Friday, January 3, 2014

If Studious Metsimus Had A 2014 Hall of Fame Vote...

On Wednesday, January 8, the National Baseball Hall of Fame will release the names of its newest inductees.  There are many worthy candidates to consider this year, including some whose careers may or may not have included a PED or two.

In addition to returnees like Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mike Piazza, there are plenty of first-time nominees that should receive considerable consideration.  Those players include Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas and Mike Mussina.  Other first-timers on the ballot include former Mets Jeff Kent, Tom Glavine, Armando Benitez, Moises Alou, Paul Lo Duca, Hideo Nomo and Kenny Rogers.  And of course, making his 15th and final appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot is three-time World Series champion Jack Morris.

This is the fourth consecutive year that Studious Metsimus was not allowed to formally cast a vote for players we considered to be worthy of Hall of Fame enshrinement, but we're not bitter.  In fact, if it pleases the baseball writers who vote for the Hall of Fame, we'd like to send them a gift to let them know that there are no hard feelings because of our omission from their swanky club.  Please let us know when you receive the Jose Lima album we're sending you.  Unfortunately, it's on 8-track, but still, it's JOSE FRICKIN' LIMA!  Lima Time is hard to find!

Now, on to our votes!

Greg Maddux

As Mets fans, we know that Greg Maddux beat our team more than any other pitcher in history.  The Mad Dog finished his career with a 35-19 record against the boys in orange and blue.  But those 35 victories don't even represent 10% of his career win total.  Maddux won 355 games as a member of the Cubs, Braves, Dodgers and Padres.  That's the eighth-highest total in history and the most wins by any pitcher since Warren Spahn won 363 games in a career that ended nearly 50 years ago.

Maddux was also a superior defensive player.  His 18 Gold Glove awards are the most for a player at any position.  What else did Maddux do that very few others accomplished on the mound?

His 740 starts are the fourth-highest total in major league history.  In an era where relief specialists have put starting pitchers on the bench after six or seven innings, Maddux completed 109 of his starts.  Only three other pitchers whose careers started after 1980 (Fernando Valenzuela, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson) finished with 100 or more complete games.  Maddux is also one of four pitchers, along with Ferguson Jenkins, Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling, to strike out 3,000 batters while walking fewer than 1,000.  And Maddux's career total of 3,371 strikeouts are the most of any of those pitchers.

Finally, in an era where very few pitchers reach 200 innings in a season, Maddux pitched 194 innings or more in 21 consecutive seasons.  Maddux is one of only 13 pitchers to throw more than 5,000 innings.  The other twelve are already in the Hall of Fame.

We don't even need to mention his unprecedented streak of 17 consecutive seasons with 15 or more victories, his four Cy Young Awards or his eight All-Star Game appearances.  He's a Hall of Famer, period.  The only thing that needs to be seen is whether or not Maddux breaks Tom Seaver's record for highest percentage of the votes cast.

Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images

And that's it for the first-timers.  I don't think anyone else gets in of those players who are on the ballot for the first time.

Frank Thomas, though never accused of taking steroids, falls in the same category as Jeff Bagwell (and both were born on the same day).  Thomas' numbers are good enough for the Hall, but it will take him a year or two to get in, especially with a crowded ballot like there is this year.

Jeff Kent was the best power-hitting second baseman of all time.  That being said, he put up most of his numbers with alleged steroid user Barry Bonds* protecting him in the lineup.  He also never had a 200-hit season, only scored 100 or more runs three times and reached 100 RBI twice without Bonds'* protection.  He played 11 of his 17 seasons without Bonds* as his teammate.  In those 11 seasons, Kent averaged 28 doubles, 18 homers, 75 RBI and 68 runs scored, to go with a .284/.347/.476 slash line.  For the record, Will Clark's career slash line was .303/.384/.497 and Bernie Williams' line was .297/.381/.477.  Both players are already off the Hall of Fame ballot.  In addition, both Clark and Williams played Gold Glove-caliber defense.  Kent did not.  And Kent wasn't a big fan of the media - the same media members who cast votes for the Hall of Fame.  He's not getting in this year.

Tom Glavine will get in eventually.  Just not this year.  Yes, he won over 300 games in his career, which pretty much guarantees a plaque in Cooperstown.  But his other numbers were not nearly as impressive as the ones put up by Maddux, his long-time teammate in Atlanta.  Glavine's career ERA of 3.54 is higher than almost every other pitcher already in the Hall.  The only reason it's that low is because of an eight-year stretch from 1991 to 1998 in which he posted a 2.96 ERA.  In half of his other 14 seasons, his ERA was above 4.00, including five seasons where it was 4.45 or greater.  Glavine is also one of a dozen pitchers to walk 1,500 batters in his career.  But Glavine is the only one of the 12 to never have a 200-strikeout season or lead the league in strikeouts.  He got the wins, but not much else.

Mike Mussina - unlike Glavine - was an excellent control pitcher, walking only 785 batters in 536 starts.  He also struck out 2,813 batters in 18 seasons, including four seasons of 200 or more strikeouts.  Mussina won 11 or more games in each of his last 17 seasons in the majors and lost more than 11 games only once.  So why isn't he getting into the Hall of Fame on his first attempt?  Well, his 3.68 ERA is even higher than Glavine, he only won 20 games once, and he was just so-so in the postseason (7-8, 3.42 ERA).  Like all the other first-timers mentioned above, Mussina will get in, but he'll have to wait a few years.

There are some returnees on the ballot as well.  The ones I would vote into the Hall are Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell and Larry Walker.  (You can read my takes on them by clicking here.)  But there is one other returnee who I didn't vote for last year, but would vote for this year, and it's not Jack Morris.  It's Curt Schilling.

Photo by Jay Drowns/Getty Images

One of the reasons I said Greg Maddux would make the Hall of Fame was because he was one of four players with 3,000 or more strikeouts and fewer than 1,000 walks.  But Curt Schilling's 4.38 strikeout-to-walk ratio is the greatest of all-time (since 1900).  That means no strikeout pitcher in the history of the game had better control than Schilling.  Schilling also led his league multiple times in various categories.  He led the league in wins twice, starts three times, innings pitched twice, strikeouts twice, WHIP twice, and K/BB ratio five times.  Schilling never won a Cy Young Award (neither did Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan or Bert Blyleven), but was the runner-up for the prize three times and finished fourth in another season.  He was also a six-time All-Star, representing three different teams in the Midsummer Classic.

As good as Schilling was in the regular season (216 wins, 3.42 ERA), he was even better in the postseason.  In 19 postseason starts, Schilling went 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA and 0.97 WHIP, striking out 120 batters while walking only 25.  He also shared the World Series MVP Award with Randy Johnson after leading the Arizona Diamondbacks to the crown in 2001.  Like Jack Morris, Schilling helped three teams reach the World Series.  Schilling's teams in Philadelphia, Arizona and Boston won three times in four World Series appearances.

Morris was also known as a top postseason pitcher, but his October numbers (7-4, 3.80 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 64 strikeouts, 32 walks) weren't even close to the numbers puts up by Schilling.  In the regular season, Morris also had a higher ERA (3.90 to Schilling's 3.46) and lower winning percentage (.577 to Schilling's .597), while having 25% fewer strikeouts and almost twice as many walks as Schilling.  It's true that Morris' 162 wins in the 1980s were more than any pitcher in baseball, but he also had the third-most losses in that time period.  Meanwhile, in Schilling's best ten-year stretch (1997-2006), he won 155 games, a number that was only surpassed by Randy Johnson (176), Greg Maddux (168), Pedro Martinez (158).  But 18 pitchers had more losses in those ten years than Schilling did.  Plus, the only pitchers with more strikeouts than Schilling in that ten-year period were Johnson and Martinez, and only Martinez posted a lower OBP against him than Schilling.

It all boils down to this.  Schilling was far more dominant than Morris ever was, and he was superior to Morris (and just about everyone else) when it came to postseason pitching.  Schilling should get in before Morris.  Case closed.

And that also closes this year's Studious Metsimus Hall of Fame vote.  To recap, my vote would include Greg Maddux, Curt Schilling, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell and Larry Walker.  It's quite possible most of those players won't get in this year.  It's also possible some might never get in.  But this is just my opinion.  If you don't like it, I'm sure I can find another 8-track featuring the late Jose Lima for you.  That way, we all win!

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