My 2015 Hall of Fame Ballot

This is a great time of year for a bunch of things. Egg nog. Pie. Presents. Egg nog. Resolutions. Snow. Egg nog. Sitting alone in my chamber of solitude and churning out thousands of words on the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Welcome to my 2015 Hall of Fame post, a yearly tradition that is probably going to continue until I am very old and no one cares anymore.

I don’t have a vote for the Hall of Fame, but I still think about the Hall of Fame, I don’t know, more than a reasonable person should. So consider this my fake ballot. I’ve tried to put some thought into this.

I’m a “big hall” guy. I don’t think an additional one or two guys a year takes anything away from the sanctity of the Baseball Hall of Fame. I think a bigger Hall will only make it better. I want a guy like Craig Biggio in the Hall of Fame (look, dad, he is the all time leader in hit by pitches!). I want a guy like Gary Sheffield in there (look at him wiggle his bat, dad!). I want a guy like Mike Mussina in there (look, dad, he does crossword puzzles!).  These were special players.

Some people say that the Hall should only be reserved for the most special of players. The one’s that transcended their generation. The one’s that are no-doubters.  And, sure, you want the Hall of Fame to be special. You want to limit it to the greatest players. I just draw the line in a different spot.

I would vote for 14 players on this year’s ballot. Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Jeff Kent, Edgar Martinez, Pedro Martinez, Mike Mussina, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield, and John Smoltz.

Since the BBWAA inexplicably limits the voting to ten, I’d be forced to – regretfully – remove four. Sorry Edgar, Moose, Sheff, and Jeff Kent.

I’ve already shared some of my thoughts on many of the players on the ballot. Here are some random thoughts on everyone else.

I’m pretty sure that Pedro Martinez in 1999 and 2000 was the best pitcher ever.

In 1999, he had a sparkling 23-4 record with a 2.07 ERA, a 243 ERA+, 313 strikeouts, and just 9 home runs allowed and 37 walks in 213 innings. If you like FIP – which only factors in non-defensive stats like walks, strikeouts, and home runs allowed – then Pedro’s 1999 season was the best of the last century. His FIP was an unfathomable 1.39.

The odd thing about his 1999 season is that he allowed a .325 BABIP, which was well above the league average. That’s why his FIP was so historic – he put up these amazing numbers despite allowing nearly a third of all batted balls to turn into base hits.

In 2000, Pedro was even better. 18-6 record, 217 innings, 128 hits allowed, 32 walks, 284 strikeouts, and a 1.74 ERA. The league ERA in 2000 was a ridiculous 4.91.* That gives Pedro a 291 ERA+, the best of all time.

*In 2014, the league ERA was 3.81.

Pedro allowed a .236 BABIP in 2000. Funny thing, it was the lowest among qualified starters that year. In 1999, it was the 5th highest. There is no explanation for this other than that baseball is random and doesn’t make sense sometimes.

Anyway, Pedro should sail into the Hall of Fame this year. Sure, he didn’t have the longevity of some of his contemporaries, and he only won 219 games, but his career was still among the best ever. Three Cy Youngs (and two runner-ups). Five ERA titles. Lowest career WHIP and highest ERA+ among starting pitchers. He was awesome.

It must have been scary to face Randy Johnson. Like, the guy is almost seven feet tall and by the time he releases the ball he’s about 45 feet from home plate and it’s coming at 98 miles per hour and dear God please don’t let it hit me.

Randy Johnson checks all the boxes. 300 wins? Check. Postseason dominance? Check. Lots of strikeouts? Check. Sabermetric approval? Check. Success with the Yankees? Ch…well, uh, no.

I’ll visit Randy’s Baseball Reference page every day or two just to marvel at the amount of bold italics on there. He led the league in lots and lots of categories. Also, his run from 1999 to 2002 was ridiculous.

1999: 17-9, 2.48 ERA, 271 IP, 207 H, 70 BB, 364 K, Cy Young
2000: 19-7, 2.64 ERA, 248 IP, 202 H, 76 BB, 347 K, Cy Young
2001: 21-6, 2.49 ERA, 249 IP, 181 H, 71 BB, 372 K, Cy Young
2002: 24-5, 2.32 ERA, 260 IP, 197 H, 71 BB, 334 K, Cy Young

No one has struck out 300 since Johnson in 2002. No one has even struck out 280 since then except for, well, Randy Johnson, who struck out 290 in 2004 when he was forty frikkin years old. And even as the league strikeout rate continues to climb, I’m not sure anyone will strike out 300 again.

Everyone talks about 3,000 hits as being an automatic qualifier for the Hall of Fame. But rarely do we discuss 3,000 strikeouts, which is actually harder to do. Only 16 pitchers have ever done it. John Smoltz is one of them, with 3,084 career strikeouts.

I don’t think Smoltz will make it to Cooperstown this year. He’ll likely fall a few percentage points short. Many of his lost votes will go to Mike Mussina. I wrote about both of them last month, but I still give Smoltz the nod.

Smoltz: 213-155, 3.33 ERA, 3473 IP, 3074 H, 1010 BB, 3084 SO, 125 ERA+, 66.5 WAR
Mussina: 270-153, 3.68 ERA, 3562 IP, 3460 H, 785 BB, 2813 SO, 123 ERA+, 82,7 WAR

I don’t put too much stock into playoff performance, but if that’s your thing, then Smoltz wins there too. He was historically great in October – 15-4 with a 2.67 ERA in 209 innings. Mussina wasn’t quite that good – 7-8 with a 3.42 ERA in 139 innings.

This is another reason why the 10-player limit is unfair. You’re forced to pick between great and great. And, inevitably, one will be diminished for it. Both of them are Hall of Famers.

Every pitcher (except Roger Clemens) with 100 more wins than losses is in the Hall of Fame. Mussina finished 270-153. And, sure, wins and losses are not a great way to evaluate pitching, but I do think they tell a story over 20 years.

Look, if Mussina finished his career with 300 wins, then he sails into the Hall of Fame. And, if he sticks around for a bit longer, he probably gets to 300. He retired in 2008 when he was 39 years old, but he was coming off a remarkable season where he won 20 games. If he sticks around for three more years, and puts up three mediocre seasons, then he gets to 300. And I don’t think three mediocre seasons should be the difference between the Hall of Fame and borderline.

My favorite Mike Mussina moment was back in 2006 when he was working on a complete game gem against the Detroit Tigers. He’s one out away when Joe Torre begins to walk up the dugout steps to take him out. Mussina looks at Torre, shakes his finger, and says NO STAY THERE. And Torre’s reaction is just priceless, like a little kid being disciplined. Torre walks back down the steps, and Mussina finishes the game.

**checks YouTube**

Here it is.

A lot of the Tim Raines nay-sayers will shout: HE WASN’T RICKEY HENDERSON! To which I reply: why are you shouting? We’re the only one’s here.

No one was Rickey Henderson. But Raines was awfully good, probably the best player in the National League from 1983 to 1987 and one of the most efficient base stealers of all time.

Raines: 808 SB, 146 CS
Henderson: 1406 SB, 335 CS
Lou Brock: 938 SB, 307 CS

Raines didn’t have 3,000 hits, but he reached base more times than Tony Gwynn:

Raines: 10,359 plate apperances, 3,977 reached on base
Gwynn: 10,232 plate appearances, 3,955 reached on base

He also finished with a higher WAR than Gwynn: 69.1 to 68.8.

Edgar Martinez finished his career with a .312 average, a .418 OBP, and a .515 SLG. Even though he played in a massive offensive environment, his OPS+ was 147, higher than:

Harmon Killebrew
Mike Piazza
Alex Rodriguez
Chipper Jones
David Ortiz
George Brett
Al Kaline
Tony Gwynn

…and many others.

Fred McGriff had one of the best nicknames of all time. The Crime Dog.

No player was ever better in his home ballpark than Larry Walker. The only one that comes close is Chuck Klein.

Walker, career at Coors Field: .381/.462/.710
Walker, career elsewhere: .282/.372/.501

Klein, career at the Baker Bowl: .395/.448/.705
Klein, career elsewhere: .277/.336/.451

In 1999 Larry Walker hit .461/.531/.879 in 66 games at Coors Field. DEAR GOD.

The first year I started following baseball seriously was 2000. And for much of that year, the best player wasn’t Mark McGwire or Barry Bonds or Sammy Sosa or Derek Jeter … it was Darin Erstad. He finished that season with 240 hits and a .355 average. He never hit .300 again.

In February 2001, I went to the Red Sox Spring Training facility with my family. I got some pretty cool autographs that day – Tim Wakefield and Dante Bichette and Carl Everett and Jimy Williams. But the best was Nomar Garciaparra. Sure, I was a Yankee fan, but getting Nomar’s autograph was one of the biggest thrills of my childhood. He signed about five balls that day, and I was one of the lucky one’s.

If Carlos Delgado played in another era, he’d likely be a Hall of Famer. 473 homers, .383 OBP, .546 SLG. But he was overshadowed by so many great sluggers of his time.

Also, this home run in 2008 was one of the most important catalysts for instant replay.

They called him “Everyday Eddie,” which didn’t really make sense then and it certainly doesn’t make sense now as I look at his Baseball Reference page. He appeared in 70+ games three times. I guess you could call him 40% Eddie.

The first year I played fantasy baseball was 2004 and Jason Schmidt was my ace. He was a really good pitcher for about three years and then he struggled and that was it.

Rich Aurilia’s 2001 season was such an outlier: .324 average, 206 hits, 37 home runs, 146 OPS+. He never had a season close to that again.

Aaron Boone. I was not awake when he hit the home run. I’m not sure why. I was a big fan in 2003. I try to retrace my steps and my thought process but I can’t remember why I was sleepi…zzzz…

This catch by Brian Giles is one of the best I have ever seen.

Giles had a fine career. He had a career .400 OBP and .500 SLG. Not many players have done that.

Jermaine Dye was a terrific hitter but a historically bad fielder. In 2007, he hit 28 homers with a 105 OPS+ and he had a -1.6 WAR because of his play in right field.

I put a lot of stock in how pitchers celebrate winning the World Series. Papelbon in 2007 – awful. Brian Wilson in 2010 – terrible. Sergio Romo in 2012 – hideous.

I always liked Troy Percival’s reaction.

A failed starter, Tom Gordon ended up having a nice career out of the bullpen. He was also nicknamed “Flash” because that is required for anyone with the last name of Gordon.

I think he was one of the more underrated Yankees of the last 15 or so years. He had two great years in 2004 and 2005 setting up for Mariano Rivera.

I always liked Cliff Floyd’s batting stance. Closed, leg kick, and then a loooooong swing through the zone.

I’m certain that if Tony Clark’s ground rule double in Game 5 of the 2004 ALCS stays in the park, Ruben Sierra scores from third and the Yankees win the game and the series. The curse remains in tact. And life would be just a bit better.

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