Saturday, February 6, 2016

Hall Of Fame Edition

Our Hall Of Fame vote is easier this year than in most others - we have a boatload of players who are beyond reproach in their Hall credentials.  This challenge comes when we split votes among worthy players and don't induct all that are truly deserving this year - the superstars get inducted at some point, but time runs out on deserving but less-than-top-superstar talents.

OK, in my view we have 8 complete slam-dunk candidates - 4 that need no thought whatsoever and 4 that you have to think about for about 4 seconds:

Not A Single Thought Needed 

Miguel Rojas - 5 Cy Youngs, career #2 in OBP allowed (#1 among SP), career #1 in Slugging % allowed, career #1 in K's/9 innings, career #2 in K's, career #2 in WHIP (#1 among SP), career #3 in wins, career #3 in Quality Starts.  Some argue (with merit) he's the best P in world history (although none achieved the dominance of an era like Chris Nen).

Vincenzo Smalley - Almost an exact contemporary (Seasons 11-30) of Rojas (Seasons 13-30).  6 Cy Youngs, career #2 in wins, #4 in career K's, #4 in career K/BB.  Not quite the dominance in qualitative stats of Rojas, but those numbers do favor NL pitchers (Smalley threw 98% of his innings in the AL).

Rico Uribe - 4-time MVP, he was probably the greatest slugger in the history of Major Leagues.  He stands at #3 in career OPS, but everyone else in the top 5 played their entire careers either mostly or completely in the "steroid era" (See Historical Scoring Trends for runs scored in different Major Leagues time periods).  Uribe's career fell exclusively outside the steroid era.  His 1.191 OPS in Season 22 is the single-season best OPS in league history.

Alejandro Cruz - the short version:  10-time AS, 5 GG's, 6 Silver Sluggers (2B and CF), career leader in "+" plays at 2B (178), and another 57 +plays in CF.  The long version (copied from last year's HOF edition):

I'm leading off with Cruz because he's the classic "overlookable" candidate - for one thing, he's listed as a RF.  If you're like me, you usually take a quick scan of the HOF candidates, look at their position and stats, and make a snap decision.  I guarantee a few people will look at Cruz as a COF and decide his .840 OPS and 341 HR's doesn't cut it.

Hold everything.  Cruz played 12,300+ innings as a 2B to only 4,000 as a corner OF.

Not only that - he was a superb defensive 2B.  4 Gold Gloves, plus 178 plus plays (our all-time leader at 2B, by the way) and a .983 fielding percentage.

Now how does that .841 OPS look?

Here are our 3 current HOF 2B and Cruz
                                   Career OPS     2B +/- Plays    2B Fielding %      Seasons   2B S Slug
Dicky Scharein              .991                  5/17                 .977                    1-15              2
Derrin Davenport          .920                  12/25               .980                     4-20             1
Jae Nakano                    .911                  49/18               .980                     3-21             9
Alejandro Cruz              .840                 178/1                .983                    10-26            6

Remember, everything before  Season 14 was a much better hitting environment than the time since; I don't know how you'd adjust those OPS numbers to get true comparisons, but however you did it Cruz would look better.  And if you look at # of Silver Sluggers as some indication of offensive dominance at a position, Cruz compares quite well (bonus:  he picked up 2 SS's at CF as well).

Finally, throw in the 57 + plays Cruz turned in as a CF and COF, and you have one of the best all-round defensive players in Major Leagues history. 

I think it's a close race between Nakano and Cruz as the best 2B in league history.  I'd go with Cruz because he was a very good hitter + maybe the best defensive 2B ever;  Nakano was a great hitter and a solid defensive 2B.

In any event, Cruz should be in the Hall."

Need About 4 Seconds

Nate Hood - At first glance, his .276 BA, 514 HRs, .372 OBP and .885 OPS might look a little plain for a LF HOF candidate.  But considering he played the bulk of his career in THE most offense-suppressing ballpark in our world (San Diego), it's not hard to imagine an adjusted career line of something like .290, 625 HR, .390 OBP, .925 OPS.  With another couple of MVP's to go with the 1 he actually won.  Hood is the best LF in our history - we have no LF's in the HOF (we have some 2B who played some LF but not as many innings as 2B).

Lance Woolf - I tried to make the case for him as a RP last year (we also have no RP's in the Hall).  Unbelievable combination of counting stats (154 wins and 362 saves) and qualitative stats (career .601 OPS-against...better than 5 of the 6 P's currently in our HOF, and Woolf did it almost completely IN the steroid era).  And he was no 1-inning, delicate-flower guy...he threw 2600 innings, more than a lot of starters go.

Rafael Santiago - 244 wins, 3.15 ERA over 3800 IP would be standard slam-dunk induction most years.

Max Gutierrez - compares well to our existing HOF 3B on OPS (Gutierrez = .885, Sanchez = .850, Wood = .854, Mendoza = .892), especially considering Mendoza got some steroid era help, while Gutierrez was strictly a modern era hitter.  Also compares well defensively - Wood was the gold standard in 3B defense, but Gutierrez had both a better fielding % (.979) and net +/- plays (+119) than Mendoza and Sanchez.  Has a case for being the best 3B in world history.

Also Have Very Strong Cases

Mark Payton and Sean Westbrook:  Payton compares well to our current HOF sluggers and Westbrook is, after all, our all-time hits leader.  See a more detailed discussion of these 2 in last season's HOF edition.

Russell Swann - career .412 OBP was incredibly valuable - adjusted for era, he's probably #2 to current White Sox 2B Rodriguez.

Ross Lamb - much like Santiago only slightly less so

Guilermo Lopez - better defensively than HOF 3B's Sanchez and Mendoz and current candidate Gutierrez; career .791 OPS suppressed by ballpark in Seattle.

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