Monday, December 23, 2019

Hall of Fame Thoughts - 2020 Edition

Most of the recent Tigers internet Hall of Fame talk has centered around long-time Tigers second baseman Lou Whitaker.  He was recently on the Modern Era Committee ballot but was not voted into the Hall of Fame despite having the highest career Wins Above Replacement among 20th Century players not in the Hall and not connected to steroids.  Whitaker will likely get another shot on 2022, so those tired of hearing about his Hall of Fame worthiness will hear it for another three years.  Hard hitting catcher Ted Simmons and legendary labor leader Marvin Miller deservedly did make it. For now, let's turn our attention to the upcoming Baseball Writer's Association of America ballot (BBWA).  

There have been 20 new BBWA Inductees in the past six years including the 2019 class of Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina and Mariano Rivera.  This alleviated the log jam on the ballot which was due largely to confusion and division on how to deal with players linked to the Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs).  Many holdovers and a few worthy new candidates still make the vote a challenge though.  There are 32 eligible players and writers can vote for up to 10 candidates.  I, of course, do not have a vote, but will fill my theoretical ballot here.

My selection process involves comparing players to their contemporaries, other players at the same position and current Hall-of-Fame members.  I value peak performance and career performance equally.  I use many traditional and advanced statistics, most of which can be found on Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs.  Some of my favorites are plate appearances, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging average, batting runs, wOBA,and WAR for hitters and innings pitched, ERA, pitching runs, strikeouts and WAR for pitchers.  I used multiple WAR statistics in my analysis, but any reference to WAR cited below is Baseball-Reference WAR.

In earlier years, I did not bring PED use into my thought process.  The use of PEDs was very widespread, not only in the 1990s and 2000's, but all the way back to the sixties and even further.  It was impossible to know which players stayed clean and which used and how much it affected their performance.  Eliminating or even judging players based on suspicion seemed very unfair to me.  It also seemed pretty obvious that the game turned a blind eye to the problem for many decades.  Thus, I considered PED use to have been part of the game and choose players solely based on their on-field performance.  

Starting in 2005, Major League Baseball players and owners accepted a new policy banning steroids and issuing penalties to steroid users.  The policy has been expanded in recent years to include amphetamines and other PEDs.  Now that it is accepted by all parties that steroid use is absolutely prohibited, this makes the process more complicated.  I think it's fair to penalize players who tested positive under the agreement starting in 2005, but I do not believe these offenders should be banned from the Hall of Fame entirely. They did, after all, already serve their time through suspension.  However, the qualifications for inclusion in the Hall of Fame do include integrity, sportsmanship and character as illustrated by the following clause:
Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contribution to the team(s) on which the player played.
Those things are very subjective and near impossible to measure, but failed drug tests are objective.  Thus, I shall use proven drug use as another data point feeding my decision process.  Since I do not believe PED use turns a player into one of the game's all-time greats, I would still vote for an elite player such as Alex Rodriguez when his time comes. However, I might drop a borderline player from the ballot.  

The PED question first became an issue for me when first baseman Rafael Palmeiro appeared on the ballot in 2011.  He was a legitimate candidate, who had tested positive in 2005.  He was not a particularly strong candidate though and, given that the ballot had more than ten deserving candidates that year, it was not difficult to dismiss him.  

Outfielder Manny Ramirez who tested positive for PEDs in both 2009 and 2011 is eligible this year on a ballot that is not quite as loaded as previous years.  Based on his numbers, 69 WAR and a 154 OPS+, Ramirez was one of the best hitters of his generation and would surely make it if he were clean. 

However, the PED data point exists for Ramirez (twice!).  Ramirez was a very one dimensional player and not a slam dunk choice of the magnitude of ARod.  He is more comparable to designated hitter Edgar Martinez, who was finally inducted in 2019.  I am not voting for Ramirez.  

Now, for my ballot:

Barry Bonds: The greatest player of his generation and on a very short list of the best players ever.  You can't have a Hall of Fame without him.  

Roger Clemens: As with Bonds, the Hall-of-Fame does not make much sense with Clemens excluded.  He is arguably one of the five best pitchers in the history of the game.

Derek Jeter: Was hyped, at times to the point of insanity, throughout his career, but was still clearly a Hall-of-Fame performer.  He was sixth all-time in total hits with 3,465 and 11th in runs scored with 1,923.  He was also one of the most frequent and successful post-season players of his era hitting .308/.374/.465 in over 700 plate appearances.  His 72.4 WAR ranks 10th among shortstops.  He was fourth at his position in Batting Runs (353), but was dragged down by his fielding.  According to Baseball Reference, he cost the Yankees 243 runs with defense during his career and was ranked no better by any other fielding measure (despite his five undeserved Gold Gloves).  However, his offense, longevity and post-season prowess more than made up for it.  
   
Curt Schilling: Not a very bright person and I wish he would keep his shallow opinions to himself, but that has nothing to do with his Hall of Fame worthiness.  Arguably the best post-season pitcher ever, but was a lot more than that.  He had a 127 ERA+, 3,116 strikeouts (15th best ever), 81 WAR (26th best).  

Larry Walker: A bit controversial because his numbers were inflated by the Denver altitude, but he had a 141 OPS+ and 73 WAR and was also an excellent fielder.  

Scott Rolen: The Lou Whitaker of his time, had a long distinguished career, but was never regarded as a superstar.  His 122 OPS+ and outstanding defense at third base helped him accumulate 70 WAR.

Todd Helton: Like Walker, Helton is difficult to judge because of his home park in Colorado.  He Accumulated 61 WAR, and had an OPS+ of 160 or better four times.  His peak years were fantastic including three years with WAR of 8.9. 8.3 and 7.8.  If Scott Rolen is Lou Whitaker than Helton is Ryne Sandberg.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive

Subscribe

My Sabermetrics Book

My Sabermetrics Book
One of Baseball America's top ten books of 2010

Other Sabermetrics Books