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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Reviewing the 2015 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

The 2015 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot was recently released. As usual, it’s loaded with candidates for enshrinement next year in Cooperstown for their contributions and achievements in baseball. Some have more compelling cases than others, but they all had distinguished careers and made their mark on the game in some way.

Let’s do a quick rundown of all 34 of this year’s candidates and review whether or not I believe they belong in the Hall:

Aaron Boone, Third Baseman: A .263 batting average and 126 home runs over 12 seasons just won’t cut it. At least he’ll always have 2003.

Alan Trammell, Shortstop: One of the best at his position while he played, he was never a true superstar for me. His .285 batting average, 2,365 hits and four Gold Gloves are more indicative of his very good but not great status.

Barry Bonds, Outfielder: If you are going to keep Bonds, one of the five-best players in baseball history, out of the Hall of Fame because of his transgressions, you’d better start pulling out a number of inductees who were involved in even more questionable things.

Brian Giles, Outfielder: His .291 batting average, .400 OBP, 287 home runs and 136 OPS+ in 15 seasons look very impressive until realizing they came during baseball’s PED/offensive explosion era. He was never more than a second-tier star during his career (two All-Star Games), so he isn’t a Hall-of-Famer.

Carlos Delgado, First Baseman: 473 home runs in 17 years, but see McGriff, Fred.

Cliff Floyd, Outfielder: Injuries severely stunted his chances at the Hall, as he averaged just 95 games per season during his 17-year career. His .278 batting average and 233 home runs during that time are a good indication of the huge numbers he could have posted if he was on the field more.

Craig Biggio, Catcher/Second Baseman/Outfielder: Although he retired less than a decade ago, many seem to have forgotten what a great player Biggio was. With 3,060 hits, 668 doubles and 414 stolen bases, he should be a shoo-in.

Curt Schilling, Pitcher: The right hander accumulated impressive marks of 216 wins, a 3.36 ERA, 3,116 strikeouts and three World Series rings during his 20-year career. His 80.7 WAR is the 20th best mark of any pitcher in history, and his numbers might be even better if not for missing significant time with injuries over the years.

Darin Erstad, Outfielder: Other than 2000, when he hit .355 with 240 hits, 25 home runs and 28 stolen bases, Erstad was decidedly average (or perhaps even a tick below). This is borne out by his 93 career OPS+ and WAR of 32.3—which gets a major boost from his excellent glove.

Don Mattingly, First Baseman: There wasn’t a better player in baseball during the mid-1980s. Unfortunately, his peak lasted only a handful of seasons because of back troubles that sapped his production.

Eddie Guardado, Pitcher: “Every Day Eddie” may have been reliable out of the pen to the tune of 908 games over a 17-year career; he just wasn’t an all-time great. At 46-61 with a 1.32 WHIP and just 187 saves there would be some explaining to do if he made it over a number of much more qualified relievers who have not yet gained admission.

Edgar Martinez, Designated Hitter: His career marks of a .312 batting average, .418 OBP and 309 home runs in 18 seasons with the Seattle Mariners are Hall worthy. Some may point to having played the majority of his career as a DH as a reason to keep him out, but keep in mind that his 68.3 WAR is 75th all-time among hitters.

Fred McGriff, First Baseman: Ironically, the Crime Dog was criminally underrated during his career. Unfortunately, despite 493 home runs and his consistent good numbers, he falls a notch or two short of immortal status.

Gary Sheffield, Outfielder: The right-handed batter hit .292 with 509 home runs, 1,676 RBI and a .393 OBP over 22 seasons. His name appearing on the Mitchell Report will probably work against him, but there is little doubt he belongs in the Hall.

Jason Schmidt, Pitcher: The right-hander was 130-96 with a 3.96 ERA over 14 seasons, all spent in the National League. If you take out his 2003-04 seasons when he placed second and fourth respectively in the Cy Young race, his record was just 95-84.

Jeff Bagwell, First Baseman: One of the best players of all-time, I have already argued in support of Bagwell’s candidacy. Coming up short on previous ballots makes little sense given his resume.

Jeff Kent, Second Baseman: How can you deny a good-fielding player from his position that put up a .290 batting average with 377 home runs, 560 doubles and 1,518 RBIs in 17 seasons? Yeah, I didn’t think so either.

Jermaine Dye, Outfielder: An accumulator who had a .274 batting average with 325 home runs and 1,072 RBIs in 14 seasons, he falls into the Brian Giles category. If he hadn’t retired at the age of 35 and had played a while longer and padded his stats, it would have been interesting to review his case.

John Smoltz, Pitcher: Often seen as the third starter on an Atlanta Braves staff that had future Hall-of-Famers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, Smoltz actually had the best stuff of the trio. Only injuries prevented him from having significantly greater numbers than his already excellent totals of 213 wins, a 3.33 ERA and 154 saves. He should be a no-brainer.

Larry Walker, Outfielder: The left-handed hitter had an amazing .313/.400/.565 slash with 383 home runs during his career. However, he was plagued by injuries and had his stat line buffed dramatically by the .381/.462/.710 slash he had in 597 career games at hitter-friendly Coors Field in Colorado. I wouldn’t object to him being elected but also wouldn’t put up much of an argument if he wasn’t.

Lee Smith, Pitcher: The mammoth right-hander is third all-time with 478 saves. However, his 3.03 ERA, 1.26 WHIP are just not the lockdown numbers you’d expect of a Hall-of-Famer.

Mark McGwire, First Baseman: Like it or not, the slugger defined an entire era of baseball. His 583 home runs and .982 OPS should be more than enough to earn enshrinement for the first man to hit 70 home runs in a single season.

Mike Mussina, Pitcher: With 270 victories and a 3.68 ERA, the right-hander fits comfortably in with the second-tier of Hall-of-Fame pitchers like Don Sutton and Catfish Hunter. With 11 seasons of 15 or more wins, there are few hurlers with as consistent a resume as Mussina.

Mike Piazza, Catcher: Piazza’s .308 batting average, 427 home runs and 1,335 RBIs make him one of the two or three best offensive catchers in baseball history. PED rumors and innuendo are the only things that could be possible barriers on his way to Cooperstown—fair or not.

Nomar Garciaparra, Shortstop: The uber athlete was a pure hitter, as evidenced by his .313 career batting average. Unfortunately, averaging just over 100 games played over his 14 seasons prevented him from reaching his Hall-of-Fame potential.

Pedro Martinez, Pitcher: He was the most dominant pitcher in baseball in the past 50 years, and possibly had the best overall stuff of any pitcher ever. Where is any logical argument to keep him out?

Randy Johnson, Pitcher: The “Big Unit” was nearly as dominant as Pedro, but undoubtedly more intimidating. This 1993 at-bat John Kruk had against the lefty tells you all you need to know about how hitters felt when facing him.

Rich Aurilia, Shortstop: A career 99 OPS+ and one All Star nod in 15 seasons. No disrespect to this solid player, but there can be no other answer than no.

Roger Clemens, Pitcher: The pitching equivalent of McGwire, except with an even stronger resume. His 354 wins and seven Cy Young Awards, which largely occurred during the “PED Era,” should be recognized even with his own PED connections.

Sammy Sosa, Outfielder: Despite 609 home runs, which rank eighth all-time, his resume seems strangely lackluster. That’s not just because he is another PED-linked player, but because his largely one-dimensional style of play. Another player I could argue for or against without much conviction either way.

Tim Raines, Outfielder: This great leadoff hitter has never gotten his due. 2,605 hits, 808 stolen bases and a .385 OBP doesn’t leave him far behind Rickey Henderson in terms of being among the best of all time at what they did.

Tom Gordon, Pitcher: With 138 wins, 158 saves and a 3.96 ERA, “Flash” was the poor man’s John Smoltz. Unfortunately, that won’t gain him entry to the Hall.

Tony Clark, First Baseman: The massive slugger was plagued by injuries throughout his career. When he did play, he posted solid, yet unspectacular numbers, resulting in a .262 batting average, 251 home runs and one All Star appearance in 15 seasons.

Troy Percival, Pitcher: A personal favorite, the converted minor league catcher became a flame-throwing closer. His 358 saves rank ninth all time, but his 3.17 ERA is a bit more pedestrian. Not a Hall-of-Famer, but certainly a first ballot guy for the Hall of the Very Good.

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