The next spot that came up had to go to Scott Rolen. He’s the fifth-best player on the ballot in terms of average WAR at 68.4 (his average between his fWAR, bWAR and WARP). His bWAR sits at 70.2 and that’s 1.8 bWAR higher than the average Hall of Fame third baseman. Besides Adrian Beltre, no other 3B that’s not in the Hall of Fame has a higher bWAR. He deserves a vote.
Spot #7 goes to Todd Helton. In terms of bWAR, he actually performed a little bit below average with a bWAR of 61.2 (average HOF 1B bWAR sits at 66.8). In his prime, though, he performed at an above average level for Hall of Fame first basemen. His WAR7 (best 7 seasons in terms of bWAR) was 46.5 while the average Hall of Fame first baseman has a WAR7 of 42.7. It’s the 10th-best WAR7 of anyone at his position and the only player with a higher WAR7 that’s not in the Hall of Fame is still playing (Albert Pujols).
The eighth spot goes to Andruw Jones. While he performed under the Hall of Fame average of 71.1 bWAR for center fielders at 62.8 bWAR, he was above average in terms of WAR7 (46.5 vs 44.5). He also was the best center fielder baseball has seen defensively, ranking first in dWAR at 24.4. In terms of DEF, which is FanGraphs’ measure of Defensive Runs Above Average, Jones ranks first among all outfielders in history at 278.8.
To demonstrate just how good that is, the next closest outfielder’s DEF is Willie Mays with 170.1. That gap of 108.7 is ridiculous as only seven outfielders in history, including Jones and Mays, have a DEF above 108.7. Strictly based off that, Jones needs to receive a vote.
Spot #9 goes to Billy Wagner. Relief pitchers are a different breed and a little tougher to measure. Many have additional WAR due to being converted from starters, so the numbers may look fairly different on the outset. Such is the case with Wagner whose bWAR of 27.7 is 11.4 bWAR below the Hall of Fame average of 39.1. Part of that is due to the ridiculous numbers of Mariano Rivera (56.2) and Dennis Eckersley (62.0).
The best benchmark to Billy Wagner is Trevor Hoffman, who was elected in 2018. Hoffman’s bWAR is essentially the same at 27.9. Wagner threw in nearly 200 less games but recorded 63 more strikeouts. Wagner also has an ERA+ of 187 compared to Hoffman’s 141. That 187 ERA+ ranks third all-time in terms of relievers. If Hoffman’s the benchmark, and he should be, Wagner should get the vote.
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Spot #10 was tough. Initially I would have voted Sheffield, but his bWAR of 60.5 is 11 off the pace of the average right fielder. Abreu falls short also and Sosa’s numbers are surprisingly low for a guy who hit 60 home runs or more three times from 1998-2001 (career OPS+ of 128 and bWAR of 58.6) and 609 total homers in his career.
Ultimately, I gave the spot to Manny Ramirez. He performed at an above average level for a left fielder at 69.4 bWAR (average left field HOFer is at 65.5). His OPS+ of 154 is remarkable and he possessed all the talent necessary to be a Hall of Famer.
His multiple failed performance drug tests put a bit of a stain on his career, though. However, if I’m OK with what Bonds and Clemens did, then I felt that I needed to provide somewhat of a similar doubt to Ramirez.
I’d be lying too if his role on the 2004 Red Sox didn’t influence my decision. His inclusion falls partly under the category of, “You can’t tell the game of baseball without telling this player’s story.” The 2004 playoff run from the Red Sox, and ultimately their historic comeback from 3-0 in the ALCS to the Yankees, is essential to the story of baseball in the 2000s and Manny’s presence was a large reason the Red Sox won. While not statistically important, that pushes Ramirez above the rest of the candidates I would leave off my ballot.
I tried to dig deeper into the case for Omar Vizquel as he continues to gain a lot of traction with voters as it’s a case that didn’t make much sense to me as there are obviously better players on the ballot. Sheffield, Abreu, Sosa and Kent would surely make more sense than Vizquel, whose bWAR of 45.6 is a full 21.4 WAR behind the pace of the average HOF shortstop. His calling card is his defensive skills. He won 11 Gold Gloves in his career and accumulated 29.5 dWAR, making him the seventh-best defensive shortstop in history.
That’s great and all, but his bat wasn’t strong enough to put him over the edge. His OPS+ of 82 is lackluster and his WAR7 of 26.8 has already been passed by Francisco Lindor (who’s played 2,251 less games than Vizquel). This is a different case than Andruw Jones who was historically good with his glove but also produced enough with his bat to perform close to an average Hall of Fame level. Vizquel is basically Trevor Story’s down year in 2017 as a slightly worse fielder in terms of dWAR. He is not a Hall of Famer in my eyes.