McGwire and The Hall: It’s about Perfomance, not Performance Enhancers

Much angst all over the Internet today about Mark McGwire’s Hall of Fame candidacy. Almost all of this anguish stems from allegations with which you are all familiar, that Big Mac used performances enhancing drugs (PEDs). Various voters are going on record with whether or not they will vote for the former A’s (and Cardinal’s) great, based on the PED issue.

From here, all that hand wringing is based on the assumption that his career performance makes him eminently deserving of being in the HOF. I’m not so sure. Let’s take a walk through the numbers.

In 16 seasons, Big Mac made 12 All-Star teams. He hit 49 homers in his rookie year and was named ROY. He won 1 Gold Glove. His career OBP is .394 and SLG .588. You may even remember that he hit 70 HRs in 1998. He finished in the top ten in MVP voting 5 times. Very impressive credentials.

On the negative side of the ledger, in 6 seasons he played fewer than 105 games, indicative of his injury proneness. He struck out 1596 times. His career batting average is .263. He hit below .240 five times. He stole 12 bases in his career and was one of the slowest players of his (or any other) era. He drove in 100 runs just seven times and more than 75 just three more times.

I’m just not sold. His career was a rollercoaster and difficult to measure against other sluggers. In his defense, injuries effectively robbed him of 1993 and 1994 when he was 29 and 30 years old. So let’s look at the comparable players list, using a Bill James formula as calculated by baseball-reference.com:

Of the ten most similar players, only two are in The Hall, with many of his contemporaries still playing or not yet eligible. If I had to guess, I’d say Man-Ram is the only lock from the rest of the list.

Let’s look at a few other baseball-reference provided metrics:

Black Ink: Batting – 36 (Average HOFer ≈ 27)
Gray Ink: Batting – 110 (Average HOFer ≈ 144)
HOF Standards: Batting – 42.0 (Average HOFer ≈ 50)
HOF Monitor: Batting – 169.5 (Likely HOFer > 100)


These are again sabermetric measures. As you can see, he scores better than the average HOFer on two measures and worse on the other two. It seems that these metrics support my gut feeling that Big Mac may be worthy of The Hall, but his credentials certainly do not cry out “LOCK” the way the media is portraying his candidacy.

Speaking of alleged PED-tainted contemporaries of Mr. McGwire, you may have heard of Barry Bonds. Here are his ten most similar players and HOF qualifications:

Black Ink: Batting – 67 (Average HOFer ≈ 27)
Gray Ink: Batting – 287 (Average HOFer ≈ 144)
HOF Standards: Batting – 75.4 (Average HOFer ≈ 50)
HOF Monitor: Batting – 345.0 (Likely HOFer > 100)

As you can see nine of ten comparable players have been enshrined and Bonds blows the doors off all four HOF metrics. Now that’s a player who is a lock, ignoring PED issues.

With all that will be written about McGwire in the next few months (and likely the next few years) I hope that some writer with a more widely read platform than I currently have at least raises the question of whether or not McGwire deserves to be enshrined based on his performance, not simply based on whether he used performance enhancers.

When he (or she) does, remember that you read it here first at The Splog.

That’s it for now…Dr. Dick

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