Pitcher List Hall of Fame Voting: Edgar Martinez

The Pitcher List staff recently voted on the 2019 Baseball Hall Of Fame candidates. We don’t have official ballots that will count towards induction in Cooperstown, but we thought it was a fun exercise that would spark some discussion and debate. Those that are Patreon supporters would know that much debate has gone on in our Discord community over many candidates cases for induction. I thought it was worthwhile to take a look at the case of one candidate, one that I was lucky enough to watch for years in the Pacific Northwest, former Seattle Mariners DH Edgar Martinez (“GAR” or “Papi” for short).

What makes Martinez a Hall Of Famer? Oddly enough, just recently the Seattle Mariners produced a (very) short documentary showing Martinez’s dedication to his craft and special skills to address this very point.

Like the video showed, GAR was so good at hitting, he made his own bats! And he didn’t make them at the Louisville Slugger plant, consulting a wood expert about ash, maple or hickory. No, that is what mortals do. Like a suburban Roy Hobbs, this Mariners great drove down to his local Eagle Hardware and Garden (now Lowe’s Home Improvement), picked out some Pacific Northwest cedar and won batting titles.

OK. You probably aren’t coming to Pitcher List to watch regional hardware store commercials from the 90s, but if you are, good for you!

In all seriousness, the case for Papi’s (Martinez was Papi before Davie Ortiz became Big Papi) enshrinement is pretty simple: he’s the best DH ever. His 68.4 career WAR fits into the 60-80 average WAR for all Hall-Of-Fame enshrinees. In fact, he turned in a more productive career at the dish than some iconic Hall of Famers, including Ryne Sandberg, Ernie Banks, Roberto Alomar, Duke Snyder, Craig Biggio, Dave Winfield, Andre Dawson, and Willie McCovey to name a few. He won two batting titles (1992 & 1995) and was a seven-time all-star. Also, he placed in the top 10 of MVP voting twice — not bad for a guy who didn’t play in the field 15 seasons.

Let’s take a look at Martinez’s career numbers:

AVG OBP SLG OPS+ 2B HR RBI BB K
.312 .418 .515 147 514 309 1,261 1,283 1,202

Yes, the numbers above are correct, the man had more RBIs than strikeouts over an 18-year career. Some of the facts about his career also stand out: 10 seasons hitting .300 (including six straight .320+), five seasons of 1,000+ OPS and a career marks of 405 wOBA, .204 ISO and to top it all off, an incredible 147 OPS+.

But What About Defense?

Those who don’t vote for Martinez will not debate his hitting prowess. That is not in question — nor is his place in history for that matter — MLB made that abundantly clear when it made him the standard for which all DHs should be judged against every year by naming the annual award given to the most outstanding designated hitter after him. Instead, they will point out that defense is half of the game. How can a player be enshrined as one of the best if that player does not participate in half of the game?

It’s a good question, but which is better: enshrining a player who doesn’t play defense, or enshrining a player who played defense poorly? Former Chicago White Sox great Frank Thomas is the worst defensive first baseman in the Hall of Fame. By every metric available to us during his career, he posted negative values for just about every season — sometimes strikingly low. Nevertheless, the “Big Hurt” was a first-ballot selection, which means there is a bias for players who played a position, regardless of if they were any good. Does that mean if Martinez would have played a terrible third base or first base, that should increase his chances of getting in?

If Harold Baines Got In

A new wrinkle in the legitimacy of Martinez’s candidacy comes with the induction of former Chicago White Sox star Harold Baines by the historic committee. If GAR is somehow being held back because he didn’t play in the field, that is now undercut by Baines, who played 22 seasons from 1990-2001, but during his final 15 seasons, he played only 81 total games in the outfield.

If Martinez was a DH for 75% of his career, Baines was a DH for roughly 60% of his. Despite Baines’ field play and seven more seasons, his 38.7 WAR trails Papi by almost 30 wins. Baines’ six all-star appearances trail Martinez’s seven and he only had one Silver Slugger to Martinez’s five. Let’s compare their career numbers side by side:

Player PAs HR AVG OBP SLG wRC+ bWAR
Edgar Martinez 8,672 309 .312 .418 .515 147 68.4
Harold Baines 11,092 384 .289 .356 .465 119 38.7

It’s clear that Martinez was the better hitter across the board while playing largely the same position throughout their careers. Is a HOF with Baines but not Martinez fair?

He’s Got That Going For Him, Which is Nice

Martinez also checks some of the more sentimental boxes that usually earn points with hall of fame voters. He spent his entire career with one team and continues to work there in the front office. Although the Mariners have never been to the World Series, Martinez did not fade away in the playoffs, smashing 8 HR and 24 RBI in 31 total playoff games (7 playoff series). He also delivered the most iconic hit in Mariners history.

Let’s not also forget that the DH of the year award is named after him, and I believe he carves the major award trophy himself every year.

 

Travis Sherer

All Seattle Mariners fans have learned the future is all we have because the present is always too painful. I am Western Washington University alum, a local sportswriter, an official NCAA basketball statistician, a freelance radio and television production statistician, and a minor league standup comedian.

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