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Examining the 2015 Hall of Fame ballot

Because, hey, I've got strong opinions (understatement of the century) and dammit, they shall be heard.

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

I can't think of anything more fun than digging out from under a near foot of snow, except listening to Jay Jaffe on the Effectively Wild podcast while doing so. Jaffe, for those who don't know, is the creator of the JAWS metric for measuring a player's worthiness of induction into the baseball Hall of Fame and is a contributor to both MLB Network and Sports Illustrated. In addition to his fantastic moustache and dark beer cravings, he's also probably one of the few guys in all of North America who would list January as one of his favorite months of the year.  That said, he's also the foremost expert on the BBWAA Hall of Fame voting process and a go to for everything related to Cooperstown.

Don't believe me?  Go here and read his excellent position pieces for each of the top 20 or so candidates that are currently on the ballot.

The discussion on the podcast mostly revolved around what to expect from today's HOF voting results, with Jaffe speculating that we could see as many as five inducted in the 2015 class but that we were likely to see at least three: Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, and Craig Biggio (who just missed induction last year in his first year on the ballot) being the most likely candidates.  If we get five, the likely additions will be John Smoltz and Mike Piazza.

This, to me, is infuriating.

Lets ignore for a second the guys blacklisted for PED usage (Bonds, McGwire, Clemens) and the ones blacklisted due to the fact that someone, somewhere thinks that they may have used PED's at some point in their career (Bagwell, and ugh).  We'll get to those in a minute.

The projected five sees both Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling falling short.  Both 80 WAR pitchers, both more than qualify on the JAWS metric. Both better, on the rating scores, than John Smoltz.

The fact that Bert Blyleven got in (finally) should basically make the case for Mike Mussina as they have very similar careers and even a similar narrative in having pitched for a number or teams that were mediocre to slightly good, never winning a Cy Young, never really being the best pitcher in baseball over the course of their careers (although, it's hard to blame either of them for this considering the competition, but this is how Ted Simmons got punished on the ballot for years).  Perhaps he's going to have to wait the requisite 10 years to do make it, but considering the backlog of worthy players continues to grow, it's simply ludicrous to me to make a guy wait if his resume screams "Hall of Fame" and Mike Mussina's does.

I also may or may not have many Mike Mussina rookie cards that would increase in value if he were elected.

As for Schilling, if you're a BBWAA member and you spent 15 effing years pleading the case for Jack Morris to get in the HOF based on his ability as a big game pitcher, then how in the holy hell are you not voting Schilling in the first chance you get?  Not only is his regular season career far better than Morris', but his postseason career as is good as anyone in history not named Gibson.

Not to mention: It's pretty clear to me that a big reason for Smoltz getting on so many ballots is his performance in the postseason, and Schilling, by any score, was a better postseason pitcher than Smoltz, has more total WAR (regardless of which way you count it) but lacks the Cy Young (He finished second three times: Lost to teammate Randy Johnson twice, and to Johan Santana in 2004, the year of the bloody sock) and the saves totals, for which I link to Ben's Twitter question from Sunday:

If anything, Smoltz' 154 career saves makes a mockery of just about any closer of the current ilk getting any momentum in the Hall of Fame voting at all given how picky we seem to be getting about starting pitchers, mostly because if you put Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina in the bullpen for 20 years it's really hard to imagine them not getting to 500 saves pretty easily.

I would put Smoltz in for a couple of reasons, none of which are related to saves.  It's quite clear to me that his move to the bullpen was not necessitated by his inability to pitch in the rotation, but more taking one for the team. After moving back to the rotation in 2005 at age 38, Smoltz posted seasons of 4.9, 5.9, and 4.6 bWAR, so those four seasons in the bullpen potentially cost him 10.5 career bWAR if we assume a 4.5 bWAR pitcher over that time frame (4.5 * 4 = 18 - (0.8 + 1.2 + 3.3 + 2.2).  Add that to his current total and he's at 78 bWAR, more than enough to be considered a HOF case, and right on par with both Schilling and Mussina.

Perhaps he's not as effective late in his career if he's a starter all those years, but it seems wrong to penalize him for doing what Bobby Cox asked him to do when he returned from Tommy John surgery in 2001.

I don't have it in me to make my case for the PED guys, so I'll sum it up in one sentence:

I just really don't care about the PED issue.

Partly because I don't know who used, and therefore refuse to judge the entire era as a steroid laden cesspool of ethical mirth. Partly because I don't think they help you all that much unless you already have talent, and if the Hall of Fame isn't about the most  talented players, then what are we even doing this whole thing for in the first place?

I posted a strategic ballot in a thread a month or so back, but after thinking about it some more, that seems as unethical to me as turning in an empty ballot as a show of "No confidence": Either way you're making it about you and not about the worthiness of the players on the ballot.

If I had a ballot, here's how I would vote (in no particular order):

  1. Randy Johnson
  2. Pedro Martinez
  3. Barry Bonds
  4. Mark McGwire
  5. Tim Raines
  6. Craig Biggio
  7. Curt Schilling
  8. Mike Mussina
  9. Jeff Bagwell
  10. Mike Piazza
This leaves off some very worth candidates, but it's hard to make a case for these guys over the class on my ballot:

Alan Trammel: Should have gotten in YEARS ago and now is probably never getting in.  It's really quite sad, as he was probably one of the best to play the position at the time in which he played it but was overshadowed for much of his career by players like Barry Larkin and Ozzie Smith, who had more flair (and more exposure) than Trammel ever got. I hate leaving him off, but can't make a case for him over any of the ten on my ballot.

John Smoltz: He's HOF worthy, but he's not better, by any metric, than the pitchers on my ballot.  Assuming at least four of the players on my ballot get in, he probably makes my ballot next year.

Sammy Sosa: 600 homers and he's not on my ballot. Again, tough to leave off, but the PED stink means he's probably not getting in any time soon, and for me he just didn't do enough other things well to merit consideration.  McGwire's peripheral offensive statistics far outpace Sosa's, which is why I put him in over Sammy.

Edgar Martinez: I think he has a good case, but I just can't put a DH on the ballot. Baseball is a two way game, and it's a bit unsettling to me that a player like Martinez gets so much more credit for being an above average offensive player while a guy like Alan Trammel gets no credit for being above average at everything for a good decade and a half. I had much the same issue with Frank Thomas regarding the DH, but at least Thomas was the best hitter in baseball for half a decade.

Honestly, lets hope that we get a class of five players for 2015.  If we don't, the ballot is going to be become an absolute mess over the next couple of seasons.