2020 MLB Hall of Fame Class: Breaking Down Resumes of Derek Jeter, Larry Walker
The National Baseball Hall of Fame has two new members.
As announced Tuesday, Derek Jeter and Larry Walker were granted their tickets to the halls of Cooperstown after showing up on at least 75 percent of the ballots cast by Baseball Writers' Association of America voters.
Both Jeter and Walker are certainly deserving of the plaques that will be hung in their honor this summer. To prove it, we've broken down the key accomplishments that helped them earn the highest distinction that a baseball player can hope for.
For good measure, we've also broken down three notable near-misses and other key storylines from the voting for the 2020 Hall of Fame class.
New Hall of Famer: Derek Jeter
Vote %: 99.7
Though Derek Jeter fell just one vote shy of becoming only the second player to gain unanimous entry into the Hall of Fame, that he even came close speaks volumes.
Longtime closer Mariano Rivera became the first to receive 100 percent of the vote just last year. Of course, Rivera played with Jeter for all but one season of Jeter's 20-year career from 1995 to 2014. Along the way, the two played in 16 postseasons and won five World Series rings.
Jeter earned his rings with a .308 average and a record-setting 200 hits in the playoffs. His brightest moment came in the 2000 World Series, when he won the MVP on the strength of a .409 average.
In his regular-season career, Jeter moonlighted as a slugger (260 home runs) and base stealer (358 stolen bases), but he primarily formed his offensive legacy as a proficient hitter. He's one of only five players to ever compile a .310 batting average while also topping 12,000 career plate appearances. His 3,465 hits landed him sixth on the all-time list.
If there's a flaw in Jeter's Hall of Fame resume, it's that his defensive stats undercut the reputation he garnered as a five-time Gold Glove winner at shortstop. Notably, his minus-152 defensive runs saved is the worst mark ever recorded.
Nevertheless, wins above replacement calculations by both Baseball Reference and FanGraphs still rate Jeter as an all-time great. Among shortstops, he ranks ninth with 72.4 rWAR and sixth with 73.1 fWAR.
New Hall of Famer: Larry Walker
Vote %: 76.6
In his 10th and final year on the ballot, Larry Walker was finally elected into the Hall of Fame.
In a 17-year career that spanned from 1989 to 2005, Walker led the majors in batting average three times and in slugging percentage twice. He ended up with 383 home runs and 230 stolen bases, and his career .313/.400/.565 batting line over 8,030 plate appearances places him in an exclusive club.
Granted, Walker's offensive numbers were inflated by the hitter-friendly Coors Field during his 10-year run with the Colorado Rockies from 1995 to 2004. Yet his 141 career OPS+ accounts for that, and it ties him with fellow Hall of Famers Chipper Jones and Eddie Collins.
Lest anyone forget, Walker was also a superb defender who collected seven Gold Gloves. Between those, his five All-Star nods, three Silver Sluggers and 1997 National League MVP Award, he definitely attracted enough attention throughout his career to satisfy the "fame" requirement of his new home.
Last but arguably not least: Walker joined Fergie Jenkins as the only Canada-born players in the Hall of Fame.
Near-Miss: Curt Schilling
Vote %: 70.0
Based strictly on what he accomplished on the mound from 1988 to 2007, Curt Schilling is worthy of enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.
The right-hander is one of only 18 pitchers to top 300 strikeouts, and his 4.4 strikeout-to-walk ratio is the best of any pitcher with at least 3,000 innings since 1901. In this same era, he ranks 21st among pitchers with 80.5 rWAR and 18th with 79.8 fWAR.
Schilling also won three World Series rings and accumulated a 2.23 career ERA in the postseason. His run through the 2001 playoffs with the Arizona Diamondbacks—in which he posted a 1.12 ERA with 56 strikeouts and only six walks in 48.1 innings—is arguably the single best postseason performance ever by a pitcher.
So what's keeping Schilling out of the Hall of Fame? Some voters may have minor gripes with his track record as a player, but it's the ambiguous application of the Hall of Fame's character clause that seems to be the driving force against him.
As Jay Jaffe more thoroughly covered at FanGraphs, Schilling's persona has gradually morphed from merely controversial to arguably outright toxic. In recent years, especially, his bigotry toward Muslims and transgender people and his apparent endorsement of violence against journalists are difficult to excuse.
But with only five percent of the vote separating him from the requisite mark for entry, Schilling might nonetheless get in as soon as next year.
Near-Miss: Roger Clemens
Vote %: 61.0
If Curt Schilling is a Hall of Famer based on what he did between the lines, then that logic absolutely applies to Roger Clemens.
In 24 seasons in the majors from 1984 to 2007, "Rocket" won seven ERA titles and five strikeout titles. His 4,672 strikeouts rank third all-time, and he places second among modern pitchers with 138.7 rWAR and one better than second (i.e., first) with 133.7 fWAR.
Throw in seven Cy Young Awards, 11 All-Star selections and two World Series rings, and you get the totality of Clemens' arguably unparalleled career.
But also like Schilling, Clemens comes with his own character clause conundrums. Specifically, questions about his on-field integrity arose when he was revealed in 2007 as a key character in George Mitchell's report on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.
At least with regard to the latter issue, Clemens has some plausible deniability in his favor. He never failed any tests, and in 2012 he was acquitted of perjury charges that arose from his testimony to Congress that he had never used PEDs.
At the rate he's progressing, Clemens will nevertheless need a big push to get in before his time on the ballot expires in 2022.
Near-Miss: Barry Bonds
Vote %: 60.7
Behold arguably the single greatest player in the history of Major League Baseball.
Barry Bonds does, after all, rank first all-time with 162.8 rWAR, and he's second to only Babe Ruth with 164.4 fWAR. He's also the all-time leader in home runs with 762 and walks with 2,558. He was a .298/.444/.607 lifetime hitter whose 182 OPS+ places behind only Ruth and Ted Williams.
Bonds' credentials also include the record-setting 73 home runs he hit in 2001. That season also accounts for one of seven instances in which he led the majors in on-base percentage. Likewise, it was one of six seasons in which he led in slugging percentage.
Despite his seven trips to the postseason, Bonds never did win a World Series. All the same, he otherwise left his mark on baseball by collecting seven MVPs, 14 All-Star nods, eight Gold Gloves and 12 Silver Sluggers.
Yet it's no secret Bonds is another difficult character-clause case because of his ties to performance-enhancing drugs. Though he, like Roger Clemens, never failed any tests while he was an active player, he did admit to using steroids—albeit unknowingly—in 2011.
Also like Clemens, Bonds must now hope for a sudden surge in votes before 2022.
Other Notable Misses
Here's a rundown on other notable misses from the 2020 ballot:
- Omar Vizquel (3rd, 52.6%): He's a legendary defender who won 11 Gold Gloves at shortstop, but his frequently below-average offense is holding him back.
- Scott Rolen (3rd, 35.3%): He was a frequent All-Star and Gold Glover who ranks as a top-10 third baseman in rWAR, so he may only need to be patient.
- Billy Wagner (5th, 31.7%): A remarkable 187 career ERA+ and an rWAR tally that compares to Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman are two reasons for Wagner to hold out hope.
- Gary Sheffield (6th, 30.5%): His 509 home runs and 140 OPS+ stick out, but his questionable defense and ties to PEDS aren't helping his cause.
- Todd Helton (2nd, 29.2%): He was a .316/.414/.539 career hitter, but all that came with the Colorado Rockies and without Larry Walker's all-around ability.
- Manny Ramirez (4th, 28.2%): He boasts 555 home runs and a 154 career OPS+, but there simply is no plausible deniability when it comes to his ties to PEDs.
- Jeff Kent (7th, 27.5%): He won an MVP in 2000 and hit a record 351 home runs as a second baseman, but not much else about his career jumps off the page.
- Andruw Jones (3rd, 19.4%): He was an elite player for 11 years from 1997 to 2007, but he fell off hard after that and washed out of the majors in 2012.
- Sammy Sosa (8th, 13.9%): Though his 609 home runs rank ninth all-time, his resume is oddly lacking even before you get to his PED ties.
- Andy Pettitte (2nd, 11.3%): He was a five-time World Series champion and a 256-game winner, but he also has PED ties, and voters generally seem to have him pegged only for the "Hall of Very Good."
- Bobby Abreu (1st, 5.5%): Between his 60.0 rWAR and 59.8 fWAR, he might have a shot at inspiring a lasting grassroots campaign.
The following players are now off the ballot after receiving less than five percent of the vote: Josh Beckett, Heath Bell, Eric Chavez, Adam Dunn, Chone Figgins, Rafael Furcal, Jason Giambi, Raul Ibanez, Paul Konerko, Cliff Lee, Carlos Pena, Brad Penny, J.J. Putz, Brian Roberts, Alfonso Soriano and Jose Valverde.