Tuesday, December 24, 2013

My Hall of Fame Ballot, Part 2

I know I’ve harped on the Ballot backlog enough, but I’m always finding new ways to put it in to number form. For example, take my ballot for the 50 Best Players not in Cooperstown. I said I would put all 50 players in. I’ve pointed out before how it wouldn’t actually water down the Hall, but here’s another way to think about it.

Adam Darowski has an objective look at the Hall of Fame in his Hall of Stats and its Hall Rating system. I’ve explained it enough before, but the highlights: based on Baseball-Reference WAR (rWAR), on a scale like OPS+ (so 100 is Hall minimum, 200 is equal to 2 Hall of Famers worth of value, etc.). My ballot this year had an average Hall Rating of 137.7. That would slide comfortably into 70th place (out of 208) in the real Hall of Fame, which itself only has an average Hall Rating of 132.9 (you can check the numbers from his site if you want, they’re available for download).

This year’s ballot is even stronger. As I said last time, there are 18 players I would vote for this year. Those 18 average out to a 164.6 Hall rating, nestled nicely between Steve Carlton (167) and Carlton Fisk (158).* Even if you want to throw out Barry Bonds as an outlier, you get 152.9. Bonds and Roger Clemens? 144.1. Bonds, Clemens, and Greg Maddux? 139.1.

*Those two aren’t right next to each other, but I liked the symmetry.

Basically, I want to get across that this ballot is incredibly deep. Which is going to make whittling it down to ten for my Baseball Bloggers Alliance ballot even harder. First, which eighteen am I focusing on?

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Curt Schilling, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Mussina, Larry Walker, Tom Glavine, Mike Piazza, Alan Trammell, Frank Thomas, Edgar Martinez, Tim Raines, Craig Biggio, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Jeff Kent

I hate having to ask “Why wasn’t this person Hall-worthy?” It feels so negative. Unfortunately, it seems like that might be how I have to go about this part, since I have to cut almost half of the names off. I’ll then list any mitigating factors to their negatives, things like titles, extreme stats, or other variables. Let’s start:

Barry Bonds

Why Not: Steroids. Pretty much it, really.

Why: Quite possibly the best players of all-time. Just go stare at his numbers. 762 homers. A 182 career OPS+. 514 stolen bases. 162.5 rWAR. And so on.

Roger Clemens

Why Not: See above.

Why: Again, see above. Maybe the best pitcher the game has ever seen. 4672 strikeouts. 3.12 ERA/143 ERA+. Seven Cy Young Awards. 1.143 WHIP over 24 years. Pretty insane stuff.

Greg Maddux

Why Not: Gamesmanship is all I can think. Look, Greg Maddux is going to be elected, I’m 99% sure. If Maddux isn’t elected, no one is going in. And it doesn’t matter if he goes in with 100% of the vote or 75%. Those extra votes could help push a candidate over the edge.

Why: I’m not going to say why Greg Maddux deserves the Hall of Fame. You probably already know.

Curt Schilling

Why Not: Mostly silly nonsense, like “didn’t win enough games” (only 216), or “was never an ace” (the latter of which is pretty false; he spent almost a decade as Philly’s ace before playing the role of nominal #2 to Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez)

Why: I’ve made his case before more in depth, and the numbers haven’t changed. Over 3000 strikeouts, probably the best control artist of all-time, a 127 career ERA+ (right there with Bob Gibson and Tom Seaver), etc.

Jeff Bagwell

Why Not: We’ve already inducted him twice already. This isn’t the BBA’s problem that the BBWAA can’t get its collective head out of its collective ass and elect the man already. Of course, this runs into the problem of the intersect of our voting and the BBWAA’s. Should we vote like our votes last year never occurred and just use the official ballot?

Also, if you’re the BBWAA, he had muscles in the ‘90s, so steroids. I will disregard such things until there’s evidence, though.

Why: The man’s clearly good enough. Again, this would mark his third induction by the BBA if he makes it. He may be the best first baseman in National League history.

Mike Mussina

Why Not: Maybe not enough innings? Probably the same stuff that’ll be said about Schilling. Also, I guess he’s probably the fourth best pitcher on the ballot, after Clemens, Maddux, and Schilling, but that’s pretty stiff company.

Why: He may be the second best control pitcher ever, after Schilling. A 123 ERA+. 2813 Ks. Over 80 WAR on both Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs. Also, I’m worried the BBWAA won’t give him even 5% to stay on, like what happened to poor Kenny Lofton last year.

For what it’s worth, that probably won’t happen with the BBA-for example, we gave Lofton 21% of the vote last year. Not that that means a lot in the BBWAA election, but that’s not the one I’m voting in, now is it?

Larry Walker

Why Not: You could go for the “Coors Field” argument, although we have stats to account for those that still say he was worthy. He was also injured quite a bit, which is a negative. For what it’s worth, I left him off my ballot last year.

Why: Over 70 WAR on both kinds. Pretty good. Maybe he deserves special consideration for being the Rockies’ first star?

Tom Glavine

Why Not: Glavine is probably the fifth best pitcher on the ballot this year. He was great, but I’m having trouble convincing myself that he was actually better (don’t say wins) than Schilling or Mussina (Maddux and Clemens are right out).

Why: He’ll probably be right on the borderline. If my goal is to get as many players inducted as possible, this would be one of the better places to throw a vote. However, the BBA is much more willing to vote for ten players, so maybe Glavine won’t fall just short?

Mike Piazza

Why Not: I guess if you really don’t understand catchers/the difficulty and standards of the position? Or if you think his back acne indicates steroid use. Again, see my Bagwell blurb for my thoughts on that.

Why: Best hitting catcher of all-time and all that. Pretty good reason. Also, he finished third in BBA voting last year with 69%, so he’s really close.

Alan Trammell

Why Not: Look, Trammell supporters. He was great. He absolutely deserves to get in. But it’s just not happening. He polled 40% in the Blogger election last year, and even worse in the actual one. He has two more chances to makes up 35-40% of the vote, depending on which election you follow. Those votes could go to someone on the borderline.

Why: Well, he deserves it…but he’s a little lacking in superlatives, which it turns out, is kind of damning in this crowd. Just being worth it isn’t enough here, you have to be extra-super worth it.

Frank Thomas

Why Not: Played half his games at DH I guess? Can’t really think of anything. Maybe the backlog issue, but unlike Glavine, you could probably argue that he was better than some of the guys ahead of him. Also, since there are more position players than pitchers, I have less of an issue putting 5+ batters on a ballot.

Why: Has over 500 home runs, will probably end up right on the borderline (going off of Bill Deane’s estimates from earlier).

Edgar Martinez

Why Not: Was “only” a designated hitter. Injuries cut in to his career, like with Walker.

Why: Best DH of all-time, one of twenty players with a .300/.400/.500 batting line over 6000 plate appearances. Guys, he could hit pretty well.

Tim Raines

Why Not: Was not Rickey Henderson. Deep ballot too, I guess.

Why: Probably the second-best leadoff hitter of all-time, after Rickey. Also, he pulled in 62% last year with the BBA, so he’s right in that sweet spot of needing votes.

Craig Biggio

Why Not: Was a “compiler”, whatever that means? Played for the Houston Astros, which may or may not exist. Was always the #2 on his team after Jeff Bagwell? Guys, I’m drawing a blank here.

Why: 3000 hits. Second base is still a position, and Biggio was good at it? I mean, again, he’s deserving, that’s all that should matter. Also, he just missed last year with 69% of the BBA vote, so he needs as many votes as he can get.

Rafael Palmeiro

Why Not: Blah blah steroids. Also, he did technically have less of a peak than most; he’s more of a consistency-type.

Why: For these last four players, I’m worried they won’t get the 5% of the vote needed to stay on the ballot. Throwing votes their way will always be helpful…but again, the BBA seems to have less of an issue with this than the BBWAA. Also, I ultimately have no say in that (again, see Kenny Lofton last year). Also, 500 home runs and 3000 hits, so he was a good hitter.

Mark McGwire

Why Not: Steroids. Something about a low batting average

Why: 583 home runs. Eighth best slugging percentage of all-time (.588). Tenth-best OPS (.982). .394 OBP despite a batting average in the .260s. 163 OPS+. Again, worried he may drop off the ballot. Also, on a personal note, McGwire’s 70th home run in 1998 was one of my earliest baseball memories, so I get a little personal satisfaction voting for him.

Sammy Sosa

Why Not: I already consider Sosa borderline, to be honest. I think he should go in the Hall, but I feel much less strongly about it than the previous 16 players.

Why: Many dingers. 609, to be specific.

Jeff Kent

Why Not: See above.

Why: Most home runs by a second baseman ever.

So I guess I can scratch Kent and Sosa. Down to 16. Also, the following players drew between 50% and 75% of the vote last year, which I am defining as the critical area:

Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Barry Bonds, Time Raines, Roger Clemens

That’s half a ballot right there. Curt Schilling only got 34% last year in the BBA election, less than even Mark McGwire (which I’m actually startled by). I would be remiss not including Maddux, Mussina, and Thomas. That gives me nine players. Does the last spot go to Glavine? What about Edgar Martinez, or Mark McGwire, or Larry Walker, or Alan Trammell? Or, I could leave off Maddux to squeeze in a second player. That makes a lot of sense logistically, but it feels like I’m cheating a little bit there, expecting other people to do the heavy lifting for me.

My last two slot options, to summarize: I vote Maddux and Glavine, since Glavine is probably going in to the borderline group; I vote Maddux and McGwire, because McGwire is my runner-up, was not that much worse than Glavine, making half of my ballot pitchers feels weird, and the rest of the BBA will probably elect him anyway; or I vote Glavine and McGwire because Maddux will almost certainly make the Hall anyway and how much he clears 75% by doesn’t matter.

It just doesn’t feel fair. All of them are Hall-worthy. But in the end, I went with Maddux and Glavine. I really, really wanted to vote for McGwire. I actually wrote his name down first just now, but went back and deleted it. It seemed like either way, I’m a hypocrite.

My reason for not voting Glavine is that he’d be the fifth-best starter on my ballot…but McGwire’s competing with Thomas, Bagwell, and Palmeiro over at first (as well as Martinez). Meanwhile, I want to get as many people inducted as possible, and I think Glavine is going to be close to the borderline…but if my goal is just to maximize inductees, shouldn’t I just drop Maddux since he’s a lock? That makes a lot more sense, logically speaking.

But there it is. My ballot for 2014 is: Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Mike Mussina, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Frank Thomas…

And I just realized that I forgot to account for Bagwell. Makes sense, I guess, since as I mentioned, the BBA has already elected him TWICE. I guess this renders all of my agonizing about Glavine vs. McGwire moot; if I have to drop someone from my ballot, it makes sense that it should be the last one I decided on. This actually makes me feel a little better, since I had such a rough time deciding between the two of them. So, my actual final ballot is:

Jeff Bagwell
Craig Biggio
Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Greg Maddux
Mike Mussina
Mike Piazza
Tim Raines
Curt Schilling
Frank Thomas

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