Oct 22, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; Former player Kenny Lofton throws out the ceremonial first pitch before game seven of the 2012 NLCS between the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants at AT

My Hall of Fame Vote

In response to Fred’s analysis of his ballot, I decided to make my own post regarding the topic, instead of leaving a 60-line comment.  Like Fred, I had 11 guys who seem deserving to be in the Hall of Fame, and one possible backtrack.  However, I have a few different names included.

Our similar names include Bonds, Clemens, Bagwell, Biggio, Schilling, Raines, and Piazza, while Palmeiro is in if I can believe he was clean for most of his career.

Those Who Made It

Larry Walker – Two things are hindering Walker’s vote total: Coors Field and his numerous injuries.  OPS+ adjusts for ballpark, and I doubt anyone would say it’s an under-adjustment.  In 1999, Walker led the NL in AVG/OBP/SLG, but finished 3rd in OPS+, because it was determined a league-average hitter playing for Colorado would have hit an absurd .305/.384/.491 that season.  That being said, his career 141 OPS+ is tied for 40th all-time among players with at least 7500 PA, despite having a raw OPS 35-40 points higher than Chipper and Giambi.  His seven Gold Gloves concur with his +94 defensive value, as his all-around game led to 70 WAR, showing longevity did not prevent him from a HOF career.

Alan Trammell – While he only had one spectacular season, Trammell was a longtime consistent performer who possesses a lot of underrated qualities.  His career 110 OPS+ does not seem impressive, but it’s one point higher than Tejada, and 14th among players with at least 6000 PA who played at least half their games at SS.  His +77 defensive value is backed by four Gold Gloves, though he remained strong defensively through age 33.  His 67.1 WAR is an exact tie with Barry Larkin, who was a bit more offensive-minded, tied for 9th all-time.  A top 10 player at his position should be an automatic HOFer.

Kenny Lofton – Much like Trammell, a long career of consistent performance gives Lofton some great HOF credentials.  Again, an underwhelming 107 OPS+ makes his candidacy look marginal, but no one would debate his +108 defensive value or +78 on the bases.  Probably to the surprise of many, including myself, Lofton rates 8th among CF in the JAWS system, with Carlos Beltran as the only current player likely to pass him.  65 WAR without PED speculation is nearly automatic for HOF induction.

Edgar Martinez – While he did DH most of his career, he was a capable third baseman with 4600 innings at the hot corner.  However, the bat is the topic here.  His 147 OPS+ is tied for 30th all-time with Jim Thome, Mike Schmidt, Willie Stargell, and Willie McCovey, minimum 5000 PA.  Dick Allen is the only player with a higher OPS+ who has been through the vote and didn’t get in.  The ability to hit has always been the easiest way to get into the HOF, and Edgar’s .312/.418/.515 slash line shows he was among the best ever.

Those Who Didn’t

Dale Murphy – I wanted to find a way to get him in, but I don’t see an avenue aside from his integrity during uneasy times in sports.  During his 14 years as a regular, his 45 WAR is 21st overall, surrounded by Chet Lemon and Buddy Bell.  During his 8-year peak, his 40 WAR is 7th, surrounded by Trammell and George Brett.  These are cherry-picked time periods representing Murphy’s best years and he’s still not that close to the top.  If you expand the time period to ’75-’93 and find the players with the best age 22-35 seasons, Murphy drops to 26th, between Jim Rice and Fred Lynn.  If you do ages 24-31, he drops to 12th, between Keith Hernandez and Bell.  If you put Murphy in based on his character, that would end up flooding the doors with suddenly viable candidates.

Jack Morris – Using WAR, Morris is really not even close to HOF territory, but his postseason successes and “pitching to the score” have been main arguments for his rising induction chances.  While he was tremendous in the ’84 and ’91 postseasons, he was horrible in the ’87 and ’92 playoffs, so I’m not willing to give him much extra credit for postseason work, nowhere near a Schilling.  As far as his 3.90 ERA goes, it’s claimed that he gave up a higher percentage of runs when the game was all-but-decided.  If that was the case, his WPA should not have suffered much, since, for example, allowing a run or two in the 9th while up 4 runs barely moves the Win Probability chart.  However, he only rated in the AL top 10 of WPA twice during his career, so I don’t see that phenomenon happening.  My closest comparison for Morris is Mickey Lolich, high-volume career with decent numbers and a couple great postseasons, but not much consideration for the HOF.

Fred McGriff – Through age 30, McGriff looked to be on his way to a HOF career.  Unfortunately, four average seasons followed, something a couple good seasons late in his career couldn’t overcome.  His 134 OPS+ is impressive over a 10000 PA career, ending up about 400 runs above average.  However, his defense was never really better than average, and his lack of speed hurt his baserunning value, while he never had a standout moment in his career.  He rates very similarly to Norm Cash (corked bat aside) and Jack Clark, each of whom were voted off after one ballot.  I would put Hernandez, John Olerud, and Will Clark in before McGriff.

Lee Smith – Much like the DH thought process, closers are very hard to evaluate.  Smith had the fortune of becoming a reliever right as the one-inning save became popular, the biggest reason he was the all-time leader for 10-12 years.  If Dennis Eckersley would have spent his entire career as a closer, Mariano would probably still be chasing him.  You see someone like Smoltz go to the bullpen and dominate, showing how much easier it is to close than start.  I’d rather see Luis Tiant and Rick Reuschel in the HOF than Smith and most other one-inning guys.  Aside from Rivera, Gossage, and Wilhelm, I don’t think any other exclusive relievers should be in.

I realize I have a much more statistical (value) approach to induction qualifications, where some people may be willing to put a lesser player in if they had a specific facet of the game where they were among the best ever.  Obviously, PEDs are the biggest paradox, as Bonds and Clemens were obvious HOFers before ever using anything, but there is no consensus on how to handle them.  If this year is a small class (possibly even a shutout), the next two ballots will be even more of a mess, as guys like the Big Three, Frank Thomas, and others join the fray.

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  • fireboss

    The DH reminds me of the old joke about a horse that turns up at a try out for a minor league team. After the agent convinces then it isn’t a joke the horse steps into the batters box and belts line drives all over the place. They sign him up and in his first at bat he scorches a ball into the gap but instead of runner just stands there. The manager and coaches are screaming run run run but the horse doesn’t move and is eventually tagged out without having moved at all. The manager screamed at him why didn’t you run? The horse replied, Run? If I could run I’d be at Santa Anita.

    It is patently unfair to compare Martinez who sat on his butt for all but 15 minutes of a game for the majority of his career with Mike Schmidt, Willie Stargell and stretch McCovey who risked injury and wore their bodies down by actually helping the team on defense. baseball is a two way game designed to be played by two way players. The DH is a glorified pinch hitter, unable to play the field because of lack of talent, age or infirmity. That’s not to say it’s easy to do just that he takes no chances with his body for 90% of the game, never dives for a ball, or has a runner sliding into him spikes up or has to field a throw across the first base line with a runner bearing down on his arm and body. The only injuries he picks up are base running or swinging injuries. No collision with a wall or dives into the stand for him. He could essentially go watch TV between at bats and no one would know the difference. Half a ballplayer; no glove, no legs, no arm and not in any class with a two way baseball player no matter what his stats say. Every time someone say Hall of Fame DH, Babe Ruth spits.
    A lot of the rest is proof of my premise that some folks rely on stats and ignore what actually happened.
    The majority of Lee Smith’s save were multiple inning saves. Sure he picked up some single inning saves at the end of his career but that wasn’t his fault. Smith compiled the bulk of his save for a bad team with thin pitching staffs (Cubs). Based on your evaluation of Smith Mariano Rivera doesn’t get in either, almost all of his save are 1 inning and never more than 2. I hear no one saying that. It’s all Rivera is a master. Smith had a better K rate and matches Rivera’s LOB%.

    Tramell’s best years weren’t as good as Larkin’s. He’s Hall of Very Good. Same with Loftin.

    I understand not putting Murphy in IF your philosophy is that everyone is comapred with everyone else in all era’s. Then you give Walker a pass because he was injured a lot. Murphy’s final years were largely injury hindered too. Why no pass for him – not that I think he needs one. I tend to believe that a players peak years – as I described for Murphy in the 2011 post – are the ones to compare. Who put together the whole package best during that time. Murphy did. Is he Winfield 291./.361/.496 302 HR 1192 RBI OPS+ 138 rWAR 41.8) no. The difference wasn’t as great as many make it seem however. Murphy was however very close .261.351.477 with 376 homers and 1148 RBI and an OPS+ of 124, rWAR 44.2. Murphy played in 200 more games with 300+ more plate appearances and 180 more at bats. Winfield had a longer peak but a lot of that was in New York where even Steinbrenner who brought him in called him Mr. May because he wasn’t very good at the season’s end. I know if theory when you get a hit doesn’t matter but it does.

    I don’t expect Murph to get in but when I hear Kenny and other throw Winfield up as some dynamically superior player by including time when Murph wasn’t a regular player annoys me.

    Between 1987 and 2004 three players had more than 450 homer, 425 doubles, slugged over 500, and had an OPS over .875; Barry Bond, Rafael Palmeiro, and Fred McGriff. At the same time four players who played more than 2200 games have a rWAR greater than 45 and an OPS+ greater than .800; Barry Bond, Rafael Palmeiro, Fred McGriff, Craig Biggio and Roberto Alomar. During that time players who played at least 50% of their games at 1B, had an rWAR_bat>=45, played in >=2000 games and had >=9500 PA included only Rafael Palmeiro and Fred McGriff. So, I’m having trouble understanding exactly where McGriff is out when during the steroid era he was at or near the top in significant run producing numbers.

    When looking at Morris did you see who beat him in the post season? He lost one game in 87 to Bert Blylevin (now in the Hall of Fame) and the eventual World Series Champion Twins. He lost to Oakland in 92 but pitched a complete game. While Russel got the win he pitched only 1/3 of an inning, Dave Stewart pitched the first 7 2/3′s. If he was so bad in that game why did he go 9 complete? The answer is he wasn’t bad a better pitcher on the day shut the Tigers down. That happens but it is certainly not getting manhandled. He lost 4-3 giving up 6 hits including homers to that McGwire guy and Harold Baines. In the WS that year he lost 3-1 to Glavine. A 3-1 loss is not manhandled or pitching badly. The Braves did beat him up in game 5 but that doesn’t make it an awful post season. Between 1977 and 1996 5 pitchers had more than 2500 innings and better than a 550 winning percentage, 2 had more than 3000 innings 1 had more than 3100 Morris. Before you throw wins and losses out consider that he had 175 complete games and throughout his career he averaged 7 1/3 innings per game and in something over 65% went 8 innings. Wins meant something then and he was a staff Ace and the go to guy. Teams traded for or signed Morris because he won games. Ignoring context around the win loss record and the time he pitched provides too narrow a focus and number do not tell the whole story. if his 3.9 ERA rules him out don;t vote for Schilling whose AL ERA was 4.0.
    Interesting though

    • Lee Trocinski

      I’ll start this reply by saying I think way too many players are in the HOF, and I’d only include Bonds, Clemens, and probably Bagwell if I could create my own Hall.

      I don’t disagree about your direct comments on the DH (the horse stuff lost me). Edgar was decent at third base, but 3.5 seasons isn’t much time in the field over a career. WAR makes it really hard to be of great value as a DH, but Edgar was that great of a hitter. I’m not saying he was as good of PLAYERS as Schmidt, Stragell, etc., just the same caliber hitters. I have no problem with him being left out, but comparing him to a lot of the other players in, he fits the bill in my opinion.

      I just find it odd that you don’t see closing as specialized as DHing, as closers, even in Smith’s day, very rarely went completely through the batting order. Rivera is in a class of his own, worth over 50 WAR in his career. Rivera has had eleven 3-WAR seasons to Smith’s three. Also, Rivera doesn’t walk anyone, while Smith also allowed more homers. Analyzing Smith has improved my outlook on him, but the Hall of Fame is not in the question to me.

      Larry Walker gets penalized less because he still raked despite his injuries. Murphy was an average hitter starting in ’88, while Walker put up a 154 and 130 OPS+ his last two seasons. Walker had 10 seasons of at least 4 WAR while Murphy only had six, and after that, Walker had more decent seasons.

      As I said in my post, using that exact timeframe makes Murphy look as good as possible. For Winfield, if you use ’76-’88 (age 24-36), he was worth 51 WAR despite a -44 defensive rating. Expanding the time period by only a few years gives Murphy’s contemporaries a chance to make their best possible case, with a lot of them coming out better.

      As far as McGriff and Palmeiro go, you now change tracks and use longevity as a main tool for their case. As you said before, you have to be good to play a long time, but you also just said peak years are the important part of a player’s case. Expanding the time period to ’84-’07, Bagwell is at the top in WAR, with Palmeiro next, Thome and McGwire in the next tier, Olerud and Will Clark next, then McGriff. Olerud and Clark weren’t quite as good at the plate, but they were better defensively, so I say they rate at least as good as McGriff.

      I don’t get the infatuation with Morris. Everyone loses to great teams/players in the playoffs; there’s a reason why they’re in the postseason. Morris allowed six runs in eight innings in ’87, with Tim Laudner and Dan Gladden with 2-RBI days. He allowed 19 runs in 23 innings in ’92, which is bad. Meanwhile, Cone, Key, and Guzman did just fine against Oakland and Atlanta.

      He was an exceptional workhorse (7.1 innings, not 7 and 1/3, but still really good), but he didn’t prevent runs. He had an above-average defense behind him most of his career, and his park factors ended up neutral overall. Lolich, Dennis Martinez, and Jerry Koosman are all very comparable to Morris in IP and ERA+, and none of them came close to induction. I should just ignore that Schilling comment, but I’ll just state that Schilling pitched in the NL from age 24-36 and did alright during then.

      • fireboss

        I’m a small Hall guy too but I believe there’s more to the game than the numbers. McGwire isn’t a Hall of Fame player nor was Sosa, they were too one dimensional. I loved watching him hit but Will Clark didn’t hit enough homers at a power position (284) and his peak was to short to be considered, like Mattingly he didn’t do it long enough. I’ll try to reply …

        Horse stuff:The horse could only hit not run if he could run he’d do what horses do and race == If a DH could play the field he’d be a baseball player, he can’t do it well enough so he’s a glorified pinch hitter.

        Closing is like the DH only in that it’s a specialty. All pitchers can’t be starters and those that can’t go more than one through the lineup end up as relievers. Those with the mentality and skills become a subset of relievers; closers. The game has always had relief pitchers. The DH left the before the turn of the century because it was a waste of time carrying one trick ponies. It was resurrected for little league so everyone could play. Smith was the best closer in the game when he retired 170 saves ahead of the previous record holder. He was head and shoulder above his peers in his era. That’s the definition of a Hall of Fame player.

        You used a portion on Winfield’s career – if you use ’76-’88 (age 24-36), he was worth 51 WAR- but I can’t use a portion of Murphy’s? Murphy gets penalized for a drop off but Winfield’s drop off is ignored. I know Murphy wasn’t Winfield and in truth he’s marginal at best. But listening to stat guys cherry pick stats that make their decision look good then use worst case stats – not you in particular but the Kenny’s of the media set who “teach” the watchers – to describe the people they don’t fancy is beyond a joke.

        I used McGriff’s entire career because if I said this year to that year I get the “cherry picking” charge and because he was good almost to the end. Since he didn’t play before that or after that it was by definition his era and I looked at people during his era. I included every baseball player that played during that time and his numbers for that period were in the top 4 or 5 in the game. Saying well so-so did better before or after or at a different time doesn’t change the fact that during that time he was amongst the very best producers in the game. I’m not sure how you want to judge him and you wanted to expand the period to 2 years before he started to 3 after he finished so let’s do that a little farther. A generation is 20 years and I suspect you’ll agree the game changed a great deal over that time. I ask for a list of players who played at least 1500 games between 1980 (6 years pre-McGriff) to 2007 (3 years after he retired) at and at least 90% of those at first base. Palmeiro who DH’d more than 10% of the time doesn’t show on the list. By OPS+ the first 5 are McGwire 163 mostly based on homers, Bagwell 149, Helton 144, Will Clark 137 , McGriff 134. By rWAR he’s 6th, Olerude’s defense slides him up the list. RBI – 1st, hits 1st, Games 1st, HR 2nd, Runs 2nd, walks third (Bagwell, McGwire). Unequivocally he’s at or near the top of offensive first baseman including those that started before and after him. You say well he hung around a long time. Yes he did, good players do and I included his last two year where he wasn’t as productive – the whole career so no cherry picking. If I stop in 2002 when he last played `140+ games his rWAR and OPS+ go up.
        I want Palmeiro and Bagwell in the Hall but Thome was not a first baseman the majority of his career so he doesn’t qualify there.

        The players who faced Morris are the best answer to why Morris. They believe he’s a Hall of Fame pitcher. The post season era etc was trotted out by Kenny and the answer from Madden (sp) was simple; small sample size. The Schilling comment was designed to point out that an NL pitcher typically has a run lower than an AL pitcher. The point was made by others (maybe Al Leiter I don’t remember) that had he been in the AL his ERA would likely have been similar to that of Morris.

        We see things differently. You want to quantify everything, I believe some things can’t be quantified just appreciated.

        • Lee Trocinski

          1. If McGwire is too one-dimensional for the HOF, so is Stargell, McCovey, Mize, and many others. I won’t refute you if you are consistent with that stipulation. McGwire also walked 17% of his PA, so it was more than just HR. Sosa was one-dimensional during his peak seasons, but he was plenty good on defense and on the bases before hitting 66.

          2. I would call 1B, LF, and RF “offensive” positions, not power positions. Guys like Gwynn and Ichiro were plenty good in right field despite their lack of power. I’m not saying Clark is a HOFer, but that he is just as good as McGriff, therefore McGriff isn’t a HOFer.

          3. Smith retired 90 saves ahead of Eckersley, and Eck was the one head-and-shoulders above all other relievers. He had 390 saves after starting 361 games to begin his career.

          4. With the Winfield-Murphy thing, I’m saying if you use Murphy’s best years, I think you should use Winfield’s too, especially when they’re only two years earlier. Murphy isn’t “penalized” for his dropoff; he just didn’t provide any production outside of those seasons. Winfield was a decent-to-good player in ’74, ’75, and ’92, providing production outside of his 13-year peak. Outfielders as good as Murphy in his era include Chet Lemon, Jose Cruz, Fred Lynn, and Jim Rice. Not HOF company…

          5. I just have a problem comparing players’ partial careers to McGriff’s full career. I understand where you’re coming from, but cutting off the era at exactly ’86-’04 skews totals in McGriff’s favor. That being said, McGriff’s (fairly one-dimensional player) Batting Runs (Rbat) ranks 13th in all of the majors in that exact timeframe, not top 5. Luis Gonzalez put up similar numbers, ranking 4th among LFers in WAR over the same period. PED allegations aside, I still don’t think he’s a HOFer. Vladi and Abreu are 4th and 5th for RFers. Being a top 5 player at your position during a generation is not automatic grounds for induction.

          6. Players always say their peers are better than they were after their playing days, especially if they don’t have character issues. Also, the typical ERA adjustment from NL to AL is about +0.5 runs. However, WAR does encapsulate this phenomenon, giving NL pitchers a lower run value as league average.

          7. I do like to quantify things, because I want to make sure I’m not flawed in my thinking. It does tend to cause me a lot of trouble, but it’s just how I am. When looking at things like HOF voting, analytics should probably be used more than feelings. I am capable of appreciating skills too, but I enjoy seeing how much those skill help the player.

          • fireboss

            I was going to respond and had written a lot but in reality we have different views of life and should agree to disagree. There will always be areas of wide divergence as I understand the numbers (well most of the time) but a rely on people. It wasn’t always that way but as i managed to get older without going too crazy I’ve recognized that there isn’t an absolute formula for anything where people are involved. I believe you will as well. Statistics can tell you probability or reveal how often something happened but they don’t tell why. They’re like mirrors, they reflect light but have none of their own and don’t tell you where the light is. Vin Scully has seen more baseball up close and personal than either of us ever will. He said:
            Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination.

            Gotta luv Vin