Wednesday Rockpile: Further HOF Commentary, Rockies Still in Relief Market

Let's face it: there's not a whole lot going on right now in terms of Rockies news. The Winter Meetings are done and teams won't start seriously negotiating with their arbitration-eligible players until after the New Year. Pretty much the only hot baseball topic at this time of year seems to be Hall of Fame voting. Andrew Martin explained his vision of what the Hall of Fame should be on Monday. I'd like to comment on that topic briefly, then break down what my theoretical HOF ballot would look like.

Martin likes a small Hall, and I certainly get the sentiment. Many inductees, especially some of the earliest ones, lack in retrospect the credentials of what the majority of fans now see as a Hall of Famer. The majority of the most questionable selections were from the Veteran's Committee, however. The writers seem to agree that induction into the Hall should be an honor bestowed on very few men. To wit, there are 203 players in the Hall, but only 109 have been voted in by the BBWAA over a period of 75 years.

I see the Hall as slightly diluted, but most of the issues I have are with the Veteran Committee's selections in the mid 1940s. Nonetheless, the Hall we have is the Hall we're stuck with, for better or worse. I think that if a player is good enough such that his induction will improve the median of the Hall of Fame, he should be inducted. Otherwise, there's always the Hall of Merit.

So, how to define the HOF median? I defer to the guys at Beyond the Boxscore for that one. They use a few different methods, one of which involves analyzing a player's rWAR/WAE/WAM bullseye compared to the median Hall inductee's bullseye.* Another is via comparison of a player's best rWAR seasons ordered from top to bottom as compared to the Hall of Fame zone, which is a range of Hall inductees in the 20th to 50th percentiles. I lean more towards the bullseye method, but also use the HOF zone method to influence my decisions.

*  rWAR -- B-Reference WAR; WAE -- Wins Above Excellence, found by totaling up the surplus WAR in any given season in which a player accrued over 3 WAR; WAM -- Wins Above MVP level, found by totaling the surplus WAR over 6 WAR in one season; For example, Troy Tulowitzki's 2009 would be scored 6.8/3.8/0.8 

These methods account for peak excellence as well as longevity, but they don't take into account postseason excellence, integrity/character, and other factors that muddy the waters of HOF voting considerably. My opinion is that those factors should be only applied to the most borderline of cases. Why do I look at it this way? Well, as someone is likely to point out, I'm too young to have seen several of these players in their prime (or at all). Therefore, all I can rely upon is their statistical record and anecdotal evidence. I'm more inclined to trust the former than the latter.

After the fold I show how this season's ballot stacks up to the HOF median.

Off Topic.

Filling out a ballot

Some voters like MLB.com's Hal Bodley place a high value on integrity and frown on Steroid Era candidates (rightly or wrongly). Bodley only has three players listed on his ballot (Blyleven, Alomar, and Morris), keeping in form with the small Hall way of thinking. Others, like SI's Jon Heyman, will vote for more players (Heyman picks seven and still doesn't get the most deserving player in). SI's Mel Antonen theorizes that advances in baseball statistics have and will continue to change HOF voting. This has certainly been the case with Bert Blyleven and will be a heavy influence on my ballot.

Here's a look at the full 2011 HOF ballot complete with stats, which has 14 holdovers and 19 first timers. As for analyzing the median HOFer, the current median HOF position player has a bullseye score of 58.0/21.5/2.6 while the median HOF pitcher has a score of 56.9/25.9/6.4 -- showing that HOF pitchers were more dominant at their peak than HOF position players.

Adarowski of BtB analyzes both the position players and the pitchers on the ballot via the bullseye method.

JinAZ of BtB analyzes the 2011 HOF ballot via the HOF Zone method.

To receive consideration in my eyes, a position player needs to exceed at least two of the bullseye metrics or have a particularly impressive HOF zone profile while a pitcher needs to exceed at least one and come close in another (there's a lot more position players in the Hall than pitchers, so the pitchers' median is higher).

Without further ado, my view of this year's ballot:

Players on my theoretical ballot, in order of merit

1. Jeff Bagwell (79.9/38.7/9.7) -- Bagwell surpasses each bullseye metric and ranks first on my ballot due to his impressive 9.7 WAM, which is about twice the score of anyone else on the ballot. Yes, he really was that good.

2. Bert Blyleven (90.1/36.1/4.9) -- Blyleven falls a little short on the WAM metric, which jives with the compiler tag that he's been given. However, his scores on the other two metrics (and a hundred other great reasons) are more than enough to get him in.

Big gap here down to a clump of players with pretty similar bullseye profiles.

3. Larry Walker (67.3/23.3/4.4) -- Walker's 9 WAR MVP season in 1997 is the best season for anyone on the ballot. His plus defense may be underrated by rWAR, actually. That and his status as a Rockie make him a pretty easy pick for me.

4. Roberto Alomar (63.5/25.9/4.2) -- rWAR really didn't like Alomar's defense (career -3.4 WAR defensively) despite his ten Gold Glove reputation. I'm going to assume that Alomar's value with the glove falls somewhere in the middle of those two extremes and that he was a pretty darn good second baseman. 

5. Alan Trammell (66.9/26.1/3.8) -- An underrated defensive shortstop (career 7.5 defensive WAR) with superficially unimpressive offensive statistics who also performed well in the playoffs.

6. Barry Larkin (68.9/25.7/1.6) -- Larkin's case for candidacy is well-elocuted here, but basically Larkin is better than almost all HOF shortstops (Ripken included) on a rate basis.

7. Tim Raines (64.6/21.4/2.3) -- Besides being very efficient at stealing bases, Raines might be the second greatest leadoff man in recent history. He just had the misfortune of playing at the same time as the best, Rickey Henderson. Struggles with cocaine have likely hurt Raines in the past, but I'd love to see him inducted.

8. Kevin Brown (64.8/25.1/4.8) -- Yes, Kevin Brown. Per JinAZ, Brown posted a 2.53 ERA from 1998-2001, some of the highest run environments ever. His HOF zone graph really pushed him over the top for me. Brown had a really underrated career. The steroid rumors drop him on the list but keep him on the ballot.

9. Edgar Martinez (67.2/26.3/2.3) -- Martinez is right on the edge due to his career's late start and the fact that he was a DH his entire career. He's got great offensive numbers, though, and his HOF zone profile compares to those of Larkin and Alomar.

Borderline players excluded from the ballot

10. Mark McGwire (63.1/25.3/2.5) -- he might be on the other side of the cut without the steroids, but it'd be close. As it is, excluding him is a pretty easy decision.

11. Rafael Palmeiro (66.0/20.5/1.6) -- see McGwire, Mark

12. John Olerud (56.8/20.1/4.3) -- This surprised the heck out of me, but Olerud had a pretty darn good career. Not good enough, but he deserves some recognition.

No other players had high enough bullseye scores to merit consideration. As for Jack Morris (39.3/9.4/0), he is well below Hall of Fame thresholds in every metric, never even coming close to 6 WAR in a single season.

In case you were wondering, Todd Helton's numbers currently stand at 57.9/26.3/6.7. That's a pretty strong HOF profile via the bullseye method, especially the WAM rating -- I'd vote for him, anyways.

News

Thomas Harding reports that Dan O'Dowd is still looking for a bullpen piece, but it could be a while. Of the options listed, a sign and trade for Grant Balfour intrigues me the most. It is important to remember that signing a reliever to a major league contract would fill up the 40 man roster.

Buster Olney of ESPN Insider ranks MLB's top 10 rotations. No, the NL WAR-leading (and 2nd in MLB) Rockies staff didn't make the 11 team list, though six other NL teams did. That's the fallacy of overweighting the importance of a team's top two or three starters at the expense of great depth.

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