How do the Hall of Fame cases of Vladimir Guerrero, Johnny Damon, and Manny Ramirez stack up?
The waning days of a great player's career are rarely pretty, but it's one thing for that career to peter out with a smattering of at-bats amid a late-season farewell tour, quite another when the sudden realization of doneness is reached early in the season, suggesting that the player has taken things a bridge too far. Perhaps because teams have grown more rational when it comes to filling out the designated hitter slot and thus willing to spend less money on aging veterans, this spring found a handful of former star outfielders scrambling for jobs. Once given the chance to see if they have anything left to offer, they struggled. In light of myriad "Is he a Hall of Famer?" questions I've received via Twitter as they pertain to these cooked players, I figured it was time to round up a few for a quick JAWS-based look.
It's the end of a catching era; Pudge Rodriguez is hanging up the spikes.
Ivan Rodriguez is scheduled to announce his retirement on Monday, closing the curtain on a 21-year career in which he set standards for all-around play and longevity among catchers. Rodriguez played just 44 games with the Nationals last year, and while his name surfaced as a potential stopgap for the Royals when Salvador Perez went down with a knee injury in mid-March, the 40-year-old backstop apparently did not receive a formal offer from the club. No matter, his career is as complete as a Cooperstown résumé need be without crouching around waiting for Jonathan Sanchez to find the strike zone.
Who makes the Hall of Fame cut when faced against the Keltner Test and JAWS?
On Friday, I unveiled the catcher and infielders on what I'm calling the Keltner All-Stars, the best eligible player at each position outside the Hall of Fame. The name comes from former Indians third baseman Ken Keltner, who inspired Bill James' Keltner Test, a set of 15 questions that can be used to frame a player’s Hall of Fame case. The basis of my choices isn't that test. Instead, I'm using JAWS.
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What does the Keltner Test tell us about guys who should be in line for enshrinement?
Two years ago, following Andre Dawson’s election to the Hall of Fame, I took a trip around the diamond to identify the most worthy players at each position who remained outside of Cooperstown. The piece was a nod to Bill James, whose systematic Keltner Test—named for former Indians third baseman Ken Keltner, a set of 15 questions that can be used to frame a player’s Hall of Fame case—includes the question, "Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame but not in?" Since then, no fewer than four of the players in that lineup—Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven, Barry Larkin, and Ron Santo—have been elected, and the Wins Above Replacement Player system that underlies JAWS has changed significantly. Thus, it’s high time I take another spin and offer a new set of candidates.
Tim Raines has his case re-examined, and the remainder of the Hall ballot gets a look.
We all have our pet projects. With the graduations of Bert Blyleven and Ron Santo to the Hall of Fame, mine is now Tim Raines. During his 23-year major-league career, Raines combined the virtues of a keen batting eye, dazzling speed, and all-around athleticism with a cerebral approach that made him an electrifying performer and a dangerous offensive weapon. Yet in four years on the ballot, he's reached just 37.5 percent of the vote, exactly half of what he needs to reach Cooperstown.
Jay Jaffe and JAWS examine the starting pitchers on this year's Hall of Fame BBWAA ballot, starting with the inevitable Jack Morris.
After delivering the JAWS piece on first basemen earlier this week, I had planned to tackle the outfielders—Tim Raines, Bernie Williams et al—next. The sad news of Greg Spira'suntimely passingon Wednesday presented me with a reason to change course, however. In the service of working on a chapter on Jack Morris’s Hall of Fame case for Extra Innings: More Baseball Between the Numbersin November, I had called upon the Internet Wayback Machine to unearth Greg's seminal research piece questioning whether Morris "pitched to the score." a piece that was published in Baseball Prospectus 1997, predating Morris’s arrival on the BBWAA ballot by a three years and Joe Sheehan's own outstanding Morris research by five years. I suggested to Dave Pease that we republish it on our site to run alongside yesterday’s article in tribute to our fallen colleague and friend, a fine example of his intellectual curiosity and dogged research efforts, particularly as the work dated to a time when Retrosheet was in its infancy and the relevant data not easily compiled. This piece is dedicated to his memory.
The new JAWS runs up against players from the Steroid Era to determine their Hall worthiness.
As with comedy, timing is everything in baseball. "Hitting is timing," Hall of Famer Warren Spahn said famously, finishing the thought with the complementary observation, "Pitching is upsetting timing." A good chunk of both the game's traditional and advanced statistics, the ones that we spurn and those that we celebrate, owe plenty to being the right man in the right place at the right time—wins, saves, and RBI from the former camp, leverage, run expectancy, and win expectancy from the latter. ERA owes everything to the sequence of events. For better or worse, MVP votes are won and lost on the timing of a player's productivity, or at least the perception of it that comes with being labeled "clutch." Timing is a major part of how we measure the game, so it should matter when we look over the course of a player's career in evaluating his fitness for the Hall of Fame.
Only one middle infielder passes the revamped JAWS' standards for Hall of Fame induction.
The past year has been a great one for JAWS, the Hall of Fame evaluation system whose creation marked my first contribution to Baseball Prospectus back in 2004 (I didn't name it until the next go-round). In 2011, two overly qualified candidates for whom I've advocated for the better part of a decade were finally elected. In January, Bert Blylevenreceived 79.7 percentof the Baseball Writers of America vote, becoming the first player ever to gain entry on his 14th ballot. In December, the late Ron Santoreceived 93.8 percent of the vote from the Golden Era committee, a bittersweet result given his passing just a year ago but a vindication of what we've known here for years, that he too was worthy of a bronze plaque.
Redefining the JAWS equation sets a new standard for Hall of Fame induction.
This time of year is a busy stretch if you're a Hall of Fame buff, or at least this particular Hall of Fame buff. The 2012 BBWAA ballot was released on Wednesday, adding 13 new candidates to the 14 holdovers from last year's ballot. I'll start digging into the details of those candidacies starting at some point late next week. Meanwhile, the vote on the Golden Era candidates will take place at the Winter Meetings in Dallas this coming Monday, December 5; alas, I think I’m actually going to be in the air when the results are announced, but I’ll weigh in upon arrival. Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to discuss some of the Golden Era candidates on television as part of my debut appearance on MLB Network's new show, “Clubhouse Confidential.” It wasn't my first time on TV, but I believe it was my first time discussing JAWS in that medium. Explaining the system concisely AND discussing the merits of a handful of candidates in a four-minute span was certainly a challenge, but host Brian Kenny and his producers seemed quite pleased with the segment, and there’s reason to believe that it won't be the last time I appear on the show.
How well do the players on the Golden Era ballot stack up to Hall of Fame standards?
The Hall of Fame's Golden Era ballot has been out since November 3, offering 10 familiar names from the 1947-1972 era for Cooperstown consideration. This isn't the Veterans Committee anymore; when last year's reforms were announced, the words "Veterans Committee" were conspicuously omitted from all press releases. Rather, it's the second of three Era Committees to get its turn at bat, following last year's Expansion Era Committee, which voted on players from the 1973-1989 period and managers, umpires, and executives from 1973 to the present. Theoretically, next year’s panel will consider candidates from the Pre-Integration period (1871-1946), but the Hall has changed the rules so often lately that all bets are off.
The current career saves leader has left the building and ought to head to Cooperstown, but who else deserves to join him?
No sooner had Trevor Hoffmanannounced his retirement on Tuesday than the questions as to his Hall of Fame worthiness came into the conversation. With only five relievers already enshrined in Cooperstown, the ranks of the elected would appear to have plenty of room for the all-time saves leader, but then the same thing might have been said about Lee Smith a few years ago, and he has yet to crack the 50 percent threshold in his nine years on the ballot.
One left fielder on this year's Hall of Fame ballot clearly deserves induction.
Among the 19 holdovers on the Baseball Writers Association of America's 2011 Hall of Fame ballot, no player clears the JAWS standard at his position by a higher margin than Tim Raines—not Bert Blyleven, not Barry Larkin, and not Roberto Alomar, all of whom the system shows as being more than worthy of election. During his 23-year major league career, Raines combined the virtues of a keen batting eye, dazzling speed and all-around athleticism with a cerebral approach that made him an electrifying performer and a dangerous offensive weapon.