A Candidate-by-Candidate Look at the 2020 Hall of Fame Election Results

For an unprecedented seventh year in a row, and as part of a still record-setting surge, the BBWAA elected multiple candidates to the Hall of Fame with the 2020 ballot. Derek Jeter and Larry Walker had very different playing careers and voting paths, but both gained entry via results that carried a fair bit of drama into Tuesday evening’s announcement, as the questions of whether the former would join former teammate Mariano Rivera as the second unanimous selection in as many years, and of whether the latter would end up on the right side of 75%, were both up in the air.

The Surge: BBWAA-elected Hall of Famers 2014-20
Year 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
2014 Greg Maddux (97.2%) Tom Glavine (91.9%) Frank Thomas (83.7%)
2015 Randy Johnson (97.3%) Pedro Martinez (91.1%) John Smoltz (82.9%) Craig Biggio (82.7%)
2016 Ken Griffey Jr. (99.3%) Mike Piazza (83.0%)
2017 Jeff Bagwell (86.2%) Tim Raines (86.0%) Ivan Rodriguez (76.0%)
2018 Chipper Jones (97.2%) Vlad Guerrero (92.9%) Jim Thome (89.8%) Trevor Hoffman (79.9%)
2019 Mariano Rivera (100%) Roy Halladay (85.4%) Edgar Martinez (85.4%) Mike Mussina (76.7%)
2020 Derek Jeter (99.7%) Larry Walker (76.6%)
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

We now know the answers, of course, and I’ve already delved into the ballot’s big take-home points. What follows here is my look at how each candidate fared, with a few lumped together for obvious reasons. Having written so much about the two honorees, I’m starting at the bottom of the results and working my way to the top, though of course I do hope you stick around to the end, if only to meet Robinson Canoe. Read the rest of this entry »


The Texas Rangers Still Aren’t Very Good

As the Rangers look to open 2020 in a new ballpark, they set out to build on a surprisingly competent 2019 season by making significant additions. The team was aggressive on the pitching side, quickly adding Kyle Gibson on a potential bargain of a three-year deal for $28 million, then they added Jordan Lyles as a potential starter for reliever money. Next, they traded for a potential ace in Corey Kluber without giving up much in return. Adding that trio to Mike Minor and Lance Lynn, two of the better pitchers in baseball a year ago, means the Rangers should have one of the top 10 rotations in the game with the potential to land in the top five at season’s end.

Unfortunately, the Rangers still look to be one of the 10 worst teams in baseball because they’ve done little to address the position-player side of their team. To illustrate the Rangers’ issues, the table below shows projections by position as well as team rank at that position.

Rangers Depth Chart Projections
Position 2020 Starter Projected Team WAR Projected MLB Rank 2019 MLB Rank
C Robinson Chirinos 0.2 30 30
1B Ronald Guzmán 0.1 30 29
2B Rougned Odor 1.3 25 18
SS Elvis Andrus 1.3 29 24
3B Todd Frazier 2.0 22 26
LF Willie Calhoun 1.3 21 9
CF Danny Santana 1.4 22 9
RF Joey Gallo 2.2 10 18
DH Shin-Soo Choo 1.1 11 4

That’s really bad, and as the 2019 column shows, it was really bad a year ago as well. The 2020 projections have the Rangers getting about 11 wins from their entire position player group. That would actually be an improvement over last season when they put up 9.2 WAR the entire season. The Rangers made it into the top 10 last year in two position player groups outside of designated hitter, but in both left field and center field, the team was adequate because Joey Gallo put up good numbers at both positions. Since the season ended, the team has brought in Robinson Chirinos, whose okay projection gets canceled out by Jeff Mathis. The team traded away Nomar Mazara and Delino DeShields, who aren’t big losses from their 2019 production, but expectations for Danny Santana and Willie Calhoun are not high. Todd Frazier was signed in a nice deal to add some production at either first or third base, but even then, the position still ends up below average. Read the rest of this entry »


FanGraphs Phoenix Meetup: March 13

FanGraphs is headed to Arizona for spring training, and we want to share a few drinks and some baseball talk with our readers. So we hope you’ll join us Friday, March 13 from 6 pm to 10 pm at Angel’s Trumpet Alehouse: Arcadia. We’ve reserved the Tall Grass Lounge, and will have appetizers for everyone. It’s a great chance to meet other baseball fans and chat with a bunch of your favorite FanGraphs writers.

If you plan on joining us, we would appreciate you RSVPing using this handy Google form so we know how much food to order.

Confirmed attendees are listed below, with additional staff members to follow.

FanGraphs Attendees

  • David Appelman
  • Ben Clemens
  • Sean Dolinar
  • Craig Edwards
  • Brendan Gawlowski
  • Jay Jaffe
  • David Laurila
  • Eric Longenhagen
  • Kiley McDaniel
  • Rachael McDaniel
  • Me, Meg Rowley
  • Dan Szymborski

Event Details
Friday, March 13 from 6 pm to 10 pm
Angel’s Trumpet Alehouse: Arcadia, Tall Grass Lounge
2339 North 44th Street, Phoenix, AZ 85008


Kiley McDaniel Chat – 1/22/20

12:20

Avatar Kiley McDaniel: Hello from ATL! Scout is eating lunch and I’ve got a busy day so let’s get going before a quick review of recent pieces

12:21
12:21

Avatar Kiley McDaniel: and post Ozuna signing, there’s lots of ATL questions in the queue but I’ll try to limit them

12:22

Avatar Kiley McDaniel: I also wrote about what’s next for the Astros: https://blogs.fangraphs.com/whats-next-for-the-astros/

12:23

Avatar Kiley McDaniel: and Prospects Week is set for February but lemme find the actual date for you

12:24

Avatar Kiley McDaniel: on Feb 10

Read the rest of this entry »


Why I’m Excited for Dansby Swanson’s 2020

Last week, with baseball’s attention firmly fixed on the fall out from the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, the Twins signed Josh Donaldson to a long-term deal. You’d be forgiven if the signing slipped your mind; there was a lot going on. The Braves, however, are certainly aware that Donaldson is no longer a member of their organization; I’m sure the Nationals (and really, the rest of the NL East) are at least happy to have him out of their division. There’s no denying Donaldson’s impact in 2019 — a 132 wRC+ over 659 PA and 4.9 WAR in 155 games made him one of the best free agent signings of last offseason. And while the Nationals ultimately won the World Series, there’s a more-than-reasonable argument to be made that Donaldson represented the difference in the Braves winning the division crown.

Without Donaldson in the fold, the Braves’ lineup is due to take a step back. Of course, this is still a team flooded with talent; among the six position players to amass at least 400 PA for Atlanta last year, five had a wRC+ above 100. Their offensive output was led by Freddie Freeman (138 wRC+) and certainly more than aided by Ronald Acuña Jr. (126) and Ozzie Albies (117). That trio will be back this year and supplemented by outfielder Marcell Ozuna (110), signed last night, and catcher Travis d’Arnaud, who represents something of a wild card offensively, though he did post a 107 wRC+ during his time in Tampa Bay. But perhaps the Braves’ solution to soften the offensive blow of Donaldson’s departure is the player who spent all of last season next to him in the field: Dansby Swanson. Read the rest of this entry »


2020 ZiPS Projections: Los Angeles Angels

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for eight years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Los Angeles Angels.

Batters

Any lineup with a healthy Mike Trout will be hard-pressed to be terrible, and the Angels are no exception. During his career, Los Angeles has never ranked worse than 20th in position player WAR. Trout once again gets the Mickey Mantle top comp (his comp usually alternates between Mantle and Willie Mays). There are a lot of corner outfielders on Trout’s comp list because you run out of marginally comparable center fielders fairly quickly, another fact that shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Adding Anthony Rendon is a huge deal, giving the team a legitimate superstar to pair with Trout for the time being. Even baking in Trout’s injury risk, ZiPS’ 11.8 combined WAR projection for Troutdon Angels would have ranked 20th among teams in 2019 and 23rd in each of the two prior seasons. Once you have Trout and Rendon, you can build an average-or-slightly-better offense by just finding a horde of below-average players who are legitimate major leaguers to put around them. Read the rest of this entry »


Marcell Ozuna is Headed to Atlanta

In 2019, the Atlanta Braves were the class of the NL East, buoyed by the star tandem of Ronald Acuña Jr. and Josh Donaldson. But the division is hardly locked up for 2020 — the rival Nationals won the freaking World Series, and the Mets and Phillies are no pushovers. With Donaldson stocking up on winter clothing, the Braves had a hole in the lineup to fill. The early signings of Will Smith, Travis d’Arnaud, and Cole Hamels were nice enough, but they didn’t replace Donaldson’s WAR or his lineup-anchoring bat.

Well, the Braves came closer to replacing the Bringer of Rain’s production yesterday, signing Marcell Ozuna to a one-year, $18 million contract. The details are straightforward: one year, no options, and no incentive bonuses. As the Cardinals offered Ozuna a qualifying offer, the club will forfeit their third round draft pick (having forfeited their second round pick to sign Will Smith), though they’ll receive a slightly earlier pick back (after Competitive Balance Round B) due to Donaldson’s declined offer.

At surface level, this deal is a tremendous win for the Braves. The NL East, as mentioned above, is wildly competitive. Our Depth Chart projections peg the team as roughly a win behind the Nationals and Mets, the part of the win curve where additional talent is most valuable. And the Braves are making a clean upgrade; before signing Ozuna, their likely outfield consisted of Acuña, a diminished Ender Inciarte, a whatever-is-past-diminished Nick Markakis, and if you’re being generous in your definition of major leaguers, perhaps Adam Duvall.

Ozuna is better than all of those non-Acuña guys, and better by a lot. ZiPS projects him for 2.8 WAR in 2020:

ZiPS Projection – Marcell Ozuna
Year BA OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OPS+ DR WAR
2020 .281 .346 .504 470 70 132 23 2 26 94 46 104 7 119 3 2.8

Read the rest of this entry »


The Hall Calls: Two for 2020, Derek Jeter and Larry Walker

It’s back to business as usual for the BBWAA’s Hall of Fame voting, the results of which were announced on Tuesday evening. The messy and occasionally exasperating tradition of non-unanimity, which took an unprecedented one-year vacation when Mariano Rivera was elected with 100% of the vote last year, has returned. While Derek Jeter appeared on track to join Rivera in that exclusive club, one as-yet-unidentified voter from among the 397 ballots cast in this year’s election chose to throw a wrench in the works. No matter. Ol’ No. 2 will have to settle for the second-highest vote share in Hall history (99.75%) as well as the requisite bronze plaque in Cooperstown. He’ll have some company in the Class of 2020, as the writers also elected Larry Walker with 76.6% of the vote. Walker, the first Canadian-born position player ever elected, follows Tim Raines (2017) and Edgar Martinez (2019) as the third candidate in the last four election cycles to be chosen in his 10th and final year of eligibility.

With “only” two honorees this year, the writers’ unprecedented streak of electing at least three candidates annually has ended at three years; the last time they elected two was in 2016, when Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza were chosen. Even so, this is the seventh consecutive election in which the BBWAA has tabbed multiple candidates; that breaks a tie with the 1951-56 span, which was bracketed by back-to-back shutouts on either side. The 22 candidates elected over the past seven cycles is a record, far outdoing the 16 from the 1950-56 or 1951-57 stretches.

What follows here is my big-picture look at this year’s results; I’ll be back with my candidate-by-candidate breakdown on Wednesday. Read the rest of this entry »


Scott Rolen Was Dominant

When a player first comes up on the Hall of Fame ballot, their career is likely still fairly fresh in a voter’s mind. It’s possible, however, that the fresh appearance can cloud the memory. After all, if a player is up for Hall of Fame consideration, they probably played 15-20 years, and the last eight of those seasons were likely out of that player’s prime. As we are now more than 15 years away from Scott Rolen’s prime, it is possible misconceptions and incorrect narratives are forming around the type of player Scott Rolen was when he played. He was dominant in his prime, but beginning his career on a team averaging 90 losses the first four seasons of his career and then moving to a team with Albert Pujols in a league with Barry Bonds tended to obscure Rolen’s dominance. His value as an all-around performer further hid his greatness.

While Rolen has taken a major step forward this season in Hall of Fame voting, he still needs another boost before he gets elected, so it is worth clearing up any misconceptions about his career. Looking at Rolen’s overall body of work, it’s not hard to see that he was a consistent performer at an All-Star level. As Jay Jaffe noted in his examination of Rolen’s case:

Rolen cracked the league’s top 10 in WAR a modest four times, but had six seasons of at least 5.0 WAR, tied for 10th at the position, and 11 of at least 4.0 WAR, tied for third with Boggs, behind only Schmidt and Mathews. That’s particularly impressive considering his career length. Take away his cup-of-coffee 1996 season, his injury-wracked 2005, and the two at the tail end of his career; in 11 of the other 13 seasons, he was worth at least 4.0 WAR, which is to say worthy of All-Star consideration. Only in 2007 and ’08 did he play more than 92 games and finish with less than 4.0 WAR.

Using FanGraphs WAR, Rolen actually has five top-10 finishes in league WAR. Those six seasons of at least 5.0 WAR help paint the consistently good picture, but it leaves a little out of the story. Let’s take a look at Rolen’s prime, which we’ll start with his first top-10 finish in WAR and go through his best season in 2004. Read the rest of this entry »


Carlos Martínez Epitomizes Contextual Value, and Other Business School Buzzwords

In recent years, moving a middling starter to relief and discovering a stud has become something of a baseball trope. Spare Andrew Miller or Drew Pomeranz on your hands? Chuck them in the bullpen and they’ll improve. Wade Davis doesn’t thrill you as a starter? Let him relieve and he’ll add velo and win you a World Series.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that we should simply make every starter a reliever. The gains you would get from making Max Scherzer a reliever (An even higher strikeout rate! Even more velo! Even more grunts!) don’t come close to the losses in innings pitched. When you have a great pitcher, it’s key to give them as much playing time as possible, even at the cost of efficiency. Reliever Scherzer might be untouchable, but then you get 60 innings of him and 150 innings of starts from Joe Triple-A.

This logic brings us, unerringly, to Carlos Martínez. Martínez is an excellent test case for the boundaries of starter-to-reliever conversions. As a reliever, he’s been spectacular — he had a 3.17 ERA, 2.86 FIP, and sparkling strikeout and walk numbers out of the bullpen in 2019, and was similarly good there in 2018. At the same time, he’s an above average starter. He boasts a career 3.36 ERA (and 3.61 FIP) in the rotation.

So where should the Cardinals use him? There’s some chance the decision is made for them — in 2019, he started the season on the Injured List and the team prioritized getting him back to the majors over getting him stretched out for starting. But in 2020, it will come down to a philosophical question: would you prefer an effective starter or a phenomenal reliever?

The reason our brains know without hesitation that borderline starters make good conversion candidates while moving Scherzer makes no sense is an intuitive application of marginal value. The value of a bullpen conversion comes down to two things: how much run prevention the pitcher provides relative to the next available pitcher in each role, and how many innings they can pitch in that role. Read the rest of this entry »