Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Johnson, Martinez, Smoltz, and Biggio Headed To Cooperstown

For the first time ever, three starting pitchers have been elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in the same year, and four players have been elected to the Hall for the first time since in 60 years.

Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz make up the triumverate of pitchers headed to upstate New York this July. They will be joined by catcher-turned-second baseman Craig Biggio, who spent 20 seasons with the Houston Astros.

Johnson struggled early in his career as a 6'10" member of the Montreal Expos, but once dealt to the Seattle Mariners, saw his Hall of Fame career get kicked into gear. Johnson won 303 games, five Cy Young Awards, and struck out 4,875 batters playing for the Mariners (10 yrs), Houston Astros (post deadline 1998), Arizona Diamondbacks (8), New York Yankees (2), San Francisco Giants (1), and the Expos (2).

The "Big Unit" was the 2015 top vote getter with 97.43% of the tally, the eighth highest total in Major Leauge History. A 10-time All-Star, Johnson received a no-decision when he struck out 20 Cincinnati Reds on May 8, 2001. He is one of five pitchers to throw a no-hitter in both leagues and was the 2001 World Series Co-MVP with teammate Curt Schilling, after he won Games 2, 6, and 7.

Martinez, a slightly built power pitcher with the Los Angeles Dodgers, saw his career begin to blow up after he was traded to the Expos prior to the 1993 season. But it was his time in Boston that made Martinez a household name. The crown jewel of pitching statistics, the Triple Crown, was accomplished by Martinez grabbed in 1999 when he topped the American League with 23 wins, a 2.07 ERA, and 313 strikeouts.

A three-time CY Young winner (once with Montreal, twice with Boston), Martinez was a character on and off the mound; a pitcher who wasn't afraid to throw inside at hitters of any stature. He won 219 games in parts of 18 years with the Dodgers (2 years), Expos (4), Red Sox (7), Mets (4), and Phillies (1). The native of the Dominican Republic produced two seasons - 1997 (1.90) and 2000 (1.74), with ERA numbers under 2.00), struck out 3,154 batters.

Martinez, who inexplicably received just 91.1% of the vote, won a World Series ring with the 2004 Red Sox and pitched in the 2009 World Series for the Phillies.

Smoltz is the only pitcher in MLB history to win at least 200 games and save at least 150, and just the second pitcher (Dennis Eckersley the other) to win at least 20 games and save a minimum of 50 games in separate seasons. Acquired  for the Detroit Tigers' Doyle Alexander in a 1987 deadline deal, Smoltz spent 20 seasons with the Atlanta Braves. He won the NL Cy Young Award in 1996 when he earned 24 victories and struck out a league high 276 batters. After missing the 2000 season due to Tommy John surgery, Smoltz came back as a reliever and led the NL with a league record 55 saves in 2002. He would save 45 and 44 games the next two seasons before moving back into the starting rotation in 2005. A year later he tied for the NL lead in wins with 16.

An eight-time All-Star, Smoltz finished his career in 2009 with the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals. He compiled a 213-155 record with 154 saves and 3,084 strikeouts.  "Smoltzie" won a World Series ring in 1995 and was a member of four other NL pennant winning teams. He'll join former teammates and fellow pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, and his former manager Bobby Cox, all of whom were induced into the Hall last year. Smoltz received 82.9% of the vote.

Craig Biggio came into Major League Baseball as a catcher out of Seton Hall University in New Jersey. Selected by the Houston Astros as the 22nd overall pick in the 1987 draft, Biggio spent his entire career in an Astros uniform. After four years behind the plate, Biggio moved to second base prior to the 1992 season and went on to win five Gold Glove Awards.

A five-time winner of the Silver Slugger Award, Biggio reached 3,000 hits in his final season (2007) and ended up with 3,060 for his career. He led the league in doubles three times, and topped the league in being hit by pitches, five times. He stole 414 bases, including a league best 39 in the strike shortened 1994 campaign. Biggio finished in the top five in the NL MVP vote  in 1997 and 1998 and was a member of the 2005 Astros NL pennant winning team. (It's the only Houston team to reach the World Series.).

Biggio just missed out last season, his second year on the ballot, when he came up .2% shy of the required 75%. This year was no problem as he finished with 82.7% of the vote. He is the first player to entre the Hall as a Houston Astro.

For those that missed out this year, catcher Mike Piazza came the closest to making it a five-player induction when he received 69.9% of the vote. It's a good sign for him to get enough votes next year when Ken Griffey Jr. is the only first year eligible player who is a sure thing.

Carlos Delgado was the top player with under 5% of the vote required to remain on future ballots. Don Mattingly receievd 9.1% in his final year of eligibility, now that the rule has changed from 15 years to 10 years to be voted for.

Monday, January 5, 2015

It's the Most Hall Time of the Year

Happy New Year means that it is just about time for the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY to announce who this year's inductees are.

The ballot for this year's class was loaded - the first-year eligible players alone include Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Gary Sheffield. In all, there were 34 names on this year's ballot for voters to choose from.

As you may recall, it takes a 75% vote count to gain induction via the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA). With that in mind, Craig Biggio should be a shoe-in for this year's class. If not, an investigation should take place ASAP. Biggio finished with 74.8% last year, his third year on the ballot. The next highest on the 2014 ballot was Mike Piazza, who was hampered by performance enhancing drug rumors, and finished with 62.2%. He too should be elected this year.

I won't get on my soapbox about players that were never "caught" using PEDs, other than to say it's not fair of the voters to leave someone off their ballot that they think was a cheater. Jeff Bagwell has been thrown into this same category (he finished third in 2014 with 54.3%).

Johnson and Martinez are no brainers. Smoltz should join former teammates Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, who were inducted together in 2014. The right-hander is the only pitcher in Major League Baseball history with at least 200 wins (207) and 150 saves (154).
Though Sheffield finished his career as a memeber of the 500 home run club, PEDs could definitely derail his Hall bid. In 2003, Sheffield told a grand jury that he had "unwittingly" used a steroid cream that he had obtained from BALCO. He was introduced to the company by its most well known client, Barry Bonds.

At the time, Sheffield said he thought it was a cortisone cream and was angry when he found out otherwise. ESPN tried to ask Bonds about it in 2004, but Bonds, via a spokesman, ignored the elephant in the room and wished Sheffield all the best. So did Sheffield lie about "oops" moment? The guess is that the voter's will think so. With a .907 career OPS. nine All-Star appearances, and a World Series ring, it would be hard to make an argument to keep Sheffield out otherwise.

At the other end of the spectrum are those players who are near elimination from future ballots. A candidate must receive at least 5% to remain on future ballots. PED prime suspect Sammy Sosa received 7.2% of the vote in 2014 and is likely to drop off in this year's vote. Don Mattingly, who could have ended up with Hall numbers had he stayed healthy, managed to receive barely over 10% last year.

As much as I loved Mattingly as a player, I don't believe he belongs in the Hall of Fame. Many do though and point to Kirby Puckett, who I don't believe should be in either, whose statistics are similar to that of Mattingly's. The biggest difference between the two are the two World Series rings Puckett earned, while Mattingly's mediocre Yankees teams made the post-season just once in his 14 years.

No matter what happens this year, these things hold true - no one will get a unanimous vote; the steroid players will see their perecentages drop; fans, media, and players will not like all the results. It's that Hall time of the year, what else would you expect?

UPDATE (toh to @rebeccapbp):

A's fan and HoF tracker Ryan Thibs has made a spreadsheet of vote totals available to the public. If these numbers hold true, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, and John Smoltz are headed to Cooperstown this Summer.

As of 1:55 PM ET, Both Johnson (98.63%) and Martinez (97.95%) approached Tom Seaver's all-time record of 98.8%, but as usual some voters left them out. Inexplicably, Twins beat writer Mike Berardino left both pitchers off.

Looks like Sheffield did indeed take a big hit. So far just over 8% of the vote. Don Mattingly and Sammy Sosa are both below the required 5% minimum. Jeff Bagwell increased to 66.44%, so there is still hope for him in future years.


As of now, Randy Johnson has tied Tom Seaver with 98.8% of the vote. Pedro Martinez is closing in at 98.2%. Going the wrong way - that would be Mike Piazza, who has dipped below the 75% minimum.