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December 30, 2009

Prospectus Today

Virtual Hall-Worthy Selections

by Joe Sheehan

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I hadn't realized it until I went looking, but I've been pretty good about doing a Hall of Fame ballot each year. Mock, of course-I'm at least 11 years from having one, probably more, barring eligibility changes-but a fun exercise nonetheless. It can be a challenge to keep it fresh, as there are only so many ways to point out that Bert Blyleven is one of the 50 best starting pitchers in history, would raise the Hall standards for the position, and should therefore be elected.

This year's ballot features 15 new names, a surprising number of which deserve consideration and even induction. Of the 15, 11 can be dismissed respectfully with the idea that simply making a ballot is quite an honor in and of itself: Kevin Appier, Ellis Burks, Andres Galarraga, Pat Hentgen, Mike Jackson, Eric Karros, Ray Lankford, Shane Reynolds, David Segui, Robin Ventura, and Todd Zeile. By the way, writing that list of names made me want to cry; I'm so old that guys whose entire careers I remember are now being dismissed as Hall candidates. Shoot me now.

Of the four others, you have Roberto Alomar, who is something like the seventh- or eighth-best second baseman in history, and deserves swift induction. We may remember Alomar for the negatives-spitting in John Hirschbeck's face or the steep drop-off after 2001 that ended his career abruptly-but Alomar was a great player who had a broad base of skills, a second baseman who had five top-ten and two top-five MVP finishes, and someone who contributed to two World Series winners and seven postseason teams. While the 10 Gold Gloves Alomar won may have overstated his defensive prowess-early range-based statistics did not treat him well-his bat (2724 hits, 210 HR, .300/.371/.443) and legs (474 SB at an 80.6 percent success rate) make him a slam-dunk candidate for the Hall. Alomar is clearly more qualified than Ryne Sandberg, and was the game's best second baseman between Joe Morgan and our curiosity as to what Chase Utley may become.

Also on the ballot for the first time is Barry Larkin. As with Alomar, the first thing that comes to mind may not be his power/speed combination, his range afield, or his reputation as one of the smartest players in the game. No, you'll remember the time lost to injuries; in his 16 full seasons not interrupted by a work stoppage, Larkin averaged 126 games a year. That fragility cost him counting stats and MVP votes; you wonder what a full year of Larkin playing as he did in 1989 or 1993 or 1997 would have done for his award totals. He did win an MVP, in one of the most fractured votes ever in 1995, then finished 12th the next year while having one of the best seasons any player had in the decade. Larkin played longer than Alomar did-19-seasons, but all the missing time means he lags behind Alomar in every counting stat. When you compare Larkin to Hall shortstops, you find that he clearly belongs in Cooperstown. I don't think he gets there immediately, but Larkin will be inducted within his first five years on the ballot.

The two complete players should be in. The two sluggers I have more concerns about. Fred McGriff was one of my favorite players during his career, with that pretty left-handed swing, a great nickname and an aura of quiet class. It didn't hurt that he always had great Strat cards. (It did hurt that the Yankees traded him away for next to nothing.) I expected to be a lot more impressed by his Hall credentials, but Jay Jaffe's analysis gave me pause. McGriff actually comes in below the average Hall first baseman in JAWS, which isn't the be-all, end-all, but it was surprising. McGriff's total lack of speed and so-so defense limited his on-field value. He does have a series of other markers, such as playing for a number of winning teams, helping the 1993 Braves catch the Giants, and performing very well (.308/.385/.532) in the postseason. The JAWS figure, though, carries the day for now, and I would not add him to my virtual ballot.

The same goes for Edgar Martinez. It's not that I object to putting a DH in the Hall of Fame. It's just that the standard for doing so has to be incredibly high. Martinez, thanks in part to the criminally incompetent Mariners of the late 1980s, racked up just 2247 hits and 309 homers, figures that would be extremely low for a bat-only Hall of Famer. Also holding his stats down were some injuries that would keep him off the field and lead to his move to DH. The combination makes Martinez a great rate-stats candidate, but with career numbers that are terribly low and no defensive value. I just don't know if a player whose case is "a great peak as a DH" can be a Hall of Famer, and that goes for the inevitable candidacy of David Ortiz as well. There needs to be longevity as well, and Martinez doesn't have that the way a Hall of Fame hitter does. I'll keep him off my ballot this time around.

As far as the returnees go, I've been heard on all of them. Harold Baines, Don Mattingly, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, and Lee Smith fall short. Blyleven, Mark McGwire, and Tim Raines are fully qualified and should be in. Andre Dawson has a stronger case now that a clearly inferior peer, Jim Rice, has been inducted, but that's a lousy reason to list a guy on the ballot, and besides, if Rice is the standard going forward, get ready for some very long induction ceremonies.

That leaves Alan Trammell. I have yet to vote for Trammell, and you would think that the addition of a superior player in Larkin would make it that much less likely that I would. However, Larkin is clearly qualified, and Trammell is very close to him in JAWS. The main reason I'm changing my mind, however, is that I've been convinced that my primary objection to Trammell is bogus. Trammell was done as a regular shortstop at 32 (he never played 100 games at the position after that age) and had just one good year after that. That's very young for a Hall of Famer to be done. However, statistically, longevity is a case in Trammell's favor: 2293 games, 2139 at shortstop, 2365 hits, 185 homers… these things should work in his favor, and I haven't been giving him enough credit for them. Trammell's inability to marshal a reasonable decline phase has carried too much weight relative to the great player he was at his peak. The case has been made my many, in comments, in my inbox, by other BPers and writers, and I'm convinced I have had it wrong.

So my theoretical Hall of Fame ballot includes Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven, Barry Larkin, Mark McGwire, Tim Raines, and Alan Trammell. Andre Dawson, Fred McGriff, and Edgar Martinez all fall below the line.

---

The Mets get better by signing Jason Bay, but not by as much as you might think. Bay's defense is going to be a problem for them in left field, and I strongly suspect we've seen the best offensive years he's going to have. Maybe Angel Pagan isn't quite as good a player as he looked last season, and he's probably a true fourth outfielder, but the defensive difference between Pagan and Bay eats a chunk of the offensive gap between them.

You know what would make me like this signing? If it weren't Pagan, but Jeff Francoeur, who lost playing time to it. Were Pagan to platoon with Francoeur in left field, with the player not starting coming in for defense for Bay late in games, I think the Mets would be getting the most bang for their buck in the deal. They'd maximize their offense, solve a developing lineup-balance problem, and show an originality of thought that hasn't been there lately.

As you know, I recommended signing Matt Holliday, and I stand by that. The difference between what Bay will make and what Holliday will make is going to end up being about $2 million a season, which is far less a gap than exists between the players. You'd have to guarantee that fifth year for Holliday, but he's a year younger than Bay so you're talking about the same range of player-seasons. It's not that Holliday will be a bargain at five years and $90 million plus a vesting option, or six years and $114 million or whatever he's going to sign for; it's that his deal, compared to Bay's, is going to be a much better contract for the team that signs him than Bay's deal will be. If Bay costs $16 million a year, then Holliday is the better sign.

Anyway, the Mets still have Danny Murphy at first base, no starting catcher, and a big gap between their first starter and the rest of the rotation. If this is their last move, then they've wasted the money.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

19 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Andrew
(38)

Thanks for coming around on Trammell. Any chance he gets dinged due to his disastrous managerial career?

Dec 30, 2009 12:01 PM
rating: 0
 
ElAngelo
(942)

The problem with the Holliday/Bay dichotomy is that it assumes that Holliday would sign a 5 year/$90 million offer. If the rumors that he has a standing 8 year offer from St. Louis are to be believed, why would he take this deal?

Dec 30, 2009 12:08 PM
rating: 1
 
Matt Kory

If he had an eight year offer from St. Louis he'd have taken it already.

Dec 30, 2009 19:16 PM
rating: 0
 
ElAngelo
(942)

Disagree. Still think he wants the Yankees to make an offer.

Dec 31, 2009 05:59 AM
rating: 0
 
royalsnightly

I wouldn't dismiss Appier too strongly/quickly, he was better than people remember.

Rany wrote about him last month:

http://www.ranyontheroyals.com/2009/12/kevin-appier-retrospective.html

From 90-97 he was one of the very best SPs in the game.

Dec 30, 2009 12:37 PM
rating: 0
 
bhalpern

Forget for a while that you (and I too) like Kevin Appier and tell me if the following information would lead you to consider looking further at this pitcher as a potential Hall of Famer:

(All data from baseball-reference.com.)

Top 10 Cy Young votes: 1993 - 3rd
All-Star appearances: 1995

Black Ink 4 (461), Avg HOF P ≈ 40
Gray Ink 104 (198), Avg HOF P ≈ 185
HoF Monitor 32 (410), Likely HOF P ≈ 100
HoF Standards 24 (213), Avg HOF P ≈ 50

Top 10 Career Similarity Scores with
lifetime HOF votes:
1. Andy Benes (951) 0
2. Frank Viola (940) 2
3. Al Leiter (940) 0
4. Rick Sutcliffe (937) 9
5. Dave Stewart (936) 38,23
6. Jim Lonborg (934) 3,3
7. Bob Forsch (933) 2
8. Doug Drabek (933) 2
9. Dave Stieb (931) 7
10. Bob Buhl (927) 0






Jan 01, 2010 11:37 AM
rating: 2
 
yekkel

A Pagan/Francoeur platoon wouldn't really add much; neither can hit righties. Pagan averaged .259/.297/.459 and Francoeur averaged .263/.306/.397 versus right handers over the last three years.

Dec 30, 2009 12:54 PM
rating: -2
 
lopkhan00

You've listed Pagan's splits vs. lefties. He has hit .308/.364/.456 vs. righties over the last three years, including a very respectable .316/.360/.488 last year.

Dec 30, 2009 16:10 PM
rating: 3
 
Rider11

Joe - does Edgar not becoming a regular until age 27 change your perspective at all? I'm not sure why it should, exactly - maybe it adds to your argument. If he had played two mediocre years at 3B at the beginning of his career - giving him another 275 games there, and more in line w/ Molitor or Frank Thomas in terms of defensive presence - would that make him a Hall of Famer?

Dec 30, 2009 13:32 PM
rating: 2
 
BurrRutledge

The interesting thing about his candidacy is that he holds up very well if you compare him to first basemen, even with the fact he didn't get to play when he was younger. Check the JAWS analysis.

Since Ryan Howard is considered (by many) to be one of today's permier hitters who got a late start to his career, and he's not exactly a defensive gem, I think he makes a pretty good foil for reviewing Martinez.

In terms of WARP3, Howard would have to equal his 2009 performance another 9.5 seasons to match Martinez's career accumulation.

Slash stats:
Martinez: .312/.418/.515 with a .315 EQA.
Howard:.. .279/.376/.586 with a .310 EQA.



Dec 30, 2009 14:53 PM
rating: 3
 
Adam Hobson

Martinez may compare well to Ryan Howard, but I don't think Ryan Howard is any where close to a Hall of Famer now.

Dec 31, 2009 08:46 AM
rating: 3
 
Darsox64

In support of this, Bill James's criterion in the Historical Abstract was that he would add value if the player in question WAS an elite player, but was kept off the field by reasons outside of his control. Practically, this lends support to players who lost time due to war and players who were incompetently kept in the minor leagues. Edgar obviously falls into the latter situation. From 1987-1989, if given regular playing time, Martinez may well have averaged something like an adjusted .280-.350-.410 (I don't know what the DT's actually are) with fringe average defense at third. Wouldn't those extra ~350 hits in ~1400 PA done wonders for the beefiness of his career statistical totals?

Dec 30, 2009 17:44 PM
rating: 0
 
Richie

I also consider it doubtful that Holliday would sign for 5/$90 mil, and I have no doubt at all that Boras would extend negotiations on and on and on in hopes of increasing one or both sides of that equation. Meaning that in the end the Mets might face a choice of playing Pagan full-time, or playing and paying Holliday. Which of course is the situation Boras tries to create.

Dec 30, 2009 15:05 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

I don't know if Alomar is "clearly more qualified" to Sandberg. We're talking different offensive eras, after all. Their OPS+ are similar (116 for Alomar and 114 for Sandberg) and a difference in career warp1 of 4.6 (73.9 to 69.3). Also Sandberg sat out of the game for a year and a half from age 34-35 and didn't perform the same upon his return. It's possible, without that hiatus, that their career warp1 would've been similar.

Perhaps its nitpicking, and not saying Alomar isn't deserving, but I debate the "clearly more qualified" part. We're not talking a Tim Raines vs Jim Rice difference here.

Dec 30, 2009 16:27 PM
rating: 1
 
yankee

Joe,
Best wishes for a Happy and Healthy New Year. Your columns and the Yankees success made the 2009 season very enjoyable.
Best,
Paul

Dec 31, 2009 10:41 AM
rating: 0
 
fairacres

Joe - I am not of the logic behind your comment "It’s not that I object to putting a DH in the Hall of Fame. It’s just that the standard for doing so has to be incredibly high."

Why would the standard for induction of a DH be any different for that of any other field player or pitcher?

We want the standard for any player to be "incredibly high."

Martinez, over the course of the time he did play, was incredibly productive, and by many metrics, was one of the top offensive performers in baseball history -- but his career was short due to the inexplicable decisions of the Mariners to not bring him along, and due to injuries.

The other problem with your implicit line of reasoning is that, if DH's had decent defensive talent, they would not be DH's; they would likely be corners. And, since many players' route to the DH position is through stops at other positions, it may be some time before we see DH candidates that have career counting stats similar to OF-1B types.

Think of DH's as the other side of pitchers. Pitchers can pitch, but they can't hit -- but we don't devalue their HOF resumes because they are "one dimensional."

And, relief pitchers usually are relievers because they are not talented enough to be starters. That doesn't mean that we don't recognize those relievers that were the best relievers over time -- Eck, Hoffman, Gossage, Fingers, etc.

All players should be held to "an incredibly high standard", but I think that it is more appropriate to view that by primary position, and not think of some positions being a sub-class of players. . .

Dec 31, 2009 16:20 PM
rating: 0
 
John Hilton

Sorry, I tried to link to fairacres's comment, but could not.

I completely agree with fairacres. Edgar Martinez was without question one of the most talented hitters in baseball history. If we can enshrine Sandy Koufax with his overall pedestrian career numbers because of his incredible peak years from 1961-1964 (and I agree that he is a HOF), then the same principle should apply to other players. Simply put, if you had a single at-bat to win a game and you could choose one player, would anyone choose Jim Rice or Andre Dawson over Edgar Martinez? I must admit I feel bad about saying this because I agree with Joe's logic that just because an above average player got into the Hall (ie. Rice) doesn't mean other players of the same caliber should as well.

Dec 31, 2009 21:53 PM
rating: 0
 
Adrian

Courtesy of an excellent article by Dave Fleming, over at BJOL:

Lee Smith, ranked alongside all of the currently-enshrined relievers, plus Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman (for a total of 8) is:

- 3rd all-time in saves
- 5th in ERA+
- 4th in innings pitched
- 2nd in K/9
- 4th in save conversion
- 3rd in preventing inherited runners from scoring
- 3rd in terms of usage in high-leverage situations (only the two active relievers, Hoffman and Rivera, were used more often in those situations)
- 4th in Win Probability Added

Tell me that isn't a HOFer. Seriously. I used to dismiss Smith, and after learning all that, how can you not support him as a HOF candidate?

Jan 01, 2010 19:57 PM
rating: 0
 
hvonhaef

Why isn't Luis Tiant on the list? He should be there in a big way!

Jan 05, 2010 14:49 PM
rating: 0
 
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