Outfielder Showdown for Fame: Bob Abreu vs. Gary Sheffield vs. Andruw Jones

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The battle for permanence on the 2022 BBWAA Baseball Hall of Fame ballot is raging, so let’s take a look at some of the outfielders who are fighting on the roster.

These outfielders appear to be gaining traction, but they still face an uphill battle to reach the Hall of Fame. We will focus on Gary Sheffield, Andruw Jones and Bobby Abreu. Do they belong to him? Is there a way?

Gary Sheffield

One of the league’s most consistent hitters for two decades, Sheffield had an iconic stance (the swing of the bat!). In parts of 22 seasons, he hit .292 / .393 / .514 (140 OPS +) with 2,689 hits, 467 doubles, 509 home runs, 1,676 RBI, 1,636 runs, 253 stolen bases and 60.5 WAR. He walked 1,475 times compared to 1,171 strikeouts, which was a real feather in his cap given the time he played and that he was a hitter. Although he never won an MVP, three times he finished in the top three. There is no question of its volume or rate stats. As a hitter, it’s easy for him to be there.

Critics could point to Sheffield’s defense. Just to put this as an example of the deficiency, his offensive WAR was 80.7 and defensive WAR was -27.7. Yes, negative 27.7.

Sheffield’s bat more than makes up for his defense, which is not that good. The other thing hanging over Sheffield’s head is the character clause and the links to performance-enhancing drugs. It has the connection to the scandal involving the use of banned performance-enhancing substances by professional athletes (BALCO) – even if it’s not that serious, it’s enough for some voters to avoid it – and it was named in the Mitchell Report.

Sheffield has had a late takeoff in Hall voting for five years, but then jumped from 13.6 percent to 30.5 percent and took another jump to 40.6 percent last year. This is his eighth time on the ballot out of a possible 10 and he needs to get to 75 percent. It is doable. But let’s see if it can go above 50 percent this time.

Andruw Jones

Until his 29-year stint, Jones’ induction into the Hall of Fame was an almost inevitable conclusion. Then he gained a ton of weight, lost his seemingly supernatural defensive ability in center field, and stopped hitting. From his 30-year season to the end of his career, he hit .214 / .314 / .420. In his last five seasons, he was only worth 1.7 WAR. Before that, he had five individual seasons with at least 6.5 WAR.

It seems that the memory of a Jones with a bulky salary has tainted him for a good portion of voters, although the tide may be turning. In four voting cycles, it has gone from 7.3 to 7.5, 19.4 and 33.9 percent. That’s a real boost and perhaps those who believe you should be a Hall of Famer have managed to get that message across.

Jones finished with 434 home runs and was over 1,200 RBIs. He was a very good offensive player, leading the majors with 51 home runs in 2005 and leading the National League with 128 RBIs. He surpassed 30 home runs seven times and 100 RBIs five times.

But his offense is only a complement. As noted above with Sheffield, nowhere is it written that a Hall of Famer has to be great at everything. Jones was arguably the best defensive center fielder of all time.

Bob Abreu

Abreu was on only two All-Star teams and never finished higher than 12th in the MVP vote. He also hit .291 on nearly 8,500 hits and reached the bases with a .395 rate in more than 10,000 plate appearances. He hit .475 and posted a 128 OPS +. He had 2,470 hits and 1,476 walks, which ranks 49th in MLB history in on-base times. He ranks 82nd in runs, 89th in RBI, 61st in extra-base hits and 88th in total bases. His 574 doubles rank 25th. He also stole 400 bases.

So there is the Venezuelan. Abreu was very good at a lot of different things, but he wasn’t elite at any, except perhaps for his ability on the bases in his prime (on the other hand, he never finished beyond third in his league in a season).

Abreu is ranked 20th in wins above replacement score (JAWS) among right fielders. He’s actually ahead of Sheffield and Hall of Famers Vladimir Guerrero, Chuck Klein, Tony Oliva, and a few others.

Abreu obtained 5.5 percent of the votes in his first year and 8.7 last year in his second participation in the vote. It looks like it is gaining traction again and is likely to be somewhere in the mid-decade in 2022.


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Outfielder Showdown for Fame: Bob Abreu vs. Gary Sheffield vs. Andruw Jones