Seven overlooked cases for the Baseball Hall of Fame
The discourse for the Baseball Hall of Fame is a cesspool of flawed logic, favoritism, and clickbait.
However, there are plenty of former MLB stars on the 2022 Hall of Fame ballot worthy of consideration. While some cases are stronger than others, there’s a case for many players on this ballot.
They likely won’t be inducted, but their careers deserve examination beyond a quick crossing out.
Let’s take a look at some of these overlooked Hall of Fame cases.
Buehrle had an impressive career with the White Sox, Marlins, and Blue Jays before retiring after his age-36 season.
After a rookie season spent in the bullpen, Buehrle logged over 200 innings every year for the next 14 seasons––narrowly short of doing so in 15 seasons (198.2 in his final season).
Across those 14 seasons, Buehrle posted a 3.81 ERA and a 4.10 FIP to go along with 3.8 rWAR per 30 starts.
Overall, he reached the 200-win plateau, 3,000 innings, was a five-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove winner, threw two no-hitters (one being a perfect game), and won the 2005 World Series.
While his run prevention metrics aren’t the best in the world, he was the pinnacle of consistency at the top of that White Sox rotation from 2001 to 2011 (three rWAR per 150 innings, 4.4 rWAR in his average season).
Buehrle is Jim Kaat-lite, so to speak. Gifted defender for his position, not a high strikeout guy, and never overly dominant for a long stretch. However, their careers are similar in overall value per 150 innings.
Kaat’s fWAR/150 innings was 2.35, while Buehrle’s was 2.39. Both of them placed top five in Cy Young once, Buehrle made five All-Star Games to Kaat’s three.
Their careers are fairly similar, which only makes Buehrle’s case stronger––as Kaat made the Hall by way of the Veteran’s Committee on Dec. 5.
Fielder is someone worthy of a vote if all that matters is their peak. His injuries brought one of the most emotional retirement speeches of all time, as a man once destined for Cooperstown was forced into early retirement.
Overall, the former Brewer, Tiger, and Ranger slashed .283/.382/.506 with a 133 wRC+, a .377 wOBA, 319 home runs, and 23.8 rWAR. Among Hall of Fame first basemen, his wRC+ would be 17th––sandwiched between Cap Anson (134) and Rod Carew (132). His wOBA not only bests Carew but also Orlando Cepeda, Eddie Murray, and Tony Perez.
Neck and spinal injuries for the former Brewers slugger put to bed any realistic Hall of Fame chances he had. However, his career still is one worthy of looking at and appreciating.
From 2006 to 2013, Fielder slashed .286/.390/.528. His 141 wRC+ during that stretch tied him for eighth in baseball (min. 1,500 plate appearances) behind the likes of Manny Ramirez, Miguel Cabrera, David Ortiz, and Albert Pujols.
From a peak standpoint, Fielder is one of the most feared hitters of the 2000s, it just didn’t last long enough. There wasn’t a true progression or regression period; Fielder was dominant, got hurt, and retired.
If a voter is a “Big Hall” person, Fielder may sneak onto a small handful of ballots. His case itself is interesting, but there doesn’t appear to be enough substance to warrant a Hall of Fame enshrinement.
Though Hudson did pitch until he was 40 years old, we’ll forever have to wonder how much better his career would’ve gone had he not undergone Tommy John Surgery in 2008, then had his ankle stepped on and fractured in 2013.
Overall, the right-hander had an incredibly productive career. A four-time All-Star, a 2014 World Series Champion, a three-time top-five finisher for Cy Young, etc.
Though his career is not defined by hardware and superstardom, he finished with an ERA+ of 120, a FIP- of 90, and averaged four rWAR per season for his career. In total, his reference WAR (rWAR) totaled 57.9 (fWAR of 48.9).
Depending on which WAR you reference could make up an entirely different story on Hudson. However, he had 13 more wins in two fewer starts than John Smoltz––yes, Smoltz also has his relief stats to consider. His 120 ERA+ is better than Warren Spahn, Tom Glavine, and Bert Blyleven. His 90 FIP- is better than Glavine, Jack Morris, and Pud Galvin.
His lack of eye-catching counting stats likely doesn’t make up for his lack of hardware, but Tim Hudson certainly has a case that may be wildly overlooked.
If not for injuries, there’s a decent chance Teixeira is on the cusp of the Hall of Fame.
However, despite being second all-time in DRS at first base (92) and being fifth all-time among switch-hitters in home runs (409), the former Ranger, Brave, Angel, and Yankee will likely be one-and-done on the Hall of Fame ballot.
While not exactly an injustice, Teixeira is someone with the type of career you’d expect to see up for debate at a later year, where there is a much less polarizing ballot. After all, Teixeira posted north of 400 home runs, 1,800 hits, was a five-time Gold Glover, three-time All-Star, and a World Series Champion.
There’s hardware there to perhaps elevate what he may lack in counting stats.
Perhaps the best Hall of Famer to compare him to would be Eddie Murray: both switch-hitters, both power bats, both first basemen.
Murray: .287/.359/.476, 127 wRC+, .365 wOBA, 504 home runs, 3.4 rWAR/150
Teixeira: .268/.360/.509, 127 wRC+, .371 wOBA, 409 home runs, 4.1 rWAR/150
This isn’t to say Teixeira was a better player, nor a more deserving Hall of Fame candidate than Murray; obviously, there’s the longevity aspect that Murray has over Teixeira. All this does is show how a player like Teixeira measures up against someone in the Hall of Fame.
While perhaps not worthy of Hall of Fame induction, Mark Teixeira may be one of the most royally overlooked cases on the 2022 ballot.
The former fiery closer for the Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, and Washington Nationals also has an overlooked Hall of Fame case.
In his 12-year career, Papelbon posted a 2.44 ERA, a 2.81 FIP, a 2.68 SIERA, a 177 ERA+, 368 saves, and made six All-Star appearances.
Among all pitchers with 500 or more innings, and 80% of them coming as a reliever, Papelbon ranks fourth in ERA+ (Mariano Rivera, Craig Kimbrel, and Billy Wagner ahead), ninth in saves, sixth in ERA, and ninth in FIP.
The Hall of Fame has a bias against relievers, as Billy Wagner has had a tough time generating momentum towards his deserving plaque. However, from a sheer peak perspective, one could argue Papelbon is one of the more dominant closers in MLB history.
Think Papelbon, but with a little more––albeit banged up––longevity.
Nathan pitched parts of 16 MLB seasons, but truly only contributed in 11 as a reliever. During that stretch from 2003 to 2014, he posted a 2.44 ERA, a 2.77 FIP, a 177 ERA+, 375 saves, and a 29.2 strikeout rate.
His case is every bit as appetizing as Papelbon’s only Nathan’s gets harmed by two lackluster seasons as a starter and a surplus of injuries.
Rounding out this list is one of the better defensive outfielders of all time: Torii Hunter.
Hunter’s career numbers are not eye-popping, as he only had a 110 wRC+ for his career, only 36 DRS in center field, and 23 in the outfield overall. He finished with over 2,400 hits and 350 home runs, but only had a season with a wRC+ above 125 three times in his 17-full-season career.
With that in mind, he had a higher wRC+ than Lou Brock and Lloyd Waner, plus had north of 50 rWAR. Again, his career didn’t set the world on fire, but it’s certainly worthy of more consideration.
On a ballot as polarizing as this one, and a lot of writers leaving a lot of votes on the table, it’s a shock when someone like Hunter receives zero votes through the first 10 known ballots.
For reference, here is what my Hall of Fame ballot would look like if I had one.