clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Edgar Martinez and Cooperstown

Most of us believe (know) that Edgar belongs in the HOF. But how well-founded are these feelings and what kind of odds does Edgar have of actually making it?

Professional hitter.
Professional hitter.
Harry How/Getty Images

Happy 2016 BBWAA Hall of Fame Voting Announcement Eve everyone!

This year's HOF election results are particularly emotion-inducing for M's fans because we get to be super happy about Griffey crushing it, while annoyed that a certain number of noobs (probably) didn't vote for him, and also simultaneously excited about Edgar gaining a bunch of votes (hopefully) while also being upset that he hasn't already been inducted as the greatest DH in the history of baseball. (Or maybe you're a smart person who doesn't really care about HOF voting because you recognize that it's a largely dumb thing voted on by a bunch of yahoos. Like this guy. What is that ballot, even?)

Anyway, according to Baseball-Reference's seemingly endless vault of information, 244 people have been inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame as players to date. This includes gentlemen from both Major League Baseball and from the Negro League. Of these 244 players, 117 have been voted in by the Baseball Writer's Association of America. (Players have also been elected into the HOF by the Veterans Committee, Old Timers Committee, and by special elections.) The results of the 2016 election will be released tomorrow at 3pm PST. There have already been some posts on this site celebrating Griffey and there will likely be more in the coming week, but today I wanted to take a quick look at Edgar Martinez. Specifically, what kind of chance does Gar stand of getting elected into the Hall by the BBWAA and how miffed should we be if he's left out?

First, and you've probably seen a graphic similar to this one before, let's put Edgar's career in perspective. Below are the career rWAR (baseball-reference's WAR) values of the 117 gentlemen who have been elected into the HOF by the BBWAA as players. (It's important to remember that WAR is imperfect, but I think that it's a very handy tool for making broad-sweeping comparisons like this.)

The range of these players is huge and spans all the way from Bruce Sutter (24.5 WAR) to Cy Young (170.3 WAR). Interestingly, 55 of the 117 players (47%) that the BBWAA has voted into the HOF put up numbers that are inferior to Edgar Martinez's. Although his career production of 68.3 WAR is ~10 WAR below the average player included in this plot (78.1 WAR, which is somewhat inflated by the otherworldly numbers of Cy Young, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Walter Johnson, and Ty Cobb), it is just a touch below the median value (69.4 WAR). Using WAR as a metric, it's pretty clear that Edgar belongs in the hallowed halls of Cooperstown.

Unfortunately, he hasn't gotten there yet. And after receiving only 27% of the votes in 2015, his chances don't look too great. But he's probably not doomed yet. (Fingers crossed.) BBWAA voting rules/trends/strategies have changed dramatically over the years, so it's difficult to look at past elections and get a super good idea of what kind of support a player needs to start drumming up during his last few years on the HOF ballot to get elected. (It also doesn't help that voters sometimes appear to throw logic out the window and seemingly allow their infant children/pets make their selections.) Nonetheless, I've attempted to obtain some frame of reference by looking at the voting histories of the 11 gentlemen who, since 1975, took more than six years to gain induction into the Hall.

The downward trend of Edgar's plot isn't particularly encouraging, but he's actually right in the same range as Sutter, Lemon, and Blyleven were after six years on the ballot. Unfortunately, all of those players benefited from having more than 10 years of eligibility on the HOF ballot. Due to a rule change enacted in 2014, Edgar does not have this luxury and will be removed from the ballot after 2019. Therefore, to get a better sense of how well Edgar needs to do moving forward to grab 75% of the votes, below is a plot showing how these players fared during their final five years on the ballot. In other words, how much ground were they able to make up during their last few years on the ballot before being elected.

At the time of this writing, Edgar was listed on ~47% of the publicly released HOF ballots. It appears as though he'll need to maintain a similar clip on the private ballots in order to have a realistic shot at making it into the HOF by 2019 (his last year of eligibility). Seeing Gar get barely a quarter of the votes last year was pretty discouraging, but if he sees a big bump this year he may still have a chance...

Finally, for a bit more perspective, there are currently 16 players with higher career WARs than Edgar Martinez who are/were eligible for induction into baseball's Hall of Fame but have (as of yet) failed to make the cut.

All-Time MLB career WAR rank Player (years in MLB) Wins above replacement Still on HOF ballot in 2015 (# of years, vote %) Eliminated from BBWAA voting (year eliminated, % of vote, years on ballot)
4 Barry Bonds (22) 162.4 3rd (36.8%) Not yet eliminated
8 Roger Clemens (24) 140.3 3rd (37.5%) Not yet eliminated
58 Mike Mussina (18) 83 2nd (24.6%) Not yet eliminated
63 Curt Schilling (20) 79.9 3rd (39.2%) Not yet eliminated
64 Jeff Bagwell (15) 79.6 5th (55.7%) Not yet eliminated
65 Pete Rose (24) 79.1 No longer on ballot Banned from HOF
73 Jim McCormick (10) 75.8 No longer on ballot Last played in 1887
75 Bill Dahlen (21) 75.2 No longer on ballot Last played in 1911
78 Lou Whitaker (19) 74.9 No longer on ballot 2001, 2.9%, 1
86 Larry Walker (17) 72.6 5th (11.8%) Not yet eliminated
89 Rafael Palmeiro (20) 71.6 No longer on ballot 2011, 4.4%, 4
92 Bobby Grich (17) 70.9 No longer on ballot 1992, 2.6%, 1
93 Alan Trammell (20) 70.4 14th (25.1%) Not yet eliminated
98 Rick Reuschel (19) 70 No longer on ballot 1997, 0.4%, 1
106 Tim Raines (23) 69.1 8th (55.0%) Not yet eliminated
T-111 Kevin Brown (19) 68.3 No longer on ballot 2011, 2.1%, 1
T-111 Edgar Martinez (18) 68.3 6th (27.0%) Not yet eliminated

Several of these gentlemen are still on the HOF ballot and have a chance of being inducted into the HOF by the BBWAA. Piazza will probably accompany Griffey into the Hall in 2016. Bagwell and Raines also appear to have decent shots at getting in this year. (It should also be noted that there are 10 other players with higher career WARs than Edgar who are either still playing in MLB or haven't been retired for five years and aren't yet eligible for induction into the HOF. Those players are listed here.) This table serves to reinforce the idea that there have been very few players who were better than Edgar Martinez who haven't been included in the Hall. Get him in there, you knuckleheads.

To summarize:

  • Edgar's career WAR of 68.3 places him solidly in the middle of players who have been elected into the HOF by the BBWAA. Not including Edgar in the HOF probably wouldn't be the most egregious act, but it would be prettttttttty dumb. Don't be dumb, voters.
  • Based on the performance of previous HOFers, if Edgar can manage at least ~45% of the votes this year, he has a not-terribly-small shot at being inducted into the HOF by the BBWAA before 2019. Make it happen, voters.
  • If antiquated thinking prevails and Edgar does not garner 75% of the vote by 2019, Mariners fans likely have a legitimate reason to be upset (assuming there is ever a legitimate reason to be upset about HOF voting). That being said, members of the Lou Whitaker, Bobby Grich, Rick Reuschel, and Kevin Brown fan clubs have just as much (if not more) reason to be upset so let's not get too carried away.
  • The fact that only two players who 1) have been out of baseball for 30+ years and 2) have better WARs than Edgar haven't been inducted into the HOF by one means or another suggests that even if the BBWAA fails to appropriately recognize Edgar's greatness, he'll almost certainly make it into Cooperstown eventually. This may take a long time, which sucks and isn't really fair, but what can you do? I don't make the rules. I'm sorry.

Go M's.