Saturday, January 18, 2014

And now for something completely different...

Cricket.  The English version of baseball.  A sport that I play, follow, and try to figure out how to make better (I do this with baseball too, but I'll focus on cricket here).

Cricket has a few issues:

1.  Fans are losing interest in Test matches, preferring to watch the one-day versions, or, worse for the international aspect, the Twenty/20 leagues popping up across the world, most prominently in India, where the best players can earn much, much more than they do playing the more difficult 5 day games.
2.  There is no clear way for a nation to reach Test playing status, and no way for a nation to lose their status once they receive it.  Ireland has done everything that has been asked of them, but the ICC refuses to commit to a plan to promote Ireland.  Worse, the England Cricket Board has a vested interest in preventing Ireland from gaining Test status, since they continue to pilfer Ireland's best players (Ed Joyce, Eoin Morgan, Boyd Rankin, I'm looking at you).
3.  Series are not created equally.  For high drawing matches, rivalries or top quality sides, the series tend to be longer.  When two sides facing each other aren't close in ability, it is significantly shorter.
4.  There is a significant drop-off in talent after the 8th best team in the world, New Zealand.  #9 (Zimbabwe) and #10 (Bangladesh) are not able to extend any of the teams above them.
5.  It is impossible in this day and age to play a home-and-home series with every Nation at this level in a two-year period, especially with the increasingly congested schedule.

So, change is coming to cricket.  Here's what I think it should look like:

1.  A series of divisions.  First division would have the #1-4 ranked Nations, second division #5-8, third division #9-12, etc.
2.  Each nation may play another series each year against a nation outside their division.  If England and Australia are not in the same division, the Ashes will continue.  Sri Lanka-India, or Pakistan-India could happen every other year.  Maybe Ireland could schedule one of the bigger nations for a short series when they travel to England.
3.  By keeping it at four, it prevents interference with the IPL and other domestic leagues.  As much as traditionalists hate it (and myself as well), I fear the Twenty/20 Leagues are here to stay, especially with how much money they generate.  Any more cuts into the ability to play another nation of choice.
4.  The gap between the #8 team (New Zealand) and #9 team (Zimbabwe) is significant.  I would even consider before relegating New Zealand, they would have a home series against Zimbabwe that Zimbabwe would need to win before promotion.
5.  This offers a clear opportunity to Associate Nations to reach Test playing status.  Ireland would be involved in round-robin series against Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.  Should they defeat those other nations, they would have a series against New Zealand (or the West Indies).  THAT would be exciting.
6.  Nations beneath Division Three never get to play 5 day matches - their ability doesn't allow for matches to last that long.  So nations #13-16 would play 3 day matches.
7.  I would include in each series a number of ODIs and Twenty/20, each with reduced point values in relation to the Tests.

Here's what that would look like:

Division One:

South Africa/India/Australia/England.  Is there any match a cricket fan wouldn't want to see among these?

Division Two:  Pakistan/Sri Lanka/West Indies/New Zealand.  Think of the battles to be promoted and relegated.

Division Three:  Zimbabwe/Bangladesh/Ireland/Netherlands.  Should they be playing Test matches, or 4 day matches?  I can go either way here, but I'm not sure how many draws would take play in 5-day matches.

Division Four:  Kenya/Afghanistan/Scotland/UAE.  3 day matches.  Currently only Kenya has any experience with matches longer than a day...and that was a while ago.

Beneath Division Four, the competitions would be one-day matches, and would be similar to those that are organized now.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

HOF Review

I want to take a moment and review my predictions versus what actually happened in this year's balloting.  In parentheses is my prediction; the actual total of votes are after.

Moises Alou (3):  6
Jeff Bagwell (just under 50%):  54.3%
Armando Benitez (0):  1
Craig Biggio (just over 75%):  fell 2 votes short of 75%
Barry Bonds (just under 30%):  34.7%
Sean Casey (1):  0
Roger Clemens (just over 30%):  35.4%
Ray Durham (0):  0
Eric Gagne (0):  2
Tom Glavine (just under 75%):  91.9%
Luis Gonzalez (under 10 votes):  5 votes
Jacque Jones (0): 1 vote
Todd Jones (0):  0 votes
Jeff Kent (11%): 15.2%
Paul LoDuca (0): 0
Greg Maddux (over 90%):  97.2%
Edgar Martinez (20%):25.2%
Don Mattingly (under 5%):  8.2%
Fred McGriff (8%):  11.7%
Mark McGwire (4%):  11.0%
Jack Morris (60%):  61.5%
Mike Mussina (28.8%):  20.3%
Hideo Nomo (1 vote):  6 votes
Mike Piazza (45%):  62.2%
Tim Raines (55%):  46.1%
Kenny Rogers (0):  1
Curt Schilling (28%):  29.2%
Richie Sexson (0):  0
Lee Smith (26%):  29.9%
JT Snow (0):  2
Sammy Sosa (less than 5%):  7.2%
Frank Thomas (65%):  83.7%
Mike Timlin (0):   0
Alan Trammell (25%):  20.8%
Larry Walker (12%):  10.2%

Just a few comments:

1.  Predictions I'm most proud of:  Walker, Schilling, Morris, Biggio (I was off by about 5 votes, though I'm sure that's of little consolation to Craig), and Todd Jones.

2.  Predictions I was way off on:  Tim Raines, Mike Piazza, Mike Mussina, Mark McGwire, Don Mattingly, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas.

  • Obviously, the 300 games was a clincher for Glavine.  What may have propelled him to higher percentages was the opportunity for the voters to send him in with his long-time teammate (and commercial co-star) Greg Maddux.  From now on, I can be certain that 300 game winners are 1st ballot HOFers.  Randy Johnson, pack your bags from the summer of 2015.
  • I'm a bit perplexed about Thomas - where exactly is the cutoff for being a DH?  Martinez is a DH, but Thomas is a 1B?  Or is it that Thomas won the 2 MVPs while being a first baseman?  I thought he deserved to make it; I just had no idea over 83% of the voters would agree with me.
  • The average voter submitted almost 8.5 votes per ballot.  With that in mind, the slide towards irrelevance for McGwire, Sosa, McGriff et al was delayed a year.  Had voters average a vote less per ballot (in 2013, they average a little over 6), we would have seen them fall off the ballot.
  • I made a mistake on Mattingly.  Donnie Baseball is eligible for another year.  Not that he's going to make an impact, but I'm sure his supporters wanted him to remain the full length of time before going to the Veterans Committee.
  • By including 3 this year, and Palmeiro falling off the ballot, I think the "logjam" is overstated.  I'm predicting four will get in next year:  Johnson, Biggio, Smoltz and Martinez.  I think Sosa falls off the ballot next year, as well as Mattingly.  The following year Griffey and Hoffman, then in 2017 we may finally see Raines/Piazza/Schilling/Mussina.  Pudge joins the ballot that year, and with PED rumors abound on him, the voters may look back at those who have been on the ballot for a while.
  • Does this mean A-Rod could be on the 2019 ballot?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

This Year's HOF Ballot, Part 4

We're 2 days away from learning who makes Cooperstown.  My money is on Maddux and Biggio with no one else getting 75% of the vote.  I also think some major names (McGriff, McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro) will be taken off the ballot because they don't reach the 5% threshold.

Kenny Rogers (1st):  219-156, 4.27 ERA 107 ERA+ 4 All-Star games, 1 Top 5 Cy Young finish, 51.1 WAR

The second best well-known Kenny Rogers, this Kenny will probably best remembered for having questionable material on his baseball cap during the World Series.  I still wonder how/why that was never challenged during the game.

Prediction:  No votes

Curt Schilling (2nd):  216-146, 3.46 ERA 127 ERA+ 6 All-Star games 2 2nd place Cy Young finishes, 1 other top 5 finish.

Curt got 38.8% of the votes his first time on the ballot.  He won't get as many this time since a couple  300 game winners have joined the ballot, but one might argue that he was as good as Glavine.  Glavine pitched for teams that were generally better, at least earlier in his career.  I remember a game I was at in 1997 when Schilling pitched against the Yankees.  The Yankees were great; the Phillies threatened the Mets' record for futility in the first half of the season (at 23-60 in the middle of the season, there were serious questions about whether they could win 40).  In early September, the Yankees visited Veterans Stadium...where the Phillies swept them.  No one could have predicted it, but Schilling set the tone Game 1 when he pitched 8 innings and struck out 16.  He was dominating, and he loved the center stage.

Needless to say, Philadelphia in the late 90s was NOT center stage.  He was probably the best pitcher in the league during those years, but he occasionally stayed in the game too long because the relief staff had blown a few wins for him, and out of frustration he asked for a trade.  Three World Series championships later, that reputation for performance in big moments was secured.

Some might question his length of production, but of either pitcher, I think Schilling did more to convince voters of his Cooperstown credentials in the post-season than one Jack Morris.  Morris was average in October, save the incredible Game 7 he threw for Minnesota (and horrific in 1992 for the Blue Jays).  Schilling was great in 2001, great in 2004, and did it again one last time before he retired.

Curt will get in...but not this year.

Prediction:  28%

Richie Sexson (1st):  .261 306-943  2 All-Star games, 17.9 WAR

I always wonder how some players wind up with a nickname...or name.  Did Richmond sound too official?  Was he always called "Richie"?  Don't some people outgrow certain names?  Does Richie still get called Richie if he's an insurance salesman instead of a ballplayer?  At what age is Richie not appropriate?

These are the things I think about when I have spare time.  Ugh.

Prediction:  0 votes

Lee Smith (12th):  47.8% of the vote last year.  71-92  3.03 ERA  478 saves, 7 All-Star games, 3 top 5 Cy Young finishes (top 2nd to Tom Glavine in 1991)

Smith's case is going to look weaker and weaker the further we get away from his career.  Just like the starting pitchers of the 70s and 80s win totals look better and better, I think most view Lee Smith's save totals as impressive (and they were) but he's already been passed by Rivera and Hoffman.  With the number of quality players appearing on the ballot over the next few years, Smith is going to have to wait for the Veterans Committee...and by then, Kimbrel, Nathan et. al. may have passed him.  More importantly, the newer voters are recognizing the limited value a one-inning pitcher actually has in a game.  I think Lee Smith is going to be waiting a while before he gets in...if he get in at all.

Prediction:  26%

J.T. Snow (1st):  .268 189-877 No All-Star appearance (but he did win 6 straight Gold Glove awards)

Baseball Reference calls Snow's career most similar to Dan Dreissen's.  I'm not sure I'd argue against that, though Snow was better defensively.

Prediction:  0 votes

Sammy Sosa (2nd):  12.5% last year.  .273 606-1667 234 SBs, 7 All-Star games, 1998 MVP (5 other top 10 finishes) 58.4 WAR

Sammy killed his chances for Cooperstown in Congress, though I'm not sure without steroids he would have had much of a chance anyway.  He was a free-swinging outfielder with a bit of speed whom I had on my fantasy team along with Luis Gonzalez.  I loved him - I could count on him for 20-20 or 30-30, and lived with his batting average.

His "peak" in the late 20s was great...but in his early 30s, he suddenly got astronomically better.  At age 32, he hit 160 RBIs, which is the highest in the National League since 1930, when they might as well have used a SuperBall:  Hack Wilson set the all-time record with 190, and Chuck Klein hit 170 to boot.  If he hadn't used, he probably would've hit 400 HRs, and maybe 1250 RBIs.  His OPS+ might be 120 rather than 128...and he may have gotten quite a bit of support for the Hall.

Not now.

Prediction:  less than 5%, off the ballot.

Frank Thomas (1st):  .301 521-1704.  2 time MVP (4 other top 5 finishes) 156 OPS+, 73.6 WAR

Forget Edgar Martinez; The Big Hurt should be the first DH in the Hall of Fame.  Quick story:  I've asked this question of a lot of my friends:  what were the 5 most significant historical sports events you've seen live?  Milestones, famous games, etc.

My list is horrible.  Number 1 by a mile is the 1994 Game 6 Conference Finals between the Devils and Rangers, also known as "Messier's guarantee".  I'm a huge Devils fan, and I had seats 1st row on the blue line.  We had a chance to close the Rangers out, and took an early 2-0 lead.  We could taste victory...but then Messier scored.

The crowd went nuts - even though the Devils were home, about two-thirds of the fans were Rangers fans, and we could feel the Devils lose their momentum.  Ritcher made some great saves, but Messier had a night to never be forgotten.  I was destroyed; I thought the Devils had no chance in Game 7, but Brodeur showed he had arrived by pushing the eventual champions to double overtime.

After that?  Can I count the Rutgers-U Mass men's basketball game that was cancelled at halftime due to the African-American protest at center court?  I might include Schilling's game against the Yankees above...or maybe Jayson Werth's walk-off HR against the Dodgers in 2009.  I've never seen a no-hitter; I haven't been to any memorable playoff games (does a Jets-Jaguars game count?).

Why this story?  Because in 2007, friends and I were touring the Midwest watching a bunch of baseball games at various stadiums.  When we arrived in Minneapolis for our last game on tour, they were playing the Toronto Blue Jays - and Frank Thomas was on 499 HRs.  I've never seen a milestone of such stature; I hoped.  And hoped.  And hoped.

It didn't happen.

Prediction:  65%

Mike Timlin (1st):  75-73 3.63, 6th place Rookie of the Year.

I got nothing.

Prediction:  0 votes

Alan Trammell (13th):  33.6%, .285  185-1003, 6 All-Star games, 4 Gold Gloves, runner-up in 1987 MVP (a complete rip-off, he should've won).  110 OPS+, 70.3 WAR

Trammell belongs in the Hall of Fame, unfortunately, he played in the same league as Cal Ripken, at the same time as Ozzie Smith, and when he retired, his numbers were quickly dwarfed by the Steroid Era and the trio of offensive shortstops who were playing in the AL:  A-Rod, Jeter and Garciaparra.  It's unfortunate that so many years of balloting happened while people were falling over themselves over the new powerful shortstops; Trammell was equal to that in his era.  (And for those who suggest those 3 played in the same era as Trammell, Trammell was in Detroit in 1977, when A-Rod was 1 year old).

If the revamped Veterans Committee ever starts voting players in again, rather than coaches and 19th century catchers who didn't wear a glove, Alan Trammell is the type of player they should look at, not those who received more support or were more famous.  For that matter, I'd love for them to look at his double-play partner Lou Whitaker as well.

We can dream.

Prediction:  25%

Larry Walker (4th):  21.6%  .313  383-1311 (230 SBs), 5 All-Star games, 7 Gold Gloves, 1997 MVP (1 other top 5 finish), 141 OPS+, 72.6 WAR.

While Walker will end up with much more support than Dale Murphy ever did, I'm not sure how much better Walker was, and within that context comes the eternal question, what makes a Hall of Famer?  Is it longevity and reaching certain benchmarks as a player (i.e., 300 wins, 500 HRs)?  Or is it those peak years where one can consider the player the best in the league, or maybe in baseball (i.e., Koufax, Rice)?

Due to injuries, Walker never achieved the benchmark totals, so he needed to be the best in the league.  For one year, he was...and he had 3 other great years.  But Walker got injured a lot, and he played in Colorado, which everyone discredits the hitters.  The difference between Murphy and Walker is that while Murphy's peak was better (2 MVPs, twice a runner up), he 9 years of his career he was considered equal to or worse than a replacement player.  His value is wrapped neatly into about 8 years, Walker's spread across almost his entire career (in only 2 years was Walker within 1 WAR of replacement level).

What's my point?  Look at the percentage of votes Murphy got, and look at what Walker is getting.  I think neither of them deserve the Hall (and it would seem the BBWAA feels the same way), but what if we combined Murphy's peak with Walker's injured-checkered but valuable length?   I might be off-base here, but in my opinion I think that would be a base-line Hall of Famer.

Prediction:  12%

To summarize:

Elected:  Biggio, Maddux

Eliminated from the ballot:  Alou, Benitez, Casey, Durham, Gagne, Gonzalez, J. Jones, T. Jones, LoDuca, Mattingly, McGwire, Nomo, Palmeiro, Rogers, Sexson, Snow, Sosa, Timlin

Most likely to get voted in next year:  Thomas, Glavine

Saturday, January 4, 2014

This Year's HOF Ballot, Part 3

Fred McGriff (5th):  .284 493-1550.  5 All-Star games, 6 Top 10 MVP finishes, 52+ WAR
In a previous era, The Crime Dog would be a fairly decent addition to Cooperstown.  Unfortunately, his offensive numbers pale in comparison to what started to be the norm as he began to fade as a ballplayer.  During the 1990s/early 2000s, McGriff was the answer to a great trivia question:

Who are the last players to win a HR title in each league with under 40 HRs?

It's a trick question:  McGriff led the AL with Toronto in 1989 (36), and the NL with San Diego in 1992 (35).  After 1995, no one led the league with under 47 until 2004...while McGriff himself never topped 40.  McGriff has floated around 20% on the ballot over the last four years, but with the influx of so many qualified candidates this year, McGriff's total is bound to move lower.  Going into this year, he received the 5th lowest total of the returning candidates...and there is danger he may wind up lower than 5%.

In this day and age, when more and more of the voters rely on sabermetrics and advanced data to decide who deserves to be a Hall of Famer (and if I had a vote, I would do so as well), I still think back to Bill James' criteria, as well as something that sticks in my mind:  when watching this player, did I think we were watching a future Hall of Famer?  Maybe that's not fair; when I think of players of that stature, I think of Junior and Pedro Martinez.  Maddux and Bonds.  Clemens and Henderson. These players aren't getting into Cooperstown by the skin of their teeth (PEDs aside) - they're making it in a landslide.

McGriff isn't. 

Prediction:  8%

Mark McGwire (8th):   McGwire is in a bigger predicament than McGriff - generally, over the 7 years Mark has been on the ballot, his support has been waning...and it wasn't that high to begin with.  3 of the first 4 years he floated around 23% (the other year coming in at 21.9%), but since then has declined to 16.9%.  I've written about him before as well, and as I've mentioned, I think the balloting would be better served if those players tainted with the use of PEDs were taken off the ballot it might clear things up for those on the ballot.  If McGwire/Bonds/Clemens et al were to be voted upon by a group like the Veterans Committee, it would clear up some of the logjam happening on the ballot.

This year, some of that logjam might be cleared up. 

Prediction:  4%, and McGwire drops off the ballot.

Jack Morris (15th):  I won't go into Morris here.  I've said enough here, and others have said it better than me.  He's not getting in this year...and I think that's a good thing.

Prediction:  60%, goes to the Veterans Committee.

Mike Mussina (1st):  270-153, 3.68 ERA 123 ERA+, 5 All-Star games, 6 top 5 Cy Young (best - 1999 2nd), with 3 additional 6th place finishes.

When I started writing this, I believed Mike Mussina wasn't a Hall of Famer.  Was it because I was an Orioles fan, and he played for teams that were sabotaged by Peter Angelos before bailing for our hated enemy?  Was it the "eye test" I mentioned earlier which really isn't fair for anyone below the top 20% of the Hall?

Numerous writers have argued that too few pitchers since WWII have been elected to the Hall, and most of them came during the explosion of 300 inning, 4 man rotations in the 1970s, which set 300 wins as the benchmark for being in Cooperstown.  A quick look at the Hall, however, suggests that 300 only became that benchmark in the 1970s - look at some of the pitchers elected before (and keep in mind, those pitchers of the 1800s were "voted" in because their win totals were completely off the charts.  There were a few who deserved recognition for their efforts (I'm looking at you, Kid Nichols and Old Hoss Radbourne), but overall it was a different game.

Pitchers elected by the writers (I'm skipping to those under 300, since we know all those above are in):

  • Blyleven (287)
  • Roberts (286)
  • Jenkins (284)
  • Ruffing (273)
  • Palmer (268)
  • Feller (266)
  • Lyons (260)
  • Gibson (251)
  • Marichal (243)
  • Pennock (241)
  • Ford (236)
  • Bunning (224)
  • Hunter (224)
  • Drysdale (209)
  • Lemon (207)
  • Eckersley (197)
  • Vance (197)
  • Koufax (165)

A close look at these players suggest that 300 games winners became more important AFTER there were more of them.  My question is:  how many pitchers in the game at any time are worthy of the Hall?  My current convictions as to who belongs in the Hall (starting pitchers), in order of ranking:

1.  Maddux
2.  Clemens*
3.  P. Martinez
4.  Johnson
5.  Glavine
6.  Schilling
7.  Mussina

Is 7 too high?  Too low?  I'm not sure - but who is #8 on my list?  It might be Kevin Brown.  Let's compare Brown to Mussina:

Mussina: 270-153, 3.68 ERA 123 ERA+, 5 All-Star games, 6 top 5 Cy Young finishes (best - 1999 2nd), with 3 additional 6th place finishes.  82.7 WAR, 6 Gold Gloves.  Average HOF pitcher had a lower WAR, but higher peak.
Brown:   211-144, 3.28 ERA 127 ERA+, 6 All-Star games, 2 top 5 Cy Young finishes (best - 1996 2nd), with 3 additional 6th place finishes.  68.5 WAR, Average HOF pitcher had a higher WAR, higher peak.

And, for the sake of it, #6:

Schilling:  216-146, 3.46 ERA 127 ERA+, 6 All-Star games, 4 top 5 Cy Young finishes (best - 3x 2nd place).  80.7 WAR, Average HOF pitcher had a lower WAR, but slightly higher peak.  Schilling may have also been the greatest post-season pitcher of the modern era (post-1968). 

What's the difference between these 3?  Mussina has many more wins, Brown has a lower WAR, worse finishes in Cy Young voting (though that might be attributed to him being a dick), and Schilling has the Jack Morris "moments" in the post-season.  Really, the difference isn't that big.

As David Schoenfield points out, there haven't been any pitchers selected lately, versus 10 from the "1970s" generation.  In fact, the last pitcher voted in was Blyleven, left over from that strong era for starting pitchers.

Is 10 starting pitchers too many?  I'm not sure - I was comfortable with drawing the line at 6 for the Steroid Era pitchers, but I'd be comfortable with 7 if Mussina was the seventh.

Prediction:  This is one where I have no idea where he might finish.  He's a better pitcher than Morris, but this is Morris' last year on the ballot, and Mussina's first.  With the strength of the ballot this year, plus residual effects of Morris' support, I'm expecting Mussina to get about ten percent lower than Schilling got last year.  28.8%.

Hideo Nomo (1st):  123-109 4.24 ERA 97 ERA+, Rookie of the Year, 1 All-Star game, 2 Top 5 Cy Young finishes.

Until we see the end of Yu Darvish's career, the best Japanese pitcher in MLB history.  Currently, that isn't enough to get into the Hall.

Prediction:  1 vote.

Rafael Palmeiro (4th):  The poster child for the Steroid least, one who got caught (A-Rod is the more vicious sequel).  Last year Palmeiro won 8.8% of votes, this year he'll be the first 3000 hit, 500 HR player to get less than 5% of the vote.  Benchmarks be damned!

Prediction:  2%

Mike Piazza (2nd):  .308 427-1335.  12 All-Star games, Rookie of the Year, 7 top 10 MVP finishes (2 time runner-up).  143 OPS+, 59.2 WAR

Probably the best offensive catcher in the history of baseball, some allude to not including him on their ballot because of bacne, or as a low draft pick and assume he did steroids.  I'm not sure where to stand on him using Andro (it was legal until 2004), but where exactly is the line drawn on what people can or can't take?  Old Hoss said it best in his Twitter account, if I may paraphrase:  Let me get this straight - taking a pill or getting a shot to recover from an injury is bad, but having a dead guy's tendon inserted into an elbow is okay.

I don't know either, but as far as I know, Piazza has been forthcoming with his use.  It won't be held against Pettite, it shouldn't be held against him...but it will.

Prediction:  45%

Tim Raines (7th):  It has been mentioned that Raines was the second-best leadoff hitter in the history of the game, unfortunate to play at the same time as the greatest.  I am not the first to state he did most of his damage in Montreal, all but forgotten by mainstream media.  More than one has pointed out that Tony Gwynn had a higher batting average, but Raines was on base more than Gwynn due to his walks..yet 3000 hits gets you noticed.  And Raines may have been the greatest basestealer in the history of the game - 808 steals while caught 146 times (Rickey Henderson 1406 - 335 caught).

I don't need to bring these up.  What I do think is that, against the tide, Raines and Biggio are going to increase their support this year, even with the influx of greatness on the ballot.  Raines will get elected, but not this year.  I also have no idea why it's taken this long to realize what a great player he was.

I mean, other than the ones mentioned above.

Prediction:  55%

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

This Year's HOF Ballot, Part 2

Tom Glavine (1st):  305 wins, 10 All-Star games, 2 Cy Young (with 4 other top 3 finishes), 118 ERA+...let's face it, the guy's a Hall of Famer.

Question:  How many Hall of Fame pitchers ever led the league in losses?  At age 22, Glavine went 7-17 with a 4.56 ERA...not a great start to a great career.  But the following the "worst-to-first" Braves improved across the board, with Glavine himself going 14-8 with an ERA almost a run lower.

Answer:  16 pitchers, including Phil Niekro who led the league in losses 4 straight years!

But will Glavine get in on the first ballot?  For that matter, how did the 300 game winners wind up in the Hall of Fame?
  • Cy Young (2nd)
  • Walter Johnson (1st)
  • Pete Alexander (2nd)
  • Christy Mathewson (1st)
  • Pud Galvin (Old Timers' Committee)
  • Warren Spahn (1st)
  • Kid Nichols (OTC)
  • Pud Galvin (OTC)
  • Steve Carlton (1st)
  • John Clarkson (OTC)
  • Eddie Plank (on the ballot 5 times, in through OTC)
  • Nolan Ryan (1st)
  • Don Sutton (5th)
  • Phil Niekro (5th)
  • Gaylord Perry (3rd)
  • Tom Seaver (1st)
  • Old Hoss Radbourne (OTC)
  • Mickey Welch (OTC)
  • Lefty Grove (4th)
  • Early Wynn (4th)
We can eliminate the 19th century pitchers, because the Hall of Fame wasn't around - those that received votes (i.e., Plank) were well behind the more recent players.  Since the previous generation's pitchers weren't going to get votes, a separate committee was set up to usher them into the Hall of Fame.  There was a lot of arguments that Sutton was a decent #3 starter who happened to stick around for a very long time, and Niekro was a knuckleball pitcher - the kind of pitcher who rarely gets recognition for their true value.  Grove was subjected to a different voting criteria, and there were so many players on the ballot they had to change the rules.

Sound familiar?

Prediction:   Glavine misses the cut.  Barely.

Luis Gonzalez (1st):  5-time All-Star, one 3rd place MVP finish, 2591 hits, .283 BA, 354 HR, 1439 RBIs.

Luis Gonzalez had one of the greatest "peculiar" seasons of all time.  In 1997 he went .325-57-142, career highs for all of them (26 HRs, 28 RBIs higher)...and it was done at age 33.  I loved the guy when he first came up with the Astros - I had him on my fantasy team, and I could count on him for double digit HRs and steals, and I won two championships with him.  But 57-142?  Never.

Prediction:  Under 10 votes.

Jacque Jones (1st):   11.5 WAR (career), .277 165-630  (OPS+ 98, which means he was 2% worse than the average player)  I wonder how some of these players wind up on the ballot - actually, someone on the Hall of Fame Committee has to nominate them, and they player has to be seconded.  I'd like to meet the two men who felt the necessity to include Mr. Jones.

Prediction:  No votes

Todd Jones (1st):  319 Saves, 1 All-Star Game, 1 5th place - Cy Young.  Started one game in his career, on June 7th, 2003 Jones started the second game of a doubleheader against the Royals.  He wasn't good:  he made it 4 1/3 innings, but gave up 9 hits and 5 runs and took the loss.  As if this wasn't a useless stat, Jones threw 67 pitches:  51 were strikes.

 Probably best remembered for his great facial hair.
Prediction:  No votes.

Jeff Kent (1st):  .290 377-1518, 5 All-Star games, 2000 MVP, three other top 10 finishes.  123 OPS+, 55.2 WAR

One of the best hitting second basemen in the history of the game (Hornsby comes to mind), Kent was also one of the more difficult personalities.  It is no surprise that he and Barry Bonds didn't get along, nor was it a surprise that he left the Giants and went to the Dodgers.  I know in this day and age more players move between the two teams, but I'm still shocked when a player moves between the Yankees and Red Sox (I'm looking at you, Jacob Ellsbury and Johnny Damon) and the Giants and Dodgers.  I can't think of any other two teams with that same level of intensity and dislike for each other (maybe if the Cubs were better it would be with the Cardinals), but they're the top 2.

In a perfect world for Jeff Kent's bid to join Cooperstown, he would appear on the ballot, earn between 40-50%, then wait a few years until a weak class come along and the writers were looking for somebody, ANYBODY to vote for.  Unfortunately, the next week class won't come along until next decade.  By then, Kent's numbers will look even better and I think he'll get in around the 10th or 12th year on the ballot.  Over the next three years, however, Kent will be much closer to being left off the ballot than 50%, let alone 75%.

Prediction:  11%

Paul Lo Duca (1st):  .286 80-481, OPS+ 97, 4 All-Star games, 17.9 WAR

Lo Duca had one solid year - at age 29, he hit .320 25-90.  Most batters peak around age 27, but catcher develop late and the Dodgers had Todd Hundley.  By the time Lo Duca got his chance, he was on the downward side.  He never hit more than 13 HRs again.

Prediction:  No votes

 Greg Maddux (1st):  355-227 3.16 ERA 8 All-Star games, 4 Cy Youngs (5 Top 5 finishes), 18 Gold Gloves.  ERA+ 132

Maddux should get in for this commercial alone:

My favorite story about Maddux is from the end of his career, when he was warming up in the Padres bullpen and threw to the bullpen catcher (Ben Risinger) while he had his eyes closed.  The bullpen coach would yell to Risinger to snap his glove closed.

Maddux hit the glove a few times before they got their timing right...and caught the ball.

In a perfect world, Maddux would sail into the Hall unanimously.  There's no way in hell the bespectacled professor did PEDs, and his career had a very normal arc of progression.  But some won't want him to be unanimous, some writers don't think anyone should be a first ballot HOFer, and others don't want to vote anyone in from this era anyway.  I still think he cracks 90%.

Prediction:  Over 90%, elected.

Edgar Martinez (5th, 35.9%):   I've written at length about Martinez in the past, so I won't go into detail here.  Just keep in mind - I'm a "small Hall" person.  I wouldn't have put Blyleven in, I wouldn't have voted for Rice, and even Don Sutton (the ultimate compiler) wouldn't crack my personal Hall of Fame.

Prediction:  20%

Don Mattingly (14th, 13.2%):  Like Morris, this is Mattingly's last go around on the ballot.  Unlike Morris, Donnie Baseball has never gotten close to making the Hall.  His best two years on the ballot were his first two (28%, then 20%), and then his numbers got swallowed up on the Steroid Era (am I allowed to capitalize it, like the "Deadball Era" and "The Year of the Pitcher"?).  His back did him in, and while inclusive voters might add him to their ballot, a friend of mine once said it best - "The Hall of Fame is best defined not by who is in the Hall, but by who is not.  It's what makes a person think, 'THAT person didn't make it?"

Mattingly is not the best of the rest, but he was a hell of a ballplayer...just not good enough for the Hall.

Prediction:  Since it's his last year, and this year's ballot is loaded, I think those who have supported him in the past are likely to skip past his name this year and hope he gets elected down the road by the Veterans Committee.  Under 5%, maybe under 3.