Martinez rockets up Hall of Fame ballot as DHs gain respect
By Ronald Blum
AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Edgar Martinez is rocketing up the Hall of Fame ballot, boosted 13 years after his final swing by new-age statistical analyses and campaigning.
His percentage of the vote more than doubled from 2015 to last year, and he is projected to be around the 75 percent needed for election when this year’s voting is announced Wednesday. He could become only the second Hall of Famer who was primarily a designated hitter.
“I think it’s kind of like relief pitchers: Once the first couple started to get in, people had to accept the fact that they’re part of the game now,” said MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby, who voted for Martinez for the first time this year. “You can’t get around them. You can’t ignore it. And so, you have to give them consideration.”
Martinez received 25.2 percent in 2014, when Frank Thomas became the first player elected after spending the majority of his career as DH, a position instituted in 1973. Martinez rose to 27 percent the following year, 43.4 percent in 2016 and 58.6 percent last year. He is on 77 percent of the 226 ballots obtained by Ryan Thibodaux and posted on his Hall of Fame vote-tracker.
Chipper Jones, Jim Thome and Vladimir Guerrero are likely to be overwhelming picks, and Trevor Hoffman could get in, too, after a near-miss last year.
Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds are both tracking at 63.9 percent in the sixth ballot appearance for each. That is up about 4 percent from their vote-tracker percentage last year, when Clemens finished at 54.1 percent and Bonds at 53.8.
Martinez’s Hall chances have been aided Ryan M. Spaeder, a 28-year-old fan from Virginia who sent statistical analyses to about 250 voters. Martinez is making the ninth of the 10 appearances he is allowed on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot.
“We now have tools to evaluate players that we didn’t have even 10 years ago, and it’s easy now to compare Edgar, not just to other DHs but to other hitters, both of his era and all eras,” former ESPN reporter Jayson Stark said. “He measures up against all of them.”
A seven-time All-Star, Martinez was a designated hitter in 1,412 of 2,055 career regular-season games. During an 18-season big league career spent entirely with Seattle, he won two AL batting titles, earned seven All-Star selections and finished with a .312 average and 309 homers.
Paul Molitor, elected to the Hall in 2004, was a DH in 1,174 of 2,683 games. Thomas DHed in 1,310 of 2,322.
“People are taking a different look about the DH, and they’re looking more about sabermetric numbers and taking into consideration all those numbers and it seems to be helping,” Martinez said last year.
Seattle distributed a 15-page look at his career to potential voters. Spaeder has compared Martinez to Hall of Famers, pointing out an on-base percentage (.418) superior to Stan Musial’s, an OPS (.933) above Frank Robinson’s and a slugging percentage (.515) greater than Willie McCovey’s. His Weighted Runs Above Average led to an additional 54 Mariners wins, Jack Moore pointed out on Fangraphs in 2009. Spaeder said he assisted on Jonah Keri’s campaign for Tim Raines, elected in his final ballot appearance last year after starting at 24.3 percent.
“He invited me to Tim Raines’ Hall of Fame dinner,” Spaeder said.
Jones and Thome would raise to 54 the total of players elected in their first year of eligibility. An eight-time All-Star, Jones won the 1999 NL MVP and the 2008 NL batting title. He batted .303 with 2,726 hits and 468 home runs in 19 seasons with the Atlanta Braves. Thome was a five-time All-Star who hit 612 home runs, eighth on the career list, over 22 seasons.
Hoffman fell five votes short last year, when Jeff Bagwell, Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were elected. Hoffman is making his third appearances and is bidding to become only the sixth pitcher in the Hall who was primarily a reliever, after Hoyt Wilhelm (1985), Rollie Fingers (1992), Dennis Eckersley (2004), Bruce Sutter (2006) and Goose Gossage (2008). Relievers and DHs get a boost when Mariano Rivera becomes eligible next year and David Ortiz in 2022.
Hoffman’s 601 saves trail only Rivera’s 652, and he is at 78.3 percent on the vote-tracker, which estimates there are 424 total ballots. Guerrero is at 94.8 percent in his second appearance after falling 17 votes short last year. Jones is at 98.3 and Thome at 93.
Guerrero was a nine-time All-Star and the 2004 AL MVP with the Anaheim Angels. He hit .318 with 449 homers and 1,496 RBIs in 16 big league seasons.
Roy Halladay also will be on the 2019 ballot. The retired pitcher died Nov. 7 at age 40 when a plane he was piloting crashed off Florida.
Voters must have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years and their ballots were due Jan. 24. Anyone elected will be inducted into the Hall at Cooperstown on July 29 along with pitcher Jack Morris and shortstop Alan Trammell, who were voted in last month by the Hall’s Modern Era committee, which considered former players and executives whose contributions to baseball were most significant from 1970-87.