Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Is Ivan Rodriguez a Hall of Fame Player?

For those that don't know me, one of my favorite things to talk about in baseball is whether a player is worthy of induction to Cooperstown.  I go there a lot, especially with my father, and there's always so much to do.  If you haven't yet, I encourage anyone out there reading to actually go visit the Hall, you won't be disappointed.

Now that the promo is out of the way (BTW, Mrs. Forbes-Clark, you can send me the endorsement check anytime), let's talk about the newest retiree from baseball, Ivan Rodriguez.

I don't think there are many people out there that would disagree with Pudge being a Hall of Famer, especially when you factor in his defense.  Those that do disagree tend to use the steroid argument.  Which I don't tend to touch for two reasons.  One is that there were plenty of people that used HGH and steroids that were just average at best (Ryan Franklin being one of them), so I honestly don't know how much beyond getting you back on the field they really increase your performance.  The other reason is that steroid use was so rampant that we don't know who did and who didn't use steroids.  Do I think Pudge used steroids?  Probably.  He's never been forced to testify about them (like some people have), but we've seen what happened with Raffy Palmeiro testifying so, who knows.

I'm going to keep it to the numbers that we have.  If I were to make a case for Pudge, I would say that among all catchers, he ranks: 3rd in WAR (74.1), first in fielding runs (165.2--Bench has only 71), and 7th in HR (311).  Now, his offense was a lot more average than people remember.  Among catchers with 7000 PA, he ranks 10th in wRC+ (104), and 12th in wOBA (.343), and his regular old OBP is only 334 (still higher than Dawson's).  These are all after a pretty decent decline post-2007.  But, when you factor in defense, he's definitely a first ballot inductee.

These are all good numbers because they aren't subjective to our memories--these are records of what really happened.  They also aren't based on stupid popularity contests like the gold glove award or all-star selections, or even MVP voting.  So, I'm sure (which I linked to above) will share similar views with me, right?

Rodriguez, who won the 1999 American League MVP and went to 10 straight All-Star Games with the Rangers, was not able to find a job this spring. The 40-year-old affectionately known as "Pudge" began his two-decade-plus major league career with the Rangers in 1991.

To be fair, the article is just giving a synopsis of his career.  But still-come on!  That MVP voting in 1999 was a sham.  He was worth 6.0 WAR, which is really good for a catcher.  This was 6th among all position players that year.  SIXTH!  Who was the most valuable player that year?  How about Pedro Martinez who--in the roided up AL and in a hitter's haven most of his games--had a 0.923 WHIP and 313 strikeouts in 213 innings.  Don't want to give it to a pitcher?  Fine--how about Robbie Alomar or Manny Ramirez?  Hell, even Derek Jeter would have been a better choice that year!  The gold gloves, although an impressive amount and worth it due to his fielding stats in his career, are still pretty meaningless while Jeter struts around with 5 of them and Raffy Palmeiro won one when player twenty some games in the field.  The all-star voting is a popularity contest, but I honestly don't remember him blocking many other AL catchers in that timeline.  I'm sure there were times, but I've been blogging this thing for an hour now and I don't feel like looking it up right now.

To wrap up, congrats on the career Pudge.  I go to inductions every year, look forward to seeing you in 2017.  I've made my reservations!

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