Modern Baseball Committee (1970 – 1987): The 2018 Election

Modern Baseball Committee (1970 – 1987): The 2018 Election
07 Dec
2017
Not in Hall of Fame

Index



First Base: Steve Garvey, Don Mattingly

Despite outstanding careers, both Steve Garvey and Don Mattingly have faced an uphill battle in their quest for the Hall of Fame—although both were high-average hitters with decent power, the prototypical Hall of Fame first baseman delivered 30 home runs and 100 runs batted in for a decade or more, finishing with around 500 home runs and 1500 RBI. This doesn't mean that first basemen not meeting these criteria have been excluded—George Sisler is a good example of an exception to this rule; George "High Pockets" Kelly decidedly is not—but it has been a challenge for first basemen not of the Lou Gehrig-to-Willie McCovey-to-Jeff Bagwell model to get into Cooperstown.

Steve Garvey

It took Steve Garvey a good half-decade to get rolling with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but once he did, he kept rolling almost up to his retirement following the 1987 season, his age-38 year, finishing his last five seasons with the San Diego Padres starting in 1983.

Up for a cup of coffee in 1969, Garvey filled in at third base and the outfield until veteran first baseman Wes Parker retired after the 1972 season, allowing Garvey to move to first. In 114 games and 366 plate appearances in 1973, he produced a .304/.328/.438/.766 slash line from 106 hits and drove in 50 runs.

But in 1974, in his age-25 season, Garvey played his first full year at first base and showed the National League his hitting prowess: Rapping out a .312/.342/.469/.811 slash line with 200 hits, the first of six seasons with 200 or more hits, Garvey hit 32 doubles, the first of seven years with 30 or more two-base hits, and 21 homers, the first of six years with 20 or more big flies. He also scored a career-high 95 runs while knocking in 111 runs, the first of five years with 100 or more RBI.

Garvey rolled on through the 1970s, collecting 200 hits and batting .300 every year as he remained a fixture in the Dodgers' infield: With second baseman Davey Lopes, shortstop Bill Russell, and third baseman Ron Cey, Garvey was part of an infield unit that played together for more than eight seasons. Garvey was also very durable—he played in 1207 consecutive games from 1975 to 1983, the longest streak in National League history and the fourth-longest in baseball history.

Off the field, Garvey cultivated a wholesome image—he became known as "Mr. Clean"—but as news of his series of overlapping relationships beginning in the 1980s became public, that image crumbled amidst embarrassing revelations of two children born out of wedlock, each to a different woman. Needless to say, those revelations scotched Garvey's political ambitions. A Republican, the man whose teammates had dubbed him "Senator" had considered running for public office until his personal life scuttled that idea, although the cynic may note that his situation would not necessarily be a handicap in today's fetid political environment.

Steve Garvey Modern Baseball 01
Steve Garvey still holds the National League record for consecutive games played.

The table below details the Hall of Fame statistics for Steve Garvey and his first base contemporaries, defined as those who played a significant amount of their careers between 1969 and 1987, the span of Garvey's career. Aggregate JAWS statistics are marked in bold; Garvey's statistics are marked in bold italic.

Hall of Fame Statistics for Steve Garvey and His First Base Contemporaries, Ranked by JAWS

Player

fWAR

bWAR

WAR7

JAWS

JAWS Rank

HoF Mon.

(≈100)

HoF Std.

(≈50)

OPS+

wRC+

+ McCovey, Willie

67.4

64.4

44.8

54.6

13

110

44

147

145

ALL HoF 1B (20)

NA

66.4

42.7

54.6

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

+ Murray, Eddie

72.0

68.3

39.0

53.6

15

154

56

129

127

Hernandez, Keith

59.4

60.0

41.0

50.5

19

86

32

128

131

+ Torre, Joe

62.3

57.6

37.3

47.4

24

96

40

129

129

+ Perez, Tony

58.9

53.9

36.4

45.2

29

81

41

122

121

Cash, Norm

54.6

52.0

33.7

42.9

32

50

29

139

139

+ Cepeda, Orlando

50.3

50.3

34.5

42.4

33

126

37

133

131

Powell, Boog

44.1

39.0

30.8

34.9

47

44

25

134

134

Scott, George

36.3

36.4

30.2

33.3

50

44

20

114

113

Garvey, Steve

37.8

37.7

28.6

33.1

51

130

32

117

116

Cooper, Cecil

33.8

35.8

29.9

32.8

53

96

28

121

119

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

During his career, Garvey faced some heavy competition at first base as five of the eleven players in this sample are in the Hall of Fame, although in fairness Willie McCovey, who retired after the 1980 season, was already in his decline phase by the time Garvey became a starter in 1974, and Joe Torre, who nonetheless had an excellent playing career and lasted all 15 years on a BBWAA ballot, was elected to the Hall as a manager.

Of the other Hall of Famers, Eddie Murray was a consummate compiler, joining Willie Mays and Hank Aaron as the third hitter in MLB history to collect at least 3000 hits and at least 500 home runs while falling just under the JAWS averages for a Hall of Fame first baseman. Both Tony Perez and Orlando Cepeda are gratuitous Hall picks, with Perez another compiler although Cepeda had greater effectiveness even if his JAWS scores reflect a shorter career than Perez's.

Among Garvey's contemporaries not in the Hall, Keith Hernandez was a similar model to Garvey, a slick-fielding, high-average hitter with some pop, and if Garvey showed more power, Hernandez was genuinely a top-flight defender whose value has grown over the years, to the point that many are hollering "snub!" with respect to his Hall credentials as he doesn't fit the traditional hard-slugging model more typical of Norm Cash, Cecil Cooper, Boog Powell, and George Scott, although "Boomer" Scott also flashed impressive leather at first base.

The table below details selected hitting statistics, both qualitative and quantitative, for Steve Garvey and his contemporaries, ranked by adjusted weighted runs created.

Selected Hitting Statistics for Steve Garvey and His First Base Contemporaries, Ranked by Adjusted Weighted Runs Created

 

Slash Line

wRC+

PA

H

2B

HR

RBI

+ McCovey, Willie

.270/.374/.515

145

9692

2211

353

521

1555

Cash, Norm

.271/.374/.488

139

7914

1820

241

377

1104

Powell, Boog

.266/.361/.462

134

7809

1776

270

339

1187

+ Cepeda, Orlando

.297/.350/.499

131

8698

2351

417

379

1365

Hernandez, Keith

.296/.384/.436

131

8553

2182

426

162

1071

+ Torre, Joe

.297/.365/.452

129

8802

2342

344

252

1185

+ Murray, Eddie

.287/.359/.476

127

12,817

3255

560

504

1917

+ Perez, Tony

.279/.341/.463

121

10,861

2732

505

379

1652

Cooper, Cecil

.298/.337/.466

119

7349

2192

415

241

1125

Garvey, Steve

.294/.329/.446

116

9466

2599

440

272

1308

Scott, George

.268/.333/.435

113

8269

1992

306

271

1051

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

When examined for weighted effectiveness in creating runs, Garvey, despite an impressive slash line, slides to the bottom of this sample once again, three ticks below Cooper, whose slash line is better than Garvey's while compiling counting numbers that approach Garvey's despite having more than 2000 fewer plate appearances.

And while Garvey clearly out-homered Hernandez even with about 900 more plate appearances, Hernandez's slash line is about even with Garvey's, a little lighter in slugging percentage but, thanks to nearly 600 more walks than Garvey, flashing a more robust on-base percentage. With more opportunities, Garvey plated 237 more runs than did Hernandez, to be expected from a hitter who batted cleanup for a little less than half his career, although Hernandez, who was his team's Number Three hitter 75 percent of the time, scored just 19 fewer runs than did Garvey.

However, Garvey kept a high profile for most of his career, first with the Dodgers and then with the Padres, who retired his number (6) after his playing career was over. That profile resulted in awards and recognition throughout his career.

The table below outlines seasonal awards and leaders statistics for Garvey and his contemporaries, ranked by the "black-ink test," or the weighted score of the number of times a player led his league in significant hitting statistics such as the "Triple Crown stats" (batting average, home runs, runs batted in) and others.

Awards and Leaders Statistics for Steve Garvey and His First Base Contemporaries, Ranked by Black-Ink Test

Player

MVP

MVP Top 10

All-Star

Silver Slugger

Gold Glove

RoY

Black Ink

Gray Ink

+ McCovey, Willie

1

4

6

0

0

1

31

126

+ Cepeda, Orlando

1

2

7

NA

0

1

14

196

Hernandez, Keith

1

4

5

2

11

0

14

118

Garvey, Steve

1

5

10

0

4

0

12

142

Cooper, Cecil

0

4

5

3

2

0

12

112

+ Torre, Joe

1

2

9

NA

1

0

12

71

+ Murray, Eddie

0

8

8

3

3

1

11

181

Scott, George

0

2

3

NA

8

0

8

97

Cash, Norm

0

1

4

NA

0

0

7

104

Powell, Boog

1

3

4

NA

0

0

3

93

+ Perez, Tony

0

4

7

0

0

0

0

129

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

MVP: Most Valuable Player Award.
MVP Top 10: Number of times a player finished in the top 10 of his league's MVP voting. Includes an MVP win.
Silver Slugger Award: Awarded to the best offensive player at every position. Began in 1980. NA indicates that the player had retired before the award existed.
RoY: Rookie of the Year Award.
Black Ink Test: Weighted measurement of times a player led his league in significant batting statistics. An average Hall of Famer has a measurement of about 27. Developed by Baseball Reference from a creation by Bill James.
Gray-Ink Test: Weighted measurement of times a player appeared in the top ten of his league in significant batting statistics. An average Hall of Famer has a measurement of about 144. Developed by Baseball Reference from a creation by Bill James.

In1974, his first full season, fans were wowed by Garvey, who started his first All-Star game as a write-in candidate, one of only two players with that distinction (Rico Carty of the Atlanta Braves first earned that distinction in 1970).

At Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium for that All-Star game—one that Garvey played in despite having the mumps—he got two hits in four at-bats, scored the first run in the National League's eventual 7–2 victory over the American League, and drove in another run as he was named the game's Most Valuable Player. Garvey was also the MVP of the 1978 All-Star Game, with the only other two-time All-Star Game MVPs being Gary Carter, Willie Mays, and Cal Ripken, Jr.—all three of course in the Hall of Fame.

More significantly, Garvey was named the NL MVP for the 1974 season, the first of five seasons in which he finished within the top ten for MVP voting. Retrospective assessment puts Garvey's 1974 value at 4.4 wins above a replacement player, a decent although not remarkable rating and one that was topped by several position players.

And if you think using bWAR is a cheat because it did not exist in 1974, consider this: Johnny Bench of the Cincinnati Reds, who finished fourth in voting, drove in a Major League-leading 129 runs that season while slamming 33 home runs and batting .280 (his bWAR was 7.8) while teammate Joe Morgan, who finished eighth in voting, hit 22 home runs, scored 107 runs, stole 58 bases, and batted .293 (his bWAR was 8.8). The Philadelphia Phillies' Mike Schmidt, sixth in voting, led the NL in home runs (36) while adding 116 RBI and batting .282 (9.7 bWAR). But from a historic perspective, the St. Louis Cardinals' Lou Brock, runner-up to Garvey, shattered Maury Wills's single-season stolen base record of 104 steals in the modern era (1901 and later) by swiping 118 bags while scoring 105 runs, collecting 194 hits, and batting .306 (3.5 bWAR).

Even Garvey's own teammates had their MVP cases. Jimmy Wynn, fifth in voting with a 7.7 bWAR, slugged 32 homers, drove in 108 runs while scoring 104 runs, and batted .271 while relief pitcher Mike Marshall, third in voting with a 3.2 bWAR, made an insane 106 appearances in 1974, all out of the bullpen, which makes his innings count of 208.1 even more mind-boggling—today's starting pitchers get congratulated for pitching 200 innings! (Marshal, who had made 92 relief appearances the previous season, did win the 1974 NL Cy Young Award in one of the most unusual campaigns ever.)

Garvey's 1974 MVP campaign was excellent but hardly spectacular, but he did help the Dodgers win their first National League pennant since 1966, the first of four pennants the team won while Garvey was aboard. In the 1974 World Series, the Dodgers fell in five games to the Oakland Athletics, the third of three consecutive world championships for the A's, with Garvey rapping out eight singles for a .381 batting average but driving in just one run while scoring two. The Dodgers' first baseman had torn up the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Championship Series with a .389/.421/.778/.1.199 line as he hit two homers, one double, scored four runs and drove in five.

In fact, Steve Garvey was an outstanding postseason hitter, as in 55 playoff games he collected 75 hits in 232 plate appearances including 8 doubles and 11 home runs and scored 32 runs while driving in 31 runs for a .338/.361/.550/.910 slash line. The Dodgers lost back-to-back World Series to the New York Yankees in 1977 and 1978, but in 1981 they finally bested the Bronx Bombers in six games for their first world championship since 1965, with Garvey batting a torrid .417 although he notched only one extra-base hit, a double in Game Four, while scoring three runs for Garvey's only World Series ring.

He returned to the World Series in 1984 with the Padres, which lost to the Detroit Tigers in five games as Garvey, despite two doubles, was held to a .200/.200/.300/.500 slash line with a pair of runs scored and runs batted in. Garvey had been named as the NLCS MVP that year, against the Chicago Cubs, the second time he had been honored thusly since the Dodgers' 1978 campaign against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Although Garvey won four consecutive Gold Gloves at first base, defensive metrics do not show him to be a quality defender. His dWAR, wins above a replacement player for his defensive play, is –12.3, no surprise as Baseball Reference's version of WAR socks first basemen with a positional adjustment of –10.0. Garvey played 2059 games at first base, 15th all-time, and he ranks 14th in putouts (18,844) and 49th in assists (1026) with just 81 errors committed, 157th all-time in a category in which a high ranking is not a good sign. Indeed, Garvey's fielding percentage of .996 (.9959 before rounding) is 10th best all-time, and in 1984 Garvey committed no errors at first base in 159 games and 1319 total chances—the only infielder in Major League history to have made no miscues in 150 or more games.

Nevertheless, Garvey's range factor per 9 innings, or RF/9 (9 x [putouts + assists]/innings played), of 9.95 is a shade below the league average during his career of 9.99, while his range factor per game, RF/G ([putouts + assists]/games played), of 9.65 is well below the league average of 9.98. Meanwhile, Total Zone's total fielding runs above average puts Garvey at –6 for his play at first base, just a shade below average.

Steve Garvey had an outstanding career, and the "fame" component of that career looks impressive: He was a star attraction of a storied franchise, the Los Angeles Dodgers, during a time when they won four NL pennants and one World Series, the cornerstone of an infield celebrated for its durability as Garvey himself, a ten-time All-Star and the 1974 NL MVP, became the National League's "Iron Man" with 1207 consecutive games played.

Yet among his first base contemporaries, both Hall of Famers and not, Garvey does not leap off the page. Over 19 seasons, he played 2332 games yet he did not roll up eye-popping counting numbers—his 2599 hits are 83rd all-time, nestled between Hall of Famers Tim Raines, Rabbit Maranville, and Ed Delahanty; his 1308 RBI are 108th all-time, between Paul Waner and Paul Molitor; and his 440 doubles are 121st all-time, tied with Hall of Famers Luke Appling and Roberto Clemente with Roger Connor and Barry Larkin above and Eddie Collins below. As with Garvey's fame component, he is impressive without being convincing. Among the 20th-century Hall of Famers just mentioned, Clemente, Collins, Molitor, and Waner all collected 3000 or more hits, Raines is fifth all-time in stolen bases, and Appling, Larkin, and Maranville, all shortstops, have positional scarcity working for them (although Maranville is one of the weakest candidates ever elected by the writers).

As for peak, Garvey ranks last among his contemporaries in WAR7, a player's top seven seasons as determined by his WAR rating for each season. (The seasons do not have to be consecutive.) Again, modern statistics used retrospectively do not tell the only story. Presumably using traditional stats and the old "eye test," BBWAA voters were lukewarm at best on Garvey: He broached the 40-percent mark three times in his first six years on the ballot before sliding down the scale, falling below the 30-percent mark in each of his last six years. Garvey fared similarly on two Expansion Era ballots, garnering less than 50 percent of the vote in 2011 and 2014. It is unlikely that the Modern Baseball Committee will effect a reversal, and for good reason: Steve Garvey is not a Hall of Fame-caliber player.

Don Mattingly

The same fate may await Don Mattingly, although this first baseman who played his entire 14-year career with another iconic franchise, the Yankees, was forced to retire because of recurrent back problems after his age-34 season in 1995, after 1785 games and 7722 plate appearances, a little light on the longevity scale to amass the weighty counting numbers that have been traditional Hall of Fame indicators. Did Mattingly have peak years impressive enough to counteract that?

Mattingly's first season in 1982 was a whistle-stop tour of the Majors late in the season, and he was a part-time player filling games in left- and right field as well as at first base the following year, collecting 305 plate appearances while posting a .283/.333/.409/.742 slash line.

But "Donnie Baseball" rocketed out of the gate once he became the Yankees' starting first baseman in 1984: Smacking a league-leading 207 hits in 662 plate appearances, the first of three consecutive years with 200 or more hits, Mattingly led the American League in hitting with a .343 batting average while also leading the league in doubles with 44, the first of four years with 40 or more two-baggers. Scoring 91 runs, he drove in 110 runs, the first of five years with 100 or more RBI as his 23 home runs marked the first of five seasons slugging 20 or more round-trippers; Mattingly finished fifth in AL Most Valuable Player voting.

His 1985 campaign was even better: Leading the Majors in doubles (48), runs batted in (a career-high 145), total bases (370), and sacrifice flies (15, another career high), Mattingly was named the AL MVP. And when he paced the Majors the following season in seven categories including career highs in hits (238), doubles (53), total bases (388), and slugging percentage (.573) while becoming runner-up for the AL batting title with a .352 average, five points behind Wade Boggs of the Boston Red Sox, Mattingly, runner-up to Boston's Roger Clemens for the AL MVP, seemed well on his way to a Hall of Fame career.

The table below details the Hall of Fame statistics for Don Mattingly and his first base contemporaries, defined as those who played a significant amount of their careers between 1982 and 1995, the span of Mattingly's career. Aggregate JAWS statistics are marked in bold; Mattingly's statistics are marked in bold italic.

Hall of Fame Statistics for Don Mattingly and His First Base Contemporaries, Ranked by JAWS

Player

fWAR

bWAR

WAR7

JAWS

JAWS Rank

HoF Mon.

(≈100)

HoF Std.

(≈50)

OPS+

wRC+

+ Bagwell, Jeff

80.2

79.6

48.2

63.9

6

150

59

149

149

+ Thomas, Frank

72.0

73.7

45.2

59.5

9

194

60

156

154

Thome, Jim

69.0

72.9

41.5

57.2

10

156

57

147

145

Palmeiro, Rafael

70.0

71.6

38.7

55.2

12

178

57

132

130

ALL HoF 1B (20)

NA

66.4

42.7

54.6

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

McGwire, Mark

66.3

62.0

41.9

51.9

17

170

42

163

157

Clark, Will

52.0

56.2

35.9

46.0

26

84

42

137

136

McGriff, Fred

56.9

52.4

35.8

44.1

31

100

48

134

134

Mattingly, Don

40.7

42.2

35.6

38.9

38

134

34

127

124

Grace, Mark

45.5

46.1

29.5

37.8

42

60

38

119

120

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

In many respects, Mattingly has a tougher row to hoe than does Steve Garvey as Mattingly's contemporaries include two Hall of Famers, Jeff Bagwell and Frank Thomas, ranked within the top ten of all first basemen by JAWS criteria, with Jim Thome sure to follow suit, if not on his first ballot in 2018 then soon afterwards. By the numbers, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro would have joined them if each didn't have the taint of performance-enhancing drugs sullying them. Meanwhile, Fred McGriff has toiled on the BBWAA ballot for eight years, alongside Mattingly until 2015, yet to garner one-quarter of the vote, while Will Clark and Mark Grace look like Don Mattingly without the high-profile exposure.

The table below details selected hitting statistics, both qualitative and quantitative, for Don Mattingly and his contemporaries, ranked by adjusted weighted runs created.

Selected Hitting Statistics for Don Mattingly and His First Base Contemporaries, Ranked by Adjusted Weighted Runs Created

 

Slash Line

wRC+

PA

H

2B

HR

RBI

McGwire, Mark

.263/.394/.588

157

7660

1626

252

583

1414

+ Thomas, Frank

.301/.419/.555

154

10,075

2468

495

521

1704

+ Bagwell, Jeff

.297/.408/.540

149

9431

2314

488

449

1529

Thome, Jim

.276/.402/.554

145

10,313

2328

451

612

1699

Clark, Will

.303/.384/.497

136

8283

2176

440

284

1205

McGriff, Fred

.284/.377/.509

134

10,174

2490

441

493

1550

Palmeiro, Rafael

.288/.371/.515

130

12,046

3020

585

569

1835

Mattingly, Don

.307/.358/.471

124

7722

2153

442

222

1099

Grace, Mark

.303/.383/.442

120

9290

2445

511

173

1146

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

Even if we strip away the inner-circle performances of Bagwell, McGwire, Palmeiro, Thomas, and Thome, Don Mattingly still gets lost among the rest both quantitatively and qualitatively. The purpose of the veterans committees is to ensure that players whom the BBWAA voters might have discounted or overlooked do not remain overlooked, but as with the comparisons for Steve Garvey, evaluating Mattingly against his contemporaries seems to highlight other players not on the 2018 Modern Baseball Committee ballot who seem to be the overlooked ones; in Mattingly's case, it's Clark, while Garvey's assessment only made Keith Hernandez look better.

But as with Garvey, Mattingly played in a high-visibility market, New York, while rolling up accolades for his playing. Could this be the "fame" component that might give Mattingly an edge?

The table below outlines seasonal awards and leaders statistics for Mattingly and his contemporaries, ranked by the "black-ink test," or the weighted score of the number of times a player led his league in significant hitting statistics such as the "Triple Crown stats" (batting average, home runs, runs batted in) and others.

Awards and Leaders Statistics for Don Mattingly and His First Base Contemporaries, Ranked by Black-Ink Test

Player

MVP

MVP Top 10

All-Star

Silver Slugger

Gold Glove

RoY

Black Ink

Gray Ink

McGwire, Mark

0

5

12

3

1

1

36

110

+ Bagwell, Jeff

1

6

4

3

1

1

24

157

Mattingly, Don

1

4

6

3

9

0

23

111

+ Thomas, Frank

2

9

5

4

0

0

21

200

Thome, Jim

0

4

5

1

0

0

13

118

Clark, Will

0

4

6

2

1

0

13

94

McGriff, Fred

0

6

5

3

0

0

9

105

Palmeiro, Rafael

0

3

4

2

3

0

8

183

Grace, Mark

0

0

3

0

4

0

3

86

+ Indicates a Hall of Famer.

Mattingly did win nine Gold Gloves for his fielding at first base, second only to Keith Hernandez's 11, and his defensive metrics bear this out. His career dWAR, defensive wins above a replacement player, is –6.8, taking into account the –10.0 dWAR positional adjustment that is the baseline for first basemen, meaning that Mattingly is 3.2 wins better than the average replacement first baseman, which squares with his 33 career Total Zone fielding runs above average, which is 29th all-time (since 1953 only).

His 1634 games at first base 51st all-time, Mattingly ranks 23rd all-time in double plays turned (1500), 38th all-time in assists (1104), and 54th all-time in putouts (14,148). Committing just 64 errors in 15,316 total chances, Mattingly is just behind Steve Garvey with a .996 fielding average (.9958), in 11th place all-time, while his 9.71 range factor per nine innings tops the league's RF/9 of 9.65.

Although he played exclusively for the New York Yankees, a team synonymous with the postseason, Don Mattingly had the misfortune of starring for the team during a long fallow period for the franchise. He participated in only one postseason series, the 1995 American League Divisional Series against the Mariners best-known for Seattle's Edgar Martinez's series-winning double in the bottom of 11th inning. And although this was Mattingly's last appearance in Major League Baseball, he acquitted himself admirably, tearing off 10 hits in 24 at-bats during the five-game series for a scorching .417/.440/.708/.1.148 slash line with four doubles, one home run, three runs scored, and six runs driven in.

In his first three full seasons, from 1984 to 1986, Don Mattingly was sensational, posting a .340/.382/.560/.942 slash line with seasonal averages of 219 hits, 48 doubles, 30 home runs, 361 total bases, 105 runs scored, 123 runs batted in, a 158 OPS+, and a 6.6 bWAR. Inevitably, he cooled a bit in the next three years, but this six-year peak from 1984 to 1989 saw him deliver a .327/.372/.530/.902 slash line and seasonal averages of 203 hits, 43 doubles, 27 home runs, 330 total bases, 97 runs scored, 114 RBI, a 147 OPS+, and 5.3 bWAR. In 1987, six of his 30 home runs were grand slams, still the most grand slams in a single season—and by one of those beloved statistical quirks in baseball, they were the only six grand slams he ever hit.

But Mattingly's back problems returned to stay starting in 1990 as he went on the disabled list in July and played in only 102 games, with his .256/.308/.335/.643 slash line generating an 81 OPS+, well below league-average. He raised himself above the 100 index for OPS+ over the next four seasons, even turning in a decent showing in 1993, his age-32 season, with a .291/.364/.445/.809 line that yielded a 120 OPS+ as he hit 17 home runs and drove in 86 runs, but with 9.0 wins above a replacement player generated over his last six seasons from 1990 to 1995, an average of 1.5 bWAR per year, Mattingly was hardly at All-Star, let alone Hall of Fame, caliber. His 35.6 WAR7, his peak seven years by bWAR, bears this out as 32.8 of that comes from the 1984 to 1989 period.

Don Mattingly Modern Baseball 01
Don Mattingly roared out of the gate as a slick-fielding, hot-hitting first baseman--but does he have the right stuff for the Hall of Fame?

For the first three full seasons of his career, Don Mattingly looked like a no-doubt Hall of Fame player, and for the next three seasons, he still looked to be building a strong case as a consistent hitter with some power who delivered top-flight defense at first base, the American League's answer to Keith Hernandez. But health issues curtailed his career starting in 1990, and he never matched that superlative start.

The path to the Hall of Fame is like how Tom Wolfe described the climb to the top of the professional pyramid for test pilots and astronauts in his book The Right Stuff: You may have the right stuff, but it can blow at any seam, at any time. And while Don Mattingly (or any baseball player) didn't have a one-in-four chance of being killed while playing baseball, as did pilots test-flying an experimental airplane, that sums up his chances for the Hall of Fame.

Last modified on Saturday, 09 December 2017 17:15

Comments   

0 #2 Darryl Tahirali 2017-12-10 20:19
Thank you, Committee Chairman, although I had hoped that it was credible stuff I was posting so it would be convincing . . . guess we'll see how the committee voted tonight.
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0 #1 Committee Chairman 2017-12-10 04:13
As always this is incredible stuff. The Committee should have your work be mandated reading!

Funny also how the longer i do this the more i have issues with Garvey and the HOF!
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