Sunday, December 30, 2007

My Uncounted HoF Vote

I'll never have a Hall of Fame vote.

That's not really an admission of defeat, considering the BBWAA's standards for voters. I know I'd rather be on Keith Law's side of the fence than Jon Heyman's.

It may not count for anything, but I'll still cast my ballot for Tim Raines and Bert Blyleven. If you read baseball stats websites, you're probably bored to death with everyone pushing these two. Still, their supporters are correct.

A common argument used to support a player's Hall candidacy is "He is better than HoFers A and B, so he should get in too." This is terrible logic--why should past voting errors lead to future ones?--but to list all the Hall of Famers worse than Raines and Blyleven, I'd need multiple alphabets.

By Offensive Win%, Raines was one of the NL's five best hitters in six different years between 1981 and 1987. Jim Rice is getting a lot of support for the Hall this year; Raines has significantly better career hitting stats than Rice (.307 career EqA to Rice's .294), played 400 more games than Rice, and is the best basestealer in baseball history, while Rice set a record by grounding into 36 double plays in one season. Raines isn't just better than Rice, he smokes him across the board.

Blyleven, as I'm sure you know, was a dominant starter in his prime and accumulated some impressive career numbers, but he didn't get to 300 wins, didn't throw in a pitcher's park, and didn't get great run support. GG.

"Be Home" Blyleven had a better career ERA+ (118, which means an ERA 18% below the league average) than almost all his contemporaries in the Hall: Don Sutton, Nolan Ryan, Catfish Hunter, Gaylord Perry, Phil Niekro, Steve Carlton(!), and Dennis Eckersley(!!). In a just world, Catfish would have to pay admission to check out Blyleven's bust in Cooperstown.

Those are the only two I'd definitely vote for, but Mark McGwire and Alan Trammell are also legitimate candidates. McGwire had a nice little career, and he was one of the 25 best hitters in history by rate stats. Unfortunately, he averaged less than 124 games per season, and it's hard to be a Hall of Famer when you miss almost one in every four games. Even with the injuries, he's a definite candidate if you ignore the PED issue, as I did.

Trammell has suffered in the voting because he's not the fielder that Ozzie was or the hitter that Ripken was. Additionally, the offensive expectations from shortstops have changed in the past ten years, thanks to A-Rod, Jeter, and Nomar. Tram was still a gold glove shortstop in his prime, and his .282 EqA compares favorably with Ripken's .283.

One last point. I'm seeing a lot of support for Don Mattingly, and the argument is always the same: his career numbers are the same as Kirby Puckett's (they really are), and both had their careers cut short by maladies. If Puckett is in, why not Donnie Baseball?

These are all fair points, but they ignore an important consideration: Puckett played center field and Mattingly first base. The offensive expectations for those positions are light years apart. Chris Shelton has a higher career OPS than both Torii Hunter and Aaron Rowand, but he was basically given away for free this offseason, while Hunter and Rowand will collect a combined $150 million between now and 2012. The difference in offense between center field and first base is larger now than it was in the eighties, but the gap is still very relevant.

Happy 2008, everyone.


Kevin said...

I trust you've read Bill James' Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?, but if by chance you haven't, time to add it to your book list.

j holz said...

It's not Bill's best work, but still a good read. As a kid growing up in Chicago, I especially liked his prediction that Jack McDowell and Greg Maddux would enter the HoF together.