Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Overwhelming HOF Case For Cruz and Woolf (and why NOW)

I'll vote for the consensus candidates that come out of our poll, be they Payton, Westbrook, whoever.  They're deserving.  But I thought I'd make a special appeal for a couple of candidates whoa re likely to slip through the cracks and never get inducted if we don't understand WHY they're likely to get overlooked (and WHY they're such strong candidates). By the way, anyone who wants to write up a similar appeal for a favored candidate has only to tc or sitemail it to me (or become a blog author) and I'll run it.

The procedural reason to induct Cruz and Woolf this year

They're "older" candidates - closer to losing their HOF eligibility - than players like Payton, Westbrook (both of whom are in their 2nd year of eligibility), Hood et al.

I don't know how many years of eligibility they have left (trying to determine that), but it's safe to say less than the other candidates.

Why Cruz Is Easily Overlooked

He's totally unfamiliar.  He didn't play for anyone who is currently an owner in Major Leagues.  jwperry (CIN) drafted him #1 overall in Season 6 and traded him to the Yankees (mikeymel) in Season 8...and he spent his entire ML with the mikeymel Yankees.

Why Woolf Is Easily Overlooked

#1 - he played a long time ago - Seasons 1-19, so he's also unfamiliar.  #2 - he was a non-closer (for the most part) relief pitcher.  We tend to overlook SP's who don't roll up 200 wins or RP's who don't crack 400 saves.

Are Really HOF-Worthy?

As a voter, I'd disregard all the procedural/overlooked stuff if I didn't judge a candidate as a top player.  But for both of these guys, not only are their achievements transcendant on the surface, there are circumstances that make them even better than they seem.   Here's a summary for both as succinctly as I can make it:

Cruz:  10 All-Star Games, 4 2B GG's (5 overall), 6 2B Silver Sluggers and 2 CF Silver Sluggers.  And the career leader at "+" plays for 2B.  He was a non-steroid era hitter: our 3 HOF 2B (Scharein, Nakano and Davenport), all got some steroid-era boost to their hitting stats.  Cruz debuted in Season 10, 2 years after the last "Mini-Steroid" year.  If you look at Silver Sluggers as an indication of a player's hitting dominance at a position during an era, Cruz looks great as a hitter.  He won twice as many 2B Silver Sluggers as Scharein and Davenport combined.

Last thought on Cruz.  He was a career .840 OPS, defensive ace 2B. Freddie Lanning is a COF who just got a max FA contract at age 28.  Career OPS?  .845.  If Cruz was a free agent at age 28 today in Major Leagues, would he not get a max FA deal?

Last last thought on Cruz:  Mark Payton - 7 All-Stars, 3 Silver Sluggers, 0 Gold Gloves.  Sean Westbrook -  3 All-Stars, 1 Silver Slugger, 1 Gold Glove.  (10, 8, 5 for Cruz).

Woolf: the inverse of the Cruz problem - he was a pitcher who spent a huge chunk of his career in the Steroid era (and it's even worse than that - he pitched the first 3 seasons of his career in Colorado - NOT Colorado Springs - the wildest hitting park in the wildest 3 seasons of the wildest hitting era in our history).  And yet, his qualitative stats (OPS-against of .601 and WHIP of 1.12) are better than 5 of the 6 pitchers in the HOF (and most of them, with the exception of Nen, avoided the height of the steroid era).  He has a better absolute OPS-against than Smalley (.618), and Smalley completely missed the steroid era.

I don't know if my argument for Woolf will prevail, but I believe he has been the best reliever in Major Leagues history, and among the top 5 pitchers of all types in our history.

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