Taylor's Twins Talk

Focusing on the Twins, with a few ramblings on other things that catch my attention

Saturday, December 16, 2006

My Hall of Fame Ballot

In this post, I'm not just telling you who I would vote for if I got a ballot - I'm also telling you who I would usher off the ballot (those players who I don't think are deserving of reaching the 5% threshhold), and those who I would keep around to consider for future years. I realize that this does not reflect the actual method of voting, in which you either vote for a player as a HOF'er or you don't - but I'm choosing to do it this way because I think it provides a nice breakdown of my choices. Obviously, this is an opinion piece - if you disagree with me and think I'm an idiot, or think that I'm dead on, let me know in the comments . . . just don't get too nasty.

Hall of Famers

Bert Blyleven

Despite some difficulties with Blyleven's candidacy, I think the scales come down on the side of Bert being a Hall of Famer. Whether this determination is colored by my Twins bias and my enjoyment of his color commentary for the Twins - well, that's for others to decide. On the plus side, Blyleven is 5th in career strikeouts (3,701) and no one is going to catch him anytime soon. He also struck out 2.8 batters for every batter he walked - that puts him miles ahead of all-time K leader Nolan Ryan (just over 2.0), in the neighborhood of certain HOF'er Roger Clemens (2.96), and well below Randy Johnson (3.2). Looking at the pitchers below him on the K list, he's equal to or better than the majority of the top 20 - Fergie Jenkins beats him, as does Greg Maddux, and Pedro Martinez utterly blows everybody out of the water with about a 4.2. But Blyleven is clearly amongst the best in terms of K-BB in the history of the game.

Blyelven is also 9th All-Time with 60 shutouts - the man liked to finish what he started. The amazing thing about this stat is that it is incredibly predictive of Hall of Fame pitchers. Other than Blyleven, the top 23 pitchers in this category are in the Hall of Fame. Luis Tiant, at 24, is the first guy besides Bert who isn't in the Hall. Standing alone, that means nothing - but it is another indication that Blyleven's stats are in the same league as Hall of Famers.

As for ERA, Blyelven's career 3.31 ERA isn't great for Hall of Fame standards - but it's better than quite a few players (Early Wynn, Fergie Jenkins, Dennis Eckersley, and Lefty Grove for example). In other words - I'm neutral on ERA.

The most oft-heard argument against Blyleven is that he won just 287 games, and this doesn't meet the magic number of 300. But that number didn't prevent Fergie Jenkins (284), Juan Marichal (243), or Jim Palmer (268), amongst others, from getting into the Hall. Bert pitched a couple more years than Jenkins, so one argument could go that someone with 22 years in the game should have crested 300 - but with his other numbers being so solid, I find it hard to argue that the lack of wins is entirely Blyleven's fault.

Perhaps more compelling is the argument that Blyleven was never a truly dominant pitcher - he finished 3rd in the Cy Young voting twice, and that was as good as it got - and he was an All-Star just twice. He also never led his league in ERA, Wins, or even K/9. Nevertheless, that doesn't take away from the fact that he put up some brilliant numbers in his career, not all of which were dependant simply on longevity (as his 3.31 ERA shows). Bert belongs in the Hall, and hopefully his upward trend in the voting over recent years will get him there someday.

Tony Gwynn

Career .338 batting average, 5 Gold Gloves, 7 Silver Sluggers, 3141 Hits. Stop already - the man's a Hall of Famer.

Cal Ripken, Jr.

His career .276 batting average doesn't blow you away - but his 431 HR's as a Shortstop sure should. The man collected 2 MVP awards to go with 2 Gold Gloves, and won 8 Silver Slugger awards. Oh yeah - there's some Iron Man streak as well. Ripken should get in easily, and he deserves to.

Goose Gossage

I was all prepared to take Gossage off of my ballot - and then I took a stroll through the numbers one more time. Gossage was around forever (22 years), and put up some solid numbers as almost exclusively a reliver. With Bruce Sutter and Dennis Eckersley now in the Hall, so goes the thought, the Goose should get in as well, as one of the originators of the modern closer position. First, you need to take Eckersley out of the equation - the man had 361 starts and racked up 100 career complete games and 20 shutouts, putting up 197 wins in his career to go with 390 saves. Those numbers dwarf Gossage's, who put up 310 saves, 124 wins, and a career ERA of 3.01 - but those numbers can't fairly be compared to Eckersley because of the Eck's incredible dual starter/reliever career.

But Sutter - well, the two were made for comparison. They pitched in an overlapping timeframe (Sutter from '76 to '88; Gossage, as a closer, from '75 to '88), and when you look at their careers in that light, it's hard to argue that Gossage isn't Sutter's equal. He saved 10 more games than Sutter (which translates to slightly less per season as a closer), and his ERA is 18 points worse than Sutter's (3.01 to 2.83) - but he also won 56 more games. For a modern closer, Gossage probably wouldn't be a Hall of Famer - but considering the era he pitched in and the role he performed for his teams, he is. If Sutter is a Hall of Famer, then Gossage should be as well.

Hold-Overs (a.k.a. Give Me More Time)

Harold Baines

His .289 BA and 384 HR are arguably suitable - but he spent most of his career as a DH, played 22 years and only got to 2866 hits, never finished higher than 9th in the MVP voting, and won just 1 Silver Slugger Award. I'm putting him on the Hold-Over list because this is his first year on the ballot, and if I had the power to keep him around for a year to think about, I would want that chance. But his numbers are by no means enough for me to vote for him now, and he's probably closer to my "Off The Ballot" section than my "Hall of Famers" section, in every way other than proximity on this page.

Albert Belle

Belle has a better argument than Baines - he hit .295, with 381 HR in 10 fewer seasons than Baines, he played in the Outfield for most of his career rather than being a DH, he picked up 5 Silver Slugger Awards, and he finished consistently higher in MVP voting than did Baines. However, comparing him to a guy like Kirby Puckett, I just don't think he stacks up (and I think Puckett is on the dubious end as a Hall of Famer) - Puckett had a career batting average of .318 - 23 points higher than Belle's, although he didn't have the power that Belle had. Both played 12 seasons (although Belle really only played 10 - the first two years of his career he played just 62 and 9 games, respectively). But Puckett also won 6 Gold Gloves to go along with his 6 Silver Sluggers. Belle deserves further consideration, because his numbers aren't bad by any means - but to me, failure to measure up to a player like Puckett means that Belle is not really a Hall of Famer.

Andre Dawson

This one is really tough. Dawson was a career .279 hitter with 438 HR's over 21 years. In that time, he picked up 8 Gold Gloves and 4 Silver Sluggers. I am thisclose to feeling that Dawson belongs in the Hall - but his 2,774 hits in 21 years are lower than I would expect from a Hall of Famer. This is extremely close, but at this point I'm not ready to say he belongs in the Hall. Maybe next year.

Tommy John

John is not a bad Hall of Fame candidate. His 288 wins are over 26 Major League seasons (although he didn't win many games over those last few years), and he has a 3.34 career ERA. He also finished 2nd in the Cy Young voting twice. Basically, John is Bert Blyleven without the strikeouts. In the end, that's not enough - Bert's Hall credentials are largely dependent on his strikeout and control numbers, and John can't compare in that regard.

Don Mattingly

This one was also fairly difficult for me. His .307 career batting average fits comfortably in with the current Hall-of-Famers, and he hit 222 HR, so he wasn't a slouch in terms of power. He also won 9 Gold Gloves, 3 Silver Sluggers, and an MVP Award. But I just can't pull the trigger - his BA/Power numbers are more in line with an 1910's era Hall of Fame 1B than with a 1980's era First Baseman. This is closer than I thought it would be - I'd put him in the top 5 of the "best of the rest" on my ballot - but in the end I have to leave him off.

Mark McGwire

As sure a test case as there is for the question of whether power alone is enough to get a guy into the Hall. Forget about the steroids question - as I mentioned in my first Hall of Fame column, and to the derision of some, I take the "Buster Olney approach" to steroids; I can't separate the guilty from the innocent, and therefore I'm not going to consider the question. So, does McGwire deserve it on his raw stats?

Well, you have to look at Harmon Killebrew for the answer to that question. They had remarkably similar careers (sorry, Harmon, to comparing you with a man alleged to have taken steroids). Killebrew finished up with a .256 BA, to McGwire's .263 (incidentally, I have a major problem voting for a guy with a batting average that low). Killebrew finished with 573 HR in 22 seasons, McGwire with 583 HR in 16 seasons.

In the end, I can't get past the low batting average. McGwire, for his raw power, probably deserves to be a Hall of Famer - and that's why I am keeping in this section of the post. I will probably warm to McGwire's candidacy in future years, but for now I can't do it. And yes, I sadly realize that consistency would require me not to vote for Harmon if he were on the ballot, for the same reasons. For the record, just one player has a lower BA than Harmon who is in the Hall (bonus points if you know the answer). And if McGwire were to get in, his BA would be about the 5th lowest. I think that's too far down the line - but like I said, I'll probably change my mind in the next year or two, after I get the counter end of this argument from those who think it scandalous that I would exclude players like Harmon or Reggie Jackson (career .260 hitter). My mind is open and ready to be changed.

Jack Morris

Another close one - but Morris' 3.90 career ERA is a bit too high, and his 1.78 K-BB ratio is a bit too low to earn him consideration for his control. He did win 254 games - which I don't think disqualifies him at all, since he has a .577 winning percentage. His failure to ever win a Cy Young (like Bert, he finished 3rd twice) is another strike against him, because unlike Bert he doesn't have a dominant category to boost his candidacy. Borderline, but not quite a Hall of Famer.

Dale Murphy

His .265 batting average is a concern, but his 398 HR, 5 Gold Gloves, 2 MVPs, and 4 Silver Sluggers make him a serious candidate. Just 2111 hits in 18 seasons though. Moderately close, but not quite.

Dave Parker

No glaring weakness, like Murphy's batting average. Parker hit .290, with 339 HR and 2712 hits in 19 seasons, while picking up an MVP award, 3 Gold Gloves, and 3 Silver Sluggers. But, while those numbers are very nice, what exactly makes him a Hall of Famer? He was a very good, but not great hitter. He had very good, but not great, power. He could field pretty well. In the end, I think he misses the cut - he's a great player, but not a Hall of Famer.

Jim Rice

Rice's numbers (.298/382/2452) are actually fairly close to Hall of Famer Al Kaline's (.297/399/3007) - except for the hits, but Rice played 6 fewer seasons than Kaline. So why do I think Kaline is a Hall of Famer while Rice isn't? Simple - Kaline won 10 Gold Gloves, and Rice won none. Rice did win an MVP award, while Kaline never did. However, like Dave Parker, Jim Rice is a great player who doesn't quite make the cut.

Bret Saberhagen

Saberhagen, you say? Why is he not on my cut list? Well, he's close to the cut list, but I think he deserves some solid consideration. The biggest strike against him is that he won just 167, as a starter nonetheless. But did you realize that he posted a 3.64 K-BB ratio (1715/471)? That he posted a career 3.34 ERA? That he was twice a Cy Young award winner, and picked up a Gold Glove? He also lost just 117 games, for a career .588 winning percentage. I don't know - call me crazy, but Saberhagen deserves some love. Not a Hall of Famer - but a surprisingly strong candidate.

Lee Smith

Here's the rub - his 3.03 ERA is equal to Gossage's, and he has a ton of saves (478). But he lost 21 more games than he won, and he's the first modern closer to earn consideration. I just can't decide if Saves are enough, and for now the .436 winning percentage is too gaudy to get past.

Alan Trammell

Solid career numbers (.285/185/2365) and awards (4 Gold Gloves, 3 Silver Sluggers). But like Rice and Parker, Trammell is a really good player who I just can't consider a Hall of Famer just yet. It doesn't help that he's being compared to Cal Ripken, Jr. this year.

Off the Ballot

Dante Bichette

His career .299 average is OK, but his 274 HR and 1906 Hits aren't near enough, and his 1 Silver Slugger doesn't change anything.

Bobby Bonilla

His mediocre (for a Hall of Famer) career numbers (.279/287/2010) aren't overcome by his 3 Silver Sluggers. Second place finish in the MVP voting in 1990 looks nice, but doesn't do much for his candidacy.

Scott Brosius

Career numbers (.257/141/1001) are woefully inadequate for a Hall of Famer. If he receives any votes, it's too many - there is absolutely nothing in his record to hang a Hall of Fame vote on.

Jay Buhner

Career numbers (.254/310/1273) don't justify a vote, or a place on the ballot.

Ken Caminiti

His 3 Gold Gloves and 1996 MVP Award are nice, but his .272/239/1710 numbers are not enough.

Jose Canseco

I should probably be more fair to Canseco and put him in the "I'll think about it" category, but this is where I stuck him and this is where I'll keep him. His candidacy is largely based on his 462 career HR, and is helped by 1988 MVP win and his 4 Silver Sluggers. However, he hit just .266 for his career, and finished up with just 1877 hits. The person I'm least comfortable putting in the "Off the Ballot" category, but I'll leave him here. To be consistent, I am not considering his admitted steroid use - but if I were it would justify this decision further because his gaudy stat was undoubtedly aided (at least to a degree) by his cheating. That was not the basis of this decision, however - had 121 fewer career homers than McGwire, who is in my "Maybe" category above - that's a significant difference.

Dave Concepcion

Ignore the low HR total (101) because he was a middle infielder. He didn't hit that well in general (.267 average, 2326 hits in 19 seasons), and his candidacy is largely based on his 5 Gold Gloves. That's not enough, for me, to overcome the poor offensive numbers.

Eric Davis

Mediocre .269/282/1430 career numbers not overcome by his 3 Gold Gloves or 2 Silver Sluggers.

Tony Fernandez

Arguably a better candidate than Concepcion, with .288/94/2276 numbers in 17 seasons to go along with 4 Gold Gloves. Just not good enough to get further consideration.

Steve Garvey

Garvey would be firmly in my "Maybe" category if not for one thing - this is his last year of eligibility, and so it would be completely artificial to say I would hold him over for further consideration - if I had a real ballot, this would be my last chance to vote for him, and I don't think he quite makes it. However, his career numbers (.294/272/2599) are solid, and his 4 Gold Gloves and 1974 MVP award bolster his candidacy. Not quite enough, however, even in his last year of eligibility.

Orel Hershiser

He should probably be in the "Maybe" category above, but it's borderline. His .576 winning percentage (204-150) is solid, and his 3.48 ERA is pretty good as well. His K-BB ratio of exactly 2 is a little low, though, and I don't think his Cy Young and Gold Glove award overcome the fact that his numbers just aren't quite good enough.

Wally Joyner

No career awards, and only ok career numbers (.289/204/2060).

Paul O'Neill

Slightly better than Joyner, but again, no career awards and only adequate career numbers (.288/281/2105).

Devon White

Seven Gold Gloves can't overcome low batting average (.263) and failure to reach even 2000 hits.

Bobby Witt

Nobody with a 4.83 career ERA belongs in the Hall of Fame.


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