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Help! I've Fallen Off The Ballot and I Can't Get Back On!
by Keith Glab, Baseball Evolution

Of the 373 player on our first Hall of Fame Ballot, 126 will not be appearing on the 2007 form. To most of them, I bid good riddance. However I am saddened to see a few of those players fall off our ballot, and here's why.

Eppa Rixey

I came into the voting believing that starting pitchers needed to be cropped from Cooperstown's Hall of Fame more than any other position, even more than shortstops, first basemen, and outfielders. However, Eppa Rixey is not among the mediocre Marquardian pitchers that I would weed out.

Eppa pitched primarily during the teens and twenties, meaning that Walter Johnson and Pete Alexander were his direct contemporaries. Not only that, but Rixey and Alexander actually played together on the Phillies to start their careers from 1912-1917. Eppa may not compare well to these two greats, but playing third fiddle to Johnson and Alexander isn't exactly an embarrasment.

Now Cooperstown has Rube Marquard, Herb Pennock, Red Faber, Stan Coveleski, and Burleigh Grimes as pitchers from the same era enshrined alongside Rixey, Johnson, and Alexander, and that's too many. However, the only pitchers that we currently have on the ballot next to the Big Two that got in as no-brainers are Faber, Coveleski, and Urban Shocker. That's too few.

Rixey posted ERAs of 2.39, 1.85, and 2.27 before missing a year and a half due to World War I. He then posted below-league average ERAs in 1919 and 1920, before rattling off an impressive eight-year stretch in which he went 145-107 with an ERA always at least 9% better than the rest of the National League.

Therefore, Eppa's main claim to the Hall of Fame is that he likely would have notched 300 Wins had he not gone to war, and he would have certainly ranked in the top 15 all-time in innings pitched. Scott doesn't like his unearned runs allowed, but the tally isn't bad for his era. Among his eight contemporaries that I've listed here, his unearned runs per inning ranks better than Faber, Marquard, and Grimes.

So while he's not a no-brainer Hall of Famer, Eppa Rixey was one of the five best pitchers of his era, and one of the best longevity-type pitchers ever, whether you want to give him credit for World War I or not. That merits perennial consideration for enshrinement at the very least.

George Wright

George Wright, along with second baseman Ross Barnes, formed the first great double play combination which still ranks as one of the best ever. His 125 OPS+ ranks third all-time among shortstops (not counting Garciaparra and A-Rod). His fielding percentage was 40 points above the league's average. He was clearly the best pre-1890 shortstop, and it's pretty silly to ignore one of the most important positions on the field for the first 20 years of baseball's history.

It's a pity, though, that Wright wasn't a full time pitcher instead, as his 12 strikeouts and zero walks in his five career innings pitched indicates a talent gone underutilized. But even if you ignore that, and don't give him any credit as a pioneer, he dererves to be in any Hall of Fame woth itt's bronze.

Jim Fregosi and Toby Harrah

While we're on the subject of underappreciated shortstops, how about these two studs? Fregosi doesn't even have any competition as the best offensive shortstop of the 60's and Toby Harrah is unparalleled in the 70's. While Fregosi was an adaquate fielder who won a Gold Glove, Harrah had a F% 11 points higher than his league's average. But wait! Harrah moved to third base later in his career, doesn't that mean he was a bad fielder? Not unless Cal Ripken, Ernie Banks, and Robin Yount, all of whom are Gold Glove Winners, are necessarily bad fielders as well. Harrah could also steal bases, Fregosi had some success as a manager. Both stayed out of double plays. Both should be Hall of Famers.

Darryl Strawberry and Cesar Cedeno

Both these players flamed out a little early, Strawberry due to injuries and off-the-field problems, and Cedeno because, well, no one's sure. But Cedeno may have possessed the best power-speed combination of the 70's while Strawberry probably had that distinction in the 80's. Even with their shortish careers, look at the counting stats. Strawberry - 335 HR, 219 SB. Cedeno - 199 HR, 550 SB. Cesar also had over 2,000 hits and well over 400 doubles.

Of course, even more impressive are the rate stats. Cedeno's 75.4 SB% is better than supposed-Hall of Famer Lou Brock's. Strawberry boasts a whopping 139 OPS+ and grounded into double plays less frequently than SHoF (and leadoff hitter) Lou Brock did. I realize that comparing players to Brock and having them come out ahead is easy, but when you're comparing speed numbers, it's pretty significant. I'm not certain that these guys are legitimate Hall of Famers, and I'm certainly rooting for Cedeno over Strawberry, but I'd like to keep considering the both of them.

Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith Glab resides in Chicago, Illinois, and can be reached at
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