SweetSpot: Jim Kaat

The other day, I argued the Hall of Fame cases of Ron Santo and Minnie Minoso. Here are the other eight on the Veterans Committee ballot.

Jim Kaat, P, 1959-83

Stats: 283-237, 3.45 ERA, 625 GS, 4530.1 IP, 4620 H, 1083 BB, 2461 SO

Jim Kaat won 283 games in a long career and that's his main argument for the Hall of Fame. It's a lot of wins, more than most Hall of Fame pitchers, certainly. He had a few big seasons -- 25 wins with the Twins in 1966, 21 and 20 wins with the White Sox in 1974 and '75. He was known for his good sinking fastball, his quickness on the mound as a fielder (he won 17 Gold Gloves) and, of course, his durability that allowed him to top 200 innings in 14 seasons, including 300 innings twice. It's an impressive résumé, but Kaat is the ultimate compiler. He finished in the top 10 in his league in ERA just three times (never higher than sixth), four times in ERA+ (which adjusts for home park). He rates in the top 10 in WAR for pitchers in his league five times, including second in 1962. His career WAR of 41.2 is, yes, higher than a few Hall of Fame pitchers, but also similar to guys like Sam McDowell, Frank Viola, Vida Blue, Tom Candiotti, Brad Radke and Bob Welch. They're very good pitchers but no one is advocating them for Cooperstown. In the end, Kaat just doesn't have enough elite-level seasons.

Luis Tiant, P, 1964-82

Stats: 229-172, 3.30 ERA, 3486.1 IP, 3075 H, 1104 BB, 2416 SO

Tiant won ERA titles in 1968 and 1972, but between those seasons won just 17 games. He won 81 games for the Red Sox from 1973 to 1976. Despite 54 fewer wins, Tiant has a better case than Kaat -- he has eight seasons in the top 10 in his league in WAR for pitchers, for example, including No. 1 in 1968. His career WAR of 60.1 is the same as Hall of Famer Jim Bunning, and better than Hall of Famers Ted Lyons, Dennis Eckersley, Vic Willis, Dazzy Vance, Hal Newhouser, Three-Finger Brown, Whitey Ford and Sandy Koufax. Tiant's supporters like to compare him to Catfish Hunter, but Catfish Hunter is one of the weakest Hall of Fame selections. With Bert Blyleven finally off the board, you can make the argument that Tiant is the best eligible pitcher not in the Hall (I'd probably go Kevin Brown). Close call, but I think Tiant falls just short.

Ken Boyer, 3B, 1955-69

Stats: .287/.349/.462, 282 HRs, 1,141 RBIs, 5-time Gold Glover, 7-time All-Star, 1964 NL MVP

He's clearly a notch below Santo, and was an elite player for only eight or nine seasons.

Gil Hodges, 1B, 1943-63

Stats: .273/.359/.473, 370 HR, 1,274 RBIs, 1,921 hits, 8-time All-Star

The beloved, respected first baseman for Brooklyn's Boys of Summer teams in the late '40s and '50s, Hodges topped 30 home runs six times and drove in 100 runs in seven consecutive seasons. He received a lot of support while on the BBWAA ballot, topping 60 percent of the vote on three occasions. A very good player, but to advocate a first baseman for the Hall, I think you have to prove he was one of the very best hitters in his league at his peak -- and by that I mean top three or four. Hodges ranked in the top 10 in the NL in slugging percentage six times (and, remember, he played in cozy Ebbets Field) and in on-base percentage just three times, never ranking higher than fourth in either category. His highest finish in the MVP vote was seventh, which is perhaps a confirmation: Terrific player on a great team, but not quite Cooperstown level. (Hodgers does get a little extra credit for managing the 1969 Miracle Mets to the World Series title and if he hadn't died so young -- just 47 in 1972, of a heart attack -- he may have gone on to a long and successful managing career.)

Tony Oliva, OF, 1962-76

Stats: .304/.353/.476, 220 HR, 976 RBIs, 1,917 hits, 8-time All-Star

A terrific pure hitter who won three batting titles and twice finished second in the AL MVP voting while with the Twins, putting up big numbers in a low offense era. Bad knees affected him in his 30s and his last good season came when he was 32. His career WAR is well below that of most Hall of Fame outfielders, and well below current candidates like Tim Raines and Larry Walker.

Allie Reynolds, P, 1942-54

Stats: 182-107, 3.30 ERA, 2492.1 IP, 2193 H, 1261 BB, 1423 SO, 5-time All-Star

A tremendous pitcher, largely forgotten now even though he was one of the key members of the 1949-53 Yankees that won five consecutive World Series (he was also a member of the 1947 champs). He was respected enough to finish third in the MVP vote in 1951 and second in 1952 in the days before the Cy Young Award. He was a great World Series performer, going 7-2 with a 2.79 ERA, five complete games in nine starts and four saves. In the '52 Series, he pitched a four-hit shutout in Game 4, saved Game 6 and pitched three innings in relief to win Game 7. In the end, "Superchief" started too late (26 during his rookie season) and doesn't have enough big seasons (only three years in the top 10 in ERA).

Buzzie Bavasi (executive), Charlie Finley (owner)

Bavasi was GM of the Dodgers from 1951 to 1968, winning four World Series, and later served as GM of the Padres and Angels. Finley owned the Oakland A's when they won three World Series in a row from 1972 and 1974. Bavasi certainly has a case, especially considering the election last year of Pat Gillick, but I'd rather see players in the Hall of Fame than executives. As for Finley, we need another owner in the Hall like we need a hole in our foot. Pass.

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