I Dreamed A BBA Hall of Fame Ballot

by on December 28, 2010 · 20 comments

Please do not be alarmed.  Nobody has been foolish enough to actually entrust yours truly with a vote that actually helps determine who gets enshrined in Cooperstown and who does not.  Not even Charlie Sheen has ideas that bad.  However, the members of the BBA have been asked to participate in an interesting project.  We’re casting our own HOF ballots and explaining our selections.  It’s that last part that makes us a lot different than many of the people who cast the official ballots that actually count, because we’re actually going to give some reasonable (and unreasonable) explanations.  Fortunately for us, PH8 himself has already cast an “official” ballot at the BBA site for us, so I’m just throwing my opinion out for you all to lambast. 

It’s actually the Baseball Writers of America Association that casts the official ballots, and a player’s name must appear on 75% of the ballots for the player to be elected.  A player’s name may appear on the ballot for up to 15 years without successful election before it is removed from the ballot.  At that point, the player’s last hope basically lies with what is known as the “Veteran’s Committee”.  We’ll see if the members of the BBA are as unforgiving as the BBWAA (insert evil laugh here).

I’ll be really clear about what I consider HOF worthy.  I’m looking for either sustained excellence or players who were truly undervalued/underappreciated by some statistical measures during their times but are now seen in a different light.  I’m not especially enamored with individual awards, unless it’s obvious that the player had the statistics to back up the award selections.  For example, Votto’s 2010 MVP award carries more cachet with me than Larkin’s MVP award does.  FYI – Larkin won in 1995 with a line of .319/.394/.492/.886, 98 runs scored, 15 hr, 66 rbi, and 51 stolen bases.  His WAR that year?  5.9.  His teammate that year, Reggie Sanders, had a line of .306/.397/.579/.975, 91 runs scored, 28 hr, 99 rbi, and 36 stolen bases.  Sanders’ WAR that year?  6.7.  You tell me who the real MVP was that year on that team. 

YES

Jeff Bagwell – Career line of .297/.408/.540/.948 is a thing of beauty by itself, but the 1529 rbi and 449 hrs in just 15 seasons puts him over the top.  Even more impressive is that he compiled a career 79.9 WAR, and he barely played in his last season (39 games), so he really did most of his damage in 14 seasons.  The ROY award, MVP award, 4 All-Star selections, 1 Gold Glove, and 3 Silver Sluggers are really nice, but the man played 1B at basically an All-Star level for an entire career.  If that’s not sustained excellence, then I’m not sure I know what is.

Larry Walker – If you like Bagwell’s career line, then Walker’s line of .313/.400/.565/.965 is even nicer to look at.  The MVP award, 5 All-Star appearances, 7 Gold Glove awards, and 3 Silver Slugger awards probably aren’t too bad, either.  I understand that some people will want to penalize Walker for the “Coor’s Effect”, but there’s a limit to that penalty.  When Walker hit .379 in 1999, he hit .345 versus lefties and .395 versus righties.  He hit .513 for the month of September.  He hit .420 with runners in scoring position.  He could’ve hit a small balloon out of the bottom of a drained out swimming pool with the wind blowing in.  He hit .289 as a 38 year-old in St. Louis, so the man could rake.

Roberto Alomar – Imagine for a second that your favorite team has a second baseman who hits .300, plays Gold Glove defense, and makes the All-Star team every year in his prime.  Oh, and imagine that same guy having the patience at the plate to draw 50-60 walks a season.  He’s also got enough power to hit 15-20 hr/yr, and he can steal 40 bases or so each season.  Did I mention that he’s clutch in the posteason?  Alomar was good for .300/.371/.443/.814 in the regular season and upped it to .313/.381/.448/.829 in 58 playoff games.  He made 12 consecutive All-Star teams, won 10 Gold Glove awards, and found time to collect 4 Silver Sluggers as well.  Goodness only knows where he found the energy to steal 474 bases and hit 210 home runs among his 2724 career hits. 

Rafael Palmeiro – Just forget the .288/.371/.515/.885 career line and focus on two numbers – 3020 and 569.  That’s 3020 hits and 569 home runs.  Unless someone takes 25 years to reach 3000 hits, I’m probably giving them the nod just for reaching that mark.  Of course, Palmeiro’s case is unique, because a Google search for “Rafael Palmeiro steroids” returns about 44,500 results.  My thoughts on the “steroid era” deserve a completely separate blog piece, but I can best sum them up with the old idiom “in for a penny, in for a pound”.  Since we’ll probably never know all the different “truths” regarding who did what with which version of “B-12″, I think it best to simply apply the same rule to all who may be “tainted”.  Give them an evil glare, don’t vote them in right away, but acknowledge their accomplishments eventually.  Quite simply, you don’t know what happened, and you never will. 

Bert Blyleven – Career record of 287-250 and a 3.31 era with 3701 strikeouts.  Career WAR of 87.6 in 22 seasons.  He’s 27th on the all-time wins list, and he probably should be in the top 10.  Why?  Consider some of his hard luck years.  In 1971, he went 16-15 with a 2.81 era in 38 starts with 5 shutouts and 224 strikeouts.  He backed that up in 1972 by going 17-17 with a 2.73 era and 228 strikeouts.  To get his only 20 win season, he had to dig really deep and hit a career low season era of 2.52 with 258 strikeouts.  When people say that they don’t remember Blyleven as being a dominant pitcher, it’s probably because they don’t remember seeing Blyleven before he reached his late 20′s.  Want a good comparable for Blyleven?  Try Tom Glavine.  Yes, THAT Tom Glavine.  Both pitched 22 seasons, but Glavine finished 305-203 with a 3.54 era and 2607 strikeouts.  It’s amazing what a difference a supporting cast can make. 

NO

Edgar Martinez – Edgar’s career line of .312/.418/.515/.933, 7 All-Star appearances, and 5 Silver Sluggers are about the extent of his resume.  His 2247 career hits are fairly impressive, except that only 309 are home runs.  His career 67.2 WAR in 18 seasons doesn’t impress, and he doesn’t have much of a postseason resume to fall back on, either.  If you like the DH, then he makes a reasonably strong case, but I just don’t see him getting there right away.

Fred McGriff – His .284/.377/.509/.886 line won’t open any doors, but his career 493 home runs and 2490 hits just might.  The oddity is that I think another 7 home runs and 10 hits would have made him almost an automatic for induction.  There’s just something about those nice “round” numbers that the voters seem to like.  The one number that I don’t like, though is 50.5 which is McGriff’s career WAR.  That’s awfully low for someone who played 19 seasons, even if he did play in 5 All-Star games and win 4 Silver Sluggers.

Barry Larkin – Larkin’s career line of .295/.371/.444/.815 looks an awful lot like Alomar’s line.  Barry didn’t steal quite as many bases (379 versus 474), hit quite as many hrs (198 versus 210), or have as many career hits (2340 versus 2724).  On the other hand, Barry did make 11 All-Star teams, won 3 Gold Gloves, 9 Silver Sluggers, and 1 MVP award.  He also had the misfortune of playing a good bit of his career in the defensive shadow of Ozzie Smith, so nobody was just going to toss a Gold Glove his way until a good bit after he was worthy of one.  So, why vote for Alomar and not Larkin?  I actually always considered Barry a bit overrated defensively, and it turns out that maybe there was something to that.  His career dWAR is 2.3 (compared to 4.1 for Brendan Ryan).  Take away the overrated defense, and he’s just not quite there in my opinion, although I think it likely that he’ll gain traction with voters over the next few years. 

Tim Raines – How does someone with a line of .294/.385/.425/.810, 808 stolen bases and 2605 career hits not qualify as an “automatic”?  A total of 64.6 WAR in 22 seasons might have something to do with that.  He made 7 All-Star teams and won 1 Silver Slugger early in his career, but he didn’t receive any individual acclaim after his age 27 season.  I don’t hold that against Raines, but it does happen to coincide with the last extremely productive season of his career.  He did have a renaissance year in 1992 for the White Sox, but that was the only year after his age 27 season in which he exceeded a WAR value of 4.0

Mark McGwire – McGwire’s career line of .263/.394/.588/.982 obviously doesn’t do him justice.  It’s all about his 12 stolen bases.  No, it’s not.  Okay, it’s really all about his 583 home runs, 13 All-Star selections, 3 Silver Sluggers, 1 Gold Glove, and his ROY award.  It’s all about 1317 walks and 150 intentional passes.  Somewhere in all of that are the hidden “unintentional intentional” walks from pitchers who just didn’t want to be another notch on the bat.  It’s probably his career WAR of 63.1 in 16 seasons that keeps from pushing McGwire into the “yes” column, but that may change someday.  I’ve talked to a lot of people who compare him to Harmon Killebrew, and Killebrew made it in with a 61.1 WAR in 22 seasons. 

THE REST

I watched most of the careers of guys like Mattingly (39.8 WAR in 14 seasons) and Morris (254-186, 3.90 era), so I naturally favor them, but I’ve just got to say “no”.  Even as a new fan, I recognized the difference between “really good” and “great”, and I never viewed either one as “great” for any significant length of time. 

TIDBITS:  The 33 players listed on the 2011 ballot are:  Bert Blyleven, Roberto Alomar, Jack Morris, Barry Larkin, Lee Smith, Edgar Martinez, Tim Raines, Mark McGwire, Alan Trammell, Fred McGriff, Don Mattingly, Dave Parker, Harold Baines, Rafael Palmeiro, Jeff Bagwell, Juan Gonzalez, Larry Walker, Tino Martinez, Raul Mondesi, John Olerud, Bret Boone, Marquis Grissom, Benito Santiago, B. J. Surhoff, Bobby Higginson, Charles Johnson, Carlos Baerga, Lenny Harris, Kevin Brown, John Franco, Al Leiter, and Kirk Rueter.

Like my ballot?  Get tired of scrolling?  Follow me on Twitter and let me know about it.

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Cardinals fan since I could hold a fishing pole steady. Accidental blogger. Opinionated. I could care less about what you think of me. Constantly confounded, bemused, and confuzzled (ie I'm a pc and a mac). I'm an IT infrastructure analyst with a penchant for breaking tech toys. I ate a sabermetric primer for breakfast. I love playing "All-powerful GM of MLB". The 2010 Cardinals represented a good, practical definition "cognitive dissonance". The 2011 version got by on duct tape and a prayer, and I'm fine with that. They just need new tape for #12 in 12.
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{ 18 comments }

Harrison December 28, 2010

I’m sorry I get the argument that his WAR over 18 years
isn’t that impressive. But to say Edgar didn’t have that much of a
playoff resume is either pure lunacy or plain ignorance.

Dennis December 28, 2010

I appreciate your feedback and your obvious passion on the issue, and I’d definitely like to hear any argument you have in favor of Edgar. Let’s set aside the “lunacy” element for a moment and focus on the “ignorance” part. My memories of Edgar in the playoffs can best be summed up as “awesome in the ALDS, worthless in the ALCS”. I recall him absolutely torching the Yankees in 1995, and I remember him doling nothing against Cleveland after that. If I’m wrong, please correct me.

Harrison December 28, 2010

First, I want to apologize for my initial response. After re-reading it, it comes off rude. So I apologize for that.

if you look at Baseball Reference he has had more appearances than just ’95. I admit I have bias because being 12-years-old and attending those games well.. it’ll do that to you.

Edgar has had a history of having rough ALCS. But in 77 PA in the ALCS he has hit 375/481/781 with 7 Home runs and 20 RBIs.

It’s still better than anything Bagwell did. The only good thing Walker ever produced in the playoffs was in a World Series where his team got swept. Overall neither are really as good as ‘Gars though comparable.

Bagwell also did what he did in 800 more PA regardless of “seasons” played.

Edgar’s 162 game season averages are even if not a bit better than Larry Walker.

Martinez still played 564 games at third (despite being consistently being called out for his being a bat only guy) and posted a +18 runs according to Sean Smith’s TotalZone stats.

Edgar also is 35th all time in OPS (.933) and while he didn’t hit a lot of home runs he still had 517 doubles and his 1283 BB is very similar to Jeff Bagwell while striking out less on average against better pitching.

I wouldn’t refute Bagwell’s entry into the HOF but Edgar is just as deserving and more so than Larry Walker. Who’s home/away splits are … *ahem* interesting at best and seriously debatable.

Dennis December 28, 2010

Your apology is truly appreciated, but I do understand where you are coming from on the whole thing. Definitely accepted.

Edgar’s playoff numbers weren’t the deciding factor for me. I was just pointing out that he didn’t have any “Mr October” type numbers that would have added some bonus points to his case.

In a basic comparison of Bagwell and Martinez, my “quick look” approach is simple. Bagwell produced 79.9 total WAR with 9431 plate appearances over 15 seasons. Martinez produced 67.2 WAR with 8672 plate appearances over 18 seasons. The “seasons” part is pretty important, because total WAR is an accumulation of both oWAR and dWAR for each season. If you eliminate defense from the debate, then you can just look at oWAR. Edgar produced a total oWAR of 66.9 versus 76.3 for Bagwell. If you normalize based on Bagwell’s PA advantage, the adjusted oWAR value would be about 70.16.

I won’t get into the “better pitching” discussion, though. That’s kind of a dead end for me, because it’s just as much a slippery slope as “lineup protection”.

I do think Edgar was more than “functional” at 3B during his younger days. I just have a bit of a logical conundrum to deal with there. If he was really good, he would have played in the field more, because he would have added that much more value to the team. 564 games is less than 3 seasons worth, and that’s not all that many.

As for Walker, he got my vote for being useful in the field as well as at the plate. He was a pretty good defender even into his mid 30′s. As for his home/away splits, there’s no doubt that they are interesting. On the other hand, why didn’t more players take advantage of the “Coor’s Effect”?

Jonathan C. Mitchell December 28, 2010

Glad to see someone else out there like Walker’s chances.
Have to disagree on Raines, though. 3977 times on base at a good
percentage gets in for me.

Dennis December 28, 2010

Raines may be one of those candidates who gains momentum with me over time, but it’s going to take some good convincing arguments. Right now I just have trouble voting for someone who only played at an All-Star level for about 6 years and peaked at 27. High average hitters with little power have to translate to runs somehow, and Raines only scored 1571 in 23 seasons. Then again, I’m open to the aforementioned “convincing arguments”.

Jonathan C. Mitchell December 29, 2010

I don’t believe runs scored should not be held against a player, they’re too relative. Raines had 713 XBH, 808 stolen bases with one of the highest percentages in history, and almost 4000 times on base. Not exactly his fault he didn’t score more.

Dennis December 29, 2010

Jonathan, you and I will probably just have to disagree on the runs scored issue. I think the whole point of base stealing is to produce scenarios specifically to create runs. If your team isn’t exceptionally good at bringing a runner home from 2B, then steal 3rd. If that’s not good enough, then just think like Ty Cobb.

I don’t think the percentage as a function of history argument is really valid, and I never will. Success rate as a function of season versus overall league rate makes a lot more sense to me. I also consider some of the player’s contemporaries as well. If the overall success rate was relatively low compared to the player’s rate, then that player was doing something special. If the player was consistently hitting 80%, but a lot of his competition was hitting 75-78%, then I’m not nearly as impressed. (Vince Coleman went 752-177 from 1985-1997) If you want an example of what I mean, go look up Max Carey who stole 51 in 1922 and was only caught 2 times (caught stealing rate that year for the league was around 50%).

I do like the XBH, but I like runs produced/created a lot more. Keep on fighting the good fight, though. It’s debates like this one that I think will help bring much-needed attention to Raines.

Jason MacAskill December 28, 2010

I echo the sentiment about Raines about me. Reaching base just under 4,000 times, 800+ steals… he was a leadoff machine. I can’t think of a better NL left fielder in his time.

I’d take a second look at Larkin, too. While he played, I never considered him a dominant player, but he was consistantly excellent for a long time, and one of the best hitting SS ever before the AL trio of Jeter/Nomar/A-Rod started upping the offensive ante.

Dennis December 28, 2010

Jason, I really had to go back and look at Raines very closely on this, because I associated him with those Montreal teams that I vividly recall tearing up St. Louis at times. I swore as a kid that Dawson, Carter, and Raines had lifetime .500 averages against the Cardinals and caught everything that went into the air. Seriously.

As it turns out, Raines only had 1 year in which his dWAR reached 1.0 in Montreal, and he had several years below 0.0. Over the course of his career, he was actually worse in left field than Lonnie Smith, so I’d probably just leave it as saying he was a “leadoff machine”.

Larkin was the closest of the “no” crowd to getting a “yes” from me. As someone (@throatwarbler on Twitter) eloquently pointed out to me, “there’s plenty of room in the HOF for two NL shortstops from the 80′s”. I tend to agree and can see him getting the nod soon enough (even from me). As for his consistency, he was actually a lot more up/down over his career than most players. His peaks were often two years long and his valleys were usually 2 or 3 years as well. Of course, his last 5 years were basically below starter level.

Jason MacAskill December 28, 2010

Thanks for the response, Dennis. I’ll admit, when I think about Tim Raines, I don’t think defensive stalwart. On the other hand, I sure don’t think Lonnie Smith either!

I’ll admit some bias – I grew up in Nova Scotia, so the Expos were my team. I think if he had been able to either have just a couple of more peak seasons, or spread them out a bit better, more people would be arguing for him.

I like WAR as a whole; dWAR has merit, I’m just not sure it’s the be-all and end-all of defensive metrics yet. So I’d rather go total WAR, where Raines ranks seventh amongst all left fielders who started their career post-1900 (trailing Bonds, Musial, Williams, Henderson, Yaz, and Ramirez), and tied for 82nd amongst ALL batter – and that’s with a true defensive stalwart, Ozzie Smith.

Jason

Dennis December 28, 2010

Thanks for reading. If people are going to take time to read/comment on this humble blog, I’m certainly going to try and reply. To be honest, I was almost shocked to learn that Lonnie Smith finished his career with a 3.1 dWAR, because I thought he would have tailed off enough by the end of his career to bring that number way down.

I actually think that what hurt Raines a lot was hanging on too long. If he’d have retired after 1998, he would have finished with a total WAR of 64.0 in 20 seasons. He still would have had over 2500 hits, but the stat distribution would have looked a lot better.

I agree on dWAR, and I actually like to use it with UZR (over a large sample size). The comparison to Ozzie is interesting, but Ozzie only needed 19 seasons to compile his 64.6 WAR. Also, his components were quite different (oWAR of 43.0 and dWAR of 21.6), and HOF voters typically reward balance (or perceived balance). For people wanting to make the case for Raines, I think a good approach is to make the case that he was the premier tablesetter in the NL for the 80′s on some underwhelming teams. He was probably the best player on the Expos from about 1985-1987 at least. He didn’t get the benefit of much playoff experience until later in his career, and that was a bit too late for him to be an impact player.

CrazyCrabbers December 28, 2010

As a fellow BBA member my ballot went Bagwell, Larkin, Martinez, Raines, Alomar, McGwire, Blyleven, Brown.

I disagree with you on Larkin, he played a very demanding athletic position and played above average defensively and was an offensive threat at a position that is often a black hole. His career OPS of .815 is among the best ever for a shortstop.

Edgar Martinez was probably one of the best pure hitters of his era with gap to gap power. The knock was that he didn’t go both ways but he did play a real position and was among the best few of his generation at DH.

Tim Raines is in my opinion the best base stealer ever. He had an incredible success rate of nearly 85% for his career. To me the only reason that he isn’t remembered better is that he came around at the same time as Rickey Henderson and Rickey is the best leadoff hitter ever but Raines is still in the conversation for among the top 10 best lead off hitters.

Mark McGwire is the face of the decade of the 90′s. Big Bicecps, walks and homeruns. McGwire is one of the games best pure sluggers of his 1600 hits more then half went for extra bases and over 35% went over the fence. The hard part of the question here is again steriods, to me McGwire still stood above the others of his generation juice or no juice and that is what I see as a Hall of Famer. He was the poster boy of the steriod era and that means that even with a bunch of guys taking the stuff he was still the best.

Kevin Brown if you ignore wins he is one of the best pitchers of the mid 90′s to early 00′s. He had a power sinker that got groundballs and swing throughs at an alarming rate. For a guy who was on the west coast in his prime he was an absolutely scary pitcher to have your team match up against and I think what clouds the memory of people is his stint in New York and his major contract he signed in his late 30′s.

Dennis December 28, 2010

Glad to see you also voted and put your ballot out there for all to see. It’s an excellent exercise in self-deprecation. :)

Larkin – see above replies

Edgar – Yes, he played a real position, but he didn’t play it especially well (except for maybe 1990-91). For someone who was the DH so much, I would just except a lot more value added, and he didn’t provide the kind of WAR that I would expect. FYI- DH games by year: 1, 2, 2, 28, 24, 23, 138, 134, 144, 147, 143, 146, 127, 91, 140, 122.

I don’t have a horse in the “best base stealer ever” race. I’ve watched enough old games to believe that it’s impossible for me to judge, because the game has changed so much over the years (turf, situation baseball handling, slide step, scoring). By reputation, I understand that Maury Wills was awesome at the feat, and I’m personally impressed by Carlos Beltran.

As for McGwire and Brown, I’m not swayed by the “era” component of the HOF debate. I don’t think each era necessarily requires a certain amount of representation, because it’s not necessarily a given that each era must have a certain amount of HOF players. Actually, I think that both suffer from the same problem. Both are similar to players who fell just short of HOF induction. For Brown, compare him to someone like Vida Blue or Luis Tiant.

Jake December 29, 2010

Is it really a fair argument to compare Larkin’s dWAR to Brendan Ryan and his 415 game career?

Dennis December 29, 2010

Jake, I really did think about it before I did it. To answer your question, my answer is “yes”, and I’ll give you an expanded explanation about why I believe that. Larkin won 3 consecutive Gold Glove awards from 1994-1996, and I think maybe he missed out on 1 or 2 more due to Ozzie Smith. If you cherry pick Larkin’s best 4 seasons (1988, 1990, 1997, and 1999), you got dWARs of (1.0, 0.9, 0.7, and 1.1). Grand total? 3.7. So, I do think it’s fair to compare, especially when you consider that I gave Larkin a fighter’s chance by eliminating his 14 worst seasons, and he still didn’t stack up too well.

Fred Boatman December 30, 2010

I agree with your ballot except; I couldn’t vote for Palmeiro because of the positive steroids test. I would like to hear your thoughts on Lee Smith. I think I would have to vote him in as one of the top relievers of all time.

Dennis December 30, 2010

Thanks for reading, Fred. I must admit that the notion of “closers” in the HOF was one I struggled with for a while. I finally decided that my approach is to measure pretty much all of them against each other with the exception of Hoyt Wilhelm who had unreal numbers and maybe the best control of a knuckleball ever.

Based on that approach, I’m not sure that Smith is HOF worthy. He was really good for an extended period of time, but I don’t think he was “great”, and I don’t think of him as dominant so much as intimidating. I don’t recall him being as dominant as Sutter, Fingers, or even Quisenberry, and that’s the differentiating characteristic for me. Smith struck people out, but the other 3 made people look absolutely foolish even when they made contact. I think he could make it in based on his 478 saves and reputation, but the rest of his numbers don’t really support his case. In that sense, he’s like the closer equivalent of Mark McGwire in my opinion.

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