My HOF deliberations: Edgar

Posted By on December 24, 2011 9:00 am

So far, I’ve checked the names of Jeff Bagwell, Barry Larkin, Mark McGwire and Tim Raines. I eliminated Alan Trammell after giving him another look, so I’m down to just four more guys on my bubble: Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Larry Walker and Bernie Williams. Here we go with a close look at Edgar…

For starters, let me say that, when I was a kid, I was a die-hard Seattle Mariners fan. And I died a lot. From 1980 to 1997 (when I became a full-time baseball writer and abandoned by team allegiances), the Mariners mostly sucked.

Anyway, I rooted pretty hard for them. And Edgar Martinez was a big part of things when they finally turned it around and became good. In fact, his hit to win the 1995 NLDS against the Yankees is probably the pinnacle of my entire life as a sports fan.

But I have to put all that aside now.

The question is whether Edgar Martinez belongs in the Hall of Fame.

First, the DH question. I don’t believe that being a full-time DH disqualifies you from the HOF, but it does make it tougher. If you are only going to do half of the work of the other players, you’re going to be held to a higher standard at the half you’re doing. The same logic, by the way, holds true for relief pitchers when compared to starters.

So, Edgar starts off in a hole.

I like to use OPS+ as my starting point for these things, because I think it’s the best single number that takes into account a player’s offensive contribution in relation to his era and his ballpark. It doesn’t say anything about defense, but I’d rather have no defensive stat than a faulty one. And in this case, there’s no defense to measure anyway.

So, here’s Edgar lined up against all the other players during his prime (1990-2004), in terms of OPS+…

RkPlayerOPS+FromTo
1Barry Bonds19919902004
2Mark McGwire17019902001
3Frank Thomas16219902004
4Manny Ramirez15619932004
5Jim Thome15119912004
6Gary Sheffield15019902004
7Jeff Bagwell14919912004
8Vladimir Guerrero14919962004
9Edgar Martinez14919902004
10Jason Giambi14819952004
11Todd Helton14819972004
12Mike Piazza14819922004
13Brian Giles14619952004
14Ken Griffey14619902004
15Albert Belle14619902000
16Alex Rodriguez14319942004
17Carlos Delgado14219932004
18Larry Walker14219902004
19Bobby Abreu14019962004
20Chipper Jones14019932004

He’s 9th. Not 9th all-time, mind you, but 9th during the exact time frame of his prime. (He’s 34th all time.) He’s right there with Jeff Bagwell, who I’ve already voted for, and some other guys who I will vote for, like Frank Thomas, Jim Thome, Mike Piazza, Vladimir Guerrero and Ken Griffey. But those guys weren’t full-time DHs. Thomas actually played 971 games at first and Thome played 1,595 between first and third. Edgar played 592 games in the field his entire career.

Is it fair to penalize Edgar for not playing in the field? The rules said someone had to DH, right? True. But it’s also not fair to give him credit for something he didn’t do. I can only judge players by what they did and did not do, and Edgar did not do what those other guys did, namely, play in the field.

So if I’m going to vote him in based solely on his bat, he’d better be an absolute slam dunk offensive HOFer, not a fringe HOFer, which is what he is. You see Brian Giles, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield right there next to him on that list?

Now, take a look at the players most similar to Edgar. There are zero Hall of Famers on that list.

So, I’m not voting for Edgar. He had a great career, and he provided me with a personal highlight, but I just don’t think he’s quite there.

(Update: I’ve since written more that relates to Edgar here and here.)

Comments

22 Responses to “My HOF deliberations: Edgar”

  1. slamcactus says:

    You listed Edgar’s entire career, and compared him only to players in those same years. The problem: those numbers include Edgar’s decline, and a lot of those guys are younger than Edgar and hadn’t started to decline yet by the time Edgar retired. His career OPS+ of 147 is higher than the career #s for Guerrero (140) and Sheffield (140) and equal to that of Thome (and he may still pull ahead, as Thome will likely play at least one more season, and I don’t like his chances to hold onto his 147 OPS+).

    If that is what you define as Edgar’s peer group, he’s tied for 6th on the list, not 9th, and he could possibly move into sole possession of 6th by the time all’s said and done.

  2. slamcactus says:

    And as for the 3 comps who are clearly non-hall of famers, Edgar is far better offensively than all of them for his career. Sheffield, as mentioned, ended his career with a 140 OPS+. Giles’ final was 136. Giambi’s not done yet, but down to 142, significantly below Edgar.

    Edgar is the 22nd hardest out of all time (22nd all-time in on-base percentage), and 40th all time in OPS+ (likely 39th, as Miguel Cabrera is a good bet to fall below his 147 mark when his career is all said and done). From 1992-2001 he averaged 30 hr per 162 games and posted a 159 OPS+, and there was never a hint of suspicion that he was on steroids during an era rampant with it.

    That still may not be enough for you, but there is pretty good evidence that he was a historically great bat, not merely a very good one.

  3. Devon says:

    Ok, I have a questions. If you’re not holding his lack of defensive time against him, how can you say he’s already “in a hole” for not playing defense? Also, do you think it’s legitimate to hold it against a pitcher for not being a great offensive player too? If you don’t, then it’s a logical fallacy to even consider the “lack of defensive” skills or time, as a negative when talking about a DH… ’cause defensive is a much a part of a DH as batting is for a pitcher, isn’t it?

  4. Jeff Fletcher says:

    The point is not the value of his defensive contributions or his defensive skills. Certainly, there are plenty of players who provided negative value to their teams in the field for years, but were great offensive players and they are deserved HOFers.

    The point, especially as it applies to Edgar, is that it’s not as physically demanding to be a DH as it is to play in the field. It’s not merely the fatigue of playing defense, but the risk of injury.

    If you look at Edgar’s career, I think the reason the Mariners relegated him to DH was not so much because he was a defensive liability, but because he couldn’t stay healthy when he was playing in the field. If he had been the same guy in an era when the DH wasnt’ available, there’s no way he would have been able to play more than 2,000 games and last till he was 41.

    Edgar became a different hitter when he stopped playing the field. (Look it up. These are his career comps through age 31, the last year he played any real defense) Maybe it was because he had more time to lift in the weight room. Maybe he spent more time watching video between at-bats. Maybe it was as simple as his legs being fresher from not standing in the field. At a minimum, he got more volume to his career by not playing the field. There is no question about that.

    The analogy with pitchers isn’t the same, because the few times a pitcher has to hit has a negligible impact on his performance as a pitcher.

  5. tdillon says:

    I think using OPS+ here is a bit misleading. Shoot, in just looking at his traditional slash numbers, his career was in with the best in history. Joe Posnanski wrote up a great article on Chipper Jones regarding how under-appreciated he is as a hitter, and he’s among the best. The article states there have been 14 people who have had careers with .300/.400/.500 slash lines. Here is the list:
    Mickey Mantle
    Al Kaline
    Babe Ruth
    Willie Mays
    Hank Aaron
    Roberto Clemente
    George Brett
    Ted Williams
    Jimmie Fox
    Lou Gehrig
    Stan Musial
    Ty Cobb
    Rogers Hornsby
    Tris Speaker
    Mel Ott
    Harry Heilmann
    Frank Thomas
    Manny Ramirez
    Edgar Martinez

    If this isn’t an elite hitter over his career, I don’t know what is.

  6. tdillon says:

    Another factor that to me is overlooked is that Martinez was right handed. Right handers with that skillset are pretty small, and all are HOF’ers.

  7. slamcactus says:

    The people who look at the supposed DH “advantage” actually find that most hitters’ offense takes a small hit when they move to full-time DH. If Edgar was actually better at DHing, that shouldn’t be a knock against him. If anybody could step in to the DH slot and bat like Edgar, the list of comparable guys at the position wouldn’t be as small as it is (by my count, the list of historically great offensive players who play the majority of their time at DH starts with Edgar and ends with David Ortiz, with Thomas having seen a lot of his time at 1B).

    We’re talking about a guy who by your own defined peer group was the 6th best hitter of his era for his career, and one of only three of those top 6 on the list who’ve never been linked to PEDs (4 out of 7 if you include Thome, who Edgar is likely to finish ahead of in career OPS+, and who he already has beat out in career wRC+). Now, maybe being merely the 6th best hitter in an era known for offense isn’t enough for you – and maybe neither is having better career offensive numbers than surefire hall of famers like Griffey, Piazza, A-Rod (surefire HOF numbers, even if his HOF chances will be affected by PED use), and Chipper Jones, but that seems like a very, very high standard.

    He’s an all-time great hitter, whose numbers stack up well against the other all-time great hitters of his era.

  8. Jeff Fletcher says:

    I’d like to see some of those DH studies. Because I’m guessing they are flawed because most players become DHs when they are already old and in decline. Other players who just DH here and there may not perform as well because they aren’t used to it and see it as a day off.

    I’m still waiting for one of the Edgar supporters to explain how he became a different hitter precisely when he stopped playing in the field. And don’t tell me that he didn’t. The numbers are pretty clear.

    Either he benefitted physically from not playing in the field or he started taking steroids. Either one hurts his HOF resume.

  9. tdillon says:

    I honestly don’t see the improvement you do. Sure, he has an outlier of .628 slugging, but he also walked a ton more. I have yet to see any data on PED’s increasing walks (although he had 19 IBB that year).

    1990 .302/.397/.397 27 2B’s 2 3B’s 11 HR’s (first full year in the majors)
    1991 .307/.405/.452 35 2B’s 1 3B 14 HR’s
    1992 .343/.404/.544 46 2B’s 3 3B’s(!) 18 HR’s 1993 .237/.366/.378 7 2B’s 0 3B’s 4 HR’s
    (injured, only in 42 games)
    1994 .285/.387/.482 23 2B’s 1 3B 13 HR’s
    (strike shortened season)
    1995 .356/.479/.628 52 2B’s 1 3B 29 HR’s
    1996 .327/.464/.595 52 2B’s 2 3B’s 26 HR’s
    1997 .330/.456/.554 35 2B’s 1 3B 28 HR’s
    1998 .322/.429/.565 46 2B’s 1 3B 29 HR’s
    1999 .337/.447/.554 35 2B’s 1 3B 24 HR’s
    2000 .324/.423/.543 31 2B’s 0 3B 37 (!) HR’s

    If anything, your suspicion is misplaced. However, with an increase in HR’s, he also had a drop in doubles. Unless you believe that a 4th year player (with 2 shortened seasons) can’t go from 18 to 29 HR’s while playing in the Kingdome, I just don’t see the huge improvement. I see a peak year that is thanks to an abnormally high BABIP for .383 compared to a career average of .335.

  10. Jeff Fletcher says:

    Look at this..,

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/play-index/share.cgi?id=IV7kE

    And PEDs do increase your walks because pitchers pitch around you more if you are more of a HR threat, hence the rise in IBBs.

    Edgar had 19 intentional walks through 1994 (1 per 139 PAs), and he had 69 IBBs from 1995-01 (1 per 56 PAs). He also had had 59 “unintentional” 4-pitch walks (1 per 45 PAs) prior to 1995, and 139 of them (1 per 26 PAs) from 1995 to 01.

    Also, he may have been a “4th year player” but he was 32 years old. It is very unusual to see this sort of change at that age. And it was no fluke. He kept doing it for years. His HR/FB rate was higher as a 40-year-old at Safeco than it was as a 28- year-old at the Kingdome.

    Ive mentioned this stat so many times in different places I forget who has seen it: in all of MLB history only 5 players hit 25+ HRs at least 3 times after age 31 after having never done it previously. Two were after the new ball in the ’20s. One was a Negro League player who came to. MLB at age 33. The others were Edgar and Caminiti.

    So, what’s your explanation for all that?

  11. Jeff Fletcher says:

    By the way, I’m willing to concede that this has nothing to do with PEDs and was simply the fact that Edgar was stronger from not playing in the field.

    Either way, it hurts his HOF case.

    I just can’t accept, when you look at Edgar the 3B (.850 OPS) and Edgar the DH (.959), that he didn’t benefit from being a DH.

  12. David Levesque says:

    It should also be noted, the reason Edgar was finally injured to end his career at 3rd. While playing in an exposition game in Vancouvers’ BC Place, Edgar injured his knee. It should be noted that many of the Mariners star players took themselves out of that series because the team had misgivings about the safety of the playing surface. Edgar KEPT HIMSELF IN THE SERIES because he felt it was wrong to take himself out. These are the kinds of players you want in the HOF. There is a citizenship clause for Hall inductees, and Edgar Martinez is the type of player you WANT to vote for following the criminal years of steroids… Don’t forget that steroids were ILLEGAL in the US, thus making all steroid users criminals. Edgar Martinez is a Saint of Baseball. His off field contributions are as great as his on-field accomplishments. You may NEVER have a ball player in your lifetime that is more deserving than Edgar, in fact, there may never be more than 10 guys in the history of the game that will be ambassadors of the game as good as Edgar. Pretty easy vote if you ask me… Any writer who witnessed the way that Gar approached life, and this game, would never even think of trying to validate a no vote for Edgar… I have coached high-level select baseball for many years, and if all of my players were the kind of men and ballplayers that Edgar Martinez is, the world would be a far better place, and the baseball we watch would be played at the highest level humanly possible.

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