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Tunnels And The Hall: Mauer and Santana

With a slow offseason thus far, especially for the Minnesota Twins, the main talking points have resided around the Hall of Fame ballots made public thus far. Ryan Thibodaux (@NotMrTibbs) continues to run an incredible tracker on Twitter, and so far for Minnesotans, there’s a disappointing development. Johan Santana is going to be one and done when it comes to The Hall.
Image courtesy of © Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
As of this writing, 72 ballots have been made public (or roughly 17% of the total vote). The former Twins ace has yet to garner a single nod, and while I’d hope he gets at least a few, it’s all but certain he’ll fall below the necessary 5% to get a second go-round. While it’s fair for the argument to be made that he’s simply not a Hall of Famer, that argument has always been based on longevity, or its lack.

From 2002-2010, Johan Santana was arguably the best pitcher in baseball. He compiled a 2.90 ERA with over 1,780 strikeouts in 1,779.0 IP. He picked up four All-Star appearances while winning two (should have been three, Bartolo) Cy Young awards. Across the entirety of Twins history, he is arguably the greatest starting pitcher to ever put on the uniform. This tale however isn’t one pushing for his enshrinement, as we know too well how it ends.

Santana missed the 2011 season, returned with the New York Mets in 2012, and tried numerous comeback attempts following that season. His career was done in by injuries, and his career of 12 big league seasons was brought to an end by those injuries.

When looking at enshrinement, Santana’s case is always argued alongside a current Hall of Famer known as The Left Arm of God. Sandy Koufax pitched just 12 years as well, while winning three Cy Young awards and an MVP. His career 2.76 ERA bests Santana (3.20) and he reached the 2,000 K plateau (2,396) while Johan did not (1,988). When the dust settles it appears that a lack of longevity (due to health issues) will be what causes an end to any hope for a plaque.

On the other side of the coin, it’s intriguing to look at the polar opposite case that current Minnesota Twins first basemen Joe Mauer will present to the voters in a number of years. Reading through Jay Jaffe’s Cooperstown Case Book, it couldn’t be any clearer that the JAWS system suggest he should be a lock for Cooperstown. Jaffe himself is of the opinion that on merits alone, Mauer has a place in upstate New York, but it comes with a single caveat. Where Santana’s tunnel was too short, the question for Mauer will be whether or not his was too long.

As a catcher, Mauer may have arguably been the greatest of all time. Through a decade, Mauer owned a .323/.405/.468 slash line while picking up six All-Star Game appearances, five Silver Sluggers, three Gold Gloves, and an MVP. He also is the only catcher to win multiple batting titles (three), and was the first to do so since 1942 (only AL catcher to ever accomplish the feat).

In his ten years as a catcher, Mauer posted a 43.1 fWAR. That mark ranks 20th all- time, with an average yearly value of 4.13 fWAR. Applying that number to his 14-year career, he’d be staring at a 60.3 fWAR (as opposed to 48.1 fWAR), which would put him eighth all-time, of catchers. Of the seven ahead of him, only Mike Piazza played fewer than 17 seasons, and all of the names included (Torre, Piazza, Berra, Fisk, Rodriguez, Carter, and Bench) are enshrined.
When looking at Mauer, it’s relatively hard to predict how he’ll be received on the ballot. His time at first base, following the brain injury that forced him from behind the plate, has been far from noteworthy. Despite the metrics suggesting him as a lock for a Gold Glove in 2017 (making him just the third player ever to win one at multiple positions, and first former catcher), he was snubbed, not even being considered a finalist. While Gold Gloves hold little merit in most realms, they are a counting factor among Hall of Fame debates. With a year left on his contract, and limited time following, it’ll be hard for him to generate any noteworthy statistic in his new role.

By the time Mauer is welcomed onto the ballot, likely by 2024, the BBWAA voting contingent will look significantly different. As MLB.com writers have been ushered in, as well as a younger demographic overall, it will be interesting to see in what regard the Twins great is held. He could be heralded for his performance behind the plate, or he could be diminished for his time spent in decline playing a new role.

A plaque in the Hall of Fame is the ultimate goal for a major league baseball player. An acknowledgement that you’ve made it as one of the best to ever play the game, there’s no overstating how powerful that moment must be for a ballplayer. When retroactively viewing careers, it’s an interesting and difficult decision to decipher between what may be too little (Santana) and what may be too much (Mauer). The tunnel of time spent in the big leagues could hardly be more polar opposite for the two potential Hall-of-Famers, but they may end up seeing their detractors lead them to the same fate.

As Santana finds himself ushered off the ballot, fans from Twins Territory will be looking for their next great to latch onto. 2011 represents the enshrinement of Bert Blyleven, following a lengthy campaign, and hope for who’s next may rest on Mauer’s laurels. We won’t know how this story plays out for some time, but in 2017, we’ve seen how the flip side has been viewed.


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41 Comments

If Mauer plays 4 more seasons as a starter and averages just over 150 hits a season he will have 2600. He will also be approaching 550 doubles which are solid numbers. If he gets a gold glove at 1B that will be something different. With gold gloves at 2 different positions. So if his career average remains over .300 with these other numbers he will have a case. Is it possible for him to get another batting title the next year or two for good measure. He was top 10 in ave last year.
    • sploorp likes this

The writer seems to think Mauer's career will be over after next year.I think the team will keep value his defense and leadership and resign or extend him.He should be able to pad out his numbers a little bit more.

 

It ain't over 'til it's over.

 

I wasn't surprised he got snubbed for a gold glove.It usually takes multiple years of great defense.to bag the trophy.If he has another year like 2017, he should get it.

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theBOMisthebomb
Dec 21 2017 11:50 PM
Johan had no recognizable or memorable that anyone outside of Minnesota would remember. Johan did nothing to make a lasting impression on anybody outside of Twins fans. He did have a no hitter with the Mets, however, that is just a blip on the radar screen. Johan has no "it factor" and that obviously is hurting him on HOF ballots. Also, no postseason success hurts his chances.
Joe will be interesting when he is on the ballot. Yes, a Gold Glove at first base would be a nice feather in the cap and improve his HOF chances. Does Joe have a shot at 3000 hits?
    • mikelink45 likes this
He is just under 2000 hits going into age 35 season. If he can play till he is 42, he has a chance at 3000. His claim to fame is line drives ... batting average, doubles defense at C and hopefully he can add one at 1B. He becomes a real interesting case with A) another batting title B) 2500 + career hits C) gold glove at 1B D) career .300+ average E) 500 or 550 + career doubles. He doesnt have enough of any other stat that stands out at this point. He may finish with 800 XBH. 1200 runs scored and 1100 RBI with 4 more seasons. That is HOF for catchers but not any other position. But basically he is a HOF C turned Keith Hernandez because of concussions. So if he hits those marks i outlined i think he has a chance. It may take 9 tries....
    • theBOMisthebomb likes this

Nice essay.It keeps a spark in the old hot stove.  

 

Your premise is probably right on both - too long, too short, but Johann's case is also one of doing his best outside the lime light.For the Mets he was a constant tease and frustration and as a disappointment he will not get NY voters so going off the list in the first year would be no surprise.

​Mauer is one of the most interesting of all the choices because one factor he has going for himself is a greater awareness and acceptance of concussion issues.His case is not a too long or too short case as much as a medical card that says he and we are lucky that his career has come back at all.I wonder how much that will factor in.As we saw with Blyleven, if the right group backs him, there are many ways a HOF career can be justified and lead to induction.  

Whether he's ultimately a hall of famer is certainly a fair argument. But, not even receiving enough consideration to stay on the ballot is a joke.
    • Riverbrian, ThejacKmp, KGB and 3 others like this
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theBOMisthebomb
Dec 22 2017 06:14 AM

Whether he's ultimately a hall of famer is certainly a fair argument. But, not even receiving enough consideration to stay on the ballot is a joke.

Johan's election chances have always been small, although it will be a major disappointment if he gets kicked off the ballot right away. I honestly don't see how he could drum up enough votes to ever have a legitimate chance. Could Sid stump for him?
    • Blackjack likes this

 

Whether he's ultimately a hall of famer is certainly a fair argument. But, not even receiving enough consideration to stay on the ballot is a joke.

 

Perfectly summed up. 

    • ThejacKmp, Blackjack and Broker like this
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AlwaysinModeration
Dec 22 2017 06:56 AM
Johan is suffering from a number crunch. The ballot is stuffed. You’ve got new guys like Chipper and Thome. You’ve got Vlad and Hoffman who easily could have gotten in last year, but didn’t, so taking votes on most ballots. Then you’ve got Bonds and Clemens, who should have gotten in years and years ago, but the electorate are finally getting over making examples out of them. And then Edgar and Schilling are finally getting the attention they deserve. Finally, you’ve got folks like Mussina and Larry Walker, who are deserving but are slowly building their vote totals over years. Add it all up, and throw in your random Vizquel, Wagner and Rolen votes, and there just isn’t a ton of space for Johan. What a shame.

On the other hand, Joe is going in. He has a decent chapter or two left to write, even though I don’t think he needs it. Not really sure how he’ll end the story; gold glove, batting title, 2500 hits, 20 SB season, World Series MVP, or even some random, soon-to-become iconic game-saving defensive playoff game play (think Jeter ball flip against Oakland), but I’m sure there will be something.

Also remember, Joe has several intangibles in his favor already:

1) one team his whole career
2) hometown kid
3) crystal clean image through steroids era
4) that behind the catch catch of the backstop carom
5) “Well played, Joe Mauer”
    • WLFINN and Doctor Wu like this

I always made a point of listening to the game when Yohan pitched!!! As the summer wore on and he got hot, you were almost certain to get a well pitched game.Hall of Famer?? In my book he was.

 

Joe I think gets in. Great start to his carreer as a catcher, a few bad years while injured, the voters will take that in account, a few above average years as a first basement, he gets in the HOF.

Three words: bilateral leg weakness

    • jud6312 likes this
I hope Mauer doesn’t get screwed by a different generation of voters.

I sat in front of a kid at a twins game this summer that told his friend that Mauer used to be a catcher but he was pretty average.

My wife had to stop me from yelling at him. I was insulted that someone called Mauer an average catcher.
    • h2oface, jimmer and gagu like this

I think Mauer should and will make it. It'll take some time to build (year 5 or so?) but he's a top 10 catcher and that should get him in despite the later career injuries.

 

I really hope so. Bet a happy hour with a Twins-hating friend that he'd make it in.

    • jimmer likes this

Any thesis supporting someone for induction to the HOF, which has 'what ifs' as its major arguments, it is a detriment to that player's candidacy.

 

Johan Santana and Joe Mauer were dominant for about 5-6 seasons each.

 

That's not a hall of fame career.  Santana's and Mauer's career kinda mirror Doc Gooden's and Dale Murphy's / Don Mattingly's.With those guys out of the Hall plus others like Dave Parker, Mike Mussina, etc out of the Hall, Santana and Mauer, just does not deserve it.

 

Tim Lincecum is another interesting comparable to Santana as well.Even more dominant than Santana in his peak. Does he deserve to be in the HOF?

 

Tim Lincecum is another interesting comparable to Santana as well.Even more dominant than Santana in his peak. Does he deserve to be in the HOF?

 

WAA

Lincecum: 7.9
Santana: 32.3

 

7-Year Peak WAR

Lincecum: 25.1

Santana: 44.8

 

JAWS

Lincecum: 23.1

Santana: 48.1

 

The peak years between these two players are not comparable. Santana was far more valuable during his peak years.

    • WLFINN and gagu like this

 

WAA

Lincecum: 7.9
Santana: 32.3

 

7-Year Peak WAR

Lincecum: 25.1

Santana: 44.8

 

JAWS

Lincecum: 23.1

Santana: 48.1

 

The peak years between these two players are not comparable. Santana was far more valuable during his peak years.

 

 

7 years is too long.  

 

2008-11 Lincicum: 2.81 ERA, 2.81 FIP, 1.173 WHIP, 997 K, 23.1 fWAR, 2 CY 
2004-07 Santana: 2.89 ERA, 3.14 FIP, 0.990 WHIP, 983 K, 24.6 fWAR, 1 CY

 

I'd say that they are pretty darn close.

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jorgenswest
Dec 22 2017 05:47 PM
Mauer’s comps of Cochrane and Dickey suggests that he fits in the Hall of Fame. He also ranks above them in JAWS at catcher.
    • 70charger likes this
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AlwaysinModeration
Dec 22 2017 06:34 PM

7 years is too long.

2008-11 Lincicum: 2.81 ERA, 2.81 FIP, 1.173 WHIP, 997 K, 23.1 fWAR, 2 CY
2004-07 Santana: 2.89 ERA, 3.14 FIP, 0.990 WHIP, 983 K, 24.6 fWAR, 1 CY

I'd say that they are pretty darn close.


So now we are judging Hall of Fame cases on the four best years?

 

So now we are judging Hall of Fame cases on the four best years?

 

We are not.This was regarding the comparison of Santana's and Lincecum's peaks, and a peak cannot be more than 4-5 years, esp in a short career.

Career-wise, Santana is 120th in fWAR behind Mike Mussina,Tommy John, Curt Schilling, Kevin Brown, Andy Pettitte, Rick Reuschel,Jim Bunning, Juan Marichal, Dwight Gooden, Chuck Finley, David Wells, Frank Tanana, David Cone, Orel Hershiser, etc. and behind some contemporaries lilke CC Sabathia and Cole Hamels, who are short of Hall of Fame pitchers as well.

 

If you got to get Santana there because of his "peak", at least Gooden (another pitcher whose career was cut short) and Lincecum should also be in the discussion.That' why the Lincecum comparison (who, of course, like Santana, I don't see as a Hall of Famer)

    • jud6312 likes this
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OldManWinter
Dec 22 2017 09:18 PM
When Hrbek was not given a Gold Glove, the value of the award was seriously tarnished and lost its true meaning.

Rename it. That Mauer and others have also since been snubbed is a good indication that defensive performance is not the criteria for making the award.
    • Doctor Wu likes this

Joe's shot was to go out with the concussion injury. The catcher stats and performance was HOF. The sympathy factor would have made up for the short career. But you don't get to have two MLB careers. You are only one person. And the first base years have destroyed his chances, I feel. 

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jorgenswest
Dec 23 2017 07:06 PM
Ernie Banks played SS through age 30 posting an OPS+ of 138. Thereafter he played 1B with an OPS+ of 106. Among shortstops Banks ranks 7th according to JAWS.

Joe Mauer played C through age 30 with an OPS+ of 135. As a 1B since he has an OPS+ of 106. Among catchers Mauer ranks 7th according to JAWS.

Banks made it to the Hall of Fame for his shortstop play. Mauer can get there as a catcher.
    • ashburyjohn, 70charger, h2oface and 2 others like this
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diehardtwinsfan
Dec 24 2017 05:09 AM

Santana's case is interesting. I'm a bit disappointed that he's not making it to the next round. Kind of sad unfortunately. I think if Mauer can eclipse 2500 hits (good chance of that) there won't be much of a discussion. His time at C was special. If he can put a few more seasons like 2017, I think he's a lock.

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AlwaysinModeration
Dec 24 2017 10:51 PM
Johan has gotten two votes. He needs approximately 19 more votes to not fall off the ballot.
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AlwaysinModeration
Dec 24 2017 10:57 PM
Bob Sansevere did not vote for Johan.

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