The Fantasy Baseball Hall of Fame (in conjunction with Razzball.com) is a new website dedicated to recognizing the accomplishments of Major League ballplayers during the “fantasy era” (1980-present). The greatest of these players will be elected to the Fantasy Baseball Hall of Fame.
This week, in the first of two installments, we begin identifying and electing the best outfielders.
Due to the nature of roster requirements for a typical fantasy league, more outfielders are required to take part in our glorious game and as a result, more outfielders need to be elected into the Fantasy Baseball Hall of Fame. Fifteen have been good enough to deserve enshrinement in html, and today we look at those ranked 8th to 15th. Don’t fret about having to wait a week for the number one ranked outfielder, unlike our last two positions, outfield has perennially been a power position which makes for some deep and fascinating seasons.
#8 – Larry Walker
In 1997 Walker enjoyed the greatest fantasy season of all time, better than Barry Bonds, Mike Schmidt, and Jose Canseco. Better than any of the pitchers – Dwight Gooden, Pedro Martinez, or Randy Johnson. Much of his Hall of Fame value is staked on this MVP campaign, and an argument can be made that without this outlier of a season he wouldn’t have the credentials for enshrinement.
The numbers were mind boggling though – .366 AVG, 143 R, 49 HR, 130 RBI, 33 SB.
His .366 batting average was second only to the slap hitting Tony Gwynn; he led the league in On Base percentage, Slugging Percentage, OPS, Total Bases, Home Runs, Runs Created, Extra Base Hits and several other Sabermetric minded stats like Offensive Winning Percentage and Adjusted Batting Runs. He was also Top-Three in Runs, Hits, Doubles, and RBI.
While many cringe at the thought of Coors field and how it artificially inflates batting lines, we must keep in mind two important facts: 1) In Fantasy Baseball we aren’t evaluating player skill, we are evaluating the bottom line numbers no matter how the player came by them and 2) in the specific case of Walker, he was just as good if not better on the road:
#9 – Kirby Puckett
This Bridesmaid already has a special write-up on the FBHOF Blog, but suffice to say he was really good. His peak score is 16th best all time and 11th best among batters.
#10 – Vladimir Guerrero
The free swinging slugger has been a fantasy stalwart since 1998, finishing as a Top 25 batter each year save 2003 when he battled injuries and appeared in just 112 games. His best season was a narrow miss of the 40-40 club when, in 2002, he hit 39 homers and stole 40 bases. Always a high average hitter, this season he batted .336 scoring 106 runs and driving in 112 batters.
His 5 year peak average screams all around player: .331 AVG, 106 R, 38 HR, 117 RBI, 23 SB.
#11 – Tim Raines
Rock was a significantly improved version of Lou Brock, one that brought a bit more power and a heck of a lot more walks. During his peak, Raines stole on average more than 70 bases per season. Coupled with a high batting average (from .298 to .330) and a plethora of runs scored, Raines finished as a Top-25 batter six times and if not for Dale Murphy, would have finished as the top overall batter in 1983. His achievement this year was impressive: .298, 133 R, 11 HR, 71 RBI, 90 SB. Raines also receives a large bonus for longevity since he was “fantasy worthy” in 16 seasons, the 13th best mark on record.
#12 – Jose Canseco
The Oakland outfielder debuted in 1985 as a free swinging 20 year old getting his first September call up. He didn’t disappoint, hitting 5 HR in 29 games and batting just over .300. During the next two years showed power (64 HR) and became a run producer, driving in 230 runners. This was all very good but he broke out in ’88. Still young at 23 years old, Canseco batted .307 and showed improved plate discipline – drawing 78 walks to give him a .391 OBP. The patience paid off in spades, and swinging at better pitches he smacked 42 home runs. Additionally, he scored 120 times and drove in 124 while stealing 40 bases at a decent 71% clip.
Canseco is much like the aforementioned Larry Walker in the sense his elite seasons carry him to the hall of fame. Keeping in mind the generic minimum ‘eyeball’ FBHOF score of 10 per year, Canseco falls well short – his 5th best season in 1986 received only 9.0 points. Fortunately for Canseco, his 1988 campaign brought home 18.3 FBHOF points, 3rd best among batters since 1980.
#13 – Robin Yount
Yount might be the least appreciated (real) Hall of Famer of the Fantasy Era. Like seemingly so many players from the mid-70’s to early 90’s, Yount specialized in everything. Batting Average? Check, 6 seasons over .300. Home Runs? Check, 8 seasons of 15 or more (remember, this was the 80’s, not the homer happy 90’s). Runs and RBI? Check and Check – 1600 runs scored and 1400 RBI. Stolen Bases? For sure, double digits 16 times. He started as a shortstop and moved to the outfield at the age of 29 and had great years at both positions:
1982 @SS: .331 AVG, 129 R, 29 HR, 114 RBI, 14 SB, #1 Bat Rk
1989 @OF: .318 AVG, 101 R, 21 HR, 103 RBI, 19 SB, #5 Bat Rk
Yount also lost six seasons in the 1970’s, though none were very good as he didn’t find his power stroke until 1980. Interestingly, Yount is one of the few players that were good enough to be deemed “fantasy worthy” in every season he played.
#14 – Garry Sheffield
Sheffield’s low ranking (relatively, 14th is Hall of Fame quality after all) caught me by surprise. Perhaps I believed his own talk about how good he was, but in reviewing his final stat lines he never had that truly elite season. Sheffield never finished #1 overall and had six places in the Top 25 batters, a number that is good but not remarkable. His best season was 2003 when he really was great, but not Albert Pujols elite: .330, 126 R, 39 HR, 132 RBI, 18 SB. Another observation, and while it might not seem like much, Sheffield routinely missed ten to twenty, if not more, games per season. This adds up in fantasy baseball were counting stats are critical
Lest I come across as too negative for an inductee, I feel the need to point out that Sheffield did have eleven seasons of 25+ home runs, eight 100 RBI seasons, and seven 100 Runs Scored seasons. His consistency, and high end consistency, was remarkable.
#15 – Manny Ramirez
You may have noticed that all of our outfielders have had at least some semblance of speed; even Sheffield averaged 11 stolen bases per season in his peak years. Ramirez is the first pure slugging outfielder to be inducted, and only the second player we’ve seen never to reach double digit steals in a season (the other was Cal Ripken). This is just to say you really do need to slug at an elite level to be honored in the FBHOF if you aren’t somewhat fleet of foot. Manny fits the bill nicely:
– Eleven seasons of 30 or more home runs, reaching 40 five times
– Six seasons of 120 or more RBI, reaching 140 three times, and topping out at 165 in 1999
– Scored 90 or more runs 9 times.
– His career batting average for eligible seasons was .314
His peak line brings tears of joy, almost literally: .310 AVG, 115 R, 43 HR, 138 RBI, 3 SB
Coming next week we’ll round out the class of the outfielders by inducting seven more into the FBHOF. Some names on the list? A hawk, a kid, and Hannah Storm’s least favorite player.