Print this page

If I Had a Vote in the 2021 Baseball Hall of Fame Election

If I Had a Vote in the 2021 Baseball Hall of Fame Election
23 Jan
2021
Not in Hall of Fame

Is this the year Curt Schilling makes it into the National Baseball Hall of Fame? Will Schilling be the only player elected to the Hall this year? After all the tumultuous voting activity of the 2010s, has voting for the Hall returned to "normal"?

Only a crystal ball, or the patience to wait until voting results for the 2021 Baseball Hall of Fame are announced on January 26, 2021, can give us the definitive answers, but of course that doesn't stop us from prognosticating before we learn the results.

For now, the short answers are:

1. Maybe.

2. Possibly.

3. Likely.

2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot: Executive Summary

And speaking of short answers, or at least short articles . . . I get it. We live in a time of tart tweets, pithy posts, lazy listicles, and related multi-page slideshows with big pictures and little text designed to maximize web-derived revenue with each and every click-through.

Moreover, with podcasts, everyone can be a performance star on YouTube, Zoom, or elsewhere even if that highlights performance deficiencies ("uh, uh, like, um, you know") more than posting text highlights writing deficiencies. Bottom line: No one reads beyond the absolute minimum any longer: "tl; dr": too long; didn't read.

So, with that in mind, I've summarized the takeaways in this article with this snapshot of the major points below.

Introduction

The ballot logjams of the 2010s appear to be over. The Baseball Hall of Fame, between the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) and the Today's Game and Modern Baseball Era Committees, has elected 27 candidates, both players and non-players, since 2014. This has eased those impacted ballots in previous years although there are still a large number of candidates returning from the 2020 BBWAA ballot who have Hall of Fame cases. However, none of the candidates new to the 2021 BBWAA ballot have Hall of Fame cases.

2021 Returning Candidates

There are 14 candidates returning from the 2020 BBWAA ballot: Bobby Abreu, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Andy Pettitte, Manny Ramirez, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa, Omar Vizquel, and Billy Wagner.

All 14 candidates experienced gains in vote totals in 2020. Curt Schilling received 70 percent of the vote last year and is the most likely candidate to be elected to the Hall of Fame on the 2021 BBWAA ballot. However, early polling does not look encouraging for him.


Schilling Curt 01
Tougher than a bloody sock. Curt Schilling's path to Cooperstown has been filled with obstacles, some he created for himself--but none that should keep him from election.

2021 First-Time Candidates

There are 11 first-time candidates on the 2021 BBWAA ballot: Mark Buehrle, A.J. Burnett, Michael Cuddyer, Dan Haren, LaTroy Hawkins, Tim Hudson, Torii Hunter, Aramis Ramirez, Nick Swisher, Shane Victorino, and Barry Zito.

None are Hall of Fame-caliber candidates, although Mark Buehrle and Tim Hudson have borderline cases.

My 2021 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

This is my hypothetical ballot since I am unlikely ever to become a BBWAA voter.

My Obligatory Rant on Performance-Enhancing Drugs (PED)

Performance-enhancing drugs (PED) are not an aberration of, or even a blight on, baseball. They are part of baseball history that is still with us today. Moreover, they are part of how the baseball industry operates, hiring players once they have served their suspensions.

Meanwhile, the baseball industry has produced PED enablers—managers, front-office executives, and the commissioner of baseball—who are now in the Hall of Fame. Furthermore, the BBWAA, which votes on Hall of Fame player candidates, voted awards such as Most Valuable Player and Cy Young to players it is now shunning for the Hall of Fame.

I do not discriminate against candidates suspected, proved, or rumored to have PED associations. They are a part of baseball history. Cheating is also a part of baseball history. The 2017 Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal, which saw the Astros go all the way to win the World Series in 2017, demonstrates that. You evaluate the baseball you have, not the baseball you wish you had.

Returning Candidate Whom I Do Not Think Is a Hall of Famer

Andy Pettitte (third year on ballot).

Hall of Fame-Worthy Returning Candidates I Didn't Vote for on This Ballot

There are 13 candidates, all of them returning candidates, I think are Hall of Famers. But since a voter can vote for a maximum of ten candidates, this puts me into strategic-ballot mode, or voting with contingencies. These include evaluating a candidate's voting history and how many years (of a maximum of ten years) he has before he is off the ballot.

So, although I consider these three candidates Hall-worthy, I would not vote for them on this ballot. Unlike many of the other candidates, they have time left on the ballot and have shown healthy enough voting totals thus far and are not likely to fall below the minimum of five percent needed to return to the 2022 ballot.

13. Omar Vizquel (fourth year on ballot).

12. Andruw Jones (fourth year on ballot).

11. Todd Helton (third year on ballot).

My Ten Votes for the Hall of Fame on This Ballot

10. Sammy Sosa (ninth year on ballot)

9. Manny Ramirez (fifth year on ballot)

8. Gary Sheffield (seventh year on ballot)

7. Bobby Abreu (second year on ballot)

6. Curt Schilling (ninth year on ballot)

5. Roger Clemens (ninth year on ballot)

4. Barry Bonds (ninth year on ballot)

3. Scott Rolen (fourth year on ballot)

2. Billy Wagner (sixth year on ballot)

1. Jeff Kent (eighth year on ballot)

Readers who want to read more about these quick takeaways are encouraged to do so. This article is organized in the following manner:

Page 1 (this page): Executive summary

Page 2: Introduction and returning candidates' assessment

Page 3: First-time candidates' assessment

Page 4: My (hypothetical) 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot

Page 5: Appendix: Players' statistics by position player, starting pitchers, and relief pitchers


 

2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot: Introduction

After what is surely the most abnormal season in baseball history, Hall of Fame voting does seem to have returned to "normal." At least for 2021. The 2010s, particularly from 2013 on, offered the most logjammed ballots since voting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) began in the mid-1930s as every year seemed to offer more qualified Hall of Fame candidates than voters, limited to a maximum of ten choices on their ballots, could actually vote for.

Exacerbating the squeeze was the decision by the Hall, effective for 2015 voting, to limit the amount of time a candidate can remain on the ballot from 15 years to 10 years. Combined with the limitation on the maximum number of candidates a voter can select, which is ten candidates, this limitation on the length of time a candidate can remain on the ballot has resulted in candidates squeaking into the Hall in their final year of eligibility, candidates falling off the ballot in that final year because of insufficient votes, and candidates falling off the ballot as early as their first ballot because of the logjam that prevented them from attaining the five-percent minimum need to stay on the ballot.

Fortunately, both the BBWAA and the veterans committees, specifically the Today's Game Committee and the Modern Baseball Era Committee, responded by electing a total of 27 players and six non-players to the Hall starting in 2014, with the BBWAA having elected 22 of those players. This has lightened ballots rolled over to subsequent voting years, although for 2021 there are 14 returning candidates, with just about every candidate owning a Hall of Fame case ranging from borderline to compelling.

However, of the 11 newly-eligible candidates debuting on the 2021 BBWAA ballot, none are likely to be voted into the Hall of Fame. This spells good news for the 14 returning candidates, all of whom experienced positive increases in their vote totals on the 2020 BBWAA ballot, which saw just two candidates elected to the Hall: Derek Jeter, a near-unanimous pick in his first year of eligibility, and Larry Walker, who snuck over the 75-percent threshold in his final year of eligibility—and you couldn't ask for a wider gap between election scenarios than that. Furthermore, of the 17 candidates who debuted on the 2020 BBWAA ballot, only Bobby Abreu managed to survive to this year's ballot as he mustered just over five percent of the vote to remain in contention.

Vizquel Omar

On the ball? With a lack of worthy first-time candidates in 2021, can returning candidates such as Omar Vizquel make significant progress toward the Hall of Fame?


Simply put, the 2021 BBWAA ballot is all about the returning candidates, with eight of them in their "decline phase" as, on this ballot, they have reached at least the halfway mark of their ten-year maximum on the ballot. Controversy remains with us, though, as among the returnees are candidates notorious for their association with performance-enhancing drugs (PED), most notably Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, with Andy Pettitte, Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield, and Sammy Sosa lined up behind them.

The PED issue will not only not go away, it will roar back to life with the 2022 ballot as Álex Rodríguez and, to an extent, David Ortiz make their debuts on a Hall of Fame ballot. Thus, the 2021 ballot is the calm before the storm, and not just because of PED. The 2022 ballot will mark the debut of several candidates with claims to the Hall of varying strength, making this ballot the most impacted of the next five years. (I have profiled the impact of newly-eligible players in the next half-decade in my article "Baseball Hall of Fame: Ballot Forecast 2021 to 2025".)

2021 Returning Candidates

The following 14 players have had at least one voting round and are returning for 2021: Bobby Abreu, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Andy Pettitte, Manny Ramirez, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa, Omar Vizquel, and Billy Wagner.

The table below displays voting percentages for the 14 returning players on the 2021 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, including the number of years on the ballot (includes the current year, 2021), their first year on the ballot, their projected final year (provided they receive at least five percent of the vote each year), their voting percentage in their first year, their voting percentage in their previous year of 2019 (if applicable), their voting percentage in their latest year, and their highest percentage. Listings are ranked by the candidates' latest voting percentage on the 2020 BBWAA ballot.

Voting Percentages for Returning Players on the 2021 BBWAA Ballot, Ranked by Latest Voting Percentage (2020 BBWAA Ballot)

Player

Years on Ballot*

Initial Year

Final Year

Initial Pct.

Previous (2019) Pct.

Latest (2020) Pct.

Highest Pct.

Schilling, Curt

9

2013

2022

38.8

60.9

70.0

70.0

Clemens, Roger

9

2013

2022

37.6

59.5

61.0

61.0

Bonds, Barry

9

2013

2022

36.2

59.1

60.7

60.7

Vizquel, Omar

4

2018

2027

37.0

42.8

52.6

52.6

Rolen, Scott

4

2018

2027

10.2

17.2

35.3

35.3

Wagner, Billy

6

2016

2025

10.5

16.7

31.7

31.7

Sheffield, Gary

7

2015

2024

11.7

13.6

30.5

30.5

Helton, Todd

3

2019

2028

16.5

16.5

29.2

29.2

Ramirez, Manny

5

2017

2026

23.8

22.8

28.2

28.2

Kent, Jeff

8

2014

2023

15.2

18.1

27.5

27.5

Jones, Andruw

4

2018

2027

7.3

7.5

19.4

19.4

Sosa, Sammy

9

2013

2022

12.5

8.5

13.9

13.9

Pettitte, Andy

3

2019

2028

9.9

9.9

11.3

11.3

Abreu, Bobby

2

2020

2029

5.5

NA

5.5

5.5


* Includes current year (2021).

The good news: All 14 returning candidates received an increase in voting totals, this most likely arising from the easing of the ballot logjams of the 2010s.

The better news: For Curt Schilling, who ten years ago I noted would be a problematic Hall of Fame candidate (and having nothing to do with social media), his 9.1-percent increase, while not as dramatic as other candidates' increases, is heartening. With 70 percent of the vote last year, he seems poised to cross the threshold into Cooperstown this year on a ballot with no new Hall-worthy candidates. However, early voting results revealed publicly show only incremental progress for Schilling, who may have to wait another year before preparing an induction speech. After this year, Schilling has only one more year left on the BBWAA ballot.

The only other returning candidate within striking distance is Omar Vizquel, and even his 52.6 percent, a 9.8-percent jump, suggests that he is still building his case as his initial percentage was right about where Schilling's was when he debuted.

The encouraging news: The most dramatic jump was by Andruw Jones, who hovered near the minimum threshold his first two appearances before nearly tripling his vote total last year. Jones still has a long way to reach 75 percent, but that spike is still encouraging. Scott Rolen nearly doubled his vote total, and in three votes he finds himself nearly halfway to 75 percent as he is building a successful constituency.

Jones Andruw
Playing catch-up. With an easing of the ballot logjam, returning candidates such as Andruw Jones are seeing an uptick in their voting totals. Will the trend continue in 2021?


At the halfway point in his eligibility time, Billy Wagner has reached the 30-percent mark, providing guarded optimism as the relief pitcher hopes to build on the recent influx of relievers into the Hall to make his own case. Similarly, Todd Helton should take heart in his near-doubling of support in just two appearances on the ballot—after spending his entire career with the Colorado Rockies, he might be overcoming the "Coors Effect" bias.

The curious news: And while Gary Sheffield more than doubled his voting percentage after six years on the ballot, he is a crucial fulcrum for several candidates not yet mentioned. Sheffield is tarred with the PED brush, and this leap into the 30-percent tier is both surprising and atypical. None of the other PED-associated candidates—Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Manny Ramirez, and Sammy Sosa—made more than incremental increases on the 2020 ballot.

Whether Sheffield is adjusting to his expected level of support or is actually making a move toward induction hinges on the voting support he receives on this ballot. Because what has become clear is that candidates with pronounced PED associations—most notably Bonds, Clemens, and Sosa, who have survived eight votes already—are unlikely to receive sufficient support to be voted into the Hall of Fame.

The not-so-encouraging news: As for Jeff Kent, whose induction I also advocated for a decade ago, although he moved from the mid-teens to the mid-twenties in percentage voting for the first time, he must triple his voting support in the three years he has left on the ballot to gain the 75 percent of the votes he needs for the Hall. Whether Kent's campaign will take the successful course of Edgar Martinez, Tim Raines, or Larry Walker, all of whom were voted into the Hall in their final year on the ballot, or the course of Jack Morris, Lee Smith, or Alan Trammell, all of whom did not enter Cooperstown on their final ballot, depends on how much support he gets on the 2021 ballot. Morris, Smith, and Trammell were ultimately elected to the Hall by the veterans committees, which may be the only mechanism to elect Kent (or Fred McGriff, eliminated on the 2019 ballot).

The guarded news: Bobby Abreu managed to garner enough support on the 2020 ballot to return this year. The lack of newly-eligible candidates on this ballot helps Abreu, whose case is built on longevity and sabermetrics, but by the same token he is also competing with his fellow returnees, more than half of whom have passed the halfway mark in their ballot tenure and are more likely to receive greater attention by voters.

To prognosticate: Curt Schilling has the greatest probability of being elected to the Hall of Fame on the 2021 BBWAA ballot—although that is by no means a certainty. Omar Vizquel will likely reach the 60-percent tier, with Scott Rolen and Billy Wagner probably moving up to the 40-percent tier and possibly the 50-percent mark. Todd Helton and Andruw Jones could also receive 10-percent bumps, while Jeff Kent, who must begin to make significant increases, could reach the mid-30s or even the 40-percent mark.

As for the PED penitents, Gary Sheffield's surprising leap in 2020 is the wild card that might apply only to him, and it might have been just an anomaly. None of the PED penitents are likely to make any significant headway. The 2021 ballot is probably the best opportunity for all of them, especially Bonds, Clemens, and Sosa, who have just two more chances on a BBWAA ballot, to make a significant increase—the 2022 ballot and the debut of Álex Rodríguez is sure to ignite the furor that began in 2013, when all three debuted themselves.

Having summarized the returning candidates, let's turn now to the first-time candidates on the 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot.




 

2021 First-Time Candidates

Making their debut on the 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot are the following 11 candidates: Mark Buehrle, A.J. Burnett, Michael Cuddyer, Dan Haren, LaTroy Hawkins, Tim Hudson, Torii Hunter, Aramis Ramirez, Nick Swisher, Shane Victorino, and Barry Zito.

All 11 are fine players, and some had moments of excellence during their careers: Buehrle pitched two no-hitters, one a perfect game; Cuddyer led the National League in batting in 2013; Hunter won nine consecutive Gold Glove Awards; and Zito aced Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez out of the American League Cy Young Award in 2002. But none stand out as being Hall of Fame-caliber players over the course of their careers, although I identify Buehrle and Hudson as borderline candidates in my "Ballot Forecast 2021 to 2025".

Below are individual profiles of the 11 new candidates, grouped by position players, starting pitchers, and relief pitchers. Common advanced statistics used in the profiles are listed below. Fuller descriptions of these specific statistics can be found in the Page 5: Player Statistics appendix under the various tables containing statistical information on all the players—position players, starting pitchers, and relief pitchers—on the 2021 ballot, both returning and newly eligible this year.

WAR: Wins Above Replacement value, with variants including fWAR, FanGraphs' version, and bWAR, Baseball Reference's version, which is used to calculate oWAR (WAR for offensive value only) and dWAR (WAR for defensive value only).

JAWS: Jaffe WAR Score System, derived from bWAR and used to rank players at their primary positions.

OPS: On-base percentage plus slugging percentage.

OPS+: OPS that is league- and park-adjusted and indexed to 100, with 100 indicating a league-average hitter.

Slash line: Grouping of a hitter's batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS.

ERA+: Earned run average that is league- and park-adjusted and indexed to 100, with 100 indicating a league-average pitcher.

FIP: Fielding-independent pitching, analogous to ERA but using only a pitcher's strikeouts induced and walks and home runs allowed.

WHIP: Walks and hits per innings pitched.

Position Players Newly Eligible in 2021

Of the five position players making their debut on a BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot in 2021, the two most notable are Torii Hunter and Aramis Ramirez. Hunter combined power, speed, and defense while Ramirez could mash for both power and average. However, neither are likely to receive enough votes to return next year. And given all the returning candidates on the ballot, Michael Cuddyer, Nick Swisher, and Shane Victorino are not likely to receive any votes.

Michael Cuddyer

Winning the National League batting title with the Colorado Rockies in 2013, his age-34 year, marks the culmination of Michael Cuddyer's career, a good-hitting right fielder who also started at least 150 games at both first- and third base and in fact started at least four games at every position except shortstop, catcher, and pitcher—although he did pitch one scoreless inning for the Minnesota Twins in 2011. But in a 15-year career, the right-hander played in just 1536 games as his career was dogged by injuries; he played in 150 or more games in a season just three times.

Career highlights: Selected for two All-Star teams. Won one Silver Slugger Award. Led the National League in batting average once. Had six years with 150 or more hits. Had eight years with 25 or more doubles, and five years with 30 or more doubles. Had four years with 20 or more home runs.

Career summary: The ninth overall pick by the Minnesota Twins in 1997, Michael Cuddyer didn't reach the Major Leagues until 2001, his age-22 year, and he didn't see action in 100 or more games until 2004 as he shuttled primarily between second and third base. It wasn't until 2006, his age-27 year, that Cuddyer, now the Twins' starting right fielder, experienced a full season as a starter. He posted a .284/.362/.504/.867 slash line, generating a 124 OPS+, with 158 hits including a career-best 41 doubles and 24 home runs while scoring 102 runs and knocking in 109 runs, the only time he reached the century mark in those last two categories. His numbers dipped slightly the following year, and in 2008, he was limited to just 71 games.

Cuddyer did return strongly for 2009, and for the three-year stretch between 2009 and 2011, his last three years in Minnesota, he posted a .276/.341/.465/.806 slash line, good for a 117 OPS+, as he averaged, per year, 150 games played, 636 plate appearances, 159 hits, 33 doubles, 22 home runs, 85 runs scored, and 82 RBI. In 2011, Cuddyer was named to his first All-Star team. After the 2011 season, he signed a three-year, $31.5 million contract with the Colorado Rockies.

Limited to 101 games in 2012, Cuddyer didn't make a big impression in his first year in Colorado, but by 2013, he slammed out a career-high .331/.389/.530/.919 slash line, good for a career-best 136 OPS+, leading the National League in hitting as he collected 162 hits including 31 doubles and 20 home runs while scoring 74 runs and driving in 84 runs. Making his second All-Star squad, Cuddyer also picked up a Silver Slugger Award. Cuddyer was not immune from the "Coors Effect" as he hit much better in Denver, although his .311/.367/.485/.852 slash line in 70 games and 289 plate appearances on the road was hardly mediocre.

However, Cuddyer was down to just 49 games in 2014, although he managed to hit for the cycle that season, the second time in his career that he had done so, and with his first cycle coming with the Twins in 2009, he became just the third player to accomplish the feat in both the American and National Leagues. Cuddyer signed with the New York Mets for the 2015 season, which saw him reach his only World Series; he struck out in all three at-bats he had against the victorious Kansas City Royals, although in 28 postseason games over his career, he did bat .306 with five extra-base hits, five runs scored, and eight RBI. Michael Cuddyer announced his retirement shortly afterward.

Verdict: In 15 seasons, Michael Cuddyer amassed just 17.7 bWAR, and his JAWS ranking puts him at 146th among right fielders all-time. Cuddyer was inducted into the Minnesota Twins' Hall of Fame in 2017. He won't be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Torii Hunter

Patrolling the outfield for the Minnesota Twins with a potent combination of power, speed, and especially defense, Torii Hunter looked to be one of baseball's best center fielders during his heyday. Starting in 1997, Hunter spent 12 of 19 seasons in Minnesota, and by 2001 he was installed as the Twins' starting center fielder, winning seven of his nine consecutive Gold Gloves in the Twin Cities. He departed to spend five seasons with the Los Angeles Angels and two with the Detroit Tigers before returning to Minnesota for his final season in 2015.

Career highlights: Named to five All-Star teams. Finished in the top ten for American League Most Valuable Player voting once. Won nine consecutive Gold Glove Awards. Won two Silver Slugger Awards. Had nine years with 30 or more doubles, eight years with 150 or more hits, five years with 25 or more home runs, and two years with 100 or more runs batted in. Ranks 66th all-time in doubles (498; tied with Hall of Famer Al Kaline) and 92nd all-time in home runs (353).

Hunter Torii
Swinging for the fences, Torii Hunter combined speed, power, and Gold Glove defense. But will that combination land him a Hall of Fame berth?

Career summary: Making a solitary appearance as a pinch-runner in 1997, Torii Hunter moved slowly through the ranks of the Minnesota Twins' roster, getting into 135 games, with 113 starts in the outfield including 90 starts in center field, two years later. By 2001, the right-hander had become the Twins' starting center fielder, rapping out a .261/.306/.479/.784 slash line with 32 doubles, 27 home runs, and 92 runs driven in as he won his first Gold Glove Award. He was even better the following season, his age-26 year, with a .289/.334/.524/.859 slash line, generating a 124 OPS+, with 162 hits, 37 doubles, 29 home runs, 89 runs scored, 94 RBI, and a career-best 23 stolen bases as he made his first American League All-Star team and finished sixth in Most Valuable Player voting.

In his seven years as the Twins' full-time center fielder, Hunter established a .272/.326/.484/.810 slash line, good for a 110 OPS+, as he averaged, per year, 146 hits, 32 doubles, 25 home runs, 82 runs scored, 90 runs driven in, 16 stolen bases, and 3.8 bWAR. In 2008, his age-32 year, he left for greener pastures with a five-year, $90 million deal from the Los Angeles Angels. While with the Angels, which saw him transition to right field, Hunter won his first Silver Slugger Award in 2009. During his five-year tenure with Los Angeles, Hunter posted a .286/.352/.462/.814 slash line, generating a 122 OPS+, as he averaged, per year, 154 hits, 29 doubles, 21 home runs, 79 runs scored, 86 RBI, 12 stolen bases, and 4.1 bWAR while being named to two All-Star teams.

Following his stint with the Angels, Hunter spent two years with the Detroit Tigers starting in 2013, his age-37 season, and making a strong impression with a .304/.334/.465/.800 slash line and 115 OPS+ as he banged out a career-high 184 hits with 37 doubles, 17 home runs, 90 runs scored, and 84 runs knocked in. He earned his second Silver Slugger Award while making his fifth All-Star squad, ensuring that he was an All-Star with every team he played for. Ending his career back where he began, Hunter spent 2015, his final, age-39 season, with the Twins, and although he dipped below league-average with a 91 OPS+, he still logged 567 plate appearances and hit 22 home runs, the first time in four years he notched 20 or more.

A solid two-way outfielder in his prime, Torii Hunter never led the American League in any offensive or defensive category. And despite his highlight-reel outfield plays, defensive metrics have not been kind to him. He does have 36 defensive runs saved (DRS) as a center fielder, where he started 1492 games, but as he slowed up and moved to right field, he accrued a minus-13 DRS in 704 starts, dropping him to 23 DRS as an outfielder overall. Runs above average is even more unforgiving, assessing him at a minus-38 overall for play in both center- and right field.

Verdict: JAWS ranks Torii Hunter at 34th among all center fielders, eleven slots below Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett, Hunter's predecessor in center field for the Twins, and considering that Puckett was a charitable Hall of Fame pick, Hunter may garner a few votes initially but not enough to survive his inaugural ballot.

Aramis Ramirez

In his 18-year career, spent entirely in the National League Central Division, third baseman Aramis Ramirez swung the lumber consistently hard to become a reliable run-producer primarily for the Chicago Cubs, although he got his start with the Pittsburgh Pirates and finished with the Milwaukee Brewers. The right-handed slugger amassed 2303 hits, tied with Hall of Famer Dan Brouthers for 155th place, but he finished within the top 100 all-time in doubles, home runs, total bases, and runs batted in. Moreover, he could hit for average, as demonstrated by his career .283 batting average.

Career highlights: Named to three All-Star teams. Finished in the top ten for National League Most Valuable Player three times. Won one Silver Slugger Award. Led the NL in sacrifice flies twice and in doubles once. Had eight years with 150 or more hits. Had ten years with 30 or more doubles, six of them consecutively, and three years with 40 or more. Had ten years with 25 or more home runs, six of them consecutively, and four years with 30 or more. Had seven years with 100 or more runs batted in, three of them consecutively. Had six years with a batting average of .300 or better (in years when he was qualified for a batting title). Ranks 65th in career home runs (386), 70th in career doubles (495; tied with Hall of Famer Frank Thomas), 73rd in career runs batted in (1417), and 90th in career total bases (4004).

Career summary: Aramis Ramirez was still a teenager when he signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1994, and four years later, his age-20 year, he was in the Major Leagues. He saw limited action until he became the Pirates' starting third baseman in 2001, playing in 158 games and making a splash with a .300/.350/.536/.885 slash line, good for a 122 OPS+, as he banged out a career-high 181 hits including 40 doubles and 34 home runs while scoring 83 runs and driving in 112 runs. However, Ramirez cooled considerably the following year, and although he rebounded in 2003, his age-25 year, he was still dealt to the Chicago Cubs by the trading deadline.

With the Cubs, Ramirez came into his own as a power hitter. In the eight full seasons he played third base for Chicago, marred only by a half-season in 2009 as he dislocated his shoulder, Ramirez hammered out a .297/.359/.533/.892 slash line, generating a 128 OPS+, as he averaged, per year, 556 plate appearances, 148 hits, including 31 doubles and 28 home runs, 78 runs scored, and 96 RBI. During that stretch, he was named to two All-Star teams, finished in the top ten for National League Most Valuable Player voting twice, and won his only Silver Slugger Award.

Ramirez Aramis
Hitting for power and average, Aramis Ramirez consistenly terrorized the National League Central for his entire career. But is that enough to lift him into the Hall of Fame?


During the infamous 2003 "Steve Bartman" NL Championship Series against the Florida Marlins—which saw the Cubs, in a potentially series-clinching Game Six at Wrigley Field with a 3–0 lead going into the eighth inning, collapse and allow the Marlins to score eight runs after a fan spoiled left fielder Moises Alou's attempt to catch a foul ball—Ramirez batted just .231, but four of his six hits were for extra bases, three home runs and a triple, as he scored four runs and knocked in seven.

Signing a three-year, $36 million contract with the Milwaukee Brewers for the 2012 season, his age-34 year, Ramirez again impressed his new employers by leading the NL in doubles (50) as he tattooed a .300/.360/.540/.901 slash line, generating a 136 OPS+, with 171 hits and 27 home runs while he scored 92 runs and drove in 105 runs. His production practically duplicated what he had done in Chicago the previous year, indicating his steady, consistent hitting. But injuries began to hamper him in 2013, which saw him play just 92 games, and although he recovered somewhat the following year, Ramirez was in his decline phase and he retired after 2015 following a mid-season return to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

An excellent hitter, both for power and for average, throughout his career, Aramis Ramirez lacked the other three tools in the five-tool kit box. He was a defensive liability at third base, committing 244 career errors, 55th all-time among third basemen, while he generated a minus-60 in defensive runs above average and a minus-70 in defensive runs saved; his –5.8 dWAR includes the two-point bump he gets for playing third, which he did for 2092 starts. He stole 29 bases in 47 attempts, a 61.7 percent success rate. And he grounded into 233 double plays, 56th all-time.

Verdict: Of the five first-time position players on the 2021 Hall of Fame ballot, Aramis Ramirez has the best case as an offensive player, landing in the top 100 all-time in key hitting categories. However, he was not an elite hitter, and hitting was his one distinction. JAWS ranks Ramirez 62nd all-time among third basemen, and although he might get a smattering of votes, he won't return next year.

Nick Swisher

Nick Swisher was auspicious even before he stepped onto a Major League diamond. First, his father is Steve Swisher, who caught for three National League teams from 1974 to 1982. Next, he received prominent mention in Michael Lewis's landmark 2003 book Moneyball as the kind of player general manager Billy Beane was looking for. Fittingly, the switch-hitter was the Oakland Athletics' first-round draft pick in 2002, compensation for the loss of Johnny Damon to the Boston Red Sox. By 2004, Swisher was in the Majors for a 12-year career as a solid right fielder who could get on base and hit for power, first with the A's, and then with the New York Yankees as part of the 2009 World Series-winning Bronx Bombers.

Career highlights: Named to one All-Star team. Won a World Series championship with the New York Yankees in 2009. Had six years with 30 or more doubles, four of them consecutively. Had nine consecutive years with 20 or more home runs, and three years with 25 or more home runs. Had four years with 90 or more walks.

Career summary: Drafted in the first round by the Oakland Athletics in 2002, Nick Swisher debuted in the Major Leagues two years later, and by 2005, his age-24 year, he was playing in right field, hitting 32 doubles and 21 home runs while driving in 74 runs. His 2006 season saw Swisher deliver career highs in home runs (35), runs scored (106), and runs batted in (95) as he got on base at a .372 clip and slugged .493. Following a trade to the Chicago White Sox for the 2008 season, Swisher floundered, with his 93 OPS+ the only time in nine consecutive seasons in which he was title-qualified that he did slip below the league-average of 100.

However, a late-2008 trade to the New York Yankees rejuvenated Swisher, who hit 35 doubles, 29 home runs, scored 84 runs and knocked in 82 runs as he helped the Yankees to their 2009 World Series victory. For a nine-year period, from 2005 to 2013, Swisher delivered a slash line of .255/.358/.463/.821, good for a 118 OPS+, as he averaged, per year, 134 hits, 30 doubles, 25 home runs, 83 runs scored, and 81 runs driven in. Swisher made his only All-Star squad in 2010, with the Yankees, as he banged out a .288/.359/.511/.870 slash line and netted career highs in hits (163), batting average (.288), total bases (289), slugging percentage (.511), OPS (.870), and OPS+ (129).

During his nine-year peak, Nick Swisher was a solid lineup fixture for the A's, for the Yankees, with whom he played four seasons, and for the Cleveland Indians in the first of two full seasons he played in Cleveland. Nevertheless, Swisher averaged 2.8 bWAR over that peak period, a strong starting player but never an elite one, and when injuries began to dog him starting in 2014, Swisher was soon to be leaving the Major Leagues.

Verdict: Nick Swisher fared much better in the Major Leagues than his father Steve, a backup catcher who improbably made the 1976 National League All-Star team. But Nick Swisher's career 21.4 bWAR, which is actually lower than his JAWS of 22.4, places him 101st all-time among right fielders. Although well-liked by fans during his career, Nick Swisher, whose 1373 career strikeouts rank 116th, is very likely to go down swinging on his only Hall of Fame ballot.

Shane Victorino

Born and raised on Maui, Shane Victorino stole 231 bases in his 12-year career and had three consecutive years with ten or more triples, and thus it was inevitable that he would become known as the "Flyin' Hawaiian" while he patrolled center field for the Philadelphia Phillies for eight seasons. The switch-hitter was part of the Phillies team that brought Philadelphia its second World Series victory in 2008, the same year that saw Victorino win the first of four Gold Glove Awards for his defensive play. Victorino was best-known for his tenure with the Phillies, but he also spent time with four other teams, notably the Boston Red Sox, with whom he won another World Series in 2013.

Career highlights: Named to two All-Star teams. Won two World Series championships. Won four Gold Glove Awards. Led the league in triples twice and in hits by pitch once. Had four years with 150 or more hits and with 30 or more stolen bases, three years with ten or more triples, and two years with 30 or more doubles and with 100 or more runs scored.

Career summary: Initially drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1999, Shane Victorino took an arduous path to the Major Leagues that included a brief, inauspicious debut with the San Diego Padres in 2003, but by 2005 he landed with the Philadelphia Phillies. Over the next two seasons he shuttled between center field and right field, stealing a career-high 37 bases in 2007, but by 2008 he was fully installed in center. Rapping out a .293/.352/.447/.799 slash line, Victorino collected 167 hits, including 30 doubles, eight triples, and 14 home runs while stealing 36 bags and scoring 102 runs as a table-setter for the Phillies' big bats that took them to their World Series victory, with Victorino flashing leather on defense with his first Gold Glove.

Four a four-year stretch, from 2008 to 2011, over which he posted a 111 OPS+, Victorino notched a .281/.348/.452/.800 slash line as he averaged, per year, 161 hits, 30 doubles, 12 triples, 15 home runs, 28 stolen bases, 96 runs scored, and 4.2 bWAR. During that time, he was selected to two National League All-Star squads and won three consecutive Gold Gloves while leading the Major Leagues in triples in 2009 (13) and 2011 (a career-best 16).

In 2012, Victorino was traded at the July deadline to the Dodgers, and by the 2013 season, his age-32 year, he was in Boston after inking a three-year, $39 million deal with the Red Sox. In his last season as an above-league-average hitter (118 OPS+), Victorino produced his best single-season bWAR, 6.0, as he slapped out a .294/.351/.451/.801 slash line with 140 hits including 26 doubles, 15 home runs, 21 stolen bases, 82 runs scored, and, painfully, an American League-leading 18 hits-by pitch in 122 games and 532 plate appearances, collecting his fourth Gold Glove and second World Series ring. Although he managed just two hits in 13 at-bats against the St. Louis Cardinals in the Series, both of them came in the clinching Game Six, including a three-run double in the third inning to spark the Sox to a 6–1 victory.

Injuries that forced Victorino to bat right-handed exclusively after 2013 finally pushed him to retire after the 2015 season, his last year in the Major Leagues; Shane Victorino made the announcement formally in 2018.

Verdict: Ranked 74th all-time among center fielders by JAWS, Shane Victorino might get a fond acknowledgement vote for his time in Philadelphia but will not return in 2022.

Starting Pitchers Newly Eligible in 2021

Of the five starting pitchers newly eligible on the 2021 ballot, only Mark Buehrle and Tim Hudson had careers notable enough to warrant sustained attention, although Barry Zito made an auspicious start to his career during his tenure with the Oakland Athletics before an equally auspicious contract with the San Francisco Giants overvalued his worth as a starter. Dan Haren was an underrated, sometimes excellent starter who wore eight Major League uniforms over his 13-year career, while A.J. Burnett seemed to be a big gun who never got uncorked consistently to become the staff ace.

Mark Buehrle

Soft-tossing southpaw Mark Buehrle spent three-quarters of his 16-year career with the Chicago White Sox, winning the World Series with them in 2005. Buehrle won 214 games including at least 10 wins in 15 consecutive seasons, pitched two no-hitters including a perfect game, and had 14 consecutive seasons with at least 200 innings pitched, tying him with Greg Maddux, Christy Mathewson, and Phil Niekro, all of whom are in the Hall of Fame.

Career highlights: Named to five All-Star teams. Won a World Series championship in 2005 with the Chicago White Sox. Won four Gold Gloves. Finished in the top five for Cy Young Award voting once. Led the league in innings pitched twice and games started once. Had fifteen consecutive years with 10 or more wins, and six years with 15 or more wins. Had just one losing season in a 16-year career. Had 15 consecutive years with 30 or more starts. Had 14 consecutive years with 200 or more innings pitched.

Career summary: Beginning his career with the Chicago White Sox in 2000, Mark Buehrle made 25 of 28 appearances from the bullpen; he then went on to 490 consecutive starts for the rest of his 16-year career. Getting named to his first All-Star squad in 2002, when he won a career-high 19 games against 12 losses, Buehrle got his only top-five finish for the American League Cy Young in 2005, when he won 16 and lost only eight while leading the AL in innings pitched (236.2) and netting the second of five All-Star nods—and of course going onto to win the World Series.

In April 2007, the southpaw no-hit the Texas Rangers, allowing just one walk to Sammy Sosa, whom he then picked off at first base. Buehrle then made it a true clean slate two years later when he hurled a perfect game at the Tampa Bay Rays, a feat that again put him in some rarefied company: By pitching a no-hitter and a perfect game, and winning a World Series, all with one team, the Chicago White Sox, Buehrle joined Cy Young and Sandy Koufax as the only pitchers ever to have done so. He made history again in 2010 when, having won the second of four consecutive Gold Gloves, he became the only pitcher with multiple no-hitters and multiple Gold Gloves.

In 2011, his age-33 season, Mark Buehrle signed a four-year, $58 million contract with the Miami Marlins. In his first and only year in the National League, he was solid if unremarkable, posting a 13–13 win-loss record with a 3.74 ERA before being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for the 2012 season, with whom he finished his career after the 2015 season. In Toronto, he made his last All-Star team in 2014, a year that saw him win 13 games against ten losses while posting a 3.39 ERA, his lowest ERA since 2005. In his age-36 season in 2015, Buehrle finished in fine style, winning 15 games, the most since 2008, while losing only eight as he led the Majors in complete games with four, bringing his career total to 33, including the tenth and last shutout of his career, although he fell one and a third innings short of his 15th consecutive season with at least 200 innings pitched.

Buehrle Mark
Remarkably consistent throughout his entire career, can Mark Buehrle convince voters that his varied accomplishments are worthy enough for Cooperstown?


Verdict:
Mark Buehrle was an innings-eater par excellence who succeeded despite not being a strikeout pitcher (1870 punch-outs in 3283.1 innings pitched for 5.1 strikeouts per nine innings pitched) and pitched to a 3.81 ERA and a 117 ERA+ in a high-offense era, although his 4.11 FIP indicates his unexceptional ability to induce strikeouts while controlling walks (734) and especially home runs (361, 27th all-time).

Buehrle is ranked 90th by JAWS for starting pitchers, with his JAWS score tied with Sandy Koufax's, although Koufax pitched 900 fewer innings—while Buehrle had none of the dominance Koufax did. Buehrle's 59.2 bWAR does put him on the cusp of Hall of Fame consideration, but with a lack of dominance he falls into the compiler category. He might attract enough votes to make it to the 2022 ballot, although with all the holdovers from previous ballots he could find himself squeezed out early.

A.J. Burnett

With the Florida Marlins in 2001, A.J. Burnett pitched a no-hitter in which he struck out seven batters but walked nine others while hitting one, encapsulating the frustrating inconsistency that marked his 17-year career, which saw the right-hander lead the league in games started twice and strikeouts and shutouts once each as he also led the league in wild pitches three times, walks twice, and losses and hit batsmen once each. Burnett did win a World Series ring with the 2009 New York Yankees.

Career highlights: Named to one All-Star team. Won a World Series championship with the New York Yankees in 2009. Led the league in games started twice and in strikeouts and in shutouts once each. Had 11 years with 10 or more wins, nine of them consecutively, and two years with 15 or more wins. Had eight years with 30 or more games started, seven of them consecutively. Had six years with 200 or more innings pitched. Had three years with 200 or more strikeouts. Ranks 38th all-time in strikeouts (2513).

Career summary: Drafted by the New York Mets in 1998, Allen James Burnett was traded to the Florida Marlins and debuted with them in 1999. By 2001, which saw the right-hander no-hit the San Diego Padres, 3–0, despite nine walks and one hit by pitch, he was a regular starter. In 2002, he pitched to a 12–9 win-loss record and a 3.30 ERA as he fanned 203 hitters in 204.1 innings pitched, although he also led the National League in wild pitches with 14; Burnett had experienced his Nuke LaLoosh moment in 2001 when his warm-up toss hit a moving pickup truck.

Tommy John surgery limited his 2003 campaign to four starts, and he was not on the roster for the Marlins' second World Series championship that year. Public contention with the Marlins' management led to Burnett's dismissal from the team at the end of the 2005 season, and he signed a five-year, $55 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. Although health problems continued to plague Burnett in Toronto, he had three winning seasons with the Blue Jays including a career-high 18 wins in 2008, his age-31 year, as he led the American League in games started (34) and a career-best 231 strikeouts in 221.1 innings pitched.

Opting out of his contract after 2008, Burnett signed with the New York Yankees for five years and $82.5 million. Joining CC Sabathia on the Yankees' pitching staff in 2009, Burnett helped the Bronx Bombers to their World Series victory over the Philadelphia Phillies although his three years in New York were relatively undistinguished, marked by two seasons each with a below-league-average ERA+.

But following a trade to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012, his age-35 year, A.J. Burnett settled into becoming a pitcher as in two years he posted ERAs of 3.51 and 3.30, respectively, while winning 16 games in 2012. A one-year signing with the Phillies for 2014 saw him lead the Major Leagues in starts (34), but for 5th-place Philadelphia, which finished eight games below .500, Burnett also led the Majors in losses (18), walks (96), and earned runs allowed (109).

Then came a final, one-year contract that put Burnett back in Pittsburgh in 2015, his age-38 season. Despite a modest 9–7 win-loss record in 26 starts, he posted a 3.18 ERA and a 122 ERA+, both career bests, as he struck out 143 batters in 164 innings pitched and made his only All-Star appearance. A.J. Burnett had arrived right as his career was ending.

Verdict: Ranked 352nd all-time among starting pitchers by JAWS, A.J. Burnett is overshadowed on the 2021 ballot by his first-time fellow starting pitchers, let alone the holdovers from the previous ballot. With ample candidates to choose from regardless of any PED taint, Burnett will be hard-pressed to get any votes.

Dan Haren

In a 13-year career that saw him pitch for eight different teams, Dan Haren seems like the literal journeyman starting pitcher, plugging holes in pitching staffs where needed. But the right-hander with the outstanding control was excellent, consistent, and reliable, leading the league in games started three times while en route to 153 career wins and 2013 career strikeouts.

Career highlights: Named to three All-Star teams. Finished in the top five for Cy Young Award voting once. Led the league in games started times and in strikeouts-to-walks ratio three times. Had 11 consecutive years with 10 or more wins, and three years with 15 or more wins. Had seven years with an ERA below 4.00, and four years with an ERA below 3.50. Had 11 consecutive years with 30 or more starts. Had seven consecutive years with 200 or more innings pitched. Had three consecutive years with 200 or more strikeouts. Ranks 16th all-time in strikeouts-to-walks ratio (4.03) for pitchers with at least 1000 innings pitched.

Career summary: Drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2001, Dan Haren made his Major League debut with the Cardinals in 2003, his age-22 year, initially unimpressive as a starter and, in 2004, as an occasional relief pitcher. As a reliever, the right-hander did see action at all three tiers of the postseason for the 2004 Cardinals, even winning one game in relief against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series. Dealt to the Oakland Athletics for the 2005 season, Haren blossomed as a starting pitcher during his three seasons on the East Bay, starting 34 games every year while posting winning seasons, capped by his 2007 campaign and a sharp 15–9 win-loss record with a career-best 3.07 ERA and 192 strikeouts with just 55 walks as he was named to his first All-Star squad.

Haren was then traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for the 2008 season, where he shone in two campaigns that garnered him two more All-Star appearances as he led the NL in strikeouts-to-walks ratio in both years. He went 16–8 with a 3.33 ERA and 206 strikeouts in 2008, and although his win-loss record dipped to 14–10 in 2009, he posted a 3.14 ERA and a 142 ERA+ while fanning 223 hitters, the last two career-bests, as he also finished fifth in Cy Young Award voting. After Haren struggled in 2010, the Diamondbacks dealt him at the trade deadline to the Los Angeles Angels, where the return to California revived him to post a 5–4 record and a 2.87 ERA in 14 starts. In 2011, his age-30 year, Haren matched his career high in wins (16) against 10 losses, a .615 win-loss record, with a 3.17 ERA and career-bests in innings pitched (238.1) and shutouts (3) while his 192 strikeouts against just 33 walks yielded an American League-leading strikeouts-to-walks ratio of 5.82.

However, a middling 2012 season in Anaheim, Haren's age-31 year, dissuaded the Angels from picking up his contract option, and he plied his trade with four more teams before retiring after the 2015 season, nudging past the 150-win and 2000-strikeout plateaus in his final year. Dan Haren's outstanding control with his various fastballs, particularly his cutter and split-finger pitches, resulted in a stellar career strikeouts-to-walks ratio of 4.03, 16th-best all-time, although his tendency to surrender gopher balls puts him 54th on the all-time list with 305 home runs given up.

Career curio: Haren batted .200 in 478 plate appearances yielding 83 hits, including 26 doubles and two home runs, and 17 walks as he scored 31 runs and knocked in 39 runs. Although he didn't pitch his best in 2010, he had a ball at the plate, going 20-for-55 with six doubles and one long fly, good for a sizzling .364/.375/.527/.902 slash line, generating a 136 OPS+, as he scored eight runs and drove in seven more. His player value as a hitter netted Haren a career 2.2 oWAR.

Verdict: However, Dan Haren's overall bWAR of 35.0 produces 34.1 JAWS, which places him 206th among starting pitchers all-time, well below even Catfish Hunter and Jack Morris, who had celebrated postseason records to burnish their marginal Hall of Fame credentials. Furthermore, the peripatetic pitcher tarried so little in his 13-year career—playing with eight teams during that span—that he barely had time to endear himself to hometown beat writers. Haren may get a vote or two on the 2021 ballot but he won't be back on the 2022 ballot.

Tim Hudson

In the same boat as Mark Buehrle is Tim Hudson, who had a stronger peak in a 17-year career while he too owns a World Series ring, won while with the San Francisco Giants in his penultimate season of 2014. However, the right-hander did make his presence felt early in his career as one of the "Big Three" of the Oakland Athletics' pitching rotation along with left-handers Mark Mulder and Barry Zito in the early 2000s. Hudson led the American League in wins (20) and winning percentage (.769, the best in the Majors) in 2000, when he was runner-up for Cy Young Award honors to Pedro Martinez.

Career highlights: Named to four All-Star teams. Won a World Series ring in 2014 with the San Francisco Giants. Finished in the top five for the Cy Young Award three times. Led the American League in shutouts twice (tied with other pitchers in both years). Led the league in wins, win-loss percentage, and games started once each. Had 13 years with ten or more wins, ten of them consecutively, and had eight years with 15 or more wins, four of them consecutively. Had 13 years with an earned run average under 4.00, and three years with an ERA under 3.00. Had eight years with 30 or more starts and with 200 or more innings pitched. Ranks 65th all-time in win-loss percentage (.625; tied with Hall of Famer Chief Bender).

Career summary: Tim Hudson debuted with a blazing rookie season in 1999, winning 11 games and losing only two in 21 starts while posting a 3.23 ERA and a 142 ERA+, and striking out 132 hitters in 136.1 innings pitched. He was even better the next season: Despite a 4.14 ERA, Hudson won 20 games, a career high as it led the American League, and lost just six for a league-leading .769 win-loss percentage while he finished second in Cy Young voting—first place went to Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, in the midst of his reign as the best pitcher on the planet. In six years with the A's, Hudson posted a 92–39 win-loss record, good for a sparkling .702 winning percentage, a 3.30 ERA and 136 ERA+, and 899 strikeouts.

After being traded to the Atlanta Braves following the 2004 season, Hudson spent nine years with the team, the longest tenure in his 17-year career. Ironically, Hudson joined the Braves during a time when they were not gobbling up division titles as if they were candy as Atlanta made the postseason just four times during his nine seasons with the club. In addition, injuries began to dog Hudson, such as Tommy John surgery in August 2008 that left him starting just seven games the following season. He rebounded in 2010 with 17 wins and just nine losses while delivering a stingy 2.83 ERA, the third and last time he would have a sub-3.00 ERA, as he finished fourth in National League Cy Young voting and made his third All-Star team. In his nine seasons with Atlanta, he won 113 games, which put him over the 200-win mark, and lost 72 for a .611 win-loss percentage while maintaining a 3.56 ERA and 115 ERA+.

Hudson Tim2a
A stalwart starting pitcher with the Oakland Athletics and then with the Atlanta Braves, Tim Hudson sits on the cusp of Hall of Fame recognition. But will voters agree?


Signing a two-year, $23 million deal with the Giants for 2014, Hudson posted his first losing season, winning nine games while dropping 13, yet he was chosen for the NL All-Star squad as he managed to be named an All-Star with every team he played for; meanwhile, his 120 strikeouts pushed him past the 2000-strikeout plateau. In Game Two of the 2014 National League Division Series, Hudson dueled Washington Nationals ace Jordan Zimmerman for 7.1 innings, allowing just one run while striking out eight in a game that became an 18-inning marathon eventually won by the Giants.

Although Hudson's final season in 2015 saw him experience another losing season (8–9, .471), his career win-loss percentage is .625, based on 222 wins and 133 losses. Thus, Hudson joins just twenty other Major League pitchers to record 200 wins, 2000 strikeouts, and a winning percentage of .600 or better, with 14 of those pitchers already in the Hall of Fame.

Verdict: Tim Hudson is ranked 84th by JAWS for starting pitchers. He was more than an innings-eater although he was not the unequivocal staff ace for any of the three teams he played for, and that lack of dominance will keep him from the Hall of Fame although he may be more likely to survive to the 2022 ballot than Mark Buehrle.

Barry Zito

Arguably the most auspicious of the Oakland Athletics' "Big Three" starting pitchers at the turn of the century who included Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder, Barry Zito was the only one to win a Cy Young Award when he led the American League in wins (23) and games started (35) in 2002. In his six years as a full-time starter for the A's, the left-hander famed for his curve ball built a reputation for effectiveness and consistency that netted him a seven-year, $126 million contract with the San Francisco Giants, at the time the largest deal for a pitcher. However, Zito struggled with the Giants although he provided late-career highlights during the 2012 postseason, which saw him win his second World Series ring.

Career highlights: Named to three All-Star teams. Won two World Series championships, both with the San Francisco Giants. Won the 2002 American League Cy Young Award. Led the AL in games started four times, and led the AL in wins once. Had ten years with ten or more wins, four years with 15 or more wins, and one year with 20 or more wins. Had eleven years with 30 or more games started, ten of them consecutively, and four years with 35 starts, three of them consecutively. Had six consecutive years with 200 or more innings pitched.

Career summary: Picked ninth overall by the Oakland Athletics in the 1999 draft, Barry Zito was with the parent club by the middle of the 2000 season, his age-22 year, and he even pitched the first of five career shutouts in his 14 starts for the A's. The southpaw with the big curve ball posted a 17–8 win-loss record and 3.49 ERA in his first full season in 2001, and by the following year he seemed to become the ace of Oakland's "Big Three" starting pitchers, who included Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder, when he won an American League-leading 23 games against just five losses, an .821 win-loss percentage, while posting a 2.75 ERA en route to winning the 2002 AL Cy Young Award, besting Pedro Martinez in the voting.

Winning 102 games while losing just 63, a .618 win-loss percentage, during his eight years in Oakland, Barry Zito never had a losing season as he posted a 3.58 ERA and a 124 ERA+, marking him as a standout pitcher in the American League. Zito wasn't as dominant following his Cy Young year, but he settled into being a workhorse for the A's staff: In six years as a full-time starting pitcher, Zito pitched at least 200 innings and started at least 34 games every season, leading the AL in starts for three years, as he generated 30.6 in bWAR, with four seasons at 4.5 bWAR or higher.

Moving to the Giants in 2007 with a cushy contract, Barry Zito was never able to live up to it as he toiled as a below-league-average pitcher with just one winning season, in 2012, and one season with an ERA+ above the 100 baseline for a league-average pitcher, a 105 ERA+ in 2009. Left off the postseason roster in 2010, when the Giants won their first World Series since 1954, Zito was a postseason factor in 2012 with a crucial Game Five elimination-game win against the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series, and he did outduel future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander—and even got a hit off him—in Game One of the Giants' four-game sweep against the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.

Verdict: Barry Zito attained fairly lofty heights during his first seven years in Oakland, but his next seven years in San Francisco brought him back down to Earth. JAWS ranks Zito 249th all-time among starting pitchers, and despite a relative dearth of starting pitchers on the 2021 ballot, Zito will be eclipsed by Mark Buehrle and his former teammate Tim Hudson in the competition for votes and is unlikely to survive to 2022.

Relief Pitcher Newly Eligible in 2021

Not only won't LaTroy Hawkins be voted into the Hall of Fame on this or any other ballot, but it is very likely that he will not receive any votes, let alone enough votes to make the five-percent threshold needed to stay on the ballot until next year.

However, it is significant that Hawkins is on the 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot. Although he spent the bulk of his career as a middle reliever, accruing 185 holds during his 21-year career, the rangy right-hander exemplifies the unsung pitcher whose type has become numerous in the last couple of decades—the pitcher who enters the game usually in the late innings and, as the saying used to go, "builds the bridge" to the closer, who gets the adulation for finishing the game, typically with a save, with the eight Hall of Fame pitchers known principally for their relief pitching all closers.

Ranked 10th all-time in appearances with 1042, Hawkins is hardly the first bridge-builder to get onto a BBWAA ballot. Of the 16 pitchers with 1000 or more career appearances, the five known primarily as non-closers—Hawkins, Jesse Orosco, Dan Plesac, Mike Stanton, and Mike Timlin—have all appeared on a Hall of Fame ballot. None of them survived to a second ballot, and Hawkins is certainly not going to buck that trend.

And while it might be cynical to note that the pickings of newly-eligible candidates for 2021 are quite slim, Hawkins did find work in the Major Leagues for 21 seasons with 11 teams, the most notable being the Minnesota Twins. Among pitchers ranked by JAWS as relief pitchers, Hawkins ranks 54th in innings pitched with 1467.1, and among those relievers who made fewer than 100 starts (Hawkins started 98 games), Hawkins ranks 12th in innings pitched.

Career highlights:

Had ten years with 60 or more relief appearances, eight of them consecutively, and three years with 70 or more relief appearances, two of them consecutively. Had eight years with 60 or more innings pitched in relief, and five years with 70 or more innings pitched in relief. Had an ERA under 3.00 in years with 60 or more innings pitched in relief four times, and an ERA under 2.00 in years with 60 or more innings pitched in relief once. Had three seasons with 20 or more saves. Had two seasons with 20 or more holds, and six seasons with 15 or more holds. Had two consecutive seasons with 30 or more games started.

Career summary: Signed by the Minnesota Twins out of high school, LaTroy Hawkins spent four years in the Twins' farm system before making his debut in 1995. The Twins envisioned him as a starter, but despite pitching 190.1 innings in 33 starts in 1998 and winning ten games in 33 starts the following year, the right-hander lost 14 games in both seasons. In his first five seasons, amounting to 99 appearances, of which all but one was a start, he amassed a 26–44 win-loss record, a 6.16 ERA, leavened slightly by a 5.28 FIP, although his 79 ERA+, well below league-average, seemed to spell DFA: designated for assignment.

Instead, the Twins moved Hawkins to the bullpen for the 2000 season. He rebounded as in 66 appearances and 87.2 innings pitched, he notched 14 saves, blowing none of them, and a 3.39 ERA, good for a 153 ERA+. But despite recording 28 saves in 62 appearances and 51.1 innings pitched the next season, his ERA soared to 5.96, yielding a 76 ERA+, as he blew nine saves and lost five games.

That also lost Hawkins his closer's role to Eddie Guardado for the 2002 season, but in his age-29 year, he finally found his métier. In 65 appearances and 80.1 innings pitched, he won six games in relief without losing a game as he recorded a 2.13 ERA and a 211 ERA+ along with 13 holds, although handed three save opportunities, he blew them all. Hawkins was just as impressive in 2003, posting a 9–3 win-loss record in relief, albeit tempered by blowing six of eight save opportunities. Nevertheless, Hawkins recorded career highs in holds (28), ERA (1.86), and ERA+ (244) in 74 appearances and 77.1 innings pitched.

That made for a fine walk year as Hawkins, a free agent for the 2004 season, signed with the Chicago Cubs for three years and $11 million. Expected to be the Cubs' setup man, he found himself becoming the closer after Joe Borowski became injured. Hawkins made 77 appearances in 82 innings pitched, both career highs as a reliever, and he notched 25 saves while pitching to a 2.63 ERA and 168 ERA+; however, nine blown saves, particularly crucial ones as the Cubs vied for a postseason berth, earned him the enmity of Cubs fans, and after a shaky beginning to the 2005 season, Hawkins was dealt to the San Francisco Giants.

From then on, LaTroy Hawkins was a literal journeyman as he traipsed from team to team eight different times over the last decade of his career. Ironically, Hawkins had his most consistent success as a relief pitcher during his last eight seasons, his age-35 to age-42 years, as in 411 appearances he posted a 19–18 win-loss record with 52 saves and 84 holds while pitching to a 3.28 ERA, a 3.45 FIP, and a 124 ERA+. Only an ineffective half-season stint with the New York Yankees in 2008 and an injury-shortened 2010 campaign with the Milwaukee Brewers marred his solid efforts during this final phase of his career, although it is hardly enough to merit his consideration for the Hall of Fame.

Verdict: JAWS ranks LaTroy Hawkins 72nd among relief pitcher all-time as he makes what will be his only appearance on a BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot. But his making a ballot, even in a year light on first-time candidates, keeps the question of how relief pitchers should be evaluated for legacy alive.


 

My 2021 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

Were I a baseball writer eligible to vote on the Baseball Writers' Association of America's 2021 Hall of Fame ballot, my ballot would be as follows. But first . . .

My Obligatory Rant on Performance-Enhancing Drugs (PED)

Frankly, I have ranted so much about performance-enhancing drugs (PED) over the last several years that it is no longer a rant. It is just a policy statement. Simply put, PED was not just a blip in the baseball timeline from the late 1990s to the early 2000s. PED is still with us, it will remain with us, and it needs to be acknowledged. It is a part of baseball.

For that reason, I have never discriminated against players with PED connections, whether proved, suspected, or rumored. Those players don't need to be "asterisked," or segregated, or made to have a syringe affixed to their Hall of Fame plaques. (Manager Gene Mauch once quipped that Gaylord Perry's plaque should have a tube of K-Y Jelly attached to it in recognition of its reputed contribution to Perry's Hall of Fame career.) The statistics generated by these players might have been inflated by PED (and I have no doubt that they were), but they ultimately reflect the state of baseball at the time they were created and thus they are a valid part of the historical record.

This position has been labeled, perhaps derisively, as "performance-only," as if it is merely a narrow focus on the statistical record and oblivious to larger concerns. Concerns such as the player was cheating for personal gain and thus cheating the game. And, thus, when it comes time to recognize legacy through induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame—often expressed as being an honor or a privilege and not a right—it is proper to exclude those cheating players.

Nothing could be further from my perspective. In fact, "the game" is integral to that perspective. Were the PED problem simply a blip that was rectified by more stringent drug testing and penalties, it would be an anomaly of its time. But despite Major League Baseball's initial 2006 Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program and its subsequent revisions, players are still using PED. When they get caught, they get suspended. And when they come off suspension, provided it is not the third strike and a permanent ban from MLB, they get hired by teams looking for their services. (And even banned players can eventually appeal the decision.)

This gets right to the heart of "the game." And it is a winking joke. Baseball teams need to put the best possible product on the field. That product comprises elite baseball players who are in short supply. Thus, even players who had been suspended previously can find work easily and lucratively because teams are not just willing to hire them—they are eager to do so.

However, "teams" are not simply abstract, faceless entities. They comprise non-players as well as players, with roles such as front-office executives and managers in the dugout. These teams belong to a league, Major League Baseball, presided over by a commissioner. Moreover, the baseball industry includes entities such as the Baseball Writers' Association of America, which votes on annual awards in addition to Hall of Fame player-candidates.

All of these non-players are PED enablers. They are now in the Hall of Fame.

1. Former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig was fast-tracked into the Hall of Fame in 2017 by the Today's Game Committee almost as soon as he officially retired as commissioner. Selig's election to the Hall was a foregone conclusion, but there was almost no time to reflect on his legacy before he was inducted. That legacy includes presiding over the entire Steroids Era, not to mention, when he was a team owner, the Collusion Era of the 1980s, itself another form of "cheating the game."

2. Former Atlanta Braves General Manager John Schuerholz was elected on the same ballot as Selig. He was the Braves' GM from 1990 to 2007, right in the teeth of the Steroids Era including, for example, the 2002 trade that brought Gary Sheffield to Atlanta.

3. The Braves' on-the-field manager during Schuerholz's tenure was Bobby Cox, elected to the Hall of Fame in 2014 by the (then-)Expansion Era Committee along with Tony La Russa and Joe Torre, all of whom regularly managed players with known or suspected PED association.

Furthermore, the BBWAA is the body that votes not only on Hall of Fame ballots but for annual awards including Cy Young and Most Valuable Player Awards. This body voted for Barry Bonds for MVP and for Roger Clemens for Cy Young seven times each.

This is complicity, pure and simple. How many times did Joe Torre pencil in the names Clemens and Sheffield, not to mention Andy Pettitte and Alex Rodríguez, on his lineup cards for the New York Yankees?

Moreover, the 2017 sign-stealing scandal by the Houston Astros came to light in 2020. It exposed cheating of another sort, cheating that tarnished the Astros' World Series victory, its first, that season. Teams strive to put the "best product on the field" in order to win world championships. Just as the Astros' sign-stealing scandal tarnished their World Series victory, how many division titles, pennants, and World Series victories have been tarnished by PED? And it's not just the players. During his tenure, Torre guided the Yankees to five World Series successes, partly with players such as Clemens, Pettitte, and Rodríguez. Aren't those World Series wins tarnished as well?

To penalize Torre, or the players, or the front-office mavens or the commissioner of baseball, is to miss the point: Baseball created the environment in which cheating was allowed to occur. It was not malicious, or even consciously done. It is simply the consequence of an extremely competitive environment with billions of dollars at stake annually.

What's more, it might not be solvable. Cheating has been going on in baseball since it began. We know now, for instance, that in 1951 the New York Giants used sign-stealing to help close the seemingly-insurmountable lead the Brooklyn Dodgers had in the National League pennant race. The Giants caught the Dodgers, forcing a three-game playoff that culminated with the Giants winning in the third game when Bobby Thomson hit the walk-off "shot heard 'round the world," prompting announcer Russ Hodges's immortal cry, "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!" (Full disclosure: I am a lifelong Giants fan.)

That is baseball history. It is American history. And it is tainted. As is much in history, American or otherwise, because history is made by fallible individuals within imperfect social systems. Baseball is not immune from this, and to try to sugar-coat its own history by excluding players who thrived in an environment that tacitly condoned their actions is itself a cheat, a false narrative that refuses to be honest with itself by presenting an illusion of purity that has never existed. Simply put, you evaluate the baseball you have, not the baseball you wish you had.

Hall of Fame-Worthy Candidates I Didn't Vote for on This Ballot

For many voters, the 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot is a lot less daunting than ballots from recent years because much of the logjams that plagued them have abated. There are fewer Hall-worthy candidates on them, and there are no newly-eligible candidates added for this year.

However, for my very hypothetical Hall of Fame ballot, I spot 13 candidates whom I think are legitimate Hall of Famers. None of them are new to the ballot, so who is the sole returning candidate I do not think is a Hall of Famer?

Andy Pettitte. To be sure, Pettitte checks a lot of the boxes for the Hall. His WAR values, both calculated by FanGraphs (68.2) and Baseball Reference (60.2), are comparable to a lot of starting-pitcher Hall of Famers—and are better than some current inductees. His JAWS ranking, 91st in a list that includes 65 current starting-pitcher Hall of Famers, is still better than a number of current Hall of Famers.

Pettitte's 246 career wins are 42nd all-time; his 2448 career strikeouts are 45th all-time; and his .626 career win-loss percentage is 64th all-time, just a tick under Hall of Famer Eddie Plank's. A five-time World Series champion with the New York Yankees, Pettitte is the career leader in several postseason categories including wins (19), starts (42), and innings pitched (263).

The left-hander didn't have a strong peak—he had only three seasons with a seasonal bWAR above 5.0, his career-best was 8.4 in 1997, and none of his other 15 seasons saw his seasonal bWAR rise above 3.8. Pettitte never won a Cy Young Award, although he did finish in the top five in voting four times and was the runner-up to Pat Hentgen in 1996. Pettitte led the league in wins once and in games started three times, but of the seven starting pitchers on the 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot, he ranks last in "black ink," or the weighted measurement of times a pitcher led his league in significant pitching statistics, and fifth in "gray ink," which measures a pitcher's top-ten finishes in those same categories.

Curiously, Andy Pettitte has been compared to CC Sabathia, another southpaw who also pitched for the Yankees—they were teammates on the 2009 team that won the World Series—and Sabathia is first eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2025. I have pegged CC Sabathia as a Hall of Famer in my Ballot Forecast 2021 to 2025 article, although I do note that he probably won't be elected on his first ballot. Their records are similar in some respects, though Sabathia ranks higher in JAWS (71st) because of his stronger peak.

Back in 2013, I did evaluate Andy Pettitte, then in his final Major League season, to determine if he was a Hall of Famer. Four years later, I profiled Pettitte again as one of the upcoming borderline cases for the Hall. In both instances, I concluded that he was in essence a "hothouse flower," not the ace of his pitching staff despite his gaudy postseason record. He has been on two ballots already, at the tail-end of the ballot logjams of the 2010s, and he garnered 11.3 percent of the vote last year. Pettitte might make a significant jump this year. Or he might not. Andy Pettitte had a career that was better than some pitchers in the Hall of Fame, and he may indeed belong in the Hall. But to me, he doesn't feel like a Hall of Famer, and if I had a list of ten or fewer candidates I would vote for, Andy Pettitte still doesn't make that list.

But I have identified 13 candidates I would vote for. Because of that, my ballot reflects strategic voting based on the candidate's life span on the ballot and his voting history to date. In other words, I've weighted my ballot toward candidates who aren't polling highly or who are running out of chances on a BBWAA ballot, and thus the rankings do not reflect candidates whom I think are most qualified for the Hall.

Since many of these candidates are ballot veterans, and I've profiled many of them previously (perhaps ad nauseam), I won't belabor their credentials for the Hall of Fame. Suffice to say that if they've survived this far, they have a case for election.

One wild card that I've alluded to previously is that the 2020 ballot, marking the debut of Derek Jeter, marked the end of the logjammed ballots of the 2010s, and with no new candidates likely to attract much support on this ballot, some, many, or even all of the returning candidates might experience an even bigger boost in their vote totals than they did last year. Or not.

13. Omar Vizquel (Fourth year on ballot)

Omar Vizquel is already at 52.6 percent on the ballot after three appearances, although he is proceeding incrementally since he debuted at 37 percent in 2018. I do think Vizquel is a Hall of Fame-caliber shortstop, as one of the greatest defensive shortstops all-time even if advanced metrics do not favor him unequivocally, and I did peg him as a borderline candidate back in 2017, at least borderline with respect to perceptions by BBWAA voters. This is his fourth ballot, and he is very likely to reach 75 percent of the vote before his ballot tenure expires.

12. Andruw Jones (Fourth year on ballot)

Previously, I had not considered Andruw Jones to be a Hall of Famer. I did an in-depth assessment of Jones as a borderline candidate (in the same manner as Vizquel) in 2017, using Johnny Damon as a comp, and I left him off my hypothetical ballot in 2018. Now I do consider Jones a Hall of Fame-caliber center fielder—JAWS does rank him 11th all-time at the position—and he did make the most dramatic jump on the 2020 ballot among returning candidates. Call it jumping on the bandwagon if you like. I would vote for him. Just not on this ballot, for the reasons I outlined above. Jones still has six more chances after this ballot, and he seems to be building a constituency. I'm confident he'll return next year.

11. Todd Helton (Third year on ballot)

Todd Helton is in the same boat as Andruw Jones—sufficient time on the ballot and a growing constituency—although I have advocated for him as a Hall of Famer in 2017 as a borderline candidate, due to his entire career spent with the Colorado Rockies, with a lengthy attempt to counter that "Coors Effect" bias. By a happy coincidence, the first baseman has already shown ballot strength, jumping from an initial placement of 16.5 percent on his 2019 debut to nearly twice that, 29.2 percent, last year.

My Ten Votes for the Hall of Fame

Were I to have a 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot, I would check the following ten boxes.

10. Sammy Sosa (Ninth year on ballot)

Admittedly, Sammy Sosa is one of those hold-your-nose-and-vote candidates, although for me it isn't for the reason (think: PED) you'd expect. The right fielder, who is the only hitter in MLB history with three 60-home run seasons, seemed to be piling up gaudy statistics for his own benefit and not his teams'. Along with PED, BBWAA voters seem to be thinking that, too, as Sosa has foundered in the lowest reaches of ballot eligibility. On the other hand, he did poll 13.9 percent last year, his highest showing in eight years on the ballot. Small encouragement, as he would need to make quantum leaps to get to 75 percent. Which is not impossible, although highly unlikely.

So, hypothetical or not, is this a wasted vote? No. Sammy Sosa is a part of baseball history, a big part if you think of how the home-run race he and Mark McGwire staged in 1998 "saved baseball" after the 1994 MLB work stoppage angered fans, who needed to be wooed back into the fold. Then Sosa went on to become just the ninth player to hit at least 600 home runs. Whether that is a proud history is a potential teachable moment parents can enjoy with their children when they visit Cooperstown. But it is baseball history whether you like it or not.

9. Manny Ramirez (Fifth year on ballot)

Among left fielders, Manny Ramirez is 10th all-time as ranked by JAWS. Let's put this PED cat among the pigeons, shall we? Of the top 15 left fielders as ranked by JAWS, only three, apart from Ramirez, are not in the Hall of Fame. One is Sherry Magee, a dead ball era superstar now forgotten but who may be on the radar screen of the Early Baseball Committee. One is Barry Bonds, also on this 2021 ballot. And one is Pete Rose, whose sordid saga predates the PED era.

Among the Hall of Fame left fielders ranked below Ramirez on the JAWS list are Ralph Kiner, who squeaked into the Hall in his 15th and final chance; Jim Rice, who preceded Ramirez playing in front of the Green Monster for the Boston Red Sox, and another one who squeaked in on his final shot at the Hall; and Lou Brock, who joined the 3000-hit club and is second only to Rickey Henderson in career stolen bases.

Manny Ramirez, significant among the PED penitents because his transgressions—two suspensions following failed tests, with Ramirez promptly retiring following the second suspension—both occurred after MLB enacted its 2006 Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, debuted in 2017 with 23.8 percent of the vote but then plateaued at about 22 percent for the next two years before getting an incremental bump to 28.2 percent last year. He's on his fifth ballot this year and is now on the downhill slide.

And leaving aside all the Manny Being Manny sideshow material, there was no doubt that Ramirez was a marquee player during his time with the Cleveland Indians and Red Sox, one of the greatest hitters of his generation. How much of that was PED? Who knows? As with Sammy Sosa, it's baseball history whether you like it or not.

8. Gary Sheffield (Seventh year on ballot)

And as with Andruw Jones, I didn't consider Gary Sheffield to be a Hall of Famer back in 2018, but I've reconsidered since then. Like Manny Ramirez, Sheffield was a disaster in the field with a minus-27.7 dWAR, but his 80.8 oWAR is only one win below Ramirez's. Moreover, Sheffield ranks sixth all-time in oWAR among right fielders, behind Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Frank Robinson, and Mel Ott, which is about as elite as you can get. Furthermore, of the top fifteen right fielders as ranked by oWAR, the only one not in the Hall of Fame is—you guessed it—Gary Sheffield.

Even further still, Gary Sheffield, on his sixth ballot, jumped from 13.6 percent of the vote from 2019 to 30.5 percent. It may be too little, too late, although he still has four more shots at Cooperstown. Again, fault me for bandwagoneering, but Gary Sheffield wouldn't be any worse than having, say, Harold Baines in the Hall of Fame.

7. Bobby Abreu (Second year on ballot)

There is no question that Bobby Abreu is a sabermetric darling in the same manner as Tim Raines and Alan Trammell: All were excellent players and recognized as such, but they did not have the superstar trappings of their higher-profile teammates. Abreu made just two All-Star teams, never finished in the top ten for Most Valuable Player voting, and had a modest presence in the black-ink (5) and gray-ink (88) rankings.

And yet in his 18-year career, Abreu was a consistent run-producer with both impressive rates and volumes. In 10,081 plate appearances, he knocked out a .291/.395/.475/.870 slash line that generated a 128 OPS+ as he batted .300 or better six times and produced an on-base percentage of .400 or better eight times. His 2470 hits rank 107th all-time, tucked between Hall of Famers Joe Medwick (2471) and Frank Thomas (2468), and his 1476 walks, 20th all-time, are one more than fellow right fielder Gary Sheffield's. He ranks 25th in doubles, tied with Hall of Famer Charlie Gehringer (another unsung superstar). Abreu's 1363 runs batted in rank 89th, and his 1453 runs scored rank 82nd as he generated a 129 wRC+. In addition, he stole an even 400 bases, 74th all-time.

Bobby Abreu was the only first-time candidate on the 2020 ballot to reach the five-percent minimum needed to remain on the Hall of Fame ballot. He deserves to receive a substantial increase on this ballot to establish his presence and to keep voters examining his legitimate case for the Hall of Fame.

6. Curt Schilling (Ninth year on ballot)

Reaching the 70-percent threshold on the 2020 ballot, Curt Schilling seems poised to enter the Hall of Fame on this ballot, and he is likely to be the only candidate to do so. Way back in 2010, I identified Schilling as one of five tough-sell Hall of Famers along with fellow starting pitcher Mike Mussina. During their time together on the ballot, Mussina, who became eligible in 2014, one year after Schilling, also seemed to be just a step behind Schilling in voting percentages.

But then Mussina pulled ahead in yearly voting until he nosed past the 75-percent threshold in 2019, his sixth year on the ballot, as Schilling polled nearly 61 percent of the vote that year. By that point, Schilling had generated firestorms of controversy for his social-media presence and had been suspended by, then fired from, ESPN by 2016. Schilling's outspoken views, known during his playing days, assumed greater notoriety in his post-playing days.

Curt Schilling's strident right-wing political views couldn't be further from my own. That has nothing to do with the Hall of Fame-caliber playing ability he demonstrated on the baseball diamond—and it should have nothing to do with evaluating his worthiness for the Hall of Fame, especially as his latter-day controversies occurred after he stopped playing.

Schilling Curt 02
Like the candidate he supported, Curt Schilling has ballot woes. Unlike Donald Trump's, however, Schilling's voting troubles are legitimate. He deserves to be elected to the Hall of Fame.


Even though Curt Schilling seemed likely to be voted into the Hall of Fame on this ballot, I would vote for him just to help ensure he does get in—particularly since his polling just prior to the January 26, 2021, Hall of Fame announcement is not encouraging. True, he is right at the threshold based on ballots already revealed publicly (although not yet officially recorded and vetted), but past pre-tracking has shown that those results tend to be notaby higher than the official tally.

As with the PED pariahs—and Schilling has never been associated with PED—what matters is his contribution to baseball history with its warts and all. In terms of wins and strikeouts, Schilling has roughly the same record as Pedro Martinez, elected in his first year of eligibility in 2015, and Schilling is one of the greatest big-game pitchers in baseball history (with the bloody sock to prove it). What has taken so long for him to be inducted? And will he still be waiting after the 2021 ballot results are released?

5. Roger Clemens (Ninth year on ballot)

Perhaps the biggest boon Roger Clemens can expect is that after next year, he, along with Barry Bonds, will no longer be the poster boy for PED as Álex Rodríguez assumes that ignominious label. Far too much verbiage has been expended on Clemens, his career, his involvement with PED, and I've contributed to a good deal of it myself. He has appeared on all of my hypothetical ballots so far, and I'm not going to stop that now.

4. Barry Bonds (Ninth year on ballot)

See: Roger Clemens.

3. Scott Rolen (Fourth year on ballot)

I was bullish on Scott Rolen in 2017, before he was first eligible for the Hall of Fame, and I still am. The good news is that the slugging, slick-fielding third baseman with the low profile but impressive statistics is starting to make inroads on the Hall of Fame ballot. I want to keep that going until no one has to vote for him anymore because he has been elected to Cooperstown.

2. Billy Wagner (Sixth year on ballot)

As with Scott Rolen, I considered Billy Wagner to be Hall of Fame-worthy back in 2014, before he was even eligible for the Hall of Fame, although I was not optimistic about his chances to be elected. Happy to be proved wrong, but still anxious as he moves into the decline phase of his ballot tenure, I would make ticking his box on the ballot a priority to ensure he continues to build his groundswell of support.

1. Jeff Kent (Eighth year on ballot)

Is Jeff Kent the Alan Trammell of the current BBWAA ballot? Perhaps. Unlike the Detroit Tigers shortstop who toiled in relative anonymity as he delivered consistent greatness year after year, only to languish on the BBWAA ballot until the veterans committee voted him in, Kent enjoyed some visibility as he was the National League Most Valuable Player in 2000 despite not only playing in the same league as Barry Bonds, but even playing on the same team. (Bonds went on to win the NL MVP Award for the next four years.)

Like Curt Schilling, I identified the hard-slugging second baseman as a tough-sell Hall of Famer back in 2010. Like Schilling, Kent has never been Mr. Congeniality, and although he has publicly expressed similar right-wing views as has Schilling, he has avoided Schilling's long-standing notoriety even as the candidates' post-playing-career views should have no bearing on their candidacy for the Hall of Fame.

Admittedly, Kent is a borderline Hall of Famer. Ranked 21st by JAWS, Kent is just ahead of Bobby Doerr and Nellie Fox among Hall of Fame second baseman, with marginal inductees Tony Lazzeri, Red Schoendienst, and Bill Mazeroski further down the list. Defensively, Kent's minus-three total fielding runs above average and minus-52 defensive runs saved—albeit only tabulated from his 2003 season on, when he was already in his age-35 year—mark him as a league-average second baseman. However, Kent did start 1986 games at second base, including 114 starts in 2008, his final season at age 40.

Offensively, though, Kent is the all-time leader among second baseman with 377 home runs, with only Robinson Cano's 334 long balls his only threat—and with Cano sitting out the 2021 season, his age-38 year, because of his second PED suspension, Kent's record might still hold even if Cano returns to baseball in 2022. Among second baseman all-time, Kent ranks third in runs batted in (1518), fifth in doubles (560) and in slugging percentage (.500), 13th in hits (2461), and 22nd in OPS+ (123).

Kent Jeff
Jeff Kent gets a knock that might go for naught. The slugging second baseman didn't struggle at the plate--but he is struggling to convince voters to elect him to the Hall of Fame.


Time is short for Jeff Kent on the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot. After seven ballots, he has just cracked the twenty-percent mark, similar to Trammell's performance a few years back. Kent needs to make Larry Walker-like leaps in his last three appearances on the ballot. My hypothetical vote for this underrated but deserving Hall of Famer would contribute to that.

Last At-Bats

In what promises to be a quiet year for the Hall of Fame, Curt Schilling is the most likely candidate to be elected—and even he might not make it, meaning that BBWAA voters might deliver a ballot shutout for the second time since 2013.

There is a wealth of Hall of Fame-worthy candidates on the 2021 ballot, and they will have their ticket punched for Cooperstown in time. But now would be an ideal time for that to happen—because the 2022 ballot, marking the debut of David Ortiz and Álex Rodríguez, promises to be anything but quiet.


 

Appendix: Player Statistics

This section contains career statistics for all the player-candidates appearing on the 2021 Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) ballot for the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

The statistics have been broken out separately for position players, starting pitchers, and relief pitchers, in that order. All three candidate sections contain tables listing statistics for player value (Hall of Fame statistics), longevity (volume or quantitative statistics), effectiveness (rate or qualitative statistics), and recognition (awards and leaderboard statistics); the relief-pitcher section contains an additional effectiveness table for statistics more specific to a reliever's closely-defined role.

Beneath the first instance of each table are descriptions of the statistics listed in the table. Those descriptions are not repeated in subsequent tables although any new statistics are described. Note: Standard or traditional statistics and their common abbreviations (for example, HR for home runs) are not defined. Readers who have come this far are assumed to know these already.

Position Players on the 2021 Hall of Fame Ballot

The following tables contain statistics for the 15 position players on the 2021 Hall of Fame ballot.

As with starting- and relief pitchers, these four tables help to illustrate the qualities of position-player value (Hall of Fame statistics), longevity (volume statistics), effectiveness (rate statistics), and recognition (awards and leader statistics) that distinguish a Hall of Fame-caliber position player from other position players. They might not tell the entire story, but they compose a significant portion of it.

The table below details the Hall of Fame statistics (explained in the legend beneath the table) for the position players on the 2021 Hall of Fame ballot, ranked by bWAR. Position players appearing for the first time on the ballot are in bold type.

Hall of Fame Statistics for Position Players on the 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot, Ranked by bWAR

Player

Pos.

fWAR

bWAR

WAR7

JAWS

JAWS Rank*

WPA

HoF Mon.

(≈100)

HoF Std.

(≈50)

Bonds, Barry

LF

164.4

162.8

72.7

117.7

1

127.7

340

76

Rolen, Scott

3B

69.9

70.1

43.6

56.9

10

30.9

99

40

Ramirez, Manny

LF

66.3

69.3

39.9

54.6

10

56.1

226

69

Jones, Andruw

CF

67.0

62.7

46.4

54.6

11

12.5

109

34

Helton, Todd

1B

54.9

61.8

46.6

54.2

15

52.7

175

59

Sheffield, Gary

RF

62.1

60.5

38.0

49.3

23

59.9

158

61

Abreu, Bobby

RF

59.8

60.2

41.6

50.9

20

49.0

94

54

Sosa, Sammy

RF

60.1

58.6

43.8

51.2

18

25.0

202

52

Kent, Jeff

2B

56.0

55.4

35.8

45.6

21

22.9

122

51

Hunter, Torii

CF

43.0

50.1

30.8

40.4

34

3.8

58

34

Vizquel, Omar

SS

42.5

45.6

26.8

36.2

41

–17.5

120

42

Ramirez, Aramis

3B

38.5

32.4

29.4

30.9

61

26.9

85

39

Victorino, Shane

CF

29.3

31.5

28.9

30.2

74

6.5

32

15

Swisher, Nick

RF

25.1

21.4

23.4

22.4

101

8.3

14

19

Cuddyer, Michael

RF

17.1

17.7

15.4

16.6

145

5.2

26

19


fWAR:
Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by FanGraphs.

bWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by Baseball Reference.

WAR7: The sum of a player's best seven seasons as defined by bWAR; they need not be consecutive seasons.

JAWS: Jaffe WAR Score system—an average of a player's career WAR and his seven-year WAR peak.

JAWS Rank: The player's ranking at that position by JAWS rating. (*) In this table, JAWS rank is for the player at his primary position only and is not a ranking of all position players.

WPA: Win Probability Added, the likelihood that a player has influenced the outcome of a given game through his offensive contribution.

Hall of Fame Monitor: An index of how likely a player is to be inducted to the Hall of Fame based on his entire playing record (offensive, defensive, awards, position played, postseason success), with an index score of 100 being a good possibility and 130 a "virtual cinch." Developed by Baseball Reference from a creation by Bill James.

Hall of Fame Standards: An index of performance standards, indexed to 50 as being the score for an average Hall of Famer. Developed by Baseball Reference from a creation by Bill James.


The table below details the volume statistics, or the counting numbers or quantitative statistics, for the position players appearing on the 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot, ranked by hits. Position players appearing for the first time on the ballot are in bold type.

Volume Statistics for Position Players on the 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot, Ranked by Hits

 

GP

PA

H

2B

HR

R

RBI

BB

SB

Bonds, Barry

2986

12,606

2935

601

762

2227

1996

2558

514

Vizquel, Omar

2968

12,013

2877

456

80

1445

951

1028

404

Sheffield, Gary

2576

10,947

2689

467

509

1636

1676

1475

253

Ramirez, Manny

2302

9774

2574

547

555

1544

1831

1329

38

Helton, Todd

2247

9453

2519

592

369

1401

1406

1335

37

Abreu, Bobby

2425

10,081

2470

574

288

1453

1363

1476

400

Kent, Jeff

2298

9537

2461

560

377

1320

1518

801

94

Hunter, Torii

2372

9692

2452

498

353

1296

1391

661

195

Sosa, Sammy

2354

9896

2408

379

609

1475

1667

929

234

Ramirez, Aramis

2194

8986

2303

495

386

1098

1417

633

29

Rolen, Scott

2038

8518

2077

517

316

1211

1287

899

118

Jones, Andruw

2196

8664

1933

383

434

1204

1289

891

152

Cuddyer, Michael

1536

6102

1522

333

197

809

794

527

75

Swisher, Nick

1527

6308

1338

307

245

805

803

817

13

Victorino, Shane

1299

5164

1274

231

108

731

489

381

231



The table below details the rate statistics, or the qualitative numbers (explained in the legend beneath the table), for the position players appearing on the 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot, ranked by Adjusted Weighted Runs Created. Position players appearing for the first time on the ballot are in bold type.

Rate Statistics for Position Players on the 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot, Ranked by Adjusted Weighted Runs Created

 

Slash Line

wOBA

wRC+

OPS+

WAA

RAA

oWAR

Bonds, Barry

.298/.444/.607/.1.051

.435

173

182

123.8

1251

143.6

Ramirez, Manny

.312/.411/.585/.996

.418

153

154

35.7

369

81.8

Sheffield, Gary

.292/.393/.514/.907

.391

141

140

26.0

278

80.8

Helton, Todd

.316/.414/.539/.953

.405

132

133

33.4

362

54.5

Abreu, Bobby

.291/.395/.475/.870

.378

129

128

28.3

300

61.6

Sosa, Sammy

.273/.344/.534/.878

.370

124

128

28.3

307

50.3

Kent, Jeff

.290/.356/.500/.855

.367

123

123

26.6

290

60.1

Rolen, Scott

.281/.364/.490/.855

.368

122

122

44.0

456

52.7

Ramirez, Aramis

.283/.341/.492/.833

.357

115

115

5.0

71

41.9

Swisher, Nick

.249/.351/.447/.799

.348

114

113

–0.9

–14

24.2

Cuddyer, Michael

.277/.344/.461/.805

.349

112

113

–3.4

–37

27.8

Jones, Andruw

.254/.337/.486/.823

.352

111

111

35.9

378

39.8

Hunter, Torii

.277/.331/.461/.793

.342

110

110

15.8

146

47.5

Victorino, Shane

.275/.340/.425/.765

.336

104

102

15.9

155

23.8

Vizquel, Omar

.272/.336/.352/.688

.310

83

82

5.3

51

32.9


Slash Line:
Grouping of the player's career batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS).

wOBA: Weighted on-base average as calculated by FanGraphs. Weighs singles, extra-base hits, walks, and hits by pitch; generally, .400 is excellent and .320 is league-average.

wRC+: Career weighted Runs Created, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by FanGraphs. Positively indexed to 100, with a 100 wRC+ indicating a league-average player, and values above 100 indicating the degrees better a player is than a league-average player.

OPS+: Career on-base percentage plus slugging percentage, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by Baseball Reference. Positively indexed to 100, with a 100 OPS+ indicating a league-average player, and values above 100 indicating the degrees better a player is than a league-average player.

WAA: Wins Above Average, the number of wins the player is worth above a league-average player.

RAA: Runs Above Average, the number of runs the player is worth above a league-average player.

oWAR: Offensive Wins Above Replacement, Baseball Reference's WAR without defensive computation.


The table below details the awards and leader statistics (explained in the legend beneath the table) for the position players appearing on the 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot, ranked by Black Ink Test. Position players appearing for the first time on the ballot are in bold type.

Awards and Leaders Statistics for Position Players on the 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot, Ranked by Black-Ink Test

Player

MVP

MVP Top 10

All-Star

Silver Slugger

Gold Glove

RoY

Black Ink

Gray Ink

Bonds, Barry

7

13

14

12

8

0

69

289

Sosa, Sammy

1

7

7

6

0

0

28

138

Ramirez, Manny

0

9

12

9

0

0

21

154

Helton, Todd

0

3

5

4

3

0

16

143

Jones, Andruw

0

2

5

1

10

0

10

47

Abreu, Bobby

0

0

2

1

1

0

5

88

Sheffield, Gary

0

6

11

5

0

0

4

123

Cuddyer, Michael

0

0

2

1

0

0

4

15

Ramirez, Aramis

0

3

3

1

0

0

2

53

Victorino, Shane

0

0

2

0

4

0

2

26

Kent, Jeff

1

4

5

4

0

0

0

71

Hunter, Torii

0

1

5

2

9

0

0

29

Swisher, Nick

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

29

Rolen, Scott

0

1

7

1

7

1

0

27

Vizquel, Omar

0

0

3

0

11

0

0

25


MVP:
Most Valuable Player Award.

MVP Top 10: Number of times a player finished in the top 10 of his league's MVP voting. Includes an MVP win.

Silver Slugger Award: Awarded to the best offensive player at every position.

RoY: Rookie of the Year Award.

Black Ink Test: Weighted measurement of times a player led his league in significant batting statistics. An average Hall of Famer has a measurement of about 27. Developed by Baseball Reference from a creation by Bill James.

Gray-Ink Test: Weighted measurement of times a player appeared in the top ten of his league in significant batting statistics. An average Hall of Famer has a measurement of about 144. Developed by Baseball Reference from a creation by Bill James.

Starting Pitchers on the 2021 Hall of Fame Ballot

The following tables contain statistics for the eight starting pitchers on the 2021 Hall of Fame ballot.

As with position players and relief pitchers, these four tables help to illustrate the qualities of starting-pitcher value (Hall of Fame statistics), longevity (volume statistics), effectiveness (rate statistics), and recognition (awards and leader statistics) that distinguish a Hall of Fame-caliber starting pitcher from other starters. They might not tell the entire story, but they compose a significant portion of it.

The table below details the Hall of Fame statistics for all the starting pitchers on the 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot, ranked by bWAR. Starting pitchers appearing for the first time on the ballot are in bold type. (See the legend beneath the table for position players above for explanations of the categories.)

Hall of Fame Statistics for Starting Pitchers on the 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot, Ranked by bWAR

Player

fWAR

bWAR

WAR7

JAWS

JAWS Rank

WPA

HoF Mon.

(≈100)

HoF Std.

(≈50)

Clemens, Roger

133.7

139.2

65.9

102.5

3

77.7

332

73

Schilling, Curt

79.8

79.5

48.6

64.0

28

35.3

171

46

Pettitte, Andy

68.2

60.2

34.1

47.2

91

24.2

128

44

Buehrle, Mark

52.3

59.2

35.8

47.5

90

17.2

52

31

Hudson, Tim

48.9

58.1

38.3

48.2

84

29.8

66

42

Haren, Dan

40.4

35.0

33.2

24.1

206

12.1

30

26

Zito, Barry

30.2

31.9

30.6

31.2

249

6.8

48

19

Burnett, A.J.

42.5

28.8

21.7

25.3

352

6.6

29

20


WPA:
Win Probability Added, the likelihood that a starting pitcher has influenced the outcome of a given game through his pitching contribution.

The table below details the volume statistics, or the counting numbers or quantitative statistics (explained in the legend beneath the table), for all the starting pitchers on the 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot, ranked by innings pitched. Starting pitchers appearing for the first time on the ballot are in bold type.

Volume Statistics for Starting Pitchers on the 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot, Ranked by Innings Pitched

Pitcher

GS

IP

Win-Loss

PCT

Hits

HR

BB

SO

Clemens, Roger

707

4916.2

354–184

.658

4185

363

1580

4672

Pettitte, Andy

521

3316.0

256–153

.626

3448

288

1031

2448

Buehrle, Mark

493

3283.1

214–160

.572

3472

361

734

1870

Schilling, Curt

436

3261.0

216–146

.597

2998

347

711

3116

Hudson, Tim

479

3126.2

222–133

.625

2957

248

917

2080

Burnett, A.J.

430

2731.1

164–157

.511

2519

263

1100

2513

Zito, Barry

421

2576.2

165–143

.536

2381

282

1064

1885

Haren, Dan

380

2419.2

153–131

.539

2357

305

500

2013


GS
: Career games started.

IP: Career innings pitched.

Win-Loss: Career win-loss record.

PCT: Career win-loss percentage.

The table below details the rate statistics, or the qualitative numbers (explained in the legend beneath the table), for the starting pitchers appearing on the 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot, ranked by weighted Adjusted Earned Run Average Plus (ERA+). Starting pitchers appearing for the first time on the ballot are in bold type.

Rate Statistics for Starting Pitchers on the 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot, Ranked by ERA+

Pitcher

ERA

ERA+

RA9

FIP

WHIP

RAA

WAA

SO9

SO/W

Clemens, Roger

3.12

143

3.45

3.09

1.173

853

93.9

8.6

2.96

Schilling, Curt

3.46

127

3.64

3.23

1.137

486

53.9

8.6

4.38

Hudson, Tim

3.49

120

3.80

3.78

1.239

283

30.0

6.0

2.27

Buehrle, Mark

3.81

117

4.23

4.11

1.281

275

29.4

5.1

2.55

Pettitte, Andy

3.85

117

4.27

3.74

1.351

286

29.8

6.6

2.37

Haren, Dan

3.75

109

4.11

3.78

1.181

105

11.8

7.5

4.03

Zito, Barry

4.04

105

4.38

4.39

1.337

94

10.1

6.6

1.77

Burnett, A.J.

3.99

104

4.38

3.86

1.325

53

6.0

8.3

2.28


ERA
: Career earned run average.

ERA+: Career ERA, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by Baseball Reference. Positively indexed to 100, with a 100 ERA+ indicating a league-average pitcher, and values above 100 indicating the degrees better a pitcher is than a league-average pitcher.

RA9: Career runs allowed per nine innings pitched. Includes unearned runs.

FIP: Career fielding-independent pitching. Measures effectiveness at minimizing home runs, walks, and hits by pitch and at maximizing strikeouts.

WHIP: Career walks and hits allowed per innings pitched.

WAA: Wins Above Average, the number of wins the player is worth above a league-average player.

RAA: Runs Above Average, the number of runs the player is worth above a league-average player.

SO9: Career strikeouts per nine innings pitched.

SO/W: Career strikeouts-to-walks ratio.


The table below details the awards and leader statistics (explained in the legend beneath the table) for the starting pitchers appearing on the 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot, ranked by Black Ink Test. Starting pitchers appearing for the first time on the ballot are in bold type.

Awards and Leaders Statistics for Starting Pitchers on the 202` BBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot, Ranked by Black-Ink Test

Player

CYA

CYA Top 5

MVP Top 10

All-Star

Gold Glove

RoY

Black Ink

Gray Ink

Clemens, Roger

7

10

5 (1)

11

0

0

100

320

Schilling, Curt

0

4

2

6

0

0

42

205

Buehrle, Mark

0

1

0

5

4

0

12

116

Hudson, Tim

0

3

0

4

0

0

11

143

Burnett, A.J.

0

0

0

1

0

0

9

61

Zito, Barry

1

1

0

3

0

0

8

88

Pettitte, Andy

0

4

0

3

0

0

7

103

Haren, Dan

0

1

0

3

0

0

3

94


CYA:
Cy Young Award.

CYA Top 5: Number of times a player finished in the top 5 of his league's Cy Young Award voting. Includes a Cy Young Award MVP win.

MVP Top 10: Number of times a player finished in the top 10 of his league's MVP voting. Includes an MVP win. (*) Indicates that the pitcher won at least one MVP Award.

Black Ink Test: Weighted measurement of times a pitcher led his league in significant pitching statistics. An average Hall of Famer has a measurement of about 40. Developed by Baseball Reference from a creation by Bill James.

Gray-Ink Test: Weighted measurement of times a pitcher appeared in the top ten of his league in significant pitching statistics. An average Hall of Famer has a measurement of about 185. Developed by Baseball Reference from a creation by Bill James.

Relief Pitchers on the 2021 Hall of Fame Ballot

The following tables contain statistics for the two relief pitchers, LaTroy Hawkins and Billy Wagner, on the 2021 Hall of Fame ballot.

As with both position players and starting pitchers, these five tables help to illustrate the qualities of relief-pitcher value (Hall of Fame statistics), longevity (volume statistics), effectiveness (rate statistics and relief pitcher effectiveness), and recognition (awards and leader statistics) that distinguish a Hall of Fame-caliber relief pitcher from other relievers. They might not tell the entire story, but they compose a significant portion of it.

Another crucial point specific to Hawkins and Wagner: There is no comparison between the two. For one thing, Wagner was almost exclusively used as a closer while Hawkins, although he accrued 127 saves, was primarily a setup man, as evinced by his 185 holds. For another, Wagner is clearly the elite relief pitcher, as evinced by his rate and effectiveness statistics. It might not seem fair to compare the two in the first place, but ultimately each is competing for votes on the ballot.

The table below details the Hall of Fame statistics for the relief pitchers appearing on the 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot, ranked by bWAR. Starting pitchers appearing for the first time on the ballot are in bold type. (See the legend beneath the table for position players above for explanations of the categories.)

Hall of Fame Statistics for Relief Pitchers on the 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot, Ranked by bWAR

Player

fWAR

bWAR

WAR7

JAWS

JAWS Rank

WPA

HoF Mon.

(≈100)

HoF Std.

(≈50)

Wagner, Billy

24.0

27.7

19.8

23.7

19

29.1

107

24

Hawkins, LaTroy

14.7

17.8

16.1

17.0

72

1.7

36

4


WPA:
Win Probability Added, the likelihood that a relief pitcher has influenced the outcome of a given game through his pitching contribution.


The table below details the volume statistics, or the counting numbers or quantitative statistics (explained in the legend beneath the table), for the relief pitchers appearing appear on the 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot, ranked by appearances. Starting pitchers appearing for the first time on the ballot are in bold type.

Volume Statistics for Relief Pitchers on the 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot, Ranked by Appearances

Pitcher

APP

IP

SV

BS

HLD

Hits

HR

BB

SO

Hawkins, LaTroy

1042

1467.1

127

63

185

1607

163

456

983

Wagner, Billy

853

903.0

422

69

13

601

82

300

1196


APP
: Career appearances.

IP: Career innings pitched.

SV: Career saves.

BS: Career blown saves.

HLD: Career holds.


The table below details the rate statistics, or the qualitative numbers (explained in the legend beneath the table), for the relief pitchers appearing on the 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot, ranked by weighted Adjusted Earned Run Average Plus (ERA+). Starting pitchers appearing for the first time on the ballot are in bold type.

Rate Statistics for Relief Pitchers on the 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot, Ranked by ERA+

Pitcher

ERA

ERA+

RA9

FIP

WHIP

RAA

WAA

SO9

SO/W

Wagner, Billy

2.31

187

2.61

2.73

0.998

160

16.5

11.9

3.99

Hawkins, LaTroy

4.31

106

4.68

4.18

1.406

31

4.1

6.0

2.16


ERA
: Career earned run average.

ERA+: Career ERA, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by Baseball Reference. Positively indexed to 100, with a 100 ERA+ indicating a league-average pitcher, and values above 100 indicating the degrees better a pitcher is than a league-average pitcher.

RA9: Career runs allowed per nine innings pitched. Includes unearned runs.

FIP: Career fielding-independent pitching. Measures effectiveness at minimizing home runs, walks, and hits by pitch and at maximizing strikeouts.

WHIP: Career walks and hits allowed per innings pitched.

WAA: Wins Above Average, the number of wins the player is worth above a league-average player.

RAA: Runs Above Average, the number of runs the player is worth above a league-average player.

SO9: Career strikeouts per nine innings pitched.

SO/W: Career strikeouts-to-walks ratio.


The table below details the relief-pitcher effectiveness statistics (explained in the legend beneath the table) for the relief pitchers appearing on the 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot, ranked by Average Leverage Index (aLI). Starting pitchers appearing for the first time on the ballot are in bold type.

Relief Pitchers Effectiveness for Relief Pitchers on the 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot, Ranked by Average Leverage Index

Pitcher

Slash Line

SV%

aLI

IR

IS

IS%

SO%

Wagner, Billy

.187/.262/.296/.558

86

1.812

166

46

28

33.2

Hawkins, LaTroy

.279/.332/.424/.756

67

1.294

299

93

31

15.6


Slash Line:
Aggregate opposing hitters' batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage plus slugging percentage against the pitcher.

SV%: Career save percentage, total saves divided by total save opportunities, with save opportunities the total of all saves and all blown saves.

aLI: Average leverage index, or the amount of pressure faced by a pitcher, with 1.0 indicating average pressure and values greater than 1.0 indicating high pressure.

IR: Career inherited runners. Number of runners on base when a pitcher entered the game.

IS: Career inherited runners scored. Number of a pitcher’s inherited runners who scored. Note that these runs are charged to the previous pitcher.

IS%: Career percentage of inherited runners who score while the pitcher is in the game.

SO%: Career strikeout percentage, or the percentage of all plate appearances that result in a strikeout.

The table below details the awards and leader statistics for the relief pitchers appearing on the 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot, ranked by Black Ink Test. Starting pitchers appearing for the first time on the ballot are in bold type. (See the legend beneath the table for starting pitchers above for category descriptions.)

Awards and Leaders Statistics for Relief Pitchers on the2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot, Ranked by Black-Ink Test

Player

CYA

CYA Top 5

MVP Top 10

All-Star

Gold Glove

RoY

Black Ink

Gray Ink

Wagner, Billy

0

1

0

7

0

0

0

31

Hawkins, LaTroy

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

6

Last modified on Tuesday, 26 January 2021 19:26