In 2001, Lou Whitaker received just 2.9 percent of votes on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, eliminating him from eligibility until this year, where he will be under consideration by the Veterans Committee.
For those unfamiliar with Whitaker, he played 19 seasons at second base with the Detroit Tigers, providing above-average offensive and defensive production throughout the majority of his career. He finished his career with 118 wRC+ and 68.1 fWAR – the latter number being the ninth-highest among all second basemen. (For comparison, Ryne Sandberg – a third-year inductee in 2005 – completed his career with 115 wRC+ and 60.9 fWAR.)
(Sidenote: I use a lot of metrics in my writing that the majority of the public might not find familiar because I find that they evaluate player performance better than traditional statistics. For a glossary on the ones I use, click here.)
Whitaker and Kenny Lofton (62.4 fWAR, received just 3.2% of votes in 2013) are two of the most baffling cases to fall off the Hall of Fame ballot after one season. Unfortunately, it seems like one of my all-time favorite players, Jim Edmonds, is about to join them.
The voting process is a mess to say the least, mostly because there is no concrete mindset on what to do with alleged and admitted PED (performance enhancing drug) users. This, along with the ridiculous 10-player limit, has backlogged the ballot to the point where cases like Lofton and potentially Edmonds will happen more frequently.
My personal biases admittedly come into play when discussing Edmonds, but when you look through his resume, it reads like a Hall of Famer’s. Without diving into advanced statistics (yet), Jimmy Ballgame can make his pitch for Cooperstown partially on his 392 homeruns and eight Gold Gloves (1997-98, 2000-05) from center field. Those numbers respectively rank eighth among centerfielders and tied for fifth among all outfielders all-time.
Breaking down his career from advanced metrics, Edmonds posted a 132 wRC+ (19th among CF), .385 wOBA, .243 ISO (7th among CF), and a 64.5 fWAR (13th among CF). He compiled five consecutive seasons (2000-04) of 140 wRC+ or higher (139 wRC+ in 2005) and six consecutive seasons (2000-05) of 6.0+ fWAR. Edmonds was worth 5.0+ fWAR in eight seasons (1995-96, 2000-05), while that number jumps to 10 years (1995-98, 2000-05) when it is lowered to 4.0+ fWAR.
If you look at the outfielders that were inducted so far in the 21st century, it can be argued that Edmonds was a better overall player than all but one of them. (Induction year and time on ballot in parentheses.)
Jim Edmonds (2016): 393 HR in 7,980 PA, .284/.376/.527, 132 wRC+, 317.9 FG Off, 73.3 FG Def, 64.5 fWAR
Andre Dawson (2010, 9th): 438 HR in 10,769 PA, .279/.323/.482, 117 wRC+, 314 SB, 230.3 FG Off, 59.5 fWAR
Tony Gwynn (2007, 1st): 3,141 H in 10,232 PA, .338/.388/.459, 132 wRC+, 410.5 FG Off, 65.0 fWAR
Rickey Henderson (2009, 1st): 297 HR in 13,346 PA, .279/.401/.419, 132 wRC+, 1,406 SB, 650.7 FG Off, 106.3 fWAR
Kirby Puckett (2001, 1st): 207 HR in 7,831 PA, .318/.360/.477, 122 wRC+, 204.9 FG Off, 44.9 fWAR
Jim Rice (2009, 15th): 382 HR in 9,058 PA, .298/.352/.502, 128 wRC+, 297.5 FG Off, 50.8 fWAR
Dave Winfield (2001, 1st): 465 HR in 12,358 PA, .283/.353/.475, 128 wRC+, 406.5 FG Off, 59.9 fWAR
And if the voters need postseason accolades, Edmonds can certainly provide those. In 64 playoff games, he posted a 124 wRC+ (and an above-average wRC+ in five of seven postseasons) thanks to a slash line of .274/.361/.513 and 13 homeruns. Did I mention Edmonds also has a couple of October moments?
So why is Edmonds about to fall off of the ballot? Most of it probably has to do with the backlog (which is another rant I might touch on in a different post), but I think some of it can be attributed to a sense of being “overshadowed” on his own team. Mark McGwire was still riding the momentum of back-to-back historic seasons when Edmonds was acquired from the Anaheim Angels in 2000, and a rookie phenom by the name of Albert Pujols was the big ticket the following season. Add Scott Rolen to complete MV3 in 2003 and you have multiple superstars that Edmonds had to “share” the spotlight with during the prime of his career.
Oh, and there was also that guy who played during the same timeframe too.
Hopefully Edmonds will get the call in 2031 by the Veterans Committee.