Thursday, December 27, 2012

Hall of Fame Ballot Part 1

Growing up a baseball fan, I used to think I’d know who I’d vote for if I ever got a Hall of Fame vote.  The BBA votes on the Hall of Fame Ballot every year.  This is my first ballot.  And to quote John Patrick Shanley, “I have doubts.  I have such doubts!” 

I’ve had issues already with voting in the past.  Click here to re-live that dilemma.  But I feel like the Hall of Fame vote is even bigger.  It’s forever.  One of my last posts had HoF undertones as I examined the worthiness of Andruw Jones when it came to joining the Hall.  I argued both sides and had no issues filling the entire post, and that’s just for one player, much less the 37 on the ballot this year.  Luckily I was able to eliminate most of them pretty much immediately.  I’ve listed those guys below as the ones I didn’t even consider voting for:

Steve Finley, Julio Franco, Reggie Sanders, Shawn Green, Jeff Cirillo, Woody Williams, Rondell White, Ryan Klesko, Aaron Sele, Roberto Hernandez, Royce Clayton, Jeff Conine, Mike Stanton, Sandy Alomar, Jose Mesa, Todd Walker, Fred McGriff, Bernie Williams, David Wells, Alan Trammel, Larry Walker, Edgar Martinez and Kenny Lofton. 

Out of the remaining players we have a few different groups.  We have steroid users.  We have great players that won a lot of awards, but didn’t reach any of the “magic numbers” that gain you entry into the Hall.  And last we have some players that were solid, but didn’t seem to capture the Hall of Fame spirit for one reason or another.  We’ll start with that last group.

The players in this group are Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Lee Smith. 

Smith was a great closer.  He had more Saves than anyone in baseball, and held that title for a while.  However that was his only real threat to making it.  Since then, two players have obliterated his record with over 600 Saves (Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera) while others who are right behind him on the list aren’t anywhere near Hall material (Troy Percival, Jose Mesa, Roberto Hernandez).  In addition, he only led the league in Saves (his signature stat) 3 times while having pedestrian ERA and WHIP numbers.  It was a different time back then, but his overall numbers just weren’t impressive enough, and other than All Star appearances, he wasn’t very awarded in his day.  He was the easiest to dismiss.

That brings us to Tim Raines, whose numbers compare favorably with Ricky Henderson’s.  Henderson has over 3000 hits and the stolen base record.  Raines does not.  But he has a higher career batting average (294 to 279).  He also won a batting title and led the league in steals his first four years in the league.  Raines is 5th on the all time stolen bases list, and one of only 5 guys with 800+ SBs.  However he never got higher than 5th in MVP voting, won only one 1 Silver Slugger and no Gold Gloves.  Raines is one of the best base stealers of all time, but outside of that his numbers aren’t good enough for the Hall, no matter how similar his numbers are to Henderson’s (compare them some time….you’ll be surprised).

That leaves me with Jack Morris and Jeff Bagwell.  If you asked me before this season, I’d have said no to both right away.  But after reading this article by Tim Brown I re-thought it.  Brown was interviewing Morris, they talked about the HoF vote and Morris told Brown to consider every CG that he had as a Save.  That makes Morris compare very comparatively to Dennis Eckersley.  That helped Morris a lot in my view.  But his 3.90 ERA and 1.29 WHIP aren’t that great.  He also only got 2,478 Ks in 18 years.  The CGs are impressive, but, again, it was a different era back then.  It helps his cause, but I’m still not sure about him.

Jeff Bagwell played in the steroid era.  Most people believe that he didn’t use performance-enhancing drugs.  But, when compared to everyone else who played in his era, his numbers don’t look as strong.  Is that fair?  The article I linked earlier tackles the question that Bagwell makes us consider.  If you didn’t use steroids, and played in the steroid era, are your numbers allowed to be a little less impressive?  It’s admirable that you resisted temptation to take the steroids.  If we let steroid users and their inflated numbers in the Hall (another question entirely) then we should certainly allow you and your slightly lesser numbers in, right?  Bagwell had a great career.  He won an MVP and a Rookie of the Year.  He also won 3 Silver Sluggers and a Gold Glove.  He was a career 297 hitter with 449 HR, 1,529 RBI, 1,517 R and 202 SB.  Those numbers show me a well-rounded player, who had speed, power and could drive in some guys. Did he have any “magic numbers”?  No.  Did he play in an era of cheaters, resist the temptation to cheat though it could have prolonged his career and made him more money and still have numbers that were almost as good as the guys who did cheat?  Yes.  Should that count for something?  Absolutely.  Is it enough for him to make the Hall?  Well that’s the question isn’t it?

Obviously steroids are an issue.  Not just for the guys who took them, but also for the guys who played with them.  Bagwell’s numbers don’t stack up well to the leaders of his era, but they are still great.  Is there an element of wanting to reward him for not taking steroids?  Yes.  Is that a good enough reason to put him in the Hall?  No.  Is that extra oomph enough to push his good numbers to Hall of Fame territory?  Yes.  That’s what we have to consider now.  It’s more than numbers.  You have to consider what a player did in comparison to others who played with him and others who played his position.  That helps Bagwell.  It hurts Raines and Morris.

Some players were giants of their eras.  They won a lot of awards or championships.  However they may not meet the “magic number” requirements. 

Okay you’ve said “magic numbers” like 6 times.  What are those?

Thanks for the question Mr. Italics.  Some milestones in baseball are more impressive.  Reaching those milestones used to mean you would be a shoo-in for Cooperstown.  Those numbers were 300 Wins, 3,000 hits and 500 HR.  However, great pitchers aren’t getting to 300 Wins anymore due to the way the game has changed.  The 500 HR club has been sullied with steroid users.  And 3,000 hits have come close to losing meaning due to compliers.  Knowing that, does that mean you have to be friendlier in considering the career numbers of other guys?  Who am I thinking about?  Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy.

Mattingly had 2,153 hits, 222 HR and a 307-career batting average.  Good numbers.  Not great.  But he won an MVP, 9 Gold Gloves and 3 Silver Sluggers.  That’s a lot of hardware.  Plus 6 All Star appearances.  He was a great player in his generation who won a lot of games with the Yankees.  He also only played 14 years.  His numbers are good, but frankly not really close to any magic numbers.  It’s the awards that are impressive.  And he won a ton of games with the Yankees.

Dale Murphy was even more awarded for some bad Atlanta Braves teams.  His numbers were a little better than Mattingly’s, with 2,111 hits, 398 HR, and 161 SB.  He had 2 MVPs, 5 Gold Gloves and 4 Silver Sluggers with his 7 All Star appearances.  He was more awarded, but his team wasn’t as good.  Should team success matter?  Maybe in some sports, but I don’t think it matters in much in baseball.  Although good players on bad teams sometimes have it tougher as they get pitched around. 

Murphy and Mattingly were good.  Great in their time.  The awards show that.  I think that helps their overall chances, though their numbers may fall a little short.  What’s next?

Well then there’s the question of does it mean more to be a first ballot hall of famer than to get in on your 4th, 7th or 14th try?  I think so.  There are three players that I think belong in the Hall at some point (Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza and Curt Schilling).  I considered their numbers and think they are good enough, but none of them are icons.  At least in my opinion.  Will I vote for them in the future?  Yes.  Will I vote for them this year?  Maybe.  Part of me wants to wait for a year or two then give them my vote.  But then they may already be in.  And that may also mean that I don’t vote for anyone this year.  Should that matter to me?  I don’t know.  But it does.

Okay so that’s the little stuff that, frankly, isn’t that little.  A lot to think about.  I’ve got a lot in this post, so I’m going to break it up into two parts.  I’ve tackled the first chunk of issues, but I’ll save the big issue for the next post.  Check back to see my thoughts on steroids users in the Hall and take a look at the guys I actually voted into Cooperstown.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Fantasy Baseball Crackerjacks

I've put up my second post for the Fantasy Baseball Crackerjacks website.  If you are looking to get ready for draft day, or if you just want to get some good info about baseball players click here and check it out!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Andruw Jones...Hall of Famer?

With today’s report that Andruw Jones is headed to Japan to play some ball for the Rakuten Golden Eagles, I have to assume that his professional career in the MLB is now over.  That brings us to the question…is Andruw Jones a Hall of Famer?  At first glance I’d say no.  But let’s take a deeper look at the stats.

Here are Andruw Jones’ career numbers:

254 AVG, 434 HR, 1,289 RBI, 1,204 R, 152 SB, 383 2Bs, 36 3Bs, 891 BBs, 1,747 Ks, .337 OBP, .486 SLG, .823 OPS.

At first glance, they don’t seem like the worthiest of stats.  The only number that jumps out as truly impressive are the 434 HR.  That also led to a healthy number of R and RBI.  However those are just the offensive stats.  The number that does him the most good in this debate is 10. The 10 that is helping his case represents the number of consecutive Gold Gloves he won.  And he didn’t win them as a pitcher, catcher or first baseman, he won them in center field, a premium position stocked with some of the finest athletes in the game.  So the question is, is that enough?  I’ll tackle both sides of this question.


While the AVG isn’t great and the K/BB ratio is atrocious, this question begins and ends in the field.  He won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves in what is arguably the toughest position to play on a baseball field.  He had good speed, but not great speed.  That meant it was all reaction time, and knowing where to play certain hitters.  In addition, he had a cannon for an arm with over twice as many outfield assists (124) as Errors (50).  He was a 5 time All Star with 2 top 10 MVP finishes, including finishing second to Albert Pujols in 2005 in a season where Jones set the Atlanta Braves franchise record with 51 HR and a league leading 128 RBI.  He won 2/3 of a Triple Crown, in a season where a lot of people think Pujols won based on his overall body of work, as opposed to having the strongest season. 

So can strong defensive numbers outweigh subpar offensive numbers?  The answer is apparently yes.  Ray Schalk, was a catcher for the White Sox and the Giants who made the Hall of Fame off the strength of his defense.  His 253 career batting average is the lowest of all Hall of Famers (other than pitchers).  Jones is a point higher.  Schalk also had fewer home runs that Jones.  By fewer I mean Shalk had….11 career HR.  11.  He had 11 HR to go with his 253 AVG.  So he got in on the strength of being a great defensive catcher.  Andruw Jones’ career AVG is one point better, he has 423 more HR and has to be considered one of the greatest defensive center fielders in baseball.  And while catcher is a tough position to play, playing center field is definitely harder, and it’s certainly very hard to be recognized as the best in that position when the other players who play that position with you are some of the best athletes in baseball.  It’s not just Schalk, but George Kelly and Bill Mazeroski made the team based on the strength of defense.  And while Mazeroski’s defensive second base is arguably the best of all time, Jones’ center field defense is among the best, and his offensive numbers blow Mazeroski’s out of the water.

So, to review, Jones had immeasurably more power than Schalk (okay maybe not immeasurable….he had 420+ more HR), a slightly better AVG and was a star at one of the hardest defensive positions on the field, as opposed to a good defensive catcher.  If Schalk is in the Hall of Fame, there is no reason Andruw Jones shouldn’t be. 


At the end of the day, Andruw Jones had a 254 career batting average.  That’s just not good enough.  His defense in the prime of his career was fantastic.  But he played for 17 years, and for the last few years his weight has ballooned while his ranged has diminished at a quick enough rate to turn one of the best defensive center fielders of all time into an above average corner outfielder.  Jones eclipsed 300 only once in his career.  He had a 1.96 K:BB rate.  That’s bad.  Almost as bad as his 4.43 K:AB ratio.  He’s got 0 World Series titles under his belt (he joined the Braves in 1996, the year after they won), and turned into a one dimensional player very early in his career.  After taking over full time in 1998 (the first year he eclipsed 500 ABs), he looked like a 5-tool player.  In 1998 he hit 271 with 31 HR, 90 RBI, 89 R and 27 SB.  But that was his career high on the base paths.  The next season he went  275/26/84/97/24.  In 2000 he went 303/26/104/122/21.  That was possibly his best year.  It was also the last time he went 20/20.  That’s not a HoF requirement, but when you come into the league and for 5 of your 17 seasons are considered an all around great player, there is an expectation.  For the next 12 years of your 17 year career, to steal double digit bases only one more time (11 was his career high from that point on, achieved the next season) shows that you changed your approach drastically.  His AVG tanked after that, never coming close to 300 again (career high from that point on was 277).  And though he had some success with the long ball, he only led the league in homers once (51 in 2005) and saw his average drop every season from then to end up hitting 197 in 230+ ABs for the Yankees last year.  His highest AVG after leaving Atlanta was 247, the most games he played in a season from then on was 107 (with the White Sox in 2010), and though his HR rate remained high, he contributed little else.  Perhaps he’d have a better shot at making it to the Hall if he retired after leaving the Braves, but a 12 year player has a REALLY tough time making it into the Hall of Fame.  And after leaving Atlanta he was nothing but a bust, signing a 2-year deal with the Dodgers worth $36 million, but being released a little over a year later due to injury and ineffectiveness.  He then bounced around as a role player on the Rangers, White Sox and Yankees before moving to Japan this offseason.  He probably could have signed here in the US with another team, but wanted to make more money and get more playing time in Japan.

So, in review, he hit a lot of HR.  But he showed much more promise in his early years.  He was supposed to be an all around great, but barely broke 150 SBs while becoming truly one dimensional less than halfway into his career.  His defense was stellar, but that shouldn’t be enough.  There are plenty of players who are in the HoF that don’t belong there already, why would we add another?  Though Andruw Jones is more deserving than some, he’s still undeserving and that’s why he shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame.

After making an argument for both sides, I think I know where I stand.  Andruw Jones had a very good career.  He’s got some wonderful career statistics, specifically in the HR and fielding departments.  And while his numbers do measure up to a few other Hall of Fame candidates, they are generally considered to be the “least worthy” candidates.  And that’s not just from me.  I found this article and this article to be exceedingly helpful in writing this post.  Do I think Andruw Jones belongs in the Hall of Fame?  No.  It doesn’t matter to me that others who are arguably less qualified are in the Hall of Fame.  That doesn’t make Andruw Jones worthy.  His numbers are strong.  But not strong enough.  And that’s where it ends for me.