Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2010 Hall of Fame Ballot, Part 2.

  • Andre Dawson (OF) - .279 BA, 2774 hits, 438 HRs, 1591 RBIs, 314 SBs, 8 All-Star Games, 8 Gold Gloves, Rookie of the Year, 4 Top 10 MVP finishes (1 win, 2 seconds). There is enough evidence on his resume to suggest he was one of the best outfielders during his career, and I'm not sure I have a valid argument against him. Considering the offensive jump in statistics came as he was leaving the game, his combination of power and speed are better than anyone other than Barry and Bobby Bonds. I'll discuss him further under the Tim Raines section. What the voters will do: Andre will set a record for coming the closest to entering the HOF without doing it, missing by a single vote. What the voters should do: Just let him into Cooperstown!
  • Andrés Galarraga (1B) - .288 BA, 2333 hits, 399 HRs, 1425 RBIs, 5 All Star Games, 2 Gold Gloves, 6 Top 10 MVP finishes (never higher than 6th). El Gran Gato would be a first ballot HOFer if the qualifications were for heart, as Galarraga came back from cancer to have a decent season in 2000 for the Braves. He won a batting title, a home run title and 2 RBI titles during his career, becoming one of only a handful of players to achieve that distinction, and only he, A-Rod and Bonds have done it in the last twenty years. Unfortunately for Andrés, he played in the launching pad of Colorado, which reduces the value of his power numbers with the voters, and his career coincided with the HR boom years of the 90s, the biggest offensive explosion in baseball since the 1920s. 500 HRs might get a player in these days, but not 400. What the voters will do: Many will give Galarraga a vote this time around out of respect for the great man, and he will be back on the ballot in 2011. What the voters should do: I have no problem with it, but I expect his numbers to drop significantly next year.
  • Pat Hentgen (P) - (131-112), 1290 K's, 4.32 ERA, 3 All-Star games, 1 Cy Young win (and 1 6th place finish). I expect Hentgen wouldn't have made this list if it weren't for that Cy Young season, and what a season it was. In 1996 he went 20-1o with a 3.22 ERA for the Blue Jays, leading the league in shutouts, complete games and innings pitched. The next year at age 28 he again led the league in IP with 264, and he was never the same pitcher again. He only had one season after that with an ERA under 4, and was often injured. I still wonder how the pitchers of the 60s, 70s and 80s were able to throw 300 IP in a season. Someday I hope to do research on it. In an unrelated sidebar, Hentgen is the first player on the HOF ballot who is younger than me. Excuse me while I kill myself. What the voters will do: One and done. What the voters should do: Like his Cy Young win, one and done.
  • Mike Jackson (P) - (62-67), 3.42 ERA, ....?? A decent reliever who lasted from age 21 to 39 in the majors (while missing a couple of years due to injury and suffering statistics, I'm not sure how Jackson qualifies for the HOF ballot. I think Tim Kurkjian might be the only one to give him a vote (he votes for everyone), all the time while giving Mr. Jackson a blowjob. What the voters will do: One and done. What Tim Kurkjian will do: Pretend it's Shoeless Joe Jackson and wipe his mouth when he's done.

2010 Hall of Fame Ballot, Part 1.

Here are the names on the HOF ballot, pertinent stats of each, and a couple of comments about each candidate.

I should state ahead of time that I feel there are a number of players in the HOF that should not be there, and I am more strict in my opinion on who deserves to be there than the BBWAA (and the previous Veterans Committee) is.

  • Roberto Alomar (2B) - .300 BA, 2724 hits, 210 HRs, 1134 RBIs, 474 SBs, 12 All Star games, 10 Gold Gloves, 5 Top 10 MVP voting finishes. Before the last three years of Alomar's career, no one had any doubt about him being a first ballot HOFer, but the collapse of his ability at age 34 was sudden, and more people remember Alomar spitting on John Hirschbeck and the recent accusations about his sexuality and endangering the life of his girlfriend than of him being the best 2B of his era. Of the 14 players who also appeared in 12 All Star games, 8 are in the Hall, 3 are either still active or not yet eligible (A-Rod, Manny, Piazza), Alomar, Larkin (1st time on the ballot) and McGwire. Alomar sits 10th all-time in HRs by a 2B, 4th in SBs (I believe), and 6th in hits. What the voters will do: he will be elected in the first year, though it will be close. What the voters should do: he deserves the HOF.

  • Kevin Appier (P) - (169-137) career record, 3.74 ERA, 1994 K's, 1 All-Star game, 1 Top 3 Cy Young, Top 3 Rookie of the Year. If elected, Kevin's ERA would be the 2nd highest (ahead of Red Ruffing) and .07 behind Ted Lyons. What the voters will do: Kevin will not receive enough votes to stay on the ballot. What the voters should do: Thanks for playing Kevin!

  • Harold Baines (OF/DH) - .289 BA, 2866 hits, 384 HRs, 1628 RBIs, 6 All-Star Games, 2 Top 10 MVP finishes. As Harold was nearing the end of his career, my friend Big Joe and I worried about Baines closing in on the magical 3000 hit number. If he reached, he was almost assured of making the HOF...but was he worthy? Fortunately he fell short, and with only 5.9% yes votes on last year's ballot, Baines will probably not be on the ballot after this year. In my opinion, he is the Don Sutton of hitters, the only difference being Sutton reached the magical number for pitchers. I'm actually selling Don a bit short here, as he did finish in the top 5 of Cy Young voting 5 different times. Baines has more HRs than Bench, Cepeda and Jim Rice, and 12 of the 15 players behind him in RBI are in the Hall (the others being Dawson, Thome and McGriff). So why is Harold Baines getting so little love from the voters? Because as he moved into the DH position full-time and stayed serviceable for the next fourteen years, offensive statistics jumped. If he had started his career ten years earlier, and had the same statistics, I have no doubt voters would have debated as they did with Jim Rice...and eventually voting him in. What the voters will do: Baines will miss the cut this year. What the voters should do: An accumulator of stats, Baines never put together the type of season voters look for when elected someone to the Hall. This will be his last year.

  • Bert Blyleven (P) - (287-250) career record, 3.31 ERA, 3701 K's, 2 All Star games, 3 Top 5 Cy Young voting. I like Bert Blyleven. I really do...I think he's funny as an announcer, and I love that as the pitching coach of The Netherlands in this past year's WBC they pitched above their heads. Personally, I think this will be the final straw that gets him elected into the HOF, but I'm still not convinced. I have outlined my case against his election before in this blog, but I'll summarize here: there are eight pitchers elected already from his contemporaries. He didn't have any great seasons like some of the pitchers will lesser career stats, and didn't reach the magical number needed to put him over the top. His supporters argue the teams he played for were horrible, but the facts don't support this, as the average W-L record of his teams (without his record) was 80-82. Average. Check out some of the HOF pitchers winning % in comparison to their teams sometime. In addition, when given a minimal amount of support of runs (3 runs or less, he won less often than any of those HOF pitchers...38% of the time). By comparison, Seaver won 50% of the time when given 2 runs or less. But if he gets elected, I'll listen to his speech, and welcome the first Dutch player in the Hall. What the voters will do: Welcome Bert to Cooperstown. What the voters should do: Look past the wins and K's.
  • Ellis Burks (OF) - .291 BA, 2107 hits, 352 HRs, 1206 RBIs, 181 SBs, 2 All-Star Games, 1 Top 3 MVP finish. A victim of not being able to stay healthy (only 1 season w/ 600 ABs, 2 seasons with 146+ games), Burks is given too little credit for his offensive ability due to him playing almost 5 years in Colorado. The fact is, however, that only 1 season (1996) falls out of line with the rest of his career. He hit .344 for San Francisco in 2000, hit 30 HRs twice outside of Denver (2x while there). But that 1996 made skeptics of most of us. What the voters will do: One and done. What the voters should do: One and done.

Edgar Martinez

I believe a higher standard needs to be set for baseball's Hall of Fame. There are too many players currently there who don't deserve it. Sometime I'll have to list them.

Until then, I will continue to fight against those on the ballot. Edgar Martinez, hitter extraordinaire, finds himself on the ballot for the first time in 2010, and David Schoenfield of ESPN gives a lengthy plea on why he deserves to make it.

I'll make the case against him.

Mr. Schoenfield argues four points, which he believes to be the main cases against his election, and tries to disprove each in order to bolster Edgar's bid for immortality. I'll outline as follows:

Mr. Schoenfield states that he "will present only facts, statistics and analysis", but it takes him 625 words before he even starts to rely on those. Until then, he discusses the dark days of being a Mariner, how a couple of people said he was the greatest hitter they ever saw, and how he is a Mariners fan.

So much for the facts, statistics and analysis.

Mr. Schoenfield's argument is aimed at the following:

1. The anti-DH bias among BBWAA voters.
2. His career was too short.
3. His statistics aren't good enough.
4. He wasn't famous enough.

I'll outline Schoenfield's case, then argue against it.

1. He argues that Martinez wasn't a bad fielder, but was moved to DH full-time in 1995 to protect his legs. He then points to Paul Molitor being enshrined in the HOF, and how "If Molitor had finished with 2,900 hits, his Hall of Fame case becomes much more debatable."

My rebuttal? Of course. 3,000 hits is one of those numbers (like 300 wins, or until recently 500 HRs) that guarantees a player a spot in the HOF. If Molitor hadn't reached 3,000, he would have a difficult time getting in (like Harold Baines, who finished with 2,866 hits). Molitor instead reached 3,300 hits...

A thousand more than Edgar. No offense, Mr. Schoenfield, but it's difficult to compare two players when one of them wound up with 50% more offense than another (along with 500 SBs), and claim if the writers elected the first, they have an obligation to elect the second.

It doesn't work that way.

Note: I haven't even mentioned he was a DH. In fact, being a DH weighs in Edgar's favor, but I'll get there in a second.

2. In response to Edgar's career being too short, Schoenfield argues it was the Mariners GM's fault for not starting Edgar's career earlier, and he gives us a list of players who appeared in less games than Martinez, yet were still elected to the HOF.

I find it very interesting that in arguing against this position, Schoenfield fails to mention any of Edgar's career statistics. Why? Because he doesn't have the numbers.

Jim Rice played 35 more games than Martinez, Sandberg 100. Puckett played fewer, but I'll get back to that case in a second. Let's compare Rice's numbers to Martinez:

Jim Rice: .298 BA, 382 HRs, 1451 RBIs, .854 OPS, 1 MVP award, 5 other top 5 finishes...and 8 All-Star games.

Edgar: .312 BA, 309 HRs, 1261 RBIs, .933 OPS, 1 Top 5 MVP finish (3rd in 1995), and 7 All-Star games.

Edgar has an edge in two categories...and trails in 4 others. And before Schoenfield cries foul that Martinez played in the Great Northwest, which is ignored by the baseball voters, Griffey finished 2nd in voting the year before, and Randy Johnson won the Cy Young in 1995. Seattle was not ignored.

In addition, during the time Jim Rice played, it was more difficult to score runs and generate offense. Rice played full-time from 1975 to 1988, during which time the average AL team scored 4.44 runs/game. In the go-go steroid era of the 90s and early 2000s, the run rate had increased to 4.90 runs/game. Edgar played in a time when offensive statistics increased by 10% over those of Jim Rice's league.

I'll give another example.

Dale Murphy: .265 BA, 398 HRs, 1266 RBIs, .815 OPS, 2 MVP awards, 4 top 10 finishes overall, 7 All-Star games.

Edgar only has two top 10 MVP finishes.

Murphy played in a league that had 20% less offense than Martinez. Comparing apples to apples, Martinez isn't that impressive.

Finally, let's take a closer look at those players who played less games than Martinez:

Kirby Puckett: 10 All-Star games, 7 Top 10 MVP finishes, pity factor in voting having been chased from the game by going blind. I think some would consider Puckett's selection on the weak side, but at the time of the voting, most believed he would have eclipsed 3000 hits, and voted with their heart instead of straight numbers. Then again, Puckett appeared in more All-Star games and had more MVP votes than Martinez did.

Rizzuto - not elected by the voters, selected by the Veterans Committee.
Reese - not elected by the voters, selected by the Veterans Committee.
Cepeda - not elected by the voters, selected by the Veterans Committee.
Cronin - elected on tenth ballot, on strength of his managerial duties as well as a player.
Doerr - Veterans Committee
Traynor - widely considered the best defensive 3B before Brooks Robinson, also first 3B elected. Played in an era where season was shorter - expand to 162 games, would've played in about the same as Martinez. Also finished in top 10 MVP voting 6 times.
Terry - last player to top .400 in the NL, also won 3 pennants as a manager (2 as a player-manager), and 1 World Championship. Considered one of the top 60 players in the 20th century.
Medwick - 10 AS games, 4 top 10 MVP finishes (1 win), elected on eighth ballot
Sisler - no AS games during his career, .340 BA, 2800 hits in same number of games as Martinez
Mize - 10 AS games, 6 Top 10 MVP finishes, more HR/RBI than Edgar, same BA.

The others on that list are catchers. I think it is worthy to note that only 4 catchers in the history of the game have surpassed Martinez's 2,055 games played, and all of the top 10 have played there since 1980. Medical advancements have allowed catchers to play that position longer today.

Ryne Sandberg - 10 AS games, 1 MVP win (4 top 10 finishes), 9 Gold Gloves...285 HRs, 1061 RBIs, .285 BA, .795 OPS, 2386 hits while playing in a league with about 12% less offense, and playing second base, which has not been considered a power position since the dead ball era.

In short, the players who had a short career like Martinez either weren't selected by the voters (and because of some poor selections by the Veterans Committee, they have changed how the elections are done for them), played catcher (a notoriously tough position), or waited a number of ballots before being selected. There are a few with which Martinez is comparable.

3. Schoenfield admits his career numbers aren't that great, so he nitpicks: "since World War II, only eight right-handed hitters have had as many as six .320 seasons: Albert Pujols and Hank Aaron (eight each); Roberto Clemente, Molitor, Edgar, Manny Ramirez and Derek Jeter (seven); and Vlad Guerrero (six). Pretty good company."

Let's break that down: on that list, 4 have (or will have) 3,000 hits, a magical number in the eyes of voters (Aaron, Clemente, Molitor, Jeter). Pujols is the best hitter of this era, while Ramirez's numbers also dwarf Martinez's. 12 AS games and 9 Top 10 MVP finishes will do that.

Why does Schoenfield make the cut off World War II? Because if he includes the players before then, suddenly Martinez stops looking like a HOFer. In the history of baseball, Martinez has the 91st highest BA, and 37th among right-handers.

The two right-handers directly above him are not in the HOF.

Schoenfield then relies on the only statistic that makes Martinez look like a HOFer - OPS+, and it is here where Edgar shines. It turns out that Martinez was a prolific hitter, certainly when compared to Jim Rice. Rice, by the way, had to wait 14 years to be elected, and has more awards than Martinez ever did.

Schoenfield then does his strongest work, comparing Martinez to Tony Gwynn, who was a singles hitter/batting title machine, who wound up crossing the 3,000 hit threshold. In comparing OPS+, Martinez outshines Gwynn consistently.

But why is Tony Gwynn in the HOF?

1. 3,141 hits (Edgar 2,247)
2. 8 batting titles (2)
3. 15 All-Star games (7)
4. 7 Top 10 MVP finishes (2)
5. 5 Gold Gloves (0)

Martinez has the advantage in one category. One.

4. Schoenfield argues Edgar Martinez wasn't famous enough. Unfortunately, this is his weakest argument, because:

a) the DH award is now named after him.
b) the 1995 series against the Yankees exposed him and the Mariners to the world
c) since Baseball Tonight, there aren't any "hidden outposts" in the baseball world anymore. Griffey won MVPs with Seattle, Randy Johnson won Cy Youngs, and Alex Rodriguez grew up before out eyes playing there.

I would go another direction here: if Martinez hadn't been a DH, would he be considered for the HOF? Let's compare statistics with a contemporary of Edgar's...

Albert Belle: .295 BA, 381 HRs, 1239 RBIs, .933 OPS (143 OPS+), 5 AS games, 5 Top 10 MVP finishes. All in the same ballpark with Martinez.

When one takes into account the various eras, I find it hard to accept Edgar Martinez as a HOF player. Will he get votes? Sure, and he no doubt will be on the ballot for 2011.

But he is not a Hall of Famer.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Baseball Draft

Bud Selig has called meetings to discuss how to improve the game (i.e., shorten the length of the games to prevent them from becoming like five-day Test cricket matches).

I have a suggestion. I tried to send an e-mail to Bud, but MLB.com doesn't have a way for the average fan to contact the MLB offices, unless one would like to send a letter. Anyway, here's the letter I wrote:

Dear Commissioner,

I am very glad to hear you're making an effort to shorten games (and hopefully the postseason), and I have a somewhat radical suggestion that might help make another aspect of baseball more interesting to the casual fan.

Your baseball draft.

The NFL has done a great job in marketing its own draft, to the point where fans will spend the entire weekend glued to the television watching what players will be picked up by their team, then hours of Mel Kiper Jr. analyzing how each team did.

Baseball, on the other hand, has a more difficult job to do with its draft: the draft has many more rounds, it has high school players, as well as college players, none of which are seen by the casual fan (unlike basketball and football). I think all drafts also have their own problems, and I'd like to address them here.

1. A draftee is held hostage by the team that picks him.
2. A team is held hostage by the player/agent.
3. There is no limit on bonuses, causing some of the small-market teams to bypass players they feel will be "unsignable", for lack of a better word.

My suggestion: do away with the draft.

Instead of a draft, each of the 30 MLB teams is given a "salary cap" under which they can sign all eligible players for the draft (you need to include overseas players in this as well - Japanese free agents, Cuban defectors, and Caribbean sixteen-year olds). The difference is that the team with the worst record has the most money in their salary cap, and the World Series Champion has the least. It could be based on how much money was allotted to the draft signings of this past year (I don't know exact dollar amounts).

Then, the new MLB "draft" wouldn't be a draft at all...it would be an auction.

The Kansas City Royals announce a player, and teams begin bidding. The bids are accepted by an auctioneer. The bidding ends when:

1. A particular team bids, and no other team tops that bid.
2. A player whose name has been called "stops" the bidding on a team he wants to play for.

This new style draft would be exciting to watch. It would end teams being held hostage by agents (the price bid is what the player would sign for, no need to hold out since no one else bid higher, and if the player stopped the bidding with a team they wanted to play for, they couldn't complain).

In addition, different strategies could be employed by different teams, and discussed/evaluated for weeks after:

1. Maybe there is another Stephen Strasburg - would a team devote all their money to signing him?

2. Let's say the Pirates farm system is barren. They could avoid the high-priced signings, and attempt to restock their system by taking lots of players, rather than picking a couple.

Mr. Commissioner, I understand you are considering following the "slotted"
pricing currently done in the NBA. While this would control rookie salaries, the NBA (as I said before) has an advantage of having a two-round draft, and many of the players taken are known before the draft, thereby moving the focus of the casual fan to the picking of those players. I would suggest trying a different tact, and not follow the other sports. Baseball should be a leader and innovator, not a follower.


Marc Carcanague