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The 2011 Hall of Fame Vote
Brown for the Count
by Keith Glab, BaseballEvolution.com
January 6, 2011


Here's a bit of trivia that will impress your friends: Joe DiMaggio, Yankees superstar beloved by all, was not a first-ballot Hall of Famer.  In fact, his first year on the ballot (not counting the 1945 ballot he appeared on during the middle of his career) yielded only 44.3% of the vote for the Yankee Clipper.  He finished behind legends such as Ted Lyons, Rabbit Maranville, Bill Terry, and Dizzy Dean in that year's voting.  It wasn't until his third serious year on the ballot that he finally got enshrined.  This is the man who once beat out a Triple Crown winner for an MVP Award.  Suddenly, he wasn't all that popular among baseball writers. 

Lefty Grove also had to wait until his fourth year of eligibility, squeaking by with 76.4% of the vote.  Rogers Hornsby and Eddie Mathews, the best players ever at their respective positions when they each retired, weren't enshrined until their fifth year on the ballot.  Somehow the 534 homers that Jimmy Foxx hit didn't look terribly impressive until his 7th year on the ballot.

More than anything else, the 2011 Hall of Fame elections reiterated that how you enter the Hall of Fame is irrelevant.  What matters is whether or not you do earn enshrinement.  Bert Blyleven, who only garnered 14.1% of the vote in 1999, got elected in his 14th year of eligibility.  Although Roberto Alomar did not get inducted in his first attempt, the 90% of the vote he elicited in his second go-round was the most of any non-first-ballot Hall of Famer and one of the highest marks of all-time.

Clearly, Hall of Fame voting is unpredictable, and just because you don't fare well in a given year doesn't mean you can't subsequently get in.  Perhaps the biggest buzz generated by the 2011 elections was the lack of support for steroid-era sluggers Mark McGwire, Jeff Bagwell, Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez, and Larry Walker.  But what almost no one is talking about is the lack of support for steroid-era pitcher Kevin Brown, who fell off the ballot entirely with just 2.1% of the vote in his first year of eligibility.

Is Kevin Brown a slam-dunk Hall of Famer?  Certainly not.  His 211 career wins is low for a Hall of Fame starting pitcher, although more than a dozen such pitchers got in with lower totals (the aforementioned Dean snuck in with just 150).  Brown never won a Cy Young Award, did not pitch well in the postseason (particularly the World Series), twice led his league in hits allowed, and was overpaid for a significant portion of his career.  Most illuminating with regards to his lack of support, Brown was named in the Mitchell Report as possibly having obtained human growth hormone in either 2000 or 2001.

On the other hand, there are significant points in his favor.  Brown's 127 ERA+ ranks 22nd all-time among pitchers with at least 200 career victories.  ‎Seventeen of those 22 pitchers ahead of him are in the Hall of Fame. The remaining five (Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and Curt Schilling) are not yet eligible for enshrinement.  His .594 career winning percentage ranks 30th among players with over 200 wins since 1901. Brown led his league twice in ERA, ERA+, HR/9, and WHIP.  He led his league once in wins, innings, and K/BB.  If you like more advanced metrics, Brown ranks 34th in Wins Above Replacement among pitchers, 26th all-time in Adjusted Pitching Wins, and 23rd in Win Probability Added for pitchers.

At the very least, Brown deserves to be considered for more than one year, and that is a privilege that won't be extended to him.  Ten years from now, when the steroid era is in a different perspective, players such as McGwire, Bagwell, Palmeiro, and Walker might earn the inductions that I believe they each deserve.  That is impossible for Kevin Brown, unless he is somehow given consideration by a Veteran's Committee.

Frankly, the Baseball Writer's Association of America's treatment of the steroid era makes little sense.  Roberto Alomar played in that era, but received as near of a unanimous vote of support as you can get.  Ostensibly, this is because he was not a slugger, although he did have 210 career home runs.  Jeff Bagwell and Larry Walker haven't been linked to steroids any more than Alomar has (well, except here at Baseball Evolution), and despite the fact that they both derived more of their total career value from home runs, they were every bit the complete, five-tool players that Alomar was.  Bagwell (.297 AVG, 202 SB, and 1 Gold Glove) and Walker (.313 AVG, 230 SB, 7 Gold Gloves) surely deserved close to 75% of the vote if Alomar got 90%, didn't they?

Anyway, if Roberto Alomar supposedly couldn't have used performance enhancing drugs/didn't derive any benefits from performance enhancing drugs because he "only" hit 210 home runs, then shouldn't we say the same for Kevin Brown, who only hit two?  If we concede that pitchers do derive a benefit from PEDs, then how much of an edge are these juiced-up sluggers getting from hitting against juiced-up pitchers?  That's another one of those questions that will be easier to answer 10 years from now.

It's a pity that the answers no longer matter to Kevin Brown.


Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at keith@baseballevolution.com.


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