Author Archive

JAWS and the 2023 Hall of Fame Ballot: Jeff Kent

© Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The following article is part of Jay Jaffe’s ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2023 Hall of Fame ballot. Originally written for the 2014 election at SI.com, it has been updated to reflect recent voting results as well as additional research. For a detailed introduction to this year’s ballot, and other candidates in the series, use the tool above; an introduction to JAWS can be found here. For a tentative schedule, and a chance to fill out a Hall of Fame ballot for our crowdsourcing project, see here. All WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version unless otherwise indicated.

Jeff Kent took a long time to find a home. Drafted by the Blue Jays in 1989, he passed through the hands of three teams that didn’t quite realize the value of what they had. Not until a trade to the Giants in November 1996 — prior to his age-29 season — did he really settle in. Once he did, he established himself as a standout complement to Barry Bonds, helping the Giants become perennial contenders and spending more than a decade as a middle-of-the-lineup force.

Despite his late-arriving stardom and a prickly personality that sometimes rubbed teammates and media the wrong way, Kent earned All-Star honors five times, won an MVP award, and helped four different franchises reach the playoffs a total of seven times. His resumé gives him a claim as the best-hitting second baseman of the post-1960 expansion era — not an iron-clad one, but not one that’s easily dismissed. For starters, he holds the all-time record for most home runs by a second baseman with 351. That’s 74 more than Ryne Sandberg, 85 more than Joe Morgan, and 86 more than Rogers Hornsby — all Hall of Famers, and in Hornsby’s case, one from before the expansion era (note that I’m not counting homers hit while playing other positions). Among players with at least 7,000 plate appearances in their career who spent at least half their time at second base, only Hornsby (.577) has a higher slugging percentage than Kent’s .500. From that latter set, only Hornsby (1.010) and another pre-expansion Hall of Famer, Charlie Gehringer (.884), have a higher OPS than Kent (.855). Read the rest of this entry »


A 2023 Hall of Fame Ballot of Your Own – and a Schedule of Profiles

Hall of Fame season is underway, and I’ve already completed my review of the eight Contemporary Baseball Era Committtee candidates and gotten a start on the annual BBWAA ballot. With the latter, it’s time to launch what’s become a yearly tradition at FanGraphs. In the spirit of our annual free agent contract crowdsourcing, we’re inviting registered users to fill out their own virtual Hall of Fame ballots using a cool gizmo that our developer, Sean Dolinar, built a few years ago. I’m also going to use this page to lay out a tentative schedule for the remainder of the series as well as links to the profiles that have been published.

To participate in the crowdsourcing, you must be signed in, and you may only vote once. While you don’t have to be a FanGraphs Member to do so, this is a perfect time to mention that buying a Membership does help to fund the development of cool tools like this — and it makes a great holiday gift! To replicate the actual voting process, you may vote for anywhere from zero to 10 players; ballots with more than 10 won’t be counted. You may change your ballot until the deadline, which is December 31, 2022, the same as that of the actual BBWAA voters, who have to schlep their paper ballot to the mailbox. Read the rest of this entry »


JAWS and the 2023 Hall of Fame Ballot: Todd Helton

© Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The following article is part of Jay Jaffe’s ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2022 Hall of Fame ballot. Originally written for the 2019 election, it has been updated to reflect recent voting results as well as additional research. For a detailed introduction to this year’s ballot, and other candidates in the series, use the tool above; an introduction to JAWS can be found here. All WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version unless otherwise indicated.

Baseball at high altitude is weird. The air is less dense, so pitched balls break less and batted balls carry farther — conditions that greatly favor the hitters. Meanwhile, reduced oxygen levels make breathing harder, physical exertion more costly, and recovery times longer. Ever since major league baseball arrived in Colorado in 1993, no player put up with more of this, the pros and cons of playing at a mile-high elevation, than Todd Helton.

A Knoxville native whose career path initially led to the gridiron, ahead of Peyton Manning on the University of Tennessee quarterback depth chart, Helton shifted his emphasis back to baseball in college and spent his entire 17-year career (1997–2013) playing for the Rockies. “The Toddfather” was without a doubt the greatest player in franchise history, its leader in most major offensive counting stat categories. He made five All-Star teams, won three Gold Gloves, a slash line triple crown — leading in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage in the same season — and served as a starter and a team leader for two playoff teams, including Colorado’s only pennant winner. He posted batting averages above .300 12 times, on-base percentages above .400 nine times, and slugging percentages above .500 eight times. He mashed 40 doubles or more seven times and 30 homers or more six times; twice, he topped 400 total bases, a feat that only one other player (Sammy Sosa) has repeated in the post-1960 expansion era. He drew at least 100 walks in a season five times, yet only struck out 100 times or more once; nine times, he walked more than he struck out. Read the rest of this entry »


2023 Contemporary Baseball Era Committee Candidates: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Curt Schilling

© Phil Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the 2023 Contemporary Baseball Era Committee ballot. For a detailed introduction to this year’s ballot, use the tool above. An introduction to JAWS can be found here.

Content warning: This piece, and the original pieces to which it links, contains details about alleged domestic violence and sexual impropriety. The content may be difficult to read and emotionally upsetting.

The Baseball Writers Association of America may be done with these guys, but the Hall of Fame isn’t… yet. Eleven years ago, one of the most talented classes of first-year candidates landed on the writers’ ballot. From a group that included Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling, not to mention Craig Biggio, Kenny Lofton, Mike Piazza, and Sammy Sosa — as well as four holdover candidates subsequently elected by the writers, and three chosen by the Era Committees — the writers elected no one, pitching their first shutout in 17 years. Voting hasn’t been the same since. While Biggio and Piazza were eventually elected by the writers, the quartet of Bonds, Clemens, Schilling, and Sosa were not. Their continued presence on the ballot, and the rancorous debate that surrounded their candidacies, at times gummed up the process, diverting attention away from other compelling candidates and souring many participants and observers on the entire endeavor, if not the institution itself. The politics of glory, indeed.

The polarizing public debate surrounding candidates linked to performance-enhancing drugs — a group that at the time included not just Bonds, Clemens, and Sosa but also Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro — led the Hall’s board of directors to change the rules mid-candidacy by reducing players’ windows of eligibility from 15 years to 10. Where Hall president Jeff Idelson said in 2011 with regards to PED-linked candidates, “[W]e’re happy with the diligence of the voters who have participated, and the chips will fall as they fall,” once it became apparent that Bonds and Clemens were trending towards election, the institution put its thumb on the scale via board member Joe Morgan’s open plea for voters not to consider steroid users. Morgan’s letter conveniently sidestepped the likelihood that some steroid users — and numerous known users of another performance-enhancing drug, amphetamines — had already been elected. Read the rest of this entry »


JAWS and the 2023 Hall of Fame Ballot: Scott Rolen

Scott Rolen
USA TODAY Sports – Jerry Lai

The following article is part of Jay Jaffe’s ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2023 Hall of Fame ballot. Originally written for the 2018 election at SI.com, it has been updated to reflect recent voting results as well as additional research. For a detailed introduction to this year’s ballot, and other candidates in the series, use the tool above; an introduction to JAWS can be found here. All WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version unless otherwise indicated.

“A hard-charging third baseman” who “could have played shortstop with more range than Cal Ripken.” “A no-nonsense star.” “The perfect baseball player.” Scott Rolen did not lack for praise, particularly in the pages of Sports Illustrated at the height of his career. A masterful, athletic defender with the physical dimensions of a tight end (listed at 6-foot-4, 245 pounds), Rolen played with an all-out intensity, sacrificing his body in the name of stopping balls from getting through the left side of the infield. Many viewed him as the position’s best for his time, and he more than held his own with the bat as well, routinely accompanying his 25–30 homers a year with strong on-base percentages.

There was much to love about Rolen’s game, but particularly in Philadelphia, the city where he began his major league career and the one with a reputation for fraternal fondness, he found no shortage of critics — even in the Phillies organization. Despite winning 1997 NL Rookie of the Year honors and emerging as a foundation-type player, Rolen was blasted publicly by manager Larry Bowa and special assistant to the general manager Dallas Green. While ownership pinched pennies and waited for a new ballpark, fans booed and vilified him. Eventually, Rolen couldn’t wait to skip town, even when offered a deal that could have been worth as much as $140 million. Traded in mid-2002 to the Cardinals, he referred to St. Louis as “baseball heaven,” which only further enraged the Philly faithful.

In St. Louis, Rolen provided the missing piece of the puzzle, helping a team that hadn’t been to the World Series since 1987 make two trips in three years (2004 and ’06), with a championship in the latter. A private, introverted person who shunned endorsement deals, he didn’t have to shoulder the burden of being a franchise savior, but as the toll of his max-effort play caught up to him in the form of chronic shoulder and back woes, he clashed with manager Tony La Russa and again found himself looking for the exit. After a brief detour to Toronto, he landed in Cincinnati, where again he provided the missing piece, helping the Reds return to the postseason for the first time in 15 years. Read the rest of this entry »


The Big Questions About the 2023 BBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot

© Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

If you were waiting for a time when the discussion around the BBWAA’s annual Hall of Fame voting didn’t center around Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Curt Schilling, then I have good news: After 10 years of increasingly polarized debate, they all fell short of the 75% needed for election and have run out of eligibility on the ballot. They’re now candidates on the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee ballot — a problem for another day — but they’re not part of the 28-man slate unveiled by the Hall on Monday. That’s not to say that this ballot is devoid of controversial figures, or that debates about character are a thing of the past, but we can finally move beyond the cast that hit the 2013 ballot and spent 10 years monopolizing discussions and draining some of the fun out of the whole process.

The 2023 ballot doesn’t come without controversy, particularly in relation to the top newcomer, Carlos Beltrán. A nine-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner who racked up 2,745 hits, 435 homers, and 312 steals, he’s got numbers to appease traditionalists, and likewise, he checks the advanced stat boxes by ranking eighth in WAR and ninth in JAWS among center fielders, thanks in no small part to the extra value he provided on the bases and in the field. For all of that, Beltrán is the player most closely identified with the Astros’ illegal sign stealing scandal, less because his own performance benefited (his 2017 season was below replacement level) than because The Athletic’s reporting and commissioner Rob Manfred’s subsequent report placed him at the center of the efforts to decode opposing catchers’ signs using the team’s video replay system.

Whether that is an offense grave enough to cost Beltrán a chance at Cooperstown is a matter for debate; his involvement in the matter already cost him his job as the Mets manager before he oversaw a single game. He returned to baseball this past year as a broadcaster for the YES Network, though no team has considered him for an in-uniform job since he left the Mets. Read the rest of this entry »


2023 Contemporary Baseball Era Committee Candidate: Dale Murphy

© Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the 2023 Contemporary Baseball Era Committee ballot. Originally written for the 2013 election at SI.com, it has been expanded and updated. For a detailed introduction to this year’s ballot, use the tool above. An introduction to JAWS can be found here.

It took four position changes — from catcher to first base, then left field, right field, and finally center field — and parts of five major league seasons for the Braves to figure out where the 6-foot-4 Dale Murphy fit. Once they did, they had themselves a franchise centerpiece, a wholesome, milk-drinking superstar whom Sports Illustrated profiled for its July 4, 1983 cover story by proclaiming, “Murphy’s Law is Nice Guys Finish First.”

The title was a reference to the slugger helping the Braves to an NL West title the previous year, their lone playoff appearance during the 1970-90 stretch. “Here’s a guy who doesn’t drink, smoke, chew or cuss,” wrote SI’s Steve Wulf. “Here’s a guy who has time for everyone, a guy who’s slow to anger and eager to please, a guy whose agent’s name is Church. His favorite movie is Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. He’s a wonderful ballplayer.” Let the record show that Wulf did unearth some dirt on Murphy, noting that he once got a speeding ticket for doing 35 in a 25-mph zone… while running late to speak to a church group.

Murphy won the first of his back-to-back MVP awards in 1982 as well as the first of his five consecutive Gold Gloves, and made his second of seven All-Star teams. He would spend most of the 1980s as one of the game’s best players. Alas, knee problems turned him into a shadow of the player he once was while he was still in his early 30s, and he played his final game in the majors at age 37. Read the rest of this entry »


Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 11/18/22

2:02
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon, folks! Welcome to the first 2022-23 offseason edition of my chat. I’m not sure if this is the Hot Stove or the smoldering wreckage of Twitter, but here we are. I’ve been covering the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee ballot this week, with entries on Fred McGriff, Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Belle, and Don Mattingly, all of which you can get to via the nav bar here https://blogs.fangraphs.com/2023-contemporary-baseball-era-committee-c…

2:04
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Next up is Dale Murphy, which will run Monday because I added some Deep Thoughts that were brought about by the advent calendar of bad behavior by some of the others on this ballot. I also covered Anthony Rizzo’s return to the Yankees https://blogs.fangraphs.com/anthony-rizzo-heads-back-to-the-bronx/

2:04
Malcolm Nunez: Hi Jay is Goldy a lock for the Hall now?

2:06
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I was just looking at his page a little while ago, prompted by a similar question from MLB Network Radio pal Mike Ferrin. I wrote about Goldschmidt’s progress in mid-July (https://t.co/IydUWFrx7r) after which he continued to mash even with a September slump, which is why he’s the NL MVP

2:07
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Here’s how he looks via JAWS:

First Base (18th):
58.5career WAR |45.37yr-peak WAR |51.9JAWS |5.8WAR/162
  Average HOF 1B (out of 23):
    65.5 career WAR | 42.1 7yr-peak WAR | 53.8 JAWS | 4.9 WAR/162

2:08
Avatar Jay Jaffe: That peak score is 13th all time, nestled between Frank Thomas and Miguel Cabrera. I’d say that the heavy lifting for Goldschmidt is over, and that he’s on his way provided he gets the remaining 250 hits he needs to reach 2,000 (which he in all likelihood will)

Read the rest of this entry »


2023 Contemporary Baseball Era Committee Candidate: Don Mattingly

Don Mattingly
USA TODAY Sports

The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the 2023 Contemporary Baseball Era Committee ballot. Originally written for the 2013 election at SI.com, it has been expanded and updated. For a detailed introduction to this year’s ballot, use the tool above. An introduction to JAWS can be found here.

Don Mattingly was the golden child of the Great Yankees Dark Age. He debuted in September 1982, the year after the team finished a stretch of four World Series appearances in six seasons, and retired in 1995 after finally reaching the postseason — a year too early for the franchise’s run of six pennants and four titles in eight years under Joe Torre.

A lefty-swinging first baseman with a sweet stroke, “Donnie Baseball” was both an outstanding hitter and a slick fielder at his peak. He made six straight All-Star teams from 1984 to ’89 and won a batting title, an MVP award, and nine Gold Gloves. Along the way, he battled with owner George Steinbrenner even while becoming the standard bearer of the pinstripes, the team captain, and something of a cultural icon. Alas, a back injury sapped his power, not only shortening his peak but also bringing his career to a premature end at age 34. At its root, the problem was that Mattingly was so driven to succeed that he overworked himself in the batting cage.

“Donnie was one of the hardest workers I had ever seen and played with. He would go in the cage before batting practice and take batting practice. And after batting practice was over, he’d take batting practice,” former teammate Ron Guidry said for a 2022 MLB Network documentary, Donnie Baseball (for which this scribe was also interviewed).

“I should have learned quicker to not to beat my body up, and if I did less, I could perform better,” said Mattingly for the same documentary.

Mattingly debuted on the 2001 Hall of Fame ballot, the last one before I began my own annual reviews, but it was quickly clear that he didn’t have the raw numbers or the support of enough voters to gain entry to Cooperstown. After receiving 28.2% his first time around, he dipped to 20.3% in 2002, spent most of the remainder of his 15-year run in the teens, and was in single digits by the end. What’s more, in two appearances on the Modern Baseball Era Committee ballot in 2018 and ’20, he failed to reach the threshold to have his actual share reported; at most, he received three of 16 votes (18.8%) in his last appearance.

At this point, Mattingly’s best hope for a Hall of Fame berth involves building on his managerial success, though even in that department he has a long way to go. After winning three division titles in five seasons with the Dodgers, he spent seven years toiling for the Marlins and is currently out of a job after stepping down from that job last month. He seems unlikely to be elected this time around, but his candidacy is nonetheless a welcome palate cleanser when compared to the likes of Rafael Palmeiro and Albert Belle. Read the rest of this entry »


2023 Contemporary Baseball Era Committee Candidate: Albert Belle

© RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the 2023 Contemporary Baseball Era Committee ballot. For a detailed introduction to this year’s ballot, use the tool above. An introduction to JAWS can be found here.

Albert Belle was baseball’s most notorious bad boy in the 1990s, and he developed into one of the game’s elite sluggers. He flat out terrorized pitchers — and was no picnic for many of those around him — for a decade before a degenerative hip condition forced his retirement at age 34. Even at the height of an offense-heavy era, his numbers are something to behold.

So, too, are stories of Belle’s temper. A 1996 Sports Illustrated cover story, “He Thrives on Anger” — a title taken from a quote by Cleveland clubhouse attendant Frank Mancini, one of Belle’s closest friends — detailed his throwing baseballs at a photographer, hurling epithets at a broadcaster, and chasing teenagers who had egged his house in his Ford Explorer. While Belle overcame early-career problems with alcohol to flourish in the majors, his actions once he did rarely cast his as a feel-good story. Had the behavior that incurred multiple fines and suspensions — not to mention a 1998 domestic battery complaint that was later dropped — occurred two decades later, he could have received even heavier punishment that might have altered his career path. Read the rest of this entry »