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2016 Hall of Fame Election

Our Ballot Analysis, Infield

jeff-bagwellToday we review the infield, everyone from Matt Stairs and Casey Blake to Jeff Bagwell and Edgar Martinez. Given that he was at 71.6% last year and that he’s the best player on the ballot, it seems fairly safe that Bagwell will get in this season. But these writers sometimes surprise us. Aside from Bagwell, the only really interesting guy to watch in this group is Edgar Martinez. The Mariner DH jumped from 27% in 2015 to 43.4% last year. Another 16 point leap will have him poised to make a run in his final two years on the ballot. Hey, a guy can dream.

Check out our pitchers and catchers, and stay tuned on Monday for our outfielders.

Jeff Bagwell

Years on the ballot: 7

Commentary: If Mike Piazza’s and Craig Biggio’s and Barry Larkin’s and Robbie Alomar’s trajectories are indicative, Bagwell will be elected this year. And several years too late. He and Tim Raines sit atop the ballot, and while the newcomers are plentiful none are clear-cut choices in BBWAA Wacko World due to steroid whispers, positive steroid tests, or simply being borderline players.

Best-case scenario: Hello, Cooperstown!!!!!!

Worst-case scenario: Book the tickets to upstate New York for 2018, he got Biggioed.

Casey Blake

Years on the ballot: 1

Commentary: Blake was a useful player for eight seasons. In those eight seasons, he was 41st among non-pitchers in WAR. And that’s pretty much the best thing you can say about him.

Best-case scenario: He can’t get a vote, right?

Worst-case scenario: They reissue the ballot replacing his name with that of Javier Vazquez.

Orlando Cabrera

Years on the ballot: 1

Commentary: Nomar Garciaparra was supposed to be the shortstop in 2004 when the Red Sox reversed the curse. Instead, they flipped him in a deadline deal that brought Doug Mientkiewicz and Cabrera. Cabrera was a better player than Nomar for the season’s final two months. And he put up over 2000 hits in his fifteen seasons. While he’s no threat for the Hall, he should be proud of a full career and some real success. And just for fun, the tenth most similar player to him based on BBREF’s Similarity Scores is Hall of Famer Pee Wee Reese.

Best-case scenario: With Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek on the same ballot, it’s not like 2004 Sox guys would even throw him a vote. Oh well.

Worst-case scenario: He’ll have to live knowing he’s one of my favorite all-time shortstops, just for reasons of laundry.

Carlos Guillen

Years on the ballot: 1

Commentary: He may be about the 70th best shortstop ever. Something like that. And he really was a minor star for the four years after he got to Detroit. But he’s not a Hall of Famer.

Best-case scenario: Maybe he’ll get a vote he doesn’t deserve.

Worst-case scenario: No votes.

Jeff Kent

Years on the ballot: 4

Commentary: I’m proud of the HoME, and Kent is in it. I don’t think I’d be less proud or meaningfully less correct if we went with Cupid Childs or Bobby Doerr instead. In other words, it’s hard to get all up in arms about a middle infielder who keeps posting vote percentages in the mid-teens. Dave Concepcion was just a bit south of Kent for his fifteen tries. Kent was clearly a better player, but not good enough to even deserve much support with this ballot glut.

Best-case scenario: After Biggio got in a couple of years ago, I thought Kent could have gotten some residual 2B love. No such luck. Maybe the best case is making a run at 20%? I don’t know.

Worst-case scenario: If writers change their minds and begin loosening their moral grip on PED guys, someone like Kent might suffer. If there’s a big enough movement toward Bonds, Clemens, and others, he might not have long left on the ballot. For this year, he should still top 10%.

Derrek Lee

Years on the ballot: 1

Commentary: He was a better player than High Pockets Kelly. And he was near as good as Jim Bottomley. He hit 331 home runs, won a batting title in 2005, and made a couple of All-Star teams. Truly, he was a great player in 2005, and were it not for Albert Pujols he might have deserved the MVP that year.

Best-case scenario: The best case scenario is Steve Garvey. He and Lee are pretty similar players on a career basis, and Garvey made it through all 15 years on the ballot, always above 20%. Lee won’t get 20 votes. Maybe he won’t get two.

Worst-case scenario: No votes. He may be forgotten in history even though he shouldn’t be.

Edgar Martinez

Years on the ballot: 8

Commentary: It’s all about narrative, right? Everyone (except Yankee fans) loves Big Papi, and he’s gotten plenty of ink about being a potential Hall of Famer. Edgar Martinez is not only better but obviously better than Ortiz. He’s having trouble getting traction, and will be bounced in two years.

Best-case scenario: He gets kinda sorta near 50% and makes it a little tougher for other candidates in the next two years to debut ahead of him.

Worst-case scenario: His momentum stalls this year, and his stock drops the next two years as more and more candidates flood the ballot.

Fred McGriff

Years on the ballot: 8

Commentary: To be honest, McGriff’s continued presence is just gumming up the ballot works. Lots of homers, crappy defense, a cool nickname.

Best-case scenario: He outpolls Vlad Guerrero. Miller was surprised when I mentioned this possibility, but hear me out. Vlad may be the 11th man on a lot of ballots. Raines is going to catch more votes as the herding pushes him upward, Bagwell same thing, Sheff, Sosa, and Walker are all comparable or better players who are already on the ballot at Vlad’s position, and for those who aren’t swayed by steroid stuff, choosing among them won’t be easy. So while I think it’s most likely that Vlad debuts in the 35%-50% range, I think his worst case is finishing just below McGriff. This is, of course, without an intense scrutiny of last year’s individual ballots. And if you still think I’m crazy, look at some career numbers. Lots of BBWAA members can make a case for McGriff over Vlad.

       Vlad   McGriff
=====================
HR      449       493
RBI    1496      1550
R      1328      1349
H      2590      2490
OPS+    140       134
MVP       1         0
Top-5     5         4

Worst-case scenario: He loses ground to Kent, Walker, or Sheffield.

Melvin Mora

Years on the ballot: 1

Commentary: From 2002-2005, Mora was a star, putting up 19.3 WAR for the Orioles. Otherwise, he really wasn’t really a meaningful player, totaling less than nine WAR otherwise.

Best-case scenario: A happy life.

Worst-case scenario: He’s one and done on the ballot. The worst case scenario is what’s expected – no votes.

Edgar Renteria

Years on the ballot: 1

Commentary: At a certain point in his career, Renteria had a shot at 3,000 hits. He owned 1,934 hits through age 30 thanks to becoming an everyday player at age 19. He was coming off a .332/.390/.442 season with a 124 OPS. Only 11 other men in history had accumulated more hits through age 30 by 2007, and they are a who’s who of great young players: Cobb, Aaron, Hornsby, A-Rod, Ott, Foxx, Yount, Medwick, Keeler, and Kaline. Oh, and Vada Pinson. When you scan further down the list the first player on it who did not have a Hall-level career (in my opinion) is #30, Hugh Duffy. He notched 150 fewer hits than Renteria. After his age-30 season, Renteria sputtered to a close with only about 400 more hits on his resume. Why? Because that’s baseball.

Best-case scenario: Someone besides me remembers that he coulda had 3,000.

Worst-case scenario: No one else remembers.

Freddy Sanchez

Years on the ballot: 1

Commentary: In only six full seasons, he has a batting title, four All-Star games, and a World Series ring to be proud of. Plus, a .297 career batting average gives some of the older voters something to make them support him.

Best-case scenario: Someone might find him worthy of their vote. That would be silly, of course, but it’s possible.

Worst-case scenario: No votes. Cooperstown is such a nice city if he ever chooses to visit.

Matt Stairs

Years on the ballot: 1

Commentary: This guy got on the ballot instead of Javier Vazquez? 

Best-case scenario: Some voter remembers he was called The Wonder Hamster and thinks it’s cute to vote for him.

Worst-case scenario: Actually, it’s the same as the best-case scenario, with voters burning ballot slots on whimsy or backscratching when there’s a ton of electing to be done here.

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