Yesterday’s news about Jim Edmonds signing a minor league deal with the Cardinals immediately raised several questions in my mind. After allowing them to bounce around the somewhat empty space within my cranium, I eventually was left with one unanswered question. With retirement for Jimmy Ballgame waiting somewhere on the not-too-distant horizon, is Cooperstown beckoning just as soon as he is eligible? In this post, the first in a series of “Devil’s Advocate” articles, I’m going to take up both sides of the debate to try and determine whether or not the “yays” or “nays” will emerge victorious on the issue of Edmonds’ HOF candidacy.
The Numbers: Career line of .284/.376/.527/.903 with 1199 , 393 hr, 1949 hits, and 7980 plate appearances in 17 seasons. Total WAR of 68.3 (oWAR of 59.5 and dWAR of 8.8) with 4 All-Star appearances, 8 Gold Glove awards, and 1 Silver Slugger award.
The Yays: The numbers speak for themselves. He’s 52nd on the all-time home run list and 52nd on the career slugging percentage list as well. He won 8 Gold Gloves, and injuries probably stopped him from collecting 9 consecutive (or more). In his healthy, full seasons, he put up WAR numbers like 5.8, 4.5, 3.8, 4.4, 6.8, 6.4 7.2, 7.3, 8.4, and 6.8. He was a highlight waiting to happen in centerfield, and he ranks 7th all-time for assists at that position (since 1954). He was under-appreciated in his time for his offensive capabilities, and he was able to do damage from any position in the lineup. He put up good numbers from the 3, 4, and 5 spots at one time or another.
The Nays: Of his 17 seasons, only 7 qualify as being “great”, and only 1 occurred while he was with the Angels. He struck out 1729 times in his career which works out to just over 100 times per season. With maybe 3 exceptions, he faded slightly in 14 postseason series to the tune of .274/.361/.513/.874. The worst example came during the infamous sweep of the Cardinals by Boston in 2004 when he was good for .067/.125/.067/.192 and 0 rbi. He was rarely (if ever) considered “the Man” in the lineup, even though he accumulated 393 hr. He certainly doesn’t stack up to other home run hitters, though. Consider a comparison to Mark McGwire. McGwire played 16 seasons, tallied 7660 plate appearances, and totaled a career WAR of 63.1. Of course, McGwire didn’t have the defensive impact that Edmonds did, but he sure brought a big bat to the lineup. If you want to compare another outfielder to Edmonds, try Larry Walker. Walker also played 17 seasons, won 7 Gold Glove awards, totaled 8030 plate appearances, and ended up with a career WAR of 67.3. His career batting line is .313/.400/.565/.965, and he played on some teams that didn’t even come close to making the playoffs. The numbers still aren’t even close. Better yet, check out the neutralized batting information for both Walker and Edmonds:
- Walker – .299/.384/.539/.924 with 365 hr, 463 2B, 2092 hits, and 1201 runs scored
- Edmonds – .280/.371/.519/.890 with 394 hr, 439 2B, 1965 hits, and 1208 runs scored
Walker was a better hitter. McGwire hit for more power and was more dangerous. Both commanded more respect at the plate than Edmonds did. If neither of those guys have made it in yet, how can Edmonds make it in?
Final Verdict: I think Edmonds will get the nod at some point, because he’ll get a lot of support for playing at a really high level (when healthy). He did have about a 11 year run of sustained excellence from 1995 – 2005 that was only marred by one injury-plagued year (1999). He may also benefit from voters who support Barry Larkin, because Larkin played 19 seasons and totaled a career WAR of 68.9 (66.6 oWAR and 2.3 dWAR). Edmonds accumulated almost the same total WAR in 2 fewer seasons, and he did so with a much higher dWAR.
TIDBIT: I’ll be interested to see the disparity between support for Walker and Edmonds, if Walker is still on the ballot once Edmonds becomes eligible. Based on the neutralized stats, they were very similar players. Even more interesting to me is that Walker’s career dWAR mark is 9.6, and Edmonds’ career dWAR is 8.8. I honestly would have guessed it was the other way around, and I would have been wrong.
MORE BITS OF TID: Walker’s postseason numbers may be held against him, and that’s certainly fair for someone who hit .230/.350/.510/.860 in the playoffs. What that doesn’t tell you is that he didn’t even participate in playoff baseball until he played in 1 series in his age 28 season. After that, he didn’t see the playoffs again until his age 37 season. It’s not like he spent much time playing October baseball in his prime.
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