These former MLB players deserve more love from Hall of Fame voters

Who will be part of Baseball Hall of Fame in this year’s class? We don’t know yet (results will be announced on Tuesday the 25th), but there are several players who we’re pretty sure won’t make it. They either don’t get enough support on the public ballot or face too significant a deficit from the previous year’s vote total, among other factors. For a lot of these players, that’s justified, there’s no shame in lasting long enough to be elected to the Hall of Fame, but for others, we’re not quite sure that’s fair. We asked some of our experts to come up with their best cases for players who really should get more support from voters.

Bobby Abreu

Bobby Abreu was a five-tool player in the truest sense: a patient hitter with power who acted as a perpetual stealing threat and could alter a game with both his arm and his glove. But his career has also been defined by blatant slights, such as:

The final figure represents the percentage of Baseball Writers Association of America ballots that Abreu appeared on last year, in his second year of Hall of Fame eligibility. The year before, he barely reached the 5% threshold required to remain a candidate. This year, with 43.6% of the ballots revealed, Abreu has obtained only 11.1% of the votes, according to the data collected by Ryan Thibodaux.

It’s true that Abreu isn’t a surefire Hall of Famer. But his case is much closer than it seems, and deserves much more consideration than it has been given. From 1998 to 2004, Abreu ranked fifth in FanGraphs wins above replacement (WAR), behind only Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Scott Rolen and Andruw Jones. He played in at least 142 games in 14 consecutive seasons and frequently finished with at least a .300 batting average (six times), a .400 on-base percentage (eight), a .500 slugging percentage (five times) , 20 home runs. (nine), 20 stolen bases (13), 100 RBIs (eight), 100 runs (eight), 100 walks (eight) and 3.0 WAR according to FanGraphs (10).

Baseball’s benchmark WAR average for Hall of Fame right fielders is 71.1, and Abreu falls notably below 60.2. But that list of Hall of Fame right fielders includes Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Mel Ott, Frank Robinson, Roberto Clemente and Al Kaline, members of the Hall of Fame’s inner circle. Abreu isn’t on that level, but that doesn’t mean he’s not fully worthy of inclusion. His JAWS (short for Wins Over Jaffe Replacement) score, famously developed by Jay Jaffe, ranks him 20th in his slot, between a pair of Hall of Famers in Dave Winfield and Vladimir Guerrero.

Again, it’s close. Abreu’s career totals may not stand out on a page: He finished just shy of a .300/.400/.500 offensive line, 2,500 hits, 300 home runs and 1,400 RBIs, though he stole exactly 400 bases, but deserves much more consideration. –Alden Gonzalez

Andrew Jones

Andruw Jones, who is trending 50% on the public ballot in his fifth year of eligibility, is the most overlooked player on a ballot full of them. There are three reasons why you should be getting more Hall of Fame votes:

1. He may be the best gardener who ever lived.

Baseball Reference measures a player’s number of runs better or worse than average by using defensive runs saved when available and his total zone rating when not. In doing so, Jones finds himself at the top of a list of some legendary outfielders:

Most runs from fielding
outfielders in MLB history

Andrew Jones 234.7
Roberto Clemente 204.8
Willie Mays 184.5

In the 10 seasons he was the Braves’ starting center fielder (1998–07), Jones ranked among the top three NL outfielders in putouts (and led the league six times). During that span, Jones recorded 4,126 putouts, 495 more than any other player in baseball.

2. He enjoyed a brilliant peak, and it was not short.

Jones played 11 full seasons for the Braves, from 1997 to 2007, and during that span, he produced 60.9 WAR. The only position players in all of baseball who generated more were Alex Rodriguez (85.7) and Barry Bonds (79.1), the two best players of their generation (albeit clouded by connections to performance-enhancing drugs).

Jones won a Gold Glove in 10 of those seasons (1998-07), in which he hit a total of 345 home runs. Only three players hit more home runs in their Gold Glove seasons, and all were elected to the Hall of Fame at their first opportunity.

Most home runs in Gold Glove seasons
Willie Mays 435
Ken Griffey Jr. 382
Mike Schmidt 369
Andrew Jones 345

3. He’s as responsible for the Braves’ divisional dynasty as anyone.

That group is best remembered for its Big Three: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, all of whom were inducted into the Hall of Fame on their first ballot. Also Chipper Jones. Even manager Bobby Cox and general manager John Schuerholz have been enshrined.

But amid the Braves’ record-breaking streak of 14 straight division titles, Jones was, according to WAR, their best player in five of those seasons, the most for the team, even though he didn’t play a full season until 1997. .

Times he led the Braves in WAR
Seasons in which they won the division (1991-05)

Andrew Jones 5
Greg Maddux 2
JD Drew 1
Ron Gant 1
Marcus Giles 1
Tom Glavine 1
Chipper Jones 1
Terry Pendleton 1
John Smoltz 1

–Paul Hembekides

Billy Wagner

So far, eight relievers have sneaked into Cooperstown, a number small enough that it remains debatable where the line should be drawn on their Hall worth. Wherever that line ends, Billy Wagner will be comfortably above it. He’s the best Hall-eligible reliever not yet enshrined in Cooperstown.

More than ever we can calculate the impact elite relievers have on winning, and it’s disproportionate to what you’d expect from raw aggregate stats. You have to judge relievers through the prism of leverage-based stats, and the practice of doing so will only become more necessary in the years to come, as those metrics increasingly determine how relievers are deployed in the first place.

Among the eight relievers already in the Hall, five of them qualify as the top five in the Jaffe R-JAWS Metric. Wagner is No. 6. He’s also sixth in career saves (422) and aggregate win probability among career relievers. He ranks 44th all-time in aggregate win probability among all pitchers, not just firestops. He was consistent and dominant for most of his career: His 187 OPS+ ranks second among Hall-eligible relievers behind Mariano Rivera.

Wagner appears to have been lost in the shuffle of a still-bloated backlog of Hall-qualified candidates on the ballot. Seven years into his eligibility window, he has crept up to the 50% mark, but hasn’t seen much growth in his support over the past year. That needs to change, and fast: Wagner only has three more years of eligibility left. –Bradford Doolittle

Andy Pettitte

Even Andy Pettitte’s old-school stats are better than you think. He won 256 games in the majors, more than Carl Hubbell or Bob Gibson or Whitey Ford or Pedro Martinez. Okay, sure, his 3.85 ERA would be the highest of any Hall of Famer other than Jack Morris, but his adjusted ERA+ of 117, well, it’s the same as Gaylord Perry, better than Dennis Eckersley or Steve Carlton or Fergie Jenkins or Robin Roberts or Nolan Ryan. No one is trying to kick those guys out of the Hall of Fame. As Sam Miller pointed out in a espn columnIt was tough being a pitcher born in the 1970s and surviving the steroid era. Only Martinez and Roy Halladay have more career WAR than Pettitte among pitchers born in that decade.

I get it: performance maximum de Pettitte doesn’t scream Cooperstown: two seasons rated with an ERA under 3.00, four seasons in the top five for the Cy Young, just three seasons above 5.0 in WAR. He was a bit of a compiler, a guy who produced his 200 entries every season, though of course there’s a lot of value in achieving that. However, with Pettitte, we also have to consider the postseason. For modern players, with multiple playoff rounds and many more opportunities to pitch, this can add a lot to a player’s legacy.

Pettitte won more games than any other pitcher in postseason history (19), started the most games (44), and pitched the most innings (276). He went 19-11 with a 3.81 ERA and, yes, volume is again a part of success, but he allowed two runs or fewer in 23 of those 44 starts and pitched at least six innings in 35 starts. Yankees fans happily remember his greatest moments, including going 8⅓ scoreless innings in Game 5 of the 1996 World Series and his two wins in the 2009 World Series. Perhaps he’s a borderline candidate through his numbers. season, but the five World Series rings are the exclamation point of his career. –-David Schoenfeld


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These former MLB players deserve more love from Hall of Fame voters