Friday, December 3, 2021

2022 Baseball Hall of Fame Mega-post



Major League Baseball's off-season has frozen due to the lockout, but there are lots of baseball-related topics to discuss. Hall of Fame votes are on the horizon and there are fifty players up for enshrinement across three different ballots. Let's take a look at the candidates:

Early Baseball Era (pre-1950)

Bill Dahlen
John Donaldson
Bud Fowler
Vic Harris
Grant Johnson
Lefty O'Doul
Buck O'Neil
Dick Redding
Allie Reynolds
George Scales

Bill Dahlen ranks ninth all-time among shortstops in career WAR, ahead of recent inductees Derek Jeter and Alan Trammell. His career total of 75.2 is 50th all-time among all non-pitchers. He gets my vote.



I've said before that I know next to nothing about the Negro Leagues, certainly not enough to have an educated opinion on which players do or do not deserve a plaque in Cooperstown. I'd vote for Buck O'Neil for his lifetime contributions to the game of baseball. Donaldson, Fowler, Harris, Johnson, Redding, or Scales may be every bit as deserving as any pre-integration inductee.

Lefty O'Doul won two batting titles in his six full seasons and finished his 11-year career with a batting average of .349. That's the fourth-highest mark in major league history. However he played just 970 games and his 1,140 career hits are far too low a total for even a "big Hall" ballot.

Allie Reynolds won six World Series with the Yankees in the mid-20th century, earning two top-three finishes in AL MVP voting before the Cy Young Award was a thing. His old-school stats (wins, ERA) are impressive but his strikeout to walk ratio and WAR totals are pedestrian for a Hall of Fame finalist.

Golden Days Era (1950-1969)

Dick Allen
Ken Boyer
Gil Hodges
Jim Kaat
Roger Maris
Minnie Minoso
Danny Murtaugh
Tony Oliva
Billy Pierce
Maury Wills
This is a fantastic ballot. It appears that Dick Allen has the best chance of being selected from this group. His 1,848 career hits are a low total for a Hall of Famer, but the three-time slugging champ produced plenty of power in an era that lacked the long ball. These "golden era" greats have been scrutinized for decades, but Allen has enough momentum to earn 75% of the votes this time around.


Ken Boyer has the highest career WAR of any player on this ballot. His 62.8 total ranks 14th all time among third basemen (12th if you count Paul Molitor and Edgar Martinez as designated hitters.) The 1964 NL MVP was an 11-time All-Star and 5-time Gold Glove winner, although those accolades mean less than they did 35 years ago when he was struggling to earn 20% of the BBWAA vote.

Gil Hodges was one Veterans' Committee vote away from induction (for that matter, so was Allie Reynolds). Being a standout run producer for the 1950s Dodgers helps his case, and I'd give him an extra point for managing the 1969 "miracle" Mets to a World Series victory. However his modest WAR total as a first baseman has been surpassed by modern stars from Albert Pujols to Carlos Delgado.

Jim Kaat is 31st all time in wins and one of the best fielding pitchers the game has ever seen. His strikeout to walk ratio is very good, though he averaged less than 100 whiffs per season. He also gave up a ton of hits and his ERA+ in a pitcher-friendly era is a modest 108. I am impressed that a player whose greatest contributions were classified as pre-1969 pitched effectively until 1983!

We all know Roger Maris as the single-season home run king (at least in the pre-PED era.) He won back-to-back MVP awards on a team with Mickey Mantle in his prime, and earned seven All-Star invites. However his 38.3 career WAR is the lowest of any player on this ballot and his 275 career round-trippers rank below 41 right fielders including Reggie Sanders, Tim Salmon, and Ruben Sierra.


Minnie Minoso could be a dark horse candidate to earn enshrinement. One of the greatest players in White Sox history, Minoso's career spanned an astounding five decades. His career .387 on-base % is the highest of any player on this ballot and his 53.8 WAR ranks 20th all-time among left fielders.

Danny Murtaugh managed the Pirates for fifteen seasons, leading the team to World Series titles in 1960 and 1971. I'd mistakenly assumed he already was a Hall of Famer before researching my All-Time Teams series. Murtaugh's .540 (regular season) winning percentage isn't eye-popping, but it is equal to that of Terry Francona - who also has two rings.

Tony Oliva won three batting titles in his eleven full seasons with the Twins. He led the AL in hits five times from 1964-1970 and his career .304 batting average is the highest of any player on this ballot. His overall career totals are more impressive than Maris - even with 55 fewer home runs, their career slugging averages are dead even. That said, his 43 WAR ranks well below several non-HOFers at his position including Dwight Evans, Reggie Smith, and Rocky Colavito.


If Billy Pierce pitched for the Yankees, he'd have been enshrined long ago. The White Sox ace finished his career with a near-equal amount of strikeouts in a near-equal amount of starts as New York's legendary lefty Whitey Ford, and he's not far behind in wins or WAR. While his contemporary has six World Series rings and a plaque in Cooperstown, Pierce's lack of accolades hurts his candidacy.

Maury Wills brought back the stolen base, which had been dormant since the dead-ball era. No National Leaguer swiped 50 bags in a season from 1924 to 1959. Wills topped the half-century mark in 1960, then set a modern-era record with 104 steals two years later. His base-running earned him NL MVP honors that season, but his lack of power resulted in nearly identical on-base and slugging averages (.330/.331)

I'm personally pulling for Hodges, Oliva and Boyer to get in - though I wouldn't mind Minoso or Pierce. Since it's so hard to separate one or two of them from the rest of the pack I'd be surprised if anyone other than Dick Allen earns enough votes from the committee.


Now for the BBWAA Ballot. There are thirty names on this year's list, and unlike in past years there aren't a lot of average players who hung around for the requisite ten years. Nearly all of these players were stars at some point in their careers. Let's look at each player position by position:
Starting Pitchers: Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Andy Pettitte, Mark Buehrle, Tim Hudson, Jake Peavy, Tim Lincecum


Timmy
! Three rings, two Cy Young Awards, four All-Star nods.. has it really been five years since Lincecum last pitched? Wow, time flies. He sure looked like a Hall of Famer those first few years. Peavy has some hardware, too: a Cy Young, two rings, and the pitching triple crown in 2007. Hudson won more games than John Smoltz and Pedro Martinez - but he never won a Cy Young or a World Series. Buehrle somehow has more WAR than David Ortiz and Sammy Sosa. If he'd pitched into his forties he'd have a real shot as a Jim Kaat/Tommy John kind of candidate for the 21st century. Pettitte has the postseason pedigree, but he's probably on the bubble even if you overlook his admission of PED use.



Fun fact about Curt Schilling - while many (including Schill himself) believe that the BBWAA writers are punishing him for espousing extreme political views.. his vote totals have gone up in each of the last four elections. He could easily get the "final ballot bump" this winter if he didn't insist on giving writers a reason to exclude him.
Roger Clemens will get in on the same day that 75% of the voters decide to ignore steroid use, lying about steroid use in front of Congress, and blaming one's spouse/friend/teammate for said steroid use.

Relief Pitchers: Billy Wagner, Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon
Wagner's vote totals in his first four years were stuck in the teens. Last year, his sixth on the ballot, he earned 46.4% of the vote. His 187 ERA+ (fifth all-time among relievers) and 422 saves (sixth all-time) have him on track to becoming the first left-handed closer enshrined in Cooperstown. Joe Nathan's ERA, WAR, and save totals compare favorably to Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers. Papelbon is tenth all-time in saves, made six All-Star teams, and closed out the 2007 World Series for the Red Sox.

First Basemen: Todd Helton, David Ortiz, Mark Teixeira, Justin Morneau, Prince Fielder,
Ryan Howard

That's a lot of star power at one position. Howard hit more home runs than all but twenty first basemen. However his 14.7 WAR ranks 30th out of the 30 players on this ballot. Fielder had better on-base and WAR numbers than Howard but still falls far short of Hall standards. Morneau has an MVP award and a slightly higher WAR than Fielder, but fewer base hits. Teixeira was the best defensive first baseman of the bunch, and his 409 home runs are a higher total than every non-DH in this group.

"Big Papi" ranks 17th all-time in home runs with 541 - five more than Mickey Mantle - and won three World Series with the Red Sox. However he was primarily a DH and tested positive for... something? .. according to the New York Times.
 
 
PED rumors swirled around Helton at one point, though his declining power could have (also?) been the result of chronic back pain. That and the "Coors Field effect"could slow his efforts for enshrinement - though he earned roughly 45% of the votes cast in last year's election.

Other infielders: Alex Rodriguez, Scott Rolen, Jeff Kent, Jimmy Rollins, Omar Vizquel,
A.J. Pierzynski

I said nearly all of these players were stars of the sport - and Pierzynski is one exception. The two-time All-Star caught more games than all but eight players in MLB history. And he won a World Series with the 2005 White Sox. His 94 OPS+ is the second lowest of any position player on the ballot, ahead of only Omar Viqzuel. With 11 Gold Gloves and more career hits than any eligible non-HOFer not connected to PEDs, Vizquel's candidacy is unique - and it may have already peaked at 52.6% of the vote in 2020.



Rollins and Kent have nearly the same amount of hits in nearly the same amount of games. Both middle infielders have earned NL MVP honors. Kent is the all-time leader in home runs by a second baseman. Rollins stole 470 bases and was a far superior fielder. Rolen won eight Gold Gloves at third base, and his 70.1 WAR is the highest total of any player on this ballot who doesn't trigger the "character clause".

A-Rod has more positive PED tests and suspensions than Bonds and Clemens combined - which leads me to believe his vote totals will be lower than theirs (at least this year.) If one gets in, they'll all get in. Then the question becomes: what about Manny Ramirez? Rafael Palmeiro? Sammy Sosa? Mark McGwire? It's a Pandora's Box for sure - and one that may arguably open if David Ortiz is elected. Or, if you believe Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, and/or Ivan Rodrguez cheated, it already has.

I've always been strictly against rewarding cheaters. However I wasn't convinced that Piazza, Bagwell, or Pudge were in that class. I'm not convinced Ortiz is, either. Not because I'm a biased Red Sox fan (there's no denying Manny popped PEDs) but because the commissioner himself cleared Papi.

Outfielders: Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez, Andruw Jones, Gary Sheffield, Bobby Abreu, Sammy Sosa, Torii Hunter, Carl Crawford

Carl Crawford led the league in stolen bases four times and swiped more bags than anybody on this ballot except Barry Bonds. He also started a record label that produced Megan Thee Stallion, so you can thank/blame him for that. Remember what I said about Billy Pierce? It doesn't work for Torii Hunter, whose Yankee comparable Bernie Williams earned the same percentage of Hall votes. Bobby Abreu is the Rick Reuschel of position players - an 'advanced stats' stud with a high WAR who doesn't quite fit the "fame" criteria of the Hall.


Sosa and Sheffield are strongly linked to PEDs. Sheffield got more than twice as many votes as Sosa last year because he was a better pure hitter. Both players quit on their team at one point in their careers, and both were mediocre fielders at best. "Slammin Sammy" slammed a hundred more homers than Sheff. Sheff walked 500 more times than Sammy. Manny Ramirez was a better hitter than both of them. Barry Bonds was a far better hitter than Sosa, significantly better than Sheffield, Ramirez, and nearly every other player you can think of - roids or not.

And then there's Andruw Jones, who produced like a first-ballot Hall of Fame lock in his twenties. Once he turned 30, he suddenly devolved into a lumbering part-time DH with zero speed or defensive value. And he still amassed 62.7 career WAR, the second highest total of any non-cheater on the ballot. I have two questions regarding Jones: can you put a guy in the Hall for half a legendary career? And if we're inducting Braves center fielders with 400 home runs and a mediocre batting average.. does that mean Dale Murphy deserves a plaque in Cooperstown?


BBWAA members can vote for up to ten of these thirty players. I would vote for four:

Scott Rolen
David Ortiz
Todd Helton
Billy Wagner
 

Who gets your vote for the Hall of Fame, on the BBWAA ballot or the Veterans Eras Committee?

 

 

Thanks for reading!



~

13 comments:

  1. For the Early Days Ballot, I'd vote for John Donaldson, Lefty O'Doul, Buck O'Neil, and Bill Dahlen. Some consider John Donaldson the best black pitcher of his time. He won over 400 games, struck out over 5,000 batters, and was pretty dominant overall.

    I think that with Lefty O'Doul it is unfair to ignore his time in the PCL. In the four years before he became a big league star, he hit .392, .375, .338, and .378. Here's something interesting: O'Doul won two MLB batting titles, but did not win a PCL batting title. O'Doul was also an ambassador of the game, like Buck O'Neil, as he helped bring professional baseball to Japan.

    For the Golden Days ballot, I'd vote for Ken Boyer and Minnie Minoso. Boyer seems to me to be qualified in all respects. Minnie Minoso started his major league career at 28 (I believe), and still had 2110 hits. Add another 4-6 years to his career and he clearly belongs.

    For the current ballot, I'd vote for Curt Schilling, Scott Rolen, Tim Hudson, David Ortiz, and Todd Helton.

    Enjoyed the post.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your knowledge! Sounds like Lefty O'Doul qualifies as more of a pioneer, which is understandable.

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  2. I look forward to the days when the writers will no longer have a say.....The fans decide every election. I can dream :)

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    1. That will never happen. Fans can't be trusted with anything more important than an All-Star Game. You'll get some hacker rigging the vote so that Bartolo Colon gets in with 95% of the vote, and that's the best case scenario.

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    2. Fans get to vote, Boaty McBoatface is getting a plaque in the Hall.

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  3. I don't know much about Bill Dahlen, but you've convinced me he belongs. O'Neil should be in more for the totality of his baseball life (including as a scout, coach, and spokesman for the game and for the Negro Leagues in particular) but I'd certainly like to see him get in.

    For the Golden Age ballot, I very much want Allen and Miñoso in there. I thought Luis Tiant was on there, too, and I'd support him, but apparently he's not.

    For the writer's ballot, I'd vote for Clemens, Bonds, Ortiz, Jones, Rolen, A-Rod, and Helton. In the past, I would have voted for Schilling, but he's just become so hateful and nasty, you know? My position on the steroid guys is, if you assume the maximum plausible effect of the PEDs on their career, and subtract that, are they still Hall-worthy? I think for Clemens, Bonds, and A-Rod, it's a clear yes. Manny is borderline, McGwire even more so, and Sosa and Palmeiro for me are clear nos.

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    1. Perhaps Tiant was left off this ballot because the committee considers him a '70s star?

      I dread the potential Schilling acceptance speech so much, that if he absolutely must be inducted I want all the steroid guys right there with him. Just get it all over with in one shot and move on. (I still would prefer not celebrating them at all)

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  4. Early Baseball Era: Dahlen, O'Neil, plus two other Negro Leagues players. After reading Jay Jaffe's breakdowns at FanGraphs, three or four of them seem very much worthy.

    Golden Days Era: Allen, Miñoso, and Boyer. I would be totally fine with Hodges as the fourth, with Kaat and Murtaugh as less exciting, but still potentially solid, secondary options.

    HOF Ballot: Bonds, Clemens, Helton, A.Jones, Ortiz, M.Ramírez, Á.Rodríguez, Rolen, Sheffield, & Sosa. Would also consider Pettitte, Kent, and maybe B.Wagner with more than 10 spots. Another pitcher used to be on my mock ballots, but I am very much not in favor of giving additional platforms to folks who support violent insurrection.

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    1. Great choices! I had Kent in prior ballots but I moved Wagner and Helton ahead of him. Jones and Hodges are real interesting cases. On my "Big Hall" days I put 'em both in. But I'm in a "Small Hall" mood right now. (And I agree 100% with your take on Schilling)

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  5. Great post, I really enjoyed it. Of course, the nature of these posts is to create some good-natured arguments . . .

    I hadn't realized how good Billy Pierce was. However in your comparison to Whitey Ford you didn't mention that his ERA was half a run higher, which is pretty significant. Still, he wouldn't be the worst White Sock to get in in recent years.

    A bit inconsistent to vote for Dick Allen, but then not vote for Gary Sheffield because he "quit on his team"? Sheffield and Allen were both dealing with racist fans and teams. Sheffield was able to get out of his situation in Milwaukee, and was (other than steroids) a fine person and teammate. Bert Blyleven literally quit on his team while in Pittsburgh, didn't hurt his HOF chances.

    You mention Ortiz was cleared by the commissioner, then you should also mention Clemens never failed a drug test and was acquitted of perjury. For both guys the PED insinuations are just that, insinuations.

    Yeah, Ortiz hit a few more home runs than Mantle, but in a far more HR-friendly environment. But as a Yankee fan, I think Ortiz should be a shoo-in first ballot HOFer. He was the face of the franchise for the best team in baseball over the past 20 years.

    Billy Wagner had a 10.03 ERA in the postseason. No one-time fluke - this was over seven different postseasons. To me that's enough to keep a closer out of the Hall of Fame - he was complete garbage when his teams needed him most.

    Really great post and I hope you don't mind me throwing in my two cents!

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    1. Of course Bo, I always appreciate your take. I noticed Ford's fielding-independent ERA was nearly equal to Pierce's actual ERA - though Pierce also had a higher FIP than Ford. Point taken.

      I gave Allen a bit more of a pass because from what I've read the racism toward Allen (in the '60s, in Philly) seemed more like a cause of his problems, not an effect. I dont hear a whole lot of support for Sheffield from ex-teammates (and he had a lot of them.)

      Clemens' congressional hearing was a farce. If I were a Yankees fan I'd be pissed that some former Red Sox blowhard would disgrace a true Yankee like Andy Pettitte the way he did. Barry Bonds beat the rap, too. Doesn't mean they're clean.

      I wouldn't say that Ortiz (or Sosa or Jim Thome) is equal to Mantle but the home run total is worth noting. I tried to make one or two points in each player's favor without overexplaing them. Could you imagine how long this post would be if I added context?

      I hadn't noticed Wagner's postseason ERA to be honest. It looks like two bad outings in 2006 really sunk him. Jonathan Papelbon's ERA over 18 postseason games was 1.00. Should I switch them? ;)

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    2. Take out Wagner's '06 NLCS and his postseason ERA is still 8.00. Looked up Papelbon, his numbers were better than I thought. Actually quite comparable to Wagner, just over 12 years instead of 16. Four more years of average seasons for him and he overakes Wagner easily.

      I'm kind of unconventional due to HOF debates because 1) I'm a small-hall guy; 2) I'm not bothered by PEDs and 3) I think postseason success should be a significant factor in evaluating a player, because those are the games the players and fans care the most about.

      I don't think Papelbon is quite a HOFer but I'd take him over Wagner for sure.

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  6. Great post and I love everyone chiming in within the comments. Baseball needs something positive to focus on right now and the discussion of the HOF ballots create is just about perfect.
    Part of the reason I think so many love this sport so deeply is how easy it is to debate, compare and contrast the greatest players and teams. Usually this type of sparring occurs between me and a couple of friends at a minor league game with an adult beverage in tow, but civil discussion between friendly blogging buddies works in a pinch!
    I don't have a strong opinion about the entirety of the ballots this year, but that's largely because I've been hyper focused on all content related to one Buck O'Neil. I sure hope his legacy is finally enshrined in Cooperstown, and I'm crossing my fingers that a handful of others will be granted entrance as well.
    Again, Chris, thanks for such a thorough and well-written post!

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