My HOF deliberations: Fred McGriff

Posted By 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…

1Frank Thomas163
2Mark McGwire163
3Jeff Bagwell155
4Jason Giambi152
5Jim Thome152
6Carlos Delgado140
7Will Clark137
8Fred McGriff136
9Rafael Palmeiro136
10John Olerud133
11Mo Vaughn133
12Andres Galarraga120
13Mark Grace120
14Cecil Fielder119
15Wally Joyner115
16Eddie Murray114
17Tino Martinez112
18Don Mattingly112
19David Segui111
20Hal Morris111

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.


One Response to “My HOF deliberations: Fred McGriff”

  1. First off, thanks for sharing your thought process. This is the most desirable part of an otherwise frustrating process for fans of the game such as myself.

    Is it really fair to consider Thomas a first baseman in this argument? He ceased being an everyday first baseman after the 1996 season meaning the last 12 seasons of his career were done as a DH. McGriff DH’d one season over 18 games and that was his first season in the league while Upshaw was playing 1st. You mention discounting points on PEDs; I believe McGriff should get a few bonus points for doing what he did while playing in the field for 2104 of the 2239 games in his career.

    Throw Thomas off and give McGriff a few points and there’s an argument that he was a top five guy at his position during his career.

    Thome belongs there because he played 130+ games at first base as late as 2004 before moving to DH over the past six seasons.

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