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Entries in Hall of Fame (6)

Thursday
Jan102013

Who Are The Best Players To Fall Off The HOF Ballot In Year One? 

Lofton's all-around game failed to impress BBWAA voters during his first -- and unfortunately last -- year of Hall of Fame eligibility. The 2013 Hall of Fame vote will long be remembered as the year that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were denied entry into Cooperstown. Lost in the raging PED debate, however, is the fact that some noteworthy players fell off the ballot entirely during their first year of eligibility. Kenny Lofton, David Wells, Steve Finley, Shawn Green, Julio Franco and Reggie Sanders, among others, won't be in play in 2014 because they failed to garner the five percent of the vote necessary to stay on the ballot (Bernie Williams also got axed during his second year of eligibility).

Lofton's lack of Cooperstown love got us thinking: Who are the best players to fall off the ballot in their first year of eligibility since the 5% vote minimum was implemented in 1979? Here's a closer look at the top five players to fall short of 5%  BBWAA vote threshold in year one -- plus one guy who was initially snubbed but got the Hall call thanks to the Veterans Committee. The players are ranked by Baseball-Reference's Wins Above Replacement, which considers offensive, defensive and pitching value.

Lou Whitaker, 2001

Sweet Lou was a complete player, combining rangy defense at the keystone with superb strike-zone control and sneaky power for a player listed at 5-foot-11, 160 pounds. According to Baseball-Reference's Total Zone defensive system, the three-time Gold Glove Award winner saved 77 runs more than an average second baseman during the course of his career. At the plate, Whitaker had more walks (1,197) than strikeouts (1,099) and hit 244 home runs, sixth all-time among second baseman. With 71.4 career Wins Above Replacement, Whitaker trails just Eddie Collins, Joe Morgan, Nap Lajoie and Charlie Gehringer and bests recent Hall of Fame inductees at the position like Ryne Sandberg (64.9) and Roberto Alomar (62.9).

Despite that resume, Whitaker garnered a paltry 2.9% of the vote during his first and only year on the ballot. Perhaps voters focused on his so-so batting average (.276) and wheels (143 steals, 65.6% success rate) instead of his strong secondary skills and defense. Whitaker was a quality top-of-the-order hitter, but he didn't fit the speedy, slap-and-dash archetype.

Bobby Grich, 1992

Everything just said about Whitaker applies to Grich, too. Like Sweet Lou, Grich was an up-the-middle player with plus defense (+82 Total Zone runs, mostly at 2B but also with solid marks in limited time at shortstop), a good eye (.371 on-base percentage) and pop (224 career home runs) despite playing his home games in Memorial Stadium and Anaheim Stadium, both pitcher-friendly parks. The six-time All-Star's 67.8 WAR rank seventh all-time among second baseman.

Grich, who got just 2.6% of the HOF vote, also likely suffered from not playing the "little man's game." His career batting average was .266, and he stole 104 bases with a 55.6% success rate.

Ron Santo, 1980

This injustice was made right -- albeit posthumously -- when the Veterans Committee elected Santo to the Hall of Fame in 2012. The first time around, however, Santo got only 3.9% of the vote even though his WAR total at third base (66.6) ranks behind just Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, Wade Boggs, Chipper Jones and Brooks Robinson. The BBWAA later petitioned to have Santo and two other players who fell below the 5% threshold in their first year on the ballot (Ken Boyer and Curt Flood) reinstated, and they were. While Santo stayed on the ballot for a full 15 years the second time around, he never got more than 43.1% of the vote. The third time was a charm, thankfully.

Santo played solid defense at third (+27 TZ runs) and was one of the better hitters at the position, placing seventh in OPS+ (125). Maybe Santo and other third basemen aren't given enough props for playing a more difficult position and are instead lumped in with other sluggers at first base. There are fewer hot corner players in Cooperstown (15) than at any other position on the diamond.

Rick Reuschel, 1997

A doughy fellow who had the misfortune of pitching at Wrigley Field when it truly was a bandbox (Wrigley boosted offense between three percent and eleven percent during his Cub years), Reuschel had neither the shiny-looking ERA nor the high win total (214) of an archetypal Hall of Famer. When you adjust for Wrigley's gusting winds, however, Reuschel's ERA was 14% better than the league average. He also surrendered the second-fewest home runs per nine innings pitched (0.6) among Expansion Era starters topping 3,000 frames.

Reuschel's career WAR total (66.2) actually tops that of Jim Palmer (63.2) and Don Sutton (62.9), and it's in the same ballpark as possible 2014 first-ballot Hall of Famer Tom Glavine (69.3). If Reuschel pitched the bulk of his career in a more hospitable park and got more run support, he would have gotten more than a mere 0.4% of the vote.

Kenny Lofton, 2013

If Tim Raines is the poor man's Rickey Henderson offensively, then Lofton is the poor man's Rock. That's far from an insult -- Raines' on-base ability and high-percentage prowess once he reached should have landed him in Cooperstown years ago. Similarly, Lofton was an on-base fiend (career .372 OBP) who wreaked havoc on the bases. While he didn't keep up the dizzying stolen base pace he set during his first stint in Cleveland (he led the league in steals each year from 1992-1996), Lofton retained his wheels into his early 40s, finishing with 622 steals and a 79.5% success rate. The four-time Gold Glove Award winner was also a breath-taking center fielder during the first half of his career and saved +108 runs. That's fifth-best all-time among guys covering the middle pasture, behind just Andruw Jones, Willie Mays, Paul Blair and Devon White. When you consider that Raines was mostly a left fielder, and not a particularly graceful one, Lofton might just be Raines' equal in terms of overall value.

Lofton ranks a surprising seventh all-time in WAR (64.9) among center fielders, just ahead of Brooklyn Dodgers legend Edwin Donald Snider (63.1). Even so, he got just 3.2% of the vote this year. Maybe Lofton could have used a catchy nickname -- is Duke taken? Or maybe it would have helped him if he didn't switch unis so often that he became the unofficial pitch man for a shipping company. In addition to the Indians, Lofton also played for the Astros, Braves, White Sox, Giants, Pirates, Cubs, Yankees, Phillies, Dodgers and Rangers. He never spent more than one year with any of those clubs, and he was traded six times during his career.

Kevin Brown, 2011

Brown deserved better than the 2.1% of the ballot that he received a few years ago. Among starting pitchers who threw at least 3,000 innings during their career, he ranks 15th all-time with a 127 ERA+. On a per-inning basis, he was as effective as Curt Schilling, Tom Seaver and Bob Gibson. Don't get the strait jacket out -- I'm not suggesting Brown was anywhere near the caliber of pitcher that Seaver or Gibson were. Seaver threw roughly 1,500 more innings than Brown, and Gibson about 600. But Brown's career WAR total (64.3) puts him in Palmer/Sutton territory. Surely that's worth more than a dozen votes.

Brown likely fell off the ballot because he was named as an alleged user of Human Growth Hormone in the Mitchell Report and made a godawful impression in the country's biggest media market. He had an ERA near five during two injury-riddled years with the Yankees. Some of those maladies were self-inflicted (he punched a wall in frustration in September of 2004), others were courtesy of the Sox (David Ortiz took him deep during a two-inning disaster start in Game 7 of the '04 ALCS). This sort of stuff, coupled with a low win total (211), draws the ire of sports writers.

Whitaker, Grich, Reuschel, Lofton and Brown aren't the only guys whose legitimate Cooperstown cases were short-circuited. Here are the top 20 players who fell off the ballot during their first year of Hall of Fame eligibility:

     Highest career WAR totals for players knocked off HOF ballot in Year 1

Wednesday
Jan092013

Hall of Fame Live Reaction Log

Here are some quotes related to today's MLB Hall of Fame Announcements:

"My view (and I may have a vote in 7 years) is that voters should look at what happened on the field and go from there. I would not be surprised by it being revealed that a particular player took PED's. No revelation would surprise me. So for me, playing this gotcha game with BondsClemensSosa etc is futile. Sure we know about some of them, but Babe Ruth and Pud Galvin were injecting themselves with ground up sheep and guinea pig testicles 100 years ago, so IMO we should look at what happened on the field and base votes on that."

-Sean Forman (Baseball-Reference Founder)

Source: BaseballAnalytics.org (3 Up 3 Down)

"I recognize that snark is the preferred mode of communication in a breathless social-media environment full of knee-jerk reactions and instant expertise. But all those preparing to get lathered up, take a deep breath and calm down."

-Ken Rosenthal (Fox Sports)

Source: Fox Sports.com

“I was a little surprised. I didn’t think he would get in the original ballot, and he and (Roger) Clemens really did not get the votes I thought they would. But it’s the first time out for both of them. For me, the numbers will go way up next year. I”m not saying they’re going to get in next year, but I believe their totals will rise.”

-Jim Fregosi

Source: SFGate.com

"Yes, I'd vote The Rocket in. Outside of Pedro Martinez, he was the greatest pitcher of my generation.

And let big game hurlers Curt Schilling, David Wells, and Jack Morris into the HoF club, too.

Despite Rusty Hardin's legal snakery, I believe there was overwhelming evidence that Clemens used performance enhancing substances after he left Boston.

But I have an unconditional soft spot for the prickly old Red Sox ace, having seen him at his best so many times in the 80s and 90s and after seeing him return to Boston last fall for three nights at Fenway, sitting behind Pedro at Johnny Pesky's memorial ceremony in September like he's been here the whole time."

-Steve Silva (Boston.com Sports Producer)

Source: BaseballAnalytics.org (3 Up 3 Down)

If there's anything we've learned from the 2013 Hall of Fame election, it's that what we're doing now isn't working. You'd never know it from the balloting, but the '90s happened.

-Jayson Stark

Source: ESPN.com

As long as the vote is in the writers' hands, they are duty bound to induct the best players. Doing so with a three-quarters vote should prove difficult, lest the Hall turn into any more of a watered-down version than it already has thanks mostly to the backslapping Veterans Committee. At the same time, all writers must understand – and perhaps it is the Hall's charge in the coming years to remind them as much – that this vote is about the player and his merits, not the moralistic preening of people who have been told to commingle something evident and measurable (performance) with something so subjective (character).

-Jeff Passan

Source: Yahoo! Sports

Today's news that those members of the BBWAA afforded the privilege of casting ballots failed to elect even a single player to the Hall of Fame is unfortunate, if not sad. Those empowered to help the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum document the history of the game failed to recognize the contributions of several Hall of Fame worthy players. To ignore the historic accomplishments of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, for example, is hard to justify. Moreover, to penalize players exonerated in legal proceedings -- and others never even implicated -- is simply unfair. The Hall of Fame is supposed to be for the best players to have ever played the game. Several such players were denied access to the Hall today. Hopefully this will be rectified by future voting.

-Michael Weiner, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association

Source: CBSSports.com

Major League Baseball recognizes that election to the Hall of Fame is our game’s most extraordinary individual honor.  Achieving enshrinement in Cooperstown is difficult, as it should be, and there have been seven other years when no one was elected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.  While this year did not produce an electee, there are many worthy candidates who will merit consideration in the future.  We respect both the longstanding process that the Hall of Fame has in place and the role of the BBWAA, whose members have voted in the Hall of Fame’s elections since 1936.

-Major League Baseball Press release

Source: MLB.com

What we should take from this ballot is that it was a tough one for voters.

This was the first major steroid-effected season because the biggest steroid names were involved. So many voters had no idea what to do with this vote. For some it was black and white, and for most it was a torturous process.

There are no conclusions to be drawn here other than voters didn’t want to reward steroid use or perceived steroid use. They disapproved of the steroid era, as great as Clemens and Bonds were. So we’ll see how this evolves. As I wrote, it’s evolved quite a bit from where it started. And the process will go on.

-Nick Cafardo

Source: Boston.com

Mets COO Jeff Wilpon expressed both disappointment and confidence about Piazza's snub on Twitter.

"We hope in the not too distant future that Mike Piazza will take his rightful place in the [Baseball Hall of Fame,]" Wilpon said. "The statistics he compiled during his career as a catcher were unmatched by anyone in the history of the game. The statistics he compiled during his career as a catcher were unmatched by anyone in the history of the game"

-Anthony Sulla-Heffinger

Source: NY Post

Wednesday
Jan092013

If Jack Morris is a Hall of Famer, Then So is...

If Jack Morris is a Hall of Famer, then so is David Wells.Let's be honest: You're probably sick of hearing Jack Morris Hall of Fame arguments. To his boosters, Morris was an ultra-durable gunslinger who just knew how to win. They don't need to look at his numbers. The 6-foot-3, 195 pound righty screamed "ace" with his sinister forkball and 'stache that put Tom Selleck to shame (can we all at least agree that Morris is a first-ballot Mustache Hall of Famer?) To his detractors, Morris was a good but hardly great pitcher who would have the highest career ERA (3.90) of any Hall of Fame inductee. If Morris "pitched to the score," clamping down on opposing hitters in crucial moments, it doesn't show up in the stats. His career on-base-plus-slugging percentage allowed was virtually the same in those white-knuckle moments (.695 in High Leverage spots) as it was in blowouts (.694 in Low Leverage situations).

But I'm not interested in having another Morris debate, as there has seemingly been one for every inning the former Tiger, Blue Jay, Twin and Indian tossed during his 18-year career. I'm more interested in looking at other starting pitchers who had Morris-like careers but didn't come anywhere close to Cooperstown (or don't figure to garner strong vote totals). Using Baseball Reference's Play Index Tool, I searched for pitchers who threw over 3,500 innings with an ERA+ between 100 (exactly average) and 110. For context, Morris threw a little over 3,800 innings with a 105 ERA+.

If Morris (bolded below) is a Hall of Famer, then these guys should be too:

PlayerERA+IPFromTo
Paul Derringer 108 3645 1931 1945
Jim Kaat 108 4530.1 1959 1983
Bob Friend 107 3611 1951 1966
Bobo Newsom 107 3759.1 1929 1953
Charlie Hough 106 3801.1 1970 1994
Dennis Martinez 106 3999.2 1976 1998
Frank Tanana 106 4188.1 1973 1993
Jack Morris 105 3824 1977 1994
Mickey Lolich 104 3638.1 1963 1979
Sad Sam Jones 104 3883 1914 1935
Jamie Moyer 104 4074 1986 2012

 

It remains to be seen whether Jamie Moyer gets any Cooperstown consideration, but history isn't on his side. Since 1979, players have had to receive at least five percent of the vote to remain on the Hall of Fame ballot in subsequent years. Frank Tanana didn't receive a single vote in his first year of eligibility, while Charlie Hough (0.8%) and Dennis Martinez (3.2%) also fell off the ballot right away. Mickey Lolich, one of the greatest postseason pitchers ever, peaked at 26% of the vote before tailing off, while Jim Kaat never got higher than 29.6%.

This list also leaves off guys who didn't last quite as long as Morris, but were better on a per-inning basis. For instance, David Wells (on the ballot for the first time this year) pitched 3,439 innings with a 108 ERA+. The only difference between his case and Morris' is two seasons of bad pitching -- had Wells thrown 400 more innings with an ERA that was 20 percent worse than average, he'd have the same stats as Morris. He even had a great 'stache! But alas, Baseball Think Factory's ballot tracker shows that Wells is polling at less than one percent.

Is Morris, climbing closer to Cooperstown as his 15 years of eligibility wind down (he got 66.7% of the vote during his 13th year in 2012), a Hall of Famer? That depends on whether you're a (really) Big Hall or a Small Hall person. But if Morris is enshrined, then guys like Boomer and Moyer deserve plaques as well.

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