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This last Hall of Fame vote saw the worthy Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza gather the required number of votes necessary from the baseball writers for enshrinement. Three other players, all worthy of the honor in their own rite, Jeff Bagwell (71.6%), Tim Raines (69.8%) and first-timer Trevor Hoffman (67.3%) all received over 65 percent of the vote, thus making them strong candidates for enshrinement next year, with a pair of stars, Vladimir Guerrero and Ivan Rodriguez, making their initial presence on the ballot. However, the focus of this entry will be on one relief pitcher, who, like Hoffman, was on the ballot for the first time last year. This pitcher only received 10.5% of the writer’s vote. Was Trevor Hoffman really 57 percentage points better of a pitcher than Billy Wagner?

Hoffman and Wagner were the two finest firemen in the National League during the late 1990s and on into the 2000s. Their paths to the majors couldn’t have been any more dissimilar. Although Hoffman had Major League bloodlines—his brother Glenn was a shortstop for the Red Sox—he wasn’t taken until the 11th round by the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds were more interested in Trevor’s bat and he spent his first two years in their chain as a position player before transitioning to the mound. The Marlins took him in the expansion draft and quickly flipped him to San Diego for Gary Sheffield, where Hoffman would make a name for himself as an elite closer. Wagner, by contrast, was the twelfth overall selection by the Houston Astros in the 1993 draft. In his brief minor league career, Billy never once made a single relief appearance, having been groomed as a starter, only to settle into the Majors as a power closer.

What the Baseball Writers must have done was simply glance at the career saves totals of these two distinguished closers. Trevor Hoffman rests second on the all-time saves list behind Mariano Rivera with 601, while the southpaw Wagner is currently fifth with 422. With close to 180 more career saves, it’s little wonder that Hoffman received a higher percentage of the Hall of Fame vote. Throughout history, voters have been more impressed, especially in regards to pitchers, with career totals rather than dominance and excellence. Herb Pennock and Waite Hoyt were both serviceable Major League pitchers, whose high wins totals, thanks to pitching for the offensive juggernaut of the Ruth-powered Yankees, carried them to Cooperstown. Peers such as Charlie Root and Urban Shocker have better peripheral stats however. Few would argue that Tom Glavine, one of Atlanta’s three co-aces during their marvelous run, was a better pitcher than Pedro Martinez or Curt Schilling, even though his career wins totals dwarfs theirs, and he, not Schilling, is a member of the Hall of Fame.

Career totals should not be scoffed at, for a productive longevity is the mark of a quality player, but excellence in a trade, rather than sustained quality, seems to be a more modern standard. Some recent Cy Young Award winners have had lesser win seasons than their peers, but nevertheless, given their dominance in peripheral stats, they, not the quality starters on winning clubs, gather the award.

Both Wagner and Hoffman were selected to seven All-Star teams during their careers and each hurler enjoyed seven campaigns with a WHIP under 1.000. Hoffman gets extra credit points for leading the NL in saves on two separate occasions while Wagner never did lead the circuit in that category. However, when one peruses the stats that showcase a pitcher’s excellence: WHIP, strikeout-to-walk-ratio, strikeouts-per-nine-innings, etc., they see that Billy the Kid was the better pitcher.

Wagner is that rare gem whose career WHIP rests under 1.000. That, as far as pitching is concerned, is like having a lifetime batting average north of .330. Billy’s career WHIP is an impressive 0.998, which makes Hoffman’s terrific 1.058 career WHIP look rather pedestrian. Both men weren’t cut from the Jim Kern/Mitch Williams mold—racking up sizable strikeout totals to go along with massive base on bases totals, thus enabling them to have very impressive WHIPs. They coupled their power arms with solid control.

In 903 career innings pitched, Wagner only surrendered 601 hits and just 300 walks, which enabled him to be one of but a few pitchers to average less than one batter to reach first on average per inning during his career. Trevor Hoffman, by contrast, worked more innings at 1,089, but gave up 846 hits and issued 307 walks, allowing for a WHIP north of 1.000. And, although Hoffman worked more innings than Wagner, Billy the Kid amassed a greater total of career strikeouts: 1,196 for Wagner compared to 1,133 for Hoffman. Wagner’s strikeouts-per-nine-innings mark was an astounding 11.9; far superior to Trevor’s 9.4 mark. The former Astros closer thus ended his career with a 3.99-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio; handily better than Hoffman’s 3.69-to-1 showing.

Earned Run Average (ERA) is another stat of common focus, and in this regard, Wagner doesn’t just eclipse Hoffman by a marginal mark, but by a career showing greatly superior to Hoffman. Billy the Kid ended his career with a minuscule 2.31 ERA (he had five seasons with an ERA south of 2.00, including his final two seasons in the Majors) while Trevor’s 2.87 career ERA (with only two years of a sub 2.00 mark) hardly compares with Wagner’s brilliance in this regard.

In conclusion, the voters must have perused the career saves list and valued Hoffman much higher than Wagner, when Wagner was clearly the more dominant pitcher of the two. Personally, I think both men belong in the Hall of Fame. For whatever reason, relief pitchers tend to fizzle out quickly, despite their limited workloads, and those stoppers like Hoffman, Wagner and Mariana Rivera, and their Cooperstown-neglected forefathers Lee Smith and John Franco, who sustained excellence for many years, should, and I expect will, over time, acquire more respect from the voting populace.

With the 2016 Hall of Fame induction class set to be announced tomorrow, here’s a look at the players on this year’s ballot with my percentage prediction listed in parentheses:

Ken Griffey Jr. (94.8), Mike Piazza (84.4), Jeff Bagwell (73.7), Tim Raines (72.5), Curt Schilling (58.5), Trevor Hoffman (43.6), Barry Bonds (40.8), Roger Clemens (40.6), Mike Mussina (39.8), Alan Trammell (38.6), Edgar Martinez (37.5), Lee Smith (28.8), Billy Wagner (26.8), Larry Walker (24.4), Jeff Kent (17.7), Gary Sheffield (16.8), Fred McGriff (15.9), Mark McGwire (15.4), Jim Edmonds (6.2), Sammy Sosa (6.0)

Those I think won’t get the required 5% for future consideration: Nomar Garciaparra (who I see just barely missing 5%), Garret Anderson, Brad Ausmus, Luis Castillo, David Eckstein, Troy Glaus, Mark Grudzielanek, Mike Hampton, Jason Kendall, Mike Lowell, Mike Sweeney, Randy Winn.

Should a ballot been issued me, I would have selected Jeff Bagwell, Ken Griffey Jr., Trevor Hoffman, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Alan Trammell, Billy Wagner.

My bubble guys are Jim Edmonds; his power, OBP and defensive wizardry made me an instant fan. Bonds and Clemens, they both belong in the Hall of Fame, but I won’t lose sleep if they never get there. With two spots open on my ballot, I’d consider them, since they weren’t suspended for PED use, but that’s a story for another day. Mike Mussina keeps looking better the more I look at him. Larry Walker was a terrific talent, but there’s that Coors Field effect. Sheffield and Kent should get more support than they’ve seen, but each man wasn’t on the best of terms with the press, and you see how far that’s gotten Clemens and Bonds; two stars vastly superior to Jeff and Gary.

I was always a big fan of Fred McGriff, Brad Ausmus, Jason Kendall and Garret Anderson, but can’t champion them for the HOF, although I’d might, with two votes open, give a courtesy vote to a pair of those men.

 

Congratulations go out to Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre for their election to the baseball Hall of Fame, courtesy the ballot on Expansion Era figures.  The three former skippers were worthy of their induction, for few managers in the game’s history have reached 2,000 career wins, and all three men did just that.

On the ballot were former Reds shortstop Dave Concepcion, Cox, hit-machine Steve Garvey, durable southpaw Tommy John, LaRussa, former Athletics and Yankees manager Billy Martin, union head Marvin Miller, slugging outfielder Dave Parker, submarine closer Dan Quisenberry, switch-hitting Cardinals catcher Ted Simmons, longtime Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and Torre.

The panel of voters was allowed to cast five votes apiece, with only the three aforementioned managers receiving 75% of the vote.  Had a ballot been offered me, I would have cast votes for the three that were enshrined, and added checks beside the names of Ted Simmons and Dan Quisenberry.  Not only was Simmons one of the finest catchers of his era—he was a more reliable offensive performer than esteemed peers Bench and Fisk—but he is one of the best backstops of all-time.  With Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage in the Hall of Fame, their peer Dan Quisenberry, who was more effective than the two enshrined closers, would have also received a vote from my pen.

Since only five names could have been cast, I would have neglected slick-fielding shortstop Dave Concepcion.  Defense was his game but Davey handled a decent stick.  Steve Garvey and Billy Martin I consider to be fringe candidates, as well as George Steinbrenner, who, need I remind you, was reviled throughout the majority of his tenure.  Tommy John pitched a long time and has never struck me as Hall of Fame material, and had Dave Parker not experienced a mid-career meltdown, he would be a strong candidate for enshrinement, but he rests in the same category as Luis Tiant: players who excelled for years but had seasons in their “prime” when they were abysmal.

As for Marvin Miller, I motion that he be stricken from future consideration.  This motion will assuredly offend a great many, who feel his influence on the game of baseball was instrumental, but the Hall of Fame was erected to honor baseball legends, players and executives alike.  It was not constructed to honor lawyers, whose tie to the game was strictly of a legal manner.  Former scouts, groundskeepers, reconstructive surgeons, public address announcers, all have as much right as Marvin Miller for Hall of Fame consideration, yet who would want to waste one of the dozen spaces on the ballot for someone that neither played the game nor built a contending team?  Marvin Miller took a space on the ballot that should have gone to someone like Dwight Evans, Ron Guidry or Amos Otis.

 

If you watch MLB Network for five minutes, you’re bound to hear something quite stupid escape the lips of one of their analysts.  The other day, Mitch Williams was debating Jack Morris’s Hall of Fame qualifications, and regurgitated a concept I heard Harold Reynolds posit last year: that you shouldn’t focus too much on Jack’s peripheral numbers because he “pitched to the situation.”  They claimed that when Morris would get five or six runs, he might surrender four or five in return.  I’m sorry, but run support is a security blanket for pitchers, not an invitation to pitch poorly.

Before I get too much into this post, I should state how I dislike doing this: writing about how a former player doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame.  It’s difficult enough to get enshrined without scribes writing pieces about how you don’t belong there.  I always liked Jack Morris.  He seemed to me a fierce competitor with nothing but the utmost respect for the game of baseball, but if what Mitch and Harold say is true, then his “pitching to the situation” completely negates the “fierce competitor” analysis I had of Jack.

When people make a case for Morris they typically point to his wins.  He is the winningest pitcher of the 1980s, with more victories than any hurler from the years 1980 to 1989.  On wins alone, Morris would seem a lock for the Hall of Fame, but we’re no longer in the era of judging a pitcher based solely on his record.  Jack’s peripheral stats are anyhting but spectacular, and when I compare him to a number of his 1980s peers—all of whom are not on the Hall of Fame ballot—you’ll see just how modest of a career Mr. Morris had.  Let’s begin, shall we?

I have assembled of group of pitchers who pitched in the same decade as Morris, and will compare their peripheral stats (some of the most important stats) to see just how Jack measures up against his peers.  The attributes of a good pitcher are keeping runners off base and forbidding those you allow to reach from crossing the plate.  The pitchers I have chosen at random are a collection of solid pitchers, but hurlers the writers felt weren’t good enough to remain on the ballot.  They are: Doyle Alexander, John Candelaria, Danny Darwin, Ron Guidry, Orel Hershiser, Jimmy Key, Dennis Martinez, Rick Reuschel, Bret Saberhagen, Scott Sanderson, Mike Scott, Dave Stieb, Frank Tanana, Frank Viola and Bob Welch.

ERA (earned run average): Guidry (3.29), Candelaria (3.33), Saberhagen (3.34), Reuschel (3.37), Stieb (3.44), Welch (3.47), Hershiser (3.48), Key (3.51), Scott (3.54), Tanana (3.66), Martinez (3.70), Viola (3.73), Alexander (3.76), Darwin (3.84), Sanderson (3.84), Jack Morris, 3.90

WHIP (walks and hits allowed per inning): Saberhagen (1.141), Candelaria (1.184), Guidry (1.184), Scott (1.201), Key (1.229), Stieb (1.245), Sanderson (1.255), Hershiser (1.261), Martinez (1.266), Darwin (1.268), Tanana (1.270), Welch (1.270), Reuschel (1.275), Alexander (1.293), Jack Morris (1.296), Viola (1.301)

BB/9 (walks allowed per nine innings): Saberhagen (1.7), Candelaria (2.1), Sanderson (2.2), Key (2.3), Guidry (2.4), Reuschel (2.4), Alexander (2.6), Darwin (2.6), Martinez (2.6), Scott (2.7), Tanana (2.7), Viola (2.7), Hershiser (2.9), Welch (3.0), Stieb (3.2), Jack Morris (3.3)

SO/BB (strikeout to walk ratio): Saberhagen (3.64), Candelaria (2.83), Guidry (2.81), Sanderson (2.58), Scott (2.34), Key (2.30), Darwin (2.22), Tanana (2.21), Reuschel (2.16), Viola (2.13), Hershiser (2.00), Welch (1.90), Martinez (1.84), Jack Morris (1.78), Stieb (1.61), Alexander (1.56)

These statistics are crucial to good pitching, and when you judge Morris against his peers—those the writers view as inferior—you see that Morris was the worst of the crop.  Jack won a lot of games, like the pitchers of the Yankees juggernauts of the Ruth/Gehrig era, by pitching deep into games for high-powered teams.  Detroit of Morris’s tenure were typically among the American League’s highest run scoring teams.  In 1980, when Jack won 16 games, the Tigers led the Majors with 830 runs scored.  He went 17-16 in 1982 on a 4.06 ERA (handily the worst ERA among their starting pitchers: Dan Petry had a 3.22 mark, Milt Wilcox 3.62 and Jerry Ujdur 3.69).  His Tigers teams usually had strong bats capable of swatting the long ball.  Detroit paced the AL in homeruns as a team in 1984 while also leading the junior circuit with 829 runs.  In ’85, Detroit had one position player that failed to reach double-digits in dingers: Tom Brookens.  Morris had stars like Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Kirk Gibson and Chet Lemon hitting for him, and long ball threats like Lance Parrish and Darrell Evans slugging to beat the band.  With all that support, it’s little wonder that Jack won more games than any pitcher during the 1980s, even on his paltry peripheral stats.

Barry Larkin (70.5%), Jeff Bagwell (58.2%), Jack Morris (57.7%), Lee Smith (49%), Tim Raines (41.4%), Edgar Martinez (38.6%), Alan Trammell (26.8%), Larry Walker (25%), Fred McGriff (22.2%), Mark McGwire (21.8%), Rafael Palmeiro (19.3%), Bernie Williams (18.8%), Dave Parker (17.1%), Don Mattingly (15.1%), Dale Murphy (14.4%), Juan Gonzalez (6.2%), Javy Lopez (3.8%), Vinny Castilla (3.6%), Tim Salmon (2.6%), Bill Mueller (0.7%), Ruben Sierra (0.7%), Brad Radke (0.2%), Brian Jordan (0.2%), Terry Mulholland (0.2%), Joe Randa (0.2%), Eric Young (0.2%), Edgardo Alfonzo, Pedro Astacio, David Bell, Jeromy Burnitz, Scott Erickson, Carl Everett, Jeff Fassero, Alex S. Gonzalez, Danny Graves, Rick Helling, Dustin Hermanson, Jose Hernandez, Matt Lawton, Jeff Nelson, Phil Nevin and Jose Vizcaino (0%)

If my predictions are right, there won’t be a single former player inducted by the Baseball Writer’s next year.  The Veteran’s Committee might elect Ron Santo and there’s a chance Buzzie Bavasi, Jim Kaat, Gil Hodges and Minnie Minoso could get support, but I really only see Santo and Bavasi as strong contenders. 

Getting my vote, if I had one to submit, on the BBWAA ballot would be Jeff Bagwell and that’s it.  I see too many parallels between Larkin and Trammell–Barry outhit Trammell for average but their career numbers are quite close.  Why has Barry received so much support while Trammell has received so little?  I do, however, see many holdovers jumping up a bit in voting.  I think Bagwell will see a significant rise in his total but still fail to see him make the HOF next year.  Both Larkin and Jack Morris should rise with this extremely weak freshman crop, of which Bernie Williams looks to be the only holdover for 2013.  Juan Gonzalez might be the only holdover from last year to get bumped off the list, ala Harold Baines of last year, but the weak crop should benefit him–next year he might get shuttled off the ballot with a strong freshman class headed by Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa, Kenny Lofton and Steve Finley.

Available this winter, via McFarland Publishing, will be a unique book that combines baseball history with American war history.  Baseball’s War Roster, written and researched by Brett Kiser, gives biographical information on every former Major Leaguer known to have served in the military during time of war.  More on this book, my second volume, can be found at McFarland’s website, www.mcfarlandpub.com, by typing my name or the book’s title in the search engine on their website’s home page.