With the season of Baseball Hall of Fame voting upon us, I would like to take the opportunity to discuss some of the candidates that have Toronto Blue Jays connections and are on the ballot.
Mind you, all players that’s have had Blue Jays connections that are on the ballot had minimal time with the Blue Jays.
Many remember Vizquel as a defensive wizard who was part of the big 90s Indians teams. He was a very good defensive shortstop for most of his career.
He was also not very good offensively with a career wRC+ of 83, meaning he was 17% less than league average offensively for his entire career that spanned 24 years. Ok, so in his later years his offence trailed off even further than in his prime, so let’s look at his prime years with the Indians. He was twice above league average once in 1999 with a 115 wRC+ and once in 2002 with a 102 wRC+. He had several years around or below league average. Let’s just call him, at his best, he was a league-average hitter.
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But he was mainly known for his defence and ability to make highlight real plays. I would argue that his defensive prowess has been slightly overblown. In parts of 24 seasons, he amassed 134.8 (84 Total Zone Runs and 50.8 Ultimate Zone Runs) runs saved at shortstop. Total Zone is the precursor to Ultimate Zone Rating on Fangraphs.com for a defensive metric.
By comparison, Cal Ripken in 17 seasons, as a SS, amassed 176 runs saved. Ripken made more plays than Vizquel. He turned more balls in play into outs. He may have had a lower fielding percentage, a garbage stat in my opinion, but he got to more balls and made more plays, which is what is important.
I have no issues with inducting a defensive wizard into the Hall like Ozzie Smith. But when a player only amassed 42.5 fWAR or 45.6 bWAR (I like to use both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference WARs because of their subtle differences) as a shortstop, I do not believe that warrants a vote into Cooperstown.
Rolen may have only played a season and a bit with the Blue Jays but I really wanted to mention his Hall of Fame case. I believe he’s is one of the more underrated players on the ballot.
Rolen was a threat on both sides of the ball. He posted a career 122 wRC+ (22% above league average) during the steroid era. Meaning, if he was 22% better than the league average during a high offence era, that is really impressive. He had 316 home runs. A total of 153.1 (46 TZ plus 107.1 UZR) runs saved as a third baseman making him one of the best defensive third basemen of all time. He was not the caliber of Brooks Robinson, but really, who was or could be?
He posted career WAR totals of 69.9 fWAR and 70.2 bWAR. Derek Jeter may possibly get unanimously voted in with 72.4 bWAR amassed over 20 seasons and on a rate stats like wRC+ and UZR was worse than Rolen on both sides of the ball. Jeter should definitely be in the Hall of Fame, but with numbers like Rolen’s, so should he.
I won’t spend too much time on Clemens. He spent two years with the Blue Jays. He produced some incredible stats during his time with Blue Jays including 2 Cy Young awards.
He is obviously tied to the steroid era and many a voter have held him off their ballots. While I understand their position, I believe Clemens should be in the Hall. If Cooperstown is supposed to be a shrine to the history of the game, why shouldn’t he be in the Hall, he was incredible even before the steroid era.
Many will not remember him as a Blue Jay as he only played half a season for them as a rookie. Some may remember him as the guy they traded away for David Cone in 1992.
Kent should garner some interest on the ballot with a career 56 fWAR. He was a star offensively with a 123 wRC+ over 17 seasons. 377 home runs. And 2461 hits.
He was average defensively but never really hurt his team by being out there.
I am on the fence about Kent as a sure thing Hall of Famer.