It’s that time of year again. The Baseball Hall of Fame ballots are out, and over the next six weeks, we’re going to get a constant stream of updates on players. With that in mind, it’s time to take our own look at the 2018 ballot, and offer some predictions. We’re going to break this into three parts, for readability’s sake.
On Monday, we took a look at the top returning players from the 2017 ballot, so now it’s time for Part 2: A look at the new players on the ballot.
Note: I’m only focusing on those players who have a compelling, or at least interesting case. If you’re a Cardinals fan, there’s not going to be a Chris Carpenter analysis. You’ll always have Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS.
Chipper Jones: In one of the dumbest things I’ve written for this site, a few years ago I said Jones would have to wait a few years to be elected to the Hall of Fame. (In fairness to me, it’s not like the BBWAA elects 3rd basemen all that often.) Still, I was wrong. With 85 WAR (6th all-time among 3rd basemen), 468 home runs (3rd), and 1,623 RBI (1st), not to mention an MVP and a .303 average, Jones is an easy call. Patrick’s call: In
Ryan’s Response: I agree 100% with Patrick. The only shock will be if he doesn’t clear 95%.
Jim Thome: Talking to other fans, I get the sense I’m in the minority here, but I just don’t see a case against Thome. He’s an incredibly well-like player who was never dogged by PED rumors. He hit 612 home runs, which is 7th all-time. He drove in 1,699. His WAR of 72.6 is well above the established standards. It’s true that he never did all-that great in MVP voting, which could lead to a “He never *felt* like a HOFer” narrative to take hold. And there’s always the possibility of some Jeff Bagwell type tomfoolery from the voters. But I’m going to be optimistic. Patrick’s call: In
Ryan’s Response: If Thome isn’t a HOF player, there shouldn’t be a baseball HOF.
Omar Vizquel: Here’s your next Jack Morris, people. Somewhere along the line, the narrative arose that Vizquel was basically Ozzie Smith 2.0, a great fielding, poor-hitting shortstop. And so, it stood to reason that, since Smith was in the Hall of Fame, Vizquel should be in as well. Throw in 2,877 hits and a 25 year career and you have your pro-Vizquel argument. The advanced stats tell us another story. Vizquel was a great fielder, but nowhere near Smith. Vizquel was a much worse hitter when you factor in the eras they played in. Smith was also a better baserunner. Add it all up, and you have a WAR of 45.3, nowhere near Hall-worthy. Ultimately, Morris didn’t make it in, and I don’t think Vizquel will either. He’s going to do well on the ballot, though. Maybe 40%? Patrick’s call: Out, but get ready for 10 years of shouting.
Ryan’s Response: I don’t understand the support for Vizquel. He was a great fielder, who could rarely hit. In 24 years he was only a league average or above hitter twice. Yes he had 2700 hits, but that took 24 years. If guys like Mark Belanger and Rey Sanchez can’t sniff the HOF, than neither should Vizquel. He wasn’t a glove first SS, he was a glove only SS. When even Cleveland Indian fan blogs are writing that Vizquel was great, but not quite HOF, you know it’s the case.
Johnny Damon: I’ve always liked Damon. His numbers don’t scream Hall of Famer (.284/.352, 2,769 hits, 408 steals, 56.0 WAR). He’s sort of a poor man’s Kenny Lofton (.299/.372, 2,428 hits, 622 steals, 68.2 WAR) and we saw how well being Kenny Lofton worked out for getting into the Hall.
He was a very good player. And then there’s everything else: He was part of the greatest comeback in baseball history. True, he was lousy in the 2004 ALCS (.171/.216/.343), but his grand slam off Javier Vasquez was the iconic moment that sealed the comeback in the second inning of Game 7. He then went to the Yankees, where he stole two bases on one play in the 9th inning of a tied Game 4 of the World Series before scoring the game-winning run. He’s always seemed well-liked. Am I crazy to think that there’s going to be some Omar-type push and pull here? Patrick’s call: Out, with a less migraine-inducing amount of shouting for 10 years.
Ryan’s Response: He has no shot on crowded ballot like this. It’s not fair, but that’s the HOF the writers have made by not electing more worthy candidates and the added complication of the steriod debacle.
Scott Rolen: Ryan and I may have found our next project. Rolen’s WAR of 70 is basically Ron Santo‘s. But so much of his value is wrapped up in his defense, which is usually underappreciated by voters, unless you’re Ozzie Smith or Brooks Robinson. Rolen’s frequent injuries killed his counting stats, which aren’t great, as well as any hopes of getting MVP love. Some voters might love the .421 BA in the 2006 World Series, but he hit just .220 overall in the postseason. I’d vote for him, but he’s got no shot on a ballot this deep. Patrick’s call: Deserving, but one and done’d (Also known as The Lou Whitaker Special)
Ryan’s Response: He’s Jim Edmonds 2.0. The only hope is that there’s a little more love from the sabermetric community to keep him over 5% until the ballot clears.
Johan Santana: A compelling peak candidate, who won two Cy Youngs, and should have won a 3rd. But even with a solid WAR of 50.7 and wins fading in popularity, we haven’t come far enough in our advanced stats revolution that a starter with 139 wins and a bland postseason ledger (1-3, 3.97) has any hope on a ballot as deep as the one we have. Patrick’s call: He was on the path, but just too short a career because of injuries. One and done. (Also known as the Bret Saberhagen Special)
Andruw Jones: Through his age 29 season, Jones was the definition of a Hall of Fame lock. He’d won 9 straight gold gloves and was regarded as one of the best defensive CFs of all time. He had 1,556 hits, 342 HR, 1,023 RBI and 57.9 WAR. He was shaping up to be an all-timer. And then he fell off a cliff. He had one more good season, and then devolved into a part-time player. He finished his career with 434 HRs, 1,289 RBI, and 62.8 WAR. Coupled with a lousy .337 OBP, I just don’t see a path for him. Here’s a comparison for you:
Andruw Jones: .254/.337/.486, 434 HR, 1289 RBI, 62.8 WAR, 10 GG
Jim Edmonds: .284/.376/.527, 393 HR, 1199 RBI, 60.3 WAR, 8 GG
Edmonds received 2.5% of the vote in 2016. Jones might do a bit better because of his peak and his reputation with the glove, but he’s got no shot at election. Patrick’s call: Out. Possibly one and done.
Ryan’s Response: As with the prior two, Jones and Santana would be interesting candidates on a shorter ballot. I think Jones is a lot like Roberto Alomar who went in easily after two ballots. Both were great fielders and all around players, though Jones had more power. Alomar was still a well-above average player until age 33 (though he was done at age 36), which gives him the edge. The question isn’t if these last four will ever be elected, but if they will stay on the ballot for another year.