Hall of Fame Ballot Review – Edgar Martinez


Around this time last year, I went through and reviewed the case for a number of players for the Hall of Fame, and whether or not I thought that they deserved to be enshrined in the Hall. I’ll be doing this again this year, and for players I reviewed previously, I will revisit my vote and see if it has changed in a year’s time. Theoretically, this should remain the same, but there’s always a chance I am now a whole year wiser than I was last year. Today’s candidate is one that I looked at last year, Edgar Martinez

Martinez was eligible for the Hall for the first time in the 2010 class (2009), and you can find what I wrote last year below. He finished the voting last year with 195 votes out of a possible 539 ballots (36.2%). He seems likely to pick up more votes for this year’s election, but honestly I’d be pretty shocked if he came even remotely closer to 75% than he did last year.

Player Profile on Baseball Reference.com

Notable Career Accomplishments
2247 hits
.312 batting average
.418 on base percentage
.515 slugging percentage
OPS+ of 147
7 All-Star Appearances
5 Silver Slugger Awards
6 100+ rbi seasons

The Case for Martinez

Martinez was 1 of the 2 dominant players at his position for the majority of his career. His career numbers all compare favorably on a year-to-year basis with other similar players (ie players who did not start playing full-time until age 27 or later). His career OPS+ tells me that he was an excellent player, with some elite years mixed in. He also had OPS+ seasons of 150 or greater 7 times.

The Case Against Martinez

Martinez was a full-time position player only until 1995, when knee injuries forced him to be a designated hitter full-time. He was never much of a homerun hitter, only finishing with more than 30 in a season once. Due to his injuries and late arrival to the majors, his career totals are not particularly impressive. Also, he was rarely, if ever, the best player on his team.

Analysis

Personally, I think that the argument that designated hitters should not be in the Hall of Fame is a load of crap. The rules of the game clearly consider the designated hitter to be an important position, not to mention a valid one.

So how do his career numbers stack up? He had 2247 hits and an excellent career line (.312/.418/.515). All three of these numbers point to prolonged excellence. His career OPS+ (147) tells me that he was an elite hitter and slugger. While I do think extra credit can be given to hitters who can also field, I don’t think fair to judge him as necessarily someone who cannot field.

Then we are left to look at how dominant a hitter he truly was. From 1995-2001, a span of 7 seasons, Martinez’ lowest OPS+ was 152, never hit below .306, had at least 23 homers and 86 rbi (driving in over 102 in the other 6 seasons), and slugging .543 or better every year. I would definitely consider that to be a dominant stretch, and coupled with his career numbers, leads me to believe he is a Hall of Famer.

My Thoughts This Year

I think that Martinez gets a lot of downplay on his accomplishments because he was just a designated hitter. And while this definitely plays into whether or not he should be a Hall of Famer, to me this is what stands out: Designated Hitter has been a position in Major League Baseball in some form since 1973. Officially it has been written into the rules, and it is very clear that Edgar Martinez was one of the best full time designated hitters to ever play the game. It seems unlikely to me that he will be elected this year, and that we will also have a much better idea as to whether or not he will be elected at all with how much his vote total increases this year. Time will tell, but hopefully he will get in.

MY VOTE: YES

6 responses to “Hall of Fame Ballot Review – Edgar Martinez

  1. Jason,
    You must not play baseball anymore or never did. The DH is not a position (despite MLB wordage) because you do not take the field and it only applies to players who cannot compete anymore at the MLB level. The DH is a gimmick of MLB to extend players careers and put fans in the stands. In order to put someone into the HOF you have to look at the people already in the HOF first, Aaron, Ruth, Mantle, Gywnn, Mays, etc. Then, you have to take into consideration of how that player contributed to his overall teams success. Baines, Edgar, Big Hurt did not help their team on the field with (0) career Gold gloves between them all. Paul Molitor HOF at least played every position but Catcher and Pitcher during his career. Edgar also benefited from having Griffey JR in the line up, trust me, he would not have the stats he has now if JR was not in the line up. Pitching and fielding have always been the hallmark of great teams, not hitting teams with bad pitching and poor fielding. If anything, the DH position hinders their team by not being able to field because that is one more extra player you have to keep on your active (40) man roster that is unable to contribute on the field. All a team is doing is substituting the pitchers hitting ability, but at least the pitcher will still field (AKA Greg Maddux). Alomar and Blyleven will go into the HOF next and if your going to make a point of someone going into the HOF, you might look deep into Dave Parker. However, to me the measuring stick for DH HOF’s is Paul Molitor who spent about %44 of his career (more towards the end of his career) riding the pine. The Big Hurt last played over 100 games at 1B in 1996 and he just retired in 2010??? That is (14) years of non-contribution on the field!! Edgar %71 career DH time and the Big Hurt %58. So to me, if your going to go into the HOF as a DH, your fielding & hitting numbers better be great! Seriously, how a DH with 2,247 hits should be in the HOF is beyond me and is a disrespect to the greats of years past who earned their HOF selection by contribution to their overall teams success. DH is equivalent to a co-ed beer softball league, just get up to the plate and ‘grip it and rip it’. Any moron can hit if that is their only job, especially if they are in the AL. I still play Baseball (SS/OF) in Northern California ,not softball, and the fielding aspect is more important that hitting. A player spends more time in the field than at the plate. If I had a DH on my team it would bother the heck out of me because they just ride pine while everyone else is sacrificing their bodies, sweating, bleeding, jamming fingers, avoiding being spiked and injuries. And Im not even adding the strategy & mental part of fielding. The DH player on the other hand, is eating ice cream and texting his mother on the bench. There is a reason why Edgar received such low votes. To me, a HOF is as close to a (5) tool player as you can get.
    PS: I enjoy your articles because you do your homework, but careful on too much saber metrics.
    Seismic

  2. I agree with most of your assessment of Edgar, Jason. I don’t think “He was never the most dominant player on his team” can really be held against him when he was playing with the best CF of the last 2 generations and what would have been far-and-away the most accomplished SS of all time if he’d stayed on position. That would be like faulting Jeter for playing with A-Rod (and BTW, if Jeter retired today he’d still have less WAR [as calculated by Fangraphs] than Edgar – Gar was just that good).

    Some people, like the above poster, may take his lineup companions as a slight and say he was just riding their coattails. Except Edgar had one of his most dominant years the year after Griffey left, and carried the Mariners for the 1995 season – their first playoff appearance ever – while Griffey was sidelined for 2 months with a broken wrist. He managed to play a large part in defeating the Yankees the year before their long title run as well.

    The idea that Edgar should be punished using counting stats is also ludicrous. Edgar’s best skill, his HOF talent, was getting on base. There are only 4 right-handed hitters in the history of baseball who have done it better: Rogers Hornsby, Jimmy Foxx, Albert Pujols and Frank Thomas. Edgar wasn’t allowed to play a full year in the bigs until age 27, and his major skill – which wins more games than batting average, I might add – is aided by walking to first base as much as it is by swinging that bat. It might not be as manly as getting spiked turning a double-play, but it certainly contributes to wins.

    Maybe the above poster is right, and “any idiot” can hit if that’s all he’s asked to do. Edgar was so far above the standard for hitting prowess, though, that he’s getting decent Hall consideration any way, as he should. What he did with a bat is better than what many HOFers contributed with bat and glove combined.

    It would be a shame if he is denied the Hall simply because the Mariners had several good 1B and preferred to keep him healthy after his hamstring issues by keeping him off the field. Jeff Bagwell is another phenomenal hitter, but he’ll get credit for being a good 1B and should make it into the Hall of Fame because there’s no scarlet “DH” attached to him.

    Edgar has a tougher road to hoe. I hope enough National League writers can appreciate his AL style and substance to make a difference. He shouldn’t be penalized for his team staffing the position of DH with one of the greatest RH hitters of all time.

    ~G

    • The funny thing to me is this: I don’t necessarily think that the designated hitter belongs in the game, but I also don’t think that we should penalize the players who clearly benefited from having the rule exist. I try to look at the candidates based on what was true for them, not necessarily how I think it should be.

      Thanks to both of you for the comments!

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