MLB Hall of Fame ballot filled with worthy candidates
BY JOHN GROCHOWSKI For Sun-Times Media December 10, 2012 7:06PM
Updated: January 12, 2013 6:17AM
Voters for the Baseball Hall of Fame and other awards always have used metrics in deciding who’s in and who’s out. When you’re told 3,000 hits, 500 home runs or 300 victories mean near-automatic inclusion in the Hall, those are metrics.
Such metrics miss much of a player’s contribution. The run-field-throw tools in a five-tool player’s kit aren’t measured if you’re using batting average, homers and RBI, and large segments of hitting are missed without at least using OPS to account for walks, doubles and triples. Even OPS fails to account for run context, including era and park effects.
Advanced metrics, including Wins Above Replacement and Win Shares, make the needed additions and adjustments to evaluate the whole player. The career WAR midpoint for Hall of Famers is about 55, and Bill James points to a total of about 300 Win Shares as being Hall of Fame-caliber.
Ten players on the ballot this year meet both criteria — 11 if we round Sammy Sosa’s 54.8 WAR to 55. They are Barry Bonds (158.1 WAR, 704 Win Shares), Roger Clemens (133.9, 437), Jeff Bagwell (76.7, 387), Larry Walker (69.7, 308), Alan Trammell (67.1, 318), Rafael Palmeiro (66.1, 394), Edgar Martinez (64.4, 305), Craig Biggio (62.1, 428), Mark McGwire (58.7, 342), Mike Piazza (56.1, 324) and Sosa (54.8, 321).
Five more meet the mark in one measure: Tim Raines (66.2, 290), Fred McGriff (48.2, 316), Bernie Williams (45.9, 312), Kenny Lofton (64.9, 287) and Curt Schilling (76.1, 252).
For many of the leading candidates this year, a by-the-numbers approach is out the window. Voters will have second, third and fourth thoughts about prime performance-enhancing-drug suspects such as Bonds, Clemens and others, no matter how good their numbers.
Leaving aside the PED issue and looking at others who are debated, a sabermetric view would give a big thumbs up to Biggio, whose raw numbers are even better than they look on paper because he played his prime in the run-depressed Astrodome.
The favorite cause of many sabermetricians is Raines, a master of getting on base with a .383 OBP and an effective baserunner with 808 steals offset by only 146 times caught stealing. Walker and Piazza belong, too, though not all worthies will get in at once.
Jack Morris (39.1, 225), who was named on 66 percent of the ballots last year with 75 percent needed for election, ranks further down the list. His 254 victories aren’t the 300 for automatic election, and his 3.90 ERA would be among the highest in the Hall.
Baseballprospectus.com uses a stat called Fair Run Average, which considers quality of defense, distribution of batted balls, sequencing (to reward pitchers who seem to work out of jams more than others) and more. Morris’ signature game — a 10-inning shutout of the Braves in Game 7 that enabled the Twins to win the 1991 World Series — was a thing of beauty, but others on the ballot outrank him overall.
Morris might get in and wouldn’t be anywhere near the weakest selection the Baseball Writers’ Association of America has made. But at least 16 players on the ballot outrank him by the numbers.