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Notable Undeserving Players Inducted into the Hall of Fame


Bill Mazeroski at the 50th anniversary of the 1960 World Series; CC by License 2.0

Being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame is the end goal for every aspiring baseball player. It is headlined by the best to ever play the game, like Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, Randy Johnson, etc. Only the best of the best can get into the Hall … at least that’s what the intention originally was. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA), the group in charge of the Hall of Fame Voting, has had some easy tasks for Hall of Fame voting. Selecting guys that made the sport all that it is, such as Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth, is a no-brainer. There have also been some controversial picks, such as Scott Rolen just last year. However, there is always a strong argument in support of those players’ inductions, even if not everyone agrees. Then there are the players voted in that make you wonder what was going through the writers’ heads.


It is no secret the BBWAA is not full of the best minds in baseball. Should Mariano Rivera have been a unanimous Hall of Famer? Yes, considering he is the most dominant closer to ever have played the sport. Should he have been the first unanimous Hall of Famer? Absolutely not! How 23 writers did not vote for Willie Mays, 43 did not vote for Mickey Mantle, and 49 did not vote for Pedro Martinez is beyond me. Well maybe the writers are just picky so only the best of the best get in, right? Unfortunately, the BBWAA is here to prove otherwise. Here are three of the worst Hall of Famers to be inducted.


There are a few ground rules. I am going to limit myself to one relief pitcher, avoid pre-modern-era players, and also try to stick to more recognizable names. If I go on a rant about Heinie Manush, there’s a good chance that no one will know or care about him. These may not be the three worst Hall of Famers, but their inductions should be heavily scrutinized.


#3: Lou Brock


If you play MLB The Show, you hate to love this guy. This LF, known for his tenure with the St. Louis Cardinals, is a cheesy, high-contact guy and a total speed threat on the bases. Also just like an average MLB the Show player, he struck out way more than he walked, which is not ideal for a guy whose main purpose is to steal bases. He averaged 2.27 times as many strikeouts (107) as walks (47) per season. His career OPS+ and wRC+ are 109, which is just above the league average. That can be ignored if he was an incredible defender. However, his defensive metrics do not paint a pretty picture. Good defensive metrics for old players are rare, with the best one being Total Zone, the defensive stat used in WAR calculations for players before 2002. A TZ of 0 is roughly average. Lou Brock finished 12 of his 18 years in the league with a negative TZ, totaling a career TZ of -50.


Nothing is promising so far, but let’s look at his “Hall of Fame stats”, which are WAR and JAWS. If you do not know, a player's JAWS is calculated by averaging his career WAR with the total WAR from his seven-year peak, consecutive or not. This helps players who may have not had the longest careers be matched fairly with players who were able to accumulate a lot of WAR just because they played forever. Lou Brock is rocking a 38.6 JAWS and a 45.3 career WAR. The averages for a HOF left fielder are 53.4 JAWS and 65.1 WAR. Brock’s numbers are far enough below average to say that he should not be enshrined in Cooperstown. Lou Brock had a great career, but he should headline the Hall of Very Good.


So why did he get voted into the Hall of Fame? Easy answer. He was inducted back when he had the most stolen bases in MLB history, a record later broken with ease by Ricky Henderson, and he had 3,000+ hits. Both are impressive feats no doubt but are easily helped by his longevity. Brock spent 19 years in the league and never led the league in hits. And while awards are not always relevant for Hall of Fame voting, Lou Brock placed top 5 in MVP voting only once in his career, finishing as MVP runner-up in 1974. He led the league with 118 bases that season but also got caught stealing 33 times, the most in the league, and had an OPS+ of 110. That is not bad, but it is hard to call that MVP-level. That season Lou Brock had a 3.5 WAR, 19th out of the top-20 finishers in MVP voting that year. Lou Brock was a great player and easily deserves to be in the Cardinals Hall of Fame. However, his career did not warrant induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.


#2: Bruce Sutter


Here is the one reliever I’m allowed. Bruce Sutter has to be one of the most baffling Hall of Fame inductees. Sutter was a relief pitcher, mostly known for his tenure with the Cubs and Cardinals, while also playing a couple of seasons with the Braves. The Hall already hates relief pitchers, that being apparent with Billy Wagner struggling to get in. When making a Hall of Fame case for Billy Wagner, I compared his career stats with Sutter’s.

Stats

Billy Wagner

(903 IP)

Bruce Sutter

(1042 IP)

ERA

2.31

2.83

WHIP

.998

1.140

BAA

.187

.220

ERA+

187

136

WPA

29.1

18.2

K/9

11.9

7.4

WAR

27.8

24.1

JAWS

23.7

24.2

Bruce Sutter’s stats aren’t unfathomable but rather just great. A good stat to look at when comparing relievers is WHIP. What better metric to use for a mostly one-inning pitcher than the stat that gives a per-inning average? Sutter’s WHIP is in the middle of all HOF pitchers. However, he either had significantly fewer innings than most of the pitchers he is ahead of. Those with a similar inning count are also relievers with shaky HOF cases. If you take Bruce Sutter’s career as a whole, he was a good reliever who played for 12 years, but in no way should he be a Hall of Famer.


So what made the voters put him through? Another easy question. For one, he had a Cy Young Award somehow. In 1979, Sutter finished his season with a 2.22 ERA, 0.977 WHIP, and led the league with 37 Saves. A great season for sure, but in no way did he deserve that Cy Young. That year fully belonged to J.R. Richard of the Astros and his 2.71 ERA and 313 strikeouts in 292.1 innings. There is the fact that Sutter led the league in saves 5 separate times. Saves are important for a team. However, saves are not a good indicator of individual reliever performance. Bruce Sutter is also fifth all-time in blown saves. He pitched a long time, so that makes sense. It is just like how a QB like Peyton Manning is top 10 in interceptions. However, among the 20 pitchers with the most blown saves, Sutter has the second-fewest career innings. In terms of Blown Save percentage, he ranks very high. Having Relievers in the Hall of Fame is a controversial topic, but Bruce Sutter’s enshrinement gives so many other undeserving relievers a legitimate HOF case. Once again, he was a great player and an incredible reliever for all the teams he played for, but Bruce Sutter is nowhere near worthy of his Hall of Fame status.


#1: Bill Mazeroski


Bill Mazeroski was at the top of my mind when thinking about Hall of Famers with no place in Cooperstown. The only reason I knew about this random Pirates second baseman from the 60s was once again because of MLB The Show, but I did think about him again until he was an option on MLB Immaculate Grid for a Pirates player in the Hall of Fame. I dove into his stats and was stunned by what I found. Bill Mazeroski has a career OPS+ of 84, an OBP of .299, and a measly .667 OPS. That OPS is the third worst among Hall of Fame hitters that played in the last 100 years. The only two HOFers worse are Ozzie Smith and Luis Aparicio, but each had at least one season with an OPS+ above 100 and more than 2 seasons finishing in the top 25 for MVP voting. Once again, awards are not the end-all-be-all for a Hall of Fame case, but Mazeroski only finished top-25 in MVP voting twice. He landed 8th in 1958 and 23rd in 1966. Additionally, his averages of 33 walks and 53 strikeouts a season are not impressive.


The only thing that Mazeroski had going for him was his fielding. He was an excellent defender at second base, racking up a total of 148 TZ over his career. He peaked at 23 TZ in a season twice. His claim to was his 8 Gold Gloves in a 17-year career. However, you would expect more from a player elected into the Hall of Fame on defensive standards alone. For reference, Ozzie Smith had 13 Gold Gloves in his career and finished with 239 TZ, nearly 100 more than Mazeroski. Ozzie Smith is one of the best defenders of all time. Bill Mazeroski was just really good, not elite.


Looking at his WAR and JAWS only makes things seem worse. Mazeroski has a 36.5 career WAR. The average WAR for HOF Second Basemen is 69.6, which is nearly double Mazeroski’s WAR. The same goes for his 31.3 JAWS compared to the average of 57 for his position. I really have no rationalization for him being in the Hall of Fame other than he was a pretty good defender and that was blown out of proportion when they inducted him. Maybe it is also because of his walk-off home run to win the 1960 World Series for the Pirates. Besides that, there seems to be no other explanation.

 

The aforementioned players are not bad. They were all incredible and have a well-deserved spot in their teams' respective Hall of Fames. But when it comes to the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Cooperstown that all baseball fans know and love should be reserved for only the best of the best. Players like the ones above being in the Hall of Fame lower a standard meant only for the truly elite. Fortunately, statistics and numbers are much more important in today's game now that we can quantify so much more. Hopefully, this wealth of data prevents more undeserving additions to Cooperstown.



Sources:

Baseball Reference

Fangraphs

Bleacher Report

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