The BBWAA has been busy the past 5 years, putting in a record 16 candidates, with the previous record being 13 in a 5 year stretch from 1952-56. They won’t be slowing down this year, as Mariano Rivera is as close to a lock as you can get entering his first year on the ballot, and Edgar Martinez being very likely to get in with this year being his last chance along with the fact that he got 70.4 of the necessary 75% to get in. 1951-56 is the only time to date that the BBWAA has elected at least two players into the hall of fame for 6 consecutive years, but it feels safe to say 2014-19 will be the second occurrence of such streak. No one else on the 2019 ballot is a sure thing, though we can confidently say there are others on the ballot who will get in eventually, whether from the BBWAA vote or one of the eras committees. But while it’s worth trying to figure out who’s going to get in, it’s much easier to evaluate the candidates and determine who deserves to get in. There will be more that deserve to be elected than will in 2019, as there are basically every year, as people who are hall of famers but didn’t get in on their first ballot clearly deserved to be in but weren’t for a few years. We’ll talk about the candidates in four tiers: obvious hall of fame choices, those who belong but have had arguments made against them, borderline candidates, and noteworthy players who don’t look like they’ll get in.
First Tier: The Obvious Choices
Mo was arguably the most dominant pitcher of all time, and it would be hard to argue for any other reliever/closer to be placed ahead of him. He holds the career records for games finished, saves, and ERA+, and none of them have a close second. Games finished, the least impressive stat of the three, he has 952, and Trevor Hoffman is second with 856. No one was trusted to finish games like The Sandman, and 3 of the top 5 in games finished are in the hall of fame, with Rivera set to join them, which will leave just John Franco on the outside, and he made 4 All-Star games while the other four all made at least 7. In saves, Rivera has 652, Hoffman has 601, and Lee Smith is third at 478. Hoffman made it into the hall last year on his third ballot, so Mo being another 50 saves ahead of him and having a better career record should make him a lock for the first ballot. In case that doesn’t, the separation Rivera has from any other pitcher is ERA+, which adjusts for era and ballpark tendencies to get an idea of how great a pitcher was compared to his contemporaries. With league average being 100 and higher scores being better, Mariano put up a 205 career ERA+, while second on the list right now is Clayton Kershaw at 159. Pedro Martinez is third, the second highest among retired players, at 154, and he got over 90% of the vote on his first ballot. He’s also the best postseason pitcher by many different metrics. With a minimum of 30 innings pitched or 6 decisions, he ranks first all-time in playoff ERA, appearances (96 to Ryan Madson’s 57 in second place), saves (42 to Brad Lidge’s 18 in second place), and win probability added (11.7 to Curt Schilling’s 4.1 in second place), and he owns 3 of the top 10 playoff seasons in win probability added. His 2003 postseason, in which he won ALCS MVP, holds the record for lowest WHIP in a postseason at .438 (minimum 15 innings pitched). No matter what you’re comparing Rivera to, a 205 ERA+ essentially means he was twice as good as a league average pitcher for his entire career, and he even posted two seasons above 300 in ERA+, as in 2008 at 38 years old his 1.40 ERA was good for a 316 ERA+ and 3 years earlier in ’05 he posted a 1.38 ERA that had a 308 ERA+. His only year below 144 was his rookie year when he made all 10 of his career starts and wasn’t good, as his ERA was over 5 and his ERA+ was 84. 144 seems like a random cutoff for ERA+, but Chris Sale currently has a career ERA+ of 144, which is 11th all-time. 2007 was the only other time Mariano had an ERA+ below 160, or the second-best career ERA+ of all time. He’s the greatest reliever of all time, one of the best pitchers, and he’ll be a first-ballot hall of famer.
Edgar Martinez is arguably the greatest designated hitter of all time, and he was a fine third baseman before injuries and age moved him to DH. His career OPS of .933 ranks 33rd all time, ahead of Vladimir Guerrero, David Ortiz, Chipper Jones, Harry Heilmann, and even Hank Aaron. In 2015, Martinez received just 27% of the hall of fame vote, but has increased by no less than 11% in the 3 years since to get up to 70.4% in 2018, needing just 5% more to get into the hall. He should make it in his final year of eligibility in 2019, and it’s about time. The 7 time All-Star also won 5 Silver Sluggers and 5 designated hitter of the year awards, later renamed the Edgar Martinez award. His counting numbers weren’t the most impressive, as he didn’t notch 100 games played until his age-27 season and only had 12 total as he had a few seasons cut short by injury. So while he’s 90th in career batting average and 21st in on-base percentage, he’s only 172nd in hits and 86th in times on base. That ranks him ahead of several hall of famers, although many of them were good defenders, power hitters, players who retired by 1940, or multiple of these. While I wouldn’t qualify Martinez as a power hitter, he did hit over 300 home runs and ranks near the top 50 in doubles, cracking the top 100 in extra base hits with 838. The overall numbers say that Martinez would have an outside shot at making the hall of fame, but the advanced stats and averages say he belongs in the hall. That’s why he’s been gaining so much momentum in recent years, and why he’s a near lock to get in this year. He was one of the best hitters in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, which was one of the greatest times for hitting in the MLB. The old school voters looking at the counting numbers kept him out before, but he should finally be getting in just before his opportunity passes as a new way of thinking helps get him the last push to join the hall.
Tier Two: Some Argument Against Being in the Hall
The Toddfather was one of the best hitters in the game in the early 2000’s, a trend you’ll find from current hall of fame candidates, including an amazing 2000 season when he led the league in batting average, slugging, OPS, total bases, doubles, RBI, extra base hits, and led the National League in hits and OBP, but was only third in the NL, 8th in the MLB in OPS+ and finished 5th in NL MVP voting. His 103 extra base hits in 2000 is tied for the 6th most in a season in MLB history, his 105 in ’01 is 5th most, and only he, Lou Gehrig and Chuck Klein have ever had multiple seasons of 100+ XBH. Gehrig was elected into the hall of fame by a special vote in 1939, when the hall had been open a mere 3 years, just after he had to retire due to ALS, Klein would never see his hall of fame plaque as he died at 53 in 1958 and wasn’t enshrined into the hall until 1980 when the veterans committee put him in. Helton hopefully will still be alive to see himself enshrined, but Rockies nonbelievers will say his numbers were inflated and it may take awhile to get him in. While Helton only made 5 All-Star games, that was more because he was playing for the largely overlooked Rockies his entire career, and he was losing out on spots to stars like Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, Ryan Howard, etc., and Pujols took up a spot 8 consecutive times during the height of Helton’s career. Helton’s 133 career OPS+ is outside the top 100 all-time, but ahead of hall of famers Dave Winfield, Carl Yastrzemski, Jackie Robinson, Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs, and Rod Carew, among others. Helton also won 3 Gold Gloves in his career, so he had more value than just his bat. He only made two playoff appearances in his career due to playing on mostly poor Rockies teams, but his overall career numbers are pretty in line with other hall of fame first baseman, and he along with former teammate Larry Walker shouldn’t be left out of the hall of fame simply because naysayers think that Coors Field is too easy for hitting. The 2018 Rockies who made the playoffs more on pitching strength than that of their hitters is proof that Coors Field doesn’t make hitters that much better than other parks, and we used OPS+ and WAR to compare Helton to other hall of famers because they account for park factors. I don’t think he’ll get in this year, but he should get in eventually because he was a great player.
Roger Clemens/Barry Bonds
There’s no reason to discuss these two separately as the two both put up unbelievable numbers for essentially their entire careers, as Clemens has the most Cy Young Awards in MLB history at 7 over Randy Johnson’s 5, while Bonds had 7 MVP’s which is the most ever by a wider margin, as no one else has ever won more than 3. However, both players were found to have used steroids in their incredible careers, and that has thus far prevented them from gaining admittance into the hall of fame. They have been slowly climbing the vote together, with Clemens consistently being slightly ahead of Bonds by around 1%. I’m not sure why voters would vote for Clemens but not Bonds, as Clemens has less career shares of the Cy Young than Bonds does in MVP shares, and Bonds had a 162.8 career WAR, 4th all-time and 1st among hitters, while Clemens’ 139.6 WAR ranks 8th all-time and 3rd among pitchers. Babe Ruth’s value as a pitcher allowed him to be higher in career WAR than Bonds but not in WAR as a hitter, an interesting tidbit. So while the argument of “everyone was doing it” in regards to performance enhancing drugs isn’t accurate, I think it’s safe to assume at least 10% of the league was, enough to say that it wasn’t drugs alone that made Clemens and Bonds such superior talents to their contemporaries, and therefore they probably belong in the hall, but those who want to keep it as free from cheating as possible will always have an argument against them.
I debated putting Walker in the obvious choices, but decided to put him in this list out of respect for the writers who have only just put him above 30% in his 8th year on the ballot, meaning he would have to make an unbelievable jump in his last two years to be elected by the traditional ballot. Walker, like Helton, was only named an All-Star 5 times in his career, but he won an MVP, won 7 Gold Gloves in the outfield, and played parts of his career outside of Colorado, starting with the Expos where he was an All-Star in 1992 and won 2 Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger in his time with Montreal before he became a Rocky. He also has an incredible playoff run on his resume, as after he was traded to St Louis mid-season in 2004, he would play incredibly in the playoffs on their World Series run. He collected 17 hits, including 6 home runs, 5 doubles and a triple over the course of 15 games in those playoffs, combining for a 1.086 OPS, scoring 14 runs and driving in 11 more while the Cardinals would be swept by the Red Sox in the curse-breaking World Series. Simple numbers show a career that jumps off the page, as Walker ranks in the top 15 all-time in slugging average and OPS, with the only non-hall of famers ahead of him in either category are Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Manny Ramirez, and Mike Trout, 3 players linked to PED’s and an active superstar. He ranks ahead of all-time greats such as Mel Ott, Ty Cobb, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron in OPS, and he was an asset defensively as well with his 7 Gold Gloves. Coors Field does boost your hitting stats, however, and to be fair his career OPS+ of 141 is only 73rd. However, that leaves him right in line with Chipper Jones and David Ortiz, just ahead of Vladimir Guerrero, Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi and Reggie Jackson. So unless you think OPS+ vastly understates differences in park hitting factors, his impressive hitting and fielding numbers should put him in the hall of fame.
Another 5-time All-Star with a great glove, Mussina won 7 Gold Glove awards for pitchers over the course of his accomplished career. He finished in the top 5 for Cy Young voting 6 times, 3 of which were years he wasn’t an All-Star, and had 2 more years finishing 6th in voting (one of those years he was an All-Star). He finished in the top 6 in the AL in ERA 10 times in his career, and with the Yankees he often fared even better in fielding independent pitching, a metric that’s used to estimate how good a pitcher’s ERA would be with league-average fielding, including leading the AL in FIP in 2001 at 2.92, while his ERA of 3.15 was second in the league behind Freddy Garcia, while Mussina’s teammate Roger Clemens won one of his 7 Cy Young awards that year despite having an ERA 0.36 higher than Mussina, which gave Clemens a 128 ERA+ while Mussina’s was 143, tied with Joe Mays of the Twins (who didn’t receive any Cy Young votes) for highest in the AL. With modern analytics, I think it’s likely Mussina would’ve won the 2001 AL Cy Young Award, instead of finishing 5th with 2 points while Clemens ran away with the award mostly thanks to his 20-3 record. Jacob deGrom’s Cy Young win with a 10-9 record proves how likely it would be for Mussina’s 17-11 record to be a non-issue among voters who would have seen that his performance was superior to others who posted better records thanks to better run support. 2001 wasn’t even necessarily Mussina’s best year of his career, as he posted a better ERA twice, a better ERA+ 3 times, and 2001 was one of his impressive seasons to not have been named an All-Star. 1995 was another time when he wasn’t an All-Star despite an impressive season, and several of the pitchers named to that team who were not the only representatives from their team were clearly less deserving. Namely, Steve Ontiveros, pitching for the A’s at the time, was someone who didn’t consistently stay in the major leagues in his career, nor did he consistently stay starting or in the bullpen, and was riding a hot streak with a 2.65 ERA in ’94, but had a 4.37 ERA in ’95 and was back in the minor leagues the next year. Erik Hanson also made the only All-Star appearance of his career that year while on a 1-year contract with the Red Sox and got the All-Star nod largely off of record (he went 15-5 that year), but his 4.24 ERA doesn’t compare to Mussina’s 3.29, and Mussina went 19-9 in Baltimore that year, and he wasn’t sharing the field with the AL MVP, which Hanson was with Mo Vaughn, and Mussina was at least the best pitcher on his team, while Tim Wakefield easily outperformed Hanson on Boston’s staff that year. Mussina should have received more accolades in his playing career, but we can give him the greatest honor in retirement by electing him into the hall of fame.
Third Tier: Borderline Candidates for the Hall
Schilling is one of many pitchers who had the unfortunate timing of having the prime of their career in the late 1990’s when even the best pitchers wouldn’t putting up historically great numbers. Schilling did rack up strikeouts, as he’s one of 16 players to ever record 3,000 K’s, and he did so without walking batters better than anyone else on that list, as only he and Pedro Martinez have 3,000 strikeouts with less than 950 walks in their career, and Schilling’s 711 gives him a better strikeout to walk ratio than Pedro’s 760. Overall, Schilling’s 4.38 K/BB ratio in his career puts him 5th all-time behind active players Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, and Stephen Strasburg, along with Tommy Bond, who was a pitcher who also played some right field in the 1870’s and early 1880’s for teams such as the Brooklyn Atlantics and Hartford Dark Blues. So when Schilling retired he had the best K/BB ratio in modern history, though Sale and Kluber at least seem to surely have him beat. Schilling’s postseason career was so incredible it seems like the postseason numbers for a surefire hall of famer, but Schilling strangely consistently pitched better in the playoffs than the regular season. Schilling posted a 2.23 playoff ERA in his career, including winning the NLCS MVP award in 1993 with the Phillies before they lost to the Blue Jays in the World Series, and being named co-MVP of the 2001 World Series along with teammate Randy Johnson as the upstart Diamondbacks upset the Yankees in large part thanks to the dominant pitching of Johnson and Schilling. He would win 2 more World Series titles with the Red Sox in 2004 and ’07, when he was 37 and 40 years old, winning 3 games in each of those playoff runs as he compiled an 11-2 playoff record along with having 5 career playoff starts in which he pitched at least 7 innings, gave up no more than 2 runs, and earned a no decision. His 127 ERA+ puts him tied for 49th all-time, tied with Bob Gibson and Tom Seaver, ahead of Goose Gossage, Lefty Gomez, Jim Palmer and John Smoltz. So while his regular season numbers don’t look that great at face value, the era he was in shows that they really were impressive numbers and his incredible playoff numbers have him inching his way up the ballot, as he’s just over 50% with 4 years left.
When I was first looking at Vizquel’s career numbers, obviously the defensive skill at shortstop stood out but I thought his offensive numbers looked too weak to get into the hall. Then I compared him to some other slick-fielding shortstops that are hall of famers in Luis Aparicio and Ozzie Smith, it seemed more like he could and maybe should make it. Vizquel was only a 3-time All-Star, but won 11 Gold Gloves in his career, while Aparicio’s accolades include a Rookie of the Year award in 1956, a World Series victory with the Orioles in 1966, 13 All-Star appearances (in 10 separate years, his career included the time when there were two All-Star games in the same year for awhile), and 9 Gold Gloves. Smith earned 15 All-Star appearances, won a World Series in 1982 with St Louis, won 13 Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger, and an NLCS MVP. Smith was a slightly better hitter for his time than Vizquel, as suggested by the Silver Slugger and confirmed by his 87 career OPS+ compared to Vizquel’s 82, and was probably even better than Vizquel and Aparicio in the field, as he ranks first all-time in defensive WAR and total zone runs as a shortstop, an analytical metric that evaluates how many runs a player saved based on the plays they made in the field. Smith got into the hall of fame in his first year on the ballot, collecting 91.7% of the vote, while Vizquel’s first year on the ballot was similar to Aparicio’s third, as Vizquel got 37.0% in 2018 while Aparicio started out with just 27.8% and hit 36.9% in his third year. Aparicio and Smith were both faster than Vizquel, as they both put up over 500 stolen bases in their careers and their defensive prowess came from their wide range, while Vizquel retired with the highest fielding percentage at shortstop in MLB history (he also stole just over 400 bases in his career, but was caught stealing more than Aparicio and Smith). Vizquel now works with the Detroit Tigers as a base coach and a fielding instructor, and may have had something to do with the man who has matched his fielding percentage at the shortstop position in José Iglesias, who played for the Tigers from 2013-’18, and led all shortstops in fielding percentage in ’16 and ’17. Vizquel could earn a spot in the hall of fame similarly to other great fielding shortstops who were only decent at the plate, even as the position becomes more offensively focused in the modern game.
The two-time Cy Young winner, one of only 6 players to win the award in both leagues, with the others being 3 hall of famers in Randy Johnson, Gaylord Perry, and Pedro Martinez, an active player in Max Scherzer, and Roger Clemens, unfortunately died in a plane crash in November of 2017 at just 40 years old. While his career ERA+ of 131 is impressive enough in its own right, his 10-year peak from 2002-’11 saw him post a 148 ERA+ which would tie for 5th in MLB history with Lefty Grove for a carer mark. But 131 is an incredibly impressive number for ERA+, as it ranks tied for 37th all-time, including two current hall of famers in Dizzy Dean and Sandy Koufax. Like Schilling, Halladay owned the strike zone, with a K/BB ratio of 3.58 in his career, which puts him 25th all-time. The 8-time All-Star didn’t see much postseason action in his career, as the Blue Jays failed to make the playoffs in any of the 12 years he spent in Toronto, but when he did get there with Philadelphia he was excellent, as in his 5 career playoff starts he never went less than 7 innings and never gave up more than 4 runs, including his first career playoff start where he very famously threw just the second playoff no-hitter in MLB history. Halladay at his peak was truly spectacular, as he finished in the top 5 in Cy Young voting 6 years in a row from 2006-’11 and 7 total times in his career, the other being his Cy Young winning season with the Blue Jays in 2003, and his 3.5 shares of the Cy Young award, compiled through percentages of the votes received, are 10th most all-time, and most among pitchers with less than 3 times winning the award, although Justin Verlander may pass him for that title, as he has 3.4 in his career with just one Cy Young in his trophy case. Another good 2 or 3 years in his late 30’s could have solidified Halladay as a hall of famer, but we’ll have to see what the BBWAA thinks of his career resume as it is, a player who had a rough start and end to his career with one of the most dominant 10-year stretches the game has ever seen in the middle, with an ERA below 3 in that stretch and completing just over a fifth of the games he started, something pitchers weren’t really doing anymore, but Doc was an old time type who pounded the strike zone and didn’t ever want to come out.
*Disclaimer* If I had a hall of fame vote, I would vote yes on the 10 names listed above this point and no on everyone below it even if there weren’t a limit on the ballot
All the numbers, including a World Series MVP in 2004, say Manny belongs in the hall if there weren’t any off-the-field reasons to keep him out. And while I said Clemens and Bonds should be in the hall of fame despite their PED usage, Manny wasn’t as dominant as either of them were. So I don’t believe that PED’s should be a disqualifier for the hall, but it should be a significant negative mark against a players case to get in. The 12-time All-Star had an incredible career, but if you’re going to get into the hall of fame with a strong PED link, you’re gonna have to be on top of the game for at least a 2 or 3 year span. Manny never had a top-2 finish in an MVP vote, and he never logged a season with a positive defensive WAR, finishing his career at -21.7 in dWAR. While the only place that has a significant enough impact on hitting stats to normally get pointed out in hall of fame arguments is Coors Field, Jacobs Field in Cleveland and Fenway Park in Boston are both slightly on the hitter-friendly side of all MLB stadiums, and that, along with the fact that Ramirez played in the hitter-friendly era of the late 90’s means that his adjusted OPS+ fell 18 spots lower than his raw OPS standing for his career, 26th as opposed to 8th, respectively. His offensive WAR also wasn’t nearly as high as his incredible career OPS of .996, as he ranks 32nd all-time in offensive WAR due in part to his negative contribution on the base paths. Ramirez was one of the best hitters of the late 90’s/early 2000’s, and for some voters that’s enough reason to put him in the hall of fame. For others, it’s not enough to overcome the poor defense in the corner outfield and the fact that he was caught cheating.
Tier 4: Other Noteworthy Candidates not Likely to Make it in
The argument for McGriff is that he was one of the best hitters in the league before the hitting boom of the late 90’s, and that’s a true and fair point, as he led the league in OPS in 1989, home runs in ’89 and ’92, and 4 of his 5 All-Star appearances were in 1996 or earlier. The problem is his accolades don’t add up to a hall of fame resume, with just 5 All-Star games, 3 Silver Sluggers, no Gold Gloves, and no top-3 finishes in an MVP race, while finishing in the top 5 only once. He was a decent defender at first base, definitely not good enough to help a hall of fame case, and his counting stats aren’t as good as hitters who came just after him and are currently on the ballot overshadowing him. While baseball-reference’s hall of fame monitor and hall of fame standards say McGriff would have a chance to make it in, the JAWS metric, which takes a players career WAR and their 7-year peak WAR and averages them together, puts him well below what you would expect from a hall of fame first baseman. McGriff was a very good first baseman for his time and racked up nearly 500 home runs in his career, but has yet to place above 25% on a hall of fame ballot and 2019 is his last chance. He’ll be remembered well in a few different areas, as he played over 500 games for 3 different teams, but won’t get into the hall of fame by the BBWAA ballot.
Jeff Kent had one of the best age 30-39 stretches you’ll ever see in baseball, especially by a second baseman, a run that included 5 All-Star appearances, 4 Silver Sluggers, and an MVP award. The problem is that before he hit 30 Kent was worth just 14.5 WAR and didn’t make an All-Star game. If Kent had done more in a player’s traditional prime years at ages 25-29 he could have made a very good case for the hall of fame. Instead, he ends up with rate stats and counting stats that aren’t quite at a hall of fame level, and hoping to get votes out of recognition of a great and uncommon achievement of having so much success in his 30’s while right now we’re watching some all-time great players struggle as they get to about age 35. Impressive playoff performance could help Kent’s case for the hall, but his postseason career is more odd than impressive. In the three playoff series he teams won, Kent had a slash line of .250/.339/.333 for an OPS of .671 while in series his teams lost he hit .294/.325/.596 for a much better .921 OPS, including the fact that all 9 of his playoff home runs came in series that his team would eventually lose, but his teams weren’t altogether bad in the playoffs, they went 4-7 in 11 series including a World Series birth with the Giants in 2002. Ken’t has yet to crack 20% on a HOF ballot, and he’s on his sixth year in 2019, so it looks unlikely for him to get into the hall of fame.
Sheffield has been loosely linked to PED’s in his career, as he admitted to using a cream on his legs that he thought was cortisone for surgical scars from BALCO that actually had steroids in it, but that isn’t why he hasn’t been lacking votes in the HOF ballots despite his outstanding career numbers. That comes more from his defense and his antics. Integrity and sportsmanship are both listed on hall of fame voting criteria, and those areas Sheffield lacked in. While remembered mostly as a right fielder, Sheffield first played shortstop in the majors, then third base for a few years before moving to the outfield. In 1992, during his time as a third baseman, he admitted in an interview hating the Brewers and especially general manager Harry Dalton “so much that I wanted to hurt the man,” adding, “If the official scorer gave me an error that I didn’t think was an error, I’d say, ‘OK, here’s a real error,’ and I’d throw the next ball into the stands on purpose. I did it all.” Sheffield was never a good defender by any stretch of the imagination, but there’s a large difference between being a poor defender and intentionally committing errors. That’s where the issues with what he represented lie, and baseball wants to see people who represented the sport well be the faces in the hall of fame, not someone who defaced the game by intentionally playing poorly. So despite Sheffield being a 9-time All-Star, winning 5 Silver Sluggers, being a key part of the 1997 World Series winning Marlins including having an OPS of over 1.000 in the playoffs that year, and ranking in the top 50 all-time in runs scored, walks, times on base, total bases, extra base hits, home runs, RBI, and offensive WAR, he has yet to gain over 15% of the hall of fame vote in the previous 4 years he’s been on the ballot, making it unlikely that he’ll get in.
Pettitte was a very accomplished postseason pitcher, mostly with the Yankees but also reaching the 2005 World Series with the Astros, but nearly all of his regular season numbers other than wins don’t look like a hall of fame resume. Before Jack Morris was inducted to the hall of fame last year with a 3.90 career ERA there was no pitcher in the hall with an ERA as high as Pettitte’s 3.85, with Red Huffing’s 3.80 being the highest before 2018. He was only named to 3 All-Star games in his career, although admittedly him not being an All-Star in 2005 is one of the all-time biggest snubs. Pettitte also pitched in one of the worst eras for pitchers, in the home run craze of the late 90s, where he was the Cy Young runner up in 1996, his second year in the league, with a 3.87 ERA. That Cy Young runner-up was driven by his league-leading 21 wins, while the winner Pat Hentgen went 20-10 with a 3.22 ERA, and 2 other starters with ERA’s below 3.5 received votes but were behind Pettitte thanks to his record. Mike Mussina also received Cy Young votes that year with a 4.81 ERA because he had a 19-11 record. It was a different time. That would be the closest Pettitte ever came to a Cy Young, and the only time he ever received first place votes in his career. The second “closest” he ever got was in 2000 when he placed 4th and Pedro Martinez unanimously won the award. His postseason ERA was 3.81, only slightly better than his regular season ERA which would only barely not be the worst in the hall of fame, but he has more postseason starts, innings pitched, and wins than anyone else in MLB history, and ranks fourth in playoff win probability added among pitchers, behind Mariano Rivera, Curt Schilling, and John Smoltz. His 5 World Series championships is tied for the most among players whose careers ended later than 1967, a list that includes several other Yankees from the late 90’s, but his pitching numbers don’t look good enough to make the hall of fame.
There are other great players currently on the hall of fame ballot, of course. We haven’t mentioned 8-time Gold Glove winner Scott Rolen, or Billy Wagner, who’s 187 career ERA+ would rank second all-time if he had pitched the minimum 1000 innings in his career to be on pitching rate leaderboards, or Sammy Sosa, one of only 9 players to ever hit 600 home runs in his career, a list of 5 hall of famers, 3 players linked to PED’s (Sosa, Bonds, Alex Rodriguez) and Albert Pujols. We didn’t discuss newcomers to the ballot Lance Berkman, a 6-time All-Star with a career OPS+ of 144, Roy Oswalt, who finished in the top 5 in Cy Young voting 5 times, won an NLCS MVP in 2005 and an ERA title the following year, or Miguel Tejada, a hard hitting shortstop who won an MVP and 2 Silver Sluggers but has PED ties. None of those players who’ve been on the ballot have gotten over 15% of a vote yet, and the newcomers don’t seem to be in the top 3 or 4 candidates making their first appearance on a ballot, so they all have pretty low odds of being elected. There are other recognizable names lower on the list likely to be one-and-done on the ballot that are still players that will be remembered fondly by fans, including my favorite two low-tier players on the ballot Placido Polanco and Juan Pierre. This article wasn’t meant to highlight all 35 players on this year’s ballot, it was meant to identify who would actually get in and what players that will receive significant votes but have to wait for later ballots or eras committees to have a chance at getting inducted. Mariano Rivera and Edgar Martinez are roughly locks to get in, while other candidates look like they’ll be gaining ground while one or two others may get in. Hall of fame voting is a great way of debating what’s valued in the game today and what should be valued now and going forward, and those are important things to consider for the sport’s future. With some worried about the popularity of baseball and the current “logjam” on the hall of fame ballot, we remember the greats of the last generation, and appreciate the great talent in the game today as well. Until next time,