Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas are easy Hall of Fame arguments
BY JOHN GROCHOWSKI For Sun-Times Media December 3, 2013 10:16PM
FILE - From left are Tom Glavine in 2008, Greg Maddux in 2008, and Frank Thomas in 1994 file photos. Glavine, Maddux and Thomas will appear on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for the first time when it is mailed to writers next month. (AP Photo/File)
Updated: December 3, 2013 11:36PM
When voters from the Baseball Writers Association of America mark their Hall of Fame ballots this month, they’ll have 36 names to choose from. Nineteen are on the ballot for the first time, including former White Sox first baseman/designated hitter Frank Thomas and pitcher Greg Maddux, who earned 133 of his 355 career wins and the first of his four Cy Young Awards with the Cubs.
Are they Hall of Famers by the numbers beyond the basics of wins and ERA for Maddux and Triple Crown numbers for Thomas? Absolutely.
Mind you, the ballot is loaded with players with Wins Above Replacement above Hall of Fame average for their positions. Voters will discount some because of PED issues, but Barry Bonds (162.5 WAR), Roger Clemens (140.3), Mike Mussina (83.0), Tom Glavine (81.4), Curt Schilling (80.7), Jeff Bagwell (79.5), Larry Walker (72.6), Rafael Palmeiro (71.8), Tim Raines (69.1), Alan Trammell (70.3) and Mike Piazza (59.2) all would be above-average Hall of Famers for their positions. So would Edgar Martinez (68.3) if rated as a third baseman. Craig Biggio (64.9) is right there if you pro-rate time at catcher, second base and the outfield.
Then there are Maddux and Thomas. There are only 31 players in history with a WAR of 100 or more. Maddux is 26th at 106.8.
The only non-Hall of Famers in the 300-win club are Clemens (354 wins), Maddux, Glavine (305) and Randy Johnson (302). Glavine, like Maddux, is on the ballot for the first time, while Johnson is not yet eligible.
Wins are dependent on the quality of the team, but in fielding independent areas, Maddux led the National League in fewest walks per nine innings seven times, had a career 1.8 BB/9, and lowered that to 1.4 in his 10 years with the Atlanta Braves. He also led the NL in fewest home runs per nine innings four times, with a career 0.6 HR/9.
The low walk and home run numbers lead to a 3.26 FIP that’s a near match for his 3.16 ERA. By the numbers, he’s a Hall of Famer for sure.
Any doubt over Thomas comes from his being a DH for just over half his career. He did play first base in 971 of his career 1,959 games. He didn’t play it well — Thomas never had a defensive WAR in positive numbers. But even though his career defensive WAR was minus-23.4, his offense brought his overall WAR to 73.6, well above the 65.7 for the average Hall of Fame first baseman.
It’s not just his Triple Crown numbers with a .301 batting average, 521 home runs and 1,704 RBI. His doubles, triples and walks bring his on-base percentage to .419 and slugging percentage to .555 for a .974 OPS. Adjust for his ballparks and normalize to league average, and his OPS-plus is 156 — he contributed 56 percent more offense than his average contemporary.
There should be little doubt that Big Frank belongs. For Maddux, there should be no doubt at all.