Mock 2022 Hall of Fame Ballot
After a year of no elections to the Hall, this year has the potential to be a very loaded class of inductees. The Veterans committees have already voted in inductees, Negro Leagers Bud Fowler and Buck O’Neil and Golden Days players Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso, and Tony Oliva. Minoso is the second player from my Hall of Good Enough to get into the Hall of Fame after Lee Smith a couple of years ago.
This year’s ballot has a few very notable players in their last years of eligibility as well as a couple of players who are assumed will be voted in at some point although it is questionable they will get in on their first year on the ballot.
My personal criteria for a Hall of Famer is convoluted enough that it has became mostly subjected. I take into consideration a player’s stats in a historical context, if someone is an all-time great on the face of their stats. How good they were at their peak matters quite a bit, especially if they were the best player in the league at their position or specialty for a period of time, determining whether they the best second baseman of their time or had an exceptionally great pickoff move off the mound and other endless superlatives. World Series and playoff performances matter for a player, but I don’t tend to count that against anyone, there have been a lot of great players on bad teams. PED use is counted against a player but it’s a case by case thing and a suspension makes me a bit more reluctant to mock vote for a guy. General character issues that left players off my ballot that I otherwise would have been more likely to vote for. There is also the eye-test, guys that I had seen in person that looked like Hall of Famers when seeing them live. Although, like with the guys that didn’t exude Hall of Famer status but their numbers said otherwise, a further look tends to give an edge to what the numbers had to say. Ultimately, one of the most interesting yardsticks for a candidate is how they stack up to the precedent of players that are already inducted into the Hall.
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)
The Mock Ballot
In no particular order, here are the players I would have voted for this year if I had a BWAA Hall of Fame vote, sticking to only the eligible players on the ballot and the constraint of a maximum of ten players on a ballot.
162.8 WAR, 2935 H, 762 HR, 514 SB, .298 AVG, .444 OBP, .607 SLG, 7x MVP, 14x AS, 8x GG, 12x SS
I’ll admit that my standard for PED guys is a sliding scale of the level of betrayal of their use of performance enhancers, if there was a suspension and judgment of pre- or post- PED gameplay along with their total body of work. It’s far from scientific and personal bias certainly puts a thumb on the scale of my acceptance of what a player did. Bond’s numbers are eye popping both before and after his infamous decision to work with BALCO after the McGwire/Bonds home run chase. Before that he was the best all-around player in the league with a mix of speed, power and a Golden Glove, after he was more than Ruthian with his power and beyond Ted Williams with his eye at the plate. This is also his last year on the ballot, which may mean he gets a bump from voters who wanted to make him squirm for a decade. The problem is that he is one of three problematic former players at the vote tallies (Schilling and Clemens) that is in his final year on the ballot. It’s also a rather loaded bill after no one was elected last year and no players aged out of the ten year restriction. Bonds was the guy that everyone knew was on PEDs as he bulked up in the 2000’s and he played the part of wrestling heal as he shattered records, his usage was hardly a betrayal, and his achievements far exceeded anyone else that tried to game the system in the same way.
Scott Rolen, 3B (52.9% in 2021, 5th year)
70.1 WAR, 2077 H, 316 HR, .281 AVG, .364 OBP, .490 SLB, 7x AS, 8x GG, SS, ROY
It will be interesting to see how much sabrmetric momentum Rolen gains year after year. Longevity and his elite glove defined him during his playing time, but his overall numbers place him very favorably near the top of the rankings of history’s third basemen. The hot corner 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.
Billy Wagner, LHP (46.4% in 2021, 7th year)
27.7 WAR, 422 SV, 2.31 ERA, 0.998 WHIP, 1196 K, 11.9 K/9, 7x AS, Rolaids
Listed at 5’10, but very likely a little less, Wagner’s status as one of the great relievers of all-time has flown under the radar. Throwing from a lower release point at incredibly high velocity his fastball appeared to rise, defying physics in the process, on the way to the batter, and he has been a similar riser in Hall of Fame voting over the years. Five of his sixteen seasons he posted 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. Only in Atlanta for the one season, he tallied one of the great final seasons of anyone, especially with such a decorated career: seven wins in relief, 37 saves, 104 strikeouts in 69.1 innings and a .865 WHIP over 71 games. That season capped off a career with the second most saves by a left hander in MLB history, just two short of John Franco, and sixth on the overall list.
Todd Helton, 1B (44.9%, 4th year)
46.6 WAR, 2519 H, 369 HR, .316 AVG, .414 OBP, .539 SLG, 5x AS, 3x GG, 4x SS
At 20th on the all-time doubles list, Helton has the most doubles in MLB history by anyone with fewer than 10,000 plate appearances or fewer than either 18 or 19 seasons. I hardly think this is the stat that will put him into the Hall. Regardless, it will be an uphill battle for anyone coming out of Coors Field to get the benefit of the doubt to be elected, however it must ease tensions that his former teammate Larry Walker was in the latest class to be inducted. While he did reap the benefits of the thin air to the tune of a couple of 40+ homer seasons, his value to the Rockies was mostly for his great defense at first, as a leader in the clubhouse and by consistently getting on base with nine seasons with OBPs over .400 and another two in the .390’s. 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.
Andruw Jones, CF (33.9%, 5th year)
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.
The Triplicate Pitchers
Andy Pettitte, LHP (13.7%, 4th Year)
60.2 WAR, 256 W, 3.85 ERA, 1.351 WHIP, 2448 K, 3x AS
Mark Buehrle, LHP (11.0%, 2nd Year)
59.1 WAR, 214 W, 3.81 ERA, 1.282 WHIP, 1870 Ks, 5X AS, 4x GG
Tim Hudson, RHP (5.2%, 2nd Year)
57.9 WAR, 222 W, 3.49 ERA, 1.239 WHIP, 2080 K, 4x AS
While these three pitchers were all very different players, Pettitte had an incredible pick off move to first, Buehrle the best fielding pitcher of his generation, and Hudson was the ace of two prominent teams. They all had different strengths as starting pitchers, but all had playoff success (to varying degrees) but all three had nearly identical career WARs. None of these guys ever won a Cy Young award and none of them are particularly considered to be the top pitcher of their era, however they all size up quite well with numerous Hall of Fame pitchers who were also definitive of their respective eras.
While Andy Pettitte was never the ace of the Yankees, he was a constant upper half of the rotation starter during their most recent run of championships, and was a member of their “Core Four.” His 256 wins, 60.2 WAR and five World Series titles compare nicely to fellow Yankee lefty Whitey Ford’s 236 wins, 57.0 WAR and six titles. Ford’s ERA was more than a run better than Pettitte’s and he was more of an Ace with his team and had a Cy Young and two ERA titles under his belt and Pettitte only finished as high as second in Cy Young voting once, and the only major category he ever led was wins (21 in his sophomore season). Pettitte’s AL East was a much more demanding and more competitive division than Ford’s time in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, a time before the designated hitter rule in the American League. The league was only starting to more fully integrate throughout the league in the second half of his career and Latin players were only starting to break into the majors.
Aside from their terribly misspelled surnames, Veterans’ Committee recently elected Jim Kaat and former White Sox star Mark Buehrle had very similar careers as two of the best fielding pitchers of their respective eras. Kaat is one of the most decorated fielding players in MLB history earning 16 Gold Glove Awards, second only to Greg Maddux and tied with Brooks Robinson, a three-time All-Star with a World Series Championship, and three trips to the All-Star Game, his 283 wins, 3.45 ERA and 2461 strike outs over 25 years amounted to a 50.5 WAR. Similarly, Buehrle was a highlight reel fielder on the mound, winning four Gold Gloves, five trips to All-Star Games and a World Series Ring of his own. While Buehrle’s 214 wins, 3.81 ERA and 1870 K’s over 16 seasons are dwarfed by Kaat, his 59.1 WAR place the lefty in favorable light to the new Hall of Famer.
The final pairing of starting pitchers are a couple of aces with postseason success. Jack Morris earned his way into the Hall of Fame from two postseason runs, with the Tigers in 1984 when started three games including two complete games in the World Series and 1991 with the Twins when his third complete game was a Game 7 ten inning shutout to win the series to earn the MVP award. He was a three time All-Star and top-five in Cy Young voting in five seasons, winning 254 games, a 3.90 ERA, 2478 K’s and a 43.5 WAR over 18 years. He won three World Series and had a career 3.80 ERA in post season games. Tim Hudson didn’t win as many rings, winning the only World Series he ever played in at the age of 38 with the Giants, but he did make the playoffs seven times and had a career 3.69 ERA in October. Hudson was a three time top-five finisher in Cy Young voting, and a four-time All-Star in 17 seasons. Often the ace of his A’s and Braves teams, his 222 wins, 3.49 ERA and 2080 K’s are in the ballpark of Morris’s accomplishments but Hudson’s 57.9 WAR is quite a bit more favorable than the Hall of Famer’s 43.5 WAR.
Bobby Abreu, OF (8.7%, 3rd year)
60.2 WAR, 2470 H, 288 HR, 400 SB, .291 AVG, .395 OBP, .475 SLG, 2x AS, GG, SS
There is a bit of a SABRmetric game comparing seemingly middle of the pack players with one of the best batting average hitters of the last forty years, Tony Gwynn. These comparisons were a big reason for the election of Tim Raines to the Hall when his OBP numbers were favorably compared to Gwynn. While it’s a bit more of a joke comparison, it was recently noted by Jeremy Frank that Abreu got on base 24 more times than Gwynn, hit 158 more extra base hits and stole 81 more bags in 15 fewer games. It’s a pretty fun comparison, but Gwynn’s 69.2 WAR is still a good bit and quite a bit more star power than Abreu’s 60.2 WAR and zero batting titles (nor did he ever lead the league in onbase percentage for that matter). Regardless, Abreu was an incredibly consistent player over his 18 seasons, hitting 20 or more homers nine times and stealing more than 20 bags in thirteen seasons. His 2470 hits is respectable, but even more impressive is his tally of 288 homers, and 400 steals and near .400 career OBP despite an AVG just under .300 (.395 OBP and .291 AVG).
David Ortiz, DH (1st year on the ballot)
55.3 WAR, 2472 H, 541 HR, 632 2B, 1768 RBI, .286 AVG, .380 OBP, .552 SLG, 10x AS, 7x SS, 3x WS
While some voters refuse to vote for anyone on the ballot in their first year of eligibility or anyone with any PED suspicion, it’s likely that Big Papi will be the only player voted in by the writers this year. And even his election is no sure thing despite promising vote tracking numbers. I think now that the Hall of Fame is populated with full time designated hitters Harold Baines, Paul Molitor, Frank Thomas, Jim Thome and Edgar Martinez, there really isn’t a bias against the position like there might be against closers or the odd scarcity of third basemen. Ortiz is known not just as a guy that had incredible seasons or put up great career numbers, he was one of the most clutch players of all time, with the third most regular season walk off home runs (11, just two behind Jim Thome’s record 13), and the only player with two walk off home runs in the playoffs. He had 23 walk off hits in his career, regular and postseason combined, unfortunately the term for a game ending hit wasn’t coined until the ‘80’s and hits of that sort have not been tallied through most of MLB history. Big Papi ranks pretty highly on the all-time leaderboard in a number of categories, twelfth in doubles just ahead of Hank Aaron, 17th in home runs, just ahead of Mickey Mantle, and 23rd in RBI just ahead of Honus Wagner. He is the only player to both win the Home Run Derby and a World Series MVP. Although he was top five in MVP voting five straight years from ‘03 to ‘07, his final season at 40 years old is one of his best and the best for any hitter 40 years old or older, leading the league in doubles (48), RBI (127), SLG (.620), and OPS (1.021) and he played the most games in a season (151) since he was 30 years old. His 38 home runs bested the record of 34 homers as a 40 year old set by Darrell Evans, a player who attributed his late career resurgence to a UFO sighting in 1982.
There are a number of other players I would vote for if the ballot were expanded so some of the process is strategic to keep players on the ballot for future years after others either max out their eligibility, don’t maintain 5% on the ballot or get inducted.
Alex Rodriguez really should get into the Hall at some point, his late career suspension for PEDs makes him someone who will take a few extra years, and Manny Ramirez falls into the same category... Gary Sheffield was a guy that had been implicated and apologized, he was on my ballot last year and was the only player to drop off, solely to have a vote for David Ortiz. Sheffield was one of the great hitters of his time with an amazingly quick swing, enormous numbers and was a big part of several very successful teams… Jeff Kent was an MVP and by far the best hitting second baseman of his era, he will probably run out of time on the ballot, having only one more year to more than double his vote tally from last year… Torii Hunter was one of the best fielding center fielders in the game and ended up with more home runs (353) and hits (2452) than one would expect for a guy known for his nine straight Gold Gloves… Jimmy Rollins might be one of the first players I give a new vote to next year, he was the leader of the Phillies team that won just their second World Series in franchise history, a very well rounded player, he not only won a Gold Glove awards, but amassed 2455 hits, 511 doubles, 231 homers, and 470 steals in his career. His MVP year of 2007 might be one of the most underrated yet great years in baseball history, scoring 139 runs (leading the league), 212 hits, 38 doubles, 20 triples (leading the league), 30 homers, and 41 steals. No one has ever equaled the feat of tallying over 200 hits, 135 runs, 35 doubles, 20 triples, 30 home runs and 40 stolen bases in a single season… The one player that my eye test screamed “Hall of Famer” when I saw them in person was Prince Fielder. I’ve never seen anyone with such automatic power as him, I once saw him take two batting practice pitches at PNC, both were hit into the river, and he sat back down. His career was cut short due to injuries, but his short career was reminiscent to Ralph Kiner’s ten year Hall of Fame career, Fielder hit 319 homers, 321 doubles, 1028 RBI and had a .382 OBP while Kiner had 369 HR, 216 2B, 1015 RBI and a .398 OBP in about 140 fewer games. Sadly, Prince probably needed to log a couple more healthy seasons to get over the hump in consideration for the Hall, but he was incredible to watch.