|Big Lee Smith is on the ballot for the 11th time in 2013. (Getty Images)|
In advance of the BBWAA's announcement of the 2013 Hall of Fame class, we at Eye On Baseball are ranking every one of the 37 eligible candidates (by the way, that's the largest pool of eligibles since 1995).
|Baseball Hall of Fame|
We're doing this in daily installments, and the number of players in each "episode" will decrease as we get nearer to the top of the list. Once we hit the top 15, we will do one player per day.
As mentioned in Trent's recent Q&A with Jay Jaffe, the JAWS ranking system (available at God's own Baseball-Reference.com) will play a prominent role in our ordering of these candidates, but there's more to it than that. Your three hopelessly devoted EOB bloggers -- Matt Snyder, Trent Rosecrans and lamewad yours truly -- ranked each of these candidates according to a host of objective and subjective considerations, and we averaged those rankings to come up with the final order.
In addition to the obvious necessities (i.e., player's ranking and name, positions played/role filled, teams toiled for, years played, notable traditional stats), we'll also list the player's year on the ballot (candidates fall off the BBWAA ballot after 15 years and/or if they fail to be named on five percent of ballots in any given year), player's vote percentage from the previous year (when applicable), the player's Baseball-Reference version of WAR (bWAR) and rank among the 37 candidates, and his JAWS score and rank among candidates).
After a brief capsule of the player's case (such as it is, in most instances), we'll each give our official declarations on whether the player should be inducted (with our individual ranking of the player in parentheses, not unlike these parentheses right here).
Today, we'll count down numbers 25 through 21 ...
25. Shawn Green; RF, 1B; Blue Jays, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Mets; 1993-2007
Year on ballot: 1st
Career stats: .283/.355/.494; 2,003 H; 328 HR; 1,070 RBI; 1,129 R
bWAR, rank among candidates: 31.4, 25th
JAWS, ranks among candidates: 30.4, 24th
Green's career is a "Hall of Very Good" kind of career but not a "Hall of Fame" one. Green had a nifty three-year peak and, in a related matter, thrice finished in the top 10 in the MVP balloting. He's near the top 100 all-time in doubles, homers and extra-base hits, but he fares much worse in more inclusive measures like total bases and times on base. The reality is that the Hall-of-Fame benchmarks for corner outfielders are pretty high, and Green clearly comes up short in this regard.
Would we vote for him? Snyder: No (25); Rosecrans: No (25); Perry: No (23)
24. Reggie Sanders; RF, LF, CF; Reds, Padres, Braves, Diamondbacks, Giants, Pirates, Cardinals, Royals; 1991-2007
Year on ballot: 1st
Career stats: .267/.343/.487; 1,666 H; 305 HR; 983 RBI; 1,037 R; 304 SB
bWAR, rank among candidates: 36.7, 23rd
JAWS, ranks among candidates: 30.9, 23rd
Most notably, Sanders is one of just eight players to tally at least 300 homers and 300 steals in a career. On the other hand, just three of those eight players are in the Hall of Fame, and only one more (Alex Rodriguez) is likely to get there. Sanders was a plus defender in right for years, and he has an MVP-caliber season (1995) to his credit. Among other considerations, Sanders simply lacks the playing time to merit serious discussion. Never did he play more than 140 games in a season, and his 7,043 plate appearances rank just 363rd all-time.
Would we vote for him? Snyder: No (24); Rosecrans: No (23); Perry: No (24)
23. Julio Franco; SS, 2B, 1B; Phillies, Indians, Rangers, White Sox, Brewers, Devil Rays, Braves, Mets; 1982-1994, 1996-1997, 1999, 2001-2007
Year on ballot: 1st
Career stats: .298/.365/.417; 2,586 H; 173 HR; 1,194 RBI; 1,285 R; 281 SB
bWAR, rank among candidates: 39.7, 21st
JAWS, ranks among candidates: 34.4, 22nd
Given the breadth of his career, it's not surprising Franco's counting stats wound up so impressive. Also impressive is that he batted .309 at the age of 45. Also impressive is that he was the oldest player in baseball for four consecutive seasons. Also impressive are his five silver sluggers and almost 12,000 defensive innings in the middle infield. (Not impressive: He ranks eighth on the all-time GIDP list.) Franco falls short according to existing standards (his peak just doesn't measure up), but we're getting into that area that affords defensible cases should you wish to make them.
Would we vote for him? Snyder: No (23); Rosecrans: No (22); Perry: No (22)
22. Steve Finley; CF, RF; Orioles, Astros, Padres, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Angels, Giants, Rockies; 1989-2007
Year on ballot: 1st
Career stats: .271/.332/.442; 2,548 H; 304 HR; 1,167 RBI; 1,443 R; 320 SB
bWAR, rank among candidates: 40.4, 19th
JAWS, ranks among candidates: 35.4, 20th
Finley was a speedy, defensively accomplished center fielder for years before he developed plus power in his 30s. Like Sanders above, he's a member of the 300 steals/300 homers clubs, and he also ranks just outside the top 100 on the all-time times on base list. His 877 extra-base hits ranks 67th all-time, and he also has five Gold Gloves to his credit. The counting stats are solid, especially by the standards of his primary position. What's holding Finley back? Mostly, his rate indicators aren't Hall-of-Fame caliber. For instance, his OPS+ (park- and league-adjusted OPS) is just 4.0 percent above average for his career. As well, Finley made just two All-Star teams, which suggests he wasn't regarded as an elite talent for much of his career. Darn good player, not a Hall of Famer.
Would we vote for him? Snyder: No (22); Rosecrans: No (24); Perry: No (20)
21. Lee Smith; RP; Cubs, Red Sox, Cardinals, Yankees, Orioles, Angels, Reds, Expos; 1980-97
Year on ballot: 11th (named on 50.6% of ballots last year)
Career stats: 71-92; 3.03 ERA; 478 saves, 1,289 1/3 IP; 1,251 K
bWAR, rank among candidates: 27.6, 27th
JAWS, ranks among candidates: 23.7, 27th
And here we have our first ballot holdover. Is Smith -- or almost any closer not named Mariano Rivera or Goose Gossage -- as valuable as your average Cooperstown position player or starting pitcher? No, not by a long shot. However, this being the world we live in, relievers are a part of the Hall of Fame, so it's only fair to judge Smith by those standards.
On that front, one might be tempted to argue Smith belongs because Bruce Sutter is in. However, Sutter represents an anomaly -- he's below average by established Hall-of-Fame reliever standards. Sutter drags down those standards. And that brings us to Smith's case. According to WAR, he falls well short of the Cooperstown mean for relievers (scroll down to Smith's "Hall of Fame Statistics"). But so does the enshrined Sutter, who's roughly Smith's equal in terms of career value! Well, Sutter's in partly because of his role in (perhaps) helping to pioneer the split-fingered fastball. As mentioned, though, Sutter embodies the basement level of reliever standards. Smith needs to measure up to the average, not the basement. According to that criterion, Smith isn't a Hall of Famer, and it's not a difficult call.
As for Smith's eye-catching career saves total, it's becoming less distinguished by the year. Smith indeed held the career saves record for 13 seasons, but now he's fallen to third on the list. That's to say nothing of the truth that the saves statistic is not a meaningful way to assess reliever quality. As well, Smith's career save percentage of 82 percent is nothing special by closer standards, and in fact he never once led his league in save percentage. This isn't meant to impugn Smith's outstanding career on its own merits. Rather, it's to make the case that he's not a Hall-of-Fame reliever.
Would we vote for him? Snyder: No (16); Rosecrans: No (21); Perry: No (25)
Coming Thursday: Nos. 20 through 16.