Posted By Jeff Fletcher 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 Giambi||1999-05 (7)||28-34||164||9.7|
|Edgar Martinez||1995-01 (7)||32-38||163||10.0|
|Gary Sheffield||1995-01 (7)||26-32||161||9.3|
|David Ortiz||2003-08 (6)||27-32||152||8.8|
|Carlos Delgado||1998-04 (7)||26-32||151||9.0|
|Brian Giles||1999-05 (7)||28-34||151||8.8|
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.