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MLB Hall of Fame Voting 2011: My Ballot for This Year's Class

Max BorlandContributor IIIOctober 25, 2016

MLB Hall of Fame Voting 2011: My Ballot for This Year's Class

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    This year's hall of fame ballot may be underwhelming. The ballot doesn't have any new surefire candidates. There is no one player people have been waiting to see elected. We're caught between the Cal Ripkens and Tony Gwynn ceremony and the impending honoring of Frank Thomas and Greg Maddux. Who is going to get a plaque in the meantime.

    I started following baseball in the mid nineties with only a faint understanding of what baseball statistics meant and no conception of intangibles or player value. A player was good if someone (most often my father) told me he was good. Even until recent years, I was no good at understanding players. I knew a .300 batting average was good. I knew a sub-3.00 ERA was good. I didn't know that there was more to hitting and pitching. I didn't know defense really mattered. I didn't know anything and I didn't have to. If you were any good you were wearing pinstripes and winning.

    Now many of the players I grew up watching, but not really knowing, are appearing on the ballot and many are disappearing almost immediately. I don't doubt that trend continues. The hall means more than being "good." I've heard so many times before that you had to be "great" to be in the hall. But how great? Where is the line? Last year we saw Andre Dawson receive one of the highest honors that can be bestowed upon a human being. Did he deserve it? Did he deserve it more than anyone else that year? I am on the fence.

    Those are the sort of questions I'm going to struggle with here. And, pretending that my opinion matters, I'll give my votes for each of these players. I'm going to try to be fair, but I'm not going to try to predict anything.

    Starting with guys who have spent the longest time on the ballot...

Dave Parker

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Year on ballot: 15

    % of vote last year: 15.2

    My vote: no

    He looks a lot like Andre Dawson at first but if you look closer, Parker was a clear step below. His defense and speed were less impressive though he did win three gold gloves. I was on the fence about Dawson, I am not on it with Parker. I won't let myself measure his worth with awards or all star games though. Parker was a good hitter, with a .290 average over nineteen years. He had some power but not enough to make his candidacy that much more legit. The nineteen seasons he played is probably what a lot of people like about him but his prime was relatively short and was probably derailed by injuries and cocaine. He only played in 140 games as a 30-31 year old and missed that time to pad his stats but I still think he probably comes up short.

Bert Blyleven

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    Mike Powell/Getty Images

    Years on ballot: 14

    % of vote last year: 74.2

    My vote: yes

    He'll get in this year. The baseball press has come around. Felix Hernandez' Cy Young award is the proof. People can rant about wins and losses all they want. It don't matter. Not one person I point this out to can provide a counterpoint. If you're on bad teams you won't win as many games. For so long award voters have honored wins (really honoring good lineups in the process) but that is changing.

    Blyleven's career ERA dove under three before he turned 20 and stayed there until he was 32. He was great in his prime. He completed games, he won for bad teams, he posted a WHIP of 1.17, he struck out 2.89 hitters per walk. When he turned 35 the strikeouts took a nosedive, but he still finished with an ERA of 3.31 in 4970 innings pitched. For comparison, Randy Johnson's career ERA was 3.29 in more than 800 fewer innings. Tom Glavine's was 3.54 in about 500 fewer IP. Blyleven was close to as good as some guys who are considered sure things and is probably better than some guys who will make it. Vote him in.

Dale Murphy

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Years on ballot: 13

    % of vote last year: 11.7

    My vote: no

    Murphy was a home run hitter. In his prime he averaged about 37 home runs per year. His .265 career average is nothing special but he got on base at a decent rate for a guy who wasn't a great contact hitter. Perhaps a few more great years would have pushed him over the edge, he was more or less done at age 36 and left an underwhelming impression with a number of subpar batting averages. That said, his defense and decent success rate on the base paths make those prime years look all the more impressive, but not quite good enough.

Jack Morris

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    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Years on ballot: 12

    % of vote last year: 52.3

    My vote: no

    Many of the best pitchers today have never (and might never have) had an ERA under 3.00. I am not content to degrade a player for having never reached a certain threshold. It is the worse end of Morris' spectrum brings him down a bit. He sprinkled in enough 4.00+ ERAs in there to make me give pause. He did not strike enough guys out for the amount he walked. Though he did not walk an especially high amount (3.3 per nine), this gives some insight as to why he might not have put up better numbers than his career 3.90 ERA and his 1.30 WHIP.

    I admire this old breed of pitcher who could throw close to, or more than, 300 innings in a six-month period but Jack Morris was nothing more than a dependable pitcher whose ceiling was good but is a big enough step below great for me to give him a "no." His four world series rings (did he get one 1993? he didn't pitch in the playoffs) are another impressive aspect to his career, but it doesn't really mean that much when it comes to assessing Morris as a player.

Don Mattingly

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Years on ballot: 11

    % of vote last year: 16.1

    My vote: no

    Tino Martinez was the first Yankee first baseman I remember watching. Mattingly has a fine reputation among Yankee fans and for a long time that reputation was all I knew of him. Six great years does not make for a great career, and outside of New York I cannot see Mattingly deserving the sort of honor that comes with the hall. He was incredibly productive in his prime, but did little after turning 30. He was a terrific contact hitter, never striking out more than 43 times in a season and ending his career with more walks than whiffs. It just did not last long enough. I think Mattingly could have made a strong case for the hall based on contact hitting alone, but would have had to last until he was 40 or so.

Alan Trammell

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    Ken Levine/Getty Images

    Years on ballot: 10

    % of vote last year: 22.4

    My vote:no

    Unlike Mattingly, Alan Trammell never showed much power (save for a couple of scattered seasons) but he played long enough to deserve extra consideration. Trammell was a good contact hitter for a long time, posting a .285 average over nineteen seasons. A few ugly ones were scattered in there but I think Trammell at his best was the product of luck-inflated batting averages. He was a good basestealer though his speed (fangraphs' speed score) was about average. I know he won some gold gloves but it is difficult to analyze the defensive prowess of guys who played before advanced fielding metrics. I'll go by reputation in that respect but still, as much as I want to honor a guy who played for so long and put together such a quality career, I would not be able to give Trammell my vote.

Lee Smith

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Years on ballot: 9

    % of vote last year: 47.3

    My vote: yes

    I am not opposed to honoring relief pitchers. I will gladly support Mariano Rivera and Billy Wagner's candidacies. Despite some stellar seasons and 478 saves, I question whether Lee Smith stands up to the greatest closers of today. Let's compare:

    Lee Smith: 3.03 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 8.7 K/9, 1289.1 IP

    Mariano Rivera: 2.23 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 8.2 K/9, 1150.0 IP

    Billy Wagner: 2.31 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 11.9 K/9, 903.0 IP

    Trevor Hoffman: 2.87 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 9.4 K/9, 1089.1 IP

    Given the added discretion when it comes to inducting relief pitchers, I hesitate to call Lee Smith an elite closer. Guys on my list with K-rates close to Smith's walked fewer batters, and all but Wagner played to an older age than Smith. Even if Hoffman and Rivera decline over the next few years, they will probably still end up looking better than Smith. Hoffman may be close, but I am not crowning him yet. One thing in Smith's favor is that he often pitched more than one inning though I wouldn't say he was in the mold of Bruce Sutter.

    However, my efforts to put Smith's career into perspective have not even convinced me. I don't know if the comparisons I make are valid or meaningful. I think he was a great pitcher and it helps that his career FIP was about 10 points lower than his ERA. Lee Smith should be among the worst players to be enshrined in Cooperstown, but I would vote for him. It helps to look at his FIPs instead of his ERAs. Still, a borderline call.

Harold Baines

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Years on ballot: 5

    % of vote last year: 6.1

    My vote: no

    Baines was a good hitter for a long, long time. He hit .289 over 22 seasons and even if you cut off the yucky seasons towards the end, he hit nearly .300 for about fifteen years. Combined with decent power, I was very close to giving him a "yes." The only issue is his position. As a guy who primarily DH-ed, he doesn't really look like much of a DH. He didn't have to sort of power you'd expect (he was a 20 HR guy, really) or the sort of production (rarely drove in 100 despite playing for some good teams). Baines falls into that "good, not great" category.

Mark McGwire

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Years on ballot: 5

    % of vote last year: 23.7

    My vote: no

    Confirmed steroid user throughout his career.

Tim Raines

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Years on ballot: 4

    % of vote last year: 30.4

    My vote: yes

    I'm a fan. The points that got me to support his candidacy:

    1) .294 average through 23 seasons.

    2) More walks than strikeouts by a margin of almost 400.

    3) A Success rate in steal attempts of 85%

    Really was the perfect leadoff hitter.

Roberto Alomar

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Years on ballot: 2

    % of vote last year: 73.7

    My vote: yes

    A .300 hitter over seventeen seasons is nothing to scoff at. He posted consistently high BABIPs until his final three years, but by that point he had done enough. He was a very good fielder, a very good base stealer, and probably was a few good years away from being a first-ballot hall of famer.

Barry Larkin

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    Mark Lyons/Getty Images

    Years on ballot: 2

    % of vote last year: 51.6

    My vote: yes

    A very similar player to Robbie Alomar, despite one suspiciously powerful season. Larkin was still quite good at age 40 (hitting .289 that year) but had fallen off a bit. A good fielder with speed, Larkin was another prime top of the order guy. 

Edgar Martinez

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Years on ballot: 2

    % of vote last year: 36.2

    My vote: yes

    I understand the qualms people have about designated hitters, but I think fifteen years or so of consistently elite hitting is enough, regardless of position. If Edgar Martinez deserves to be in the hall, it will be on the merits of his batting average and OBP. He was very impressive and consistent in those areas for about 15 years. He had some power (25-29 HR most years), but the .312/.418/.515 slash line is the most impressive thing to me. He was a doubles machine as well, but I am content to vote for anyone with a 3/4/5 slash line like Edgar's.

Fred McGriff

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Years on ballot: 2

    % of vote last year: 21.5

    My vote: yes

    I'd vote him in because his talent was spread across enough different areas. He had home run power, he hit for good average, took enough walks. He stayed good well into his 30s and ended his career with some very nice looking figures (493 HR, 1550 RBI, .284 AVG). He should have to wait at least a few more years though.

Rafael Palmiero

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Years on ballot: 1

    % of vote last year: n/a

    My vote: no

    He had the stats if it weren't for the performance-enhancing drug use. He would probably have gone in on his first ballot. Naturally, I think he was better than Mark McGwire and should gain more support.

Jeff Bagwell

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Years on ballot: 1

    % of vote last year: n/a

    My vote: yes

    If Edgar Martinez gets in, I think Bagwell has to. Eight seasons of 31 of more home runs and 100 RBI in all but one of them. The power gets him part of the way there and the OBP north of .400 seals the deal. I think he was forced from the game too early to be a first-ballot guy but I like Bagwell a lot and would vote for him before I'd vote for some of the other guys I said "yes" to.

Larry Walker

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    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Years on ballot: 1

    % of vote last year: n/a

    My vote: yes

    Walker was another tremendous OBP guy though his main selling points owe something to Coors Field. He hit 383 home runs but 258 were as a member of the Rockies. He hit .357 during one five-year stretch in Colorado, owing some of that to his increased power output. Should we just look at a guy's raw stats or should we let loose with the "what ifs"? I don't know. My inclination is that Walker is a hall of famer and should get there. In addition, he stole bases and played well in the field. Though he played on some bad teams, he did not get intentionally walked as often as I would have expected. I believe the .313/.400/.565 slash line is a bit above his natural abilities, but I am betting he was still going to put together a good career even if he hadn't gone to Colorado.

John Franco

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Years on ballot: 0

    % of vote last year: n/a

    My vote: no

    After the case I made for Lee Smith I am inclined to support John Franco's candidacy. However, Franco was more hittable, less able to get the strikeout, and luckier than Smith. I almost said no to Smith and I have to say no to Franco.

Juan Gonzalez

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    Dave Kaup/Getty Images

    Years on ballot: 1

    % of vote last year: n/a

    My vote: no

    He faded too soon and wasn't as good at reaching base as some of the other guys on my list (Bagwell, Martinez).

Benito Santiago

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    Dave Kaup/Getty Images

    Years on ballot: 1

    % of vote last year: n/a

    My vote: no

    If a guy is going to put up an OBP of .307 over a 20-season career, he'd better do something else amazingly well.

Kevin Brown

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Years on ballot: 1

    % of vote last year: n/a

    My vote: no

    If he'd been able to do what he did in his career for just a little bit longer (and not joined the Yankees), I might be more inclined to support him. Steroids don't help. Well maybe they do, but not if we know about them.

John Olerud

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Years on ballot: 1

    % of vote last year: n/a

    My vote: no

    He's close though. He was a very disciplined hitter who was still pretty good at age 36 despite retiring after that year.

Bret Boone

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Years on ballot: 1

    % of vote last year: n/a

    My vote: no

    I really believe he was a below-average offensive player.

Marquis Grissom

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Years on ballot: 1

    % of vote last year: n/a

    My vote: no

    Another guy whose skill set required him to get on base yet he did so at a below average rate (.318). He was not a good enough contact hitter to make up for this and a decade of 15-20 HR power doesn't get him there.

Carlos Baerga

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    David Seelig/Getty Images

    Years on ballot: 1

    % of vote last year: n/a

    My vote: no

    I grew up thinking him a star and he was a star, for about six years. After that began the journeyman circuit.

Al Leiter

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Years on ballot: 1

    % of vote last year: n/a

    My vote: no

    He started too late and walked too many guys. A few great seasons and a no hitter does not make a hall of famer out of a guy with a 3.80 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP.

Tino Martinez

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Years on ballot: 1

    % of vote last year: n/a

    My vote: ye.. no

    The numbers just aren't there. Sadly, because he's one of my favorite ballplayers.

BJ Surhoff, Charles Johnson, Raul Mondesi, Bobby Higinson, Kirk Reuter

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Years on ballot: 1

    % of vote last year: n/a

    My vote: no

    I don't consider any of these guys serious candidates. I'm sure arguments can be made in support of them each getting at least a vote or two but I couldn't be the guy to check their names off.

The End

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    I ran through every player listed on baseball reference's HOF ballot. I'm aware that I chose nine guys and that may seem like a lot especially given that most of them are in their first year of eligibility. I'm sure there is tons of potential for debate, not only given the contentious nature of enshrinement in the hall of fame but also because my picks cannot possibly be universally shared. So I welcome agreements and disagreements alike and look forward to tomorrow's announcement of the results.

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