Hall of Fame Vote

The 2016 MLB Hall of Fame class is another group that could lead to an overflowing crowd of supporters in Cooperstown, New York next summer. After watching Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Craig Biggio give lengthy speeches last summer, it could (and should) be a much larger group of inductees, as the museum and its voting privileged try to come to grips with the reality in the backlog, logjam, and cluster&%$# of names, due to their own stupidity, has led to.

Luckily, many of the writers are becoming more credible by making their ballots public, which leads to the early favorite for the worst ballot: Earl Bloom, who is the only person to have publicly voted for Garret Anderson.

Of course, I was ridiculed publicly, and privately, for my own vote last season, after having said that David Ortiz is the greatest DH of all-time, and I will be redeeming myself with my vote this season and detailing why Edgar Martinez is that man. I have this wonderful opportunity due to the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA). Here is some free advertising:

The Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA) was created July 4, 2009 to organize and promote the growing online baseball media, and to serve as a digital alternative to the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA).

The IBWAA seeks neither to replace nor disparage the BBWAA, but does offer distinctions. While the BBWAA requires ten years and hundreds of dollars of paid membership for writers to earn a Hall of Fame vote, the IBWAA has no waiting period, with a $20 annual membership fee ($35 lifetime).

In the vast majority of cases, the BBWAA requires the tying of a writer’s online work to a print publication for admission; the IBWAA does not. The IBWAA believes that the hoops an applying writer has to jump through to join the older organization are too many and too narrow, and welcomes all Internet baseball writers. Those with his or her own baseball website of any kind or scope are invited to join, as are those who contribute the written word anywhere within the baseball blogosphere.

Enough of that. Below, you’ll see my 15 votes for the 2016 MLB Hall of Fame.

NOTE: Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Mike Piazza were elected by the IBWAA and do not appear on the list for that reason.

Barry Bonds:

The all-time home run king (asterisk if you’d like) was the most feared hitter of his era, and possibly of all-time when you consider his career intentional walks, also a MLB record. He juiced…so did most of the top players. Say what you want about integrity of the game, but Bonds still had to hit the ball, and he did it better than anyone else.

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB IBB
22 Yrs 2986 12606 9847 2227 2935 601 77 762 1996 514 2558 1539 .298 .444 .607 1.051 5976 688
162 Game Avg. 162 684 534 121 159 33 4 41 108 28 139 83 .298 .444 .607 1.051 324 37
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/30/2015.

Roger Clemens:

Another “juicer” who prolonged his career with the help of medicine, Clemens was a workaholic well before the steroids became his enhancer. The career that Clemens had is Hall worthy, and he was a master of his craft and dominant during an era that was dominated by the juicing hitters.

Year W L ERA G CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
24 Yrs 354 184 3.12 709 118 46 4916.2 4185 1885 1707 363 1580 4672 143 3.09 1.173 7.7 2.9 8.6 2.96
162 Game Avg. 17 9 3.12 34 6 2 236 201 91 82 17 76 224 143 3.09 1.173 7.7 2.9 8.6 2.96
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/30/2015.

Ken Griffey, Jr.:

The smile, the swing, the glove…”The Kid”. Griffey has a clean image in a tarnished era. No one truly knows who was using and who wasn’t, but the assumption is that Griffey was the one who was doing it the right way. Injuries derailed his chance of holding Hank Aaron’s record that Bonds now has, but Junior certainly has a long-lasting legacy of greatness that will, quite possibly, earn him the highest Hall vote in history.

Year G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB IBB
22 Yrs 2671 11304 9801 1662 2781 524 38 630 1836 184 1312 1779 .284 .370 .538 .907 136 5271 246
162 Game Avg. 162 686 594 101 169 32 2 38 111 11 80 108 .284 .370 .538 .907 136 320 15
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/30/2015.

Trevor Hoffman:

Hoffman and his changeup held the record for all-time saves until Mariano Rivera and his cutter took it away shortly after his retirement. His long-term success and dominance help his case, even if he closed out his career in less-than-Rivera-fashion.

Year W L ERA G GF SV IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
18 Yrs 61 75 2.87 1035 856 601 1089.1 846 378 347 100 307 1133 141 3.08 1.058 7.0 2.5 9.4 3.69
162 Game Avg. 4 5 2.87 68 56 39 72 56 25 23 7 20 74 141 3.08 1.058 7.0 2.5 9.4 3.69
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/30/2015.

Jeff Kent:

Kent was similar in his success at the keystone position as Cubs’ great Ryne Sandberg. He may have been helped by having Bond hit in front of him for several seasons, but he still had to complete his job, and he did so tremendously. He was a force, a five-time All-Star, and an MVP. He didn’t have the defensive chops of Ryno, but the bat was much more impressive for a longer period of time.

Year G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB IBB
17 Yrs 2298 9537 8498 1320 2461 560 47 377 1518 94 801 1522 .290 .356 .500 .855 123 4246 61
162 Game Avg. 162 672 599 93 173 39 3 27 107 7 56 107 .290 .356 .500 .855 123 299 4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/30/2015.

Edgar Martinez:

The greatest DH of all-time. Edgar at his peak was a monster, earning a 39.8 WAR from 1995-2001 while playing all of 33.1 innings over seven games in the field. Add in his impressive WAR from 1990-1992 (17.2) while manning third base, and you can see that he was a pretty special player before moving to DH. Sure, he may not have the home run totals of David Ortiz, but he was a far superior player, especially his peak seasons.

Year G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB IBB
18 Yrs 2055 8674 7213 1219 2247 514 15 309 1261 49 1283 1202 .312 .418 .515 .933 147 3718 113
162 Game Avg. 162 684 569 96 177 41 1 24 99 4 101 95 .312 .418 .515 .933 147 293 9
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/30/2015.

Fred McGriff:

“The Crime Dog” was a monster for several clubs, and his constant changing of teams makes him an intriguing case for the Hall, as he didn’t spend more than five years with any team over his 19 seasons. Additionally, he fell just short of the once-impressive 500 home run club. When you consider his career stats are most similar to Hall of Famers like Willie McCovey, Willie Stargell, and Frank Thomas, you can see why McGriff belongs alongside his peers in Cooperstown, especially since he hasn’t been connected to any steroid stories.

Year G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB IBB
19 Yrs 2460 10174 8757 1349 2490 441 24 493 1550 72 1305 1882 .284 .377 .509 .886 134 4458 171
162 Game Avg. 162 670 577 89 164 29 2 32 102 5 86 124 .284 .377 .509 .886 134 294 11
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/30/2015.

Mark McGwire:

McGwire helped save the game after the 1994 strike with his incredible home runs. He couldn’t stay healthy, and it could be due to all of the steroids in his system, but his numbers and production are just as valuable as the PED-based shoulders that carried the game back into some semblance of respectability – until the league decided to frown on the same things that lifted it up.

Year G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB IBB
16 Yrs 1874 7660 6187 1167 1626 252 6 583 1414 12 1317 1596 .263 .394 .588 .982 163 3639 150
162 Game Avg. 162 662 535 101 141 22 1 50 122 1 114 138 .263 .394 .588 .982 163 315 13
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/30/2015.

Mike Mussina:

“Moose” was a workhorse and a winner for a team that never won in Baltimore. While he only won 20 games once (his final season), he was a model of consistency and won 117 more games than he lost due to his efforts.

Year W L ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
18 Yrs 270 153 3.68 537 536 57 23 3562.2 3460 1559 1458 376 785 2813 123 3.57 1.192 8.7 2.0 7.1 3.58
162 Game Avg. 17 10 3.68 34 34 4 1 226 219 99 92 24 50 178 123 3.57 1.192 8.7 2.0 7.1 3.58
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/30/2015.

Gary Sheffield:

The bat speed, the production, the attitude…Sheffield had it all. He, like McGriff, never found a long-term home. It doesn’t change the fact that his prime and peak seasons were seasons for the ages. He dominated the opposition and was feared for a long period of time. Who knows if he was a juicer – even if he was, he was one of the best players of the era.

Year G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB IBB
22 Yrs 2576 10947 9217 1636 2689 467 27 509 1676 253 1475 1171 .292 .393 .514 .907 140 4737 130
162 Game Avg. 162 688 580 103 169 29 2 32 105 16 93 74 .292 .393 .514 .907 140 298 8
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/30/2015.

Lee Smith:

Smith redefined the closer role and if the Hall has room for Bruce Sutter, it certainly has room for Smith for the same reason. It’s actually baffling that Smith, who has 178 more saves and a much longer, successful career, isn’t in and Sutter is…but that’s just my opinion.

Year W L ERA G GF SV IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
18 Yrs 71 92 3.03 1022 802 478 1289.1 1133 475 434 89 486 1251 132 2.93 1.256 7.9 3.4 8.7 2.57
162 Game Avg. 5 6 3.03 68 53 32 85 75 31 29 6 32 83 132 2.93 1.256 7.9 3.4 8.7 2.57
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/30/2015.

Sammy Sosa:

As mentioned above with McGwire, Sosa was loved by all during the home run barrage of the late 90s and early 2000s, but baseball turned their back on him and the other juicers once the Mitchell Report was released. Sure, he’s tainted, but he was an incredible talent whose love of the game and long tenure with the lovable losers in Chicago made him an easy person to root for. He has blemishes but so did MLB during his time. He deserves to be in Cooperstown.

Year G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB IBB
18 Yrs 2354 9896 8813 1475 2408 379 45 609 1667 234 929 2306 .273 .344 .534 .878 128 4704 154
162 Game Avg. 162 681 607 102 166 26 3 42 115 16 64 159 .273 .344 .534 .878 128 324 11
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/30/2015.

Alan Trammell:

Trammell was ARod, Ripken, Larkin, Garciaparra, and Tejada before those guys happened. His ability to hit and field at shortstop helped lay the path for talented sluggers like Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Correa today. Although Lou Whitaker will not ever get in the Hall, Trammell can still afford the dynamic duo from Detroit one seat in Cooperstown.

Year G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB IBB
20 Yrs 2293 9376 8288 1231 2365 412 55 185 1003 236 850 874 .285 .352 .415 .767 110 3442 48
162 Game Avg. 162 662 586 87 167 29 4 13 71 17 60 62 .285 .352 .415 .767 110 243 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/30/2015.

Billy Wagner:

Wagner was one of the most dominant relievers in MLB history. He never posted a full season with an ERA higher than 2.85 and a K:9 less than 10.1 (that injury-shortened 2000 season can be scrapped). He doesn’t have Hoffman or Rivera’s save totals, but everything else lines up similar or better to the two greatest relievers in history – which begs the question…is Wagner better than Rivera or Hoffman?

Year W L ERA G GF SV IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
16 Yrs 47 40 2.31 853 703 422 903.0 601 262 232 82 300 1196 187 2.73 0.998 6.0 3.0 11.9 3.99
162 Game Avg. 4 3 2.31 68 56 34 72 48 21 18 7 24 95 187 2.73 0.998 6.0 3.0 11.9 3.99
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/30/2015.

Larry Walker:

The power, the speed, the arm…Walker had it all. The only thing he didn’t have was pain tolerance or health. If he had stayed on the field, this would be a no brainer. As is, he’s a borderline candidate who did more than enough to warrant consideration.

Year G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB IBB
17 Yrs 1988 8030 6907 1355 2160 471 62 383 1311 230 913 1231 .313 .400 .565 .965 141 3904 117
162 Game Avg. 162 654 563 110 176 38 5 31 107 19 74 100 .313 .400 .565 .965 141 318 10
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/30/2015.

 

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Hall of Fame Vote

Bonds1I don’t have a Hall of Fame vote with the BBWAA, but I DO have one with the IBWAA. The Internet Baseball Writers Association of America gives a voice to the common writer, who tends to be the common fan – one who doesn’t utilize a national platform to showcase their personal agenda, while using a large publication to demonstrate their lack of knowledge. For those who are willing to be open-minded regarding their education of the greatest game ever played, the ever-changing numbers-crunching and constant flow of information has changed how many around the game think; however, there are still a few, like the link above, which detail how wrong so many actually voting for the Hall of Fame actually are.

Beyond the credentialed irrationality of many within the BBWAA, we are left with the limitations, which are being challenged now that a dramatic number of worthy candidates are on a ballot that can only allow up to 10 players into Cooperstown each year.  To overcome the shortcomings, we have the IBWAA, which is filled with bloggers, and national writers who don’t yet qualify for the BBWAA vote, and perhaps never will. Within the IBWAA, we can vote for up to 15 players each year, and I used each vote on a loaded ballot, while leaving off some very good players, as well. Below, you’ll find my ballot, but some valuable information from the IBWAA:

The IBWAA ballot compares identically to the BBWAA ballot, with the following exceptions:

1. Craig Biggio’s name does not appear on the IBWAA ballot because he was elected by the group in 2014.

2. Mike Piazza’s name does not appear on the IBWAA ballot because he was elected by the group in 2013.

3. Barry Larkin’s name does appear on the ballot because he has not reached the 75% threshold in an IBWAA election.

Per a group decision in 2013, the IBWAA allows members to vote for 15 players, instead of the previous 10, beginning with this election.

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
15 Yrs 2150 9431 7797 1517 2314 488 32 449 1529 202 1401 1558 .297 .408 .540 .948 149 4213
162 Game Avg. 162 711 587 114 174 37 2 34 115 15 106 117 .297 .408 .540 .948 149 317
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/26/2014.

Bagwell was a monster, who had one of the greatest seasons in the history of baseball in 1994 before the strike ended it. His career was shortened by shoulder woes, but he was one of the most feared athletes in the game, a Rookie of the Year, an MVP, and a four-time All-Star, who had 2.89 career MVP shares.

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
22 Yrs 2986 12606 9847 2227 2935 601 77 762 1996 514 2558 1539 .298 .444 .607 1.051 182 5976
162 Game Avg. 162 684 534 121 159 33 4 41 108 28 139 83 .298 .444 .607 1.051 182 324
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/26/2014.
Say what you want to about his character flaws – the Hall of Fame honors greatness, and Bonds was nothing short of great. An asterisk and labels can’t change the fact that he had to hit the ball, and he certainly did that – while stealing bases and being an incredible athlete in his earlier, slimmer seasons.
Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 SO/W
24 Yrs 354 184 3.12 709 707 118 46 4916.2 4185 1885 1707 363 1580 4672 143 3.09 1.173 7.7 2.96
162 Game Avg. 17 9 3.12 34 34 6 2 236 201 91 82 17 76 224 143 3.09 1.173 7.7 2.96
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/26/2014.
Clemens was a competitor, a hard-working workhorse, whose offseason workouts led to his long-term success, just as much as some of the “products” that he put into his body. Despite his stupidity off-the-field, he was an amazing pitcher on it – one of the greatest.
Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 SO/W
22 Yrs 303 166 3.29 618 603 100 37 4135.1 3346 1703 1513 411 1497 4875 135 3.19 1.171 7.3 3.26
162 Game Avg. 17 9 3.29 34 34 6 2 230 186 95 84 23 83 271 135 3.19 1.171 7.3 3.26
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/26/2014.
“The Big Unit” holds the MLB record for career K:9 and his size and stuff were equally intimidating – ask John Kruk. The longevity of his stuff was equally impressive as his results.
Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
17 Yrs 2298 9537 8498 1320 2461 560 47 377 1518 94 801 1522 .290 .356 .500 .855 123 4246
162 Game Avg. 162 672 599 93 173 39 3 27 107 7 56 107 .290 .356 .500 .855 123 299
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/26/2014.
Kent’s numbers may be inflated from batting behind Bonds for so many years, but his overall numbers at second base make Ryne Sandberg’s look pedestrian. Different era, certainly, but Kent’s production is absolutely Hall-worthy.
Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
19 Yrs 2180 9057 7937 1329 2340 441 76 198 960 379 939 817 .295 .371 .444 .815 116 3527
162 Game Avg. 162 673 590 99 174 33 6 15 71 28 70 61 .295 .371 .444 .815 116 262
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/26/2014.
He’s already in Cooperstown, but he still gets my vote here. Call me a homer, but Larkin helped to redefine the position when he became the very first shortstop in baseball history to post a 30 home run/30 stolen base season in 1996, the season AFTER his MVP award.
Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 SO/W
18 Yrs 219 100 2.93 476 409 46 17 2827.1 2221 1006 919 239 760 3154 154 2.91 1.054 7.1 4.15
162 Game Avg. 17 8 2.93 37 31 4 1 217 171 77 71 18 58 242 154 2.91 1.054 7.1 4.15
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/26/2014.
Pedro was as dominant as any pitcher ever during his prime. He won three Cy Young Awards (two were unanimous) over a four year period, while having a 4.26 career Cy Young shares. From 1997 through 2003, he averaged 17 wins per season, with a 2.20 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, and had a 5.59 K:BB. Perhaps it wasn’t long enough for some, but Martinez was as good as any right-handed pitcher ever when he was in his prime.
Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
19 Yrs 2460 10174 8757 1349 2490 441 24 493 1550 72 1305 1882 .284 .377 .509 .886 134 4458
162 Game Avg. 162 670 577 89 164 29 2 32 102 5 86 124 .284 .377 .509 .886 134 294
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/26/2014.
“The Crime Dog” hasn’t had nearly enough love from BBWAA voters since he became eligible in 2010, falling to 11.7 percent of the vote last season. He didn’t reach the 500 home run plateau, but he also wasn’t one of “those guys” when it comes to the PED police. Sure, he never won an MVP, but he did earn five All-Star appearances and was the epitome of consistency by averaging a .289/.382/.515 line with 31 home runs and 97 RBI per season from 1988 through 2001 – 14 seasons!
Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
16 Yrs 1874 7660 6187 1167 1626 252 6 583 1414 12 1317 1596 .263 .394 .588 .982 163 3639
162 Game Avg. 162 662 535 101 141 22 1 50 122 1 114 138 .263 .394 .588 .982 163 315
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/26/2014.
McGwire sort of ruined things for everyone when he was bashing with Jose Canseco in Oakland and blowing up quicker than a marshmallow in a microwave in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. The “Andro” in the locker started the media’s movement to ridicule cheaters in baseball, but it wasn’t until after Bud Selig and the owners were loving the revenue and the return of baseball’s popularity. Not only did McGwire put up incredible numbers, he and Sosa’s rush towards Maris’s record helped save the game. Numbers alone (which is what players are measured on)…McGwire is in.
Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
23 Yrs 2502 10359 8872 1571 2605 430 113 170 980 808 1330 966 .294 .385 .425 .810 123 3771
162 Game Avg. 162 671 574 102 169 28 7 11 63 52 86 63 .294 .385 .425 .810 123 244
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/26/2014.
Rickey Henderson was flashy and outrageous, but Raines was just as special and dynamic. Raines may be remembered for slight production for a number of years. He was at his best from 1981 through 1987, earning All-Star nods each of those seasons; however, Raines would hang around for an additional 14 seasons, producing above replacement level numbers through 1993 before his career was mostly him just lingering. Despite the shortcomings, he should be measured for his extended greatness in the 1980’s, and his ranking 5th all-time in stolen bases also helps.
Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
22 Yrs 2576 10947 9217 1636 2689 467 27 509 1676 253 1475 1171 .292 .393 .514 .907 140 4737
162 Game Avg. 162 688 580 103 169 29 2 32 105 16 93 74 .292 .393 .514 .907 140 298
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/26/2014.
Another man with character flaws, Sheffield’s personality rubbed a lo t of people the wrong way; however, his production on-the-field was elite. He remains one of the top right-handed power hitters in the history of the game, and the bat-speed has made him legendary, leading to many comparisons to upcoming prospects, like the Cubs’ Javier Baez. Sheffield’s arrogance can only be matched by the impressive numbers that should lead to his admittance to Cooperstown.
Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA G GS CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 SO/W
21 Yrs 213 155 3.33 723 481 53 16 154 3473.0 3074 1391 1284 288 1010 3084 125 3.24 1.176 8.0 3.05
162 Game Avg. 12 9 3.33 41 27 3 1 9 196 174 79 73 16 57 174 125 3.24 1.176 8.0 3.05
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/26/2014.
Smoltz had an interesting career – one that will lead many wondering if he did enough to get into the Hall of Fame. Sure, he didn’t win 300 games, but he spent four seasons in the bullpen and one season out of baseball due to Tommy John surgery. His dominance as a starter AND a reliever is what makes his case so special.
Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
18 Yrs 2354 9896 8813 1475 2408 379 45 609 1667 234 929 2306 .273 .344 .534 .878 128 4704
162 Game Avg. 162 681 607 102 166 26 3 42 115 16 64 159 .273 .344 .534 .878 128 324
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/26/2014.
A freak, whether natural or enhanced, Sosa was a monster. Like McGwire, his lore is disturbed by question marks and labels; however, for me, the numbers tell the story. He was one of the best players in baseball for an extended period of time, which allows him to rank among the game’s greatests.
Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
20 Yrs 2293 9376 8288 1231 2365 412 55 185 1003 236 850 874 .285 .352 .415 .767 110 3442
162 Game Avg. 162 662 586 87 167 29 4 13 71 17 60 62 .285 .352 .415 .767 110 243
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/26/2014.
I wrote an entire article on this several years ago and I feel that it is still relevant. Find it HERE.
Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
17 Yrs 1988 8030 6907 1355 2160 471 62 383 1311 230 913 1231 .313 .400 .565 .965 141 3904
162 Game Avg. 162 654 563 110 176 38 5 31 107 19 74 100 .313 .400 .565 .965 141 318
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/26/2014.
Walker’s overall number look very similar to Jeff Bagwell, and he is just as worthy of enshrinement. Injuries quickly halted Walker’s production, but his ability to produce across the board, while featuring an incredible arm in right field, made him one of the best all-around players of his era.

Vladimir Guerrero: Overlooked Greatness

Guerrero3Vladimir Guerrero arrived in Major League Baseball for good on May 3, 1997, after having a cup of coffee in September of 1996, becoming an instant success for the Montreal Expos at the age of 22, posting an .833 OPS over his first 354 plate appearances, finishing sixth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting (Scott Rolen won the award that season). In 1998, Guerrero became a superstar, posting a .960 OPS and a 150 OPS+, the first of ten straight years with an OPS above .900 and eleven straight years with an OPS+ of 130 or higher.

From 1998 through 2008, Guerrero was one of the top players in baseball, ranking 8th in baseball in WAR over those eleven seasons (53.5, courtesy of FanGraphs), ranking behind Hall of Fame worthy producers: Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols, Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, Scott Rolen, and Derek Jeter. Guerrero made eight All-Star appearances, won seven Silver Slugger awards, and won the 2004 American League MVP, posting a .325/.392/.581 triple-slash (.972 OPS, 149 OPS+) while averaging 35 doubles, 35 home runs, and 112 RBI per season over those eleven seasons.

Guerrero2 ZimbioThe 2009 season seemed to bring the mid-30’s decline that is typical of many non-steroid using baseball players, as Guerrero’s final season with the Los Angeles Angels ended with a .794 OPS and a 107 OPS+ (both the lowest of his career to that point, outside of the 1996 September trial), although much of his sudden decline (Guerrero was 34 for the entire 2009 season) could be attributed to surgery on his right knee in late 2008, followed by two different stints on the disabled list (35 games due to a pectoral muscle strain and 21 games for a calf strain), which resulted in the weaker, end-of-season counting stats.

Suddenly, Guerrero, who was a superstar for a decade prior to the 2009, injury-plagued season, was a free agent at the age of 35, and he was offered a one-year contract for the 2010 season with the Texas Rangers (with an option for the 2011 season) to be the club’s primary designated hitter. Guerrero, a star for such a long period of time, had to wait until January for his one-year deal from Texas, and the Rangers were rewarded for their $5.5 million deal, as Guerrero posted a .300/.345/.496 triple-slash (.841 OPS) with 27 doubles, 29 home runs, and 115 RBI, earning his ninth and final All-Star appearance and his eighth and final Silver Slugger, helping to lead the Rangers to the World Series, where they would lose to the San Francisco Giants in five games.

You would think that the Rangers would pick up Guerrero’s 2011 option, but that was not the case. His $9 million option was declined, Guerrero received a $1 million buyout and he headed to free agency, as the Rangers rolled with Michael Young and Mike Napoli as options at designated hitter in 2011.

Guerrero would wait until February for a contract offer for 2011, inking a one-year, $8 million deal ($3 million of which was deferred) with the Baltimore Orioles. The 2011 season was quite a disappointment for Guerrero, as he posted a .733 OPS and a 98 OPS+ despite posting the highest contact rate since 2006 (82.1 percent). The ball just didn’t seem to drop right, or over the fence, as Guerrero finished with just 13 home runs and 63 RBI, and a career-low .126 ISO and 2.9 percent walk rate.

While Guerrero’s production had slipped, was it worthy of resulting in his career ending?

After not signing with a team over the winter, Guerrero eventually took a minor league deal with the Toronto Blue Jays on May 11, 2012, earning a prorated $1.3 million deal (based on time spent in the majors). Guerrero spent all of one month and 12 games in the minors for Toronto, posting a .358/.364/.679 triple-slash with three doubles, four home runs, 12 RBI, and a 2:0 K:BB in 55 plate appearances, before his ultimatum to be promoted resulted in his release. Guerrero’s production wasn’t enough to force Edwin Encarnacion (who was enjoying a breakout season that ended with a career-high .941 OPS and 42 home runs) to first base and Adam Lind (who had a nice 2013 but had a .729 OPS in 2012) to the bench.

Since that point, Guerrero was rumored to be seeking employment, potentially with the independent Long Island Ducks, prior to announcing his retirement from baseball on September 13, 2013.

Guerrero4Guerrero’s career was basically over at the age of 36, which is shocking when you consider that Jason Giambi was still rostered by both the Colorado Rockies and the Cleveland Indians in 2012 and 2013, actually receiving over 300 plate appearances, combined, at the age of 41 and 42. There aren’t many who were or are expecting Guerrero to have a Raul Ibanez-like aging renaissance period, but even with negative defensive value, he would seem to be a more appropriate designated hitter than the likes of Travis Hafner, Luke Scott, and Carlos Pena, all of whom failed to produce while receiving over 150 plate appearances in 2013. Looking at Guerrero’s resume, you’d think that he would warrant a look more than those players. Perhaps it is the fact that he is a right-handed hitter and the others are left-handed bats? With so few players around Major League Baseball who are capable of reaching 25 to 30 home runs, someone with Guerrero’s ability to make contact and provide some right-handed power, even with the ugliest of swings, is worth something in the current swing and miss era of offensive production.

Jay Jaffe, a Hall of Fame guru who writes for Sports Illustrated’s MLB blog The Strike Zone, had this to say in a recent article after Guerrero’s retirement:

Given a ballot logjam that among outfielders could include Raines (who would be in his 10th year of eligibility), Walker (seventh year), Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa (both in their fifth year), Ken Griffey Jr. (if he doesn’t make it in on the first ballot in 2016), Luis Gonzalez (fourth year), Jim Edmonds (second year), Sheffield and Manny Ramirez (both also debuting) and more, Guerrero’s candidacy will have to battle for attention and space. Unlike many of the aforementioned, he has no known connection to performance-enhancing drugs, but like them, he put up his big numbers in an offense-happy era. As Raines and Walker have shown, the Expos’ disappearance is no boon to a candidate. On the other hand, like previously elected Montreal predecessors Andre Dawson and Gary Carter, Guerrero played the second half of his career in a larger media market, which could make up for some of that.

Ultimately, Guererro’s electrifying style went beyond sheer numbers, and I suspect he’ll build enough support among voters to attain his bronze plaque. As a player who made the hair on the back of peoples’ necks stand up, he won’t soon be forgotten.

Guerrero5Based on Baseball Reference’s Similarity Scores, Guerrero was most similar to Jeff Bagwell, Larry Walker, Albert Pujols, and Todd Helton, as well as Hall of Fame players Jim Rice, Willie Stargell, Billy Williams, and Duke Snider. His career was full of seasons that were most similar to those of Willie Mays, Manny Ramirez, Snider, Gary Sheffield, and Rafael Palmeiro as he aged, which should make you wonder how there is any doubt whatsoever as to whether or not he should be enshrined in Cooperstown. As Jaffe mentioned, Guerrero was not linked to performance-enhancing drug use, but with the PED-era being shutout of the Hall of Fame by many within the Baseball Writers Association of America, it could take several ballots for Guerrero to be seriously considered.

Jaffe is widely known for his JAWS system of ranking players. JAWS is described at Baseball-Reference.com, where the data is held and easily accessible, as a means to measure a player’s Hall of Fame worthiness by comparing him to the players at his position who are already enshrined, using advanced metrics to account for the wide variations in offensive levels that have occurred throughout the game’s history. I asked Jaffe a few questions in regards to his JAWS system and his thoughts on Guerrero when compared to similar players from his era, and how his body of work holds up comparatively.

Can you give a little bit of background on JAWS and how you came up with it or why? How long did you work on it before it was perfected?

Though it didn’t bear the name at the time, the system that became JAWS debuted at Baseball Prospectus in January 2004. The currency was BP’s Wins Above Replacement Player, and along with career WARP, I defined the peak as a player’s best five consecutive seasons, with allowances made for injuries and military service on a case-by-case basis. The JAWS name arrived in December 2004, as I looked at the 2005 ballot. By the time of the 2006 ballot, I had switched to defining peak as a player’s best seven seasons overall, which allowed for a more automated process (believe it or not, I hand-cranked the scores for all Hall of Famers in my first two years). 

For the 2013 ballot, I switched from BP’s WARP to Baseball-Reference.com’s version of Wins Above Replacement, in part because BP’s pre-1950 advanced stats remained unpublished, and in part because B-Ref’s Sean Forman agreed to feature it on his site, creating cool leaderboards and featuring the scores on every player page. Who could pass that up?

I was thinking about Vladimir Guerrero recently and I went to see where he ranks all-time in JAWS and I was surprised to see that he was the 22nd ranked RF in baseball history. His career ended pretty abruptly, although there haven’t been many rumors of PED use in his case, he could be getting lumped in with the whole Steroid Era, just as Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell seem to be. A big surprise, to me at least, was that Larry Walker ranked 10th among RF all-time. Obviously, with a very crowded ballot, Walker saw his Hall of Fame vote drop from 21.6% in 2013 to 10.2% in 2014. With Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and the other holdovers, it looks like it could be some time before Walker gets the nod, and Guerrero is likely to join him on the ballot during that time…In my observations, Guerrero seemed like the better player, and I wasn’t sure if Walker’s production was aided by the thin air of the pre-humidor Coor’s Field. What is it, in JAWS or your opinion that separates these two players?

Baserunning and defense, mostly. You can actually see it itemized on each player’s B-Ref page, in the Player Value section. All numbers refer to runs above or below average (they’re converted relative to replacement level later on in the process):  

Rbat (batting): Walker 418, Vlad 433

Rbaser (baserunning): Walker 40, Vlad −3 

Rdp (avoiding double plays): Walker 10, Vlad −17

Rfield (fielding): Walker 94, Vlad 7 

Rpos (positional adjustments): Walker −75, Vlad −114 

Larry  Walker
Larry Walker

Purely as a hitter, Vlad was slightly more productive, albeit over 1,029 more career plate appearances — that’s even after adjusting for park and league scoring environments. Having said that, Walker’s 21-point edge in on-base percentage made him a slightly more productive hitter on a rate basis even after the air is taken out of his stats. 

Meanwhile, Walker has a 43-run edge on the bases, a 27-run edge when it came to avoiding GIDPs (thanks to his speed and situational hitting ability) and an 87-run edge as a fielder. What’s more, while both generally played right field, which requires a −7.5 run per year positional adjustment, Vlad’s time as a DH requires a requires a −15 run per year adjustment.  

In all, the two were of comparable offensive value in their careers (62.2 oWAR for Walker, 59.0 oWAR for Vlad), but the former’s defensive value (dWAR) was +1.5 wins, the latter’s was −10.7, in other words about a 12-win difference. 

Guerrero is also behind Ichiro Suzuki and Bobby Abreu in JAWS. How much of a player’s value comes from defensive skills and base-running here?

Well, it can differ greatly from player to player. Obviously, Vlad didn’t accumulate much positive value in those categories, while Abreu had some, and Ichiro had outstanding value there (+62 Rbase, +106 Rfield) but much less as a hitter (+119 Rbat).

Is Vlad Guerrero a HOFer? Larry Walker? Bobby Abreu? Ichiro?

I believe both Ichiro and Walker are worthy of the Hall of Fame. I’m less sold on Vlad than I think the general electorate may be. I wouldn’t be surprised if he eventually gets in, nor would I be disappointed – at least unless Walker doesn’t get in, which appears to be the way things are heading. I’m just not going to be the guy who waves the flag for Vlad. 

Why do you think that Guerrero isn’t receiving much interest over the last several years when Jason Giambi was rostered for a full season and produced in Cleveland after admitting his prior PED use? The same goes for Abreu…

Guerrero’s physical decline turned him into a part-time DH in his early 30s (208 games there from age 31-34, compared to 335 in the field) and a full-time DH by his mid-30s. Increasingly, we’ve seen fewer and fewer teams willing to roster such players because they tend to be high-salaried without contributing a whole lot. When you look at Vlad’s career, you can see that he was worth just 3.2 WAR over those final three years, that while making around $28 million. That’s not an acceptable return on investment for most teams, and in the drive towards rational spending, he became a victim. I’m not sure how much of his complete disappearance from the majors after his age 36 season owes to an unwillingness to accept a lower salary or a part-time role, but I’ll bet it was a big factor. Giambi, by comparison, has really embraced that role and become a managerial candidate.

From the standpoint of being a Hall of Fame candidate, guys whose careers end in their mid-30’s face an uphill climb because their career totals are generally low. Vlad’s less so – 2,590 hits and 449 homers are Hall of Fame numbers if they come from an earlier era — but had he stuck around a couple more years in better health, 3,000 and 500 might have been attainable.

As for Abreu, his defensive woes and declining power probably trimmed a couple of years off his career, too. Sadly, I don’t think he has an ice cube’s chance in hell of making the Hall because his plate discipline and speed were so under appreciated. Despite a very similar oWAR/dWAR breakdown to Vlad (60.4/-10.6), he only made two All-Star teams to Guerrero’s nine! 

Jaffe’s explanation was very valuable in showing the differences between the players, and the fact that he took time out of his schedule to answer those questions for me was really cool for a lowly blogger like myself and it is much appreciated. Regardless, something that wasn’t factored into the questions or responses that is another useful statistic in detailing the differences between Walker and Guerrero, specifically, was the player’s OPS+ and wRC+, which factors in park effects. Walker finished with a career OPS+ of 141 and wRC+ of 140 and Guerrero finished with a career OPS+ of 140 and wRC+ of 136, another example of their offensive resemblances. Guerrero and Walker will remain similar in production comparisons due to their numbers not reaching the Hall of Fame lock-in plateaus of 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, and despite the defensive and base running differences, the two may be lumped together for several years on the ballot while the writers pick apart their resumes.

Guerrero1Vladimir Guerrero was a tremendous player who passed the eye-test of this blogger. While he didn’t have the counting stats of the juicers, he was certainly no less gifted and talented. So many superstars will be bypassed for Cooperstown enshrinement over the next decade due to the actions of others during their playing careers, and, just as Jaffe predicted, there will likely be a day when Larry Walker, Ichiro Suzuki, and Vladimir Guerrero are rewarded with their plaques by the required vote. When the baseball writers begin picking apart the numbers, I hope that they don’t continue to overlook just how special Guerrero was during his career peak, as we look back on a career that was magnificent for so long and faded off to retirement largely unnoticed by many. No team. No press conferences. A sad goodbye to a great player.

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