The Baseball Writers Association of America on Wednesday elected Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Jones (who appeared on 97.2 percent of ballots) and Thome (89.8 percent) will go into Cooperstown as first-ballot Hall of Famers. Guerrero (92.9 percent) will be enshrined in his second year of eligibility. Hoffman (79.9 percent) was on the ballot for the third time. Well among the four that got in to the Hall of Fame I really happy for Vladimir Guerrero. Certainly, no recent Hall of Famer was seen by fewer people in person during his best seasons than Guerrero. From 1998 to 2002, Guerrero produced 29.5 wins above replacement (WAR)1 for the Expos, marking the top five-year stretch of his career. Over that span, an average of just 10,038 fans came to see each of Guerrero’s home games, according to attendance data from Baseball-Reference.com. That’s the fewest of any HOF member whose career took place during the expansion era (since 1961), including likely 2018 inductees Chipper Jones, Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman.
Edgar Martinez fell shy of the 75 percent mark needed for enshrinement, receiving a votes on 70.4 percent of ballots Others coming within 20 percent of induction include Mike Mussina (63.5 percent), Roger Clemens (57.4 percent) and Barry Bonds (56.4 percent). Full voting is available at the BBWAA’s website.
There was never much doubt that Jones, 45, would be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. The former No. 1 overall draft pick and 1999 National League MVP was an eight-time All-Star, a two-time Silver Slugger and won a World Series title with the 1995 Braves. One of the best switch-hitters in the history of the sport, Jones hit .303/.401/.529 with 468 home runs, 150 stolen bases, 1619 runs scored and 1623 runs batter in over the life of a brilliant career that spanned nearly two decades.
Remarkably, Jones batted better than .300 and posted on OBP north of .390 from both sides of the plate over the course of his illustrious career. In addition to the extraordinary work he did in the regular season, Jones was an accomplished postseason bat as well, hitting a combined .287/.409/.456 with 13 homers in 417 trips to the plate in the postseason. Both Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs peg Jones’ amazing career at more than 85 wins above replacement.
Thome, 47, heads into Cooperstown as one of the most accomplished sluggers in Major League history. The longtime Indians star retired with 612 homers — then the seventh-most home runs in big league history (though he’s since been passed by another Cooperstown-bound slugger, Albert Pujols, in that regard). Thome never won a league MVP but did make five All-Star teams and take home a Silver Slugger.
An on-base machine, Thome hit .276/.402/.554 and scored 1583 runs against 1699 runs batted in over the course of a career that spanned parts of 22 Major League seasons. He belted another 17 homers and knocked in 37 runs over the course of 267 postseason plate appearances. His career 147 OPS+ ties him with Hall of Famers Willie Stargell, Willie McCovey, Mike Schmidt and the aforementioned Edgar Martinez for the 47th-best mark in MLB history. B-Ref pegged Thome’s career at 72.9 WAR, while Fangraphs credited him with a similarly excellent 69 WAR.
Guerrero, 43 next month, spent parts of 16 seasons in the Majors and batted .318/.379/.553 with 449 home runs, 1328 runs scored, 1496 runs batted in and 181 stolen bases. Guerrero earned American League MVP honors in a 2004 campaign that saw him bat .337/.391/.598 with 39 homers in 680 plate appearances, and he finished third on the AL MVP ballot on two other occasions. Guerrero was named to nine All-Star teams and took home eight Silver Slugger Awards in his career.
Guerrero was uncannily consistent, hitting .300 or better in 13 of his 15 full seasons in the Majors (and batting .290 and .295 in the two in which he came up short). Both OPS+ and wRC+ feel that the only full season he had in the Majors in which his bat was below the league average was his final season in 2011, when he batted .290/.317/.416 as a 36-year-old. He joins Juan Marichal and Pedro Martinez as the third Dominican-born player to be elected to the Hall of Fame.
Hoffman’s appointment to Cooperstown will be the most polarizing among today’s honorees. The 50-year-old is, of course, one of just two players in Major League history to record more than 600 career saves, joining future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera in that regard. Hoffman’s career came to a close with a 2.87 ERA, 9.4 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 as well as 601 saves and a 61-75 record through 1089 1/3 innings.
Hoffman’s supporters point to that vaunted save total, his seven All-Star nods and exceptional consistency. Hoffman posted a sub-3.00 ERA in 12 of 14 seasons from 1994-2007, averaging 37 saves per year along the way. His detractors note that he logged nearly 200 fewer innings than Rivera, the man to whom he is most often compared (based on their incredible saves totals) and also pitched 128 fewer postseason innings than Rivera.
There is, of course, no denying that Hoffman had a remarkable career; he averaged better than a strikeout per inning and finished with an ERA+ of 147, turning in an ERA worse than the league average just once in his career — in his 18th and final MLB season. Whether that places him among the all-time greats can be debated ad nauseam, but those whose voices matter most in that discussion (the BBWAA) clearly are of the mind that Hoffman is indeed worthy of being placed in such rarefied air.