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.

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