There is so much great Hall of Fame analysis currently online – e.g., Jay Jaffe’s SI series, Bonah (Ben Lindbergh and Jonah Keri) on Grantland, Tom Tango, several ESPN writers, the Baseball Think Factory commenters – that I feel I have little to add to the conversation. I find myself agreeing with much of this analysis and the general sabermetric consensus that the ballot is ridiculously packed with HOF-worthy talent.
So rather than provide derivative HOF analysis, I thought I would provide some fantasy baseball perspective on all the players I feel deserve HOF-entrance. I threw in a few non-fantasy points/links for good measure.
The players are in order of how I value their actual baseball careers. If I actually voted for the HOF, I would bump my #1/#2 players (Bonds/Clemens) for #11/#12 (Biggio/Smoltz) since the latter two have a much better shot at being elected in 2015.
Note: All WAR numbers are from Baseball-Reference. All fantasy $ calculations are from my Historical Player Rater which rates players based on 5×5 12-team MLB auction $ values back through 1903. (My informal Fantasy Baseball Hall of Fame would be anyone with $200 or more in career value). The MVFH (Most Valuable Fantasy Hitter) and FantCy (Fantasy Cy Young) are my creations and based on the highest valued players for the year (so only 1 awarded across both leagues). $0 is the equivalent of a ‘replacement’ player.
#1 – Barry Bonds (162 WAR, $569)
- 5th most valuable fantasy baseball hitter since 1903 behind Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb, and his godfather, Willie Mays (just $1 behind him)
- 4 MVFH (1990, 1992, 1993, 2001) awards – tied with Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams and Joe Morgan for 4th most since 1903. Babe Ruth (8), Willie Mays (7), and Ty Cobb (6) are the only players with more.
- Tied for 6th (Alex Rodriguez) with 9 top 5 MVFH finishes
- Tied for 3rd (Willie Mays, Jimmie Foxx) with 13 top 10 MVFH finishes.
- His 21 seasons above $0 is tied for 1st with Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb, and Carl Yastrzemski.
- His $27.1 season average is 2nd best amongst Bonds family members (Bobby averaged $27.7 in 12 $0+ seasons)
#2 – Roger Clemens (140 WAR, $529)
- 2nd most valuable fantasy SP since 1903 (Walter Johnson #1)
- Won 6 FantCy‘s – more than any other post-1903 pitcher (Walter Johnson, Lefty Grove, and Bob Feller are tied with 5).
- Tied for 3rd with 9 top-5 FantCy finishes and tied for 2nd with 13 top-10 finishes.
- Tied with Nolan Ryan for the most $0+ seasons with 23.
- Has 7 of the top 100 post-war fantasy SP seasons.
#3 – Randy Johnson (102 WAR,$518)
- 3rd most valuable fantasy SP since 1903 (Walter Johnson #1, Roger Clemens #2)
- Has 4 of the top 10 most valuable fantasy SP seasons since 1947!!!!! (4th, 5th, 6th, 10th)
- Has the 2nd highest career average $ of $28.8 (Christy Mathewson #1)
- Has the 2nd highest career average $K at $11.5 (Rube Waddell is #1 though it only includes 6 seasons from 1903-1909).
- Nearly matched Roger Clemens career value in 5 less seasons.
- Clayton Kershaw’s amazing 2014 season (Cy, MVP, FantCy) was worth $38.8. Randy Johnson had 8 seasons more valuable! Randy Johnson has 9 seasons higher than Clayton Kershaw’s highest K total.
#4 – Pedro Martinez (84 WAR, $400)
- 9th most valuable fantasy SP since 1903 with the 4th highest average of $28.5 (Christy Mathewson, Randy Johnson, and Clayton Kershaw through 2014 ahead of him).
- Two FantCy awards (1999, 2000).
- Tied for 9th with 7 top-5 FantCy finishes.
- Tied for 5th with 11 top-10 FantCy finishes.
- His 1999 and 2000 seasons are the 1st and 3rd most valuable fantasy SP seasons post-WWII (Sandy Koufax 1965 is #2).
- His 2000 WHIP of 0.74 is the most valuable WHIP$ season since 1903. His 1997 and 1999 seasons are in the top 10.
- He had 3 of the top 12 most valuable $ERA seasons since 1903. Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux (both with 2) are the only other SP with multiple seasons in the top 12.
#5 – Jeff Bagwell (80 WAR, $316)
- 6th most valuable fantasy 1B (5th if you remove Ernie Banks who earned about 75% of his career value at SS)
- Won the MVFH in 1994 (same year he won the NL MVP) with a monster $47 season that was the 8th most valuable hitter season since 1947.
- Had three other top-10 MVFH finishes (3rd, 5th, 7th)
- The only 1Bs that surpass his $57 in career $SB are HOFers George Sisler and Rod Carew (who earned half his $SB value at 2B)
#6 – Mike Piazza (59 WAR, $273)
- The #2 career fantasy baseball catcher – $11 behind Johnny Bench.
- 2nd highest average $HR and $RBI for Catchers (behind Johnny Bench)
- Two top 10 MVFH seasons (3rd, 8th) which were two of only 12 Catcher seasons since 1903 valued above $30 (Bench 3, Foxx 2, Torre 2, Campanella, Ivan Rodriguez, Walker Cooper)
- His 1995 (.346) and 1997 (.362) are the 3rd and 4th most valuable AVG seasons for Catchers (Joe Torre 1971 and Joe Mauer 2009 are higher)
#7 – Alan Trammell (70 WAR, $200)
- This is my first pick that diverges significantly from fantasy baseball value. Based on WAR, Trammell is about equal to just about every player below him. The reason I value him more is that, if I were a GM and you let me lock down one position with a plus offensive and defensive player, I choose shortstop. There is a reason that the best athletes growing up play SS – it is the most valuable position in the field that does not involve shin guards. I take a plus offensive/defensive SS over an average defensive, slightly better offensive and more durable 2B (e.g., Craig Biggio, Kent). I take that over the majority of great corner OFs (e.g., Walker, Sheffield, Sosa). I take that over a non-Clemens/Randy/Pedro ace (e.g., Schilling, Mussina, Smoltz). Just because the 1980’s/1990’s saw a spike in HOF-worthy SS (Ripken, Ozzie, Yount, Larkin, Jeter, A-Rod) should not diminish his value.
- 19th most valuable fantasy SS since 1903.
- 156th most valuable fantasy hitter since 1903 (which is right about the cutoff of my proverbial fantasy HOF ($200 career value).
- One top 10 MVFH finish (3rd place in 1987) thanks to a 109/28/105/21/.343 line which was the 37th most valuable SS fantasy season since 1903.
#8 – Curt Schilling (80 WAR, $335)
- 17th most valuable fantasy SP since 1903. Every SP above him (excluding those on this ballot) is in the Hall-of-Fame.
- Has 3 of the top 35 fantasy SP seasons since 1947.
- 5 top 5 FantCy finishes (2nd, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 5th) and 7 top 10 finishes.
- Great article by Dan Syzmbroski on ESPN noting that Schilling is #2 in career WPA (Wins Probability Added) after Mariano Rivera. Granted, there are more playoff games now but that still makes him the most valuable modern-day playoff SP.
#9 – Tim Raines (69 WAR, $285)
- 34th most valuable fantasy OF since 1903.
- 59th most valuable fantasy hitter since 1903.
- 3 top 10 MVFH finishes (2nd in 1983 to Dale Murphy, 8th, 10th).
- An ill-advised attempt to make him a 2B gave him 2B eligibility in 1982 and 1983.
- His $10 average for $SB is 6th amongst hitters with 10 or more $0+ seasons (Lou Brock, Maury Wills, Rickey Henderson, Juan Pierre, Bert Campaneris are ahead of him)
- Despite having 6 of the highest 56 post-1903 SB seasons (1981-1986), he only has two in the top 50 for $SB as he played in a high SB era. (Note: Today’s era must be considerably harder to steal bases. There were 25 70+ SB seasons in the 1980’s with Raines responsible for 6. There have been THREE 70+ SB seasons since 2000 – Reyes 78, Ellsbury 70, Podsednik 70. Yes, Henderson and Raines are possibly the two best SB guys of all-time but I doubt they hit the 70 SB mark more than a couple times if their career started in 2000. I say a couple because their above-average OBP would grant them more SB opportunities than the millenium speedsters).
- His 1983 season was one of his two seasons in the 80’s that surpassed Rickey Henderson for fantasy $ (the other was 1987 when injuries limited Henderson to 358 AB).
#10 – Mike Mussina (83 WAR, $316)
- Why Mussina over Smoltz? 13 extra WAR. Smoltz’s greater fantasy value is due to being in a more favorable league/division. Smoltz’s post-season success does not bridge that whole gap.
- 20th most valuable fantasy SP since 1903. Every SP above him (excluding those on this ballot) is in the Hall-of-Fame.
- Only 2 top 5 FantCy finishes (3rd, 4th) but 8 top 10 finishes which is tied for 15th with Steve Carlton, Bob Gibson, and Don Sutton.
- His top fantasy season (1995 with Baltimore) is only the 152nd best fantasy season since 1947.
- Provided all that fantasy baseball value despite playing in a horrible division for pitchers (AL East) his whole career.
#11 – Craig Biggio (65 WAR, $277)
- 8th most valuable fantasy 2B of all-time (7th if you remove Pete Rose who had only 6 2B-eligible seasons).
- 66th most valuable fantasy hitter of all-time.
- Had 3 of the top 50 fantasy 2B seasons since 1903.
- 3 top 10 MVFH finishes between 1995 and 1998 (6th,7th,8th).
#12 – John Smoltz (70 WAR, $352)
- 14th most valuable fantasy SP since 1903 (this includes his 3 relief seasons). Every SP above him (excluding those on this ballot) is in the Hall-of-Fame. Tom Glavine is 29th. Glavine’s has the $W advantage but Smoltz clearly better in $WHIP and $K.
- One FantCy (1996, the same year he won the Cy Young), 3 top 5 finishes, 5 top 10 finishes
- Has the 14th best fantasy season since 1947. His next highest is #274.
- His 3 relief seasons were worth about 1/7th of his career value ($54). His top season was the 82nd best fantasy RP season since 1980 (Eckersley had 3 better seasons).
#13 – Larry Walker (73 WAR, $261)
- Member of .300/.400/.500 club (which to me is automatic entrance into the HOF assuming about 15 full seasons).
- Yes, he played a lot in Coors but his away splits are .278/.370/.495. For comparison’s sake, Ken Griffey Jr.’s career away splits are .272/.355/.505.
- 44th most valuable fantasy OF since 1903.
- 79th most valuable fantasy hitter since 1903.
- His 1997 MVFH season (143/49/130/33/.366 for $50.1) was the 4th most valuable fantasy hitter season since 1947. Mike Schmidt 1981, Hank Aaron 1963, and Joe Morgan 1976 are ahead of him.
- His next highest MVFH finish was 8th.
#14 – Edgar Martinez (68 WAR, $189)
- The only player on my extended ballot that misses my $200 fantasy baseball HOF cutoff. Two reasons: 1) DH-only eligibility (which gets penalized by the Player Rater because of how restrictive this is for roster flexibility) and 2) My $ are based on 5×5 and perhaps his two best skills were OBP and hitting doubles.
- Member of .300/.400/.500 club.
- 3rd most valuable fantasy DH since 1903, trailing Don Baylor and David Ortiz. It should be noted that only 6 hitters have managed to have 5 or more seasons where they are ONLY DH eligible and earned $0+. The other three are Harold Baines, Chili Davis, and Hal McRae.
- 172nd most valuable fantasy hitter since 1903.
- His 1995 season (when still 3B-eligible) was the 29th most valuable 3B season since 1903.
#15 – Mark McGwire (62 WAR, $242)
- 17th most valuable fantasy 1B since 1903.
- 93rd most valuable fantasy hitter since 1903.
- 4 Top 10 MVFH finishes (3rd, 9th, 10th, 10th)
- His 1998 season (aka 70 HRs) was the 26th most valuable fantasy 1B season and the 4th highest since 1962 (Jeff Bagwell 1994, Cecil Fielder 1990, and Frank Thomas 1994 are ahead).
- He had the highest average $HR ($10) of any post-war fantasy 1B.
- To give a sense of the HR-craziness of the late 1990’s, his 42 HR in 1992 were more valuable than his 65 HR in 1999, 58 HR in 1997, and 52 HR in 1996.
- His 1998 season was the third most valuable $HR season in the 1990’s – edged out by Cecil Fielder’s 1990 and Sammy Sosa’s 1998 (1B was stronger than OF that year for HR)
#16 – Gary Sheffield (60 WAR, $299)
- My POV on Sheffield synchs with Jay Jaffe’s post. He definitely passes the HOF bar based solely on offense. His WAR is crushed by astronomically bad defensive ratings. His Fielding Runs Above Replacement numbers on FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference (which are rooted in UZR and TZ, respectively) peg him as either the least or 2nd least valuable defensive player of all-time. (Note: Manny Ramirez is #2 on FanGraphs, Frank Thomas #3). If you were to give him Jim Thome’s defensive value (with the requisite DH penalties), he is a 70+ WAR player. If you were to give him Jim Rice’s defensive value, he is an 80+ WAR player. I trust the defensive numbers enough to believe that Gary Sheffield was a lousy fielder but, much like with Manny Ramirez and Frank Thomas, I think his incredible offensive value overcomes his bad defense and should be in the HOF.
- 30th most valuable fantasy OF since 1903.
- 50th most valuable fantasy hitter since 1903.
- Two 2nd place finishes in MVFH – oddly, 11 years apart (1992 in his near-Triple Crown season and 2003). No other top 10 finishes.
#17 – Jeff Kent (55 WAR, $226)
- 15th most valuable fantasy 2B since 1903.
- 114th most valuable fantasy hitter since 1903.
- 1 top 10 finish in MVFH (5th in 2000, the year he won the MVP)
- Had 5 $20+ seasons – one more than Craig Biggio.
- Highest ranked fantasy 2B who was a negative in SB (averaged -$1) – though he will likely be passed by Robinson Cano in the next couple of years.
- 3rd highest average $RBI amongst 2B (Rogers Hornsby and Bobby Doerr ahead of him).
#18 – Sammy Sosa (58 WAR, $327)
- I admit Sosa is a marginal HOF based on his WAR and has PED stank. But his 1997-2002 represented a monstrous offensive peak and I am a ‘big hall’ guy. He also was a fantasy baseball stud.
- 22nd most valuable fantasy OF since 1903.
- 34th most valuable fantasy hitter since 1903.
- Won the MVFH in 1998 and had 6 total top 10s (1st, 3rd, 4th, 4th, 8th, 9th). Other hitters with 6 total top 10s include Ken Griffey Jr, Reggie Jackson, and Ernie Banks.
- His 1998 and 2001 seasons were both over $40. The only players with more $40+ seasons post-WWII are A-Rod (5), Mays (5), Bonds (4), and Joe Morgan (4).
- His 1998 season was the 4th most valuable season in the 1990’s with the top 3 seasons all represented on the HOF ballot (Larry Walker 1997, Jeff Bagwell 1994, Barry Bonds 1993).
- Went 30/30 in 1993 and 1995 yet those are only his 3rd and 7th most valuable seasons.