Beyond the Box Score elects class of 6 for the Hall of Fame

Jim McIsaac

Before the BBWAA announces their official vote, the writers at Beyond the Box Score reveal their choices for baseball's highest honor.

This afternoon, at 2:00 p.m., the BBWAA will announce the results of their voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame. At 2:01, the public outrage will begin in earnest. Controversies will range from the steroid debate, the 10-vote maximum limit, the changing candidacies of players based on advanced stats, and blank protest ballots. Debate will be very loud on both sides of each question, and despite all the debate, we probably will not reach a consensus on what the answers to those questions should be.

More on the Hall of Fame

While we can't offer a controversy-free vote here at Beyond the Box Score, we can offer our collective opinion to who we believe should be elected to Cooperstown. We received ballots from 22 writers, meaning 17 votes were required for election. In addition, we asked you, our readers, to voice their opinions, and we got an excellent response from you. In total, our readers cast 292 ballots, with 219 required for election. As a quick reminder, we provide a link to the statistics for the players on the ballot

Baseball Reference's Player Statistics For the Ballot

FanGraphs Statistics For the Batters

FanGraphs Statistics For the Pitchers

The BBWAA provided us with a very crowded ballot, easily the toughest in recent memory. But we've waded through the credentials of the candidates, and have selected a worthy class of six players. Without further ado, our 2014 Beyond the Box Score-elected Hall of Fame class, in order of number of votes received.

Greg Maddux

Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

In many ways, Greg Maddux’s Hall of Fame credentials speak for themselves. The diminutive right-hander compiled 355 wins, four Cy Young Awards, 3,371 career strikeouts, and a 132 ERA+ over the course of 23 seasons in the majors. Plain and simple, Maddux stacks up with many of the greatest starting pitchers of all time and achieved such astounding success during an era when offensive numbers skyrocketed throughout baseball. You can probably make a semi-compelling case against any of the other starters currently on the Hall of Fame ballot, but Maddux is a slam-dunk choice, a no-brainer in the truest sense. For 23 seasons, he baffled hitters with the type of arsenal not often seen in elite starting pitchers. And for that, Maddux deserves to be enshrined in Cooperstown.

-Alex Skillin

Before you run me off the Internet on a rail, please know that I do consider Greg Maddux a Hall of Famer. And a first-ballot Hall of Famer at that. But the 10-vote limit imposes a lot of hard choices. Do you want me to leave Jeff Bagwell or Frank Thomas off my vote? How do you choose between Tom Glavine, Curt Schilling, and Mike Mussina? What blemishes are there on the careers of Mike Piazza and Craig Biggio, except unsubstantiated rumors? Even if you completely erase their allegedly enhanced seasons, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are still good Hall of Fame cases; doesn't that count for anything? And what about Tim Raines, fifth all time in steals and with more career WAR than Andre Dawson and Tony Gwynn?

That's ten votes right there. I haven't even mentioned other sabermetric favorites like Edgar Martinez, Alan Trammell, and Larry Walker, or big names like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Jack Morris. The fact is this ballot is stacked, and I knew Greg Maddux wouldn't need my vote to get into the hypothetical Hall, whereas some of those other candidates might -- Clemens and Mussina cleared the 75% threshold in our poll by one vote, and Schilling and Piazza missed by one. Besides, you know some writer left off Maddux to preserve the "no one gets elected unanimously" thing, and I bet his alternate selections weren't as good as mine.

-Bryan Cole

BtBS Writer Vote: 21 votes (95.5%)
BtBS Reader Vote: 284 votes (97.3%)

Jeff Bagwell

Photo Credit: Bob Levey/Getty Images

Desperate for a reliever in the midst of the 1990 pennant race, the Boston Red Sox acquired Larry Andersen from the Houston Astros for some minor-league infielder. In a way, the gamble paid off -- Andersen was worth around a win for a Red Sox team that won the AL East by 2 games. But knowing that Jeff Bagwell would be worth 80 wins over his Astros career, this deal definitely looks different in hindsight.

Bagwell is a slam-dunk Hall of Famer, a writer's dream. Loyal to his adopted city, he played all 15 years with the Astros. He was a workhorse, missing 31 games in nine seasons. And, oh yes, he put up numbers too. Let's use WAR to compare Bagwell to Frank Thomas, another surefire Hall of Famer. Bagwell had a higher peak and a higher career total. Not a fan of WAR? That's fine. Bagwell's career OPS was 49% better than league average. He hit 449 home runs, half of which came in the pitcher-friendly Astrodome. And what's the case against him? He looked muscular? Please. Three years is long enough to keep Astros fans waiting. And Red Sox fans? Hey, there's always that Heathcliff Slocum for Lowe and Varitek deal.

-Bryan Cole

BtBS Writer Vote: 19 votes (86.4%)
BtBS Reader Vote: 206 votes (70.6%)

Barry Bonds

Photo Credit: Richard Mackson-US PRESSWIRE

As a young child growing up in Northern California, watching Barry Bonds swing for the fences was a part of my youth, even if I didn't follow the sport closely at the time. Now, as an adult with sabermetric-leanings, I can appreciate Bonds' talent from a different perspective. He has a career 164.1 fWAR, with a single-season best 12.5 fWAR in 2001. His power was phenomenal and recorded a .309 ISO, hitting over .400 in the early years of the pitcher friendly AT&T Park. His career OPS+ is 182 and has a career wRC+ of 173. Bonds drew more walks than strikeouts over a 22 year career: a BB% of 20.3%, a K% of 12.2%. Pitchers never wanted to face him, intentionally walking him 688 times, but Bunds still showed plate discipline and walked a total of 2558 times. Steroid argument be damned, Bonds was one of the great ones.

-Jen Mac Ramos

BtBS Writer Vote: 19 votes (86.4%)
BtBS Reader Vote: 183 votes (62.7%)

Frank Thomas

Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The easiest decision on my ballot due to my Chicago roots, but my bias aside, there’s not a good reason to not vote for him. Throughout his 18 year career he was and remains one of the best offensive threats to ever step to the plate. Armed with 521 home runs, triple slash of .301/.419/.555, which translates to a .415 wOBA & 154 wRC+, and finally 72.4 fWAR and 73.6 bWAR. However, these numbers might even do Thomas justice because injuries slowed down the second half of his career; his peak is off the charts. If you thought Miguel Cabrera was great now, Thomas was even better then. From 1991-1997, he ranked #1 in OPS, wOBA, and wRC+ with 1.056, .449, and 177 respectively and #3 in fWAR at 46.3, trailing only Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr.

Looking at Adam Darowski’s Hall of Stats, Thomas has a 140 rating, or in other words 40% above Hall of Fame borderline criteria. If Jeff Jaffe’s JAWS is more your thing, here is how Thomas compares to his contemporaries.

Player Career Peak JAWS
Frank Thomas 73.6 45.3 59.5
Avg HOF 1B 65.7 42.3 54

If that wasn’t enough, Thomas’ 1994 season is tied for second at 205 wRC+, with Jeff Bagwell’s 94 season, for the highest ever wRC+ in a single season among first basemen. Only behind the almighty Lou Gehrig by 4 points, if not for the 94 strike, Thomas could have re-written the history books.

-Anthony Joshi-Pawlowic

BtBS Writer Vote: 19 votes (86.4%)
BtBS Reader Vote: 243 votes (83.2%)

Roger Clemens

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Eighth all time among players in bWAR, Clemens has HOF qualifications coming out of his ears -- including the most Cy Young Awards (7). Every other player with at least three Cy Youngs is in the Hall (Steve Carlton, Sandy Koufax, Jim Palmer, Tom Seaver), not yet eligible (Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez), or a presumptive inductee this year (Greg Maddux). Clemens is the pitching equivalent of Barry Bonds -- the only possible explanation for not voting Clemens is his link to performance enhancers. And as with Barry Bonds, to not vote Clemens is to say that one will not vote for a suspected steroid user under any circumstances -- if any exception to that rule is to be made, Clemens would fit within it as one of the best of the best of the best. Personally, I believe that any player who fits that last description belongs in the Hall.

-Ryan P. Morrison

BtBS Writer Vote: 18 votes (81.8%)
BtBS Reader Vote: 182 votes (62.3%)

Mike Mussina

Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images

Mike Mussina isn't the guy with the most hardware on his mantle (Cy Young Awards, World Series Championships) and he doesn't have the pretty stats that many of the older voters look at, such as wins or 20-win seasons, but he was the most consistent starting pitcher of his generation.

He pitched 18 seasons in total and holds a career ERA of 3.68. On the surface to some people he may not seem like the sure-fire Hall of Famer that he most assuredly is, especially when compared to a guy like Tom Glavine who pitched for 22 seasons and finished with 305 wins and a career 3.54 ERA. However, when you begin to look deeper you can see that you can't vote for Glavine without also voting for Mussina.

Mussina produced more value in terms of career fWAR over just 18 seasons with 82.5 compared to Glavine's 64.3 over 22, but his fielding independent statistics are also more impressive overall. His career park and league adjusted ERA of 82 places him 74th all-time among starters with at least 1,000 IP. His career park and league adjusted FIP of 81 actually put him 29th all-time.

When you take into account that he pitched his entire career in the American League East, during the heyday of steroid users and increased offensive performance, as well as pitching primarily in offensive friendly ballparks it becomes all too obvious that he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

-Lance Rinker

BtBS Writer Vote: 18 votes (81.8%)
BtBS Reader Vote: 150 votes (51.4%)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Of course, while we celebrate those players who we feel are worthy for election, there are still more who, for one reason or another, fell short of election. In Part 2, we examine some of the players who didn't reach the 17 votes required, as well as the possible reasons for their exclusion.

Hall of Fame Voting Results for Beyond the Box Score Writers and Readers

Results for Each Individual Writer's Standard Ballots

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