Posted By Jeff Fletcher on December 24, 2011 12:00 pm
Moving along, I still just have yes votes for Bagwell, Larkin, McGwire and Raines. I’ve eliminated Trammell and Edgar Martinez. I’ve only got three guys left to consider, Fred McGriff, Larry Walker and Bernie Williams, and we’ll do McGriff here.
First time he was on the ballot, I didn’t think he’d be a serious candidate, but then the more I looked at him, the more impressed I was. That tends to happen by the way. Invariably, the longer I look at someone, I’m more likely to raise their stock than lower it. Maybe that’s just me. I have gone from no to yes on a few people (Blyleven, Raines, McGwire), but not from yes to no on anyone.
As you know by now if you’ve followed my HOF deliberations, I like to use OPS+ and I like to compare players to their position peers from their prime. So, here’s how McGriff stacks up against all the other first basemen during his prime, which was 1988 to 2002…
Well, that’s pretty clear, isn’t it? By this measure, which I admit is not a perfect measure, McGriff was just the eighth most productive first basemen of his era during his prime. None of the guys below him are HOFers, except Eddie Murray. (Murray’s numbers are skewed for this time frame because it covers the end of his career. His OPS+ during his prime was 135).
Now, this is the time when I’m supposed to say “Oh wait, but all those other guys were on steroids and McGriff wasn’t, so I have to give him some extra credit!” Uh, no. I don’t do it that way. If I know a guy used steroids, I will deduct some points, but I won’t deduct from those who I only suspect were dirty (like Bagwell, maybe Edgar) and I certainly won’t add points for someone who I suspect is clean, because I don’t know anyone was clean. Also, there were a lot of factors that inflated offensive numbers in the 90s that had nothing to do with steroids (small ballparks, small strikezone, possibly a juiced baseball) so McGriff’s numbers were as inflated by those things as everyone else.
But I don’t want to dismiss McGriff so quickly, so I’ll try one more thing. I don’t really care for WAR because of the defensive part, but I’ll use it here anyway. I looked up how many seasons with a WAR of 5 or more McGriff had during his prime, relative to other first basemen. He had only two, compared with Bagwell (5), Giambi and Thomas (4), Helton, Palmeiro and McGwire (3). That further reinforces my belief that McGriff comes behind all those guys in the pecking order, and I don’t even think all of them are HOFers.
So, I feel pretty confident that I’ve given McGriff a fair look, and he doesn’t make the cut, so I won’t go through this all next year.