Edgar Martinez and the Hall of Fame

Edgar Martinez presents one of the most interesting debates about the hall of fame to date. Certainly, he was a hall of fame caliber hitter, regardless of the metrics you use. For his career, he hit .319 with 309 HRs, 514 2B, and 1261 RBI. His career OPS .933 is fantastic. His career wOBA was .405 – over 8600 plate appearances over 18 seasons, he produced at the level of Alex Rodriguez in 2009. This is phenomenal, especially when considering that this includes both his pre-peak and post-attrition numbers. His 544 wRAA translate to nearly 54 wins added with his bat alone, before considering credit for playing time and defense – he did play third base for roughly four full seasons and, according to Sean Smith’s TotalZone (seen here), he was a plus fielder.

Of course, Martinez is not known for his defense, and any argument against his hall of fame candidacy rests upon the fact that Martinez spent a large majority of his career – 1412 of his 2055 games – at the DH position. In the end, the decision of whether or not to vote for Martinez really comes down to a philosophical view of what the designated hitter position really means to baseball.

The dilemma of differentiating between positions is a difficult one in the first place. It’s obvious that a shortstop is more valuable than a first baseman given equal hitting lines due to the relative difficulty of SS and ease of 1B. Similarly, CF is more valuable than LF/RF, and a SP is more valuable than a middle reliever. One solution is the idea of the positional adjustment, which we employ in our WAR valuation here. It’s one way to quantify the value from playing a position given the scarcity of players that can adequately play it.

When it comes down to the designated hitter, there is no longer an issue of scarcity. Anybody in the major leagues can be slotted into the designated hitter position with no defensive detriment to their team. With players like Martinez and David Ortiz who have little to no defensive value, the question of how to properly value them is interesting. Firstly, they can only play in the American League. Secondly, roster flexibility is lost. Clearly, a designated hitter that can play no other position has a lower value to his team than other players.

Still, that doesn’t allow us to take away from the fact that the rules of the American League allow for Edgar Martinez, David Ortiz, Frank Thomas et al. to devastate pitchers and continually produce runs and wins for their teams. As mentioned above, Martinez produced about 54 wins with the bat alone. With Sean Smith’s position adjustment, Martinez produced 67 wins above replacement (vs. roughly 81 wins without any position adjustment). Most players within 5 wins of that mark are either in the hall of fame or will be once they become eligible.

This is where the baseball philosophy comes in. Unlike players like Tim Raines, whose wins were produced via methods unrecognized by traditional metrics, Edgar Martinez’s hitting accomplishments are hall-of-fame caliber by any metric. I believe that Edgar is a hall of famer because he was such a fantastic hitter that any detriment caused by his position is cancelled out. The question is whether or not the BBWAA will agree.

Jack Moore's work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you're willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.

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2nd Half Adjustment
14 years ago

I’m sorry, Martinez’s numbers do not scream “HOF” at me. Do I think he was a good hitter? Yes. He was valuable to his team, but HOF should be transcendent talents. Like Frank Thomas. By the numbers, be they the primary stats baseball dummies use or the secondary and tertiary stats we love here, Frank Thomas is one of the greatest hitters. Of. All. Time. Period. Frank Thomas (and Jim Thome, for that matter) are so far beyond the league of Martinez (in my world) it’s ridiculous. Martinez is not a hall of famer. 300 home runs, from a run producing spot in the line up, doesn’t do it for me.

14 years ago

Count stat fail.
He should be punished for being left to stew for 129, 95, and 32 games in his 24, 25, and 26 y/o seasons in AAA Calgary (where he hit .329, .363, and .345)?

Frank Thomas was better, no one denies this, but Frank Thomas is NOT the standard for the Hall of Fame. Players of Frank Thomas’ caliber have NEVER been the standard. It’s disgraceful to think players like George Kell, Jim Rice, Chick Hafey, etc, are Hall of Famers but Martinez’ “doesn’t match up”.

You realize there’s other ways to help a team outside of HR, right? Martinez won 2 batting titles, 3 OBP titles, led the AL in OPS, Runs Scored, and Doubles in 1995, RBI in 2001, and here were his OPS+’s the years he qualified for the batting title:

185, 166, 165, 164, 160, 158, 157, 155, 152, 141, 139, 138, 132, 92 (age 41 season). Mark Teixeira’s this season was 149, and his career high was 152. That would’ve been Martinez’ 9th best season ever.

But you’re right, you can have Dave Kingman. He hit 442 HR’s. That’s run production. I’ll put Martinez on my team and suck ass.

14 years ago
Reply to  JoeR43

Not getting a full time job until he was 27 counts against him, whether or not that’s fair. No voter is going to care that he was hitting .350 in AAA. It’s AAA.

14 years ago
Reply to  JoeR43

I never said his minor league stats should count, I said it’s stupid to hold his lack of count stats against him because he didn’t get the same opportunity to accumulate said count stats. He was productive as hell once Seattle woke up and give him a job, as anyone could’ve guessed with his AAA numbers.

Compare his career to any other player from 27 on, he matches up well with almost everyone.

14 years ago
Reply to  JoeR43

Whether or not it’s stupid to hold it against him, I think it’s overwhelmingly likely that the voters will. That’s all I’m saying. There are lots of reasons guys lose out in counting stats and not all of them are fair.

14 years ago
Reply to  JoeR43

i don’t think it’s stupid at all to “hold his lack of counting stats” against him b/c he lost time in the minors.

i agree with your conclusion: Edgar is a HoFer.

but we still have to only consider things that ACTUALLY happened. doesn’t matter if it was out of his control or not. judge him on his body of work. i happen to think his body of work is good enough. but if it weren’t, i wouldn’t give him credit for his age 24-27 seasons to push him over the edge.

14 years ago

So Frank Thomas and Edgar Martinez aren’t that far apart as hitters…

14 years ago

This has to be a troll, right? Why would anyone who would say “300 home runs, from a run producing spot in the line up, doesn’t do it for me.” actually be reading fangraphs?

14 years ago

I’m very amused by these two lines, in the same post, from 2nd Half Adjustment:

“the primary stats baseball dummies use”


“300 home runs, from a run producing spot in the line up, doesn’t do it for me.”

Way to conclude your post/argument with a very standard use of traditional stats, the kind that, in your words, “baseball dummies use.”

I assume I’ve been trolled, but that’s okay.