My 2013 Hall of Fame ballot

This year’s ballot is extremely crowded, due to a host of players who should have been elected previously combined with a strong freshman class. It’s only going to get worse next year and unless the BBWAA starts electing people who are clearly qualified or the Hall of Fame changes it’s rules on who is eligible and how many people voters can pick on a given ballot – it will continue to be a huge problem in the foreseeable future.

If I could, I would vote for 15 players on this ballot and there are a handful more who at the very least deserve consideration. Of course, everything is up in the air because of the steroids issue, as writers seem confused about how to handle known and suspected abusers of substances of undetermined benefits.

For what it’s worth, here’s how The Hall of Fame describes itself on its Web site:

“The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is an independent, non-profit educational institution dedicated to fostering an appreciation of the historical development of baseball and its impact on our culture by collecting, preserving, exhibiting and interpreting its collections for a global audience as well as honoring those who have made outstanding contributions to our national pastime.”

Here are the 10 players I would honor for their outstanding contributions.

Jeff Bagwell – In 2011, voters took a wait-and-see approach with Bagwell as he received just 41.7 percent of the vote. Last year he improved but only to 56 percent. So while having slam dunk credentials he’s back for his third year on the ballot. In 15 years in the majors, Bagwell had a lifetime .948 OPS, which translates into a career 149 OPS+. The only reason not to vote for Bagwell is if you think he did steroids but there’s been no failed drug test and no accusations from Jose Canseco or anyone else.

Let’s start with his monster 1994 season, when he won the MVP, had a 213 OPS+ and posted 300 total bases in 110 games. Then add in five more seasons with an OPS+ of 150 or greater. Seven times he finished in the top 10 in the league in home runs and his 449 homers ranks 34th on the all-time list. Seven seasons he had 100 or more walks and he ranks 27th all-time in the category.

He also has top 100 finishes lifetime in OBP (40th), slugging (35th), OPS (21st), runs scored (62nd), total bases (66th), doubles (60th), RBIs (45th), hit by pitch (39th) and times on base (55th). Bagwell also has a Gold Glove Award to his credit. It’s hard to imagine what more a player could do for his Hall of Fame resume.

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens – Strictly on the merits of their playing careers, Bonds and Clemens are slam dunks so there’s no reason to go into their individual cases. It seems there are only four ways for people to think about them:

A. Dismiss them completely for steroids
B. Invoke a wait-and-see approach/one year abstention as a protest
C. Apply a steroids discount but conclude that they made it despite this
D. Vote on what actually happened.

I choose “D.”

Edgar Martinez – Before last year I did not vote for Martinez but given more time to examine his case, I think that was a mistake. Martinez is hurt because his career got off to a late start, as he spent three years in Triple-A. Then Martinez suffered some injuries which forced him to become a full-time designated hitter. Martinez did not move because he was a poor fielder. Instead, he moved to keep him healthy. He deserves to be docked for not playing in the field. But I think I was penalizing him too much.

Martinez’ Hall of Fame case rests on his hitting and I think it’s strong enough to deserve induction. Here is his seven-year peak by OPS+

185, 166, 165, 164, 160, 158, 157

That is tremendous hitting, seven years worth of stats that would look at home in Albert Pujols‘ career. But let’s compare him to Hall of Famer Wade Boggs, who was a first-ballot pick. Here are their stats for their age 27-40 seasons:

Boggs – 8,614 PA, 1,213 R, 2,391 H, 100 HR, 812 RBIs, .326/.415/.444 131 OPS+
Edgar – 7,843 PA, 1,148 R, 2,053 H, 295 HR, 1,168 RBIs, .317/.426/.531 153 OPS+

That’s 14 years where he averaged a 153 OPS+. He stands toe-to-toe with Boggs, although to be fair Boggs had 2.5 years before this stretch where he also was a great hitter. Boggs also made himself into a Gold Glove winner at third base.

Boggs was better because of his longer track record, was more durable and the ability to play the field. But it does not seem right that Boggs is a first-ballot pick and Martinez is on the outside. I think Martinez is Hall of Fame worthy.

Mark McGwire –Admitting his steroid usage did not help McGwire at all with the Hall of Fame voters. In 2010, he drew 23.7 percent of the voters but in 2011 that number dropped to 19.8 percent and it went down to 19.5 last year. So I think it’s fair to say that a few voters were giving him the benefit of the doubt but once they found out for sure, they instituted a penalty. On the flip side, we have roughly 20 percent of the electorate who are going to judge a player on his production.

The two most important stats for offense are on-base percentage and slugging. McGwire led the league in OBP twice and SLG four times. He was a 12-time All-Star, a Rookie of the Year, a Gold Glove Award winner and he’s 10th on the all-time home run list (583). McGwire is 8th all-time in Slugging (.588) and 12th in OPS+ (162). That’s a Hall of Famer, despite what revisionists might say.

Rafael Palmeiro – In 2011 Palmerio debuted with 11 percent of the vote and he made a slight increase last year to 12.6 percent. The good news is that he’s still on the ballot but the bad news is that he’s not going to make any significant ground the next few years.

Everyone remembers his finger-waving performance in front of Congress, which was followed by a failed steroids test. Palmeiro has maintained his innocence and after what happened with McGwire, he is unlikely to change that tune as long as he is still on the ballot. But Palmeiro does have both a solid peak and outstanding career totals. His seven best seasons by OPS+ are:

159, 155, 150, 146, 145, 144 and 141

Those are numbers that match perfectly with Hall of Famer Eddie Murray, who like Palmeiro also cleared 3,000 hits and 500 HR. And Palmeiro was a better fielder, with a defensive reputation so good that he famously won a Gold Glove Award in a year where he mostly played DH.

Mike Piazza – With an OPS+ of 143, Piazza is the greatest offensive catcher in baseball history. You hear over and over again how he wasn’t a great defensive catcher but Piazza had the misfortune of being poor at the most visible aspect of catcher defense – throwing out baserunners – yet average or better at a host of other things required from catchers. Among those are blocking the plate, avoiding wild pitches and passed balls and the way he handled his pitching staffs.

Max Marchi of Baseball Prospectus examined all catchers since 1948 (the first year with sufficient data). Piazza ranked tied for third with 205 runs prevented. Now, this study is not the end-all be-all of catcher’s defense but it is a point to show that the sum of Piazza’s defensive efforts is way, way better than what most people think of when they think of “Piazza + defense.” And, if his defense is not historically awful, there’s no reason not to elect the greatest offensive player at a position. At the end of the day, he’s a slam dunk HOFer.

Tim Raines – I already laid out the case for Raines in this article. To summarize, Raines was neck and neck with Mike Schmidt as the best player in the National League from 1981-1987, was an above-average defender in left field who would have been a center fielder if not for the presence of Andre Dawson and one of the greatest leadoff hitters and base stealers of all time.

Curt SchillingJack Morris might get twice as many votes for the Hall of Fame than Schilling, which goes to show why the voting needs to be overhauled sooner rather than later. If all you look at is Wins, then Morris “wins,” with a 254-216 advantage. But if all you look at is Wins – then you’re, for lack of a better word, an idiot.

Wins are an attempt to put a team accomplishment on the record of an individual. A pitcher can certainly be instrumental in winning a game. They can also be in the right place at the right time and pick up a victory. Or, in Morris’ case, they can be supported by both a good offense and good defense.

In 1992, 37-year-old Morris won 21 games with a 101 ERA+ because he got an average run support of 5.56 runs per game. The AL average was 4.32 runs per game. And with fielders like Roberto Alomar, Devon White and Manny Lee up the middle – the Blue Jays were an excellent defensive team. And Morris had similar advantages the bulk of his career with the Tigers, who had Lance Parris, Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammell and Chet Lemon as up the middle fielders.

So, we need to put things in context. Despite pitching in a much more hitter-friendly environment, Schilling has a 3.46 to 3.90 edge in raw ERA. In ERA+, it’s 127 for Schilling and 105 for Morris. In 2012, Cliff Lee had a 127 ERA+ while Aaron Harang had a 105 ERA+. Imagine the benefits of having Lee over Harang for 18 years and you get the lifetime edge for Schilling over Morris.

Schilling had the edge in WHIP – 1.137 to 1.296. Schilling had a huge advantage in strikeouts (3,116 to 2.478) and his K/9 of 8.6 dwarfs Morris’ 5.8 mark. If we look at FIP, Schilling comes out on top by a 3.24 to 3.94 edge. And if we look at fWAR, Schilling destroys Morris by an 86.1 to 56.9 margin.

Even in narrative, Schilling tops Morris. Supporters of the Tigers pitcher point to his 1991 World Series performance. But does that hold a candle to the “Bloody Sock” game? I think not. Without Lonnie Smith’s baserunning gaffe, the Braves win the game and no one talks about it. And maybe fewer people would trot out an above-average pitcher as a Hall of Famer

Larry Walker – The first thing most people do when they hear Walker’s name is to dismiss him as merely a product of pre-humidor Coors Field. But is that fair to Walker? Shouldn’t we judge him based on what he actually did?

Let’s compare Walker to Jim Rice, another corner outfielder recently elected to the Hall of Fame. Both players played similar numbers of years and games in the majors and both played in good hitting ballparks. Here are their overall numbers:

JR – 9058 PA, 1,249 R, 2,452 H, 373 2B, 382 HR, .298/.352/.502 58 SB, 315 GDP
LW 8030 PA, 1,355 R, 2,160 H, 471 2B, 383 HR, .313/.400/.565 230 SB, 153 GDP

That’s not fair to Rice, as Walker played in a time when more runs were scored. So, let’s look at their top 10 years in OPS+, which will neutralize for ballpark and run environment.

JR – 157, 154, 147, 141, 136, 130, 127, 123, 122, 120
LW 178, 163, 160, 158, 151, 150, 142, 130, 130, 127

So, how can it be that Walker does better than Hall of Famer Rice in OPS+, which takes home ballpark into account? Because Rice had big, giant, humongous home/road splits that never got talked about in the mainstream media, ones nearly as big as Walker. Here are Rice and Walker’s home/road numbers:

HOME
JR – .320/.374/.546 with 208 HR (54%)
LW .348/.431/.637 with 215 HR (56%)

ROAD
JR – .277/.330/.459 with 174 HR
LW .278/.370/.495 with 168 HR

Coors in the pre-humidor days was a better offensive park than Fenway in Rice’s time, but not by all that much. In neutral road parks, Walker’s numbers dwarf those of Rice, to the tune of 76 points of OPS.

In reality, the edge is not that large due to offensive environments. In 1978, the AL scored 4.2 runs per game while the NL in 1997 scored 4.6 runs per game. But do you really think that less than half a run per game translates into 76 points of OPS? That’s the difference between David Wright and Ruben Tejada last year.

Let’s be exceptionally charitable and say that the run environment cancels out Walker’s road edge as a hitter, that the two are equals at the plate. Walker is still miles ahead because of his speed, because of his defense – Walker was a 7-time Gold Glove Award winner in right field while Rice was a below-average left fielder – and because he had half as many GDPs.

Finally, let’s use fWAR, which accounts for defense, too.

JR – 8.1, 6.6, 6.3, 5.9, 5.1, 4.3, 3.8, 3.1, 3.1, 3.0 = 49.3
LW – 9.4, 8.0, 5.8, 5.8, 5.2, 5.1, 5.0, 4.6, 4.5, 4.0 = 57.4

No matter if you prefer peak in three, five, seven or 10-year increments, Walker was simply a better player than Rice. Any sportswriter who voted for Rice absolutely has to vote for Walker if they are being honest with themselves. And any fan who dismisses Walker because of his home park really needs to take a deeper look at Walker’s adjusted stats.

*****

If given the chance, I would also vote for Craig Biggio, Kenny Lofton, Fred McGriff, Sammy Sosa and Alan Trammell. While my ballot is overflowing, I do not expect the BBWAA to elect anyone this year. Perhaps this will motivate the powers that be at the Hall of Fame to adjust the voting process, either by giving more detailed instructions to the current voters, or by changing the people who are allowed to vote.

19 comments for “My 2013 Hall of Fame ballot

  1. January 8, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    Ty Cobb notwithstanding, Roger Clemens is a thug and a sociopath and I would love to see him out on his ear.

    • January 8, 2013 at 3:28 pm

      I’m sure there’s a bunch of people in the HOF I wouldn’t want to associate with or meet in a dark alley…

  2. January 8, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    Charlie, you are correct. Clemens career was prolonged by very judicious use of HGH and we cannot judge what numbers one might have had sans PED.

    Clemens gave those of us in the lie detecting business a great deal of samples to use in teaching.

    Drugs and the Hall of Fame do not belong together. It is an insult to those who made it clean.

  3. Jonathan Joura
    January 8, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    I would be very surprised if nobody is voted in. I also disagree with you on Jack Morris. If you aren’t going to penalize steroid cheats, why should you penalize a pitcher for playing for good teams?

    • January 8, 2013 at 5:25 pm

      I don’t think it’s penalizing a pitcher for being on good teams – it’s just reinforcing the reason why you don’t judge a pitcher by how many Wins he has. Curt Schilling was on good teams, too.

  4. NormE
    January 8, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    Times have brought great changes to our baseball vision:
    Sabremetrics has given us a new way of measuring a player’s worth.
    Cable tv allows us to watch more baseball than ever before.
    The Internet has given us avenues of information an discussion that newspapers never could.
    Therefore, why do we need the BBWAA to be the authoritative voice for election to the HOF?
    One could go as far as questioning the whole HOF process, but that’s another argument.
    Can’t we find another electorate that would bring a more informed vote to the process?

  5. January 8, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    How can you say the “good” news is that Rafael Palmiero has 12 more tries to get into the Hall Of Fame? Take a good look at the 2002 Texas Ranger team and you’ll see how many players were using steroids. From the catcher (who I don’t wish to name but we all suspect) shortstop, first baseman, right fielder-JG, left fielder-RR. They are cheaters and to justify their entry to the H.O.F is an affront to those who are in there already. Barry didn’t need the steroids to be great but he made a decision and no one put a gun to his head. He made a choice and what he did violates all the rules of fair play. He wanted the glory and the single season home run record. Fact is he simply cheated. Don’t reward any of them for that. Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Palmiero and Sosa should never be elected. Finally what message are you sending when you say you would vote for players who circumvent the rules? What about all the players who you mentioned that are borderline Hall Of Fame? Is it fair to them that one of these cheaters takes their spot?

    • January 9, 2013 at 6:49 am

      Your stand on cheating is both noble and noted. When we go back and kick out all of the known cheaters from the HOF, I will support your position. Until the Hall of Fame makes these people ineligible, I will support their candidacy.

      • January 9, 2013 at 11:08 pm

        How does the Hall of Fame make these players ineligible? And if they did, who decides what the barometer should be? Is gossip and innuendo sufficient? The voting is subjective after all. I know that this is fast becoming a gray area. For me it just doesn’t seem right for someone like Clemens to get voted in alongside someone like Ken Griffey,Jr.

    • Joe V
      January 9, 2013 at 9:46 pm

      How can it be called cheating if those substances weren’t banned until the 2003 season? Mays, Stargell, Schmidt, Aaron, Koufax, and countless others all used amphetamines before they were banned. Should they be considered cheaters and not allowed in the Hall of Fame? Of course not. What is the difference with the steroids players, other than the effects of the drugs taken. Put Clemens and Bonds in the HoF, McGwire and Sosa are fringe candidates, but I’m leaning towards saying they should be in as well. You don’t put Palmiero in because he tested positive after they were banned.

  6. January 8, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    I got the outfielders backwards. JG played left field and RR played right.

  7. chuckihendrix9
    January 9, 2013 at 2:41 am

    I love your description of why Pitching Wins is not a good measure, and I agree. However, in defense of Morris, his 175 CG’s are mighty impressive and I think both he and Schilling deserve a spot. I was initially against Schilling since it looked to me like he only had 4 or 5 good seasons, but his career SO/BB ratio and WHIP is phenomenal and like Morris he was excellent in the Big Games. Piazza is obvious to me, and your argument for Bagwell is convincing as well. Walker’s mid to late 90′s numbers are sick, and was possibly the best overall hitter in that time (400 total bases is ’97, WOW). I like Biggio and his 5th All-time in Doubles,(Games Played and SB’s are All-time as well) but I don’t know, maybe not a 1st ballot.

    • January 9, 2013 at 6:46 am

      Jim Kaat had 180 CG and 283 Wins — is he a Hall of Famer? Mel Harder had 181, Billy Pierce had 185, Luis Tiant had 187, Claude Passeau had 188, Larry French Dutch Leonard and Lon Warneke had 192, Mickey Lolich had 195, Tommy Bridges had 200, Bucky Walters had 242, Bobo Newsom had 246, Paul Derringer had 251 — there’s at least a baker’s dozen pitchers who had more CG than Morris who are not in the HOF.

      He’s simply a good pitcher who played on very good teams the majority of his career. He had a career that 95% of players in the game would love to have. He’s just not a Hall of Famer.

      • chuckihendrix9
        January 9, 2013 at 1:51 pm

        Right, but c’mon considering the era, 175CG is a very high number. If you look at just the 80′s, he had 30 more than the next guy… and then on top of that his performances in the 84 and 91 World Series were dominant. 41 IP in 5 starts with a 1.53 ERA (Yes, I dismissed the 92 series). Its cool just a matter of opinion.

  8. Metsense
    January 9, 2013 at 8:27 am

    As a 50+ year fan of the game, I am an “a” choice when it comes to steroids because the game and it’s records became too distorted. It is a very personal and emotional feeling for me that the game I love was compromised and I don’t want those players rewarded.
    I hope Pizza makes it today. He really deserves it. You also make convincing cases to vote for Bagwell, Martinez, Raines, Schilling and Walker and I enjoyed the read. Hopefully there will be another Met hat joining the Franchise in the HOF tonight.

    • Chris F
      January 10, 2013 at 9:46 am

      Im with you Metsense, and now in hindsight obviously sad 31 wont be retired for another season. (Why 36 isnt is for another brain dump at another time).

      I also have perspective built from the professional cycling world. Look at the story behind Lance Armstrong. Extremely high visibility. Banished for life from competition by the USADA. A sport that has invested in doping to the point of near killing itself. And then sporting authorities the world over recognize a CHEAT for being a CHEAT. We cant control through the present media what happened in the past, and who did what. But keep in mind the doping tools from the 1990s onward are a breed apart. Steroids, EPO, HGH are game changers for athletics. While me loading up on steroids will never permit me to hit a HR against MLB pitching, a fraction of a percent improvement with real talent can result in amazing results for pros. If it werent the case, they wouldnt do it. In any event, the records brought by steroids and other doping tools are clear, and misrepresentative of human achievement. At a time when one of the most powerful of American athletes is now being vacated of all wins leaving Tour de France titles as “non-existant” for 7 straight years, at a time when this same individual has been banned for life from all competition, at a time when this same individual will likely be facing criminal and civil litigation, to bury our heads in the sand and permit into the pantheon of greats cheating frauds like Clemens and Bonds and McGwire and Sosa etc would be a travesty of justice in my opinion.

      Chris

      • NormE
        January 10, 2013 at 10:14 am

        While Brian Joura is usually quite persuasive in his arguments, this time I have to agree with Chris F when he states the “Steroids, EPO, HGH are game changers for athletics.” I love the line that they are “misrepresentative of human achievement.” Bravo!

  9. January 9, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    But Clemens career is suspect because he used the steroids to not only enhance but prolong his career(thus inflating his numbers). If you exclude his career numbers after he started the injections would he be a candidate for the H.O.F? At least Bonds in comparison had legitimate numbers and was already on his way to Cooperstown. I don’t know if Mays or any of the others you mention have been found to of taken anything illegal so unless you have evidence to the contrary I don’t think it’s fair to lump them into that group. Brian McNamee testified that he injected Clemens with steroids. Andy Petite also testified and admitted using.Either you believe them or not. If as you say it wasn’t illegal back then why not just admit it? The federal government can’t do anything to him anymore. Just like Lance Armstrong they value their image over the truth.

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