Pondering about the Marlins' future Hall of Famer

I’ll see if I can muster the time for another post today, as I have work to take care of (finally). That being said, if I cannot get another one out, I promise that Revisiting ’03 will return soon. You may even get two topics on it next week. That being said, let’s continue with what I wanted to discuss.

I wanted to step back from the rumor mongering about Josh Johnson and Dan Uggla. In light of the recent release of this year’s Hall of Fame nominees, I started thinking about HoF voting, something that often times causes (ahem) tension among baseball fans. In the saber community, it’s not all that different.

While I’d discuss HoF selections on any given day, I don’t think this is the forum to do it. The Baseball Bloggers Alliance is hosting its own HoF vote, in which I participated. I’ll leave the results for another day. Today, I wanted to talk about the Marlins with regards to the Hall of Fame. One day, I know the team will have its own representation in the Hall, but I wanted to discuss who that player would be. What follows is a group of candidates of interest to the Hall.

What us saber-types use

Remember how we always discuss player evaluation in terms of runs and wins? Remember, also, how we use replacement level as our typical baseline? Hall of Fame discussions start with Wins Above Replacement just as much as player evaluation of today’s players does. For historical seasons, we usually use Rally’s Historical WAR Database, the best resource for evaluating players of the older days. It’s quite awesome, take my word for it.

Here I’ll discuss two players who I think could go into the Hall that have connections with the Marlins.

Gary Sheffield (63.6 WAR)

This man is the best bet for a Marlins representative in the Hall of Fame in the immediate future. Sheffield was never (ever) the most likable fellow on the planet, and he wasn’t a particularly good outfielder either. But man, could Sheffield hit. Prior to this season, according to Rally’s database, Sheffield has racked up 575 runs above average in hitting (579 if you include other aspects such as baserunning, GIDP, and reaching on error). He was never a positive in the outfield, but he never had to be because of his hitting.

Sheff first came to Florida in the inaugural 1993 season; he came to the Fish from the San Diego Padres as part of the deal that sent Trevor Hoffman the Padres’ way. For Hoffman’s career, he’s racked up 29 WAR. In comparison, in the five seasons Sheffield played with the Marlins, he racked up 12.7 WAR, including a dominating 1996, in which he hit 42 home runs, led the league in OBP and OPS, and ended sixth in the MVP voting.

I generally consider 60 WAR a good cutoff for most players. Outfielders should be held to a bit of a higher standard, however, since there are so many of them in the Hall. However, Tony Gwynn and his 68 WAR got in, so I imagine Sheffield is within range for consideration. If Sheffield can get in (and I think he will), the only question is what hat will he choose. Sheff has now played for eight organizations during his career, including decent stints with the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, and of course the Marlins. Here’s how many plate appearances Sheffield had with each of his teams.

Milwaukee Brewers: 1,244 PA
San Diego Padres: 900 PA
Florida Marlins: 2,358 PA
Los Angeles Dodgers: 2,276 PA
Atlanta Braves: 1,257 PA
New York Yankees: 1,525 PA
Detroit Tigers: 1,075 PA
New York Mets: 312 PA

As you can see, Sheff actually spent more time with the Marlins than he did with any other organization. Hopefully, he feels that way and gives us proper credit. In addition, Sheffield’s lone World Series appearances and victory came with the Marlins in 1997, so he should remember that fondly as well. I have very little doubt that he would choose an organization other than the one he spent the most time with and the one he won a World Series with.

Kevin Brown (64.8 WAR)

I wanted to briefly mention Brown because he is often lost in the shuffle of the great pitchers of the 1990’s. Brown’s career numbers are excellent, but they pale in comparison to the pitchers of his time. Is it really his fault that he had to pitch in the same era as Greg Maddux (97 WAR), Roger Clemens (128 WAR), Pedro Martinez (76 WAR), and Randy Johnson (92 WAR)? Tom Glavine is considered a solid lock for the Hall of Fame after he reached his 300th win a few seasons ago, and yet Glavine (67 WAR) is right alongside Brown. The same thing goes for Smoltz (64.6 WAR).

So Brown was really buried in the tail end of the great pitchers of 1990’s, but that should not diminish his career. Despite the dominance of these pitchers, Brown actually was among the most dominant pitchers in baseball during the late 1990’s, including his two years with the Marlins. In 1996, he finished second in the Cy Young in a season in which he could have claimed to be the most dominant pitcher (1.89 ERA, but his peripherals were in line with Smoltz, who won the award).

Of course, Brown completed many a season away from the Fish, including six early years with the Texas Rangers and five seasons with the Dodgers after his Marlins career. But his time with the Fish was the first time he was at his best.

Tomorrow I’ll look at a current Marlin who is on a WAR path to the Hall. I think you know who I am talking about.

Tags: Gary Sheffield Kevin Brown Miami Marlins

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