More Edgar

Posted By on December 29, 2011 12:27 pm

I’m probably going to be sorry I’m doing this, because I really do have other things I could be doing instead of arguing with faceless people on the Internet, but FanGraphs has questioned my assesment, so here I go again…

Before I get into this, I appreciate that Edgar is borderline, and a reasonable case can be made both for him and against him. I would never suggest that anyone who voted for him was “wrong.” One of the things that bugs me the most about debates surrounding HOFers is people who insist there is a “right” or “wrong” when that is very rarely the case.

That being said, I want to show that I can cherrypick as well as the next guy. My point with Edgar is that his brilliant peak made him just one of a handful of players to have such a peak during that era. I’ve picked out the best seven-year stretches for each of these guys. (Click on their names to see the full statistical line from the span in question.)

Jason Giambi1999-05 (7)28-341649.7
Edgar Martinez1995-01 (7)32-3816310.0
Gary Sheffield1995-01 (7)26-321619.3
David Ortiz2003-08 (6)27-321528.8
Carlos Delgado1998-04 (7)26-321519.0
Brian Giles1999-05 (7)28-341518.8

I haven’t even included players of this era who I think are HOFers, like Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols, Jeff Bagwell, Jim Thome, Mark McGwire, Vladimir Guerrero, who all had peaks that were longer and/or better than Edgar’s. I’m just illustrating that Edgar was one of several players who had similar peaks during this era. (EDIT: If you want more advanced stats, here are the links to some more advanced numbers for Edgar, Giambi, Sheffield, Giles and Ortiz. They are all similar.) Not only am I not sure any of these players are HOFers, but three of them played a lot more games in the field during his peak than Edgar did.

Of course, you want to throw out Sheffield and Giambi because of steroids, so I’ll add in a slightly more detailed look at Edgar’s career before we give him the Mr. Clean Award.

In 1987 and ’88, Edgar played full seasons in the PCL, at ages 24 and 25, and hit .343 with a total of 18 homers. Meanwhile, the M’s were sticking with Jim Presley, who had hit 27 homers as a 24-year-old in 1986. Yes, they stuck with Presley a little too long, as his career went down quickly after that.

In 1989, at age 26, Edgar played 32 games at AAA and 65 games in the majors, hitting .240. Pretty sure he got hurt sometime that year too, although I can’t find it exactly.

From 1990 to ’92, Edgar was the M’s everyday third baseman. He hit .318, with an average of 14 homers a season, from ages 27 to 29. In 1993, he was hurt almost the entire year. He came back in the strike season of 1994, at age 31, and hit .285 with 13 homers. That was the last season he played more than a few games in the field.

At that point, here were his career most similars

So, then 1995 comes along, and Edgar busts off a string of seven consecutive premium seasons (age 32 to 38) that was as good as can be. He hit an average of 28 homers over those years, and his walk rate also increased from 12 percent to 16.8 percent (most likely because he was being pitched around more because of his extra power), which jumped his OBP from .391 to .446.

Oh by the way, since 1960, there are only two guys who had at least three seasons of 25 homers starting at age 32 after having zero prior to that: Ken Caminiti, Edgar Martinez.

I’m not trying to accuse Edgar of using steroids. I’m just trying to say that whatever was happening in MLB that caused an increase in offense over those years, Edgar seems to have benefitted from it just as much as anyone else. Maybe it was the strike zone or smaller ballparks or juiced baseballs. I don’t know.

What I do know is that the rising water lifted a lot of boats, and the SS Edgar was just one of them.

So what we’ve seen here is that Edgar’s career burst was relatively short, came in an era when — for whatever reason — a lot of guys had similar short bursts, and came while he played almost no defense at all.

That, to me, is enough to keep him barely on the outside of my HOF dividing line. But that’s just me.



2 Responses to “More Edgar”

  1. Bill@TPA says:

    The thing about it, though (and the problem with the whole anti-PED witch hunt), is that *everyone* “seems to have benefitted from it just as much as anyone else.” The only guys that didn’t appear to — guys like McGriff and Will Clark — were just getting old in baseball terms anyway, and they probably got the same boost as everyone else, but rather than elevating their numbers, it slowed the appearance of their decline.

    Which might just mean that everybody was juicing, but probably means that juicing didn’t have nearly the effect people assume it did (if it had any effect at all), and that other things were at play. But regardless, it’s entirely beside the point. We have things like OPS+ to get past issues like this. The average player saw the same boost Edgar did, and Edgar was still THAT much better than average, which makes him a really elite hitter, even if he played alongside a few extra other really elite hitters than we’d expect. I think the most important thing Dave Cameron said in that post was this:

    “let’s not let the fact that he played at a time when the sport was rich with elite offensive performers overshadow the fact that Martinez’s performances are historically special.

    Baseball is cyclical. Sometimes, the sport sees a lot of great players at one position all come up at the same time. 10 years ago, we had an abundance of shortstops who could really hit. Right now, we have a pretty special crop of young pitching. We should not refuse to acknowledge the individual greatness of one of these players simply because their careers dovetailed with the timing of other great players.”

    Each of those guys had a really, really special seven years. I think Edgar was *clearly* better than each, for various reasons (mostly the ones Dave mentioned — if you move away from looking at consecutive seasons and just count up truly dominant offensive seasons, Edgar simply had more of them), and I also think you assume away too much with the next paragraph — none of Bagwell, Vlad or Thome, great as they were, had a seven-year peak that was quite as dominant, offensively, as Edgar’s. But regardless: they all really were great, historically very rare hitters during those peaks. To discount their accomplishments because, out of hundreds of hitters in the league at any given time, there happened to be a couple more of them than we might have expected to see at other points in history, seems silly. Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle happened to play at more or less the same time, but that Mickey wasn’t as good as Willie doesn’t diminish his all-time standing vis-a-vis OTHER CFs. The point we judge from needs to be how they compare to their peers as a whole — the whole league — not how they compare to whoever else happens to be in the top handful of players in the game at that particular moment in time.

  2. Jeff Fletcher says:

    Well, no matter how much statistical research you put into it, it comes back to the most basic thing: where do you draw the line?

    Is it the top 1 percent? The top 1.5 percent?

    There’s a pretty huge difference between those two things, and a lot of guys fall in there, like many of the ones I’ve mentioned. (Upon further review, I easily could have added Carlos Delgado to this list, by the way.)

    I guess I just lean toward fewer guys in the Hall, because I think the more guys you put in who merely “meet the statistical standard,” the more it waters down the group for the true greats (Mays, Cobb, Aaron, Ruth, etc.)

    HOF voters, like umpires, get to decide how much of the borderline we’re going to include. We all have a right to interpret that fuzzy gray area as we wish. All anyone can ask is that we be consistent, and I try to do that.

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