Monday, December 31, 2012

My 2013 Hall of Fame Ballot -- Bagwell, McGwire, Piazza, Raines and more

I've done Hall of Fame ballot posts in the past, but this one is more than just another ballot for me. As a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, my vote is counted with all IBWAAers to see how the votes differ from that of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Something every voter -- IBBWA or BBWA -- must decide is how to vote for those who were caught or admitted using performance-enhancing drugs. Not only must a voter decided how he or she will handle it, but it must be consistent.

I know guys like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were first-ballot guys before they even (allegedly) touched a syringe or any kind of oils. I get that. However, my own personal feeling is they need to be punished in some way for that use. Yes, their reputations are tarnished and will always be, but I cannot bring myself to vote for a known PED user or someone who had all kinds of evidence pointing in that direction on the first ballot. The second or third ballot? Sure. But they're not first-ballot-worthy in my book.

My ballot

Jeff Bagwell
Barry Larkin (not elected by IBWAA, thus still eligible)
Edgar Martinez
Mark McGwire
Mike Piazza
Tim Raines
Alan Trammell
Gil Hodges (IBWAA special-consideration candidate)
Marvin Miller (IBWAA special-consideration candidate)

A star-studded cast for sure. I'll break them down candidate-by-candidate (sans the special-consideration candidates). Last year's BBWAA vote in parenthesis.

Jeff Bagwell (56.0)

- Here's what I wrote about Bagwell on last year's ballot (well, my blog post, at least):
"Bagwell was one of the most fearsome hitters of the 1990s, posting an average season of .304/.416/.545, 29 HR, 107 RBI, 35 2B, 102 R, 98 BB. That includes his first two seasons, including a Rookie of the Year award in 1991 and two strike-shortened seasons. His career took off in 1994 when he slugged 39 home runs, drove in 116 runners and posted an obscene 1.201 OPS. Those numbers were good enough to earn him the NL MVP that season. From 1994 to 2003, he averaged the following: .301/.420/.574, 37 HR, 116 RBI, 36 2B, 116 R and 107 BB. So it seems his 1994 season (minus the .368 batting average and .750 slugging percentage) would set the tone for the rest of his career. The only reason he wasn't a surefire first-ballot guy was phantom steroid/performance-enhancing drug allegations. I left him off last year because I didn't envision him as a first-ballot guy in general (side note: he was one of my favorite non-Dodgers in the '90s). Upon further review, it appears I was mistaken. The guy put up some amazing numbers and should be rewarded as such.
Nothing Bagwell did in the last 12 months has changed my mind (humor intended).
Most impressive season: 1994, Houston: .368/.451/.750, 39 HR, 116 RBI, 32 2B, 104 runs scored, 213 OPS+, 8.9 bWAR, 7.8 fWAR
Extrapolated for 162-game schedule (155 games played): .368/.451/.750, 55 HR, 163 RBI, 45 2B, 146 runs scored

Barry Larkin (86.4, elected)

- Here's what I wrote about Larkin last year. I'm honestly not sure why he wasn't elected by the IBWAA last year.
"Much like Roberto Alomar, when you thought of shortstops in the '90s, Larkin was one of the first guys you thought of. Not only was he a solid defender, he was pretty good with the bat -- so much so that he took home the 1995 NL MVP. He was a consistent hitter, putting up a career line of .295/.371/.444 and was the face of the Cincinnati Reds franchise for the better part of 13 years."
Most impressive season: 1996, Cincinnati: .298/.410/.567, 33 HR, 89 RBI, 36-for-46 in SB, 117 runs scored, 154 OPS+, 7.4 bWAR, 6.8 fWAR

Edgar Martinez (36.5)

- A lot of repeat guys, so you're going to see this line a lot: what I wrote about him last year.
"I'm a National League guy. I'm staunchly opposed to the designated hitter, but Martinez was such an incredibly talented hitter that it's a little easier to look beyond the fact he played the vast majority of his games as a designated hitter. Nevertheless, he put up some awfully impressive numbers: .312/.418/.515 career slash line. He was Ken Griffey's primary protection for the great Seattle teams of the '90s. He led the Majors in batting in 1992 (.343), but that wasn't nearly his most impressive showing. His 1995 season was one of his best, leading the AL in batting and runs scored. He led the Majors in on-base percentage, OPS, OPS+ and doubles that season. Martinez is one of the most underrated hitters of all-time. He would have been a shoo-in first-ballot guy if he played in the field. There has to be precedent for a designated hitter making the Hall, so why not the best one of all time?"
Yeah, this guy needs to be in the Hall. The DH can go to hell, but Martinez shouldn't be penalized for being one of the greatest hitters of the 1990s.

Most impressive season: 1995, Seattle: .356/.479/.628, 29 HR, 113 RBI, 52 2B, 121 runs scored, 185 OPS+, 7.7 bWAR, 7.5 fWAR
Extrapolated for 162-game schedule (162 games played): .356/.479/.628, 32 HR, 126 RBI, 58 2B, 135 runs scored

Mark McGwire (19.5)

- I've never written about McGwire before. It's hard to come up with a set of rules to go by when it comes to those who used PEDs (reference the beginning of this piece). McGwire had a fantastic career. He wasn't a guy who was going to shorten his swing to go the other way or hit behind a runner to move him up, he was the quintessential power-hitter. He didn't hit for a high average, but he hit a ton of balls over the fence. That's what he was paid to do. He hit 42 or more home runs six times in his career. While he'll always be remembered for his 70 homers in 1998, his 49 home runs in his rookie season of 1987 was pretty impressive.

McGwire put up some ridiculous numbers, including a .394 on-base percentage. His career slugging percentage (.588) is good for eighth-best in Major League history. Despite the PED use, he had a Hall of Fame career. He'll be held out for a long time by the BBWAA and I'd actually be a little surprised if he were voted in by the writers during his time on the ballot.

Most impressive season: 1998, St. Louis: .299/.470/.752, 70 HR, 147 RBI, 162 BB, 130 runs scored, 216 OPS+, 7.2 bWAR, 8.8 fWAR

Mike Piazza (first year eligible)

- Piazza is my favorite player of all-time and he's the best offensive catcher of all-time. A 62nd-round draft pick, Piazza was never a defensive dynamo and was drafted as a favor to his father by Tommy Lasorda, Piazza's godfather. Man, did the Dodgers knock that one out. Piazza. He had a cup of coffee in 1992 before exploding onto the scene in 1993. Piazza took home Rookie of the Year honors after a .318/.370/.561 with 35 home runs, 112 RBI in 149 games. That was the first of a 10-year stretch in which he was a superior offensive force behind the plate. From 1993 to 2002, his average season was .322/.389/.579 with 35 home runs, 107 RBI, 25 doubles, 85 runs scored and 56 walks. And his 1997 season will go down as one of the best (if not the best) by a catcher ever. Sadly for me as a fan of his and the Dodgers, he was unceremoniously traded to the Marlins during the 1998 season -- a trade that should have never happened.

After a great run with the Mets, Piazza had a couple one-season stints in San Diego and Oakland before hanging up his cleats. He'll always be my favorite player and should be a first-ballot guy. Some will use suspected PED use (ala Bagwell) to keep him off their ballots. It's completely unfair, but expected.

While he'll likely go into the Hall as a Met, he'll always be a Dodger to me.

Most impressive season: 1997, Los Angeles: .362/.431/.638, 40 HR, 124 RBI, 201 H, 104 runs scored, 185 OPS+, 8.5 bWAR, 9.4 fWAR

Tim Raines (48.7)

- Here's what I've written about Raines the last two years.
"Aside from Rickey Henderson, Raines is the best leadoff hitter of the last 50 years. Batting first, he had a slash line of .294/.385/.427. Surprisingly, he spent a lot of time batting second and third in his career (2841 plate appearances), but he will always been known as a leadoff guy. He had a four-year stretch from 1981-84 in which he led the National League in stolen bases -- 71, 78, 90, 75 respectively. In 1981, a strike-shortened season, he stole those 71 bases in 88 games."
There's a big push from the Internet community to get Raines in the Hall. Here's hoping it happens. He deserves it.

Most impressive season: 1987, Montreal: .330/.429/.526, 18 HR, 68 RBI, 50-for-55 in SB, 123 runs scored, 149 OPS+, 6.8 bWAR, 6.9 fWAR

Alan Trammell (36.8)

- Like Raines, here's what I've written for the last two years.
"Trammell is a lot like Larkin. When you think of the Tigers in the 1980s, Trammell is the first guy you think of. He, along with Cal Ripken, were the first two guys to redefine the shortstop position, as they were offensive (the good offensive) players. However, they didn't sacrifice defense for offense. From 1983-90, Trammel had an .813 OPS as a shortstop. In a time when shortstops were 'glove-only' guys, it was almost unheard of. He also has the 72nd-best WAR of all-time (66.9), 0.2 points in front of Dodgers' Hall-of-Famer Pee Wee Reese. He's also 0.2 points ahead of former Dodger Eddie Murray."
If Larkin is a hall of famer, so is Trammell. They have the same career bWAR (although Trammell accumulated it in 113 more games).

Most impressive season: 1987, Detroit: .343/.402/.551, 28 HR, 105 RBI, 21-for-23 in SB, 155 OPS+, 8.4 bWAR, 7.9 fWAR

I left some noteworthy guys off my ballot (aside from Bonds and Clemens), most notably Craig Biggio, Kenny Lofton, Curt Schilling and Larry Walker. Those guys should all get into the Hall of Fame someday. Ballots are limited to 10 selections and I had nine, so there's no way I could have fit everyone on there. All except Walker are first-timers. Biggio is a member of the 3,000-hit club and will get in. Hell, I'll probably vote for him next year. Lofton is a lot like Raines. He deserves to get in, but it might take awhile. Schilling didn't strike me as a hall-of-famer, but the more I look and read, it seems he is indeed worthy. Walker is a candidate whose stock has improved over time, thanks to advanced statistics.

It'll be interesting to see how many votes Bonds and Clemens get. They won't get it, but seeing how many actually voted for them will be interesting.

Of all the first-timers who aren't PED guys, Piazza has the best chance of going in on the first ballot. Hopefully guys like Bagwell and Raines (at minimum) join him. More likely, guys like Jack Morris and Dale Murphy make it.

Photo credits
Bagwell: shgmom56, Flickr
Larkin: Rick Dikeman, Wikimedia Commons
McGwire: Keith Allison, Flickr

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