Tag: Opinion

What Is Madison Bumgarner Worth in Upcoming Giants Megadeal?

There’s what Madison Bumgarner is making, what he’s worth and how much he might make in his next contract.

Spoiler alert: These three things are very different.

What’s certain is the San Francisco Giants have gotten a lot more than they bargained for when they extended Bumgarner in April 2012. The left-hander’s contract guaranteed $35 million through 2017, with two club options in 2018 and 2019 worth at least $12 million and at most $16 million depending on his performance in Cy Young voting.

In five regular seasons since, this has paid for a 2.96 ERA across 1,072 innings. Bumgarner has further earned his cash by helping deliver World Series titles in 2012 and 2014. He won the latter championship almost single-handedly.

By Baseball-Reference.com’s version of wins above replacement, Bumgarner has only been the 11th-best pitcher in the league over the last five years. This is somewhere between hogwash and codswallop. He’s at worst a top-10 pitcher and more realistically a top-five pitcher.

Oh yeah, he’s still only 27.

It would be fun to speculate about what Bumgarner might earn on the open market in any offseason. But such a conversation is especially fun this offseason.

This is not only the winter he would have been a free agent had he not signed his extension but also a winter in which the demand for his services would’ve been elevated by the lack of other free-agent aces.

The total record payout for a free-agent starter is the $217 million David Price got from the Boston Red Sox last offseason. Bumgarner would have beaten that with room to spare, becoming easily the most expensive pitcher in history.

Of course, Bumgarner isn’t a free agent right now. There are thus only two ways he can land a contract more befitting of his talent: He can either ride three more healthy and productive years into free agency after 2019 or hope the Giants come calling with a second contract extension before then.

Not surprisingly, the Giants are very much interested in keeping him.

When the topic of Bumgarner’s future with the club was raised last October, Giants general manager Bobby Evans confirmed to Andrew Baggarly of the Bay Area News Group that preliminary conversations had taken place with Bumgarner’s representatives.

“When they’re interested in talking, we want to make sure we’re available,” Evans said. “But we don’t have a timeline. We want Madison to be here for a long time. At the right time, we’ll address this when his camp is ready to talk.”

In all likelihood, the right timeline for extending Bumgarner isn’t imminent.

The Giants are coming off their second straight year over the luxury tax threshold and are slated to be over the threshold again this year. The best time for them to extend Bumgarner would be after 2017, when they’re slated to have a fair amount of money come off their books.

Assuming his $21 million option for 2018 doesn’t vest, it’s a virtual lock the Giants will pay Matt Cain his $7.5 million buyout after 2017. Even more money would come loose if Johnny Cueto opts out of the final four years of his six-year, $130 million contract.

If Bumgarner and the Giants do indeed see a window after 2017, he’d be in a similar position age-wise to Stephen Strasburg when he signed his seven-year, $175 million extension with the Washington Nationals last May. That’s set to begin in his age-28 season in 2017. Bumgarner will be going into his age-28 season in 2018.

Of course, Bumgarner is a better, more durable and generally more accomplished pitcher than Strasburg, so an improvement on his deal would be in order. Say, something more like seven years at over $30 million per year.

While that wouldn’t match Bumgarner’s value on this winter’s market, he’d get the same going rate as Price, Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer, who are very much his peers.

However, there’s a rub.

Strasburg was only a couple of months from free agency when he inked his deal, so he had some leverage in his talks with the Nationals. Bumgarner will still be two years away from free agency if he negotiates next winter, giving him considerably less leverage.

“You’ll never get your value if you renegotiate early,” one agent told John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle at the winter meetings, although he also admitted, “Bumgarner might be the exception because he is so unbelievable.”

As unbelievable as Bumgarner is, he’d likely have to hold off on signing and continue being himself in 2018 and 2019 to gain enough leverage to squeeze market value out of the Giants. That would require him not to break down. His track record bodes well there, but no pitcher is unbreakable. He’d be taking a chance.

Alternatively, Bumgarner and the Giants could make it easy on themselves and find the middle ground next winter.

My best guess is that would involve going back to 2013 and taking a cue from Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners. When they agreed to a seven-year, $175 million extension, what they actually agreed to was a five-year, $135.5 million deal on top of money Hernandez was still owed in the final two years of his original contract of five years and $78 million. Although he signed coming off his age-26 season, his new deal wouldn’t begin until his age-29 season in 2015.

The ages won’t quite line up if Bumgarner and the Giants go this route after 2017. He’d be coming off his age-27 season and negotiating a deal that would start in his age-30 season in 2020. But since the timing and talent similarities are there, the only other big difference would be the passage of time and corresponding inflation.

So, let’s see…call it five years and $150 million, starting in 2020 and running through 2024?

That plus the money in Bumgarner’s 2018 and 2019 options would mean at least $174 million and at most $182 million over a seven-year span. That would be good money for him and also a considerable discount for the Giants. Ergo, the middle ground.

Since this is a complicated case with lots of ins, outs and what-have-yous, my best guess is obviously less than a promise. The Giants could choose to be more generous despite their leverage advantage. Or, Bumgarner could be the generous one. Or, he could choose to bet on himself in 2018 and 2019, either to gain leverage on the Giants or boost his value for free agency.

Regardless, Bumgarner is only going to get closer to some kind of big payday as time passes. When it comes, it’ll put his first payday to shame.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com. Contract and payroll data courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

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Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols Lead B/R’s All-HOF Team in MLB Today

After Wednesday’s announcement of the 2017 Hall of Fame inductees, most of the talk is about Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, performance-enhancing drugs and the like. I wrote something on the subject if you’re not sick of it yet.

Here’s another interesting question, though: Which current MLB players would make the Hall if their careers ended today? Who, in other words, has already stacked up the statistics, awards and intangibles to punch a ticket to Cooperstown?

It’s not a scientific exercise, obviously. Voting members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America have a proven ability to confound.

Mike Piazza waited four years to get in, to cite one example, while Ivan Rodriguez slipped through on the first ballot. Two all-time great catchers, both from the steroid era with suspicion but no hard proof of illicit chemical enhancement, two different results.

There are cases like that throughout the Hall’s history, including many that aren’t clouded by PEDs and some in which worthy players (cough, Alan Trammell) never earned enshrinement.

We’ll do our best, however, to pick the most likely inductees for B/R’s All-HOF in MLB Today team. Again, we’re weighing only current stats, not future potential, so the likes of Mike Trout and Kris Bryant don’t make the cut. Neither do recently retired players, meaning the David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez debates will wait for another day.

Let’s start by examining a handful of close calls, followed by four (virtual) locks.

Begin Slideshow

MLB Offseason: 10 Moves That Already Should Have Happened

Full disclosure: When I began working on this story, one of the sections was titled, “Colorado Rockies: Sign Mark Trumbo.”

It made sense. The Rockies were an ideal fit for Trumbo, who could have easily surpassed 40 home runs playing first base at Coors Field and allowed Ian Desmond to slot into the outfield mix.

Instead, the Baltimore Orioles swooped in and signed Trumbo for three years and $37.5 million, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman.

It’s a cautionary tale: Pull the trigger, or someone else will.

Here are 10 more deals that remain unconsummated as of this writing but should have already happened because of need, compatibility and the waning nature of the offseason.

Tap the late-winter clay off your cleats and proceed when ready.

Begin Slideshow

Why Did MLB Home Run King Mark Trumbo Come so Cheap to Orioles?

Major League Baseball’s reigning home run champion has a new contract, and it’s not the most expensive contract signed this winter.

Not even close.

Mark Trumbo, he of the league-leading 47 home runs in 2016, agreed to return to the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports was first with the details of his new deal:

And that’s all there is to it. According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, there’s no opt-out in Trumbo‘s contract. He’ll be an Oriole for three more years, spanning his age-31 season to his age-33 season.

With that, we now know the terms of the 11th-largest contract signed this winter.

Trumbo‘s deal ranks just ahead of the three-year, $33 million pact that Kendrys Morales signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. The group of 10 players ahead of him is headlined by Yoenis Cespedes at four years and $110 million and also includes three relievers (Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon), a platoon outfielder (Josh Reddick) and an oft-injured starter (Rich Hill).

OK, so it’s not the biggest injustice that Trumbo won’t be making more money than most or all of those guys. But if nothing else, he is coming in under initial projections.

The guys at MLB Trade Rumors, for example, had Trumbo pegged for $60 million over four years. That didn’t sound so unreasonable for a guy who had hit 131 homers in five major league seasons even before breaking out in 2016. Teams normally do love power, after all.

But in retrospect, the danger of Trumbo struggling to find a market existed from the very beginning.

As good as it looks on the surface, Trumbo‘s career year in 2016 was more like a career half-year. He was unstoppable with a .923 OPS and 28 homers in the first half. He was then quite stoppable in the second half with a .754 OPS and 19 homers.

This was an effect of pitchers treating Trumbo like the kind of slugger he was. As Brooks Baseball shows, the righty swinger’s first-half power was concentrated on the inside. So pitchers went from challenging him:

To pitching him almost exclusively away:

A more advanced hitter might have been able to adjust, but nobody’s ever accused Trumbo of being one of those. With too many strikeouts and not quite enough walks, his hitting has always been about power first and everything else second.

That’s one thing prospective suitors had to worry about. They also had to worry about Trumbo‘s defensive limitations.

He’s not too shabby a first baseman, but most of his experience has been in corner outfield spots. With minus-24 defensive runs saved for his career, he has been shabby there. The man himself was honest back in July, saying the outfield is “daunting” at times, per Eno Sarris of FanGraphs.

Trumbo was thus prepared to head out onto the open market with a bat-only profile in which even the bat came with question marks. He then added another black mark to his profile when he rejected a $17.2 million qualifying offer from the Orioles, tying himself to draft-pick compensation.

In past offseasons, he might have found his desired payday anyway. Heck, it was just a couple years ago that Nelson Cruz, an older hitter with a similar profile, landed $58 million despite being tied to draft-pick compensation.

But at a certain point, it became apparent this offseason was different.

Reality started to sink in when Edwin Encarnacion signed with the Cleveland Indians for just $60 million over three years. That was well below the $92 million MLBTR projected for him and less than he seemingly deserved in light of his average totals (.912 OPS, 39 HR) since 2012.

More recently, Jose Bautista became the next slugger to land short of expectations when he accepted a deal from the Blue Jays that only guarantees $18 million for one year.

With Trumbo being the latest to come in below expectations, things aren’t looking so hot for remaining free-agent sluggers Chris Carter, Mike Napoli, Brandon Moss, Pedro Alvarez and Adam Lind.

Certainly, this is an unusually large collection of sluggers for a single offseason. But as Dave Cameron argued at FanGraphs, there’s something fishy about any notion of there being more supply than demand:

But the way you get a big supply of free agents or players available in trade at one spot is to have a lot of teams losing a player at that spot, so if the demand was there to replace the skillset, price shouldn’t be impacted all that heavily. But what we have now is supply without demand, as there just aren’t that many teams looking to add bat-first players to their rosters this winter…

This could be teams miscalculating how much they need power. But since the smart people who run these teams tend to be good with calculations, this is more likely the effect of a larger trend.

This brings us to a reality that B/R’s Jacob Shafer wrote about recently: Power on the free-agent market may be devalued because power is suddenly everywhere in today’s game.

Trumbo wasn’t the only one launching bombs in 2016. Pretty much everyone was. There were more home runs per game last year than every year in baseball history except 2000. In an environment like this one, power hitters aren’t such a rare commodity.

It all adds up to a tough break for Trumbo and a solid deal for the Orioles. And one they needed to make, to boot.

The Orioles won 89 games and nabbed a wild-card spot in 2016 in large part thanks to an offense that clubbed an MLB-high 253 home runs. With Trumbo back in the fold, they once again have a shot to ride a wave of home runs to October.

In lieu of the contract he may have been hoping for, maybe that’ll do as a consolation prize for Trumbo.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.

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MLB Trade Ideas Based on Offseason Week 12 News, Rumors and Speculation

The bulk of the action we’ll see this offseason on the MLB trade market is likely already in the rearview.

That doesn’t mean there’s not still time for another blockbuster deal to be pulled off between now and the start of spring training, though.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are still searching for a second baseman, the Houston Astros are still shopping for a front-line starter and a number of teams continue to test the waters for Chicago White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana.

Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers could suddenly be in the market for an impact bullpen arm after losing one of their key relievers for a good chunk of the upcoming season.

As we come down the homestretch of another MLB offseason, here’s a quick look at a few potential trade ideas, based on the latest rumblings on the rumor mill and some healthy speculation.

Begin Slideshow

How Yankees Must Handle Impossible Masahiro Tanaka Decision in 2017

When it comes to opt-out clauses, the New York Yankees tend to opt in.

They aren’t always happy about it. They don’t always do it right away. But when Alex Rodriguez opted out of his deal during the 2007 World Series, the Yankees turned around and gave him a bigger contract they would come to regret.

When CC Sabathia was ready to opt out of his contract four years later, the Yankees added what amounted to two years and $50 million, another deal they wouldn‘t mind having back.

So now we come to Masahiro Tanaka. As every Yankees fan knows, he’s the closest to a sure thing they have in their 2017 rotation. And as every Yankees fan knows by now, he can opt out of his contract when the 2017 season ends.

There’s no way the Yankees can make this work in their favor. If Tanaka has a great year, he obviously opts out of the final three years and $67 million of what was originally a seven-year, $155 million contract. Then the Yankees pay him market value—more than his current $22 million a year, and more years—or someone else does.

If Tanaka has a decent year and stays healthy, he still almost certainly opts out. Or threatens to, with the Yankees extending his contract.

Or maybe Tanaka gets hurt. He made 31 starts in 2016, but he is still pitching with a slight tear in the UCL in his right elbow. It could tear further, requiring Tommy John surgery. He could suffer a different injury. Either way, he sticks with his current contract, and the Yankees are stuck paying him.

The Yankees obviously know all this. They knew it when they agreed to Tanaka‘s original contract. Three years into the deal, they were either going to pay more to keep him or he wasn‘t going to be worth what they were paying him.

There was no way that could work in their favor. But opt-outs are part of getting big contracts done—David Price and Clayton Kershaw have them too—and the only way around them is to offer even more guaranteed money.

The problem for the Yankees is they’re short on dependable starting pitching. They likely need to shop in the starting pitching market next winter even if Tanaka stays.

Behind Tanaka, they have only Sabathia (who’s old) and Michael Pineda (who’s unreliable). Both of their contracts expire after 2017 (which isn‘t necessarily a bad thing).

Behind them, the guy with the most career major league starts on the Yankees roster is Luis Severino with 22. They’re not even sure he should be a starter.

The guy with the next most career starts is Adam Warren with 21. They don’t want him to be a starting pitcher.

You get the picture, and you get why the Yankees would rather not think about Tanaka leaving.

So why not just eliminate the risk and renegotiate his contract now? Why did general manager Brian Cashman tell reporters the Yankees have no plans to do that?

Simple. Even though a new contract eliminates the risk of Tanaka‘s walking away, it adds the risk of getting stuck with an even bigger contract the Yankees don’t want.

Remember the $21 million they’re still paying A-Rod in 2017. Remember the $25 million they have committed to a 36-year-old Sabathia.

When Sabathia was ready to opt out in November 2011, he was 31 years old and had just finished fourth in the American League Cy Young Award vote. The new contract wasn‘t ideal, but Sabathia had averaged 235 innings over his first three seasons as a Yankee. He seemed like a decent risk.

Tanaka will be two years younger when he reaches his opt-out date, but he has yet to finish higher than seventh in Cy Young voting. He has yet to pitch 200 innings in a major league season (he did it in Japan). He has pitched significantly better when he gets an extra day of rest, complicating how the Yankees set up their rotation. And he has that ligament tear.

He’s not an ideal candidate for a long, expensive contract. But maybe he doesn‘t need to be. Rich Hill, who is 36 and was hurt so much that he only made 20 regular-season starts in 2016, got a three-year, $48 million deal from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Starting pitching is expensive, and it’s only getting more expensive. The Yankees know that, and so does Tanaka.

They’ll take their chances and hope he pitches well enough to lift them into contention in the American League East this year. If it costs them more money and a contract they don’t love, so be it.

They have little choice at this point.

That opt-out clause is going to work out well for him, one way or another. It won’t work out as well for the Yankees.

Opt-out clauses rarely do.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

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Softening PED Stance in 2017 Hall of Fame Vote Bodes Well for Bonds, Clemens

Brace yourselves, steroid hard-liners: Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are going to the Hall of Fame.

Not this year. According to results released Wednesday by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, Bonds got 238 votes, or 53.9 percent, and Clemens got 239, or 54.1 percent. (As a side note, anyone who voted for Clemens but not Bonds or vice versa should have their voting privileges immediately revoked.)

The threshold for induction is 75 percent, a bar that was cleared by three players: Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez.

We can glean two things from this. First, Bonds and Clemens are gaining momentum. Their vote totals have trended northward each year. Now, in year five, they’ve edged over 50 percent for the first time.

That could be due to the shifting demographics of the BBWAA voting block. It could also be the enshrinement of former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, who oversaw the steroid era and was put in the Hall in early December by the 16-person Today’s Game Era committee.

In some cases, we know Selig tipped the scales.

“As I continued to think about this and go back and forth, the thing that sealed my vote [for Bonds and Clemens] was when Bud Selig was voted in,” BBWAA voting member Tom D’Angelo said, per Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan.

Mostly, though, it’s clear the relationship between the HOF and performance-enhancing drugs is evolving. Voters are softening. The floodgates could be about to open. 

It’s not just the increasing support for Bonds and Clemens, whose Hall of Fame cases would define “open-and-shut” without the cloud of steroid suspicion. 

Look at who got in this year. Bagwell languished on the ballot for seven years, presumably because he was a big, strapping guy who compiled his stats during the steroid era and acknowledged using at-the-time legal enhancers, including androstenedione. 

Then there’s Rodriguez. Controversial steroid whistleblower Jose Canseco connected Pudge to PEDs in his book, Juiced. Rodriguez has never admitted to steroid use, but when asked if his name would appear on a list of players who tested positive for steroids in 2003, he replied, “Only God knows,” per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com).

Not exactly a vehement denial.

Mike Piazza, another slam-dunk Hall of Fame catcher by the numbers, had to wait four years for his call to Cooperstown, despite never testing positive or appearing in any reports.

Like Bagwell, Piazza copped to using “andro,” as USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale noted. The closest thing to a banned-PED smoking gun was the fact sportswriters noticed acne on his back, however.

Now we have Pudge, against whom the circumstantial evidence is arguably stronger, slipping through with 76 percent on the first ballot. 

None of this is to say the tug of war between suspected PED users, BBWAA voters and the Hall is settled. Even when (or, fine, if) Bonds and Clemens eventually get in, there will be the matter of Manny Ramirez, who was actually suspended under MLB’s testing policy and got just 23.8 percent in his first year of eligibility.

Or what about Sammy Sosa, who clung to the bottom of the ballot with 8.6 percent? Or Mark McGwire, who has already fallen off the ballot and is now at the mercy of the veterans committee?

Baltimore Orioles reporter Rich Dubroff of PressBoxonline.com floated the curious case of Rafael Palmeiro. To paraphrase Game of Thrones, Alex Rodriguez is coming. On and on it goes.

Things will get messier before they get cleaner, if they ever get cleaner. Debates will rage.

The winds are shifting, however. Whether you enjoy the breeze depends on how you view the Hall of Fame.

If you see it as a reward for good behavior and lean on the so-called character clause, this is doubtless giving you fits.

If, like me, you see the Hall as a museum where we commemorate the best players of all timefrom the cads to the upright citizensthis is long overdue.

“I don’t have any doubts that I’ll get there in time,” Bonds said of the Hall in 2015, per MLB.com’s Barry M. Bloom. “I’m bothered about it, but I don’t sit here going, ‘I’m not going to make it.’ I don’t see how it stays the way it’s going. In my mind, in my head, I’m a lot more positive about it than I am negative. I think eventually they’ll do the right thing.”

Right or wrong, it’s happening. Maybe not next year, maybe not even the year after. Sometime soon, though, Bonds and Clemens will get their busts. Others will follow.

Brace yourselves.

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Breaking Down the 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame Class and Biggest Snubs

For a lucky few, today’s the day Cooperstown called to say, “Welcome.”

For everyone else: “Thanks for playing.”

The Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2017 was finally announced Wednesday. To nobody’s surprise, this is the fourth straight year that the Baseball Writers Association of America voters selected multiple players for induction.


With not a moment to lose, let’s get to breaking down the newest members of Cooperstown and all the notables who missed the cut.


The 2017 Hall of Fame Class

Jeff Bagwell

Jeff Bagwell earned 71.6 percent of the vote in his sixth year on the ballot in 2016, putting him just shy of the requisite 75 percent. In his seventh year, he’s finally in with 86.2 percent.

It’s about time. Jay Jaffe’s Jaffe WAR Score System (JAWS), which is convenient for measuring players against their Cooperstown peers, rates Bagwell as the sixth-best first baseman in history, behind only Albert Pujols and four current Hall of Famers.

That’s quite a testament to what Bagwell did in his 15 seasons with the Houston Astros. He put up a 149 OPS+ (meaning his OPS was 49 points better than average) with 449 home runs and 202 stolen bases, making him the only first baseman ever with over 400 homers and 200 steals.

Previously holding Bagwell back has been the suspicion that he owed his career to performance-enhancing drugs. He was a muscly slugger playing in the 1990s and early 2000s, after all.

But as Jaffe covered at Sports Illustrated, Bagwell is only known to have taken androstenedione. It looks bad that Mark McGwire made the stuff famous as he was binging on home runs in the late 1990s, but at the time andro was legal both under U.S. law and MLB law.

Evidently, that’s no reason to keep Bagwell out of Cooperstown forever.


Tim Raines

With this being his 10th and final year on the ballot, it was do-or-die time for Tim Raines. The voters landed on “do,” boosting Raines from 69.8 percent in 2016 to 86.0 percent this year.

Raines also makes the JAWS cut as an all-time great left fielder. What stands out from a career that spanned 23 years is Raines’ 1981-1992 peak, when he averaged a 128 OPS+ and 60 stolen bases.

Of course, no justification for the longtime Montreal Expos star would be complete without words from loyal (and occasionally threatening) Raines fanboy Jonah Keri.

Writing at CBSSports.com, among Keri’s points for Raines were that he’s the only member of the 800-steal club who wasn’t already in the Hall of Fame and that his 3,977 times on base is more than a handful of Hall of Famers, including famed hitting guru Tony Gwynn.

That’s a Hall of Famer, folks. Today, it’s finally official.


Ivan Rodriguez

If there’s a surprise member of this year’s Hall of Fame class, it’s this guy.

Although Ivan Rodriguez initially showed well in the ballots tracked by Ryan Thibodaux on Twitter, his share of the vote began to dip as more ballots came in. That was likely related to questions about Rodriguez and PEDs, which were well covered by Tyler Kepner at the New York Times.

However, Pudge’s track record won out in the end. And rightfully so, as JAWS rates him as the third-best catcher in baseball history.

Pudge also passes the traditional smell test. Among other things he collected in a 21-year career, the longtime Texas Rangers star owns 311 career home runs and a career caught-stealing rate of 46 percent.

Rodriguez won the American League MVP when he was at the height of his powers in 1999. A few years later in 2003, he won the World Series with the Florida Marlins.

And now, he can add a Hall of Fame plaque to his collection.


The Biggest Snubs

Trevor Hoffman

Trevor Hoffman debuted with 67.3 percent of the vote last year. This year, he just missed with 74.0 percent of the vote.

The longtime San Diego Padres closer ranks behind only Mariano Rivera with 601 career saves. He owes those to longevity and consistency, as he put up a 141 ERA+ (i.e. his ERA was 41 percent better than average) in an 18-year career.

That’s to say there are good reasons why he’s so close to being inducted. Come next year, he should be more than just close.


Vladimir Guerrero

After Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero was the first-timer with the best shot of getting inducted this year. But it’s not surprising that he fell short with 71.7 percent, as Thibodaux’s tracker made no guarantees:

Guerrero’s shortage of support can partially be traced to his iffy sabermetrics. JAWS doesn’t rate him as a Cooperstown-level right fielder, which reflects assorted flaws he had in his game.

Still, working in Guerrero’s favor is his seemingly complete lack of PED suspicion and his strong traditional stats. It’ll be hard to deny a guy with a .318 average, 449 home runs and 181 stolen bases.

Plus, what won’t soon be forgotten is Guerrero’s limitless plate coverage and an arm that could do this:


Barry Bonds

Barry Bonds took a big leap toward induction in his fifth year on the ballot, improving to 53.8 percent from from 44.3 percent in 2016.

This looks like the upshot of Bud Selig being put in Cooperstown. The logic goes: If the commissioner of the steroid era is fair game for the Hall of Fame, then why not the best player of the steroid era?

Bonds put up a 182 OPS+ and clubbed a record 762 home runs in a career that spanned from 1986 to 2007, peaking with a record 73 in 2001. He also won seven MVPs, including four in a row at the height of his powers between 2001 and 2004. On performance alone, he’s an all-time great player who had an all-time great peak.

In past years, the role of PEDs in Bonds’ career was a firm barrier between him and Cooperstown. Now, clearly less so.


Roger Clemens

As per usual, Roger Clemens is right there with Bonds in the voting. In what’s also his fifth year on the ballot, he improved to 54.1 percent from 45.2 percent in 2016.

In 24 seasons between 1984 and 2007, The Rocket put up a 143 ERA+ with 4,672 strikeouts and won a record seven Cy Young awards. Despite his own ties to PEDs, Clemens certainly looms large among the game’s most accomplished pitchers.

Basically, Clemens was to pitching what Bonds was to hitting during virtually the same time span. And now that Selig is in the Hall of Fame, any logic that benefits Bonds must also benefit Clemens.


Edgar Martinez

Edgar Martinez is running out of time on the ballot, so it’s a good sign for him that his share of the vote just shot from 43.4 percent in his seventh year to 58.6 percent in his eighth year.

The knock against the longtime Seattle Mariners great is that he spent most of his career as a designated hitter. But like it or not, the DH has been a position for 40 years. And with a .312/.418/.515 career slash line and a 147 career OPS+, Martinez is the best full-time DH baseball has known.


Mike Mussina

Mike Mussina also picked up some votes, going from 43.0 percent in his third year to 51.8 percent in his fourth year.

Mussina’s sin is that he didn’t make it easy for anyone to rant and/or rave about him during his 18-year career. He was never the best pitcher around. Nor the most entertaining.

However, Mussina was very good over a very large sample size with a 123 ERA+ in 3,562.2 innings. Per JAWS, he makes the Cooperstown cut among starting pitchers.


Curt Schilling

In his fifth year on the ballot, Curt Schilling actually declined to 45.0 percent from 52.3 percent in 2016.

From an on-the-field perspective, Schilling’s case didn’t get any worse. He still owns a 127 ERA+ in 3,261 regular-season innings, as well as a 2.23 postseason ERA that helped him win three rings.

Rather, this appears to be Schilling’s penance for emerging as a purveyor of—ahem—controversial talking points. Some see him as being in conflict with Cooperstown’s character clause.

“[Schilling] represents the antithesis of the character clause that the Hall and BBWAA continue to instruct voters to honor,” wrote Dejan Kovacevic at DKPittsburghSports.com. “I’m not even going to dignify his many actions and statements with a listing or a link. Find them yourself. He’s not worth it.”

Schilling’s decline in the voting could prove to only be temporary. But that may be up to him.


Other Notable Snubs

Manny Ramirez

With a career 154 OPS+ and 555 home runs, Manny Ramirez owns the biggest numbers of the first-timers on the ballot.

However, he also owns three positive tests for PEDs: one inconsequential test in 2003 and two that got him busted in 2009 and 2011. Because he broke legitimate rules with the latter two, it’s no wonder he got the Rafael Palmeiro treatment with 23.8 percent of the vote.


Gary Sheffield

Now three years into his time on the ballot, Gary Sheffield is still struggling to find upward mobility. He got just 13.3 percent of the vote, a modest increase on last year’s 11.6 percent.

Sheffield’s 140 OPS+ and 509 home runs are numbers worthy of Cooperstown. But his chances are complicated by a questionable defensive reputation and even more so by ties to PEDs that are less murky than most.


Larry Walker

Paul Swydan of FanGraphs had an interesting article that urged voters checking the box for Guerrero to also check the box for Larry Walker. He may not have been as flashy a player, but his 141 OPS+ across a 17-year career is just one thing that must be taken seriously.

Seven years on, however, Walker is still struggling to expand his constituency. He improved to just 21.9 percent of the vote from 15.5 percent last year.


Jeff Kent

Jeff Kent is also stuck with a small group of supporters. He debuted with 15.2 percent in 2014 and has improved to just 16.7 percent in three years since.

Kent’s claim to fame is that a record 351 of his 377 home runs came while playing second base. He also won an MVP in 2000. Otherwise, it’s telling that he’s far off the JAWS radar for second basemen.


Fred McGriff

Fred McGriff has been on the ballot for as long as Martinez but has barely budged from the 21.5 percent he earned in his debut year back in 2010. He got just 21.7 percent this year.

In fairness, “The Crime Dog” is a Cooperstown-worthy nickname. McGriff also has a 134 OPS+ and finished just seven home runs shy of 500. But alas, JAWS isn’t crazy about him either.


Sammy Sosa

The good news is that Sammy Sosa managed to hang on with 8.6 percent of the vote. The bad news is that he’s still far, far away from the necessary 75 percent with just five years left on the ballot.

On the one hand, it’s odd to see a guy with 609 career home runs getting the cold shoulder. On the other hand, it’s fair game to question how he hit 292 of those in just a five-year span.


Billy Wagner

Also barely hanging on is Billy Wagner, who sunk to 10.2 percent from 10.5 percent in his first year on the ballot in 2016.

Some upward mobility may still be possible for the former flamethrower. The best way to see Wagner is as Hoffman with less longevity but more dominance. Among all pitchers who have ever thrown over 900 innings, he owns the best strikeout rate and the second-best ERA+.


Lee Smith

Say farewell to Lee Smith. In his 15th and final year on the ballot, he gathered just 34.2 percent of the vote to fall well short of induction.

Smith was a darn good reliever in his 18-year career, compiling a 132 ERA+ across 1,289.1 innings. But with only 478 saves and modest peripheral numbers, he lacked the goods to impress wide swaths of old-school or new-school voters.


Jorge Posada

With the low bar set at five percent of the vote, it was one and done for quite a few guys. Certainly the biggest letdown is that Jorge Posada couldn’t escape that fate in garnering just 3.8 percent of the vote.

It didn’t help that Posada was sharing a ballot with one of the greatest catchers of all time. Beyond that, there are nits to pick with his track record. JAWS reflects that.

However, anyone who argues that a catcher who hit 275 home runs and won four World Series titles deserved better has a solid case. 


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.


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Giants Spring Training 2017 Preview: Predictions, Players to Watch and More

For the first time since the waning days of the George W. Bush administration, the San Francisco Giants didn’t win the World Series in an even year.

Now, as we prepare to inaugurate President Donald J. Trump, San Francisco will look to usher in an era of odd-year dominance. 

First, they’ve got spring training issues to sort out, including position battles in left field, at third base and the back end of the rotation, where a former franchise cornerstone is trying to resuscitate his career.

Limber up your commenting muscles and dig in when ready.

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Dodgers Spring Training 2017 Preview: Predictions, Players to Watch and More

The Los Angeles Dodgers need a second baseman. You know this. They know this. Your great-aunt Meredith who doesn’t follow baseball knows this.

Yet as I type these words, Enrique Hernandez and his .190/.283/.324 2016 slash line sit atop L.A.’s second base depth chart. For a team with the game’s gaudiest payroll and legitimate World Series aspirations, that’s a bad look.

Let’s assume the Dodgers brass is working hard to address the club’s keystone deficiency and examine some other interesting storylines heading into spring training. (Because it’s almost here—hooray!)

Dodgers camp will feature crowded position battles in the outfield and at the back end of the rotation, a hyper-talented Cuban still looking to find his footing and the reigning National League Rookie of the Year ramping up for a potential MVP encore.

Break out your fungo bat and step into the box when ready.

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