Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Cooperstown Class of 2012

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA) recently announced—for what it's worth to the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA)—its recommendations for the Hall of Fame Class of 2012.

With 84.25% and 78.77% of the vote, respectively, of the 148 member blogs—including this one—that participated, Barry Larkin and Jeff Bagwell received the BBA's endorsement.

I voted for Larkin, Bagwell, Tim Raines, Alan Trammell, Edgar Martinez and Larry Walker. Walker is the only one of the six who I did not vote for last year, although I admitted then I needed to take a closer look at him. I since have come to the realization he is worthy of becoming the first member of the Colorado Rockies in the Hall of Fame.

Despite the anti-Coors Field bias working against him, his park-adjusted offensive numbers (140 OPS+, 142 wRC+)* are comparable to deserving Hall of Famers such as Reggie Jackson, Harmon Killebrew, and Duke Snider. Admittedly, he did so over fewer plate appearances than Jackson and Killebrew, but the value-based metrics—mainly WAR*—rate him comparable to Snider, a notch below Jackson, but a notch above Killebrew.

The main reason he compares so favorably to these and other existing Hall of Famers: defensive value. Walker ranks just shy of the top 20 all-time in defensive WAR, among players whose primary position was outfield, a fact which is reinforced by his seven Gold Gloves. Now, many folks—including myself—are a little skeptical about defensive metrics, as well as Gold Glove awards, but when one backs up the other, it's pretty safe to say they're a true indicator of a player's defensive ability.

The thing about great all-around players like Walker—who also was a good base runner—is, since he didn't have that one exceptional skill—i.e. he wasn't as good a hitter as Killebrew and Jackson, but he surely was better at every other phase of the game—people tend to write them off as not quite Hall of Fame worthy. The same applies to guys like Raines, Larkin and Trammell as well. But, in my opinion, those people are wrong.

As I did last year, I declined to vote for Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro based on my still-evolving philosophy regarding PEDs and the Hall of Fame. Although, admittedly, not without its flaws, I wrote about my thoughts on that subject here two years ago. I've actually begun to re-think my position, though, and I may be writing about this in the weeks to come. If you want to criticize me for taking six years to make up my mind, or for being indecisive, so be it. Besides, mine is just a make-believe vote anyway.

For now, though, I'm going to focus on taking a look at whether or not the BBA's vote is a predictor of next week's announcement of the official BBWAA results.

It seems everyone is under the assumption Larkin will be the only player elected by the writers this year. Last year, he received 70.78% of the BBA vote. This year, his support jumped to 84.25%, a 19% increase. If his 62.1% 2011 BBWAA vote total increases at the same rate, that will leave him at 73.9%, just shy of the 75% needed for induction. Unfortunately, I have a sneaky suspicion that's just what's going to happen. He'll fall somewhere in the 72-74% range and have to wait until the crowded 2013 ballot to see if he can get over the hump.

Bagwell's BBA total is up, from 62.34% in 2011, to 78.77% in 2012, a 26.4% increase. I'm not sure if there are BBA voters with the same ridiculous first-year ballot bias as some of those in the BBWAA, but this could explain such a big jump. Even at that rate, this would only get him to 52.9% in the official balloting, compared to last year's 41.7%. So, I don't think Bagwell's going to get in this year either.

Jack Morris and Lee Smith received 53.5% and 45.3%, respectively, of the official vote last year. Since the BBA is more SABRmetrically inclined than the BBWAA, I don't think the BBA's voting provides much of a indicator of these guys' chances.

Smith has been stagnating in the mid-40s for four years now, and I don't see his candidacy receiving a boost in support. Personally, I think—and hope—Morris's candidacy has plateaued as well. Last year's total was only slightly higher than the year before. I see him getting to 55% this year, and holding off Bagwell for the distinction of second highest vote-getter, but I predict he'll become one of the rare candidates to reach the 50% voting mark, but never make the Hall of Fame.

Bernie Williams is the only first-ballot candidate worthy of consideration. But, despite a very good career that ended a little prematurely, Bernie falls short of Cooperstown-worthy, in my eyes and likely in the eyes of the voters. He'll get the requisite 5% of the vote to stick around for at least another year, though, but with all the candidates being added to the ballot in the next few years, he'll end up nothing but an afterthought.

So, there you have it. My prediction that the only speech we'll be hearing at the Clark Sports Center this summer will be that of Ron Santo's wife.

* Since I don't use the advanced metrics on a regular basis here, I figured I should explain:
  • OPS+ is park and league-adjusted on-base plus slugging percentage. 100 is average. Greater than 100 is above average, less than 100 below average.
  • wRC+ is park and league-adjusted weighted runs created, an improved version of Bill James's runs created statistic. It's comparable to OPS+ in terms of scale (i.e. 100 is average).
  • WAR, of course, is Wins Above Replacement, the SABRmetric community's attempt to establish an all-encompassing statistic that measure a player's overall value to his team.

No comments:

Post a Comment