My Take on the 2009 Hall of Fame Ballot

For my first post here at BaseballTwit, I want to take a quick look at the 2009 Hall of Fame ballot and let you know where I stand on each candidate. The Hall of Fame is one of my favorite topics, thanks to the endless debates it produces. Plus, I’m sure you’ll get a good idea of where I stand on certain stats and player attributes from this article.

First, Sean over at Baseball-Reference put together this handy table of the players on the ballot. With just 23 players on the ballot, this is actually the smallest Hall of Fame ballot ever. Here are the candidates:

Alan Trammell SS .285 .352 .415 110 2365 185 1231 1003 236
Jay Bell SS .265 .343 .416 101 1963 195 1123 860 91
Matt Williams 3B .268 .317 .489 112 1878 378 997 1218 53
Andre Dawson CF .279 .323 .482 119 2774 438 1373 1591 314
Dale Murphy CF .265 .346 .469 121 2111 398 1197 1266 161
Dave Parker RF .290 .339 .471 121 2712 339 1272 1493 154
Ron Gant LF .256 .336 .468 112 1651 321 1080 1008 243
Rickey Henderson LF .279 .401 .419 127 3055 297 2295 1115 1406
Tim Raines LF .294 .385 .425 123 2605 170 1571 980 808
Jim Rice LF .298 .352 .502 128 2452 382 1249 1451 58
Greg Vaughn LF .242 .337 .470 112 1475 355 1017 1072 121
Mo Vaughn 1B .293 .383 .523 132 1620 328 861 1064 30
Don Mattingly 1B .307 .358 .471 127 2153 222 1007 1099 14
Mark Grace 1B .303 .383 .442 119 2445 173 1179 1146 70
Mark McGwire 1B .263 .394 .588 162 1626 583 1167 1414 12
Harold Baines DH .289 .356 .465 120 2866 384 1299 1628 34

Bert Blyleven 287 250 242 60 0 3.31 118 4970 3701 1322
David Cone 194 126 56 22 1 3.46 120 2899 2668 1137
Tommy John 288 231 162 46 4 3.34 110 4710 2245 1259
Jack Morris 254 186 175 28 0 3.90 105 3824 2478 1390
Jesse Orosco 87 80 0 0 144 3.16 125 1295 1179 581
Dan Plesac 65 71 0 0 158 3.64 117 1072 1041 402
Lee Smith 71 92 0 0 478 3.03 131 1289 1251 486

My “Votes”

Alan Trammell—I’m on the fence.
What a way to start, with an “I don’t know”. I feel that if we hadn’t seen the offensive renaissance from the shortstop position this wouldn’t even be a question. He’d be in. He felt like a Hall of Famer when he played, that’s for sure. He got the Gold Gloves (4) and Silver Sluggers (3), and was a 6-time All Star. But I would have thought his OPS+ (110) would have been higher. His #1 similar player (on B-R) is Barry Larkin, a sure Hall of Famer in my book. But after that he is followed by B.J. Surhoff, Lou Whitaker, Ray Durham, and Julio Franco (all of whom will miss BBWAA induction). I think Trammell will suffer the same fate, but I can definitely see the Veteran’s Committee inducting Trammell (and perhaps Whitaker as well). And I think that’s okay.

Jay Bell—No.
If he had more seasons like his 1993 and 1999 campaigns (124 and 131 OPS+, respectively) it’d be a different story. Instead, it was “just” a solid career, which is nothing to take lightly.

Matt Williams—No.
Another combination of power (4 Silver Sluggers) and defense (4 Gold Gloves), Williams had four straight seasons with OPS+ figures between 134 and 176. He had several other good seasons, but his 378 home runs, .317 OPS, 112 OPS+, and 1878 hits are relatively low figures for a masher. B-R lists Williams’ most similar player as Vinny Castilla.

Andre Dawson—Yes.
While his .323 OBP is nothing to write home about, it is the only major flaw on Dawson’s resume. He’s got the hardware (MVP, ROY, 8 Gold Gloves, 4 Silver Sluggers, 8-time All Star), impressive counting numbers (2774 hits, 438 homers, 1591 RBI), and a solid OPS+ of 119. His similar players list is littered with both Hall of Famers (Billy Williams, Tony Perez, Al Kaline, Ernie Banks, Dave Winfield) and those on the cusp (Dave Parker, Harold Baines, Luis Gonzalez, Dwight Evans, Gary Sheffield). He’s no slam dunk, but he’s a Hall of Famer.

Dale Murphy—No.
I say no, but if he got in I wouldn’t complain. What hurts Dale Murphy is that (relatively speaking) he disappeared after 1987. At that point, it looked like there was no way he’d miss the Hall. Two MVPs, 5 Gold Gloves, 4 Silver Sluggers, 7 All Star selections—all by the age of 31. But after a monstrous 1987 campaign, he never hit above .245 or more that 24 homers again. The fact that his career totals are 2111 hits, 398 home runs, and 1266 RBI aren’t applauded—they are shrugged off because of what should have been. In 2000, he peaked at 23.2% of the vote. He’ll make case with the Veteran’s Committee since they will remember the monster he was.

Dave Parker—No.
As Trammell’s career numbers were worse than I remembered, Parker’s were much better. I never saw the beast he was in the late 1970s, though. So, why are 2712 hits, 339 homers, 1493 RBI, an MVP, 3 Gold Gloves, and 3 Silver Sluggers being taken so likely by voters? It’s his weird 5-year slump from 1980 to 1984. I couldn’t explain it any better than Baseball Crank:

The five years Parker spent mailing it in because he was fat and on drugs just kill his candidacy. It’s great that he turned things around, but the ship sailed while he was snorting with the Parrot, and we should cut him no slack for what might have been.

Ron Gant—No.
Gant was a heck of a power/speed threat in his early years with the Braves. He just didn’t last long enough at that level. He put in a long, solid career but just like Reggie Sanders and Jeromy Burnitz (his two most similar players on B-R), he won’t be going to Cooperstown.

Rickey Henderson—Yes.
The debate with Rickey is not whether or not he is a Hall of Famer, but where he ranks on the short list of the greatest players in the history of the game. He got on base 5343 times. Add his career record for stolen bases (1406) and that’s a lot of time spent on the basepaths. No surprise he’s also first all time in runs scored.

Tim Raines—Yes.
Count me among those who actually thought Raines might have been elected last year. 24.3% completely blindsided me. There’s no question. Raines is Hall of Fame material. I’m afraid he might actually get hurt this year because he was basically “Rickey Lite”—an on-base and speed machine. With 2605 hits and 1330 walks (for a .385 OBP), he reached base 3977 times (41st all time). The only eligible players ahead of him out of the Hall are… well, nobody. His 808 stolen bases are fifth all time, but his stolen base percentage is the best ever. His OPS+ of 123 is impressive considering he was not a power hitter. Seriously, what’s missing here?

Jim Rice—Yes.
I’m not a homer on Rice. I have no attachment to him whatsoever. He just happens to have Hall of Fame numbers. He’s similar to Murphy in that he dominated early on and then dropped off early. In Rice’s case, he slipped after 1986 (age 33). But Murphy’s dropoff was more severe, longer, and started earlier. Rice saw he was through and hung them up. As a result, his rate numbers (.298/.352/.502/128 OPS+) are still very impressive. He has the MVP and 8 All Star selections, too. He’s not the obvious choice some Red Sox fans make him out to be, but he should be in Cooperstown.

Greg Vaughn—No.
They just don’t put .240 hitters in the Hall of Fame. 1475 hits and 355 homers aren’t enough to make up for it, either. I tip my cap to that 50-homer season, though (1998).

Mo Vaughn—No.
It was right around the end of 1998, when Mo Vaughn was leaving the Red Sox. That’s the moment where you thought Mo would be a Hall of Famer. But the injuries caught up with him. While his 132 OPS+ is exceptional for a career, he only managed 1620 hits, 328 homers, and 1064 RBI—not the counting numbers of a Hall of Fame slugger.

Don Mattingly—No.
Again, like Murphy and Vaughn, I’m surprised I’m saying “No” when it’s all said and done. But somewhere along the line, you have to look at Mattingly and realize his last great season came at age 26. 1989 was a good season, too. But already that was a shadow of his early self. He still managed to accumulate 2153 hits, 222 homers, 9 Gold Gloves, 3 Silver Sluggers, 6 All Star nods, and an MVP. But the sharp drop-off just leave his final numbers too low.

Mark Grace—No.
For those that like to say Jack Morris won the most games in the 1980s, Mark Grace had the most hits in the 1990s. Grace was consistently a very good player, collecting 2445 hits, 1075 walks, 501 doubles, and rate stats of .303/.383/.442/119 OPS+. He was also an elite defender, getting four Gold Gloves. But sometimes, consistently very good does not get you in the Hall of Fame. Grace was a hell of a player, but remains on that second level right after “Hall of Famer”.

Mark McGwire—Yes.
I’m not sure who these Writers think they are, feeling as if they can decide if a person is guilty of a crime or not without a trial. The truth is, we have no guilty verdict on Mark McGwire. And if he’s going to be allowed to be on the ballot, they need to vote for him as if he was innocent. It’s MLB’s responsibility to do the filtering of worthy candidates. If he’s on the ballot, his OPS+ of 162 needs little explanation of Hall-worthiness.

Harold Baines—No.
I’m a huge fan of longevity. Baines has it. Baines also has some serious counting numbers: 2866 hits, 384 homers, and 1628 RBI. His rate stats are pretty darn good too: .289/.356/.465/120 OPS+. Those are some damn good numbers. His top five similar players include three Hall of Famers, one that could have been, and one that should be (Tony Perez, Al Kaline, Dave Parker, Billy Williams, and Andre Dawson). By his numbers alone, he seems like he should be right there. But there are some problems. First is the DH thing. We’re talking over 1600 games at DH. Plus, he was consistently above average, but never had that monstrous peak. He never hit 30 homers. He never scored 100 runs. He drove in 100 just three times. He was never in MVP discussion after ranking 9th at the age of 26. A really, really good player but he just falls short. He’ll have to settle for being the new hit and RBI king among non-Hall of Famers.

Bert Blyleven—Yes.
For the love of George Herman Ruth, get this man in the Hall of Fame. I’ll give you that his 118 ERA+ isn’t really all that special. But the man did that with incredible longevity. In addition to winning 287 games, he ranks 11th all time in games started (685) and 14th all time in innings (4970). Yes, everyone ahead of him is either in the Hall of Fame or will be (although, I gotta put a big fat asterisk next to Roger Clemens’ name). He’s also 5th all time in strikeouts (3701) and 9th in shutouts (60). On the strikeout list you gotta look as far as #15 (Curt Schilling) to find someone who might not be a Hall of Famer. For shutouts, it’s Luis Tiant at #21. His Top 10 similar players? They’re Don Sutton, Gaylord Perry, Fergie Jenkins, Tommy John, Robin Roberts, Tom Seaver, Jim Kaat, Early Wynn, Phil Niekro, and Steve Carlton. Eight of those ten are Hall of Famers. The other two (John and Kaat) definitely should be. So should Blyleven.

David Cone—No.
David Cone was an excellent pitcher, but he’s just not going to be a Hall of Famer. He played on a lot of good teams, so he has an exceptional winning percentage (.606). But at just 194-126 over 17 years, he doesn’t have the win totals voters like to see. From a stat geek perspective, he looks better. He ranks 62nd all time in H/9 IP and is 20th all time in K/9. His strikeout total of 2668 ranks him 22nd all time. He won 20 games twice and picked up a Cy Young, but it won’t be enough. Even though he’s not going to be inducted, David Cone should be recognized as a damn good pitcher who isn’t that far off.

Tommy John—Yes.
I value longevity—but I value longevity when combined with exceptional performance. Tommy John might not be the most dominant southpaw you ever saw (he’s not even close), but to do what he did over 26 seasons is remarkable. I also take into account the fact that he risked his well-being by having the first elbow ligament replacement surgery (now known as Tommy John surgery). The man still won 288 games. He lost 231, but that’s still a .555 percentage. His ERA+ is underwhelming at 110, but 3.34 over 26 seasons is nothing to be taken lightly. He never won a Cy Young Award, but he did win 20 games three times. He’s 20th all time in innings, 26th in victories, 8th in Games Started, 26th in shutouts, and even 48th in strikeouts. The fact that he ranks so highly in so many categories, had a decent peak in his mid-30s, had the experimental surgery, and still was a well-above average pitcher tells me there’s a place for him in the Hall. In 2006, John peaked at just below 30% of the vote. With this being his last year, I think his candidacy will come to the Veteran’s Committee.

Jack Morris—No.
This is one of the hardest cases for me. On one hand, Morris won 254 games, was a World Series hero (twice, in his final World Series he kinda stunk), and pitched as an ace for a very long time. On the other hand, his ERA+ of 105 is barely above league average. Really the only blemish on his record is the ERA (his 3.90 would be the highest in the Hall of Fame). While the name of the game is avoiding runs, he certainly found a way to win anyway. Does that negate the underwhelming ERA? Morris’ most similar pitchers might help guide us. #1 is Dennis Martinez. Martinez is 245-193 with a 3.70 ERA and 106 ERA+—very similar to Morris. But does anyone think of Martinez as a Hall of Famer? Maybe we’re letting those big single games cloud our judgement. #2 is the still-active Jamie Moyer. Moyer is a similar 246-185 but his ERA is higher (4.19). However, his ERA+ of 106 is the same as Martinez and a tick ahead of Morris. But again, Hall-worthy? Can “being an ace” and a couple big World Series performances really turn these guys into Hall of Famers? I’m going to say no. But if Morris was elected, I’d be happy for him. He certainly wouldn’t be the worst pitcher in the Hall.

Jesse Orosco—No.
He’s not a Hall of Famer, but he’s better than you thought. Again, I think longevity (24 years and a record 1252 appearances) is worth something. His 125 ERA+ over those 24 years is pretty remarkable, too. He had 144 saves, and while I don’t use saves as a metric of value, that does tell me he was not often the anchor of his team’s bullpen (early Mets days notwithstanding). Also, if you’re going to get in with 1295 innings pitched, they need to be remarkable innings. Orosco was very good, nearly great. Just not quite a Hall of Famer.

Dan Plesac—No.
I was surprised he held on that long (pitched 18 seasons until age 41) and was as good as he was (117 ERA+). But in a career that produced 1072 innings, he just wasn’t dominant enough to leapfrog the long line of relievers who deserve induction.

Lee Smith—Yes.
Speaking of the long line of closers deserving of induction, Lee Smith is one. Didn’t Smith have it all? He pitched in over 1000 games. He was the anchor of his team’s bullpens. He was the Rolaids Relief winner three times and an All Star 7 times. There’s also the fact that he was the all time save leader before Trevor Hoffman passed him (478, and Mariano Rivera has moved into second place now with 482). I’m not a big saves guy, but you have to be doing something right to get that many. With 802 Games Finished, he’s #1 all time there. He has a 131 ERA+ with a 3.03 ERA. One at a time, we’re getting the relievers in that have been overlooked (though I don’t agree with the order). First Sutter got in. Then Goose. It’s time for Smith. But with his highest percentage being 45% (in 2006), I don’t see that happening soon (though it’s possible).

In Summary

So, here are the “Yes” votes:

A Hall of Fame voter (no, I’m not one!) is allowed to list ten names, so I’d have room for Trammell if I did decide to lean towards yes. Also, if Dale Murphy or Jack Morris got in, I’d have no problem with it.

How about you? Who would get your vote?