MLB: Is this the right year for Scott Rolen?
MONTREAL – While the 28 players whose names appear on the ballot of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) for possible admission to the Baseball Hall of Fame, several of the approximately 400 voting members have already made their choices known.
Of the lot, only Scott Rolen (79.5%) and Todd Helton (79%) had obtained at least one vote on 75% of the ballots – the eligibility threshold – out of the 167 ballots released late Sunday evening.
The journalist from The Canadian Press Frédéric Daigle is a member of the BBWAA, but does not yet have the right to vote, granted after having been a member in good standing for only 10 years in a row.
Here is the ballot he would have handed in if he had had the right to vote for the vintage of 2023, which will be inducted in Cooperstown next July.
Casting your vote – 10 at the most, as the rules stipulate – may seem much easier than it really is. A good place to start is to see which names were on his report card the previous year, but which are no longer there.
Whether it is because they have been inducted (David Ortiz), they have reached the limit of 10 years of eligibility (Barry Bonds, Rogers Clemens, Sammy Sosa), or they have not obtained the 5% of votes needed for their names to appear on the ballots again (no candidate on my ballot), these players free up space for you.
Which leaves us with a list including Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez, Scott Rolen and Gary Sheffield: six candidates.
In principle, there are therefore four possible places left on my ballot, unless new candidates come to supplant those already chosen. So let’s look at the first-year candidates.
Carlos Beltran, Matt Cain, RA Dickey, Jacoby Ellsbury, John Lackey, Mike Napoli, Jhonny Peralta, Francisco Rodriguez and Huston Street are all in their first year of eligibility.
Of the lot, only Beltran appears to me as a possible candidate. My six recurring names therefore have their lives saved for the moment.
Among those who did not get my vote last year, two candidates now appear to me to be meritorious. First there is that of Manny Ramirez. With the arrival of Alex Rodriguez on the ballots, I ran out of space and it was Ramirez who paid the price. The space freed up allows me to put it back on my report card.
There is also the candidacy of reliever Billy Wagner which now seems more valid to me. After reading many opinions of fellow voters about him, I would be willing to side with their arguments.
I therefore arrive at nine votes. Here is, in brief, what fueled my reflection for each of them:
Carlos Beltran (1st year of eligibility)
A career spanning 20 years, 2725 hits, 565 doubles, 435 homers, 1587 RBI and averages of .279/.350/.486. His 70.1 WAR ranks him ninth all-time among center fielders. Everyone ahead of him, except Mike Trout, for obvious reasons, is in the Temple, while many behind him are too.
We’ll have to see how voters juggle the 2017 Houston Astros signal theft scandal. Beltran was identified in the commissioner’s office report.
Todd Helton (5th; 52.0% of votes last year)
Clearly, his 17 years in Colorado play into voters’ minds, as in the case of Larry Walker, elected in his 10 year of eligibility.
However, a look at his statistics in the opposing stadiums (.287/.386/.469) show that he did not lose his means there. He hit 1,394 hits in Colorado versus 1,125 anywhere else.
His WAR, WAR7 and JAWS are respectively better than 14, 20 and 16 first-goals already admitted in Cooperstown (excluding Ortiz).
Andruw Jones (6th, 41.4%)
In his 17 seasons, from 1996 to 2012, he was possibly the major center fielder in 12 of them.
From 1998 to 2007, he won 11 consecutive Golden Gloves. In the same span, he added a Silver Stick, five All-Star Game appearances and finished second in the 2005 Most Valuable Player poll, after leading the Majors with 51 homers and the Nationals with 128 points. products.
His offensive stats alone leave him a bit short, but taking into account his massive defensive contribution, Jones is a Hall of Famer.
Andy Pettitte (5th; 10.7%)
Eleventh all-time among left-handed pitchers with 256 wins and 42 overall. Seven of the 10 ahead of him in the standings are in the Hall of Fame. His 2,448 strikeouts rank him 15th in left-handed history; four of the 14 ahead of him are in Cooperstown.
Pettitte has won four World Series and is 19-11 in playoff games; in addition to finishing four times among the top 5 for the Cy Young.
True, the advanced stats take the shine off his candidacy: His numbers are below the average of the 65 starters holding a plate in Cooperstown.
Manny Ramirez (7.28.9%)
Ramirez makes a comeback on my ballot. Applying the “morality squad” logic that got us to vote for Bonds, Clemens and Pettitte, we have to be consistent and vote for Ramirez.
The stats nicely support his candidacy as well: 555 homers, 2,574 hits, 1,813 RBIs, averages of .312/.411/.585, eight Silver Sticks and eight times among the top 10 in the Most Valuable Player ballot.
Voters have rejected steroid-era members outright in recent years, however, and Ramirez’s candidacy faces the same fate of spending 10 years on the ballot without entering the Temple.
Alex Rodriguez (2nd, 34.3%)
Three MVP titles, a batting championship title, fifth all-time in home runs at 696 and RBIs at 2,086. Offensive averages of .295/.380/.550. A WAR of 117.1.
All of these stats make you a Temple member in your first year of eligibility, except when you’re on steroids. Will A-Rod be the exception that proves the rule? Not in 2023, but he still has enough time to reverse the trend.
Scott Rolen (6th; 63.2%)
Rolen continues his rise on the ballots and his momentum towards Cooperstown now seems unstoppable. Its introduction will be fully deserved.
If his « traditional » statistics (.281 / .364 / .490, 2077 hits, including 517 doubles and 316 homers, 1287 RBI and 1211 runs scored) seem to leave him short, his advanced statistics open the doors wide to him. .
His WAR, WAR7 and JAWS are all above the 15 third-base average (Baseball-reference.com place Edgar Martinez in this position) already admitted. He ranks 10th all-time for WAR and JAWS, 14th for WAR7.
And what about his defensive prowess: rookie of the year in 1997, Rolen won eight Golden Gloves.
Gary Sheffield (9th; 40.6%)
Sheffield will likely run out of time unless a spectacular cabal turns the tide in their favor.
Yet he has the “magic number” of 500 (509) homers in his pocket, in addition to having hit 2689 hits and maintained averages of .292/.393/.514.
« Sheff » has finished five times in the top 5 in the Most Valuable Player ballot, earned five Silver Sticks and was named to the All-Star team nine times in 22 years.
Without a Golden Glove to boost his candidacy, his .977 defensive efficiency rating in career is not trivial.
Billy Wagner (83.51.0%)
His 422 saves rank him sixth in history. His 11.92 strikeouts per nine innings give him the all-time best strikeout average.
Interesting statistics, related by the excellent Jayson Stark, of The Athleticand attributed Austin Eich, great defender of the Wagner candidacy: he could return to the game and give up 100 consecutive hits and the opposing batters would hit for .211 against him, the same average as against Mariano Rivera.
If he allowed 200 consecutive hits? He would still have a lower batting average against him than the batters maintained against Lee Smith at .273.
Why not Francisco Rodriguez then?
I give my vote to Wagner and not to K-Rod, who saved 437 games? I rely on his advanced stats.
His WAR, WAR7 and JAWS (24.2/17.6/20.9) are all well short of the standards that have been set by accepted relievers at Cooperstown.
Excluded (year of eligibility):
Bobby Abreu (4th), Mark Buehrle (3rd), Matt Cain (1), RA Dickey (1), Jacoby Ellsbury (1), Torii Hunter (3rd), Jeff Kent (10th), John Lackey (1), Mike Napoli (1), Jhonny Peralta (1), Francisco Rodriguez (1), Jimmy Rollins (2), Huston Street (1), Omar Vizquel (6)
*WAR: Wins Above Replacement. Wins obtained by a player compared to an average player who would give zero. WAR7: Total of a player’s best seven WAR seasons, not necessarily consecutive. JAWS: Average of WAR and WAR7.
**Stats are all from Baseball-Reference.com
Offensive averages represent: batting average/power average/attendance average.