Mark Teixeira announced last week that he’s going to retire at the end of the year. Probably a good decision since he’s a free agent to be, banged up, and performing at below replacement level. Since he’s now on his way out, he becomes a Hall of Fame candidate. We get to look at his career, twist and turn it, and see if he measures up.
The numbers on the back of Teixeira’s baseball card are impressive enough: 404 homers, 1281 ribbies, and 1087 runs scored. He’s one of only 50 players ever to reach those heights. And among first basemen, there are only thirteen.
But part of Teixeira’s claim to greatness, part of his claim to Hall of Fame inclusion, is his defense. Teixeira has an even 100 Rfield, the number at BBREF that measures defensive value. The only other first baseman in history who can match his baseball card numbers and his BBREF defensive number is Albert Pujols. In fact, there are only seven more players at other positions who have posted those numbers: Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Mike Schmidt, Carl Yastrzemski, Andruw Jones, Cal Ripken, and Adrian Beltre. And if Tex drives in just eight more runs this year, Jones falls off the list.
Based on the previous two paragraphs, it may seem that Teixeira is a pretty rare player. He’s not. If you take the right combinations of categories, you can make lots of guys look sort of elite. When we’re considering electing guys to the Hall, the wise thing to do is look at value – and look at players of similar value.
And when I look at value, I look at my MAPES system, a WAR-based valuation where I substitute out some of BBREF’s defensive ranking for Michael Humphreys’ Defensive Regression Analysis, and give some extra credit to peak and prime value. Let me offer for you a group within roughly 10% by my MAPES system at first base.
#28 Harry Stovey, 44.80
#29 Harmon Killebrew, 44.70
#30 Fred Tenney, 43.85
#31 Frank Chance, 43.50
#32 Tony Perez, 43.32
#33 Mark Teixeira, 42.28 (not including 2016)
#34 Gil Hodges, 42.27
#35 Norm Cash, 41.76
#36 Fred McGriff, 41.45
#37 Orlando Cepeda, 40.50
#38 Ed Konetchy, 40.35
On the basis of his 2016, Joey Votto has joined this group toward the bottom. The same can be said for David Ortiz. Ortiz, of course, is retiring at the end of the year as well. Papi’s going to be a Hall of Famer, probably as soon as he’s eligible, but that’s because post-season heroics and a lack of understanding about greatness derived from things other than hitting. I looked at his Hall case last year in a less than effusive way.
So if we look at this group, adding Ortiz to it but not Votto since we don’t know where he’ll finish out his career, we have eleven guys to compare with Tex. Killebrew, Chance, Perez, and Cepeda are in the Hall. Ortiz is going. Five are in, six out. That said, there are campaigns still afoot for Fred McGriff and Gil Hodges. It might not be the BBWAA, but someone will make a case for Mark Teixeira.
And perhaps those will be the Gill Hodges folks since the two players are nearly identical. Here are their yearly adjusted WAR totals, just looking at the dozen seasons each had with over 0.1 WAR.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Teixeira 7.3 6.6 5.6 5.2 5.1 4.9 4.3 4.2 3.9 3.5 0.9 0.5 Hodges 7.6 6.2 5.9 5.6 5.5 5.0 4.3 3.7 2.8 2.7 1.4 0.5
I’d say chances aren’t very good at all. Teixeira compares to two groups of 1B as I see it. The first group is a bunch who aren’t in the Hall and don’t deserve it. The second group contains guys who are in but don’t deserve to be. Generally speaking, I believe voters today are doing a better job than those in the past. And the words I’ve heard in the past week about Teixeira speak to the fact that he was very good but not quite good enough. And you know what. That’s pretty much the way he should be described.
Mark Teixeira won’t ever get into the Hall of Miller and Eric. To me, he’s nearly indistinguishable from Gil Hodges, and that’s just not good enough. I suspect he’ll never be a Hall of Famer either, but I can’t predict how bodies that doesn’t even exist today will make up their minds in twenty or forty years.