My Fake Ballot for the Veterans Committee

My Fake Ballot for the Veterans Committee

For the players who made my fake ballot for the writers, click here. For those who didn’t, click here.

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance also held a fake election for the Veterans Committee (VC) ballot. There were nine former players on it. Since the Veterans Committee process is even more of a mess than the Hall’s process for the BBWAA, which is saying a lot, nobody got in.

The Veterans Committee’s ineffectiveness is the result of multiple problems, a few of which it shares with the BBWAA. One of the problems, however, is the complete opposite of the BBWAA voters. There are only 16 members on the committee. That’s way too few. It runs the risk of a strong-willed individual taking control of the group. I’m not saying that such a thing has happened, but it’s a possibility. A group of ~100 people would be preferable. The BBWAA, on the other hand, had 549 ballots cast in the last election. That number will only get higher as more and more writers become eligible. With that many people, it almost doesn’t matter if you have a ballot. That’s why Buster Olney’s abstention was not a terribly fruitful endeavor.

Like the BBWAA, the VC is lacking in subject matter experts. The Golden Era Committee is comprised of Hall of Fame members Jim Bunning, Rod Carew, Pat Gillick, Ferguson Jenkins, Al Kaline, Joe Morgan, Ozzie Smith and Don Sutton; major league executives Dave Dombrowski, Jim Frey, David Glass and Roland Hemond; and veteran media members Steve Hirdt, Dick Kaegel, Phil Pepe and Tracy Ringolsby.

My first reaction to seeing the names in that group is my eyes bugging out of my head at the sight of Joe Morgan’s name on the committee. As I’ve mentioned before on this site, he may be the greatest 2nd baseman of all time, but I think he’s the worst analyst of my generation. Yes, even worse than Tim McCarver. I would not trust Morgan to analyze a Little League game.

Overall, that’s a terrible collection of people to be deciding who gets into the Hall of Fame. Now, I don’t know everybody on that committee well. I support Pat Gillick and Dave Dombrowski because they have excellent track records as GMs. I am especially confident in Dombrowski’s ability to evaluate baseball players. Frey, Glass, and Hemond I do not know well enough to say one way or the other. As for the media members, I support Steve Hirdt, but I don’t know Phil Pepe very well. I do strongly oppose Kaegel and Ringolsby. They are terrible at analyzing baseball. They’ve been covering the game longer than I’ve been alive, yet have never bothered to learn anything about it.

Other than Joe Morgan, I can’t speak for each player individually. However, I do oppose Hall of Fame players being part of the process in general. Another thing I’ve mentioned on this site before is that players tend to be poor analysts. They are experts in playing the game of baseball, not analyzing and evaluating it. Those are two different skills. They are certainly capable of being elite analysts, but for reasons I’ll decline to speculate on, that rarely happens. I will say that Gabe Kapler and Brian Bannister are the rare former players who became great analysts1. Furthermore, Hall of Fame players have an incentive to keep other players out. The more exclusive the Hall of Fame, the better they look. Maybe they are being perfectly objective, but I’d rather not take that chance.

My Ballot

SI’s Jay Jaffe broke down each candidate in-depth here and here, and it’s well worth your time.

Dick Allen

Allen was certainly an interesting character. He was an outspoken, brutally honest guy who had a habit of rubbing the media and his superiors the wrong way. Whether or not that was a major factor in him not getting into the Hall is anybody’s guess, but I would not put it past the BBWAA to be petulant rather than professional.

The media had fabricated narratives about Allen’s supposedly toxic clubhouse presence during his playing days. Again, it was petulant behavior likely fueled by Allen’s treatment of them. His former managers vouched for his positive affects and contributions to his teams, as did Hall of Famers Goose Gossage and Mike Schmidt. The writers even went as far as to say that Allen divided his clubhouses along racial lines, which is a horribly unethical and reprehensible claim to fabricate. Schmidt strongly denied those accusations in his autobiography, Clearing the Bases. African-Americans were not yet widely accepted in the game during Allen’s time, so it’s possible that the smear campaign against him was the result of racism. He certainty suffered racism from the fans.

I don’t know what the truth is and neither does anybody else. What’s more, I don’t even care. All of it goes to show how unreliable a player’s clubhouse presence is. It’s too subjective, it’s unprovable, and it’s impossible to know its effect in terms of wins and losses. That’s why it’s best to just go with that which can be objectively proven and assessed.

Allen certainly did not do anything to help himself. He struggled with alcoholism, and that led him to him being late to games or missing them entirely. He also appeared to have had a bit of a gambling problem. That, combined with his injury history, led to a relatively short 15 season career which was even less than that because of all the time he missed. He missed more than four seasons worth of games during his career!

As for his Hall of Fame case, it’s not what it could’ve been, but it merits Hall induction. He was one of the best hitters in baseball during his career. He hit .292/.378/.534 with a 155 wRC+ and 58.7 WAR. That wRC+ is roughly the same as that of Frank Thomas and Willie Mays. He slugged over .600 three times. He truly had 80 power that was likely on par with Giancarlo Stanton’s. He hit tape measure home runs and those who watched him play would comment on the sound the bat made when he made contact.

The fact that Allen had a plus .400 wOBA eight times in his career is impressive enough on its own. When put into the context of the era in which he played, it really becomes incredible. Allen played in what some describe as the second dead-ball era2. Remember, the pitching was so strong back then that MLB had to lower the mound after 1969.

Allen spent most of his time at 1st base, but was at 3rd for his peak years. He meets the offensive bar at either position. Speaking of positions, he was a poor defender at both of them, but his offense was so strong that he still meets the Hall of Fame standard. His career is also a great example on the importance of rate stats over counting stats. Allen’s 1,848 hits and 351 home runs certainly don’t look Hall of Fame worthy. However, to really make that claim in the face of his remarkable rate stats and his short career is ridiculous. An argument I would accept, though not agree with, is that Allen did not play enough games to merit Hall induction. If you’re going to make that argument, keep in mind that Ralph Kiner and Sandy Koufax had short careers and they’re in the Hall of Fame. A strong enough peak can overcome a short career.

Allen’s career is a sad tale on the effects of racism towards minority players. Some rose above it. Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Frank Robinson, and, of course, Jackie Robinson rose above it to turn in some truly special careers. Allen sadly, did not. He reminds me of the NBA’s Oscar Robertson. Racism did horrible things to him and his personality. Please don’t think for a second that I’m judging or condemning Allen for not being stronger, or for choosing to go down the path he did. We can’t even begin to imagine how hard it was for minorities to play during that era.

Allen only maxed out at 18.6% of the vote. He fell one vote short on the latest VC ballot. I really thought he’d get in this time around. As a result, he’ll have to wait another three years. It’s a shame. He’s pretty old, too. At 72 years old, they’re running the risk of handing him Ron Santo’s fate.

Ken Boyer

Boyer was much less controversial than Allen, to say the least, but then again, that can be said by almost anybody who every played. For his career, he hit .287/.349/.462 with a 116 wRC+ and 62.8 WAR. Obviously, those offensive numbers are underwhelming for a 3rd baseman. Boyer’s case lies in his defense. He was outstanding at fielding his position. He might’ve been an 80 defender.

It’s worth noting that the bar for 3rd basemen is low as a result of the shortage of such players in Cooperstown. Boyer has just enough offense to combine with his monster defense to merit him Hall induction. However, as I see it, he just barely makes it in.

He maxed out at 25% on the writer’s ballot. This is one instance when it’s not fair to condemn the BBWAA. The value of defense was not well understood at the time, and even if it was, he’s far from a slam dunk case. Like I just said, he just barely makes it in for me. It’s ok for borderline candidates to go either way. There’s no way that Boyer ever sees the Hall, even though it would be a posthumous induction. He couldn’t even get more than three votes from the Veterans Committee.

Hall of Very Good

These are the players who fell short for me. They had excellent careers, but not quite Hall of Fame worthy.

Minnie Miñoso

Miñoso could’ve been a Hall of Famer if not for factors beyond his control. Due to the color barrier, Miñoso didn’t debut until he was 25 years old, so he got a late start to his career. Seeing as how he had a 150 wRC+ in his rookie season, he had probably been major league ready for years. For his career, he hit .298/.389/.459 with a 133 wRC+ and 50.1 WAR. That’s not enough offense, especially in the power department, for a left fielder to get into the Hall of Fame. He provided no defensive value, either.

Jay Jaffe did make an interesting point with regards to Miñoso’s Hall case. He cited Miñoso’s “cultural importance as the game’s first black Cuban star and the first black player on either Chicago team.” It’s not the Hall of Stats, so given the historical significance of Jaffe’s statement, I believe that it would be defensible to put Miñoso in.

He never got more than 21% of the vote on the writer’s ballot. He did get 8 votes from the Veterans Committee, so getting in via that route is within the realm of possibility. What’s less likely is Miñoso living to see it happen. He’s 89 years old.

Gil Hodges

Hodges is certainly the most popular candidate on the ballot. He has a strong following of supporters who believe he should be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Quite frankly, I don’t get it. Neither did the VC, who did not give him more than three votes.

He hit .273/.359/.487 with a 121 wRC+ and 44.9 WAR. Those are very underwhelming number for a 1st baseman. If we can believe his Total Zone numbers, he was at least a good defender. Best case scenario is that he was a Gold Glove caliber defender, but even then it’s not enough for him to merit Hall induction. The offensive bar at 1st base is just too high. Hodges’ Hall case is actually remarkably similar to Don Mattingly’s.

Jim Kaat

Kaat certainly has longevity going for him with regards to his Hall of Fame case. He pitched for 25 years! Unfortunately, he was never elite, or really even close to it. For his career, he had a 93 ERA- and 90 FIP-. That’s just slightly better than Jack Morris. He only had three seasons with an ERA- or FIP- below 80. His WAR differs drastically depending on whether you go by Fangraphs or Baseball Reference. I prefer fWAR for pitchers and it has him at 69.5. His bWAR, on the other hand, is just 45.3. Even with the more favorable number, you have to keep in mind that WAR is a cumulative stat that Kaat compiled by playing for 25 seasons. Kaat was also excellent at fielding his position, but that’s still not enough.

I strongly believe that Kaat doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame. He just doesn’t have anything resembling a Hall of Fame caliber peak. He did get very close this time around, falling only 2 votes short.

Tony Oliva

Hey, another Cuban! Unfortunately, he has an even weaker case than his fellow countryman, Miñoso. During his 15-year career, he hit .304/.353/.476 with a 129 wRC+ and 43 WAR. He was a mediocre right fielder and baserunner. All in all, that’s just not enough offense for a right fielder to merit getting into Cooperstown.

It’s sad, because Oliva was certainly on a Hall of Fame track during the first half of his career. Unfortunately, he was derailed by serious knee injuries. It was so bad that he had to be moved to DH. It didn’t help, though, because overall he was a league average hitter during his last five seasons. He was barely above replacement level during that time period.

Given his weak Hall case, it’s surprising that he’s gotten the amount of support he has. I mean it’s really not given the “expertise” of the voters, but you know what I mean. Even by traditional stats, Oliva doesn’t have much of a case. He hit over .300, sure, but he has only 1,917 hits, 220 HR, and 947 RBI3. He peaked at 47.3% on the writers ballot and got at least 30% during his final eleven years. He came within one vote of making it via the Veterans Committee! I just don’t get it.

Luis Tiant

Three Cubans! This one happens to be a pitcher. I’m not sure I’d recognize him without his cigar, which he was rumored to have even in the shower! As for his Hall of Fame case, he certainly has longevity going for him, having pitched 19 seasons. Unlike Kaat, Tiant was inconsistent. If you were to look at his career numbers, you’d see a lot of variation from year to year.

That’s not the only way in which Tiant was unique. The guy had a crazy delivery. This is from his SABR bio:

“…he was said to have thrown six pitches-fastball, curve, slider, slow curve, palm ball, and knuckleball-from three different release points-over the top, three-quarters, and sidearm. His windup and motion seemed to vary on a whim. Roger Angell, writing in The New Yorker, once tried to put a name to each of his motions, including “Call the Osteopath,” “Out of the Woodshed” and “The Runaway Taxi”. It was said that over the course of the game Luis’ deliveries allowed him to look each patron in the eye at least once.”

I mean, just look at this!

That’s probably why his performance varied so much. That delivery combined with multiple arm slots had to have made it incredibly difficult for him to repeat his delivery.

Tiant also appeared to be one of the anomalous pitchers who had some control over his BABIP. He had a .261 BABIP and he would frequently come in below the American League average. A few other pitchers who share this unusual trait are Tom Seaver, Mariano Rivera, and Clayton Kershaw (as well as another pitcher who I’ll write about in my next post). The last two both had high-grade pitches that hitters could not get base hits on when they made contact. For Rivera, it was his cutter. For Kershaw, his curveball. I can only speculate with Tiant, but it’s possible that his wonky delivery played havoc on the hitters’ timing.

As a result of this anomaly, I think it’s more fair to judge him on his RA9-WAR instead of his fWAR, which normalizes BABIP. RA9-WAR uses RA9 to calculate WAR instead of FIP, which fWAR uses and is my usual preference for pitchers4. It helps his case a lot, too, because he goes from 53.9 WAR to 67.4 WAR. That’s impressive, but his 87 ERA- is not for a Hall of Fame pitcher. That, combined with his inconsistencies and lack of a Hall-caliber peak, is why I think he falls short of meriting Hall induction. Since he didn’t even get more than 3 votes from the VC, I doubt it’ll ever happen.

On the bright side, he does have an 80 grade mustache. Oh, and his middle name is Clemente! That’s awesome.

Maury Wills

Wills is basically a lesser version of Hall of Famer and Venezuelan legend, Luis Ernesto Aparicio5, who himself was a lesser version of Ozzie Smith. Those three players were all below average offensively, but were outstanding defensive shortstops and baserunners. When you’re this kind of player, you need longevity and a monstrous contribution of defense and baserunning in order to deserve entrance into Cooperstown.

Had Aparicio come at the same time as the Wizard or some time after, I doubt he gets into the Hall of Fame. Smith wasn’t as good a baserunner as Aparicio, but he makes up for it with better offense, more longevity, and the best glove that the position of shortstop has ever seen6. As is, I see Aparicio as a borderline Hall of Famer. I’m not sure I would’ve voted for him. An 83 wRC+ is really hard to overcome, but I don’t have a problem with him being in.

If Aparicio is borderline, you can imagine what I think of Wills. He does have the offensive edge on Aparicio, but Aparicio was far superior defensively. He was also a better baserunner, though how much better is up for debate. Wills stole 583 bases to Aparicio’s 508, but his 74% success rate is worse than Aparicio’s 79%. I believe that the success rate is more important. Where things get fuzzy is when you introduce the advanced baserunning statistics. Fangraphs’ BsR stat has Wills at 41.8 runs above average and Aparicio at 53.1. Baseball Reference’s Rbr has Wills 55 runs above average and Aparicio at a whopping 92. Even if BsR is closer to the “true” value, it’s still not enough for Wills to merit Hall induction.

Like Miñoso, Wills was late arriving to the majors, no thanks to the color barrier. Unlike Miñoso, I don’t believe Wills would’ve been a Hall of Famer had he arrived sooner. He just doesn’t have enough baserunning and defensive value to overcome his below average offense.

I firmly believe that Wills is not a Hall of Famer, but he got pretty close on the last VC ballot. He was just 3 votes shy. At 82 years old, Wills is another candidate that may suffer the Ron Santo treatment.

You may have noticed that I omitted Billy Pierce and Bob Howsman. I wasn’t interested in discussing Howsman because he was an executive. Pierce, on the other hand, I found to be a very interesting case. I decided to give him a separate, short write-up in my next post.

  1. Kapler was recently hired as the Director of Player Development. Bannister was just hired by the Boston Red Sox to be a scout and analyst. Great hires by both teams! I wish my Mets had snatched them up! 
  2. It can be said that we’re currently in a third dead-ball era. 
  3. I feel so dirty citing that stat. 
  4. What bWAR, also known as rWAR, does is it uses RA9 to calculate WAR and then adjusts for the quality of defense. There’s a perfectly good argument for doing that instead of just using FIP. I may change my mind some day about my WAR preference for pitchers as I learn more, but for now I’m sticking to fWAR. RA9-WAR makes no adjustment for fielding at all. If you want to learn more about the differences between RA9-WAR and bWAR, click here. Just to warn you, it is a math intensive article. 
  5. I first learned about him during my first ever Cooperstown visit, not long after I had turned 18. My dad pointed him out because he happened to have the same first and middle name as me! 
  6. Andrelton Simmons does have the ability to take that crown. 
Players Who Didn’t Make my Baseball Bloggers Alliance Hall of Fame Ballot

Players Who Didn’t Make my Baseball Bloggers Alliance Hall of Fame Ballot

If you’d like to see who I did vote for, click here.

Just as a reminder, the BBA used a binary ballot, meaning there was no limit to how many players you could vote for. Here I will discuss the players that didn’t make my ballot because they did not meet the Hall of Fame bar under my assessment. I won’t cover everybody, just the ones that I think are the most interesting.

Like in my last post, I will link each player’s name to an in-depth write-up by SI’s Jay Jaffe. If I were to do the same thing, this post would be 10,000 words.

Just Missed My Ballot

These players were close, but ultimately I felt that they did not meet the Hall standard. There is obviously some subjectivity behind where you place that line. Because of that, and how close I believe they are, I have no problem if they ever get inducted. If you feel that there’s something I’m completely missing, please feel free to share.

Jeff Kent

Kent delivered a lot of offense for a 2nd baseman. He had the most home runs ever for somebody at the position with 377, and his .500 career slugging percentage at the position is second only to the great Rogers Hornsby. That kind of power coming from a 2nd baseman makes for a good Hall of Fame case, but I believe that if you put that power in the context of the era he played in and take into account his deficiencies, he falls short of Hall worthiness.

When looking at Kent’s power, which is the biggest strength of his Hall case, you see that it didn’t truly blossom until he arrived in San Francisco in 1997. His prime came during one of the most high-powered eras for offense in baseball history. I’m not saying that what he did wasn’t impressive, especially for a 2nd baseman. What I’m saying is that context matters, and his power came at a time when it was never easier to hit for power.

When it came to fielding, Kent was a below average defender, which is unusual for a 2nd baseman making a case for the Hall. Joe Morgan, Ryne Sandberg, and Roberto Alomar were all excellent at fielding their positions. Craig Biggio didn’t field his position as well as those guys, but he was far better than Kent.

Kent’s .356 OBP, which again, is great for a 2nd baseman, is underwhelming given the era in which he played. Joe Morgan, Roberto Alomar, Lou Whitaker, and Bobby Grich all have higher OBPs than Kent, and all of them save for Alomar played in more offense suppressing eras. They were also all way better defensively. Way better.

Kent is clearly a inferior candidate to Whitaker and Grich, and neither one of them are in the Hall of Fame. However, Whitaker and Grich are worthy Hall of Famers who were not given enough credit when they were eligible.

Sammy Sosa

My problem with Sosa is that he was kind of a one-trick pony. He was elite at hitting home runs, but couldn’t really do anything else above an average level.

You can argue that he had a Hall of Fame caliber peak. It’s more difficult to say the same thing about his career as a whole. Like with Kent, his career .344 OBP is underwhelming given the era in which he played. Coming from a lower value position like right field weakens his case even further. The effect of his OBP is evident in his career 124 wRC+. The offensive bar in right field is high for the Hall of Fame, and that just doesn’t cut it.

His defense is an interesting story. He was a plus defender before he hit his prime. When his bat peaked, his glove plummeted. Overall, his defense is a wash.

Sosa’s power was Hall of Fame caliber, but his OBP, the most important part of a player’s offense, was sub-par. He was not able to add any extra value via defense or baserunning. Also, like Kent, his power blossomed in an era when it was never easier to hit for power. He was a great player, but not a Hall of Famer.

Sosa is not getting in anyway. He’s in danger of falling off the ballot, and it’s doubtful that the Veteran’s Committee puts him in.

Hall of Very Good

These are the players who do not have good Hall cases. They were great, immensely talented players. Unfortunately, they fall well short of the Hall of Fame standard.

Fred McGriff

The bar at 1st base is incredibly high, and despite having hit 493 home runs, McGriff falls short. For his career, he hit .284/.377/.509, which is good for only a 134 wRC+. That’s pretty low for a Hall of Fame 1st baseman. To make matters worse, McGriff was a negative defensively and provided no value on the base paths. In his prime, he only had two seasons above 6 WAR and four seasons above 5 WAR. McGriff also grounded into 226 double plays during his career.

Once you look past his home run total, his Hall case falls apart pretty quickly. McGriff isn’t going to get in via the BBWAA and I can’t see the Veteran’s Committee putting him in either.

Nomar Garciaparra

The greatest shortstop in Red Sox history certainly had a Hall of Fame peak. During his prime, he was a complete player and one of the best in baseball. His .208 ISO is the highest ever for a player whose primary position was shortstop1.

Unfortunately, Nomah’s career was plagued by injuries after he left Boston. He just doesn’t have the longevity and overall career numbers to merit Hall induction.

Nomah got more support than I thought he would. However, he just barely was able to stay on the ballot this year. I doubt he stays on more than a couple of years. The Red Sox did put him into their own Hall of Fame, and that was well deserved.

Carlos Delgado

Delgado has a similar case to McGriff, albeit a weaker one overall. They’re both high slugging 1st basemen. His career 135 wRC+ is almost identical to McGriff’s. However, he played 425 fewer games and was even worse defensively. As a result, he only has three seasons above 5 WAR. During the second half of his career, Delgado went from being an average baserunner to a poor one. He accumulated nearly all of his -30.1 BsR during that time period. Also like McGriff, his strongest case lies with his 473 HR total.

Delgado fell off the ballot on his first year. ESPN’s Jayson Stark wrote a strange article apologizing to him for the lack of support he received. You’re either a Hall of Famer, or you’re not. I fail to see why it matters if an unworthy player falls off the ballot quickly. In fact, you could make the argument that it is better to rip off the band-aid quickly than it is to string along a player that will never get in.

Don Mattingly

Another 1st baseman who falls short. He was a very different player than McGriff and Delgado, though. Mattingly didn’t have much power, as he only hit 222 home runs in his career. He did have a better hit tool than McGriff and Delgado. His OBP is inferior, but he did play in a lower offense era. Mattingly’s career 124 wRC+ is way below the high bar for a 1st baseman, and is even worse than that of McGriff and Delgado. However, he was far better defensively.

When you think about it, he’s kind of a lesser version of Keith Hernandez. He didn’t hit for much power either, but his hitting and OBP skills were superior to Mattingly’s. Hernandez was also arguably the greatest defensive 1st baseman of all time. And no, I’m not making that case because I’m a Mets fan, but it sure does feel good!

Mattingly just finished his last year of eligibility on the writer’s ballot. The Veteran’s Committee can still put him in, but that’s doubtful. His best chance is to have a successful managerial career, and by that I mean win a lot of games and have some postseason success. His atrocious tactical skills certainly aren’t going to get him anywhere.

You’ve Got to be Kidding Me

Only one player in this section worth writing up. His persistence on the ballot is baffling.

Lee Smith

He was a reliever. I thought about just leaving it at that, because that’s really all the argument I should need, but figured I should expand upon it.

We’re all familiar with the disadvantages that DHs face. Since they provide no positional or defensive value, the offensive bar is very, very high. With relievers it’s even worse. They pitch roughly a third as many innings as a starter. Pitching well enough to close that enormous innings gap is nearly impossible. As I’ve said time and time again, a mediocre starter is more valuable than an elite reliever. If that elite reliever was really that good, he’d be a starter.

Really, that’s what gets me about considering relievers for Cooperstown. You can make the argument that they should be considered separately, but it’s like I just said. There are probably countless mediocre starters over the course of baseball history who could’ve been elite out of the pen. There are likely starters that played with Smith that nobody remembers who could’ve been worlds better than Smith out of the pen. Instead, they provided more value to the team by starting, yet they’ve been forgotten and Smith keeps getting votes. Heck, he played a few seasons with Rick Reuschel, and Reuschel actually has a legitimate Hall of Fame case as a starter! He only got two votes in his only year on the ballot!

Smith’s only case lies in the worst stat in all of baseball: The save. It is a context dependent, valueless, narrative driven stat that has ruined modern bullpen usage. Contrary to popular belief, the last three outs of the game are not the hardest, and certainly not more so than getting 18 outs or more.

He does have consistency and longevity going for him. Unfortunately, his 76 ERA-, 74 FIP-, and 27.3 WAR, while great for a reliever, are still light-years away from covering the innings gap.

I don’t know what’s worse, that Smith peaked at 50%, or that he got more support on the latest ballot than Mike Mussina. I have no respect for baseball minds that voted for Smith. I just cannot take such a ballot seriously. Especially since it’s so packed, voting for Smith is inexcusable. It’s worse than voting for Jack Morris because at least he was a starter. Thankfully, there’s no way he’s getting in via the writers, but the Veterans Committee is unpredictable.

You can bet that I’ll say the same thing next year when Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner2 become eligible. The only pitcher who meets the insanely high bar that a reliever has to reach to merit Cooperstown is Mariano Rivera.

In my next post, I’ll discuss the Veterans Committee and my Baseball Blogger’s Alliance fake ballot for it.

  1. A-Rod and Ernie Banks spent roughly half of their careers at another position. Troy Tulowitzki was excluded because he’s still active. 
  2. For what it’s worth, Wagner has a better case than Hoffman. 
My 2015 Baseball Bloggers Alliance Hall of Fame Ballot

My 2015 Baseball Bloggers Alliance Hall of Fame Ballot

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance held a mock Hall of Fame election recently. A 75% mark was still required for election. However, since the people in the BBA are far more intelligent than the governing body of the actual Hall of Fame, we made the ballot unlimited. There was no 10-man limit.

My decisions were driven by facts and objective arguments. Narratives and subjectivity were kept to a minimum, but not ignored entirely. Steroid use, however, was ignored. The perception that steroids enhance baseball performance is based solely on anecdotal evidence and is severely lacking in scientific rigor. Even if that wasn’t the case, the Hall of Fame already has racists, alcoholics, and wife abusers in it. If you think cheating at baseball is worse than any of those things, then you really need to re-evaluate your ethics.

Not voting for Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell is especially egregious. “Bacne” and displaying big power despite being drafted in the 62nd round is not evidence. Dan Lewis just wrote a great piece about it here. If you want to be anti-steroids, you cannot draw conclusions based on suspicions. That’s intellectually dishonest and flat-out arrogant. In other words, don’t be Pedro Gómez. Seriously, who do you think you are when you condemn somebody on such flimsy evidence?

The only evidence against Bagwell is that he confessed to having used androstenedione before MLB outlawed it. Andro has been scientifically proven to be ineffective up to 300 mg a day in building muscle. We do know that its effects vary greatly from person to person. It is possible that it becomes efficacious at crazy high doses, but there’s no scientific evidence to support this1.

Again, not only is there no evidence that andro has any impact on baseball performance, there isn’t even any evidence that it builds muscle.

If you’re a voter who has always unfairly penalized steroid users, while keeping quiet and benefiting from all the narratives they provided you when they played, then you’re a hypocrite with a sub-elementary school understanding of how science and logic work. This is a problem that is rampant in the BBWAA. It holds them back from being a respectable organization.

I’m not saying they absolutely did not use. What I am saying is that there is no hard evidence.

Joe Sheehan wrote up an analysis he did that explains the high offense era far better than steroids do. There were no fancy studies done. He just used facts, logic, and 2nd grade math. In a nutshell, the extra offense was the result of higher contact rates, expansion teams, and a smaller strike zone. It is must reading for all baseball fans and can be found here.

I named 16 players on my fake ballot. I am not going over each candidate in explicit detail because I don’t want this post to be 10,000 words long. Some of the candidates who I believe fell short will also be discussed. The players have not been put in any particular order. If you’re interested in more in-depth arguments for each player, I’ve linked each player’s name to Jay Jaffe’s individual write-up of the player. Jaffe is one of the best Hall of Fame evaluators in the business.

I did not consider pitcher record, saves, runs scored, or RBI for what should be obvious reasons. I also did not consider All-Star appearances. That is a popularity contest and is no way to evaluate baseball players. Awards were only lightly considered. I simply do not trust the BBWAA when it comes to award voting.

My Ballot

Randy Johnson

One of the greatest left-handed pitchers of all time. He had a career 75 ERA- and 73 FIP-. He had several seasons with an ERA- below 60. Johnson was a strikeout machine who accumulated 4,875 K’s, second only to Nolan Ryan, and whose career 28.6 K% is the greatest ever. He posted four seasons of at least 9 WAR, and nine seasons of at least 7 WAR. His 111.7 career WAR is the third highest of the live-ball era.

Johnson had two 80-grade pitches: His fastball and slider. His fourseamer was in the upper 90’s and occasionally broke 100 MPH. His slider was in the low 90’s and had disgusting late break to it. Hitters would frequently confuse it for a fastball until it was too late. Some would even say that his splitter was an 80 pitch, too. Having two 80 pitches is insane enough, especially from a lefty, but a possible third? I can’t even wrap my head around that. That really goes a long way towards explaining his dominance, doesn’t it?

The only knock against Johnson was his control issues. His career 8.8 BB% isn’t great, and was much higher early in his career. He also hit 190 batters. It was likely a function of his lanky 6’10” frame. Being that tall does have its advantage. You can get more downward plane on you fastball and release it closer to the plate. Unfortunately, it also makes it difficult to repeat your delivery, which in turn leads to command issues.

Johnson obviously made it work. His five Cy Young awards, including four straight on the Diamondbacks, is a testament to him being one of the top-10 pitchers of all time.

Pedro Martínez

His 1999 season might be the best that a pitcher has ever performed. That season he turned in a 2.07 ERA, 1.39 FIP, 37.5 K%, and a whopping 11.9 WAR. He followed that up with a 9.9 WAR season. He did that in the height of the steroid era and in the AL East. You’d be hard pressed to find a more difficult environment for a pitcher.

Of course, one season a Hall of Famer does not make. For his career, he had a 66 ERA- and 67 FIP-. Those are the best marks for any starting pitcher of all time2! His 27.7 K% is the second highest all time among retired starters. He produced five seasons with at least 7 WAR and totaled 87.1 for his career.

Pedro succeeded in part because he had one of the greatest changeups of all time. It had a ~15 MPH difference between his fastball. Thanks to his deception, hitters found it difficult to pick the ball up out of his hand. Basically, if you guessed changeup and got fastball, or vice versa, you were screwed. That, combined with his cutter and curveball, all of which he had excellent command of, made him one of the most devastating pitchers ever. Coincidentally, both he and Randy Johnson had low three-quarters arm slots. To top it all off, he was extremely intelligent, not unlike Greg Maddux. His catcher on the Red Sox, Jason Varitek, said that he didn’t call Pedro’s games. Pedro always decided what to throw. He was just plain unfair.

In his prime, Pedro was possibly the greatest pitcher of all time.

Mike Piazza

The greatest hitting catcher of all time. For his career, he hit .307/.377/.545 with a 140 wRC+. Correcting for league and park effects, which is what wRC+ does, and Piazza is easily the best offensive player ever whose primary position was catcher. He also leads all catchers with 427 career home runs, which is especially impressive given that he spent his career playing in pitchers parks.

His defense always came under scrutiny, and it’s a bit unfair. Bill James wrote a great piece about it last year. Yes, he was not good at throwing out baserunners. He was, however, good at calling games and handling his pitching staffs. Click on the link above for more details. Simply put, pitchers performed better with Piazza than they did with other catchers. Craig Wright did a similar study in the Hardball Times 2009 Annual and concluded the same thing3.

Jeff Bagwell

A top-ten all-time 1st baseman. He hit .297/.408/.540 with a 149 wRC+ and 79.6 WAR. He had five seasons with at least a 160 wRC+, including a 205 wRC+ in 1994! He was a good fielder too, and it’s likely that his WAR total is shorting him. The guy could run, too. He had 202 SB and two seasons with at least 30.

What’s especially astounding is that Bagwell put up those monster offensive numbers in the Astrodome. That place was one of the most offense-suffocating ballparks ever. Imagine if the Red Sox had never traded him. What would his numbers have looked like in the hitter’s haven of Fenway Park?

Piazza is likely to get in next year, so it’s not unreasonable to assume that Bagwell’s candidacy will gain more traction. It’s a shame that he will not be going in at the same time as his teammate:

Craig Biggio

Biggio’s case isn’t as clear-cut as, say, a high-powered slugger, which certainly does not describe Biggio. He does have over 3,000 hits, but he was a notorious compiler. He was roughly league average or worse during his final six seasons, which included an atrocious -2.1 WAR season during his final year. He should’ve retired long before he did, and as a result, he has an unremarkable career 115 wRC+.

There’s certainly a case to be made against Biggio’s Hall worthiness, and I think I just made it. He certainly wasn’t one of the better candidates on this year’s ballot. He wasn’t even better than his teammate, Jeff Bagwell.

Biggio is a Hall of Famer because he was a great all-around player. In his prime, he had eight seasons with an OBP of at least .380 and four seasons over .400. He didn’t hit many home runs, but he was a doubles machine, having hit 668 during his career.

His offensive numbers are not Hall of Fame worthy by themselves. That changes when you consider that he spent his career at premium positions. He started out as a catcher and ended as a centerfielder, but he spent most of his career at 2nd base. He was a good defensive 2nd baseman, too. He provided value on the base paths, as well. He accumulated 414 SB.

I would peg him as a lower-tier Hall of Famer, but a Hall of Famer nonetheless. The Hall doesn’t make that distinction anyway.

Barry Bonds

I sincerely hope that I do not need to make the case for a player that is at worst, the second greatest player to ever play the game.

Roger Clemens

I sincerely hope that I do not need to make the case for a pitcher who was arguably the greatest ever, especially in the live-ball era.

Tim Raines

It is a complete joke that Raines is not in the Hall of Fame already. He is the fifth best switch-hitter of all time. Most importantly, he was an on-base machine who made more of those opportunities than any other player not named Rickey Henderson.

Raines reached base more times than Tony Gwynn or Roberto Clemente4. Like I said in my last post, had he gotten 400 less walks and 400 more singles, he’d have 3,000 hits and probably already be in the Hall, even though his OBP would be exactly the same. He had a whopping ten seasons with at least a .390 OBP and five seasons over .400. He did an outstanding job of doing the most important thing a position player can do: Get on base.

He accumulated 808 SB and 100.4 BsR. His success rate is an excellent 85%. Lou Brock is in the Hall of Fame and Raines was far better. His exclusion from the Hall is a strong indictment on the votership’s lack of understanding of the game.

Mike Mussina

I cannot fathom the lack of support for Mussina. The argument can be made that he’s the fourth best pitcher on the ballot. He had a career 82 ERA-, 81 FIP-, 19.3 K%, and 82.5 WAR. That was done in one of the highest offensive eras in history and in the AL East. He was never truly elite, but was consistently close to it. He has ten seasons with at least 5 WAR and three seasons above 6 WAR. He also excelled in the playoffs. He has a career 3.42 ERA in 139.2 IP.

He’s absolutely better than Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. Look how he compares to them, and Curt Schilling, here and here. You cannot say that Glavine and Smoltz belong in the Hall of Fame and Mussina doesn’t. The logic is inconsistent.

Mussina is possibly the only pitcher to ever have been able to command the knuckle curveball. It has better break than a regular curveball but is extremely difficult to command.

The fact that Lee Smith got more support than Mussina is a disgrace. It’s more evidence to throw on the pile that the votership has no idea what it’s doing.

Curt Schilling

Schilling had more variance in his career than Mussina, meaning that he had more highs and more lows. He has a career 80 ERA-, 74 FIP-, and 83.2 WAR. He was also great at missing bats and not walking hitters. His 4.66 K/BB is the greatest ever among starting pitchers. Breaking that down, he had a 23.5 K% and 5.4 BB%. The guy just had amazing command. He also had five seasons with at least 7 WAR.

He’s a Hall of Famer before you even get to his tremendous postseason success. His 2.23 ERA and 3.06 FIP in 133.1 IP is ridiculous. If you didn’t click on the links in the Mussina section to see how he compares to Glavine and Smoltz, I encourage you to do so.

It’s surprising that he hasn’t gotten more support. Certainly his personality and outspokenness have cost him votes, but he has so much narrative help surrounding his career. It’s exactly the sort of thing that the BBWAA goes nuts for.

John Smoltz

Smoltz, like Dennis Eckersley, is a bit of an anomaly because he spent four seasons as a closer. He was only truly elite in one of those seasons, 2002. Voters tend to give extra credit for that sort of thing, which is odd. As I have said time and time again, even a mediocre starter is more valuable than an elite closer.

Yes, Smoltz was forced into the role and yes, he was helpful. At the same time, neither Schilling nor Mussina had to do that, which puts Smoltz at a disadvantage in comparison.

His 78.7 WAR is built more on longevity and consistency than it is on performing at an elite level as a starter. His 1996-97 seasons were the only years he was truly elite. As Jaffe pointed out, Smoltz accumulated 38.8 WAR at his peak, which is 12 WAR below the average starter in the Hall.

Smoltz has a difficult Hall of Fame case before you consider his outstanding postseason success. His 2.67 ERA and 3.18 FIP in 208 IP puts him over the top for me. That’s a full season worth of innings pitched in the postseason and he truly performed at an elite level. Now I don’t believe in clutch or a player’s ability to outperform their talent level when it matters most, but Smoltz may very well be an exception.

There was also some narrative help on Smoltz’ side, too, and I honestly don’t have a problem with that. Being part of that three-headed monster in Atlanta for so long clearly helped his case.

I’m fine with Smoltz getting in even though he’s not better than Schilling or Mussina. He’s a deserving Hall of Famer who got in, and that’s all that matters.

Alan Trammell

It makes no sense that Barry Larkin is in the Hall of Fame and Trammell isn’t. They’re roughly the same player, with Trammell having a little more defensive value and a little less offense.

He has a career 111 wRC+ with seven seasons of at least a 123 wRC+. The kind of offensive numbers he put up at the position of shortstop make him a Hall of Famer, or close to it. Factor in his excellent defense and it becomes a no-brainer.

He’s not getting in via the BBWAA. The fact that he and Lou Whitaker never came close to gaining election but Jack Morris broke 60% is further proof that there are too many voters who do not understand the game of baseball.

Mark McGwire

Another easy decision. A career .236/.394/.588 hitter with 583 home runs, including seasons of 70 HR and 65 HR. He has a career 157 wRC+ and 62 WAR. He had no defensive or baserunning value, but he was an offensive monster during his prime.

Like Trammell, he’ll also have to wait for the Veteran’s Committee to get in, although for completely different reasons.

Gary Sheffield

Sheffield is a borderline candidate, but he just makes it in for me. He hit .292/.393/.514 with 509 HR, a 141 wRC+, and 60.2 WAR for his career. He has longevity on his side, too. He played for 22 seasons.

I’d be more confident in deeming him a Hall of Famer if it wasn’t for what huge negative he was on defense. Defensive metrics are far from perfect, but a -28.6 dWAR is hard to explain away.

Larry Walker

He gets unfairly penalized for having played on the moon in Coors Field. At the end of the day, he did what he did. Even when we adjust for the absurdly friendly hitting environment in Colorado, he still comes out with a 140 wRC+ and 72.6 WAR.

An argument against Walker is that he hit only 383 home runs despite playing in Coors Field. I still think he has enough to make him Hall of Fame worthy, albeit barely.

Walker is never getting in and is in danger of falling off the ballot. I doubt that the Veteran’s Committee puts him in either.

Edgar Martínez

Yes, I’m Puerto Rican. No, I did not vote for him because of that. I actually didn’t come around on him until a couple of years ago.

Martínez for his career hit .312/.418/.515 with a 147 wRC+ and 68.3 WAR. He also walked more than he struck out. For at least part of his prime, he was arguably the best hitter in baseball. From 1995 to 2001, he hit .329/.446/.574 with a 162 wRC+. What really jumps out at you when you look at his career is his OBP. He had an unbelievable twelve seasons with a plus .400 OBP! That alone makes a strong Hall of Fame case.

For such a talented hitter, he didn’t hit many home runs, having only accumulated 309. He was a doubles machine, however. He hit 514 doubles for his career.

Of course, the big knock against Martínez is the fact that he played roughly three-quarters of his games at DH. That’s a big deal. There’s no value in playing a position that literally any player can play. Furthermore, there’s value in fielding a position, even if it’s fielded poorly. Sheffield was a lousy defender, but at least he was on the field.

Martínez provided so much production with his bat that it overcomes the fact that he’s a DH. It’s a very high bar, but he clears it. There’s just way too much OBP to ignore.

To all Red Sox fans out there who want to see Big Papi in the Hall of Fame some day: You really want Martínez to get in. He doesn’t have Ortiz’ playoff résumé, but other than HR total, he does clearly have superior regular season numbers. Papi’s case becomes more difficult without Martínez in the Hall.

In my next post, I’ll cover some of the players who didn’t make my fake ballot, such as Jeff Kent and Sammy Sosa. I’ll also discuss my thoughts on the results.

  1. Brown, G., Vukovich, M., and King, D.:”Testosterone Prohormone Supplements”, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 38(8):1451-1461. 
  2. Clayton Kershaw currently has him beat with a career 65 ERA-. As great as he is, I doubt that he finishes his career at that mark. 
  3. Yes, I am a Mets fan. However, I would certainly not cite studies that I didn’t fully believe in. If you disagree about Piazza’s defense, take it up with James or Wright. 
  4. Hat tip to Jonah Keri for that fun fact. 
The Hall of Fame, A Place I Hate to Love

The Hall of Fame, A Place I Hate to Love

Ah, Hall of Fame season again. A time when we can see who really understands baseball and who doesn’t. Sadly, the majority of the votership falls in the latter category. I do the best I can to avoid the terrible ballots out there. Seeking them out is tantamount to masochism. Perhaps it’s just selection bias, but I’ve seen a good number of excellent ballots. My guess is that a lot of the bad ballots out there are not made public, because, you know, those people feel as if they are too good to be held accountable for anything they do or say.

I want to not care. I try to not care. But as a baseball fan, I can’t help but care. I can’t help but love the history and the majesty of the Hall of Fame. Some people have succeeded in completely dismissing the Hall. That’s sad, and I don’t blame them, but do you know whose fault that is? The Hall of Fame’s. They have the power to fix everything, yet all they have done is invoke a pointless rule change1.

Was that rule change some ploy by the Hall of Fame to keep PED users out?

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens each got ~35% of the vote last year. They’ll need at least 62% of the remaining electorate to change their minds about steroids in the next eight years in order get elected into the Hall of Fame. Tom Verducci wrote a very good article in response to the rule change. In it, he asked Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson about how steroids affected the decision for this rule change. He said not at all. It’s an empty quote, however, as it’s not like he’d say otherwise if it was true.

Of course, that’s not the only effect the rule change has. Since a player rarely gets in after his 10th year of eligibility, this will function as a streamlining of the process. After all, since 1966, only 12% of players got inducted after their 10th year of eligibility. While worthy Hall of Famers such as Bert Blylevin and Duke Snider got inducted after 10 years, more often than not those extra 5 years result in more undeserving inductees such as Jim Rice and Bruce Sutter. The rule change will help to clear out the ballot quicker. Unfortunately, it does nothing to relieve the logjam in the Hall of Fame ballot NOW.

Jay Jaffe is an expert on everything concerning the Hall of Fame, and wrote a more analytical breakdown of the results of rule change. I highly recommend reading it here, not only because it’s excellent, but also because he has the best baseball mind at Sports Illustrated out of anybody not named Joe Sheehan. He understands and analyzes baseball far better than a certain colleague of his that shall go unnamed. Anyway, in the article he goes in-depth on the players most affected by the rule change. Tim Raines seems to be the worst casualty of the rule change. He is a worthy Hall of Famer, yet has found difficulty gaining election. Last year he received 52.2% of the vote, but fell to 46.1% this year as a result of the crowded ballot. Under the old system, he would’ve had 8 more tries to get in. With his current vote total, it would’ve been reasonable to assume that he’d get in before becoming ineligible, especially after the present logjam clears. Now he only has three more chances and is up against a crowded ballot. It looks grim and it’s a shame.

On top of neglecting to eliminate the 10-player limit, the Hall also failed to revise its voting eligibility requirements. The 10-player limit has only recently become a problem, but the rules on voting eligibility have been a problem for 30 to 40 years, at least. The rules themselves are simple: Be a member of the Evil Empire BBWAA for 10 consecutive years and you get a vote for life. For. Life. This allows sportswriters who only casually cover baseball to vote for the Hall of Fame. Worse yet, it also allows for writers who no longer cover baseball all and haven’t for years to vote for the Hall of Fame. There are writers for a golf publication that vote for the MLB Hall of Fame. I cannot believe somebody who has been out of the game for so long would be so arrogant as to continue voting, but they do. By the way, those golf writers are so out of touch with baseball that they voted for Jack Morris. Let me put it another way: If Murray Chass, the biggest troll in the history of baseball writing (who is so bad that even as a Spink winner he can’t get anybody to pay him to write) is allowed to vote for the Hall of Fame, something is wrong with your system. I would also like to point out that ESPN’s T.J. Quinn, who is an excellent investigative journalist, gave up his vote two years ago because he no longer felt qualified to vote. I give him total respect for making that decision. Buster Olney has also decided to abstain from voting as a protest to this terribly flawed system. As prominent a writer as he is, I doubt that it will get the Hall’s attention.

While the standards for keeping a vote once you get one are nonexistent, the requirements to get one in the first place are high. Ten years is a long time, not to mention that a lot of excellent writers aren’t in the BBWAA. For goodness sake, it took Jonah Keri three years to get in! Here is a list of writers off the top of my head who aren’t eligible to vote for the Hall of Fame. A * denotes writers who are currently in the BBWAA and will some day be eligible.

Keith Law*
Joe Sheehan
Rany Jazayerli
Jonah Keri*
Dave Cameron*
Ben Lindbergh*
Jay Jaffe*
Sam Miller*
Eric Karabell
Mitchel Lichtman
Tom Tango
Nate Silver
Christina Kahrl*
Keith Woolner
Sean Foreman*
Bill James
Rob Neyer*
Dan Szymborski

Again, that was just off the top of my head and is in no way exhaustive. Some of the best minds in baseball aren’t even allowed in the BBWAA. To be honest, I would have no problem entrusting the Hall of Fame inductions to the people above alone.

Another small change made was the Hall requiring voters to register and sign a code of conduct. This is clearly a reaction to Dan Le Batard selling his vote to Deadspin last year. To be fair, he did deserve to be disciplined, but I loved the rebellious act of his. It was a far more creative and effective protest than the arrogant voters who sent in blank ballots. The fans actually did a great job voting on his behalf! Anyway, registration will result in a list of all voters being made public. It’s a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go far enough. All voters should be required to write a column for their respective publications that reveals their ballots and defends their choices. There needs to be accountability in the system. If it were up to me, and trust me this will never happen, I would put in an auditing system. A committee would be assembled to audit indefensible ballots. I’m not talking about ballots that are disagreeable. I’m talking about ballots like Dan Shaughnessy’s, who only voted for six players, or the clown who voted for Jack Morris last year and nobody else. There are obvious flaws in such a system that I won’t go into detail here. I will say that a big problem with the auditing system, like I mentioned before, is that a lot of members of the BBWAA don’t like to be held accountable for anything they write or say.

Due to the logjam caused by the 10-player limit, evaluating ballots is a little more different from it used to be. I’ll get to my Baseball Bloggers Alliance ballot in my next post, but there are as many as eighteen reasonable choices. As long as you have ten of those eighteen on the ballot, you’re good. It does not even matter if you’re anti-steroids. You can still select ten worthy players who are perceived to have been clean.

A voter does not even need to put his top 10 on there. It seems to me that a lot of voters are doing it that way. Why? That’s not in the rules, though granted the rules never accounted for this predicament. Russell A. Carleton explained it in a recent article. You have to game the system. You need to vote strategically. Vote for the players who need the most help. Pedro Martínez and Randy Johnson are virtual locks to get in. Players like Mussina and Raines, not so much, so they need all the votes they can get. Bonds and Clemens aren’t getting in this time around, and Alan Trammell is virtually doomed. Voting for them is likely a waste. The fact that it has come to this is a colossal failure by the Hall of Fame.

A successful ballot will max out the slots and cite strategic reasons for omitting any “obvious” candidates. I do not think that I could bring myself to not vote for Pedro Martínez and Randy Johnson, but not voting for them in order to make room for more needy candidates is perfectly defensible.

Look, there is no difference between getting in unanimously, which has never happened, on the first try and just barely squeaking in on the last try. That is a distinction without a difference. The “First Ballot Hall of Famer” is a myth. The Hall of Fame does not make that distinction. All Hall of Famers get the same plaques, regardless of the voting results. If you think that actually matters, then that is in your head.

What does matter is making viable Hall of Fame candidates wait. Bert Blyleven was ticked off because his father passed before witnessing his induction. Ron Santo himself passed before his own induction. We all assume that Biggio will make it in this year since he only missed by two votes last year, but what if something had happened to Biggio or one his loved ones in that period? There is a personal cost to the players who are made to wait while the Hall of Fame continues to sit with their thumbs up their butts.

All in all, it looks like the Hall of Fame is trying to keep the PED users out. I really see no other explanation to enacting the new rule and not changing any of the others. The Veteran’s committee will be able to induct them if they fail to get in via the writers. Verducci thinks this will actually benefit the PED users. He does make a good argument for it in the article I linked to before, but I respectfully disagree. The members of the Veteran’s Committee are more old-fashioned and stubborn than the BBWAA. I hope Verducci is right, but I’m skeptical.

For all of my criticisms of the BBWAA, their seemingly anti-PED stance is not one I hold against them, or anybody for that matter. Why I don’t hold it against anybody, despite not caring myself, is a post for another day. Verducci pointed out why it’s not fair to hold it against the voters in his column. The negative perception of PED users is a problem in all of baseball fandom, not just the writers. It’s not fair to single out the BBWAA for a problem that’s so widespread throughout baseball.

On a recent MLB network special on the Hall of Fame, Ken Rosenthal, an excellent baseball journalist and one of the few good non-analytical writers out there, stated that the BBWAA has not been doing a bad job of voting for the Hall. I was shocked to hear that such a smart, level-headed writer could say something so delusional. My guess is that he doesn’t truly believe that, he’s just trying to defend the organization to which he belongs. I can understand that. He’s just dead wrong.

There are plenty of people in the BBWAA who have a good understanding of modern baseball analysis. They care about learning and understanding the game to the best of their abilities. Unfortunately, the vast majority of its members do not fit that description. Most in the BBWAA put themselves above the game and their narratives above the facts. They either don’t know, or don’t care about analyzing the game objectively. Ken Rosenthal submitted a good ballot, but that’s not the norm. I’m also not just talking about the voters who barely cover or don’t cover the game of baseball anymore, although that’s clearly a problem, as Peter Gammons mentioned in that same special. There are too many Jon Heyman’s and Murray Chass’s and Dan Shaughnessy’s in the votership who either have ridiculous standards or an abysmal understanding of the game of baseball. There are even voters with the audacity to go by whether or not a candidate “feels” like a Hall of Famer. They go by complete subjectivity. There are no words for how disgraceful that is.

The biggest problem is the votership’s poor understanding of how to evaluate players. The problem is twofold: First, they take an overly simplistic approach. A pitcher has to have 300 wins and multiple 20-win seasons, or a hitter has to have 3,000 hits or 500 home runs or a high batting average or a high RBI total. What a lazy, outdated method for player evaluation, which leads to the second problem: Archaic approaches to baseball analysis that completely or mostly dismisses sabermetrics and modern baseball principles.

You don’t need Wins Above Replacement to determine Hall induction, though it helps. For position players, voters need to put heavy weight on OBP and SLG and less weight on cumulative stats like hits and home runs. Defense and baserunning are undervalued as well. Adrian Beltré and Carlos Beltrán are worthy Hall of Famers who will likely have trouble gaining induction because of their defense and baserunning, respectively. The voting body is either too obstinate or too unintelligent to consider such important factors in player performance. Hitting is not the only way for a player to help his team win. Pitchers should be evaluated based on their ERA, FIP, strikeouts, and walks.

Let me be perfectly clear: If a voter puts any weight whatsoever on RBI, Runs, pitcher record, or saves, then he or she has no idea what they’re talking about and should be stripped of voting rights. If a voter overvalues hits or batting average, then same thing.

Hits especially is a stat that I’ve always found particularly odd. The 3,000 hit mark is rather arbitrary, and there are plenty of players who have failed to reach that mark that are better than those who have. Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Joe Morgan, and Mickey Mantle never hit reached the 3,000 mark, and they’re some of the greatest to ever play the game. Joe DiMaggio had only 2,214 hits! It doesn’t matter because he hit .325/.398/.579 with a 152 wRC+! There was a lot of compiling done in the 3,000 hit club, too.

Isolating one method of getting on base is bizarre. Walks matter. Tim Raines had 1,330 walks. If he had exchanged 400 of those walks for singles, he would’ve crossed the 3,000 hit mark and already be in the Hall of Fame. His excellent career .385 OBP would still be exactly the same. So would his 808 stolen bases and 100.4 BSR. It may appear the new 10-year limit and jam-packed ballot will cost him Hall induction, but really it’s the incompetent votership that didn’t elect him early on that is to blame.

In the aforementioned Hall special, Rosenthal said that the votership will never consist solely of sabermetricians. I don’t think it should, to be fair, but it needs to be drastically culled and filled with actual subject matter experts. Jay Jaffe, for one, has dedicated his career to being an expert on the Hall of Fame, but he still doesn’t get to vote. There are bloggers, people who don’t even get paid to write, who are far superior at evaluating Hall candidacy than the majority of the current votership.

I would love to know the logic that goes behind assuming that writing about baseball for ten consecutive years automatically makes you an expert. All that means is that you know how to write. The boys over at Céspedes Family BBQ, Jake Mintz and Jordan Shusterman, are less than 20 years old, and have a better understanding of baseball than countless writers that are old enough to be their parents or even their grandparents. Writing about baseball, and actually analyzing and understanding baseball, are two completely different skills.

In that same special, Tom Verducci backed up Rosenthal’s defense of the BBWAA’s track record. He stated the high bar of 75% and the inherent biases of each voter. Those are strawmen. It’s the Hall of Fame, the bar should be high. As for biases, well, if you’re forced to publicly reveal and defend your ballot, any clouding of judgement as a result of bias will become perfectly clear. I’ve read countless writers at Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs, Beyond the Boxscore, and Grantland who know how to objectively analyze baseball and keep their biases in check. Put another way, if bias causes a writer to make a bad argument, then smart people are going to catch it. Verducci’s argument only serves to defend his organization’s power and influence, and does nothing to address the real problems of the Hall of Fame.

In other words, of course Rosenthal and Verducci are defending the BBWAA’s right to vote. They want to keep voting! I think if we were to give them some sodium pentothal, they would make a very different argument.

People have suggested that TV announcers should vote too. I disagree. They see plenty of games, obviously, but most of them are attached to a team. That can create a conflict of interest. It’s also why I’m skeptical of beat writers voting. Some newspapers, like the New York Times, don’t even allow their writers to vote for yearly awards. I fully support that.

No former players voting, either. They are experts in playing baseball, not baseball analysis and evaluation. Ironically, they are among the worst analysts in the business.

I stand behind all my criticisms of the BBWAA, but the Hall of Fame mess is a creation of its own making. They have the power to change everything, yet choose to do nothing, even as Cooperstown attendance dwindles. That’s right, Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson, this is on you and your organization. To you and your constituents, I have this to say:

You have turned the Hall’s motto, “Preserving History, Honoring Excellence, Connecting Generations.” into a farce. You can say whatever you want, but actions speak louder than words, and the rules you have in place have ensured that the Hall of Fame tells the story of baseball as you see it, the way you want it to be told, accuracy and completeness be damned. You are clearly trying to keep PED users out. There is no other reason to enact the new 10-year limit. You’re basically saying that it is better to be a racist, or alcoholic, or wife beater, or even an amphetamine abuser than it is to ingest or inject chemicals that are not scientifically proven to have a significant impact on performance2. So don’t you dare tell me that you care about baseball or its history. Don’t you dare when you have these rules with a largely incompetent votership that you keep empowered because they vote the way you like. Heaven forbid that you should task actual baseball experts to determine Hall induction. You are making a mockery of one of the most sacred institutions in baseball. Don’t you dare tell me that you care. Don’t you dare.

My passion for baseball will always ensure that I care about the Hall of Fame. I wish that wasn’t the case. I wish I could stop caring. But I can’t. I love baseball too much.

Stay tuned for my next post where I will reveal my ballot for the Baseball Bloggers Alliance mock Hall of Fame election!

  1. This post has recycled some content from that link. I’m not trying to be lazy, it’s just that the content is still relevant. It’s important enough to restate. This entire post will likely be recycled every year until the Hall of Fame gets its act together. 
  2. If you think all the anecdotal “evidence” out there says differently, then you have no idea how science and logic work. 
Chicago White Sox Acquire Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson, Adam LaRoche, and Melky Cabrera

Chicago White Sox Acquire Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson, Adam LaRoche, and Melky Cabrera

The Cubs are not the only team in Chicago having a nice off-season. So far I’d say that the Cubs are clearly the better team, but the White Sox have quietly been reloading. The Detroit Tigers are on a decline, and the White Sox know it.

The Tigers are not likely to sign back Max Scherzer, and have traded away Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly. Their replacements, Alfredo Simón and Shane Greene, are clear downgrades. A conservative estimate paints the team as being 5 wins worse next season before we even get into the position players. Steamer projects Miguel Cabrera to bounce back from a down, though still excellent, 2014. As long as he can stay healthy, he should still be a 5-6 WAR player in 2015. Unfortunately, it’s likely that Victor Martínez and J.D. Martínez will regress at the plate. Ian Kinsler should be the same player offensively, but there is no way he turns in another 2.9 dWAR season. Short of any more moves, the Tigers will go from 90 wins last season to ~84 wins this upcoming season. Throw in some bad luck and the Tigers will only be a .500 team. Given their aging roster and weak farm system, .500 will be optimistic in 2016 and beyond.

Obviously, the Tigers are not the only team in the Al Central that the White Sox will have to contend with, but they have been the strongest team in the division for a long time now. With the right moves, the White Sox can contend for the division as soon as 2016, and if a few things break right for them, maybe even 2015.

Jeff Samardzija is clearly the best player that they have acquired so far. He had the best season of his career in 2014. He turned in a 3.59 RA9, 3.20 FIP, and 4.9 BB%. Those are all career bests, as well as his 4.1 WAR. Steamer projects him to regress in 2015, but if his newly found fastball command is real, he should still be at least a 4 WAR pitcher. That is a huge upgrade for the White Sox rotation since he will be taking the place of one of their replacement level starters.

The White Sox only had to give up a Pu Pu platter of prospects to acquire Samardzija. However, they only get Samardzija for one year before he hits free agency. If they really want him to be a part of their future, they need to extend him NOW. He will never be cheaper than he is right now.

I’m less high on the Robertson acquisition. Don’t get me wrong, because he definitely fills a big need for the White Sox. Robertson gives them the elite reliever that they need and upgrades one of the worst bullpens in the majors. As is my usual objection with contracts for elite free agent relievers, four years is two years too many. That’s just too much risk given the volatility of reliever performance. The good news is that Robertson has been excellent for four straight seasons now. Steamer projects a 2.82 ERA and 2.78 FIP for 2015.

Robertson’s greatest strength is his strikeouts. He has a career 32 K% and he is projected to have a 30 K% in 2015. His walk rates do tend to be on the high side, however.

I am optimistic that Robertson will not become ineffective as a result of injury. The White Sox may very well have the best training staff in baseball. They keep players off the disabled list. The fact that they have kept Chris Sale healthy despite his terrible arm action is a testament to how effective their care is.

I initially thought that the Adam LaRoche deal was a strange one. The White Sox already had José Abreu, and LaRoche is certainly not better than he is. However, it starts to make more sense once you think about it. LaRoche balances out a right-handed heavy lineup, and can give Abreu time off from first base. He’s a far superior defender at first. Abreu can be given more time off or DHed. LaRoche is still an above average hitter as well. Steamer projects a .341 wOBA for 2015. A 2-year, $25 million deal for .341 wOBA player that fields his position well at first base is a fair deal. The only caveat with the LaRoche deal is that he struggles against lefties. He is not terrible against them, though, as he has a career .312 wOBA against lefties.

Melky Cabrera is also an upgrade for the White Sox, but 3 years and $42 million is at least a one year overpay. The ZiPS projections system has him at 5.1 WAR over the life of the deal. Now $42 million for 5.1 WAR sounds fair, but ZiPS projects him to be replacement level during the final year of the contract. The White Sox will basically be paying Cabrera $15 million to suck in 2017. If this projection appears to be accurate a couple of months into 2017, the White Sox would be best suited to just designate him for assignment.

As for Melky in 2015, he projects to have a .340 wOBA, which is likely to be higher in hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular field1. He  does not provide any defensive value to go along with that. He still has a good arm, but his range is fringe average at best.

I want to like this deal more, but that third year really bothers me. Even at a higher AAV, a 2-year deal would have been preferred. I’m guessing that giving Melky that third year was the only way to lure him to the team. If the White Sox have a great season in 2015 and/or 2016, a lousy third year will be much easier to swallow.

GM Rick Hahn has done an excellent job with the team since he took over. Without any more moves, though, I doubt the White Sox can really compete in 2015. It’s not impossible, but they just need too many things to break right. Hopefully their 2014 1st round pick, LHP Carlos Rodon can join the major league squad early in 2015. He could be a major upgrade to the rotation, especially if he can learn to consistently throw that 80 slider of his.

These moves are not perfect, but they certainly upgrade the squad. I look forward to seeing if Hahn does anything more. If he does, the White Sox could really make a run at the division.

  1. I hate that name! Can’t I just keep calling it Comiskey Park? 
Chicago Cubs Acquire Jon Lester, Jason Hammel, and Miguel Montero

Chicago Cubs Acquire Jon Lester, Jason Hammel, and Miguel Montero

The Chicago Cubs are having a strong off-season. Acquiring LHP Jon Lester, C Miguel Montero, and, to a lesser extent, RHP Jason Hammel will put the team in a strong position to contend in 2016. If its historically strong farm system delivers, they could even contend even sooner than that.

Jon Lester is the ace that the Cubs needed, and on a 6-year, $155 million deal, he’d better be. It’s $20-$30 million more than I thought he was worth, but the Cubs can afford it and they really need him. He’s likely to be a 4-5 WAR pitcher for at least the next few years. If the fastball command he discovered in 2014 is real, then he could even be a 5-6 WAR pitcher. Such a player is worth this kind of deal, even if it’s likely that he’ll be overpaid at the back end of it.

Lester is coming off a career year at the best possible time, giving him plenty of leverage. That performance probably earned him an extra $30-$40 million. There is no obvious explanation for his 2014 performance, either. He had a little HR/FB luck, but what really jumps out at you are the strikeout and walk rates. His 24.9 K% was the highest it has been since 2010. Even more surprising, his 5.4 BB% was ~3% lower than his career rate. Atypical strikeout and walk rates in a pitcher’s ninth season are highly suspect. Like I mentioned before, we’ll see if his newly learned fastball command is real. If it’s not, he’s still a huge upgrade to the rotation, and a necessary component for the Cubs title hopes.

One thing that we can be sure of about Lester is his reliability. He’s made at least 31 starts every season since 2008, and in that time span he has only failed to cross the 200 IP mark in 2011. I’m not a scout, but I’ve seen him pitch countless times here in Boston, and he appears to have a clean, easy delivery that minimizes his injury risk. He should age well.

It is worth noting that Lester has never been successful away from John Farrell, who was his manager in Boston and pitching coach before that. In 2011, his first season without Farrell, Lester suffered from his worst strikeout rate, RA9, and FIP since 2007. He was almost 2 wins worse than the previous season. Those stats declined even further in 2012, which included a terrible 5.13 RA9. Sure enough, Lester began to regain his old form in 2013 when Farrell returned, and had the best season of his career in 2014.

When Farrell returned to Boston as the manager, he was quoted as saying that he knew what was wrong with Lester the whole time, but obviously could not say anything since he was on the divisional rival Toronto Blue Jays. From the outside looking in, part of the problem was that Lester was clearly having trouble with his cutter, which is his best pitch. If we check Brooks Baseball, we see that in 2012, his worst season, his cutter just was not moving like it used to, but started to turn back to normal in 2013.

Brooksbaseball-Chart (4)

In 2014, he also upped his cutter usage, lowered his fourseamer usage, and barely used his changeup.

Brooksbaseball-Chart (3)

I’d be surprised if he fell apart again without John Farrell, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.

Red Sox fans are understandably upset over losing Lester. I’m pretty much not allowed to say his name around my wife. However, losing Lester is all on the Red Sox. Fans need to be bad at them, not Lester. Lester took the most money to join an up and coming team led by the man who originally drafted him, Cubs President Theo Epstein. The Red Sox, on the other hand, offered him an insulting 4-year, $70 million extension. It’s reminiscent of the criticism I levied against Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. when he tried to trade Cole Hamels to the Dodgers. It’s a common negotiating ploy to low-ball offers or, conversely, ask for more than you’re looking for. If, however, you make a ridiculous offer like the one the Red Sox made to Lester, the other side is going to stop taking you seriously and cut off negotiations. Lester felt insulted, and he had every right to feel that way. There are team-friendly deals, then there is that joke of an offer that the Sox made. For goodness sake, Homer Bailey got a better deal than that!

The whole Lester debacle is not just speculation on my part. Lester himself recently admitted that had the Red Sox offered him a 5-year, $120 million extension in spring training, he would have had a hard time turning that down.

I think very highly of GM Ben Cherington and the entire Red Sox organization, but I can’t believe how badly they handled this situation. They just really screwed up here. Now their rotation doesn’t even have a #2, let alone an ace.

Jon Lester is a great signing by the Cubs. If then can get one more high-end starting pitcher, they can contend in 2015. Jason Hammel, however, is not that pitcher.

Hammel got off to a great start last year for the Cubs before getting traded to the Oakland A’s. He had a 2.98 RA9, 3.19 FIP, and 2.0 WAR. In Oakland, he turned into a replacement level player with a 4.52 RA9 and 5.10 FIP. He did have some bad HR/FB luck, but losing the ability to throw strikes is all on him.

Neither the Cubs version nor the A’s version represents the real Jason Hammel. Interestingly enough, his end of season stats averaged out to an accurate representation of Hammel’s true talent level: A 3.59 RA9, 3.92 FIP, and 1.7 WAR. Steamer agrees, too. It projects a 3.86 ERA, 3.76 FIP, and 1.7 WAR in 2015. A 2-year, $20 million deal is a fair price for that kind of production, but it will not do much to move the needle unless the Cubs can turn him back into the pitcher he was for them last year.

It’s a shame that the Cubs missed out on Russell Martin. However, Miguel Montero is a serviceable substitute. He’s basically Russell Martin-lite. He’s a great defenisve catcher who is also a good pitch framer. Per StatCorner, he was actually the game’s best pitch framer in 2014. Unfortunately, his bat died after 2012. His wOBA plummeted ~50-60 points in 2013 and 2014. The good news is that Steamer projects him to bounce back and be a league average hitter in 2015.

I would rather have Russell Martin because he’s better, but Montero makes a third of the money, has two less year of commitment, and has a better injury history. He’s a nice consolation prize for missing out on Martin.

Montero is definitely an upgrade over incumbent Wellington Castillo. They’re roughly the same hitter, but Montero is better defensively. Castillo is also the complete opposite of Montero at pitch framing. He was a tenth of a run away from being the worst pitch framer in 2014. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Cubs know this. Montero’s pitch framing was 48 runs better than Castillo. That’s enormous!

As I’ve mentioned before, the analytics community has yet to conclude how much credit pitch framing goes to the catcher, and how much of it goes to the pitcher for exploiting his catcher’s pitch framing, as well as having the command to paint the edges of the strike zone. Thanks to the Wins Above Replacement construct, we know that 10 Runs = 1 Win. That means that Montero was 4.8 wins better than Castillo by his pitch framing alone! That number seems incredibly high, but that’s what the math says. I would not be surprised to see that number come down once more research is done in order to understand this skill better.

Steamer projects Montero to be ~1 win upgrade over Castillo in 2015. Once we factor in the pitch framing, we get roughly another 4 wins on top of that. Again, it’s hard to believe that pitch framing makes that big of a difference, but that’s what it is until somebody proves differently. Even if we want to soften that to something more reasonable, and more subjective, like 2 wins, that still makes Montero a big 3 win upgrade over Castillo. All for two low-level prospects, too.

I don’t really have anything to say about the acquisition of Tommy La Stella. He is a replacement level infielder who is completely blocked by high-end prospects. Perhaps he’s trade bait?

The Cubs are still one starter away from being able to confidently be called contenders. They can either leverage their deep farm system to acquire Cole Hamels, or open up the bank vault and sign Max Scherzer. Still, I would not be shocked if this team won 90 games in 2015 as is.

Chicago Cubs President Theo Epstein has coupled his historically good farm system with some smart acquisitions. He has turned the Cubs into one of the best run organizations in baseball. He already broke the Red Sox long World Series drought. If he can do the same for the Cubs, he will be a lock to make the Hall of Fame.

The Boston Red Sox Acquire Wade Miley, Rick Porcello, and Justin Masterson

The Boston Red Sox Acquire Wade Miley, Rick Porcello, and Justin Masterson

The Boston Red Sox had a busy Winter Meetings. The team had major holes to fill in its starting rotation. When your best pitcher is Clay Buchholz, who is projected for just 2.1 WAR in 2015, you know you have problems. Thankfully, the team made strides in patching up the rotation. It’s interesting to note that all three of the players acquired are heavy ground ball pitchers.

The Red Sox traded with the Arizona Diamondbacks for LHP Wade Miley in exchange for RHP Rubby De La Rosa and RHP Allen Webster. Miley is a significant upgrade to the starting rotation. He has a history of staying healthy and pitching lots of innings. Steamer projects him to have a 4.23 ERA and 3.98 FIP in 2015. His projected 2.0 WAR is likely a 2 win upgrade for the starting rotation.

Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster were originally acquired from the Dodgers in the famous blockbuster trade in 2012 when the Sox were able to dump a huge amount of salary.

De La Rosa was once a top-tier prospect in the Dodgers system. Unfortunately, his elbow did not like him throwing 100 mph fastballs, so he had to have Tommy John surgery. I’ve seen him pitch plenty here in Boston, and I can tell you that his fastball is nowhere close to that. Although a 95 mph fourseam fastball may seem pretty good, the problem is that it’s a lifeless, pin-straight pitch. As a result, he gives up plenty of hard contact with it. According to Brooks Baseball, batters hit a whopping .360 against his fourseamer in 2013, and a better, but still bad, .294 in 2014.

De La Rosa’s struggles have him at barely above replacement level for his career. This past season, he had a 4.51 RA9 and 4.30 FIP, which are below average. If he can develop a good breaking ball, I believe he can be a serviceable back of the rotation starter.

I’m less high on Allen Webster. I would not fault the Diamondbacks if they wanted to keep him in the rotation, but I think he should go straight to the bullpen. His career 14.6 K% and 11.4 BB% means that he can’t strike anybody out and has terrible control.

It’s not unlikely that both pitchers turn out to be busts, but given what we know now, this is a fair return for the Diamondbacks. The Red Sox get to turn a couple of big question marks into more of a sure thing, which is absolutely the right thing to do for a team that can contend in 2015.

The Red Sox then turned mid-season acquisition OF Yoenis Céspedes into RHP Rick Porcello. There were rumors that Céspedes was unhappy and difficult in Boston, and with only one year left on his contract, it made perfect sense for the Red Sox to trade from their outfield depth in order to further strengthen their weak rotation.

Céspedes is a good baseball player, though he tends to be a bit overrated. In 2014, his line of .260/.301/.450 resulted in only a 109 wRC+. As you can see, he hits for plenty of power, but he can’t get on base. As a result, his offense was only 9% better than the league average in 2014. As for his defense, everybody has seen the highlights of his cannon. However, it masks the fact that he is not very rangey, and range is much more important than the arm. He’s a good defender overall, just not as good as those fun highlights may suggest.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Céspedes’ low OBP is a big deal. Thankfully for Tigers fans, the fact that he hits for plenty of power and is a solid defender goes a long way toward making up for all the outs that he makes. He had a 4.1 WAR in 2014 and projects to be at least a 3 WAR player in 2015.

Rick Porcello has been frustrating Tigers fans for years. Year after year he would look good in spring training, by stats and scouts, but failed to deliver when it actually counted. At least that’s what Tigers fans think. If you look at his FIP each season of his career, he’s been solid, but nothing special. Per Fangraphs, which uses FIP to calculate WAR and is my preference for pitchers, Porcello has turned in three consecutive seasons of ~3 WAR. Steamer projects for him to make it four in a row. Porcello is also very durable. He has not so much as missed a start in the last five seasons. Like Miley, Porcello can be said to be taking the place of a replacement level player, meaning that he’s a big 3 win upgrade for the Red Sox.

The Céspedes/Porcello trade works out nicely for both sides. Each side gave up roughly equal value in order to fill a need with the respective organization.

Unfortunately, I cannot speak as highly of the Justin Masterson acquisition as I can about Miley and Porcello. He’s coming off the worst season of his career. He had a horrific 6.32 RA9, but a less horrific 4.50 FIP. By FIP-based WAR, he was replacement level. The big difference between his FIP and runs allowed is partially the result of playing in front of bad defenses and batted ball luck. Hitters had a .339 BABIP and 14.6% HR/FB against him in 2014. Make no mistake of it, though, because he was still legitimately terrible in 2014. The good news is that Steamer is optimistic that he will bounce back in 2015 with a 2.0 WAR. If nothing else, it’s worth it to take a chance on him since it’s only a 1-year, $9.5 million deal.

Masterson’s biggest weakness has always been his arm angle. That low 3/4 slot makes it very easy for lefties to see the ball coming out of his hand. Usually pitchers with that kind of arm slot get relegated to the bullpen, but Masterson has made it work up until last year. He kills righties, but as a starter, it’s not that hard to just stack the lineup with a bunch of lefties when facing him. For his career, lefties have a .350 wOBA against him, while righties have a .278 wOBA. Not only does that prove what I just said, that .350 wOBA against lefties is atrocious. They really kill him.

I think Masterson would be more effective out of the bullpen as a long man or even a righty specialist. However, the Red Sox have announced their intentions on using him as a starter. Seeing as how the projections are optimistic, I can’t say that it isn’t worth a shot.

All three pitchers the Red Sox acquired have one unifying theme:They all induce lots of ground balls. Miley has a GB% of over 50% the last couple of seasons, Porcello has a career 52.1% rate, and Masterson leads them all with a 56.6 GB%. For the first time since Masterson left the Red Sox, and for the first time in Miley’s and Porcello’s career at all, all three pitchers will be playing in front of an overall good defense. Xander Bogaerts is a shaky defender at shorstop, but Pablo Sandoval is decent at third, Mike Napoli is shockingly good at first1, and Dustin Pedroia is the best defensive 2nd baseman in the game. The ground balls that those pitchers generate will find more gloves than they ever have.

I do not doubt for a second that GM Ben Cherington and his analytics department were well aware of the ground ball tendencies of these pitchers. It was a very smart move to bring in pitchers who can keep the ball on the ground, given that infield defense and the hitter-friendly nature of Fenway Park. Cherington never ceases to impress me.

Cherington has done a great job fortifying a weak rotation. The problem is that he still does not have an ace, or really even a number 2, as a result of the organization screwing up with Jon Lester (more on that in my next post on the Cubs). They’re either going to have to pay Max Scherzer $200 million, or trade for Cole Hamels. Scherzer is the better pitcher, but Hamels is the cheaper, safer option.

Cole Hamels is also a cheaper, safer option than Jon Lester, and he’s just as good. He’s still owed $90 million over four years with a $19 million vesting option for 2019. That looks a lot better than Lester’s 6-year, $155 million deal with a $25 million vesting option for a seventh year. The Red Sox have a ton of position player depth and a strong farm system that they can leverage to acquire Hamels. The Jimmy Rollins trade indicates that Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is finally willing to listen to reason in negotiating trades. If I were Cherington, I’d be sure to make Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts untouchable. If I were Amaro2, I wouldn’t give up Hamels without one of those two players coming back, or the Red Sox covering the entirety of the remainder of the contract. Amaro needs a difference maker coming back in the trade. I’d prefer a top-tier prospect like Bogaerts or Betts, but I’d also settle for what I can do with all the money that not paying Hamels would free up. Then again, with Amaro’s incompetent track record, he’d probably spend that money in the worst way possible.

Hamels does have a limited no-trade clause in his contract. Interestingly enough, the Red Sox are included. In order for Hamels to waive it, he would certainly force the Sox to pick up his $19 million option for 2019. The bottom line is that the Red Sox can afford it, and they need Hamels if they really want to contend in 2015.

The Red Sox have had an excellent off-season so far. Unfortunately, screwing up with Jon Lester means that they’re not done yet. If they really want to contend in 2015, they need an ace, and Cole Hamels is their most viable option.

  1. Seriously, he is. I couldn’t believe it when I saw his advanced defensive metrics in 2013, but he almost repeated them in 2014. Granted, I am not a scout, but I’ve seen most of his games here in Boston and I have to say that he’s surprisingly agile for a big guy. He gets good reads on balls in play and moves well out there. 
  2. That’s a horrible thought.