Thursday, February 04, 2010

Hall of Fame PReview, Part 6

Wow, time flies! We're already into February. Perhaps we'll get this done before Spring Training.

Today we'll look at four hitters who all deserve serious consideration, one of whom received same:

Andre Dawson – OF (1976-1996, primarily with the Expos and Cubs): 279/323/482-438-1,591, 119 OPS+, 314 SB. 1987 NL MVP and perennial candidate. 8 time All Star and 8 time Gold Glove winner. Many have decried Dawson's election, which was inevitable given Dawson's vote total and the election of Jim Rice to the Hall in 2009. I don't think Dawson is a strong Hall of Famer, but he was a much better player than Rice and others in the Hall. Before his knees started to betray him, Dawson was a true five-tool power who combined terrific power with terrific defense. His NL MVP in 1987 is considered a travesty by Sabermetrically-inclined analysts because it's the direct result of an overemphasis on RBI. While I agree that Jack Clark probably deserved the trophy, Dawson did have a good season, except for his low on-base percentage. And that's the primary knock on Dawson - that his career OBP is far below any other outfielder in the Hall. (This is widely but erroneously reported as Dawson's OBP being lower than any other player in the Hall, but there are catchers and middle infielders with lower OBPs than Dawson). Dawson does OK on the Gray Ink and HOF Monitor measures, and he's got a host of immortals on his top career comps (Billy Williams, Tony Perez, Al Kaline, Ernie Banks and Dave Winfield,)

So, despite the criticism, the voters could have done worse than to elect Andre Dawson to the Hall of Fame. But they could have done better, considering Dawson was not the best player from the 1980's Expos teams who was on the ballot.

Tim Raines – CF (1979-2002, primarily with Montreal): 294/384/425-170-980, 123 OPS+, 808 SB (5th all time). One of the greatest leadoff hitters in the history of Major League Baseball, and in my opinion the most deserving player among the returnees on the ballot, Raine's candidacy faces two roadblocks: 1) he was a direct contemporary of THE greatest leadoff hitter of all time (Rickey Henderson); and 2) Raines' extraordinarily long career resulted in his hitting the ballot a full 20 years after his last great season in 1987.

As noted above, Raines was one of the most prolific base stealers of all time, leading the NL four times in his career. He was also one of the most efficient, and his 85% success rate was one of the best all time. Raines also led the league in runs scored on two occasions and won a batting title. He also routinely was among the league leaders in drawing walks, a valuable skill that was underappreciated during his career. Raines had many good seasons over the last 15 years of his career, but he incurred many injuries and his seasonal totals were dampened by the lack of playing time. Still, his career totals measure up to the standards of others who have been enshrined, and he counts Hall of Famers Lou Brock, Max Carey, Fred Clarke and Enos Slaughter among his top career comparable players.

Mark McGwire – 1B (1986-2001, Oakland and St. Louis): 263/394/588-583-1,414, 162 OPS+. One of the most prolific home run hitters of all time. McGwire broke Roger Maris' single season record by hitting 70 in 1998. The arguments for his enshrinement are pretty solid: Rookie of the Year in 1987, 12-time All Star, former single-season record holder for home runs, four time HR champ, 8th on the all-time HR list, best HR/AB ratio of all time. Oh, and he won a gold glove once. The arguments against him: he was a one dimensional player, and he accomplished what he did due to steroids.

On the first count: well, McGwire did a little more than hit home runs. He drew a lot of walks and had a high OBP. He was OK in the field. And that one thing that he was real good at IS kind of the best thing a hitter can be good at.

On the second count: I haven't addressed it much in this blog, if at all, but I'm not really worked up about steroids. Without question McGwire wouldn't have had the kind of career that he had absent steroids. On the other hand, we're comparing him to his peers, and it's becoming more and more apparent that many (most) McGwire's peers also were taking steroids. It was the steroid era, and the best players under those circumstances should, in my opinion, be allowed into the Hall of Fame.

So far, it's not looking all that good for Big Mac, but he belongs. His career comps, none of whom match up all that well, are Harmon Killebrew and Willie McCovey. #1 and #2 on his list are notorious 'roiders Jose Canseco and Jason Giambi.

Alan Trammell – SS (1977-1996, Tigers): 285/352/415185-1,003, 110 OPS+. Trammell's an interesting case. He was a very good hitter for a shortstop, and he was a fine fielder who won four gold gloves. He was a six-time All Star and earned MVP votes seven times, finishing second in the 1987 vote. He also batted .450 in the 1984 World Series and was named MVP of that series. Working against Trammell is the fact that three contemporary shortstops (Ripken, Yount and Ozzie Smith) are already enshrined. Also working against him is the fact that he missed a lot of time in the latter part of his career, exceeding 130 games only once in his 30's.

I think Trammell is a borderline guy who, had he played in the 1950's, would have been elected by the Veteran's Committee, and I think his candidacy might be going in that direction. I'm not sure how I would vote on him if given the opportunity. But he'd not be the worst guy in the Hall. Career comps include Hall of Famers Pee Wee Reese and Ryne Sandberg, and the list is topped by probable inductee Barry Larkin.


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