, he was 3-2 with a 2.38 ERA, 1.029 WHIP, 9.0 K/9, and a no-hitter under his belt. 

After that no-hitter, his effectiveness waned, and his shoulder issues reemerged. Although he’s tried to comeback, it hasn’t happened. 

Now, he’s on the Hall of Fame ballot with the hopes that people will look at him as his generation’s Sandy Koufax

For the uninitiated, Koufax was elected into the Hall of Fame largely because voters completely disregarded the first seven years if his career and instead focused on the five brilliant years to end his career. 

During that five year stretch, Koufax’s average season was 22-7, 1.95 ERA, 0.926 WHIP, and a 9.4 K/9. He’d win three Cy Youngs with a 167 ERA+ and 2.00 FIP. To put it succinctly, he was great. 

So great, that he amassed 46.6 of his 53.2 WAR. Again, the first seven years of his career weren’t great. 

Like Koufax, Santana got off to a slow start to his career. This was partially due to his being a 21 year old Rule 5 pick who went straight from Single-A to the majors. 

It took two years for Santana to figure things out and five before he would find his dominant form. Like Koufax, when he found it, he was probably the best pitcher in the game. 

In his own five year stretch (2004 – 2008), Santana’s average season was 17-8, 2.82 ERA, 1.022 WHIP, and a 9.3 K/9. He’d win two Cy Young Awards while amassing a 157 ERA+ and a 3.21 FIP. 

Santana would amass 35.4 out of his 51.4 career WAR during that stretch. 

Now, Santana did accumulate more career WAR, but his period of domination did fall well short of Koufax. 

It’s noteworthy that Koufax and Santana fell short of typical Hall of Fame standards. 

As published on Baseball Reference, the average Hall of Fame pitcher amassed a 73.9 WAR, 50.3 WAR7, and a 62.1 JAWS. Again, Koufax and Santana fall short of this:

  • Koufax 49.0/46.1/47.5
  • Santana 51.4/44.8/48.1

Looking at these numbers, Koufax and Santana are close, really close. Still, there are two major distinctions between the two. 

The first has already been discussed at length with Koufax’s five year peak being better than Santana’s. 

The next is the postseason.  In Koufax’s postseason career, he won two World Series MVP Awards. Overall, he made seven starts and one relief appearance going 4-3 with a 0.95 ERA, 0.825 WHIP, and a 9.6 K/9. 

Conversely, Santana struggled in his 11 postseason appearances (five starts). Overall, he was 1-3 with a 3.97 ERA, 1.324 WHIP, and an 8.5 K/9. 

No, Santana should’ve be punished for relatively poor postseasons. However, when your numbers fall short, you need something else, like great postseasons, to put you over the top. 

Is that what put Koufax in?  Partially. 

Koufax always had narrative working for him. He didn’t start Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because it conflicted with Yom Kippur. Koufax would still pitch three games in that series going 2-1 with a 0.38 ERA winning Game 7 with a complete game three hit shutout. He did that on just two days rest. 

Koufax was also brilliant in 1966, winning a Cy Young in his final season. He’d go out on top with voters remembering him at his best. 

Santana left us broken. In his final five starts, he was 0-5 with a 15.63 ERA. He’s spent the past few years trying to get back into baseball. Overall, we remember him broken and a shadow of what he was. 

In the end, Santana was great, and if things broke right, he’d be a Hall of Famer. Sadly, it didn’t happen, and with his peak not being what Koufax’s was, it’s difficult to argue he truly belongs in the Hall of Fame. 

No, Jim Leyland Is Not a Hall of Famer

One of the discussion points during the championship game of the World Baseball Classic was whether Jim Leyland‘s Hall of Fame case should be boosted by winning the event.

Now, it will be interesting to see in the future whether the World Baseball Classic will have any impact on anyone’s Hall of Fame case.  It is doubtful as you are putting weight on a 8 – 10 game sample size.  It’s also doubtful because in reality the real prize in baseball is the World Series.  With that said, maybe it’ll have some impact with managers as USA keeps selecting retired managers to man their squad.  The selection of these managers brings them back to the limelight, and the attention usually serves as an opportunity to wax poetic about a person’s career.

With that caveat, it is possible Leyland may prove to be a test case for the WBC’s impact on bolstering a person’s Hall of Fame candidacy.  Then again, it seems strange that’s the case when Leyland is about the only person with any knowledge of baseball that thinks Eric Hosmer is a better player than Paul Goldschmidt.  For that matter, Leyland also thinks Hosmer is a better hitter than Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton, Jonathan Lucroy, Buster Posey, and Daniel Murphy.

Still, this does seem an opportune time to discuss Leyland’s Hall of Fame case.  In a 22 year Hall of Fame career, Leyland amassed a 1,769 – 1,728 record (.506 winning percentage).  He won the World Series with the Florida Marlins in 1997, and he won American League Pennants with the Detroit Tigers in 2006 and 2012.  He won six division titles (Pirates 1990 – 1992; Tigers 2011 – 2013), and his teams captured two Wild Cards (1997 & 2006).  Leyland is one of 17 managers all-time to bring two different teams to the World Series.

Leyland has also won three Manager of the Year Awards.  The first two were with the 1990 and 1992 Pirates, and the last one came in 2006 with the Tigers.  With the award starting in 1983, he is one of seven managers to win in both leagues.  He is one of seven managers to win at least three Manager of the Year Awards with Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa having the most awards with four.

Looking at the above information, it is fair to say he was a respected and well decorated manager during his career.  The question is whether he has done enough to merit Hall of Fame induction.  He hasn’t.

According to the Baseball Hall of Fame, there have been 23 managers inducted into the Hall of Fame.  With Rube Foster being inducted as a Negro League manager, there have been 22 Major League managers inducted in the Hall of Fame.  Considering the first professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, suited up to play 148 years ago, the bar has been set extraordinarily high to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a manager.

The average Major League Hall of Fame Manager has 1,916 wins with a .540 winning percentage.  Again, on average, these managers have won five pennants and two World Series titles.  Now, Frank Selee and Ned Hanlon managed a majority of their careeers prior to the inception of the World Series possibly making their stats too remote in time to judge the average Hall of Famer.  It should be noted, that their having won no World Series titles are incorporated in the average World Series titles won so that number is inaccurate as well.

Taking Selee and Hanlon out of the equation, the average Hall of Famer has won 1,978 games with a .539 winning percentage.  Additionally, these managers have won six pennants and three World Series titles.

Now, if you want to consider Connie Mack an outlier as well because he was an owner who was never going to be fired, the numbers change again.  Without Selee, Hanlon, or Mack, the average Hall of Famer won 1,886 games with a .545 winning percentage.  These managers have won five pennants and two World Series titles.

Looking at that, Leyland falls well short of the averages again no matter how much you try to manipulate it lower the standards to make him appear to be a Hall of Famer.

Now, it is true that there are managers in the Hall of Fame already who fall short of each of these averages.  Still, Leyland would fall short of each of these “lesser” managers as well.

Let’s start with the managers, like Leyland, who have only won one World Series title.  There have been four such managers in the proverbial World Series era.  They are Bobby Cox, Leo Durocher, Whitey Herzog, and Earl Weaver.  Each one of these managers have a winning percentage of .532 and higher.  This group has averaged 1,818 wins.  Moreover, this group has averaged a .552 winning percentage.  Looking at it from that perspective, Leyland falls short.

Now, with 1,769 wins, Leyland does have more wins than 10Hall of Fame managers, eight if you once again eliminate Selee and Hanlon.  Eliminating Selee and Hanlon, these managers have an average winning percentage of .546 and, on average, have won four pennants and one World Series.  That puts Leyland well short in terms of winning percentage and just short in terms of pennants.

In reality, the only thing you can look at to justify Leyland’s Hall of Fame case is the induction of Wilbert Robinson.  Robinson was 1,399 – 1,398 with no pennants or World Series titles.  It should be noted Robinson was also a catcher who won three straight titles with the Baltimore Orioles in the dead ball era, and he was the catcher recognized as revolutionizing the position by being the first to play directly behind the batter for an entire at-bat.  When he retired from managing, he had the third most wins all-time, and in his day, he was widely respected as manager and pitching coach who could get the most out of his pitching staffs.

Overall, Leyland doesn’t have the numbers for the Hall of Fame.  And that is before you consider Leyland quit on his team on three different occasions.  

He quit on the Pirates after they lost Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla so he could take the Marlins job and get a chance to win the World Series.  After he got his World Series and the subsequent Marlins firesale, Leyland quit on them to join the Rockies.  When the Rockies weren’t as good as he expected they would be, he quit on them.  

It’s one thing to make a case for a manager who doesn’t have the numbers, it’s a whole other thing to support the candidacy of a manager who quit on three different teams.

Certainly, when you have a managers with a low winning percentage that quits on his teams, it begs the question why anyone would think he was Hall of Fame worthy?