Mock 2021 Hall of Fame Ballot
It is Hall of Fame ballot season for baseball again, and anyone that gets voted in will join the men who were voted in last year for induction this summer, if it happens. The temperature of the ballots that have trickled in this year show a lot of uncertainty of whether anyone will get enough votes at all. There are a few guys that are close but have been stalling out below the threshold as their years of eligibility run out, and a few guys that have been rising quite a bit but still aren’t within striking range. My mock ballot from last year can be seen here.
Average HOFer Benchmarks
I figured it would be pretty handy to get a sense of the stats of average Hall of Famers to compare to the guys on the ballot and to supply comparable Hall of Famers to those numbers.
69 WAR (Tony Gwynn), 2411 Hits (Mickey Mantle, 2415), 1330 R (Barry Larkin, 1329), 225 HR (Bobby Doerr, 223), 1230 RBI (Gary Carter, 1225), 224 SB (Dave Winfield, 223), .302 AVG (Willie Mays), .376 OBP (Harmon Killebrew), .841 OPS (Carl Yastrzemski), 6 All-Star Games (Jackie Robinson)
69 WAR (Don Sutton), 246 W (Juan Marichal, 243), 3.00 ERA (Dizzy Dean, 3.02), 2127 Ks (Roy Halladay, 2117), 412 SVs (Closers only, Dennis Eckersley, 390) 4 All-Star Games (Dizzy Dean)
Checking For Their Names on Every Ballot
I’ve been noticing that there are two guys I look for on every ballot to see if they’re gaining votes because I feel like they’re the two guys most deserving of upward motion, Scott Rolen and Todd Helton. Both guys were new to my mock ballot last year under the category of “Benefit From Another Look.”
Todd Helton, 1B (29.2% in 2020)
46.6 WAR, 2519 H, 369 HR, .316 AVG, .414 OBP, .539 SLG, 5x AS, 3x GG, 4x SS
Helton might be a big riser this year thanks to the induction of former Colorado teammate Larry Walker. Both guys had the knock of playing at altitude, both were leaders of their teams, excellent defense at their positions and put up some great defensive seasons. Although he had a couple of 40+ homer seasons, he was not as much of a power guy as he was someone who could consistently get on base, nine seasons with OBPs over .400, and two more over .390. He also had a knack for hitting the ball in the gaps, racking up seven seasons with 40 or more doubles for a total of 592 over his career, 19th best in MLB history. Recent DH inductee Edgar Martinez got into the Hall very much on his OBP and doubles prowess, yet his four 40+ double seasons and 514 total are dwarfed by Helton and his .418 OBP is almost on target with the first baseman’s mark. Helton’s 2000 season was especially great, leading the league in hits (216), doubles (59), RBI (147), AVG (.372), OBP (.463), SLG (.698) and OPS (1.162), yet finished fifth in MVP voting behind Kent, Bonds, Piazza and Jim Edmonds.
Scott Rolen, 3B (35.3%)
70.1 WAR, 2077 H, 316 HR, .281 AVG, .364 OBP, .490 SLB, 7x AS, 8x GG, SS, ROY
Much more of a SABRmetric darling, Rolen was a consistent hitter over his 17 year career, but also one of the best fielding third basemen of his era. He gets discounted by voters for not having a star power name and for only hitting 30+ homers twice in his career. Third base is the position with the least representation in the Hall of Fame and Rolen stacks up pretty comparably with Ron Santo, a Hall of Fame third baseman, himself. Santo’s 70.5 WAR, 2254 hits, 342 home runs, .277 AVG and .362 OBP are all nearly identical to Rolen’s numbers and Rolen has three more Gold Gloves over his career than Santo. Rolen’s fielding metrics are even better than just a three award difference from Santo, compared to the rest of the league, Rolen’s metrics placed him with an Rtot of 140 over his career while Santo’s was only 27. Hell, in this stat that rates players against others at their position over the season, Rolen had a 27 in 2004 alone.
Underrated But Deserving
Bobby Abreu, OF (5.5%)
60.2 WAR, 2470 H, 288 HR, 400 SB, .291 AVG, .395 OBP, .475 SLG, 2x AS, GG, SS
While he only had two 30 home run seasons, he was incredibly consistent throughout his career. He was a bit of a SABRmetrics dark horse, getting onbase at a .395 clip even with a .291 AVG., and walked over 100 times in eight straight seasons. He also did quite well in the stats that are discounted by advanced statistics, eight seasons with 100 or more RBI and thirteen straight seasons with 20 or more steals. I know it’s against the trend of analyzing the game these days, but I feel those stats still have a bit of value for the ability to create runs and play well on a good team and to get yourself into scoring position. He also hit fourty or more doubles seven times and his 574 career two-baggers aren’t that far behind Todd Helton’s 592.
Mark Buehrle, LHP (First Year
59.1 WAR, 214 W, 3.81 ERA, 1.282 WHIP, 1870 Ks, 5X AS, 4x GG
In just his first full season as a starting pitcher Buehrle led the league in WHIP (1.066), the first of fifteen straight seasons with 30 or more starts. An incredibly consistent pitcher, Buerle posted an ERA of under 4.00 in eleven of those seasons and had double digit wins every year. In 2005 Buehrle was the ace of the first White Sox team to win the World Series since 1917, a 16 game winner with a 3.12 ERA. An incredible fielder, his sprinting, no-look glove flip to first on opening day of 2010 was the best fielding play of the year and one of the best from a pitcher, ever. He threw a no-hitter in 2007 and threw the 18th perfect game in baseball history in 2009. Initially, Buerhle was the tenth player I decided to add to my mock ballot, but upon further review he appears to be more solidly deserving than on first look based on his great consistency and amazing fielding at his position as well.
Tim Hudson, RHP (First Year)
57.9 WAR, 222 W, 3.49 ERA, 1.239 WHIP, 2080 K, 4x AS
I’m a little worried Hudson might not survive with over 5% ballots this year, as he is pretty close to that in early tabulations, but he might be a guy that ends up gaining votes for years until getting in during his last year of eligibility. He came into the league as one of the three aces that led the Moneyball A’s through their best years. In just his second season in 2000 he led the league in wins with 20 and led the league in shut outs twice before being traded to the Braves in 2005. He was an ace his entire career, a figure of stability well into his late ‘30’s, leading his teams to the playoffs seven times in his career and finally winning the big one in 2014 with the Giants. He received Cy Young votes four times in his career, making the ballot first when he was 24 and for the last time at the age of 34. He was the fifth winninest pitcher in the 2000’s, and had the third most shutouts for the decade behind Hall of Famers Roy Halladay and Randy Johnson.
Andruw Jones, OF (19.4%)
62.7 WAR, 1933 H, 434 HR, 152 SB, .254 AVG, .337 OBP, .486 SLG, 5x AS, 10x GG, SS
Jones was a mixed bag over his career, but the one thing that was clear of him was that despite his relaxed or nonchalant appearance in the field, he was the best fielding center fielder during his ten year reign as a Gold Glover from 1998 to 2007. It wasn’t even close. From the eye test he appeared to cover more ground than anyone I have seen at that position and with ease with the ability to throw a baseball out of the stadium at the end of an inning. He just looked super human in center. But from the stats, his Rtot, fielding as it relates to the rest of the league in that season, he was off the charts great, with numbers in the 30’s and 20’s almost every year, something I haven’t seen from many other players in history. To compare, Ozzie Smith had three seasons with Rtot’s in the 20’s and one over 30, and Jones had four seasons in the 20’s, and two over 30 and finished with a career Rtot 15 points higher despite having a bit of a drop off his last five seasons. Those last five seasons were Andruw’s fat years when the slugger moved around to corner outfield, 1B and even DH as he changed teams almost every year. He was a bit of an all or nothing hitter, hitting 30+ homers seven times, leading the league in homers (51) and RBI (128) in 2005 while striking out a ton (over 100 times over 11 straight years), never hitting over .277 and having a few years under .250 in his final six seasons. He was one of the youngest players to hit a home run in the World Series, hitting two in 1996 as a 19 year old. He had been to the post season ten times by the age of 28, and the World Series twice although he never took home the trophy. The Braves really ran into the Yankees at a bad time in history.
Billy Wagner, LHP (31.7%)
27.7 WAR, 422 SV, 2.31 ERA, 0.998 WHIP, 1196 K, 11.9 K/9, 7x AS, Rolaids
In his sixteen year as a lefty reliever Wagner only had one season with an ERA over 2.85. His 422 saves place him sixth on the all-time list, only second for lefties behind John Franco, who only has two more than he and Franco did it in five more seasons. Listed at 5’10, it’s likely Wagner was a little shorter, but his blazing fastball was so fast and came from such an angle that it appeared to defy physics and actually rise on the hitter as it came to the plate. In five seasons he had an ERA under 2.00, and his best year may just have been his last in 2010 as a 38 year old on the Braves. He was only in Atlanta for the one season, but it might have been the very best final season for a player with such a decorated career, seven wins in relief, 37 saves, 104 strikeouts in 69.1 innings and a .865 WHIP over 71 games.
This is the stickiest area of the ballot. I have come to terms that some PED guys are going to have to be in the Hall of Fame, but not all the guys that seemed like shoe-in Hall of Famers during their careers. I think my measuring stick is to see how much of a deception or how much of a betrayal was their usage and if there was contrition or an explanation from the player. What makes it stickier is that I don’t think those two factors are mutually exclusive.
Barry Bonds, OF (60.7%)
162.8 WAR, 2935 H, 762 HR, 514 SB, .298 AVG, .444 OBP, .607 SLG, 7x MVP, 14x AS, 8x GG, 12x SS
He would have been a Hall of Fame if he had retired before the suspected start of his PED use in the late ‘90’s/early 2000’s. His career numbers are flashy, almost too flashy to be taken seriously. He’s the all-time leader in home runs, walks and intentional walks. He’s the only player with 500 homers and 500 steals, hell, he’s the only player with even 400 HR/ 400 SB. 2001 was the greatest home run hitting season of all time, when he hit 73 homers, his only season hitting more than 50 home runs, but his 2004 was even better. His 45 home runs and 101 RBI aren’t eye popping, but he walked 232 times, 120 of those were of the intentional variety. His .362 AVG was impressive and led the league, but his .370 mark in 2002 was higher, but those walks meant that he got onbase at a .609 clip, the highest for any single season in MLB history. Number two on that list was his .587 mark from ‘02, and the third best was Ted Williams’ .553 OBP of 1941, a year that he had a .403 AVG, a batting average that will not come close to being touched ever again. Bonds also led the league in slugging (.812) that has only been bested by two Babe Ruth seasons and Bonds’ own record breaking 2001 season. Every season from ‘01 to ‘04 Bonds is in the top eight of the highest OPS seasons in MLB history. The top twelve best OPS seasons in history are only populated with the best seasons from Bonds, Ruth and Ted Williams. Bonds wasn’t exactly contritious about his PED use, he started as a reaction to McGwire and Sosa claiming the spotlight in big home run seasons from him as he was actually putting together a much greater and well-rounded 1990’s through consistent power, speed on the basepaths and excellent fielding. He fought back at the press who questioned his power surge, but he never really denied that he was getting some help from “the cream and the clear,” regardless of what it was, it was not banned when he used it, whether it gave him an advantage or not. AS the wrestling villain of baseball, he did not have a fall from grace that other users had because it was expected from him. In a time when it can flippantly be said that “everyone was using,” no one was producing like Barry Bonds did.
Andy Pettitte, LHP (11.3%)
60.2 WAR, 256 W, 3.85 ERA, 1.351 WHIP, 2448 K, 3x AS
Pettitte was a bit of a beneficiary of his membership in the Yankees “Core Four,” the class of players that came up through their system and were on all the Championship teams of the ‘90’s and 2000’s. He went to eight World Series, including one with the Houston Astros, winning five. Although he probably wasn’t considered the greatest pitcher in his Yankees rotations in any single season, he did earn Cy Young Votes in five seasons and had more wins than any other pitcher for the decade of the 2000’s. While he admitted to PED use while recovering from an injury he was incredibly apologetic for what he had done and also happened to shed some light on Roger Clemens’ own PED use.
Gary Sheffield, OF (30.5%)
60.5 WAR, 2689 H, 509 HR, 253 SB, .292 AVG, .393 OBP, .514 SLG, 9x AS, 5x SS
Sheff was a bit of a “superstar for hire” over his career, playing for eight teams over his 22 year career. One of the quickest swings I have ever seen, Sheff was not easy to strike out and that bat speed added up to a lot of home runs. He won the batting title in 1992 (.330) as a 23 year old third baseman in San Diego and led the league in OBP (.465) and OPS (1.090) in 1996 as a right fielder for the Marlins. From 1999 to ‘05 Sheffield had a run of six out of seven seasons with 30 or more homers and 100 or more RBI as he entered his 30’s.
Torii Hunter, OF (First Year)
50.7 WAR, 2452 H, 353 HR, 195 SB, .277 AVG, .331 OBP, .461 SLG, 5x AS, 9x GG, 2x SS
Hunter had an incredible reputation for his fielding that translated to nine gold gloves, but was a better hitter than he gets credit for. He was known as a flashy fielder who could make up a lot of ground in center, and the signature play of his career came in 2002 when he robbed a home run from Barry Bonds in the All Star Game. He was fun to watch in the field, however he was kind of overrated in the Gold Glove category as he had one great season in the field, 2001, and only one other season where he was above the average center fielder in the league. He kind of solidified the lineups of every team he was on, hitting 20+ homers ten times in his career, including his final season at the age of 39. He was an excellent player, although his reputation was as an elite fielder, something that was not backed up by defensive metrics.
Jeff Kent, 2B (27.5%)
55.4 WAR, 2461 H, 377 HR, .290 AVG, .356 OBP, .500 SLG, 5x AS, MVP, 4x SS
An under-the-radar infielder early in his career, Kent matured into the greatest power-hitting second baseman of all time when he moved to the Giants at the age of 29. He wasn’t bad with the Mets, he hit 21 and 20 homers in ‘93 and ‘95 and his 14 homers in the strike shortened ‘94 season were on their way to just such a season. He was not a great fielder, hovering around the league average in fielding for second basemen for his whole career. He and Bonds kind of split the San Francisco clubhouse and baseball writers as well, Kent won the 2000 NL MVP award Over Bonds, Helton (finished fifth) and Andruw Jones (finished eighth), who all had higher WARs than he that season, 7.7, 8.9 and 8.2, respectively, to 7.2. He also garnered more votes that future Hall of Famers Mike Piazza (third), Vladimir Guerrero (6th), Jeff Bagwell (7th) and Chipper Jones (11th). The Giants made a World Series run in 2002, the only chance Kent or Bonds would have, only to lose in seven games to the Angels.
I kind of had a lot of turnover in my mock ballot from last year. Dropping off the ballot were Jason Giambi, and Cliff Lee. Larry Walker and Derrek Jeter made it into the Hall of Fame. This year, allegations of misconduct by Omar Vizquel and a pretty toothless defense made me take him out of consideration. I was inching closer to including Curt Schilling on my ballot this year for the first time just to move him through based on his lengthy career, but I again couldn’t reward him for his destructive behavior off the field. I feel like Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa have the numbers to be in the Hall of Fame and their PED use came before it was against the rules of the game. It wasn’t technically cheating, but they were both so dishonest about it that it felt more like a mark on their characters, that in a crowded ballot that the deceitful nature of their conduct puts too much of a tarnish on their accomplishments. Manny Ramirez was one of the greatest hitters I had ever seen, one of the best right-handed hitters ever with amazing numbers, but he repeatedly served suspensions for failed PED tests, that, although I’m not so certain how much of an effect they had on his career, the stain is too great.