Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Obligatory Post on the 2018 Hall of Fame class


Chipper Jones at his retirement game.  Photo via lostthatsportsblog

Chipper Jones at his retirement game. Photo via lostthatsportsblog

Its January, so that means Hall of Fame Ballot time.  BBWAA Writers who were not completely disgusted by Joe Morgan‘s ridiculous letter to the writers should have mailed in their ballots by 12/31/17.

If you still care about Hall of Fame voting, then this post is for you.  Which I do … because its the only such career-recognizing institution for our sport … even if the people running the museum are tone-deaf morons who want to make it harder to get candidates in rather than easier  despite mounds of evidence that the 80s and 90s are vastly under represented in the Hall.  They continue to enrage rationalists by doing thins like shortening the time players are allowed on the ballot, refusing to expand the ballot to allow more candidates and most recently refusing to make all ballots public so dinosaurs can continue to be unaccountable for their awful voting decisions.

Here’s two key links for you, if you’re still reading:

  •’s 2018 ballot with stats
  • Ryan Thibodaux‘s online tracker of all HoF votes .  Which is great for those who do talk about their votes … but is tough to use as a predictor because generally the non-public votes are more in the Murray Chass category of voting; too few candidates and no consistency over who he picks.

My consideration of candidates, unlike my consideration of a lot of stuff, comes down more to “feel” than it does to stats.  I know Jay Jaffe  has his great JAWS thing that tries to do both peak and longevity.  I know has a bunch of metrics per player.  That’s all great.  But it isn’t the hall of stats, it isn’t the hall of WAR.  Its the hall of Fame.  Its the hall of marquee players from their day.  I cannot remember the pundit (perhaps Bill James or Joe Posnanski), but they said something to the effect of if the player didn’t “scare” you when he came to bat, or if you didn’t get excited when the pitcher took the mound … then odds are they weren’t a hall of famer.

I look at the players I’d vote for and … they’re the guys you paid money to see.  They’re the arms that were on the mound and you gave the opposing team little chance.  They’re the sluggers who you wanted up in the 9th inning of a tie game.  That’s what makes the game exciting and that’s the lens I like to use when judging players.  Yeah its subjective and partisan; so is every person voting in the BBWAA.

With my imaginary ballot, here’s how i’d vote.  Since there’s a (ridiculous) limit of 10 players per ballot, I’ll list these players in rough order of voting priority to start:

New to the 2018 Ballot Candidates:

  • Absolute Yes on Chipper Jones, Jim Thome
  • Less emphatic Yes for Scott Rolen
  • Slight pause to consider Andruw Jones, Omar Vizquel, Johan Santana
  • No on everyone else (though there are still some interesting names on that list)

Returning Ballot Candidates:

  • Absolute Yes on Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds
  • More tepid Yes on Vladimir GuerreroCurt Schilling,  Manny Ramirez, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Fred McGriff, Trevor Hoffman
  • Pass on Jeff Kent, Larry Walker, Gary Sheffield, Billy Wagner, Sammy Sosa

Discussions on my opinions from a hypocritical litmus test stand point:

  • Why support Hoffman but not Wagner?   Probably a fair question and probably not supported by stats when you compare all three guys together.  But that’s why its the “Hall of Fame” and not the “Hall of WAR” or the “Hall of Stats.”  Hoffman was more famous than these other relievers.  I always viewed Smith as a good-but-not-great reliever who compiled stats, and I viewed Wagner as an electric and under-rated closer without near the career accomplishments of Hoffman.
  • Why support McGriff/Guerrero but not Walker?  You can make the argument that Walker’s numbers were a product of Colorado … and you can make the alternative argument too.  I think for me the fact that Walker couldn’t reach even 400 homers while playing in the launching pad in Denver is an indictment of his career.  Walker was a fine hitter … but he never inspired the league wide “fear” that Guerrero and McGriff did.  He’s in the “Hall of Good” but not the “Hall of Fame” for me.  Also it is worth noting that McGriff finished his career with 493 homers, but missed months out of the 1994 season at his peak.  Had he eclipsed 500 homers … i think we’re having a different conversation about him.  These artificial numbers (300, 3000, 500) are pretty important to voters.  Guerrero himself was for a time absolutely “the best player in the game,” a title that I don’t think Walker can come close to claiming.
  • Why support Bonds and Ramirez but not Sosa?   Something about Sosa’s career just screams “artificial.”  He went from being a 35-home run hitter to a 66-home run hitter overnight, he has PED suspisions and a corked bat on his resume, and his skills disappeared as soon as testing became the norm.

So, if you include all firm Yeses and more tepid Yeses … I have 12 candidates.  Probably like everyone else who thinks like I do; too many guys for the ballot.  So who do you cut?  Probably I’d trim the ballot to 10 by cutting McGriff and Hoffman.  I keep Manny Ramirez on despite his positive tests because I don’t think there was a better RH hitter during the 1990s.   I support Clemens/Bonds because I just don’t see how you can have a museum that excludes a 7-time MVP winner or a 7-time Cy Young winner, no matter what you think they took or when.

Nats connected candidates:  excluding the Montreal guys, we have two down-ballot guys who will be lucky to get a single vote: Livan Hernandez and Brad Lidge.  So far, zero votes for either guy, no surprise there.

Quick thoughts on the BBHOF tracker results so far:

  • Bonds/Clemens nearing 70% on public ballots, and keep increasing.  I’m glad to see this.
  • Who the heck voted for Johnny Damon?
  • So far, 3 looking like total locks (Guerrero, Jones, Thome) with the odds of Hoffman also going in strong.
  • It seems like both Schilling and Mussina will drastically increase their vote totals this year, also a good thing.
  • I cannot believe how little support Rolen is getting.
  • Likewise, it looks like Andruw Jones may drop off the ballot!  that’s crazy; i realize he fell off a cliff, but he was among the best in the game for many years.
  • Somewhat surprised with Vizquel’s higher totals (28% as of this writing); no i don’t think he’s a HoFamer … but i do think he deserves some consideration.

Care to argue about the HoF?


14 Responses to 'Obligatory Post on the 2018 Hall of Fame class'

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  1. I would call the A. Jones and Rolen cases pretty similar–terrific defense and above-average offense. Jones faded earlier BUT hit 118 more homers, which is significant. Also significant is that while Rolen was well thought of defensively, some consider Jones the best defensive CF of all time. Rolen had more career WAR, as Jones faded early and badly, but sort the stats on BB-R by WAR7. A. Jones was only 0.2 behind Chipper at his peak, and ahead of everyone else on the list not named Bonds, Clemens, or Schilling. He was terrific at his peak.

    Thome would seem to be a lock, and he has great overall stats, but in some ways he sort of strikes me as a Blyleven. He was only an All-Star five times and only cracked top-5 MVP voting once, getting no higher than #4. His WAR7 is only 12th among those who are eligible, so he didn’t have an awesome peak.

    Bonds and Clemens are in their own special realm of purgatory. Schilling and Mussina deserve to get in eventually. I have no idea where the line is on relievers, but Hoffman was better than a lot of the guys who are already in.

    It’s hard for me to get too worked up about any of the others, several of whom were really, really good players in their prime. Most feared hitters of their times? Sheffield, Manny, and Vlad would certainly be on that list. And if DH is an actual position, Edgar was probably the best who has ever been (unless you count Eddie Murray as mostly a DH).


    4 Jan 18 at 2:08 pm

  2. If “closer” is a position, then so is DH.

    Todd Boss

    5 Jan 18 at 12:06 pm

  3. OK folks, I’m having severe offseason withdrawal. I feel sorry for the poor folks at MLBTR as they’ve got NOTHING to cover. Yes, I know this FA class isn’t sexy, but there are still a lot of good players out there without homes.


    10 Jan 18 at 8:01 am

  4. Yeah … i’ve had nothing even remotely interesting to write about.

    Dave Cameron leaving fangraphs after 10 years: this is kind of a sh ocker:

    Todd Boss

    10 Jan 18 at 1:23 pm

  5. Huge loss for FanGraphs. Also probably means the Nats won’t be pulling off anymore Trea/Ross trades with the Padres!


    10 Jan 18 at 2:26 pm

  6. yeah, pretty surprising to see him leave, although I like what the padres have been doing, and its an organization with a future. plus, supposed to be awesome place to live.

    As for the rest of it, it seems pretty clear that tony Clark got schooled in the recent CBA negotiations. Even though average salaries are up (~$4m), I can’t believe the MLBPA is happy with all of this.

    But whatever, let’s bring on the games. Or at least ST.


    10 Jan 18 at 3:32 pm

  7. Why wouldn’t/shouldn’t a team go after some of the brighter analytical talent out there? The guys at FanGraphs have now had some time to hone their skills and opinions and also to learn from each other, as well as from analysts both inside and outside of baseball. I imagine Cameron has quite a knowledge of how a lot of teams run their analytics departments.

    Yes, the new CBA is kicking the players’ butts. There are a combination of things going on. It’s a bad FA class, and Boras has some of the top players–the ones who need to come off the board to build the need and set the prices for others. Many of the contending teams are trying to stay under the luxury tax so they can spend big next year in the FA extravaganza. Plus there are a number of decent teams that don’t think they’re quite good enough to make it worth it to spend big–and they’re probably right.

    The Cubs HAVE to invest in pitching at some point, though, both starting and relief. Otherwise, they’re going to be wasting a prime year of their young lineup. They’re vulnerable to the Cards in the division if they don’t get more good arms, although the Cards need a couple of arms as well.

    But some team please do SOMETHING of note!


    11 Jan 18 at 9:40 am

  8. Are the guys at fangraphs among the brighter analytical minds? Or are they writers who have some knowledge about how to translate that world to normal people like us? I’d lean towards the latter.

    I listened to Cameron’s podcast, and he was pretty clear that he wasn’t a quant or someone who was going to develop these programs and algorithms. His job scope also was surprisingly less clear than I expected. he was definitely limited in what he could say, but there also seemed like a lot was up in the air.

    this slow market should play to Rizzo’s strong position. Meaning he ought to get a few quality bullpen or bench guys cheaply because they value the slot on the 25 man roster. Why would Albers get 2/$10m any more? maybe 1/$4m gets it done, with some of that as incentives.


    11 Jan 18 at 11:44 am

  9. You may be right about Cameron and his own analytical skills. However, you would think that he has talked with people in nearly every analytics office in baseball, has some overarching idea what they’re doing, and also knows who the real hot-shots are. We’ll see. I haven’t exactly been blown away by what Preller has done thus far, and that’s going to be a difficult division in which to make headway.

    The $197M question about the Nats is whether they’re going to go over the luxury tax. It sure seemed like they were ready to do so when they re-signed Kintzler, who was a nice-to-have, not a need. If nothing else, they still need a bench help. Adams, Goodwin, and Difo seem to be locks. Avila and Kendrick (who can play both INF and OF) would seem to be ideal fills for what they need. I’ll be very disappointed if they don’t upgrade over Severino and Raburn.

    If there’s a team with incentive to go over the luxury tax, it’s the Nats. You can’t totally say “screw 2019,” but the odds are that their chances to go deep into the postseason will be better in 2018. Bryce, Murph, and Gio may be on their last DC ride, and Max won’t be getting any younger.


    11 Jan 18 at 2:05 pm

  10. Cameron actually talked about that. Said it’s getting harder to steal analytical folks from other organizations because they are more highly valued.

    I’d love to see Kendrick and another good pen arm. But I like Severino and wouldn’t mind seeing get 200 PAs to see whether he can be relied on in 2019.

    Being over the luxury tax may also afffect the compensation they get for Harp and Murph leaving.


    11 Jan 18 at 2:27 pm

  11. I actually saw this being discussed over at TalkNats. Apparently, QO compensation picks would be sandwiched after Round 4 if the Nats are over the cap this season


    11 Jan 18 at 2:44 pm

  12. Comps picks for those guys don’t mean jack, particularly for Harper. They wouldn’t mean jack even if it was 1/25. Comp picks over pick 120 are just to make somebody feel good. They don’t add much talent or pool money.

    The Nats wouldn’t be worried about comp picks. They would be worried about taxes on FA signees for 2019. But will that be particularly active in that market? I don’t know. I don’t think the FA tax would apply to Harper if he were to re-sign before he hits the FA market, though. Otherwise, I can’t see them as big players for the truly big-ticket guys next offseason. So . . . go over the tax now and go for it, whatever going for it may mean.

    Not sold on Sevy at all. He was not good in 2017. Considering how bad Wieters was, and all the talk of keeping Wieters to only 90-100 starts, there’s got to be a competent hitter paired with him. That isn’t Severino.


    11 Jan 18 at 3:30 pm

  13. Why? They already project to score in the top 5 for runs? You don’t need a good hitter at every spot, and I think they literally do have good hitters everywhere else.

    C is one spot that a good defender can add value even without a good bat. Spend the remaining money elsewhere, is what I say.


    11 Jan 18 at 5:22 pm

  14. […] doing this post?  Basically as long as we’ve had the blog.  Here’s (by class) 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011.  Dunno what happened for the 2016 preview; must have […]

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