Taylor's Twins Talk

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

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

My 2009 Hall of Fame Ballot

It's coming a day earlier than I had originally announced, but 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 (12th Year) -- 61.9% in 2008

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 (with the retirements of Greg Maddux and Mike Mussina, Jamie Moyer is the closest active player with 2,248). 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 near Blyleven on the K list, he's 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 dependent simply on longevity (as his 3.31 ERA shows). Bert belongs in the Hall, and with last year's roughly 14 point jump in his vote total, I'm hopeful that he'll make it in one of his last four years on the ballot.

Andre Dawson (8th Year) -- 65.9% in 2008
After putting Dawson in my maybe category in 2007, I moved him into my "yes" category last year. Nothing has changed my mind since I made that decision. 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 outstanding, and I'm now convinced.

Ricky Henderson (1st Year)
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. He is the best base stealer of all time with 1406 steals, and with the changes in the game is likely to forever be so. He revolutionized the lead-off position, hitting 297 homers primarily from that spot. He won an MVP and finished second and third in the voting two other years. He made 10 All-Star teams in his 25 year career. It's almost irrelvent to add that he also had 3,055 hits and 2,190 walks (second most all time). If he didn't have the steals, maybe there would be a little bit of doubt in my mind (I'd probably vote for him anyway). But the steals are there, and they are relevant -- don't forget that in the era he played, the stolen base was a much more vital part of the game. There is absolutely no question in my mind that Henderson belongs in the Hall.

Jim Rice (15th Year) -- 72.2% in 2008
Last chance on Rice, and boy is this one tough. 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. Last year, I said the difference between Kaline and Rice was Kaline's greatness in the field -- he won 10 Gold Gloves, and Rice never won one. However, Rice won an MVP award and finished in the top 5 of the MVP voting 5 other times. To me, that shows that Rice was an extremely respected hitter for a sufficiently long stretch of time to justify a Hall of Fame vote. Having fully considered the issue, I'm now convinced -- Rice belongs in the Hall. The sportswriters are likely to agree with me this year, as he's likely to retain the support he picked up last year while gaining a few last chance votes.

Hold-Overs (a.k.a. the Maybe's)

David Cone (1st Year)
A Cy Young winner in 1994, twice a twenty-game winner, five times an All-Star -- Cone is not a shabby candidate. I had planned to place Cone in my "no" list straight out, but he had some sustained success and I would want another year to consider his candidacy if I were a voter (yes, I understand that voters don't actually get to choose a "hold him for a year" option when voting). His 194 wins in 17 seasons are probably not enough, but this is not the shut and dried case it would appear. Next year, I'll probably say no flat out (assuming he hits the 5% mark and makes it onto the 2010 ballot) -- but for now I'm putting him in my Maybe column.

Don Mattingly (9th Year) -- 15.8% in 2008
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 a Hall of Fame 1B from the 1910's 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 (3rd Year) -- 23.6% in 2008
The McGwire saga in the Hall of Fame voting remains one of the more intriguing things to watch each year. After a year in which the question of performance enhancing drugs first exploded and then seemed to disappear (who was talking about it in August, September, or October?), will McGwire benefit? Or will voters continue to keep the issue alive and shun him in large numbers? It seems likely that McGwire has polarized the electorate -- he won 23.5% in 2007 and 23.6% in 2008, so voters don't seem to be very willing to change their minds on him. 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 be more inclined to vote for him. 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 -- and after all, there's nothing wrong with using those 15 years of eligibility to fully consider his candidacy.

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 (10th Year) -- 42.9% in 2008
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. In the last five years of his candidacy (starting next year) my focus as a voter would be on whether Morris should get in as one of the great pitchers of the 1980's and early 1990's -- but again, the fact that he doesn't have a Cy Young to back that up is problematic.

Dale Murphy (11th Year) -- 13.8% in 2008
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 (13th Year) -- 15.1% in 2008
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 (2nd Year) -- 24.3% in 2008
Raines 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.

Lee Smith (7th Year) -- 43.3% in 2008
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 and 2008. His career ERA is also solid -- but when you compare Smith with the dominant closers 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 (8th Year) -- 18.2% in 2008
Solid career numbers (.285/185/2365) and awards (4 Gold Gloves, 3 Silver Sluggers). But like Parker, Trammell is a really good player who I just don't quite consider to be a Hall of Famer right now. If someone can come up with a compelling argument in his favor, I would certainly consider it.

Mo Vaughn (1st Year)
Mo Vaughn doesn't exactly scream "Hall of Famer!" to me, but I find his numbers and his career interesting enough to include him on my "Maybe" list. He finished with a .293 career average and 1620 hits in 12 seasons (lower than I would like, but he didn't play for all that long). More interestingly, he had a four-year stretch in which he won and MVP and finished 4th and 5th in the voting two other years. If you ask why I put Vaughn in my "Maybe" list and banish Harold Baines to my "No" list, it's that four year stretch that I'd point to. Baines never was considered one of the top players in his league -- Vaughn clearly was. Vaughn also contributed by playing first base, and I'm a bit biased against DH's in that regard (although you could fairly ask whether it actually HURT his teams to have Vaughn at first base -- but I don't remember him being a complete and total farce at the position). If push came to shove I would say no on Vaughn, but it's also not quite clear cut.

Matt Williams (1st Year)
I'm not thrilled with his batting average (.268) or total hits (1878 in 17 seasons). However, he was a consistent power hitter (378) who won 4 Gold Gloves and finished in the top 6 in MVP voting 4 times. As with Vaughn, if push came to shove that wouldn't be enough for me, but he's also not a categorical no. I would want to continue considering his candidacy.

Off the Ballot

Harold Baines (3rd Year) -- 5.2% in 2008
Baines was in my "maybe" category two years, but I've thought about him some more and decided that I can make a firm decision on him. 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.

Jay Bell (1st Year)

He's a career .265 hitter who picked up just 1963 hits in 18 seasons. Bell had solid power for a guy who spent a large chunk of his career as a shortstop (195 HR's), but those numbers aren't enough to compensate for what is an otherwise extremely lackluster Hall of Fame resume.

Ron Gant (1st Year)
Open and shut case in my book. He was a career .256 hitter who had only one season where he even made it into the top 5 in the MVP voting. His 321 homeruns aren't shabby, but you don't build a Hall-of-Fame worthy career on 321 homeruns and not much else.

Mark Grace (1st Year)
In my head, I associate Mark Grace with Don Mattingly. Looking at Grace's numbers, though, he just doesn't stack up to the comparison. Grace had a .303 average and hit 173 homeruns (to Mattingly's .307 and 222), never won an MVP award or even finished in the top 10 in voting (Mattingly won an MVP), made the All-Star game just 3 times (which stunned me when I looked it up -- Mattingly doubled that, by the way), and won 4 Gold Gloves compared to Mattingly's nine. While these two have long gone together in my mind, it's clear that Grace's credentials fall short of Mattingly's. For that reason, he falls short of even my "Maybe" category.

Tommy John (15th Year) -- 29.1% in 2008

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've had John in my "maybe" category for a couple of years, but 2009 is his last year of eligibility so an up-or-down decision on his candidacy is appropriate. I would not cast a vote for Tommy John. He was a very good pitcher who doesn't quite rise to Hall of Fame levels.

Jesse Orosco (1st Year)
Looking only at Orosco's early career, the Hall of Fame might not seem like such a far-out suggestion. From 1983-1987 he picked up 102 saves with an ERA as low as 1.47 and usually in the mid-2.00's. After that, he became the situational lefty most of us remember. His career 3.16 ERA isn't bad, but there's just nothing in his career that would lead me to believe that it was Hall-worthy.

Dan Plesac (1st Year)
The poor-man's Orosco. Like Orosco, Plesac started off getting saves and posting solid ERA's. He then transformed, just like Orosco, into a situational lefty. His career 3.64 ERA shows that he wasn't as effective, as does the fact that his career was 6 years shorter. If Orosco isn't Hall-worthy, Plesac certainly isn't either.

Greg Vaughn (1st Year)
Vaughn finished fourth in the MVP voting in 1998 and 1999, laregly because of his power (50 and 45 homers respectively). Other than that and his 355 homers, he has virtually nothing on which to hang his Hall candidacy. He finished with just 1475 hits and a .242 batting average in 15 seasons. In no way does that measure up.



  • At Sat Dec 20, 02:15:00 PM , Anonymous TT said...

    Interesting fact - the Twins traded Jay Bell to get Blyleven in 1985. I'm not sure what that means...


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