Players Who Are Just Short of the Hall of Fame
In year two of Hall of Fame voting, I was more forgiving, and I found room to vote for players like Fred McGriff and Vladimir Guerrero when I would not have voted for them last year. Even with my finding more reasons to vote for different players, there were still some players who just fell short. Here is a quick synopsis on each:
Jorge Posada, C
Stats: 17 seasons, .273/.374/.474, 1,664 H, 379 2B, 10 3B, 275 HR, 1,065 RBI, 20 SB
Advanced: 42.7 WAR, 32.7 WAR7, 37.7 JAWS
Awards: 5X Silver Slugger, 5X All Star
When you are an important member of the Yankees famed Core Four that won five World Series, you are going to get a long look for the Hall of Fame even if you won only four rings with the group.
While Posada had a good career, it is hard to make a Hall of Fame case for him. With the average catcher having a 52.7 WAR, 34.2 WAR7, and a 43.4 JAWS, Posada doesn’t quite measure up. Posada was a good hitter, but was rarely a great hitter averaging just 19 homers and 74 RBI in the 14 seasons he was a regular player. Behind the plate, he was slightly below average throwing out base runners, but his pitching staff did seem to tout his ability to catch a game.
While he does get some extra credit for all the World Series titles, Posada was rarely great in the postseason. In 29 series, Posada only had two series you would consider great. While he doesn’t get penalized for largely uninspired postseason play, he also doesn’t get extra credit for it.
Ultimately, Posada was a good to very good player for most of his career. Unfortunately, he didn’t compile big counting stats, nor was he an advanced statistic darling. With that, he falls just short.
Stats: 15 seasons, .256/.341/.435, 1,307 H, 306 2B, 14 3B, 193 HR, 757 RBI, 25 SB
Advanced: 24.3 WAR, 18.7 WAR7, 21.5 JAWS
Awards: Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, 3X All Star
When you get down to it, the best case for Varitek was he was a member of that 2004 Red Sox team that broke the Curse of the Bambino. Another factor was he was widely regarded as a leader on that team. However, it is really difficult to make a case for a player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame based upon intangibles when he falls so short with the traditional and advanced statistics.
Billy Wagner, RP
Stats: 16 seasons, 47-40, 2.31 ERA, 422 SV, 0.998 WHIP, 11.9 K/9
Advanced: 28.1 WAR, 19.9 WAR7, 24.0 JAWS
Awards: 7X All Star
While there are relief pitchers and closers in the Hall of Fame, we have yet to see the person who spent their career as a modern closer enter the Hall of Fame. For the most part, the closers in the Hall of Fame were multiple inning fireman (Rich Gossage) or pitchers who split time between starting and relieving (Dennis Eckersley).
Looking up and down the list of the closers that have been inducted, it is hard to make a case that any of them were as dominant as Wagner was. He was a guy that came into the game with a high 90s fastball and struck out the side. It’s why his ERA+ is higher than any reliever in or eligible for the Hall of Fame. He amassed 422 saves which is sixth all-time and second among left-handed relievers. No matter how you analyze it, Wagner was a truly dominant and great closer.
But he’s still short of being a Hall of Famer. The average closer in the Hall of Fame right now has a 40.6 WAR, 28.2 WAR7, and a 34.4 JAWS. Wagner falls short of those numbers. Keep in mind once Mariano Rivera is inducted into the Hall of Fame, those numbers are going to go higher. Wagner is a classic case where you could overlook the numbers if there was some postseason dominance. Unfortunately, Wagner was not a good postseason pitcher with him pitching to a 10.03 ERA and a 1.971 WHIP in 14 postseason games.
If you were building a Hall of Fame for closers and other specialists, Wagner is on the first ballot. However, for the Baseball Hall of Fame, he is unfortunately just short.
Trevor Hoffman, RP
Stats: 18 seasons, 61-75, 2.87 ERA, 601 SV, 1.058 WHIP, 9.4 K/9
Advanced: 28.4 WAR, 19.6 WAR7, 24.0 JAWS
Awards: 7X All Star
Basically, Wagner and Hoffman have the same Hall of Fame resume. However, there are two stark differences. In his career, Hoffman saved over 600 games, and at one point was the all-time saves leader. Despite the save totals, Hoffman was nowhere near as good a pitcher as Wagner was. Certainly, if Wagner is not a Hall of Famer, Hoffman isn’t either.