As we run through one Hall of Fame candidate per day leading up to the great reveal later this month, it's now time for Edgar Martinez's day. Given that he's been on the ballot nine years now, we've run through his Hall of Fame case many times on this website. Instead of just the plain 'ol "case for" and "case against," there's something I'd like to discuss.
Many Hall of Fame voters and fans alike don't believe Martinez should get into the Hall purely because he was a designated hitter for the overwhelming majority of his career (1,403 of his 2,055 career games played). I'll hear something about how he wasn't a complete player or how a guy isn't a Hall of Famer if he was so bad at defense that he wasn't even permitted to play it.
Guys, the Hall of Fame has plenty of non-complete players. Ozzie Smith was a career .262/.337/.328 (87 OPS+) hitter. That's decidedly below average, but he was possibly the best defensive player in baseball history, so he's in the Hall of Fame. Rightfully so. If you can have a sub-par hitter in due to his defense, why can't a studly DH get in?
American League pitchers haven't hit since 1972. Pitchers in general are bad-to-atrocious hitters. Are we screaming about how they aren't complete players when judging which should be in the Hall of Fame?
What about players who were excellent hitters and bad defenders, such as Derek Jeter (-9.7 career dWAR along with negative zone ratings and Defensive Runs Saved throughout his career)?
Of course, to me, the most egregious contradiction when it comes to arguing against DHs as Hall of Famers is that we're including closers -- notably the recent, one-inning closer types. Trevor Hoffman is going to be inducted either this year or next while Mariano Rivera is gonna fly in next season on his first try.
Let's dig in on Hoffman vs. Martinez, keeping in mind I'm not arguing against Hoffman, but for Martinez.
First off, as nearly all relievers are, Hoffman was a failed starter. He started 11 games between Double-A and Triple-A in 1992 and that was it. If we're gonna split hairs over Martinez being bad enough on defense to become a DH, shouldn't we also dock Hoffman for not being good enough to stick as a starter in the minors?
Over the course of Hoffman's career, his 162-game average was 72 innings pitched in 68 appearances with 288 batters faced. Obviously, a closer ends up in high leverage situations for most of his appearances, but Hoffman is still only impacting 72 of roughly 1,458 innings (4.9 percent) on average in any given season.
Speaking of batters faced, we can compare this to plate appearances. Over the course of his career, Hoffman faced 4,388 batters. Martinez nearly doubles that in plate appearances with 8,674 in his career.
If a DH is a part-time player, a closer is part-time with a significant amount less playing time. It's like talking down to someone for working 30 hours in a week and then praising another person for putting in a 17-hour week. It's so backward it's kind of embarrassing, actually.
This is a stigma that needs to go away. Designated hitters are baseball players.
Fortunately, it looks like the stigma is going away among BBWAA Hall of Fame voters and Martinez is going to make it. He's tracking around 80 percent of public ballots as things stand. Last year, he lost 7.3 percent from the public ballots known at the time of the reveal to the actual voting total, so if this holds similar, he'll miss induction this season by 2-3 percent. Next year is Martinez's final year and surely he'll get a bump there and make it in.
He should. He deserves it. Here's why.
Martinez is a career .312/.418/.515 (147 OPS+) hitter. Among retired players with at least 3,000 career plate appearances, he's one of just 19 players in history to slash at least .300/.400/.500. On that list, he ranks 15th in OPS+. He's 21st in career on-base percentage, too.
An amazing batsmith, Martinez walked more than he struck out (1,283 to 1,202) in his career and only topped 100 strikeouts in his final season at age 41.
Thanks to being a late bloomer and somewhat due to playing his home games in pitcher-friendly parks throughout his career, Martinez's counting stats aren't incredibly eye-popping. He got to 2,247 hits, 309 home runs, 1,261 RBI and 1,219 RBI. He did club 514 doubles, though, good for 53rd all-time.
Those numbers shouldn't mess with Edgar's candidacy here, though. He has more hits than Willie Stargell, Joe DiMaggio, Willie McCovey and Bill Terry. He has more home runs than Al Simmons, Hack Wilson and Chuck Klein. He has more RBI than Frankie Frisch, Bill Dickey and George Sisler. He scored more runs than Joe Medwick, Pie Traynor and Ron Santo.
I understand those Hall of Famers have different resumes, I'm just pointing out that Martinez's counting stats aren't unbecoming of a Hall of Famer.
Martinez led the league in average twice, on-base percentage three times and OPS once. He led in doubles twice, RBI once and runs once. The seven-time All-Star won five Silver Sluggers and finished in the top six of MVP voting twice, topping out at third in 1995.
From a "Fame" standpoint, the award for the best designated hitter each season is named after Martinez.
As for a signature postseason moment, he's got one and it's likely the single best moment in Mariners history:
The bottom line here is that we're talking about one of the best hitters in baseball history. The best way to judge a complete hitter is the triple slash line and Martinez has arguably a top-15 slash in history.
Even without the defense, if we throw Martinez to third base in the JAWS system, he sits above the average current Hall of Famer by a hair (he does in career WAR as well).
Expect Edgar Martinez to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in July of 2019 and it is well deserved. When it happens, hopefully we'll be done hearing the masses scream about how DHs shouldn't count -- especially since one-inning closers do.