Friday, December 28, 2012

The AL East conundrum.

           Overall, the AL East has been an incredibly difficult division to compete in over the last decade or two, and with the Jays having made huge splashes in acquiring roughly one third of the talent in the NL East, the Red Sox signing two more catchers, and the Yankees resigning some of the most important pieces from their post season run last year, while letting two other pieces walk away without so much as a finger raised by Cashman, one would be forced to assume that the division has changed some this year.

           The division has changed significantly; there is no baseball mind who would argue that the landscape in the AL East is changing for 2013. Not necessarily the standings though. Many analysts are still painting the Yanks as a 1st place team, despite losing Russell Martin, Nick Swisher, and letting Rafael Soriano walk away. I don’t know exactly how accurate that is, Martin is an excellent backstop, both for his framing abilities and the fact that he brings some power and on base percentage to the equation that many replacements wouldn’t offer. Francisco Cervelli will be a fine replacement, offering less power but similar defense as well as the ability to play third base if need be. Chris Stewart has a pretty light bat and while he’s cited as a defensive specialist, that is a tag given to him more due to his light hitting than his actual (and slightly dubious) defensive abilities. Austin Romine is the biggest wildcard of the three, having very little major league experience. He projects to have a weaker than average bat at the position, but provide solid defense. Swisher is perhaps the hardest of the three to replace in earnest. Ichiro Suzuki will replace him in right field, but Swisher provided a balanced approach between average defense, above average power, and high on base percentage, Ichiro’s game hinges on his potentially gold glove worthy fielding, his speed on the base paths, and his unbelievably high contact rate at the plate. Soriano, who stepped in to replace an injured Mariano Rivera was largely expendable however. That is not to say that someone of Soriano’s particular skill set is not valuable to the Yankees, but because of their otherwise very strong bullpen and the number of cheap middle innings relievers, moving everyone up one spot in the depth chart would not hinder the Yankees in a practical sense. With plenty of time to acquire a more powerful outfield bat to help rest the light hitting Brett Gardner and Suzuki and/or a game changing catcher the Yanks certainly remain a very dangerous team despite the turnover.

           The Red Sox have spent half of last year and the bulk of this offseason retooling the entire team, from trading Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford to the Dodgers for several pieces and salary relief, to their recent trade for Joel Hanrahan the Red Sox have shown no particular sentiment toward their own players. This may well play to their benefit; the Sox have retooled well so far, having acquired yet another catcher, and potentially will finalize their deal with Mike Napoli soon. The Sox have a potentially very powerful rotation, despite last year’s utter failings. Jon Lester and Clay Bucholtz are both extremely good pitchers, whether they showed it last year or not. Combining their talents with the overall value of their lineup the Red Sox should be notably more competitive than they were one year ago.

           The Orioles have made almost no moves this year, and the kind of statistical anomaly that allowed them to reach the postseason last year doesn’t seem as likely without making any real push at another piece or two. Letting Mark Reynolds walk away isn’t immediately addition by subtraction. His strikeout rate was atrocious, but he does put the ball in the seats and that’s not a bad talent to have. He’s a hack 3rd baseman for sure, but he can handle first just fine, and there’s certainly value in a player like Reynolds. That said, the Orioles can still make moves this offseason, and may surprise me, but I’d call for them to regress given the improbability of their record last year. Having scored only 7 more runs than they allowed for the year while winning 93 games. That’s some serious statistical outlier material there. If the O’s don’t make some serious headway on that run differential, I could see them sliding back to being a .500 team this year.

           The Rays haven’t made any great strides forward either, though trading James Shields and Wade Davis isn’t exactly as devastating as some have made it seem. While Tampa did give up an exceptional starter they are also a pitching machine, and seem to churn out starters on an annual basis. The team could use a bit more pop, and losing BJ Upton isn’t going to help them there, but with such a strong starting rotation I find it hard to believe that they’ll fall out of contention early. The Rays may be looking at 3rd in the division again this year, but it should be awfully difficult to count them out.

           The Blue Jays are, well, better. They’ve traded for roughly half of last year’s Marlins team, RA Dickey, and signed Melky Cabrera all in about a month. Between Dickey and Buehrle their rotation has instantly become very solid while they have also added two (potentially) very strong multi tooled players in Jose Reyes and Cabrera. The questions surrounding Cabrera’s PED use give me some pause in saying that he will be a very effective addition, but even as a league average bat he will provide solid defense in any of the three outfield spots, though his range is probably best suited to a corner. Reyes, while a very capable shortstop, is an injury risk. That certainly won’t be made better by playing 82 games on the fake turf of the Rogers Center. The Jays have a chance to really take a step forward within the division, I won’t argue for even a moment that their rotation isn’t better now, but their other additions are questionable to me. I don’t think that they have the right pieces in place to be a real postseason run, but they should make the AL East a more interesting division for the next few years, especially if this is how Alex Anthopoulos plans to really move the team forward over the next few years.

           As per Bob Dylan, “The times; they are a changing.” I see the division shaking out to still see the Yankees in the playoffs, whether the division or a wildcard I don’t know. The Red Sox I feel will miss the post season again, while the Blue Jays make a push for a playoff berth. The Orioles are poised to regress significantly, while the Rays are a serious question mark to me, They’re worse right now than they were last season, but they have a track record of being surprisingly competitive regardless of the moves they make/miss. It’s certainly a different world when the Yankees are concerned with their spending and the Blue Jays have transformed their team by taking on large contracts.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Good Idea/Bad Idea: The Great Closer Debate

Yep, two in a day.  I'm on fire!  And if I were, I'd have to call a Fireman.  And in baseball, the term "Fireman" refers to a closer, or a shut down reliever.  Are there any on the ballot for this year?  You betcha! Let's take a look at the controversial idea of Lee Arthur Smith being in the Hall of Fame.

Most of the decision about Lee Arthur has centered around what most people consider to be how to judge relief pitchers.  Currently in the Hall of Fame, there are  5.  Hoyt Wilhelm, Bruce Sutter, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley and Goose Gossage.  All of them probably deserve to be inducted.  The question people have is does Lee Arthur belong in that group?  A lot of it also comes down to how we plan to use the save stat.  As I've opined on here before, it is a terrible stat.  And Lee Smith led the world in saves until Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera came along and blew his number out of the water.  So how does the argument shake out for and against Lee Arthur?

Good Idea: The fact is that saves are a bad stat and it is very easy to accumulate them over the course of a long career.  But Lee Arthur was a great reliever.  He has a higher K/9 than any other reliever in Cooperstown and the best HR/9 as well.  It's tough to do a full comp on him with other relievers in the hall because there are only the five of them and the RP position has evolved greatly in recent times.  While saves may not be a great stat, he did gain almost 500 which was the most for a long time.  He was a great reliever that shut down offenses.

Bad Idea: He struck out a lot of batters, true, but he also had the fewest innings when compared to the HoF relievers except for Sutter, fewer strikeouts too.  He also walked a lot of guys and had a mediocre WHIP, almost 1.3.  In fact, he never had a season where his WHIP was below 1.1, which means that teams had a lot of opportunities to score against him.  It's a testament that he was able to even get all those saves with the baserunners he was allowing, but the fact remains that he was allowing them at a fairly high clip.  Good reliever, worthy to be part of a good team's pen, but not Hall of Fame worthy.

Verdict: It's hard to do a calculation for relievers because there aren't that many in the Hall of Fame.  But, for what it's worth, his score came to 126, which was 2nd best for a reliever to Eckersley.  I don't know what has kept him out, if it's just that stuff I was talking about at the top about closers and relievers and how effective they are, etc.  I would put him in, especially since it tells the story of how relievers have evolved over the years.  Think about it, the best reliever of the pre-closer era was Wilhelm, and then we had guys like Fingers and Sutter and Gossage give way to guys like Eck and Smith, which led to guys like Billy Wagner, Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera to be great closers.  And it isn't like he is an indefensible choice, like some people currently in the Hall are.  He's a good choice and should be inducted.

Good Idea/Bad Idea: Riding a Trammell

Next up on our tour of the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot is Detroit's own Alan Trammell.  Trammell is one of those that always seems to fall in between the cracks for the most part.  A lot of people forget he's on the ballot.  The ones that don't, mostly don't think that he belongs.  Most of them probably think that since Lou Whitaker, Trammell's double play partner, isn't in the Hall, then Trammell shouldn't be either, and you really can't think of one without the other.  He only had about 36% last year, so I doubt he'll ever make it (this is his 13th ballot), so there must be no case for him, right?

Well, lets look a little closer:

Good Idea: Trammell was a great defensive SS, with a +76 rating for his career from FG.  He played his whole career with the Detroit Tigers which means he spent it in a big park (Tigers Stadium was huge).  For a SS, he had a 352 career OBP, which is fairly good.  He had a wRC+ of 111, which is good for a SS.  He seems to fit the profile of a HoF SS, and was seen as the team leader of a good decade for the Tigers.

Bad Idea: Remember when I said Rock's stats looked just OK?  Well, the same thing applies here for Trammell.  While his stats are very good, there isn't anything that really jumps out of the page at me.  He was a league average hitter or slightly above for most of his career, which I suppose is good for a SS, but not for a HoF bat.  If he were to make the HoF with his offensive numbers, he'd have to be an Ozzie Smith level defender, and he isn't quite there.  I love Alan Trammell, he was one of my grandfather's favorites, but a HoF player he is not.

Verdict: Not really.  Trammell doesn't look that great against other SS that actually belong in the HoF, and that is a small and exclusive class.  I can see why people would vote for him, a lot of his rate stats look like Yount's, and Dave Cameron makes a compelling case for him at FG using Yount as a comp, but Yount's career is much better on the whole because he had more power.  Yount played 600 more games and switched positions to help his team, but he still was at least a decent MLB player.  His worst years (based on WAR) were .9 (18 years old), .3 (19), 1.1 (35) WAR each. Not great numbers, but decent given his age at each season.  Trammell's were -0.6 (19), -1.1 (38) and 0 (36) respectively.  Yount at his worst (early on in his career mind you) was a replacement level player but never really cost his team with his play.  Trammell at his worst cost his team 2 or 3 wins in his career.  So, their peaks are similar, but Yount was able to maintain better than Trammell, which makes Yount a HoF player, and Trammell not a HoF player.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Good Idea/Bad Idea:It Was a Big Rock

Welcome to a Christmas Edition of my Hall of Fame Good Idea/Bad Idea series.  The player I want to look at today is none other than a man named for a certain type of white powder.  No, his nickname wasn't snow, it was Rock.  That's right, we're looking at Rock Raines.

Before we get started, let me say that Raines was probably undervalued during his time because he wasn't very flashy.  I have a feeling like if he played today he would be looked at differently.  And I'm not just talking about the cocaine thing.

Good Idea: Rock stole a lot of bases, but did so at an extremely high rate.  He stole over 800 bases at an almost 85% rate, which is nearly unheard of.  He also got on base at a 385 clip and has the best rate for any player that has more than 15 years in the bigs.  He had a 126 wRC+ and a 361 wOBA, which are pretty good numbers, especially for a guy that didn't hit for a ton of power.  Certainly a better choice than Andre Dawson IMO.  His biggest comp, obviously, is going to be to Rickey Henderson.  Lets look at them really quick:

Raines- 85% success rate at steals, 126 wRC+, 361 wOBA, 385 OBP
Rickey- 81% success rate at steals, 132 wRC+, 372 wOBA, 401 OBP

Rickey had a little higher in most stats, but it was pretty close.  Rickey was more powerful, no doubt, but otherwise were fairly equal hitters.  If Rickey's in, Rock should be in.

Bad Idea: All of Rock Raines' stats seem to be...ok.  If he were to be elected, he would be in a class with left fielders.  He would be included in a class with Ted Williams, Ralph Kiner and Carl Yastrzemski.  He doesn't quite belong with those guys.  He might be better than Brock and a couple of others, but that doesn't mean he belongs.  He had a lot of PA, but still didn't get 3000 hits, or 1000 RBI.  I know he was a leadoff hitter, but you'd think he'd have more RBI just due to the fact he played over 20 years.  Want a better stat?  Fine.  After 20+ years, he was only worth about 70 WAR.  Which is around 3.5 a year.  It's good, but not that great.  Sorry, no dice.

Verdict: No.  He gets a -39 on my scale, absolutely the lowest for a LF.  Sorry Rock, you were an exciting player, but not an all time great.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Does Schilling's Bloody Sock make him a HoFer?

My father and I discuss baseball frequently.  There are quite a few times that I agree with him.  This is one issue that we strongly disagree over.

Curt Schilling is probably the last big name starting pitcher that I wanted to look at for this upcoming ballot.  What Jack Morris and Andre Dawson represent to the traditionalists, Bert Blyleven and Curt Schilling represent for the SABR crowd.  Here are the viewpoints as I see them:

Good Idea: Curt Schilling was a very underrated pitcher in his career.  He struck out a ton of batters and didn't walk many which gives him the best K/BB in history.  He had a better WHIP than Clemens, and struck batters out at a faster rate than the Rocket.  Rocket may have been more valuable (due to the innings difference, and granted there's a big gap) but Schill was just as good, if not better, in the innings he threw.  His win total isn't high, but that can be attributed to a lot of things, teams with poor run support (esp after the WS run with the Phillies in 93), bad bullpen (Wild Thing Williams was a terrible closer), or just random bad luck.  He's a great choice, and shouldn't have much trouble making it in.

Bad Idea: He didn't throw a ton of innings, only won 216 games and was never really the best pitcher in the league.  His ERA is a tad too high, and was really prone to the long ball.  The innings thing is huge I think.  He was a closer for a bit early on, and again after that injury in the 04 playoffs, but it does hurt his overall value.  One of the big things a starter needs to be able to do is throw a good amount of innings.  A bunch of 5 inning starters hurts a rotation and a team because that increases wear and tear on the bullpen pitchers.  He was a very good pitcher, especially in the post season, but he isn't quite good enough.  Not an all time great.  Sorry.

Verdict: Schilling gets in my Hall of Fame easily, with a score believe it or not nearly equal to Nolan Ryan's.  Now, before everyone jumps on me and thinks I'm saying that Schill was as great as Ryan, take a step back and lets look at them:

Ryan struck out a large amount of batters, but also walked about half as many.  Which gives a slight advantage to Schilling I would think.  Ryan has a better raw ERA, but when you correct it for the home park (remember all the years that Ryan pitched in the big ol Astrodome?) Schilling comes out ahead, but not by much.  Ryan has more wins, but pitched 27 years and averaged 14 a year.  Schilling averaged 13 a year.  Ryan also has more losses a year than Schilling, 13 to 9.  Ryan beats him handily in innings, but the quality is roughly equal to Schillings when you factor everything in.  Schilling doesn't have the no-hitters that Ryan has, but other than that Schilling is Ryan's equal in almost everything but innings (which helps a lot of the non rate stats like K's).  He belongs in without a question.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Good Idea/Bad Idea- Does Morris Make It?

Ya know, in recent years the HoF has taken quite a hit to its credibility due to a couple of the writers' newer picks.  Jim Rice and Andre Dawson are probably the poster children for that lack of respect, with the latter being moreso.  I have a couple of theories as to why this may be:

1) Some of the older writers are trying to revolt against SABR stats, which clearly indicate that some of these guys are not that great, again Dawson especially.

2) More writers are going against looking at numbers and going by how much they remember a player.  Hence why Rock Raines doesn't get much respect (always second fiddle to Rickey), and why Morris is still on the ballot after all this time (That one game man.)

I believe it's a combination of both.  So, lets talk about a pick that will probably happen because the writers are getting dumber every year.....Jack Morris.

I can't believe part of me is going to defend putting him in the HoF...I'm gonna have to take a long hot shower after this post...

Good Idea: Morris definitely was considered a top pitcher of his era (pre SABR era).  He's a 2 time 20 game winner, was on a few WS winning teams, threw almost 4000 innings in his career.  He's a big game pitcher, going 7-4 with a 3.8 ERA in the playoffs.  And hey, that one game against Smoltz, instant classic bro!  His career stats may be a bit depressed because he hung on for a while, but he should be at least considered.

Bad Idea:  Yeah, definitely feel like crap after posting that.  Wins for pitchers are stupid, but I'm of the belief that for a whole career they are slightly less stupid.  Not much, but still slightly less so.  However, Morris' career ERA is 3.90.  That is incredibly high.  One or two years don't inflate a career ERA that much.  In fact, in the last 7 years of his career he ONCE had an ERA under 3.50, and one other time had an ERA under 4.00!  That is crappy to a whole extra level.  His career WHIP is 1.30.  Do you realize that league average is usually around 1.30?  57 pitchers last year had a better WHIP than he did!  That's the highest for any pitcher that would be in the HoF from his era.  Morris' ERA would also be the highest ever, from any era, inducted.  There are zillions of reasons to not vote for Morris.

Verdict: Absolutely not!  He is NOT a great pitcher, and I don't care who you compare him to!  He doesn't belong, and I don't blame people for losing respect for the BBWAA if they vote him in.  The Hall is the institution, and cannot do anything about a player being inducted other than what the committee says.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Good Idea/ Bad Idea: Piazza Delivery?

There's no point in doing a summary on whether Bonds or Clemens belong in the HoF without looking at steroids.  It's a waste of time because the answer is yes.  So, lets look at a guy that I've heard some debate about in Mike Piazza.

I was kinda shocked that there was debate about him.  I know he was mentioned in Radomski's book, but I don't really trust him.

Good Idea: When thinking of Mike Piazza, the term "Best Offensive Catcher in History" is usually right behind.  As it should be.  His 141 wRC+ blows away any other catcher's number, including Bench and Fisk.  He also trumps all other HoF catchers in: Slugging, OPS, HR, ISO, and wRAA.  And a lot of the other stats (OBP, wOBA, AVG, etc) he may not be at the top, but he's pretty close to it.  I don't see a reason why Piazza should NOT be in the Hall of Fame.

Bad Idea:  Anyone else remember Piazza trying to play defense behind the plate?  It was a comedy of errors.  In fact, his TZ rating is the worst for any HoF catcher, as is his Fld+Pos score (which takes into account the difficulty of the position in that era).  He was a great offensive catcher, but was not a defensive one and that is probably more important for his position.  If he were a LF, we wouldn't be having this discussion.  He doesn't belong.

Verdict: Mikey gets the highest score ever for a catcher.  Better than Bench, better than Berra.  His offense was that good.  Best offensive catcher in history.  That's all the writers need to think of when it comes to voting for Piazza.  Best.  Offensive.  Catcher.  In.  History.  Put him in.

The only question should be: Dodgers cap or Mets Cap.  I pick Mets cap, mostly because of this one moment:

Probably his biggest HR of his career.  It was a glorious moment and I was glad I got to watch it happen.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Good Idea Bad Idea-Sammy Sosa Edition

Well, with one half of the HR Derby of 98 looked at, lets look at Smiling Sammy.

Most of you (like the one person who read my McGwire post) probably think that I hate Sosa, because he battled Mac for the HR record.  Well, while I'm not the biggest fan of his, I certainly don't hate him.  I'm more indifferent towards him.  I thought he was a good player, and certainly would be good in a lineup with Mac.  I did think his whole smiling act seemed phony, but thought it was good for the game.  He definitely should NOT have been the MVP of the league in 98, but the writers are dumb when it comes to MVP voting sometimes (Morneau, Mo Vaughn, Anytime a closer has been voted, Maury Wills, etc).  Anyway, here is my schizophrenic view of whether Sosa should or should not be inducted into the HoF.

Good Idea: Sammy, of course, is one of 7 now to have over 600 HR in his career.  He was also one of the most dominant HR hitters of all time from 98-02.  I don't think people realize that he was still pretty good in years before 98, where he was usually a 30-40 HR hitter, and in his younger years was a really good fielder. He carried a 370 career wOBA and a career 123 wRC+, both really good numbers that might indicate how offensive the environment was during the 90s.  And, for a power hitter, he carried a good number of total hits (2400+, Mac wasn't even close to that).  He was a premier player during his era and should be recognized as such.

Bad Idea: Disregarding steroids, Sosa was an OK ball player.  People think Mac was a free swinger, yet his OBP was 50 points higher than Sosa's, and his wOBA was 45 points higher.  That's a huge difference, and those that want to compare the two, you can't.  Sosa struck out more often (23% of the time) than Mac, which I know doesn't mean much, but also walked much much less frequently than Mac did (17% for Mac, 9% for Sosa).  What does that mean?  It means that Sosa was much more of a free swinger than Mac was.  So I don't see the comparison between the two.

Looking at it from a not Big Mac perspective, his 123 wRC+ is good, but for the best HoF RF. it's well below their average of 141.  His wOBA is good, but a typical HoF RF will have one of 399.  His career OPS is 878, which is like Ryan Ludwick's last year, and that's close to the OPS for a HOF RF, but it's inflated due to his high slugging and terrible OBP.  Are you starting to see what I'm getting at here?  He was a good player that played for a long time, and did one thing really well (Hit flat footed HR in Wrigley), but not good enough.  Sorry, he's out.

Verdict: I am kinda shocked at how well he scored, but I guess he does comp well with the guy he tied.  He scored as high as Reggie Jackson, who is someone I think is Sosa's best comparison. Both were free swingers, both really only hit HR and didn't provide much else on offense.  Sosa had a bit more power, Reggie could work counts better.  So, if you disregard steroids with Sammy, and see my point on steroids with Mac in my previous article, and you think Reggie is a HoF hitter, then you'd have to agree with Sosa.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Good Idea Bad Idea: a Hall-Mac Card

You can always count on me to drum up an awful pun.

I'm a McGwire fan.  No amount of steroids or self righteous angst from the writers can make me forget the joy that he brought me in 98 when he hit 70 HR, nor should it.  But, I'm not here to debate whether or not steroids should preclude someone from induction.  I'm here to determine if someone is statistically viable for the HoF.

Good Idea: The man almost single handedly brought people back to baseball and the sport to prominence.  Ripken's streak started it, but I believe that brought back long time fans.  Mac brought people that were new fans to baseball.  The sight of his swing resulting in HR after HR and hitting over 500 ft is incredible to me.
Statistically, people point to his low batting average.  While it's true that he only hit about 260, most of his career that was above league average.  More importantly, since batting average is a terrible stat, he OBP'd 394 for his career, and had an OPS+ of 163.  Think about that for a minute.  For his entire 15 year career, he was roughly better than 63% of the league according to this one decent but crude calculation.  He also had a wOBA of 415 and a wRC+ of 157.  That wRC+ is 11th all time, and 4th best for a right handed hitter, behind Hornsby, Pujols, and Foxx.  He's probably the best pure power right handed hitter of all time, as evidenced by his 325 ISO which trails only Babe Ruth on the all time list.  Put him in.

Bad Idea: We all know that Mac used steroids.  We know that his numbers may be slightly tainted.  I do question how much effect roids have on a player's stats, but also recognize that they may help you play through minor injuries more than you would have been able to without juicing.  It's a tough call and if the writers say they aren't equipped enough to answer those questions then I don't have much of a problem with him not being in the Hall.  Statistically, he was a poor defender at the easiest spot on the diamond, and was never a good baserunner.  Also, the low BA does suggest that he was almost an all or nothing hitter, as his BABIP in his career was 255 (well below league average).  He struck out 20% of the time and only had about 7600 PA.  His career wasn't that long due to injuries (which possibly could be tied to steroids), and there are just too many questions surrounding his numbers to put him in.

Verdict: I'm too biased, so I'm going to let my friend Foment come up with a verdict.  However, I will say that he scores at roughly the same level as a Johnny Mize type player on my list, who was inducted by the VC and should have been in by the writers.  I believe that without roids he'd be in, and I honestly believe he had the talent and smarts to play well.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Hall of Rage

OK, the new player in the Hall of Fame is Deacon White.

Do I agree with this pick?  In a word, no.  I don't think any of the players on the ballot were that worthy this year, and I think we've got enough of the pre 1800 guys in already, although I think we probably shouldn't have as many of them as we do, maybe in a separate part where we honor the initial greats that gave way to the Ty Cobbs and Babe Ruths and Hank Aarons of the world.

Deacon White was a catcher and third baseman (which he was more of) in the very early years of baseball.  He wasn't too bad, an OPS+ of 127, but had an OBP of 346 and a SLG of 392.  He averaged roughly a HR a year, which was probably average back then.  In fact, I'd imagine that all of his stats are fairly typical for a decent hitter in his time.  His 127 OPS+ is like 200th all time (no joke).

That's the thing, when I look at his numbers, he looks mostly like a typical guy from his time and nothing really stands out for me.  Where is the dominance?  Where is the greatness?  He was a fine player in his day, but so were guys like Harold Baines and Fred Lynn.  Is anyone arguing for them to be inducted?  I hope not.

This guy cannot be an all time great.  This is why I've been slaving over the data for half a year looking at every Hall of Fame Player.  We've got to strive to be better than that.

I've read plenty of articles that say he was a superstar of the 1870s.  The venerable Bill James even thinks he should be inducted.  But, lets be real here for a moment.  The 1870s were a long time ago.  I agree that the Hall has a duty to honor the past.  But is he one of the greatest of all time?  I don't think he is.  He definitely has his place as an important person in the history of baseball, but not as a legendary player.  If you do, good, I just think there are better players that aren't in the Hall yet.

Edit: If the HoF puts him in as a Pioneer or something along those lines, then I fully agree with that decision.

Do You Ever Feel Like a Plastic BAGS?

With one career Astro down, lets look at the other one in Jeff Bagwell.  I know it’s going to sound strange to hear, but I had the utmost respect for Bags when he was playing.  Despite the fact that it seemed like he carried a bat designed specifically to torture the Cardinals pitching, he was a classy player.

So lets take a look at Mr. Bagwell:

Good Idea: Bagwell was the premiere first baseman in the NL in the 90s (until Mac showed up at least).  Despite playing a long time in the power suppressing Astrodome, he managed to rack up 449 career HR in 7797 AB for an average of 1 HR every 17.4 AB.  For reference, that’s better than Mel Ott, Joe DiMaggio and Ernie Banks, as well as lots of other HoF bats.  We’re talking great power numbers here.   He was a solid baserunner (6.5 BsR from Fangraphs-not huge, but good for a big guy like him), great defender (59.1 Tzr) and of course was a great hitter (405 wOBA and 149 wRC+ and 297 AVG for those who care about those things).  He played 15 years, and only once did he have a full season that is less than 4 WAR, which was his second to last year.  That means he only once had a mediocre full season, and played nearly every day for those 15 years.  There is no statistical reason for which he shouldn’t be inducted.

Bad Idea: Bags did play in the steroid era, so all of his numbers and especially the power numbers are suspect.  His rate stats are beautiful, but his raw totals are small due to playing only 15 years, and him being hurt for the last few of his career.  So it’s hard to endorse a power hitting first baseman that only had 449 HR, when some other guys like Gehrig, Foxx and Musial are first basemen in the HoF and all had many more HR than Bags did.  Part of it is the Astrodome robbing him of some, but he’s also 37th in SLG, below guys like Carlos Delgado and Lance Berkman who were both contemporaries of his.  He’s good, but maybe not quite good enough for induction.

Verdict: I don’t care about supposed steroid users.  Either they used (Mac, Palmeiro, Clemens, Bonds, Sosa) or they didn’t.  Yes, we don’t know and will never know for sure.  However, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to induct roid users.  The Hall is a place that remembers its history.  Do we really want to forget how much fun we had in the Summer of 98?  I sure don’t.  I had loads of fun, roids or not, and most of you did too.  If we aren’t going to induct the best of the best from that era (with mentioning the era on their plaques), then we induct no one.
Beyond that, Bags has a score of 183 on my calculator, which is no doubt automatic induction.  By my mark, that would make him the 4th best 1B in the Hall.  The only reason why he isn’t in is due to bullshit steroid speculation, which as you may be able to tell, I’m tired of.
Here’s what I propose for steroid users: If it’s known, put it on their plaque so future generations can judge them accordingly.  If there is no proof and only speculation, vote normally.  If a player is revealed as a steroid user after induction, set up a committee to vote on whether or not he should remain inducted.  If the consensus is No, then ceremoniously remove his plaque.  Otherwise, just vote like normal.  Please.  It’ll be less stressful on all of us.

And, it looks like there's a new player in the Hall.  I'll look closely at this guy next couple of days and get a report on him.