This is the final entry of a nine-part series, based on a poll of 425 respondents. Here are results for pitchers, catchers, first basemen, second basemen, third basemen, shortstops, left fielders, and center fielders.
It’s probably no surprise that in a recent survey I conducted via the website Qualtrics, having 425 respondents vote on the most-deserving players not in the Hall of Fame at each position, Ichiro Suzuki proved one of the three top vote recipients along with Albert Pujols and Derek Jeter.
Like Pujols and Jeter, Suzuki looks like a future no-doubt Hall of Famer, arriving from Japan at 27 and quickly becoming baseball’s best contact hitter. While Suzuki faded considerably over the last half of his big league career as he began to approach 40, his first 10 years stateside were a beautiful thing, good for a .331 batting average, an American League Most Valuable Player Award, and an astonishing 2,224 hits.
What’s interesting to me with the following results, though, isn’t so much how Suzuki did, because that’s expected, but how Larry Walker gave him a bit of a run for his money.
Q9 – Rank the following right fielders, ranging from 1 for most-deserving of Hall of Fame induction to 10 for least-deserving
[From a survey of 425 respondents, fielded via Qualtrics]
Now that I think of it a little more, I could actually see some people being miffed Walker didn’t overtake Suzuki in the results. By sabermetrics, Walker is the superior candidate for the entirety of his career, with 72.7 WAR and 48.3 Wins Above Average to Suzuki’s 59.3 WAR and 23.8 WAA. Granted, lifetime sabermetrics are a little unfair to Suzuki, since they don’t incorporate useful time he spent as a player in Japan. Even just comparing their age-27 to age-36 seasons, though, Walker comes out on top by advanced stats.
Still, these results seem like a bit of a coup for Walker, who’s entering his tenth and final year on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot for Cooperstown and needs to jump just over 20 percent for his plaque. (It looks doable, given leaps made by Edgar Martinez, Tim Raines, and Mike Mussina in recent years.) A more detailed breakdown of the voting seems to bode pretty well for Walker, too, with the former Colorado Rockies great a consensus second choice and 79.5 percent of voters ranking him among their top four.
Other thoughts: This was another deep position and I wasn’t able to get a few players here that I would’ve liked. The most glaring omission was Dave Parker, who I really should’ve found space for. For older players, Tommy Henrich and Carl Furillo each have their supporters. I also am interested to see how Juan Gonzalez and Joe Carter might’ve done on the ballot, though I suspect they would’ve been near the bottom. They just aren’t good candidates by sabermetrics. In fact, Carter’s case by advanced stats is kind of garish, with -10.8 WAA.
I don’t really know either who those men could’ve displaced. Already, I freed up space on the ballot by having Shoeless Joe Jackson, who split his career between left and right, go on the left field ballot. I suppose if I field this again, Reggie Smith could be on the center field ballot, which was weaker.
A few other things to share here, courtesy of Qualtrics filters:
- The 48 voters who ranked Roger Maris first or second gave Mark McGwire an average ranking of 5.02 as opposed to his overall ranking of 5.17, not much of a difference. Their responses deviated sharply for Barry Bonds, though, with these voters ranking Bonds 3.9 against his overall average of 2.61.
- The 43 voters who ranked Bobby Bonds in the top three gave his son an average ranking of 2.60. I wondered if Barry might do worse with voters who ranked his father worse, as if the Bonds name might elicit a certain response in voters or if certain voters skimming quickly might’ve thought they were voting for Barry. Alas, there wasn’t a correlation, with Barry receiving an average ranking of 2.35 from the 152 voters who rated his father 8 or worse here.
- On one more Walker point, for anyone curious about the non-Walker voter, the 87 respondents who ranked him fifth or worse here gave Suzuki just 50 first-place votes and an average ranking of 2.61. Maris fared second-best with these voters, receiving nine first-place votes and an average ranking of 4.74. Dwight Evans and Bobby Bonds were the next most popular choices for these voters. My free Qualtrics account only allowed 10 questions, so I chose to forego demographic questions. But I’d guess these were probably older voters and that’s where Walker still needs to make up ground on the BBWAA ballot.
That said, this officially wraps up this series. Thanks to everyone who voted and everyone who’s been reading. It’s my hope that this series can spur additional research.