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Hall of Confusion

The Baseball Hall of Fame announced it's 2006 induction class of one this afternoon. Hall of Fame voting always intrigues me because it just isn't easy to figure out. When considering many of the names bandied about today, I came up with the following conclusions:

Albert Belle's stats are better than 7.7% of the vote.
Of the outfielders most being considered, Jim Rice is better positioned to be a Hall of Famer than Andre Dawson. What's more- Albert Belle is even better positioned than Jim Rice. Comparing averages of season's with at least 100 games played, Albert leads this group of three in runs, home runs and total bases per season. Belle was far and away the most productive averaging more than 10 more home runs than Rice and 20 more RBI per season than Rice. Rice leads in hits and batting average. Somehow Jim Rice got 337 votes (53 shy of induction) compared to Belle's 40 (14 fewer and his name would be removed from future consideration).

Distinguishing closers is difficult.
When considering relief pitchers, season ranks in relevant stat categories is extremely important. The role of the closer has changed so much during the past 40 years that comparing a reliever to his peers is key. For instance, while lone 2006 inductee Bruce Sutter has more than 150 fewer career saves than all-time leader Lee Smith, they each have led their league's in that category 5 times. Their ERA's are also similar, with Sutter having 2 seasons with an ERA lower than 2 and a career 2.83 ERA compared to Smith having 1 season with an ERA lower than 2 and a lifetime 3.03 ERA. These comparisons solidify the reasoning for Bruce Sutter's induction, but also point out voting inconsistency as Smith finished 166 votes behind Sutter.

Apparently, sensational single seasons must be backed up with longevity.
My hope that players with inconsistent careers, but dominant single-season performances will somehow slip through the cracks and become Hall of Famers has been dashed again. Is it unreasonable to compare an inconsistent career featuring a season of absolute off-the-chart dominance to a career of better than average consistency without a mind-blowing marquee season? I don't think so...
  • Orel Hershiser (11% of the vote), 1988: Cy Young winner led the NL in innings, wins, complete games and shutouts; finished 3rd in ERA. Pitched a shutout and picked up a save in 4 appearances against the Mets in the NLCS; Pitched 2 complete game victories to lead the Dodgers past the A's in the World Series, notching an ERA of 1.00.
  • Dwight Gooden (3.3% of the vote, removed from future consideration), 1985: Cy Young winner led NL in ERA (1.53!), wins, strikeouts and complete games; finished 2nd in shutouts. Of 35 starts, 24 were wins, 16 were complete games, 8 were shutouts.
  • Bert Blyleven (53.3% of vote, finished 5th on ballot): Never led league in wins or ERA; Led league in strikeouts in '85 (although his 205 in the AL were 63 fewer than NL's leader Gooden); Led league in losses and earned runs allowed in '88; youngest player in baseball in '70 at age 19, 6th oldest in baseball in '92 at age 41.
I'm pretty sure I'd take the Hershiser career if I could pick one, just for that incredible '88 season.

Parting shot...
Jeff Montgomery improbably received 2 Hall of Fame votes in 2005. A quick check on Jeff's career numbers as a closer: 304 saves, 3.27 ERA. Essentially Bruce Sutter's numbers.


Solid points.

Regarding your parting shot, comparing Montgomery vs. Sutter - their numbers are strikingly similar. But, Sutter is credited with inventing the splitfinger fastball, a pitch that revolutionized the pitching profession.

And Sutter is from Lancaster County. That counts for something in my book.

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