Well, the 2013 baseball Hall of Fame votes are in, and on January 9th we will know who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this upcoming July. Now this is certainly a big year for controversy on the ballot as the big names in the PED era are front and foremost. Bonds, Clemens, Sosa and Palmiero, to be precise and name a few. And of course Dale Murphy and Jack Morris are always good fodder for debate as they close in on their last chances. And by close in, I mean reach, in Murphy’s case. But I am not here to discuss those folks, oh no, no. You can hear plenty about them in many, many, many, many (enough manys, ya think?) other forums. No, I am not here to talk about those fellas, I wanna look at those on the ballot who, more than likely, will not appear on another ballot ever again, because most likely less than five percent of voters will cast votes for them. Those whose names you probably forgot and when even spotting their names on the ballot may inspire a giggle, if you are the giggling type, or, at the very least a “Huh?! Really? That guy?!” because at no point in there esteemed careers did you ever consider their names being mentioned in the same sentence as the words “Hall of Fame”. Now, I could start to go off on a rant about how the word “fame” is in “Hall of Fame”, so you need to be recognized as famous to get in. But, alas, I will not go on about that ( I don’t think), but rather just dig right into the Hall of Fame cases, or lack thereof, of a few of these fellas who are not so likely to get past this year on the ballot.
Jeff Cirillo - Yes, the Jeff Cirillo! Yeah, so I am doubting anyone remembers much about Jeff’s career and may have just forgotten about him altogether. Generally that would not be a good start for making your Hall of Fame case. Cirillo’s numbers though were somewhat respectable with a career .296 batting average and .796 OPS. Great numbers? Well, no, but they are certainly respectable. Now while JC never had much pop ( just 112 career home runs) he did manage to get on base (.366 OBP) a fair share and the lack of homeruns does make that .796 OPS a bit more impressive. But here’s something you all love, a blind player comparison with a fan favorite. Okay, half blind since I already gave part of it away by showing off Cirillo’s digits. So, here we go:
Cirillo: (14 seasons) .296 BA, .366 OBP, .430 SLG, .796 OPS, 36.4 WAR (season avg 2.6)
Player B: (19 seasons) .294 BA, .329 OBP, .446 SLG, .775 OPS, 42.5 WAR (season avg 2.24)
So, who is this mystery Player B that Cirillo is so comparable to? Why that would be current Hall of Famer Steve Garvey. Now it appears that Cirillo stacks up pretty well with Garvey, of course Mr. Garvey generally had better PR, a bit more pop, a few more paternity tests and some Gold Gloves to push him over the edge, but the WAR difference generally accounts for the defensive prowess as well. Now this is not to say I think Jeff Cirillo belongs in the Hall, because basically I am iffy on Garvey being in there to begin with, but it is interesting that people would make much more of a case for Garvey over Cirillo. If you were to just ask a random baseball fan, my guess is that they would not think Cirillo belongs in the same conversation. And really Cirillo’s other problem is he played the hot corner, and there are only 11 third basemen in the Hall of Fame. Now during his career (1994-2007), he was number six amongst major league third basemen in WAR during that time period, which is something, sort of, but his career WAR is still below that of every Hall of Fame third baseman. So, while you can play the “if-then” game, as in, “if Garvey is in, then Cirillo shouould be in”, (and it is a fun game to play, I grant you) I think it’s safe to say Mr. Cirillo will not be headed to Cooperstown any time soon. If he is even on the ballot next year it would be a bit surprising, but oddly enough he may have one of the best cases of anyone in this post.
Royce Clayton- That same surprise and astonishment could be brought about if one Mr. Royce Clayton received the necessary five percent of the vote this year. With a 21.7 WAR over 17 seasons Royce is not likely to garner much consideration, unless his parents somehow have votes we don’t know about. Now, that being said, he actually may receive a vote somewhere for who knows what reason, cause sometimes that happens, but in my opinion, it would be a bit ludicrous if he were to receive votes. Not necessarily because he was abysmal, but even if a writer is against the PED era players, there are still probably ten other players on the ballot who would be more deserving of a vote. WAR aside, because some writers are still not on board with that sort of advanced stat malarkey, he had a career .258 batting average, which is well, not so good. He did not seem to compensate for this in any other area, as he only topped 75 RBIs twice (once was while playing for the Rockies) and had a career 935 runs and 110 home runs. His defense was very respectable it seemed, but was really not great for an extended period of time according to shortstop range factors comparitive to other shortstops of the 90s. So, while he was excellent as Miguel Tejade in Moneyball, I would really be stupefied if Royce received even two percent of the vote.
Jeff Conine- While the nickname Conine the Barbarian was pretty nifty, and Jeff is a very likeable guy and player, his numbers do not really scream, “Hall of Famer”. If I were to ask you to describe Conine’s career, you would probably say, “solid hitter with a bit of pop”, but really his pop was not super. He had 214 career dingers over 17 seasons, topping 20 just twice, although he did that in back-to-back seasons, ’95 and ’96. He definitely had the potential, after a solid first four full seasons. In those seasons, his average numbers looked like he was on his way to a fine career. From 1993-1996, these were his average numbers: .300 BA, .849 OPS, 20 HRs, 90 RBIs. Not too shabby! If he averaged these numbers for at least three to four more seasons, perhaps there would be a but more discussion surrounding his Hall of Fame candidacy. But, sadly, after 1996 he only topped an OPS of .787 once, he only topped 17 homers once and he only had a WAR higher than 1.9 once. Nice fella, but I don’t see “the Barbarian” hanging around on the ballot past this season.
Ryan Klesko- Similar to Conine, there were early flashes in his career that pointed to large potential for quite a fruitful hitting career. He had a decent peak from 1994-2003 when he hit 243 of his career 278 homers. I think had he eclipsed the 300 home run mark, maybe he garners a bit more attention in Hall of Fame talk, but he didn’t, so he probably won’t. But it also does not help that his nearly 300 dingers came at a time when balls were leaving the parks at an astounding rate. As such, his home run total in his peak 10-year span was only good for a tie for 30th with Jeff Kent, two more than Ellis Burks and four more than Eric Karros. Much like Cirillo, I could actually almost see Klesko and his career .800 OPS garner several, yes several, votes, but 5% seems highly unlikely.
Woody Williams- Gregory Scott “Woody” Williams. He was never, what I would consider a star. He was a solid guy and good pitcher, but we are not talking about the Hall of Goodness, we are talking about the Hall of Fame. With a career war of 19.8 (using FanGraphs calculations) he was never quite studly. In fact his 18 win season in 2003 was probably the only one that would be considered his best case. That year he was 18-9 and posted a 4.2 WAR, both career bests. However, as it should be, he did not gain a one Cy Young vote that season. That could be due in large part to the rather pedestrian ERA (3.87) and WHIP (1.25) he put up. Also, only twice in his career did he throw more than 150 strikeouts and he did not exactly blow past the 150 strikeout mark in thoese seasons with totals of 151 and 153. Surprisingly though, his career adjusted ERA+ is 103, puts him in a large tie, for 578th all time. Some other names in this, not so exclusive, 103 adjusted ERA+ club, include Pete Harnisch, Juan Berenguer and Shane Reynolds, none of which scream anything close to Hall of Fame picthers. For the record, Jack Morris, he had a career adjusted ERA+ of 105, just sayin’. Neither number is considered brilliant and as much as plain old ERA is a flawed stat, should a starting pitcher with an ERA over four be considered for the Hall? Not in my humble opinion.
Aaron Sele- Much like Gregory Scott up there, there is not much of a case for Aaron Sele receiving Hall votes. The most precious of starter numbers, for certain writers, wins, does not help Aaron’s case much. He notched 148 in his career, far from any sort of milestone. Now his career winning percentage of .569 is not too shabby, but really, the wins and losses are not the best indicator in my mind. He did have a fair run from 1996-2001, or so it would seem. This was his WAR heyday where he went 89-58. However his ERA in that same span, was nothing glamorous at 4.59 and only in 2001 did he have a WHIP below 1.24 and only in two of those seasons was his WHIP below 1.50. For his career he had a 4.61 ERA, 5.20 xFIP, 1.49 WHIP, 4 seasons of 15 or more wins, a sub 4 ERA four times and topped 137 Ks just twice. Three of those sub four ERAs were in in his first 3 seasons in the bigs, once in which he only appeared six times. So bottom line, Aaron Sele should be happy to just be nominated.
Jose Mesa- Now I guess if you are someone looking to make a case for Mesa, you could point to his 321 saves. There has not really been a saves milestone or benchmark for the Hall of Fame status like, say 3,000 hits or 300 wins, but 300 saves is a decent number to start. And in that regard, those 321 saves by Mesa are good for 14th all-time, which sounds somewhat meaningful, but saves, as you may or may not know, are a bit arbitrary and something of a fickle stat. Now no current closers who have not already surpassed the 300 saves (see Rivera, Mariano) are really close to that 300 mark. Does that make Jose a Hall of Famer? Some, not me, could make that point, I guess. his 1995 season (46 saves, 1.13 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and an 8.2 K/9) did earn him a 2nd place finish in the Cy Young vote, but he never received votes in any other season. But look at some other factors. Mesa posted a WAR over two, just twice in his career and in 15 of his 19 seasons in the bigs he had a WAR of 1.5 or lower. Yikes! Not to mention his 3.95 ERA as a reliever is tied for Tood Jones for the worst ERA among the top 20 in career saves and the highest of any picther with over 300 saves. The next lowest? 3.42. Not really even close. And as far as the 300 save club goes, only Jason Isringhause has a lower career WAR as a reliever. And Mesa’s career WHIP? Let’s just say his WHIP is not even among the top 700 qualifying relievers over his career. The saves are nice in a way, but not sure Mesa has one left to save him from being bounced off of the Hall of Fame ballot (see what I did there?).
Roberto Hernandez- When I actually saw a Roberto Hernandez on the Indians in 2012, there was this small glimmer of hope that this was the Roberto Hernandez. Alas, it was not. In any event, Hernandez is in the same boat as Mesa. Well, he is in a similar boat, in the same stream, maybe. Like Mesa, any sort of case for Hernandez is most likely based on his career save total. His 326 career saves puts him just above Mesa on the all-time list, at 13th. Hernandez was slightly better than Mesa when you look at the whole career. An ERA almost a run lower than Mesa and a WAR about 2 higher than Mesa. But let’s see what happens when he is stacked up against say, Bruce Sutter. Roberto’s ERA is almost a run higher and trails by about 7 in WAR. Hernandez did twice finish in the top 10 in Cy Young voting, but neither time higher than 6th and those, not so coincidentally, were also the years of his only two All-Star appearances. I mean, I guess you could make some sort of an argument for Mesa and Hernandez staying on the ballot, but as much as the stats tell us they probably don’t belong in Cooperstown, unless they are on vacation and taking a tour of the Ommegang brewery, you could also use that other trusted argument of “feel”. For you other folks who are not into advanced stats and such, ask yourselves this, did Jose Mesa or Roberto Hernandez ever “feel” like Hall of Famers? My guess, is most would answer in the negative.
So there you have it! A look at some players on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot who most likely will not make make another appearance on said ballot. But, hey sometimes it is an honor just to be nominated.