Taylor's Twins Talk

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

Thursday, December 20, 2007

My 2008 Hall of Fame Ballot

As promised, here is the ballot that I would cast if I were a voter for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The format is the same as last year -- first, I'll list the players that I would cast a vote for if I had a chance, then the players who I would consider to be possibilities for the future, and finally I will name those players who I would remove from the ballot entirely. Also, just so you're aware, I've plagiarized the comments that I made last year on many of the names who are still on the ballot.

Hall of Famers

Bert Blyleven (11th Year) -- 47.7% in 2007

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 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 other Hall of Famers.

As for ERA, Blyelven's career 3.31 ERA isn't great by 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 up to last year when his numbers suddenly took a downward turn, I had hoped he would get there some day. I'm starting to resign myself to the likelihood that, in the eyes of most HOF voters, he doesn't measure up.

Andre Dawson (7th Year) -- 56.7% in 2007

Last year, I put Dawson in my "Maybe" category, and promised to think hard about his candidacy. I have done so, and decided that he's a Hall of Famer. Dawson was a career .279 hitter with 438 HR's over 21 years. In that time, he also picked up 8 Gold Gloves and 4 Silver Sluggers, Rookie of the Year honors in 1977, an MVP award in 1987 (along with 2nd place finishes in 1981 and 1983) and topped it all off with 8 appearances as an All-Star. His 2,774 hits in 21 years are a litter lower than I would expect from a Hall of Famer, but the total package is pretty darn good, and I'm now convinced.

Goose Gossage (9th Year) -- 71.2% in 2007

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 also get in 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 also 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. the Maybe's)

Tommy John (14th Year) -- 22.9% in 2007

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. I'd put him in the maybe category because he's not a cut-and-dried no, but to be honest I probably would not change my mind on his candidacy.

Don Mattingly (8th Year) -- 9.9% in 2007

This one is 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 one from the 1980's. This is closer than I originally 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, at least for this year.

Mark McGwire (2nd Year) -- 23.5% in 2007

It will be absolutely fascinating to see what happens with McGwire when the voting is announced this year. Will the fact that more and more big names are being linked to performance enhancing drugs cause some voters to change their mind on whether he should be punished for his alleged use? Or will the furor over PED's drive his numbers down further this year? I've stated before that I wouldn't base my decisions on PED use, but my stance has changed slightly -- if there was a fair amount of proof (and I'm not talking the amount or kind of proof that would be necessary to convict in a court of law; I just want something more than a wink and a nod allegation) that McGwire used PED's for a significant part of his career, I would at that point likely exclude him. If he's only linked to use late in his career, or for only limited periods of time, I would vote based solely on his numbers. Part of the reason I put him on my maybe list, then, is because I just don't know where he fits on that spectrum.

Of course, there's also the issue of his performance on the field and whether it's enough to get him in. Last year, I stated that a player with a career batting average as low as McGwire's (.263) was to me a dubious Hall of Famer. I'm going to stand by that as a general proposition, but I've largely been swung around to the view that great performance in another area can compensate for a low batting average. That's why I am now convinced that Harmon Killebrew (.256 career BA) is still Hall of Fame worthy -- because 573 HR's for the era he played in was a remarkable number. Do McGwire's 583 HR's measure up?

For now, that's the question I can't answer. McGwire hit a bunch of homers, to be sure, but he did it in an era when homerun numbers have become inflated. It's also the statistic that would benefit the most from juicing. More than likely I would eventually support McGwire's inclusion in the Hall as one of baseball's great sluggers, but there are just far too many questions about his candidacy to say that I would support his election this year.

Jack Morris (9th Year) -- 37.1% in 2007

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 probably not quite a Hall of Famer.

Dale Murphy (10th Year) -- 9.2% in 2007

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. I have reservations about Murphy having just 2111 hits in 18 seasons, though. If I had to make a final decision on Murphy right now, I'd vote no -- but I'm willing to reconsider.

Dave Parker (12th Year) -- 11.4% in 2007

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.

Tim Raines (1st Year)

I'll be very curious to see where he winds up this year in the voting, because he Raines presents an interesting resume. He played for 23 years and compiled a .294 batting average, 170 homers, and 808 stolen bases (good for 5th all time). He was basically the National League version of Ricky Henderson, and while he's nowhere close in terms of stolen bases, he has a much better batting average than Henderson and was a more patient hitter (Henderson walked a lot, but he struck out a ton, too). Raines also went to 7 All-Star Games, picked up a Silver Slugger award, and had one top 5 finish in the MVP voting. I'm inclined to put him in the "great, but not Hall-worthy" category for now, but as with the rest of those players I'm sticking him in my "Maybe" list in case I later change my mind on him.

Jim Rice (14th Year) -- 63.5% in 2007

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. Rice is probably more likely than Andre Dawson to make it into the Hall this year, but I would support the Hawk over Rice.

Lee Smith (6th Year) -- 39.8% in 2007

Smith picked up 478 saves in his 18 years, which was the record until Trevor Hoffman passed him in 2006 and kept piling on in 2007. His career ERA is also solid -- but when you compare Smith with the dominant starters of this era (Mariano Rivera, Hoffman, Billy Wagner) he doesn't quite match up ERA-wise. His 2.57 K's per BB is also a bit low. My biggest problem with Smith last year was that he has 21 more losses than wins, but it was a mistake for me to focus on that category because it's pretty meaningless for closers (heck, it's pretty meaningless for all pitchers). I think Smith is stuck between era's a bit -- he was a closer as far back as the early 80's when the position was first starting to evolve into what it is today, and he closed games out into the 90's when that evolution was pretty much complete. I lean towards a no vote for Smith, but he's close enough that I reserve the right to change my mind in future years.

Alan Trammell (7th Year) -- 13.4% in 2007

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 don't quite consider to be a Hall of Famer right now.

Off the Ballot

Brady Anderson (1st Year)

Anderson played for 15 years, but he's clearly no Hall of Famer. His .256 batting average alone would be enough to exclude him in my book, because he has no category that counterbalances it. His 210 HR's, 1661 hits, and 787 OPS certainly aren't enough, and neither are his 3 All-Star appearances.

Harold Baines (2nd Year) -- 5.3% in 2007

Baines was in my "maybe" category a year ago, but I've thought about him some more and decided that I would not change my mind on his candidacy. His .289 BA and 384 HR's are arguably suitable -- but he spent most of his career as a DH, played 22 years and only picked up 2866 hits, never finished higher than 9th in the MVP voting, and won just 1 Silver Slugger award. In the end, that's not good enough.

Rod Beck (1st Year)

Beck played for 13 years, picking up a 3.30 ERA and a 3.37 K/BB ratio. His 286 saves and 3 All-Star appearances are nice, but he wasn't good enough for long enough to justify his inclusion in the Hall.

Dave Concepcion (15th Year) -- 13.6% in 2007

This is Concepcion's last chance to get into the Hall through the regular balloting process, and based on his percentage last year, it doesn't look good. I had him on my "Off the Ballot" list last year as well, and haven't changed my mind. I can ignore his low HR total (101) because he was a middle infielder. However, he didn't hit that well in general (.267 career average, 2326 hits in 19 seasons), and his candidacy is largely based on his 5 Gold Gloves. To me, that's not enough to overcome his mediocre offensive numbers.

Shawon Dunston (1st Year)

Dunston played for 18 years in the big leagues, but his numbers are not Hall-worthy. He hit .269 with 1597 hits and 150 HR, and was invited to 2 All-Star games. Not a lot there to separate him from a lot of other guys who played in the big leagues.

Chuck Finley (1st Year)

Finley pitched for 17 years and picked up 200 wins with a career 3.85 ERA. His K/BB ratio of 1.96 is nothing special, however, and he was never much more than a solid but unspectacular starter -- as evidenced by the fact that his best finish in the Cy Young voting was 7th.

Travis Fryman (1st Year)

Fryman played for 13 years, compiling a .274 career batting average, 223 homers, and 1776 hits. He also won a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger award and went to 5 All-Star games. Nice numbers and a solid career, but not worthy of the Hall of Fame.

David Justice (1st Year)

Justice's single best number from his 14 years of pro ball is his career 878 OPS. Aside from that, his batting average (.279), hits (1571), and homers (305) are ok but nothing great. He had three All-Star appearances and won the 1990 Rookie of the Year in the National League -- but that's hardly enough to qualify him for the Hall.

Chuck Knoblauch (1st Year)

Knoblauch is sort of similar to Justice -- he made it into 4 All-Star Games and won the 1991 AL Rookie of the Year, and he also picked up a Gold Glove and 2 Silver Slugger awards. His career .289 BA and 407 Stolen Bases aren't too shabby. There's just not much here that shouts out "Hall-of-Famer."

Robb Nen (1st Year)

This one threw me for a bit. In his 10 years, Nen posted a very solid 2.98 ERA and a 3.05 K/BB ratio. He also made it to 3 All-Star games and finished 4th in the Cy voting one year. Finally, he picked up 314 saves before his career ended abruptly. But is that enough to get in the Hall? He's closer in my opinion than Beck, but in the end I couldn't even justify leaving him in the "maybe" category -- it was a close call, but I decided that it was very unlikely I'd ever support his candidacy. I do suspect that he'll pick up at least 5% of the vote and stay in consideration for next year, but I wouldn't think he'd get much over that.

Jose Rijo (1st Year)

After appearing on the 2001 ballot, Rijo made a brief comeback in '01 and '02. Looking at his numbers, there's not a lot there to justify a Hall vote. His 3.24 ERA is very nice, but he won just 116 games in 14 years and made it to just one All-Star game. His 2.4 K/BB ratio is also reasonable but nothing great. He's not a Hall of Famer.

Todd Stottlemyre (1st Year)

14 years, 4.28 ERA, 138 wins, 1.94 K-BB ratio. Nope.



  • At Fri Dec 21, 03:17:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I think awards are probably the worst measure of whether someone is HOF worthy. Someone like Bert probably deserved several Cy Young awards. To not put him into the HOF because he didn't win enough awards is to compound an error.

  • At Wed Dec 26, 11:48:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    An amazing Bert Blyleven statistic that I wouldn’t wish upon any major league pitcher:
    From his 1970 rookie season through 1977 I’ve accumulated his quality starts that I’ve defined as: 6innings, 2earned runs or less; 7,8,9innings, 3earned runs or less; and 9innings+ 4 earned runs or less in which he garnered a no decision or a loss only……

    The totals are:
    82 games
    658 innings
    583 hits
    185 runs
    160 earned runs
    184 base on balls
    540 strikeouts
    2.19 ERA
    His record: 0 wins and 53 LOSSES. I repeat 0 wins and 53 losses with a 2.19 ERA

    1970 0-3 2.09 9 games
    1971 0-6 1.90 9 games
    1972 0-9 2.35 13 games
    1973 0-8 2.55 9 games
    1974 0-8 1.80 10 games
    1975 0-6 2.00 10 games
    1976 0-8 2.29 15 games
    1977 0-5 2.45 7 games

    I understand that pitchers put up great games and get snakebit on occasion, but this accounted for almost 1 of every 3 starts, 82 of 279 to be exact or 29%. Show me a Hall of Famer that had to go through this year by year. Fortunately once Blyleven ended up in Pittsburgh and later some good Minnesota teams, this trend eased to what I would consider normal levels (I had researched this in the past but don’t have the numbers on hand)

    Imagine 1974, your 17-9 in 27 games, and in the other 10, all of which are essentially quality starts, you post a 1.80ERA and go 0-8. You end up 17-17. If you don’t know the facts, and your voting for the Cy Young award, and you see 17-17. Do you cast a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place vote? Probably not. This is what Blyleven faced in yesteryear, and the same writers, who I contend do not know the facts, are what Blyleven faces every year in the HOF vote.

    Go ahead, plug in a different year, or harken back to Baseball-reference and neutralize the stats, do it for every one of Blyleven’s contemporaries. The numbers don’t change much, but for Bert Blyleven, they do. The example given above is my attempt to show why. Teams that didn’t score runs and booted the ball around like it was a soccer match.


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