Hall of Fame results day arrived on January 18. After months of waiting, the ballots (which made it through snail mail) were counted and the results officially became public. Ryan Thibodeaux did an excellent job with his ballot tracker as usual, but differences between those who provide public ballots and the electorate-at-large are well known. As a parallel exercise, our team of writers conducted its own Hall of Fame poll. This one followed the same rules as the BBWAA process (maximum of ten players on a ballot, 75% required for election), although these ballots were submitted electronically (thanks to SurveyMonkey). It even featured a “BBWAA-esque” delay, as the polls closed on the last day of 2016 and only last week did I park myself in front of the computer to write this. Fifteen writers voted in the poll, of which I was not one (I elected to abstain from voting in order to maintain objectivity). The results of the polling are shown below. BOLD denotes that a player met the equivalent election requirements (11.25 votes) while players receiving zero (0) votes have been omitted.
Raines, Clemens, and Bonds received unanimous support, while Bagwell, Martinez, Mussina, and Rodriguez also achieved election. I want to examine each in turn.
Raines’ election is the jewel of the class, given that this was his last year of eligibility. Historically, Raines has been unfairly contrasted with Tony Gwynn while at the same time being penalized for being Not Rickey Henderson. A cocaine scandal both on and off the field has also led to his omission by some. In reality, Raines’ 100.4 BsR (baserunning runs above average) ranks second all-time to Rickey Henderson, while his 807 steals rank fifth. Raines posted six consecutive seasons of 70 SB from 1981-1986, with a career-high 90 in 1983. Raines could also swing the bat, as he put up a .294/.385/.425 line (125 wRC+), while walking more than he struck out. Raines also had some very unique seasons in many aspects (see tweets by Ryan M Spaeder and Jon Paul Morosi).
Barry Bonds earns enshrinement as the fifth-best hitter (173 wRC+, tied with Rogers Hornsby and Lou Gehrig) and second-best overall position player of all-time. The all-time leader in home runs (762), Bonds also holds the single-season record of 73 in 2001. While the idea of “fear” is likely overblown, if any hitter generated #tehfear (h/t Keith Law), Bonds was the one. Bonds’ 20.3% walk rate is second all-time (Ted Williams, 20.6%), while his 688 intentional walks are the most for the time period over which the data is available and is greater than the combined totals of Hank Aaron and Albert Pujols, who rank second and third in this category. Put another way, Bonds was walked intentionally 5.46% of the time, or nearly one of every 18 plate appearances.
Bonds also had good baserunning ability in the early part of his career. He is the only member of the 400-400 club (762 HR-514 SB) while having a 40-40 season in 1996. Despite all this, perhaps no metric captures the greatness of Bonds more than Wins Above Replacement. Bonds’ 164.4 Fangraphs WAR ranks second behind Babe Ruth. He also holds three of the top 11 seasons, including a 12.7 fWAR 2002 — the best position player season not from Babe Ruth.
Notably, all of the seasons not held by Bonds in this table took place prior to racial integration of MLB. Restricting the search to the integrated era moves Bonds’ three seasons to the top, but he does not pick up any more in the top-11 window. Given the expanded player pool post-integration and the physical gains through training and nutrition made over time, Barry Bonds has a legitimate case to be the best player of all-time.
A steroid controversy surrounds Bonds, and may keep him out of Cooperstown for the foreseeable future, but as the voters here realize, the Hall of Fame will never be complete without him. As a parting gift, I want to share my favourite Barry Bonds moment, a battle with Eric Gagne in the middle of his 2003 Cy Young season:
What Bonds was to hitting, Roger Clemens was to pitching. Clemens is the all-time leader in pitching fWAR (139.6) and a seven-time Cy Young Award winner (Bonds was a seven-time MVP). His 1997 campaign ranks as the fourth-best season by fWAR in the post-integration era. Signing with the Blue Jays at the age of 34 after 13 years in Boston, Clemens went on to post a 2.05 ERA, 2.25 FIP and 10.7 fWAR in 264 innings, at the beginning of the “steroid” era. His black ink from 1997 includes the following: ERA (2.05), innings (264.0), strikeouts (292), ERA+ (222), FIP (2.25) and WHIP (1.030).
His career sagged by his lofty standards after a 1998-1999 offseason trade to the New York Yankees, though he would win three World Series rings and his sixth Cy Young there. The cherry on top for Clemens was a 2005 season in Houston (his hometown) where a 1.87 ERA, 226 ERA+ (career best), 2.87 FIP and 6.4 hits per nine innings all garnered black ink at the age of 42. While his final two partial seasons were unspectacular, Clemens’s 24-year career remains the gold standard for pitchers in terms of a full body of work. While Clemens’ unfortunate brush with PEDs and his tendency to “misremember” may keep him out of the Hall, BTTP writers know greatness when they see it and have bestowed the honor of induction upon him.
1993-2005 position player fWAR: 1) Barry Bonds, 2)… think fast… A-Rod? Nope. Ripken? Nope. Griffey? Nope. Out of ideas? So was I. I looked, and found Jeff Bagwell. Oh. Traded from the Red Sox to the Astros for Larry Andersen at the 1990 deadline, Bagwell is the quintessential quiet star. Amassing “only” 449 career home runs, Bagwell’s Baseball-Reference page features little black ink. The unanimous winner of the 1994 MVP award, he led the NL with a .750 slugging, 1.201 OPS, 213 OPS+, and 300 total bases. Unfortunately for Bagwell, the rest of his career was more defined by what he was not, similarly to what I discussed with Raines above. Other than winning the Rookie of the Year award in 1991, Bagwell was never a prominent figure in awards discussion before or after his MVP season. He deservedly lost to Larry Walker in the 1997 MVP race, as Walker posted a .366/.452/.720 line with 9.8 bWAR in what was to become his signature season. 1999 presented a more cruel fate, as he was blown out by Chipper Jones, despite Bagwell leading Jones in walks, OBP, steals and bWAR. Even Matt Williams got more first place votes for Arizona that year (two, to Bagwell’s one), on the strength of more hits and RBI, while being inferior in every other statistic or metric.
Edgar Martinez is the face of the Seattle Mariners. Martinez played his entire 18-year career with the franchise, finishing second in fWAR 65.5 behind only Ken Griffey Jr. The franchise leader in OBP (.418), he finished second to Ichiro in batting average (.312) and was the leader in wRC+ (147) at his retirement. Martinez gets criticized by some for being a designated hitter, having received his last significant field time in 1994 (64 games), but with the benefit of the metrics we have today, we can see that he had been a roughly average third baseman to that point (18 runs above average over parts of seven seasons).
Further overlooked are Martinez’s offensive contributions. Despite only 309 home runs, with only one season of 30, Martinez leads designated hitters in batting average, while finishing one point behind Frank Thomas in OBP (.418), third in wOBA (.405 behind Jim Thome’s .406 and Frank Thomas’s .416) and second in wRC+ to Thomas’s 154. Notably, he outperformed David Ortiz in all of these statistics other than home runs, a player whose Hall of Fame candidacy is in little doubt. Martinez’s best season was a seven-fWAR 1995 as a primary designated hitter, where he put up .356/.479/.628/.469 wOBA/182 wRC+/69.7 Off (BOLD is black ink). He was also the leader in OBP, wOBA and wRC+ for the 116-win 2001 Mariners (MLB wins record) and capped off his season like this:
“Quiet excellence” is the phrase I would use to describe the career of Mike Mussina. Over an 18-year career with the Orioles and Yankees, he pitched nearly 3600 innings, while posting ten seasons between 5.1 and 6.9 wins en route to 82.2 fWAR. Despite a Baseball-Reference page nearly devoid of black ink, he pitched the 40th most innings of the live-ball era, while his 2813 strikeouts ranked 18th over that span and his strikeout to walk ratio (minimium 2000 innings pitched) ranked nith (3.58) ahead of Hall-of-Famers such as Greg Maddux, Juan Marichal, Fergie Jenkins and Sandy Koufax. Mussina’s lack of a Cy Young Award or All-Star Game start will likely pose an unfair barrier to his induction for now, but he should get in down the road as the real ballot starts to unclog.
Ivan Rodriguez is the man they call Pudge. A stocky catcher, Rodriguez had an illustrious 21-year career, primarily with the Texas Rangers. Amassing 68.9 fWAR, he amassed 34.8 of those from 1996-2001 while batting .319/.355/.529 (119 wRC+) and throwing out 54.9% of attempted base-stealers over that span. Pudge picked up a World Series ring with the Marlins in 2003, and returned to the Fall Classic with the Tigers in 2006.
Thanks again to all voting participants for making this such an enjoyable exercise. Looking forward to next year.
Author’s note: The Effectively Wild Facebook group conducted a similar, larger poll that produced the same Hall-of-Famers with the exception of Mike Mussina.Next post: Counting Down the Days with the Best Baseball Has to Offer, Part II
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