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  • The Twins' Next Hall Of Famer


    Ted Schwerzler

    With the winter months dominating the calendar at the present time, one of the highlights of the offseason has been the Hall of Fame voting. With Ken Griffey Jr. being a guaranteed lock heading into the reveal (even despite three clueless voters), it was a question of who would join him during enshrinement in Cooperstown this summer. After the dust settled, we now know that honor will go to Mike Piazza.

    Image courtesy of Marilyn Indahl-- USAToday Sports

    For the Twins, the ballot was void of any Minnesota presence. In upcoming years, the most closely tied name will be that of Jim Thome. While he won't go in as a member of the Twins, he provided plenty a bright spot in Twins Territory as he rounded out his career. It's not Thome though who is the next most likely Twins player to gain consideration for enshrinement.

    For Minnesota, an opportunity may be presented when Torii Hunter is first eligible. It's almost guaranteed he will be inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame, but despite the potential to reach Cooperstown, he should fall short. Hunter has a better resume than that of Jim Edmonds, but it's not 70% better, which is what will be needed to reach enshrinement. Edmonds fell off the ballot after missing out on the needed 5% this year, Hunter will likely do better. Regardless, don't expect him to break the Twins drought.

    No, instead that honor could most likely go to a player twho is still a member of the Twins. 32 year-old Joe Mauer is the Minnesota Twins next most likely candidate for Hall of Fame consideration. Had he not been given the injury hand he has been dealt, and still was behind the plate, I'd feel good about forecasting him as a first-ballot type player. As things stand currently, he presents a very strong case with a few more years left to push the needle one way or another.

    At this point in time, Hall of Fame voting principles don't seem to rely heavily on the golden numbers. While 3,000 hits, 500 home runs, and other milestones seemingly should guarantee induction, other factors such as character and performance enhancers have muddied the waters. For Mauer though, those numbers will be left out of consideration entirely.

    Sitting currently at just under 1,700 hits for his career with just over 115 home runs, Mauer's case for the Hall will be built on some different principles. As a catcher, Mauer garnered four All-Star appearances, an MVP award, three Gold Gloves, and four Silver Slugger titles. He was arguably the best in the game, at one of its most demanding positions for the first seven years of his big league career.

    Following concussion issues, Mauer's game has been transformed. He's become a relative shell of the hitter he once was, and has had to adapt to playing an entirely new position. Despite the downturn in production, Mauer still owns a career .313/.394/.451 slash line and can claim three batting titles to his credit.

    Most importantly for Mauer's prospects regarding the Hall of Fame, is how the story ends up being written. As the 2016 season kicks off, Mauer will be 33 years old. Under contract for the Twins until 2018, there are probably at least another 400 plus hits in his bat, and production that could be boosted by some lineup changes.

    Should Mauer trend back towards what he once was, or at least to an high average and contact hitter, he should be seen favorably in the eyes of voters. If the trend of a dipping average combined with mediocre peripheral numbers continues, Mauer's longevity could actually hurt him down the stretch. Hanging on and compiling stats while diluting and distancing from the catching days likely won't do him any favors.

    At the end of his career, Joe Mauer is not going to be Mike Piazza. He could (and likely should) surpass the 2,127 hits of the Mets backstop. Mauer probably will lay claim to a better average and on-base percentage. He's going to have the MVP and batting titles to his credit, and his Gold Gloves should make a difference. He isn't the power hitter his current position is expected to be though, and the injuries that have changed the course of his career will be held against him

    Sometime within the next ten to twelve years, Joe Mauer is going to get his turn on the Hall of Fame ballot. He's not a lock the first time around, but expecting him to come up with 75% of the vote through the first half of his voting eligibility is far from a fool's proposition.

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    He is not a winner and is not known for his clutch hitting in pressure situations. His playoff stats are abysmal, to be kind. The big question is was he dominant enough when he was catching to get the votes for HOF? It should be fun to see how his career ends and how the HOF values his career. Good January talking points for years to come.

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    I think he'll end up like Tony Oliva and not make the hall of fame.  It's getting harder to compare him to HOF catchers (Piazza caught 650 more games than Mauer) and if he keep playing 150 games he'll need to get 2,100 hits, he'll end up playing as many games as a non-catcher.

     

    If he continues to produce at the level of the last 2 years, he may even drop below a career .300 hitter. 

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    A few years ago, a friend of mine and were discussing this and Mauer was a sure thing. Now, I'm not so certain. As a catcher, no question. His problem though is longevity. His transition to 1B has been less than smooth. I think if he can have a couple Maueresque seasons over the next two years, then yeah, he's in. But if he keeps playing like he did the last 2 seasons, I don't know of HOF voters will be so kind. As it is, you could argue that there were 15 clear cut HOF guys on the ballot this year.  Only 2 made it in. Mauer strikes me as a casualty in this scenario.

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    With his numbers trending downward for the past couple seasons, I can't see how he will get in.  He is in the Hall Of Very Good, but not Hall Of Fame.  It is sad too because he was on track to get there.  3 Batting Titles, 1 MVP was a great start.  As others have stated, injuries slowed down his career and the transition to 1B hasn't helped him.

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    Hit the nail right on the head zenser. He will be remembered as a very good baseball player, but he has no chance at the Hall of Fame. Other than his batting average and on-base percentage, there isn't a single career stat that will entice voters to consider him for Cooperstown. 

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    Hit the nail right on the head zenser. He will be remembered as a very good baseball player, but he has no chance at the Hall of Fame. Other than his batting average and on-base percentage, there isn't a single career stat that will entice voters to consider him for Cooperstown. 

    I wouldn't go as far as to say "no chance".  However the longer he plays as a below average first baseman the worse his odds get.  If he ends up playing 5 more years at 1st base at a .270 average with 5-10 HR's.  He will have played half of his career as a below average first baseman.  That will most likely offset his first 7 years as an elite Catcher.  He will probably get votes but never the 75% needed.  I see him topping out around 50%-60%.  If he can put together a 2-3 years of .310 average with a .350 OBP then his chances rebound.  I just don't see that happening.

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    This game was a lot more fun about five years ago when Mauer and Johan Santana looked like shoe-ins and Mornuea, Nathan and Hunter looked like they had an outside shot with a strong finishing kick to the end of their careers.

     

    At this point, I actually think Nathan has the best, albeit slim, chance of making it. But he'd have to come back healthy, put together a couple more very strong seasons and get 50 or so saves to pass Billy Wagner who along with Trevor Hoffman are contemporaries who got strong HOF consideration this past year.

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    I think if I had to rank their chances I'd go Mauer, Santana, Hunter, Nathan.  I think Mauer's got strong support with voters who like WAR and his 3 batting titles will impress more traditional voters.  But he really could use a rebound season or two.  I've complained about this before but the HOF should be more about HOF seasons than career numbers and Santana had an absolute HOF peak, he should be in. He probably won't get in but he should.  I think Hunter will stick on the ballot for 10 years.  He got 50 WAR which is borderline but he was also seen as a leader and a good guy by most of the voters who might reward his intangibles.  He also managed a crap ton of hits and had very few bad years.  I suppose on a crowded ballot he could drop off like Edmonds and Lofton did but by the time he's on the ballot I think a lot of the logjams will be cleared up.  I don't think Nathan makes it.  He was dominating in the regular season but horrible in the post season and he played in an era where a lot of closers put up video game numbers.  

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    Should Mauer trend back towards what he once was, or at least to an high average and contact hitter, he should be seen favorably in the eyes of voters. If the trend of a dipping average combined with mediocre peripheral numbers continues, Mauer's longevity could actually hurt him down the stretch. Hanging on and compiling stats while diluting and distancing from the catching days likely won't do him any favors.

    One school of thought is that a HoF should have an MVP type 7 year peak, combined with overall career totals that meet certain milestones. He probably has a peak in the bank already, so he just needs to pad his career totals, esp. WAR. And the trend towards the public (and I assume the BBWAA will follow) emphasizing WAR over hits, HR, etc is  another reason that delaying his eligibility would probably help his case IMO, since there's no way he reaches those. But, he's 33 with 45 rWAR. Finishing somewhere around 55-65 WAR seems possible if he rebounds.

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    I'm guessing Joe Nathan will be the next one who comes up for consideration. And I think the chances are better than 50/50 he'd choose to go in as a Twin.

     

    The player doesn't have a choice on which "hat" he wears in the hall.  That is decided by MLB/Cooperstown.

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    I'm guessing Joe Nathan will be the next one who comes up for consideration. And I think the chances are better than 50/50 he'd choose to go in as a Twin.

    Those chances are also far less than 50/50 that he even gets in.

     

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    I am having a hard time seeing where Hunter has a Better resume for the HOF than Edmonds, who fell off the ballot 1st time due to the 10 player vote max. Edmonds has the better stat slash line, a better wRC+, and roughly 25 more WAR. And he was a top notch defender as was Hunter. where is the argument Hunter has a better HOF case than Edmonds?

    Edited by jimmer
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    I am pretty sure I read an article about Piazza choosing to go in as a Met and another about Griffey choosing to go in as a Mariner. in fact, Piaza talked to Lasorda about it before picking the Mets cap. I believe they do have a choice.

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    I am having a hard time seeing where Hunter has a Better resume for the HOF than Edmonds, who fell off the ballot 1st time due to the 10 player vote max. Edmonds has the better stat slash line, a better wRC+, and roughly 25 more WAR. And he was a top notch defender as was Hunter. where is the argument he has a better HOF case?

     

    Like it or not, his rep is going to carry a lot of weight. Lot's of baseball people love the guy. Not sure if Barardino gets a vote though....

     

    Plus Edmonds almost certainly was compared to the PED contemporaries, fair or not. Hunter likely will be compared with the post PED era, even if those guys had a lot of overlapping years.

     

    I don't think he gets in, but I'd bet good money he stays on the ballot quite a long time.

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    Maybe if Mauer goes into broadcasting after he retires, giving him a soapbox to cry and whine about how Fergie Jenkins is in and that Mauer is at least as good as Jenkins.

     

    I don't think Joe has the voice or personality to be a broadcaster, though.

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    I am having a hard time seeing where Hunter has a Better resume for the HOF than Edmonds, who fell off the ballot 1st time due to the 10 player vote max. Edmonds has the better stat slash line, a better wRC+, and roughly 25 more WAR. And he was a top notch defender as was Hunter. where is the argument Hunter has a better HOF case than Edmonds?

    I don't believe anyone suggested Hunter was a better candidate for the HOF than Edmonds (or Lofton).  I certainly did not intend to suggest that, if it was me you think did that.  I did say that on an uncrowded ballot, he might be able to stick around (unlike those two who were on crowded ballots).  

     

    WAR is a bit interesting - by b-r it's about a 10 WAR difference while fWAR it's 25.  I wonder if we'll ever move beyond WAR in grading our HOFers or move more toward it.

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    I don't believe anyone suggested Hunter was a better candidate for the HOF than Edmonds (or Lofton).  I certainly did not intend to suggest that, if it was me you think did that.  I did say that on an uncrowded ballot, he might be able to stick around (unlike those two who were on crowded ballots).  

     

    WAR is a bit interesting - by b-r it's about a 10 WAR difference while fWAR it's 25.  I wonder if we'll ever move beyond WAR in grading our HOFers or move more toward it.

    If we are using WAR for the HOF, Edmonds had a better career than not just Hunter, but also Mauer.  

     

    But I think both Hunter and Mauer will get through the first year.  Not sure anyone can rationalize why they don't vote for some players.  Lance Berkman will be another high WAR player who probably will not be on the ballot long.

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    http://www.billjamesonline.com/where_are_the_great_catchers_/

     

     

    Actually…that’s not exactly true. Joe Mauer is currently a few decimals ahead of Johnny Bench (5.74 to 5.62), but his career is still going along. Let’s stick with Johnny Bench for a moment.

    I suppose all of you know about Johnny Bench. He was a terrific hitter: he had one year when he hit 45 homers, knocked in 148 RBI’s. He was twenty-two years old that year. A few years later he hit 40 homers, 128 RBI. These seasons happened when pitching had recently dominated baseball, and people were flabbergasted by it.

    Bench was a great hitter. He was also a brilliant defensive player: he had a cannon for an arm. He was a central cog on one of the greatest teams in baseball history.

    There’s no knock to Bench’s career: he was an absolutely dominant offensive player, and a terrific defensive player. His teams won lots of games; his individual accomplishments seemed to have a direct correlation to his team’s success. He was the perfect catcher.

    Here are the players, by position, that Johnny Bench most compares to:


    Pos.

    Name

    WAR/162

    Rank in Position
    C
    Johnny Bench
    5.6
    1st
    1B
    Dick Allen
    5.7
    8th
    2B
    Charlie Gehringer
    5.5
    9th
    SS
    Joe Cronin
    5.1
    5th
    3B
    Scott Rolen
    5.6
    6th
    RF
    Larry Walker
    5.6
    5th
    CF
    Larry Doby
    5.1
    6th
    LF
    Rickey Henderson
    5.7
    6th

    This is not an impressive list. It’s certainly a good list….Rickey Henderson was one of the smartest baseball players of all-time, and all of the others are worthy Hall-of-Famers. But none of them are serious contenders as the best players at their respective positions. Dick Allen wasn’t close to Gehrig or Foxx or Pujols. Larry Walker is ranked 5th among right-fielders, but he’s not close to Ruth or Aaron. Even Rickey doesn’t quite approach the likes of Ted Williams, Barry Bonds, or Stan Musial.

    This seems strange to me. Even if you don’t think Bench is the #1 catcher of all-time…even if you’re partial to Yogi Berra or Josh Gibson…you’d concede that it’s not irrational for other people to believe that Bench is the greatest catcher ever.

    Is it rational, then, that a strong candidate for the title of greatest catcher of all-time has a per-162 game rate that’s so far below the best players at every other position on the diamond? Is it rational to believe that there have been no really great catchers in major league history?

    Or is something wrong with WAR?

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    While Mauer's HOF credentials have been tarnished by his post-concussion performance, he had 8 solid years as a catcher.  However, I think that his 2011 year is a bigger black mark than the past two post-concussion years.  

     

    In the middle of a 10 year run of solid to outstanding catching, Joe developed "bi-lateral leg weakness".  WTF?  it may be a legit ailment, but it has transformed Joe's image to that of a wimp.  

     

    I hope Joe can turn his hitting around and get back to .300+ batting.  I hope that the concussion issues are behind him and he can have the same resurgence that Morneau has had.  If he can add another batting title and 5 more years, he's a lock for the HOF.

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    Not living so very far away, I can do Cooperstown as a (long) day trip.  So, I saw Sir Rodney's induction in 1991, Kirby's in 2001, and Bert's in 2011.  Do you see a pattern there?  I was kind of hoping for a Twin in 2021, but I guess I shouldn't be fussy about timing.

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    Great read. I'd be very curious to hear from the Mauer-haters out there any theories as to why the best catchers in history, by WAR, don't stack up at all against the best players of other positions (by WAR). And if WAR is broken, what alternative metric(s) should be used when considering HoF credentials for catchers.

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