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    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame 2012

    You might remember that last year, I participated in Baseball Past and Present’s 50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame. This year, Graham Womack is running the project again, and I once again decided to participate. The process was much easier this year, as I had last year’s list to work off of. However, this year’s influx of candidates did mean that I needed to do some difficult rearranging.

    And that seems like the best place to start. There were fourteen players on this year’s ballot that I count among the 50 best players not in Cooperstown, seven of them new, as well as two more that made the Veterans Committee ballot. And again, I would support the induction of all 50 players that I named.

    So, without further ado (Players are listed with their teams by games played, their position, and their Hall Rating* from the Hall of Stats, with the new players on the ballot italicized):

    *The Hall Rating uses Wins Above Replacement and Wins Above Average from Baseball-Reference to determine a player’s worthiness. The Hall Rating is a combination of the two, on a scale like OPS+. 100 is the Hall minimum, 110 represents 10% than the minimum, and so on. It’s more for the sake of quick comparison. All Hall Ratings have been updated to reflect the induction of Deacon White.

    Jeff Bagwell, Astros, 1B, 163-His one-year reign as best player on the Hall ballot comes to an end, but that’s more a comment on the talent that was added to the ballot. The Baseball Bloggers Alliance chose to add him to the Hall with Larkin in the last election, which would have helped greatly with overcrowding. In case you need a reminder of why: 449 home runs, 488 doubles, 202 steals, a .297/.408/.540 (average/OBP/slugging) batting line (good for a 149 OPS+), and just shy of 84 WAR (Fangraphs). It’s a huge insult that he’s had to wait three years (and counting).

    You could easily argue that he’s one of the top five first basemen ever-the players ahead of him per WAR are Stan Musial, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Pete Rose, Albert Pujols, Cap Anson, and Roger Connor. Musial and Rose each spent more than half their careers at other positions, and Anson and Connor both retired before the AL even existed, meaning they played a radically different time.

    The only other reasons I’ve heard for not voting for Bagwell have been the unfounded “he might have used steroids because he was strong” crowd, which really isn’t even worth addressing. He was never tested positive for anything, and was never indicated on any list. Drop the issue already and just vote for him.

    Craig Biggio, Astros, 2B/C/OF, 126-The one consolation for Bagwell is that he might make it into the Hall with his longtime partner. He obviously has 3000 hits. His .281/.363/.433 line is good for a 112 OPS+. He was worth 70.5 fWAR, too. Yes, he hung on to ‘compile’ those 3000 hits, but he was really good before those last few subpar seasons (and even then, only his final season saw him post a negative WAR).

    Barry Bonds, Giants/Pirates, LF, 363-The list isn’t in any particular order (edit: this list is pretty clearly alphabetical. I did that after I wrote this sentence. Whoops.), but Bonds is pretty clearly the best player on the ballot. I don’t think there’s any debate as to whether his performance was good enough. The issue is, of course, steroids. And, as usual, my stance is that it’s a non-issue. Most of the players took them while they were not banned*, and even encouraged by owners to bring back fans. We don’t know what effect they have on performance, or what effect competing steroid players had. And we already have all manners of cheaters in the Hall.

    *No, US law does not apply to the Hall of Fame. We have criminals in the Hall. Neither does the memo Fay Vincent tried to pass to ban steroids that didn’t get approval by the Player’s Union, as it was worthless with their consent.

    One additional thing that I would like to bring up: I see players discussing how steroids shouldn’t be allowed into the Hall all the time, and fans using their opinions to defend keeping out Bonds and the like. It’s worth remembering two things: first, drugs for competitive advantage are not new, and amphetamine-users (and likely steroids users, too) are already in the Hall; why did no one speak out before now?

    Second, the players aren’t exactly unbiased in this issue. Players elected to the Hall receive money that’s split among the inductees; every extra Hall of Famer means less for them. Players not in are, directly or not, competing with these players for votes. Just worth keeping in mind these parties aren’t necessarily without ulterior motives or speaking from a higher ground.

    Roger Clemens, Red Sox/Yankees/Astros/Blue Jays, P, 292-Again, same situation as Bonds. I don’t think anyone is really debating Clemens’ worth on the field. It’s all off the field stuff. Except that Clemens has the added off the field courtroom drama. I will just reiterated my points from earlier; after he was named in the Mitchell Report, Clemens fought the claims exactly how all of the writers wanted him too. And once he won and cleared his name, they promptly discounted it on the reasoning that he should have never been named. It’s all very ridiculous.

    Bill Dahlen, Colts(Cubs)/Superbas(Dodgers)/Giants/Doves(Braves), SS, 143-I was shocked that Dahlen didn’t make the Veterans Committee selection this year. He was a great fielder with an above average bat, posting a 110 OPS+ and just short of 80 WAR.

    Kenny Lofton, Indians/Dodgers/Braves/Phillies/White Sox/Pirates/Rangers/Yankees/Cubs/Giants/Astros, CF, 130-I’ve already written about Lofton’s Hall case more than most of the players on the list, even the returning players. You could argue that the well-traveled center fielder is one of the top dozen at his position ever; considering there are twenty-four center fielders in the Hall, he’s definitely within Hall standards, thanks to his combination of defense and above average batting (107 OPS+). Among players with over half their games at center, Lofton ranks 11th with 66.2 WAR, right into the second-tier of the position with Duke Snider, Andruw Jones, Jim Edmonds, Richie Ashburn, Max Carey, Billy Hamilton, Carlos Beltran.*

    *The first tier of course being Mays/Cobb/Speaker/Mantle/DiMaggio/Griffey. Please note that there are 24 Hall of Fame center fielders, yet the top fourteen at the position includes five players from the past twenty years. There was a huge surge in talent at the position recently, and I have a bad feeling some people are going to get snubbed.

    Edgar Martinez, Mariners, DH, 133-I think most of the problems people have with Edgar Martinez can be counted in two categories:

    1) He was “just” a designated hitter. However, since we’ve started electing AL pitchers from the DH era (and relief pitchers), I don’t think that you can argue that a DH is any more specialized than what’s already going into the Hall. Besides, Paul Molitor played DH more than anywhere else.

    2) Like Bagwell, he didn’t reach any milestones. This one is silly. Despite not hitting 500 home runs, he did manage 309 homers and 514 doubles, a .312/.418/.515 batting line that makes him one of twenty players to hit above .300/.400/.500 for his career, and a 147 OPS+ that ties him with Jim Thome, Willie McCovey, and Willie Stargell. That’s part of the reason he managed just almost 70 WAR in his career.

    Mark McGwire, Athletics/Cardinals, 1B, 123-I’ve already covered steroids. For his batting numbers, there’s the 583 home runs, the .263/.394/.588 batting line, and the 163 OPS+ that ties him for eleventh ever. In only 1866 games, McGwire managed 70.6 WAR.

    Rafael Palmeiro, Rangers/Orioles/Cubs, 1B, 122-This is going to be a repeat of last year, but: 3020 hits, 569 home runs, .288/.371/.515 batting line, over 74 fWAR.

    Mike Piazza, Mets/Dodgers/Padres/Athletics/Marlins, C, 145-Are there any people debating whether Piazza was good enough? His 427 home runs and 143 OPS+ lead all catchers. He had close to 67 WAR too, which is seventh among catchers (including Joe Torre, who spent more time at other positions).

    The anti-steroid group that dislikes Bagwell will probably vote against Piazza for similar reasons. It will not be any more intelligent as an argument for Piazza.

    Tim Raines, Expos/White Sox/Yankees/Marlins/Athletics/Orioles, LF, 127-There’s a whole site about why Tim Raines should make the Hall of Fame. He was great at stealing bases (808, fifth most ever, at a fantastic 85% success rate that rates best among players with 400 steals). He was great at reaching base (2605 hits; 3977 times on base, which gives him 22 more than first-ballot electee Tony Gwynn). Almost 71 fWAR. Again, it’s a shame he hasn’t been added yet.

    Curt Schilling, Phillies/Red Sox/Diamondbacks/Astros/Orioles, P, 171-Like Lofton, I’ve covered Schilling in the past. Schilling was probably the best control pitcher of all time, he’s one of sixteen 3000 strikeout pitchers, he had a 127 ERA+, and just shy of 77 bWAR (which leaves him 26th all-time).

    Sammy Sosa, Cubs/White Sox/Rangers/Orioles, RF, 114-Sosa is probably the most borderline case on the current ballot for me. He’s kind of like Larry Walker without plate discipline and more games played. His large counting number totals (609 home runs, 2408 hits, 234 steals) kind of overstate his actual offensive production (.273/.344/.534 batting line, 128 OPS+). But he was also actually a good fielder on top of that, and his value was right in line with the Hall standards (64 fWAR). I’ll probably drop him from my ballot due to the silly ten-man restriction, but I still think he’s Hall-worthy.

    Alan Trammell, Tigers, SS, 141-Last year, I compared Trammell’s numbers with last year’s inductee, Barry Larkin:

    "Player A: 2175 games, 9057 PA, 2340 hits, 198 HR, 379 SB, .295/.371/.444 line, 116 OPS+, 68.9 bWAR, 70.6 fWAR

    Player B: 2267 games, 9376 PA, 2365 hits, 185 HR, 236 SB, .285/.352/.415 line, 110 OPS+, 66.9 bWAR, 69.5 fWAR”

    Barry Larkin is player A, Trammell is player B. There’s clearly room in the Hall for both of them.

    Larry Walker, Rockies/Expos/Cardinals, RF, 150- Walker gets unfairly dinged for playing in Colorado. However, even taking that into account, he was great. In terms of basic numbers, he managed 2160 hits, 471 doubles, 383 home runs, and 230 steals. His rate stats (.313/.400/.565) translate to a 141 OPS+, meaning he was great even properly adjusting for Denver. He was a great fielder on top of that, with seven Gold Gloves and advanced metrics to back it up. All together, it’s good 73 WAR. 

    Deacon White, Bisons (NL)/Wolverine/Red Stockings (NA)/Reds/Bisons (PL)/White Stockings/Red Stockings (NL)/Alleghenys/Forest Citys, 3B/C/RF, 116-White is easy to defend, since he actually just made it in. To quote my defense from last year:

    “Yes, White is an old, forgotten player, who managed to make it twenty seasons (1871 to 1890). Despite his many seasons, he only played in 1560 games due to the shorter schedules of the time (if you don’t feel like doing the math, today’s seasons mean a total possible 3240 games in a twenty year career). He kept a 127 OPS+ while playing important positions. In his shortened time, he managed 42.4 fWAR and 43.1 bWAR. Also, just as quick back-of-the-napkin calculations, assuming Deacon White played as many games as even Tony Gwynn (twenty seasons, 2440 games), White would have wound up somewhere around 66.3 fWAR and 67.4 bWAR, well into Hall of Fame range, as well as 3233 hits.”
    Check back later in the week for the rest of the ballot! 

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