Ken Griffey, Mike Piazza should be shoo-ins for the Hall of Fame

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BY JOHN GROCHOWSKI – For the Sun-Times

When the votes are counted on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot that was released last week, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza are expected to lead the way.

Both are worthy by-the-numbers candidates who would raise Hall of Fame standards by ranking among the top half of those enshrined at their positions in wins above replacement.

In a 22-year career with the Mariners, Reds and White Sox, Griffey hit .284 with a .907 OPS and 630 home runs, the sixth-most in major-league history. His 83.6 rWAR far outranks the 70.4 average for Hall of Fame center fielders.

To balance career value against peak value by averaging his career WAR with his best seven years, Griffey has a 68.8 JAWS that’s far above the 57.2 Hall of Fame average. His rWAR is the third-highest on the ballot behind Barry Bonds (162.4) and Roger Clemens (140.3), who are stymied while voters debate performance-enhancing drugs.

Hall of Fame averages are lower at Piazza’s position, mainly because catchers play fewer games per season and usually have shorter careers as regulars than stars at other positions. In 16 seasons spent mainly with the Dodgers and Mets, Piazza hit .308 with a .922 OPS and 427 homers. His 59.4 rWAR and 51.2 JAWS far outrank the 52.3 and 43.1 averages for Hall of Fame catchers.

Griffey, Piazza, Bonds and Clemens aren’t the only eligibles who would raise Hall averages, if elected. You could fill a 10-name ballot with players who would rank among the top half at their positions. Others who exceed Hall averages in rWAR and JAWS are Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina, Edgar Martinez and Alan Trammell.

An 11th player, former Expos, Rockies and Cardinals right fielder Larry Walker, is right on the line. His 72.6 rWAR is just a shade off the 73.2 average for a Hall of Fame right fielder, and his 58.6 JAWS is just a shade better than the Hall of Fame average of 58.1.

One who won’t make it is Trammell, the longtime Tigers shortstop, former Tigers manager and former Cubs coach. Trammell is in his last year on the ballot and received only 25.1 percent of the vote last year.

By the numbers, he’s worthy, with a great balance of offense and defense. His 22.0 defensive WAR at ranks 20th among major-league shortstops since 1901. Of the 19 above him, only Lou Boudreau (.795), Cal Ripken (.788) and Travis Jackson (.770) outrank his .767 OPS.

Trammell’s 62.4 offensive WAR ranks ninth among shortstops since 1901. Above him are Hall of Famers Honus Wagner, Robin Yount, Ripken, Arky Vaughn, Luke Appling, Barry Larkin and Joe Cronin, plus Hall of Famer-to-be Derek Jeter. Of those eight, only Ripken had a higher defensive WAR than Trammell.

Trammell’s 70.4 rWAR and 57.5 JAWS exceed Hall of Fame shortstop averages of 66.7 and 54.7. For his position, he was a Hall-level hitter and a Hall-level defender. But he’s stuck on a crowded ballot in a year when the biggest spotlight rightfully will be on Griffey.

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