And now that the association has voted me into the Baseball Hall of Fame, my journey as a player is complete. I am now in the class of the greatest players of all time and at this moment, I am...very, very humbled.
Later today, the BBWAA will announce their selections for the July 26th induction ceremonies. Before this happens, we here at Beyond the Box Score would like to announce the results of our own internal and reader elections. In Part 1, we talked about the 7 players that the writers here would've elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. In this article, we'll discuss the players who received a reasonable amount of support, but failed to be elected. Finally, we'll look at the results of the survey that was attached to the ballot, and discuss the various interesting points this brings up.
In addition to our standard 10-vote ballot, the writers at Beyond the Box Score were given a ballot without a 10-vote cap in place. The results of this ballot gave us some information about how stacked this year's class is, as we deemed 13 players Hall-worthy, with two others missing by one or two votes.
So, let's look at the players who, for one reason or another, didn't quite reach 75%, along with some potential reasons why.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Tim Raines skillset as an on-base machine, and an excellent base runner is often underappreciated in the context of a more offensive environment (during the 90s and 00s) and the fact Raines was a full step behind Rickey Henderson. Although his legacy cemented his place in Montreal Expos’ lore, it should propel him into Cooperstown.
Raines did not accumulate 3,000 hits nor did he hit 500 home runs, but he excelled at the most fundamental aspect of the game: getting on base and creating runs. There isn’t much sexy about being ‘second-best’ at something, but Raines amassed enough value to deserve to follow in Henderson’s footsteps and be inducted into the Hall
Raines’ excellent .385 OBP does not adequately account for his offensive value, as his speed and prudence in base stealing helped him create over 1500 runs during his career. He stole 808 bases in his 23 years, leading the league five times. His 808 stolen base total is good for fifth all time, only behind four Hall of Famers: Rickey Henderson, Lou Brock, Billy Hamilton and Ty Cobb.
Astonishingly, Raines was only caught 146 times -- a success rate of 85%, which ranks 14th all time. His success rate ranks well ahead of the players who stole more bases than him, and is third all time among all players who attempted 300 or more steals.
Raines 68.4 bWAR ranks seventh all time for left fielders, above the average bWAR for already enshrined left fielders by about 4 Wins. Raines finished his 23 year career with a 123 OPS+, and a demonstrative ability to create offense.
Tim Raines possessed a skillset that has gone out of fashion in recent years, and one that recent students of the game may not fully appreciate. Constantly being compared to Rickey Henderson has been more of a detriment than a help to his Hall candidacy, and had Raines played at a different time, he likely would receive more support for the Hall. It is unfair to hold it against Raines that he was second best at a skillset in which few excel.
I like Tim Raines, but I’m afraid he’s destined to become the next Hall of Very Good player, joining members such as Dave Parker, Al Oliver and Vada Pinson. I’d be very happy to be wrong and would gladly write something congratulatory should he ever be inducted. He has some nice career numbers – over 2500 hits and 800 stolen bases, which puts him with exactly three other players – Rickey Henderson, Lou Brock and Ty Cobb. That’s good company.
But it’s not enough for me. He was a top 10 MVP candidate three times in his career, and using Baseball-Reference WAR he was 6th best ever among left fielders, but he typifies the player who stuck around and amassed counting stats as opposed to the star who was widely considered among the best of his generation. This is not to detract from his career, because players don’t accidentally make seven consecutive All-Star teams, but in the end that’s what he was, a very good, a very very good player who just misses making the cut. But I could be wrong.
BtBS Writers Vote: 14 votes (70%)
BtBS Writers No-Max Vote: 18 votes (90%)
BtBS Readers Vote: 75 votes (56.4%)
Photo Credit: Jason Wise/Allsport
Mike Piazza is the best hitting catcher of all time. Period. When a player is the best hitter at his position, and plays that position for a decade and a half, that player should be in the Hall of Fame.
Piazza’s 396 home runs as a catcher (of his total 427) are the most home runs by any player at the position in history. His 140 wRC+ is the most for a backstop, and his 59.4 bWAR is fifth all time among catchers, ahead of Hall of Famers Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey, and Mickey Cochrane.
Piazza won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1993, and was a 12-time All Star. He was the preeminent player at his position for a majority of his career, and set a new baseline for offensive catchers.
Although questions surround his defense and Piazza was never viewed as an excellent or even above-average excellent defensive catcher, this point of view has tempered with new advancements in retroactive framing analysis.
The retroactive system created by Max Marchi at Baseball Prospectus.com shows Piazza in a more positive defneisve light, and estimates Piazza was more of a run saver rather than a defensive detriment. Splitting the difference between the numbers, and reputation, Piazza should be viewed as an average defender at worst, which would qualify him as a record-setting, history-defying catcher who is not only a durable presence behind the dish, but can absolutely mash offensively.
When a player is the literal ‘best’ at one half of the game of baseball, he invariably will receive my vote for the Hall, especially when you consider perhaps he was not as bad at the other half of the game than the narrative suggests. Catchers play the most demanding position on the diamond, and considering the innings Piazza logged well into his 30s, and the offensive powerhouse he was even in the twilight of his career, his Hall candidacy a no-brainer.
Mike Piazza was the unfortunate victim of the 10-person ballot limitation. Apart from steroid rumors, there's no reason that Piazza shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. With 427 home runs, a wOBA of .390, and a wRC+ of 140, it's clear that he's one of the greatest offensive hitters of all time, and easily the best behind the plate. However due to the archaic voting process of the HOF and with so many potential candidates to choose from, he didn't make the cut for me. Instead of Piazza, I made sure to vote for guys like Tim Raines and Jeff Kent who likely need all the votes they can get (albeit for different reasons). It's a safe bet that Piazza will eventually get voted in, but with the voting process becoming more and more like game theory rather than actually putting in the worthy candidates, he was unfortunately left off my ballot.
BtBS Writers Vote: 13 votes (65%)
BtBS Writers No-Max Vote: 18 votes (90%)
BtBS Readers Vote: 89 votes (66.9%)
Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Curt Schilling received my Hall of Fame vote due to an exceptionally valuable career in the regular season, supplemented by utter dominance in the postseason during baseball’s most offensive era. Schilling’s 80.7 bWAR is above Hall standards (26th all time, right behind Bob Gibson) for starting pitchers, and his 80 career ERA- demonstrates his value over his contemporaries.
Schilling was a significantly above average pitcher for the better part of two decades, striking out 3116 hitters in 3261 innings. Despite huge strikeout totals, Schilling walked a mere 711, for a 4.38 K:BB ratio, the best strikeout to walk ratio in the 200 year history of the game.
Schilling deserve to be in the Hall, having displayed both dominance, and longevity. In half of his 20 seasons, Schilling pitched over 200 innings, and after becoming a regular starter 1992, Schilling posted a better than league average ERA in 13 of 15 seasons, including nine seasons in which his ERA was 20% better than league average -- all of this despite playing in hitter friendly parks in both Arizona and Boston.
Complementing the regular season numbers, Schilling threw 113 postseason innings, striking out a shade over eight batters per nine innings, and walking under two batters per nine innings. Battling the best hitters, on the best teams, in the most offensive period in baseball history, Schilling posted a 2.23 ERA and a 3.06 FIP in the postseason. In 19 postseason starts, Schilling allowed zero or one run 12 times, tossing seven innings or more in 13 of those starts.
Schilling’s peak value never earned him a Cy Young, partly because he was contending with teammates Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez. Despite the lack of hardware, the longevity of nearly two decades of significantly above league average numbers, and an historic strikeout to walk ratio, combined with postseason brilliance make Schilling a worthy Hall inductee.
BtBS Writers Vote: 13 votes (65%)
BtBS Writers No-Max Vote: 17 votes (85%)
BtBS Readers Vote: 73 votes (54.9%)
Photo Credit: Otto Greule/Allsport
I have a confession: I had yet to be born when John Smoltz made his MLB debut. In order to vote for the real Hall of Fame, you are required to be a BBWAA writer for ten years. That would mean I would have had to join when I was fifteen. Why am I telling you this? Because, when I cast my ballot for the Beyond the Box Score mock Hall of Fame, I liked to give myself a modern context which is why I voted for John Smoltz.
He was unquestionably one of the late additions to my ballot – likely just behind Larry Walker – so I should further preface this by saying Smoltz was never a slam dunk for me. That being said, here was my thought process: Imagine Craig Kimbrel. Easy to do. More specifically, imagine Craig Kimbrel with his first season omitted; only including his most recent four seasons. This is Kimbrel at his finest. Now imagine he had a twelve year career before this as a starting pitcher. A starting pitcher that averaged 4.36 fWAR every year over that span. Then imagine that, after these sixteen seasons, Kimbrel decided to become a starting pitcher again. Suppose that he pitched three more seasons amounting to 667.1 innings of 15.3 fWAR pitching. Ladies and gentlemen, meet John Smoltz. Sure he maybe hung around for a while after that and yes there are better names on the ballot (/coughCurtSchillingcough), but I’d have a hard time saying no to that résumé.
John Smoltz presents a unique case for the Baseball Hall of Fame, and with the current ten player limit, comes up short on my Hall of Fame ballot. Smoltz was not a dominant starter for a significant period of time, nor was he an elite long-tenured reliever. His peak from 1995-2000 was simply too short a period for him to be viewed as a truly elite player. His value was diminished due to injury and bouncing between starting and reliever, and although Smoltz did many things well, he did not excel in any specific area.
Smoltz had fewer than ten years where he pitched over 200 innings, and was negatively affected by health on more than one occasion. He amassed less than a 40 bWAR before missing the entire 2000 season due to injury, and upon recovery, his WAR from 2001-2004 was under 8.0. His lost year, and his years as a reliever did not provide enough value to supplement the accomplishments and value he accumulated through the 2000 season, espiecally when compared to the other pitchers on the 2015 ballot.
Smoltz amassed fewer wins above replacement than Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling, both of whom are clear contemporaries who should be viewed as ahead of Smoltz in the 'entrance to the Hall line'. Although he is viewed as a key part of the success of the 1990s Atlanta Braves, he should not ride the coattails of previously elected Braves into the Hall of Fame immediately. Smoltz would be a leading candidate for the "Hall of Very Good", and likely will make it to Cooperstown (perhaps even this afternoon), but compared to the other players on this year's ballot, he did not land in my top ten.
BtBS Writers Vote: 10 votes (50%)
BtBS Writers No-Max Vote: 20 votes (100%)
BtBS Readers Vote: 87 votes (65.4%)
Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniels/Getty Images
Edgar Martinez will have a very difficult path to being elected to the Hall of Fame, since he makes BBWAA voters consider how to handle the designated hitter. Over seventy percent of his plate appearances were as a DH, the fourth-highest ever for players with at least 3,000 plate appearances. He was also a late bloomer who didn’t amass gaudy counting stats, just consistently hitting over .300.
Edgar Martinez was the prototypical DH, and it’s not his fault that baseball established the position – as long as it’s there, he shouldn’t be dinged for playing it, and playing it well. I’ll be the very first to state no matter what he’s a borderline candidate, which is one reason why I like the way other sports do their Halls – they have the discussions behind the scenes and announce the results and take issues like vote percentage, first-time candidate and other irrelevancies off the table.
The DH may be dying as a position anyway, since there are fewer and fewer pure DHs as teams would rather be more flexible and not use a roster spot on someone who only hits. I’ll be surprised if Edgar Martinez is ever elected into the Hall by any set of voters, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think he should be there.
Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, John Smoltz, and Mike Piazza. That's 10 very worthy gentlemen, and that's Edgar Martinez's problem. Where do you put him? I personally couldn't cut one of Smoltz/Schilling/Mussina without removing all three. You could make the argument that Edgar was better than Biggio or Piazza, but I'm still taking them at this point. The remaining five are non-questions for me, as they surpass the preeminent DH in MLB history.
So where does that leave Edgar? On the outside looking in, a victim of the process. I believe he deserves a spot in Cooperstown (As evidenced by my no-max ballot), and I hope he reaches there someday. But it will definitely be a long climb.
BtBS Writers Vote: 6 votes (30%)
BtBS Writers No-Max Vote: 17 votes (85%)
BtBS Readers Vote: 48 votes (36.1%)
Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn/Allsport
Steroids. Ok there, we got that out of the way. It's the only thing keeping Mark McGwire out of the Hall of Fame, and unless there's an official decree from the committee on how to deal with the steroid era, there's not much hope for his election. He finished his 16-year career with 583 home runs, a wOBA of .415 (!), and a wRC+ of 157. His fWAR of 66.3 doesn't scream HOF, but it ranks higher than already elected members Ernie Banks, Tony Gwynn and Harmon Killebrew. It's impossible to know how McGwire would have fared without the juice, but that's not the point of the HOF. It's mean to showcase the greatest players of all time, and barring a sudden expulsion from baseball or the record books, McGwire’s numbers still stand. Yes he took steroids, but who are we to say that past greats wouldn't have jumped at the chance to take similar substances. Greenies were by no means as effective as modern day steroids, but they represented the same idea; players wanting to get better and taking something to aid that process. With a Rookie of the Year award, 5 top 10 MVP finishes, and a career ISO of .325, it’s maddening that this man doesn’t have a plaque in Cooperstown already. The steroid era is by no means something baseball can allow to happen again, but it’s part of the history of our great game and can’t simply be forgotten.
It's not you, Mark. It's everybody else. The thing is, it's really, really hard to be a Hall of Fame first baseman. If you look at JAWS, you'll see that the average HoF 1B carries a career Baseball-Reference WAR of 65+, a 7-year-peak rWAR of 42.4, and a JAWS of 54.2 -- and this is even with seveal sub-HoF-standard guys (Cepeda, Bottomley, Kelly) dragging those stats down. That's a really high bar to clear, and McGwire doesn't pass any of those benchmarks.
Of course there are a few psychic things that boost his candidacy a smidge: the 70- and 65-dinger seasons, the memorable bombs and the larger-than-life biceps. He was a terrible defender, but he was also a first baseman, so that makes slightly less of a difference to me. He was fun to watch.
So, he's close! He's really close, actually! But he didn't have the peak of Jason Giambi, he didn't have the longevity of a Jim Thome, and he simply sits right at the borderline of the yes/no divide for me. Do the PEDs make a difference for me? Not normally, but if a guy is right on the borderline, I might be willing to make that small shift and place him on the "no" side. But more than that, it's the simple fact that he couldn't make the positional average for Hall of Famers on any of the big-ticket criteria I like to use.
BtBS Writers Vote: 6 votes (30%)
BtBS Writers No-Max Vote: 15 votes (75%)
BtBS Readers Vote: 22 votes (16.5%)
Photo Credit: Rick Stewart/Getty Images
For the second consecutive year of my involvement with the Beyond the Box Score Hall of Fame voting I have included Alan Trammell on my ballot. It is surprising to me that Trammell is on the verge of elapsing his years allowed on the ballot. This is his 14th year and, with the much-discussed issue of a crowded ballot, it seems unlikely that he will receive the requisite votes to earn enshrinement. But this should not be the case, as Trammell ranks among the best shortstops to play the game. His 63.7 fWAR ranks 14th among shortstops, on-par with Hall of Famers like Ernie Banks and Robin Yount, and ahead of already enshrined players like Pee Wee Reese, Luis Aparicio and Phil Rizzuto. Using the JAWS system, we see that Trammell’s 57.5 JAWS surpasses the current level of the average hall of fame shortstop (54.7). Perhaps best known for his work on defense – he won 4 Gold Gloves during his career – Trammell was also no slouch at the plate, posting a career 111 wRC+ (.285/.352/.415). Some may argue that Trammell was merely a compiler and that his 20 years in the majors should limit how we view his numbers, like WAR. My counter is that it is remarkably difficult to play shortstop effectively in the major leagues for 20 years. Trammell did so, posting above average defensive numbers at shortstop (by Total Zone) in all but 5 of his 20 seasons, with the negative years exceeding -2 runs in only three of those five. Alan Trammell was a well-rounded player for a long-time, had a peak that is on par or better than a few already enshrined shortstops, and therefore deserves to have a spot in Cooperstown.
While it’s never nice to be the person that argues against a player’s induction into the Hall of Fame, Alan Trammell is about as HOVG as they come. Over his 20-year career, Trammell generated 63.7 WAR, with the majority of his runs above average coming from Def. To further illustrate how HOVG that is, Trammell averaged 3.185 wins per season. While there is something to be said for steady longevity – and there are some times in his career where that even eluded Trammell – an average of just over 3 wins does not a HOF-plaque make. From the beginning of his career (1977) to present day, 35 baseball players have had a better career WAR than Trammell. Names among those 35 include Mark McGwire and Andruw Jones, players that likely will – and should – also miss induction. Over the same time span, Trammell is 342nd in career wRC+. This places Trammell in the same breaths as Ike Davis and Daniel Nava; not especially-terrible company but decidedly not HOF-caliber. In fact, in 11 of his 20 seasons Trammell recorded sub-100 wRC+ totals. Admittedly this includes every single season that Trammell played fewer than 100 games (including 1977 and 1992 when he played just 19 and 29 games respectively) but this span still totals 1151 of his career 2293 games in which he generated runs at a below average rate. Perhaps this speaks more to how much value I give wRC+ than to how ineffective Alan Trammell was but, to me, nobody is more deserving of the Hall of Very Good.
BtBS Writers Vote: 3 votes (15%)
BtBS Writers No-Max Vote: 13 votes (65%)
BtBS Readers Vote: 43 votes (32.3%)
Photo Credit: Brian Bahr/Allsport
Abandon hope, all ye who enter here. There's a better chance of Tim Raines getting unaminously elected to the Hall than of Walker sniffing entry to Cooperstown. And that’s a damn shame, as Walker’s madcap offensive numbers, while inflated by the dreaded Denver Effect, are still great enough to put him in contention for a spot among the game’s greatest.
Instead of looking at his production in the aggregate, or using counting stats, let’s start with a comparison to his league. Using FanGraphs’ wRC+ method, Walker, over his career, posted a number of 140, indicating he hit 40% better than the league average. This number is adjusted for his league, but also for his home park. That wRC+ is good enough to be in the top-75 all-time, somewhere between Reggie Jackson and Chipper Jones.
If Walker was just a hitter, he may have a case for induction, but his defensive prowess earned him seven Gold Gloves (and passed the eye test, especially in his early years), while also putting up one of the game’s all-time greatest seasons in his MVP campaign in 1997.
Is Walker a slam-dunk Hall of Famer? No. But he deserves to be enshrined among the game’s best, despite playing in a favorable offensive environment. His JAWS score of 58.6 is 10th among right fielders, and beats out that of Tony Gwynn, Paul Waner, and Dave Winfield, all of whom are rightly ensconced in Cooperstown. That puts him in the club, in my book.
First of all, I believe Larry Walker is a Hall of Famer. It may take voters a little while to become acquainted with the all-around genius that is Walker, but he'll get there. However, this year he's a victim of the BBWAA voting rules. The backup of candidates from previous years augmented by four or five deserving first-time candidates make for tough decisions. Unfortunately for Walker, he falls on the wrong side of those decisions for me. I voted for him when we didn't have a maximum votes limit, but with the rules as they're set in place, Walker is out of luck.
Was that copied from what I wrote about Walker last year? You bet. Has anything changed this year? Nope. Walker's voting percentages are nearly identical to last year, making it difficult to see how Walker might climb his way into baseball's highest honor.
BtBS Writers Vote: 2 votes (10%)
BtBS Writers No-Max Vote: 14 votes (70%)
BtBS Readers Vote: 31 votes (23.3%)
Even this list of players who fell short of the required 75% makes an impressive team. But what caused them to fall short? What do we, the writers and readers of Beyond the Box Score think of certain Hall of Fame topics, and how do these topics influence our votes? In Part 3, we'll look at these questions to see what we can find.