By PATRICK GORDON, Managing Editor
December 31, 2015, 3:00 AM EST.
It may not be a fact yet, but Ken Griffey Jr. is a Hall of Famer. The question now, however, is will he be the first player since 1936 to be unanimously elected by the BBWAA.
It's doubtful, though, especially with a subset of writers using their vote as a means of protesting the entire steroid era, that Griffey hits the elusive 100 percent. Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver share the record with 98.8 percent each.
I am a numbers guy and like Jay Jaffe's WAR Score System (JAWS) for examining Hall of Fame viability. [read more about JAWS here]
"JAWS is a tool for measuring a candidate’s Hall of Fame worthiness by comparing him to the players at his position who are already enshrined," writes Jaffe. "A player's JAWS is the average of his career WAR total and that of his peak, which I define as his best seven years."
A 13-time All-Star, Griffey is sandwiched between Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio with the fifth best JAWS for a center fielder in baseball history. He ranks second in career home runs for center fielders with 630, trailing only Willie Mays, and has a career OPS+ of 136.
Griffey was the first name I selected on my IBWAA ballot. I also voted for Edgar Martinez, Trevor Hoffman, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, and Alan Trammell. If I had a BBWAA vote, I'd add Mike Piazza and Tim Raines to my ballot.
I am on the fence with relievers Lee Smith and Billy Wagner, but I believe Hoffman is the better of the three and I cannot justify voting for three relievers on a single ballot. If forced, I would go with Wagner though ahead of Smith.
As for Martinez, he is the best designated hitter ever to play the game and deserves enshrinement. The BBWAA, unfortunately, does not seem as interested in Martinez as I am and that's a shame. A seven-time All-Star with a pair of batting titles, he deserves more respect. His JAWS (56) surpasses that of an average Hall of Fame hitter (54.6), plus his 147 career OPS+ ranks 41st in baseball history, tied with Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Willie Stargell.
For Trammell, I have long lobbied for his inclusion in Cooperstown. His JAWS of 57.5 is the 11th highest in history for a shortstop, a better ranking than 11 of the 21 shortstops already enshrined in the Hall of Fame. He received 25.1 percent votes last year, so it is unlikely he'll come anywhere close to appearing on 75 percent of the ballots in January. Assuming he falls off, he will have to wait until 2020 when the Expansion Era Committee can review his candidacy, and that's a travesty.
Mussina ranks 28th in JAWS for starting pitchers, and his career WAR of 83 is nearly 10 points higher than the average career WAR of the 62 pitchers already in the Hall of Fame.
Similar to Mussina, Schilling ranks as an above average pitcher in comparison to those already enshrined in Cooperstown and ranks just ahead of Mussina in JAWS for pitchers. He also has a stellar postseason resume, including an 11-2 record coupled with a 2.23 ERA, and three World Series rings.
Jeff Kent put together a strong career, but his 45.4 JAWS is nearly 12 points below the Hall of Fame standard for second basemen. Larry Walker is another player I gave a strong look at, but the fact 31 percent of his career plate appearances took place at Coors Field concerns me.
The tide is changing within the BBWAA, but personally, I am not yet willing to budge on the steroid issue. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are two of the greatest talents ever to play the game, but for me, their triumphs are significantly lessened because of their proven involvement with performance enhancing drugs.
I also have no interest in seeing Mark McGwire or Gary Sheffield enter the Hall of Fame. Both had issues off the field and neither rank above average in JAWS in comparison to other Hall of Famers at their respective positions.
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