January is always an exciting time on the MLB calendar. We’re less than one month away from pitchers and catchers reporting for camp, the last of the free agents sign (this year is obviously gonna have a free agent frenzy in late January/early February), and the best of the best in the history of the game are announced. That’s right, we’re talking Hall of Fame.
The class of 2018 includes 6 members, counting Jack Morris and Alan Trammell, who were eras committee elects (they should’ve just stuck with veterans committee) back in October. But the main class is the one that counts the most, so let’s take a look the four guys who will be enshrined in Cooperstown this coming July.
Half of the group, Chipper Jones and Vlad Guerrero, were slam dunk Hall of Famers. When you play over 15 years and end your career hitting north of .300 with on base percentage near or over .400, you’re gonna get in. It didn’t hurt that both were insanely good run producers in their prime, and each turned in an MVP season (1999 NL for Chipper, 2004 AL for Guerrero).
The other half of the group, Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman was a tad more surprising, especially Hoffman. I get that Thome had numbers that scream Hall of Famer (612 home runs, 8th all time), but to me he feels more like a stat compiler than a true legend of the game. Thome had a 4 year peak from 2001-2004 where he hit 190 homeruns, which is a shade more than 30% of his career total. Of the other 18 seasons that Thome played, he only hit more than 40 bombs twice. Although unlike a lot of his peers, Thome kept his name clean for his entire career, which was a big bonus for him.
Hoffman is the guy that I have the biggest issue with, and I’m clearly not alone.
“I voted for Hoffman” #DisappointMeIn4Words
— keithlaw (@keithlaw) January 24, 2018
Consider that in all of baseball history, Hoffman is only the 6th pitcher to be primarily a reliever, and make the Hall of Fame. Furthermore, Hoffman is only the second pitcher to be elected to the Hall while never making a start (joining Bruce Sutter). I understand that Hoffman is one of only two pitchers to ever save more than 600 games, but I’m from the school of thought that saves are essentially a useless stat, and without them, Hoffman never sniffs the Hall.
My problem with Hoffman is not really his fault, it’s the creation of an empty, meaningless stat. A lot of times, the biggest part of a game is not the final 3 outs, so a closer doesn’t really have a ton of value. Furthermore, being a closer is very reliant on your teammates to get you a lead. For example, lets look at the 2015 Padres. That team won just 74 games, and Craig Kimbrel recorded 39 saves, meaning he saved more than 50% of their wins. But here’s the thing: the 2015 Padres sucked. Did Kimbrel add any real value to that team? Maybe some other reliever couldn’t have closed 39 games as effectively as Kimbrel, but all Major League pitchers get paid to get Major League hitters out. Just remember that.
And don’t come at me with any Mariano Rivera comparisons or arguments, because Rivera is quite literally the most dominant playoff pitcher in the history of the sport.
But regardless, congrats to a new Hall of Fame class. All excelled at their craft for a long time, and deserve to be honored.
Written By: Brian Borders (@bborders12)