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%

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