Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It's Not The Hall Of Very Good

The Baseball Hall of Fame voting was announced yesterday and, as expected, Ricky Henderson and Jim Rice crossed that 75% line.

* Ricky got 94.8% (511 out of 539) of the vote, leaving open the question of how 28 people manage to function on a day-to-day basis. Ricky is a well-deserved first-ballot Hall of Famer; Ricky was hands-down the best lead-off hitter of all time; Ricky was being Ricky well before Manny was being Manny; and some great stories about him can be found here.

* Jim Rice was elected for reasons that I'm not really sure of. If it takes 15 years for barely over the needed number of voters to consider you a Hall of Famer, that raises some questions as to whether or not you are really a Hall of Famer (as well as regarding the process for induction). Rice was a great hitter for a while but didn't walk much or play good defense in left and was helped greatly by playing his home games at Fenway. Todd Helton was one of the most feared hitters in the game a few years ago (.328/.428/.574 career with years of .372/.463/.698, .336/.432/.685, .358/.458/.630, and .347/.469/.620) and he plays good defense at first. Oh, but he takes advantage of Coors Field. I guess the writers can overlook that, right? Rice isn't the worst player in the Hall, but he does lower the standards.

I see no rational reason why Andre Dawson (67%), Dave Parker (15%), and Dale Murphy (12%) should be kept out then (and that's just from this ballot). Ellis Burks (yeah, Ellis Burks) had a career line of .291/.363/.510, 126 OPS+, 352 HR. Compare that to Rice's .298/.352/.502, 128 OPS+, 382 HR. Or how about Moises Alou (.303/.369/.516, 128 OPS+, 332 HR)? That's the problem with letting Jim Rice into the Hall of Fame - he makes you have to actually think about Ellis Burks and Moises Alou. Albert Belle dropped of the ballot right away despite a .295/.369/.564, 143 OPS+, 389 HR career that is also similar (not good defense and a worse relationship with the media, too), if even shorter (though with a higher peak). And, as I've said before, I think team-mate Dwight Evans was actually a better player than Rice and has a border-line Hall of Fame case himself (.272/.370/.470, 127 OPS+, 385 HR, 8 Gold Gloves). As I read someone put it, Jim Rice is now the "okay, we voted this guy in, but seriously guys, we can't let in anyone worse than this guy" guy. What an honor.

* Bert Blyleven went up from 61.9% to 62.7% and should end up getting in before his time on the ballot is up. He's 27th in career wins (287), 5th in career K's (3701), and 9th in career shutouts (60) (though 4th since the beginning of the lively ball era and only 3 behind leader Warren Spahn). Most similar players (from Baseball-reference), with a * denoting a HOFamer:

Don Sutton (914) *
Gaylord Perry (909) *
Fergie Jenkins (890) *
Tommy John (889)
Robin Roberts (876) *
Tom Seaver (864) *
Jim Kaat (854)
Early Wynn (844) *
Phil Niekro (844) *
Steve Carlton (840) *

Detractors wave their hands at his career stats and label him a "compiler". The guy pitched for 22 seasons and had an ERA+ over 100 in 17 of them and over 120 in 11 of them. Jack Morris (who got an absurd 44% of the vote on the strength of 254 wins (with some major help from his offenses) and one post-season game) had a career ERA+ of 105 (and only crossed 100 11 times - he was only an above average pitcher for about 2/3 of his career). Morris' best ERA ever was 3.05 - a mark which Blyleven beat 11 times. Yes he racked up counting stats by being around for a long time, but it takes a great deal of ability to pitch at such a high level for such a long time.

More on Blyleven: Joe Posnanski's "Project Shutout":
"Bert Blyleven has more shutouts than Bob Gibson. He has more shutouts than Juan Marichal. He has more shutouts than Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson — a lot more than either of them. He has more shutouts than Jim Palmer, Gaylord Perry, Fergie Jenkins or Robin Roberts. He, of course, has more shutouts than Koufax, who had his career shortened, and he has more shutouts than Phil Niekro who pitched forever. He has more shutouts than Three Finger Brown, more than Five Finger And Some Sandpaper Don Sutton, more than Early Wynn, who threw at batter’s fingers.

Bert Blyleven has more shutouts than Lefty Grove, Lefty Gomez, Lefty Hoerst, Lefty Tyler, lefty Hopper, Lefty Williams, Lefty Stewart and any other pitcher named Lefty including Steve Carlton, who was nicknamed Lefty.

Bert Blyleven has more shutouts than Bob Lemon and Jack Morris combined.

Bert Blyleven has more shutouts than Greg Maddux and Mike Mussina combined.

Bert Blyleven has more shutouts than Whitey Ford and Don Gullett combined.

Bert Blyleven has more shutouts than Bob Feller PLUS Roy Halladay.

Bert Blyleven has more shutouts than Tom Glavine PLUS John Smoltz and you could throw Babe Ruth’s 18 shutouts on top of that and still not get there.

Bert Blyleven has more shutouts than Curt Schilling PLUS Pedro Martinez PLUS Johnny Sain PLUS Two Days of Rain PLUS Roy Oswalt.

Bert Blyleven had more shutouts in 1973 than Johan Santana has in his career."
That is a lot of shutouts.

* Lee Smith and what used to be the all-time saves record are at about Morris' level of support. Both guys were good pitchers but their HOF cases rest largely on the environments in which they played.

* Tommy John (31.7%) didn't get the same last-year push that Rice got and will drop off the ballot after his 15 years despite having a more credible case than Morris.

* 22.6%. Only 22.6% of the voters think that Tim Raines deserves to be in the Hall, even though he is probably the second best lead-off hitter of all time (after Ricky, of course). .294/.385/.425 (123 OPS+) with 808 steals (with an 85% success rate), 1571 runs scored and 1330 walks (which is more than Jim Rice and Andre Dawson had in their careers... combined). He'll get there eventually, but this oversight is pretty embarrassing for the BBWAA. Or, at least, it should be.

* Mark McGwire's support fell from 23.6% to 21.9%. I have to say that I don't know what to do with McGwire. Clearly his stats merit inclusion (.263/.394/.588, 162 OPS+, and I believe he hit a home run every now and again), but the steroids thing bothers me. It's not because I think they really helped him all that much (he did hit 49 HR as a skinny rookie) but more as a matter of consistency. I feel like I can't vote (theoretically) for McGwire and then not vote (theoretically) for Rafael Palmeiro, whose stats likewise say he should get in. I know Palmeiro has a positive test hanging over his head and McGwire doesn't, but it still makes things difficult. Plus, Palmeiro won a Gold Glove while being a DH for most of a year - that is awfully impressive. I lean towards yes.

* Alan Trammell (17.4%) continues to be criminally under-appreciated despite a .285/.352/.415, 110 OPS+ bat and Gold Glove (4 times) at the second most difficult position on the field. I think the Veteran's Committee might have to slip Trammell in through the back door (and while they're at it, maybe they can include his old double play partner Lou Whitaker).

* I was surprised that David Cone will drop off the ballot after only getting 3.9% of the vote. I don't think he's a Hall of Famer, but I would have assumed he'd get more token votes of appreciation.

* Same with Mark Grace. Did you know he had the most hits of any player during the 1990s?

As one can surmise, my ballot would have been:

Tim Raines (Ricky!-lite)
Bert Blyleven
Alan Trammell
Mark McGwire

in that order of certainty.

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