Mock 2023 Hall of Fame Ballot
This year I decided to not just put together a mock ballot for the writers committee ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame, but also a mock ballot for the Veterans committee ballot. There is a bit of a change from last year's mock ballot. I had two years of nearly identical ballots, but this year one player aged off the ballot, Bonds, one failed to reach 5%, Tim Hudson, and David Ortiz was elected into the Hall of Fame. I also replaced one player, who was right on the verge of making my ballot again, Mark Buehrle. Nothing changed of my opinion of Buehrle, I still believe he is Hall of Fame worthy, it's just very hard to stick to the confines of selecting only ten players. I've added a mock Veteran's Committee ballot this year, too. That ballot is even harder to stay within the confines because all eight nominees are very deserving on the merits and the ballot is limited to three players. Some ballot trackers say there is a coinflip chance that there are no inductees from either ballot this year.
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)
Scott Rolen, 3B (63.2% in 2022, 6th year on the ballot)
70.1 WAR, 2077 H, 316 HR, .281 AVG, .364 OBP, .490 SLB, 7x AS, 8x GG, SS, ROY
Gaining a bit more of the vote share every year, Rolen’s momentum comes from SABRmetric strengths despite a lack of Hall of Fame buzz during his playing career. Third base is the least represented position in the Hall and Rolen has stacked up favorably with others that are already in. His career 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. The 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 a total zone rating of 140 over his career while Santo’s was only 27. As a member for the Cardinals, Rolen made it to the '04 and '06 World Series, earning a ring in 2006.
Todd Helton, 1B (52.0% in 2022, 5th year)
46.6 WAR, 2519 H, 592 2B, 369 HR, .316 AVG, .414 OBP, .539 SLG, 5x AS, 3x GG, 4x SS
During his playing career, Helton was a player that was considered to be very much on track for the Hall even without monumental home run numbers. Of note, his consistency hitting doubles, Helton was one he is the only hitter in the top twenty of all-time doubles leaders with less than 10,000 plate appearances, paired with an incredible ability to get on base, at a .414 OBP clip. To compare him to a recent Hall of Fame inductee, Edgar Martinez was voted into the Hall as a DH known for hitting doubles and getting on base, 514 doubles and a .418 OBP. Helton was right on track with those numbers, if not quite a bit higher with doubles, while also playing a slick first base with a decent 107 total zone rating. Helton will be knocked for playing at altitude and not being more of a home run hitter, and for slowing down in the second half of his career.
Billy Wagner, LHP - closer (51.0% in 2022, 8th year)
27.7 WAR, 422 SV, 2.31 ERA, 0.998 WHIP, 1196 K, 11.9 K/9, 7x AS, Rolaids
A small pitcher, listed at 5'10" but perhaps a bit shorter in actuality, Wagner used that lower release point and incredible velocity to his advantage. Apparently, the physics of throwing a baseball make it impossible to toss it with enough spin and velocity to make it actually rise between the pitcher's release and home plate, but that's exactly the optical illusion Wagner was able to achieve. This lefty's "rising fastball" made him so difficult to hit over his entire career that he was one of the most consistently dominant closers in MLB history. 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.
Andruw Jones, OF (41.4% in 2022, 6th year)
62.7 WAR, 1933 H, 434 HR, 152 SB, .254 AVG, .337 OBP, .486 SLG, 5x AS, 10x GG, SS
While his strike out numbers could be ugly at times, Jones was an incredible power hitting outfielder, even as a teenager, and one of the best fielders ever to play the game. With the eye test he was incredible, but by the numbers his total zone rating, 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 total zone ratings 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 zone ratings 15 points higher despite having a bit of a drop off his last five seasons. There just aren't very many players with the consistency and reputation as a fielder to win ten Gold Glove Awards as Jones did, he is tied for the tenth most awards with four Hall of Famers and future first ballot inductee, Ichiro.
Jeff Kent, 2B (32.7% in 2022, 10th year)
55.4 WAR, 2461 H, 377 HR, .290 AVG, .356 OBP, .500 SLG, 5x AS, 4x SS, 2000 MVP
The all-time home run leader at the position of second base, Kent faces the perception that he was only an average fielder at the position. And that’s what he was, just barely under average over his career in total zone rating. He wasn’t actually bad at fielding, he was average, but he was an exceptional hitter. As the next best hitter in lineups with Barry Bonds he had nine straight seasons with 20+ homers, three seasons over 30, and drove in 100+ RBI in eight of those nine seasons. Kent was the NL MVP in 2000, perhaps as a statement to Barry Bonds about his likeability with the writers rather than performance. Kent had a great season despite being bested in every offensive statistical category by 5th place finisher Todd Helton, and Bonds finishing second with a comparable season to Kent. Bonds would go on to win the award the following four seasons. Kent was considered the clean character of the San Francisco duo, but in spring training 2002 Kent broke his wrist in spring training doing wheelies on his motorcycle. He claimed at the time that he broke it falling off his truck while washing it. He went on to hit 37 homers, drive in 108 and hit .313 with an OBP of .368 that year on their way to the Giants only pennant run of the Bonds era.
Andy Pettitte, LHP - starter (10.7% in 2022, 5th year)
60.2 WAR, 256 W, 3.85 ERA, 1.351 WHIP, 2448 K, 3x AS
I was up in the air with this vote. Int the past I had bunched this voted with Mark Buehrle who had an incredibly similar career. Buehrle was the superior fielder and had a lower WHIP, but Pettitte's role on five World Series winning teams and his impressive pick off move to first just barely edged him out. A member of the "core four," Pettitte's 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 a bit better, but that was much more inline with the trends across the league. Buehrle is likely to miss the 5% cut off this year, but Pettitte may gain some momentum in votes despite admitted PED use depending on how the Veterans Committee votes.
Jimmy Rollins, SS (9.4% in 2022, 2nd year)
47.6 WAR, 2455 H, 231 HR, 470 SB, .264 AVG, .324 OBP, .418 SLG, 3x AS, 4x GG, SS, 2008 WS, 2007 MVP
J-Roll’s 2007 MVP season was one for the ages. He had over 200 hits, 135 runs, 35 doubles, 20 triples, 30 home runs and 40 stolen bases (212, 139, 38, 20, 30 and 41, respectively), an accomplishment that has never been equaled. He is only one of two players ever to reach more than 185 hits, 120 runs, 35 doubles, 20 triples, 20 home runs and 25 steals in a season, with Curtis Granderson in that same 2007 season. Only four other players in MLB history have reached 2,455 Hits, 231 homers and 470 steals in their careers. Three time All-Star, one time Silver Slugger, four-time Gold Glover, 2455 career hits, 231 homers, 470 steals,World Series Champion in ‘08 and NL Pennant winner in ‘09 with the Phillies. His 38 game hit streak is longest in Phillies franchise history.
Bobby Abreu, OF (8.6% in 2022, 4th 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, last year Jeremy Frank noted 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).
Carlos Beltran, OF (first year on the ballot)
70.1 WAR, 2725 H, 435 HR, 312 SB, .279 AVG, .350 OBP, .486 SLG, 9x AS, 3x GG, 2x SS, 2017 WS, 1999 ROY
In all of MLB history only Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Andre Dawson, Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran can claim to be in the 400 homer and 300 steal club. As great as his regular season numbers were, he was even better in the postseason, hitting .307, getting on base at a .412 clip and slugging .609 in 7 trips spanning 13 years. Beltran really would have been a shoe-in for being a first ballot Hall of Famer if it wasn’t for his involvement with the Astros sign stealing scandal in the post season of his final year before retirement. Sign stealing, spitballs and other bending of the rules have been rampant throughout the history of baseball, I’m not really sure if a moral judgment should be placed on involvement. Bobby Thompson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” is a home run that is now celebrated not just for the drama of the hit but also for the subterfuge of relaying the sign for the pitch as observed with binoculars from the dead center field stands.
Francisco Rodriguez, RHP - closer (first year on the ballot)
24.2 WAR, 437 SV, 2.86 ERA, 1.155 WHIP, 1142 K, 10.5 K/9, 6x AS, 2006 WS, 2x Rolaids
K-Rod runs the risk of dropping off the ballot after just one year, a high bar to get over for the man with the fourth most saves in MLB history. He doesn’t just hold the single season record for saves with 62 in 2008, he shattered Bobby Thigpen’s 26 year record of 57. Only pitching less than six innings in the regular season of his rookie year of 2002, but pitched more than triple that workload in the Angles World Series run through the playoffs.
Just missed: Mark Buehrle, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield
It's very hard to leave off Buehrle, his career is so similar to Pettitte's and he was the dominant fielding pitcher during the span of his career. Sheffield really should have much more of a campaign to get him in, his career numbers are incredible. ARod will get in eventually, it's just hard to get over his smugness and PED suspension. Manny was one of the greatest right handed hitters of the last fifty years but he also piled PED suspensions on top of each other in an embarrassing end to his illustrious career.
New to next year’s ballot: Adrian Beltre, Joe Mauer, Chase Utley, David Wright, Matt Holliday, Victor Martinez, Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Bautista, Bartolo Colon
Barry Bonds, OF
162.8 WAR, 2935 Hits, 2227 R, 762 HR, 1996 RBI, 514 SB, .298 AVG, .444 OBP, 1.051 OPS, 14 ASG, 8 GG, 12 SS, 7 MVP
I think this might be a good year to move on from PED debates and place Barry Bonds into the Hall as one of the best hitters ever. It also gives perhaps a last chance to allow Willie Mays the opportunity to see his god son inducted and to perhaps introduce him with a speech that will be an instant historical note for the story of baseball. He was the best all-around player in the league with a mix of speed, power and a Golden Glove before any suspicions, and 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.
Don Mattingly, 1B
42.4 WAR, 2153 H, 442 2B, 222 HR, .307 AVG, .358 OBP, .471 SLG, 6x AS, 9 GG, 3 SS, 1985 MVP, MOY
Fielding his way to nine Gold Gloves at 1B but he was a smooth hitter, as well. In his first full season in 1984 he led the league in hits, doubles and batting average (207, 44, .343). The next year, ‘85, he led the league in doubles, RBI and total bases (48, 145, 370) to win the AL MVP. And in 1986, he led the league in almost everything else, leading plate appearances, hits, doubles, SLG, OPS, OPS+ and total bases (742, 238, 53, .573, .967, 161, and 388) while hitting career best AVG and OBP (.352 and .394). He finished second in MVP voting in ‘86 to Roger Clemens, pretty much establishing himself as the best hitter in the league without collecting that specific piece of hardware. He was a six-time All-Star and a three-time Silver Slugger, he just happened to play for the Yankees at a bad time in their history, as he only went to the postseason in 1995. As his career wound down he blamed the atmosphere created by Steinbrenner for the lack of team success, and he might have been right as the Bombers seemed to regain their prestige when George calmed down in the late ‘90’s. It was probably this lack of team success or gaudy home run numbers that has kept Mattingly out of the Hall despite personal success, he was cursed to have started his career the year after a Yankee World Series run and to retire the season before their great run in the '90's started.
Fred McGriff, 1B
52.6 WAR, 2490 H, 441 2B, 493 HR, 1550 RBI, .284 AVG, .377 OBP, .509 SLG, 5 AS, 3 SS, 1995 WS
One of the great sluggers of an era just before steroids ruled the game, it was the Crime Dog's trade in 1995 that put the Braves over the top. It is widely considered that had the strike of '94-'95 never happened he would have had the time in his career for seven more home runs to put him into the 500 Homer club, an instant ticket into the Hall. It was the steroid era that "saved baseball" that seemed to diminish his incredible power hitting career when suddenly his home run numbers were dwarfed by players less wirey looking than he. Not only did he have great home run numbers but a great ability to get on base (.377 OBP is better than the .360 expected from a .300 AVG hitter) and his 441 doubles are one more than the total Roberto Clemente tallied in his own storied career. Thanks to the make up of the voting committee of former Braves teammates, McGriff might have the strongest set of backers in his corner for a chance to the Hall this year.
Dale Murphy, OF
46.5 WAR, 2111 H, 398 HR, .265 AVG, .346 OBP, .469 SLG, 7 AS, 5 GG, 4 SS, 2 MVP
The similarities to Mattingly and McGriff are uncanny, if there were just one more vote allowed this would be the obvious choice. There just aren't many players in baseball history with two consecutive seasons dominant enough to win back to back MVP awards. Only Mike Schmitt hit more homers in the 1980's in the NL, Murphy dominated the decade. Incredible defense, he won five Gold Gloves, and had a respectable OBP considering a less impressive career AVP. Like Mattingly, Murphy just missed being on World Series teams for the Braves at the start of his year and just after being traded away, the left the Phillies the year before their own World Series run.
Albert Belle could have also earned a vote despite numerous character problems on and off the field and overall career numbers that don't quite measure up. He was another player that dominated for exactly one decade, for Albert it was the 1990's. Once the calendar turned over on Y2K, his numbers drastically diminished.