, , , , , , ,

HOFAs I have explained HERE, if I had a HOF vote, I would vote for these five players this year: Jeff Bagwell, Edgar Martinez, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines and Curt Schilling.

There are two other players who I would likely vote for in upcoming ballots: Craig Biggio and Kenny Lofton. Both players amassed impressive career stats, had fantastic peak years, and contributed to winning teams. Yet both lacked that extra punch offensively that – in my opinion – makes a first ballot Hall of Famer. One can make a decent argument that Lofton has better career numbers than Raines; while this may be true, Raines is in his 6th year of eligibility and so deserves, at this point, to get in. Lofton should get in eventually too, but in the name of prestige, I believe excellent (but not all-time great) players like Biggio, Lofton and Raines should be expected to wait a few years.

Mike Piazza

Mike Piazza

I prefer the trend of the last eight years, which saw only four players get in on their first ballot: Rickey Henderson, Cal Ripken, Wade Boggs and Tony Gwynn. In my opinion, the only first ballot hitter this year who measures up to those names is MIKE PIAZZA – the greatest hitting catcher the game has ever seen.

While Piazza was an awful defensive catcher, take a look at how he measures up offensively to three of the most famous catchers in history:

  G HR wRC+ OPS+
Mike Piazza 1912 427 141 143
Johnny Bench 2158 389 126 126
Yogi Berra 2120 358 124 125
Roy Campanella 1215 242 123 123

He is obviously in a league of his own. He made 12 all-star teams and finished in the top ten of NL MVP voting six times.

RainesTIM RAINES had the misfortune of playing in the shadow of Rickey Henderson throughout his career. Actually, while he was not of Henderson’s ability, he was not that far off. Raines is one of the greatest speed players of the modern era. While Lou Brock (a Hall of Famer) beat Raines in career hits and stolen bases, Raines had the higher batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage and a vastly higher stolen base rate. In fact, Raines’ stolen base rate is among the best ever. Check out the top five stolen base kings since 1920:

Rickey Henderson 1406 335 80.7
Lou Brock 938 307 75.3
Tim Raines 807 146 84.6 *
Vince Coleman 752 176 80.9
Joe Morgan 689 162 80.9

Of the 19 players to steal 500 or more bases since 1920, only Henderson, Joe Morgan and Barry Bonds have a higher wRC+ than Raines. During the 80’s, when Raines was at his peak, his wRC+ for the decade was higher than Hall of Famers Robin Yount, Tony Gwynn, Dave Winfield and Paul Molitor. Raines was a 7-time all star and finished in the top 10 in NL MVP voting three times.

Jeff Bagwell

Jeff Bagwell

JEFF BAGWELL‘s 83.9 WAR is second only to Albert Pujols among first basemen of the last 50 years. Of those players who played at least half of their games at first since 1962, Bagwell has the 5th highest wRC+ (149). He can also make a valid claim on being among the top ten best fielding first basemen during that span. He finished in the top 10 in NL MVP voting six times, winning it in 1994.

  fWAR wRC+ Fielding Baserunning
Jeff Bagwell 83.9 149 6.5 59.1
Eddie Murray 78.8 127 3.4 61
Willie McCovey 75.8 145 -0.04 -78
Tony Perez 67.8 121 14 -0.7
Orlando Cepeda 58.4 131 -10 0.4

While Bagwell never won a World Series title like the other players listed (all in the Hall), you can see from the numbers that he played at their level – or better. One other plus in his favor is that Bagwell played his entire career (2150 games) all with one team – the Astros. This feat is increasingly rare, but I believe it is in line with the spirit of non-statistical accomplishments needed for the Hall.

Edgar Martinez

Edgar Martinez

EDGAR MARTINEZ has an uphill climb towards the Hall. Since he played the vast majority of his career as a Designated Hitter, some people claim that his value was limited. Never mind that he had the 10th highest wRC+ (basically saying that he was the 10th best hitter) in all of baseball over the last 30 years. Yet I wonder at the logic of this argument. Is it not the duty of each player to fill the need of their team? Ever since 1974, the Designated Hitter has been a position in the American League, just like shortstop or second base. It takes particular skill – many, many hitters have attempted and failed to move from a fielding position to DH. What’s more, if someone like Martinez can fulfill the duty, it opens up the opportunity for the team to bring in an excellent fielder for another position. And like Bagwell, Martinez played his whole career with the Seattle Mariners, including the only four playoff-bound seasons in the Mariners’ 36 year history.

To judge Martinez’s accomplishments at the plate, let’s compare him to other players known primarily for their hitting. These players, just like Martinez, were unremarkable (or just plain bad) in the field, and not particularly fast on the base paths. All but Ortiz are in the HOF.

Edgar Martinez 148 0.312 0.418 0.515
Willie Stargell 145 0.282 0.360 0.529
Harmon Killebrew 143 0.256 0.376 0.509
Reggie Jackson 139 0.262 0.356 0.490
David Ortiz 137 0.285 0.380 0.547

Some of the greatest hitters of all time were a notorious detriment to their team while playing defense. Harmon Killebrew hit 42 homers in 1959 for the Senators, but also made 30 errors at 3rd base. Throughout his career, he was average at best, but more often worse than average. Yet he is in the Hall because of his bat. I believe the same consideration should be given to Edgar Martinez.

Curt Schilling

Curt Schilling

CURT SCHILLING, much like Tim Raines, was overshadowed  throughout most of his career: with Arizona he was a close second to the indomitable Randy Johnson, and in Boston he played second fiddle to perhaps the greatest pitcher in history, Pedro Martinez.  Yet Schilling was still one of the best pitchers of the Modern Era (i.e. 1920-present).

Schilling’s 73 FIP- score is 3rd since the Deadball Era. That is better than Koufax’s or Gibson’s. His 1.13 career WHIP is 6th in this Era, in a virtual tie with Tom Seaver, and better than Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens and Jim Palmer. His strikeouts-to-walks ratio (4.38) is the best since they moved the mound back to 60’6″, back in 1884. Let me repeat that: Curt Schilling has the best strikeout-to-walk ratio ever.

He made 6 all-star rosters, finished second in Cy Young voting three times, and struck out 300+ batters in three different seasons. Yet the most memorable aspect of Schilling’s career was his post-season performances. In 19 career playoff starts, Schilling posted a 2.23 ERA, and did even better than his all-time great regular season K-BB ratio, this time at an astounding 4.80 clip. He was awarded the NLCS MVP in 1993, the World Series MVP in 2001, and finished his career with three World Series rings.

As you can see here, Schilling matches up extremely well with some of the all-time great pitchers:

Curt Schilling 23.60% 5.10% 1.13 79 73
Roger Clemens 23.10% 7.80% 1.17 70 70
Greg Maddux 16.50% 4.90% 1.14 76 77
Sandy Koufax 25.20% 8.60% 1.11 75 75

While the next few years will see more decorated superstars like Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson enter the Hall, Curt Schilling belongs there with them.