So, here’s what I wrote last year about Jeff Bagwell and his Hall of Fame candidacy. The stats are the same — Bagwell hasn’t reached 500 homers since last December — and he’s still languishing in the mid-50s when it comes to percentage of Hall voters who have a clue.
So, I’ve been spending a little time at BBTF watching the vote totals change as more and more ballots have been published by the BBWAA voters. And the 800-plus comments — most of which breaks down in to categories like anger over The Big Unit not getting 100 percent, marveling at Pedro’s career, discussion of how Smoltz compares to other starters who spent time as a closer, and a whole lot of talk about steroids — are a rambling mess that have one stat that seems to run through them all like a thread: WAR.
Wins Above Replacement, whether you like the Baseball Reference version or the Fangraphs incarnation, it’s a stat that basically compares players’ over time, whether it’s a short WAR period like a single season or a long one, like a player’s peak.
If you read BR’s explanation of WAR, you’d need either a degree in advanced math or some good 80s style hallucinogens. But basically, WAR for position players is calculated through six categories: Batting Runs, Baserunning Runs, Runs added or lost due to Grounding into Double Plays in DP situations, Fielding Runs, Positional Adjustment Runs, and Replacement level Runs (based on playing time). You can read the equation at Wikipedia, but I only had two years of college calculus, so I don’t know if I can explain it further.
That said, WAR is the go-to stat for the conversation on the Hall. After all, different players at different positions will have different expectations of home runs, batting average, etc., but WAR is WAR. And there’s some pretty basic levels that scream Hall of Fame.
For example, Bagwell has a 79.6 career WAR on BR. That ranks 63rd overall and ahead of players such as Pete Rose, Joe DiMaggio, Reggie Jackson and Frank Thomas (cough, cough). The only players with higher career WARs than Bags that are NOT in the Hall of Fame are people not yet on the ballot or ‘Roid suspects such as Bonds and Clemens.
Biggio, as a catcher and second baseman, is not expected to have quite as high a WAR because of the positions he played, but his 65.1 WAR is right there with Ryne Sandberg (67.5) and Roberto Alomar (66.8). And Biggio ranks higher than Hall of Famers such as Yogi Berra (59.3) and Harmon Killebrew (60.3)
Yes, Bagwell is worthy. And that brings me to a piece of news I unearthed today. The guy behind Baseball Think Factory’s Ballot Collecting Gizmo, Ryan Thibs, has been collecting those published ballots again. It’s still early, but here’s what he’s got so far.
Everyone loves Ken Griffey Jr. Literally everyone. He’s got 100 percent of the 78 ballots published thus far. Mike Piazza has 71 of those votes, and close behind in third place is good ol’ No. 5, Jeffrey Robert Bagwell with 65 votes: 83.3 percent.
Yes, that’s nice and all. And it’s also a small (and early) sample size. But the interesting thing is that 12 of those from voters who left Bagwell off their ballots last time around. Without those 12 ballots, Bagwell gets 53 votes or just 67.9 percent.
So, we’re looking at a 15 percent jump in new votes, putting Bagwell at the 70 percent level if the trend holds.
One other factor for this year is the BBWAA is dropping some old voters off the rolls (apparently the BBWAA is not based in Chicago). Considering so many geezer voters who hadn’t actually covered a game since the leagues went to three divisions were not Bagwell fans, that could reduce some dead weight from the denominator.
So, what do you think Bagwell’s chances are?
Is Griffey the closest thing to a lock this side of The Big Unit?
Does Mike Piazza get that last push needed?
Will someone please recognize that Tim Raines is the second-best lead off hitter in history, and that’s Hall-worthy?
Does Billy Wagner deserve more than one trip to the Hall ballot?