2020 BBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot: For One Year Only

Despite four superstar-level seasons, Alfonso Soriano headlines this ballot’s list of players who should go one-and-done.
IntroductionYesYes*
Yes?No+No
My BallotModern EraAfterword

This year there are a total of 32 players of the ballot for Hall of Fame consideration by the BBWAA. A great many of them—15, in my opinion—are deserving of induction into the hallowed building in Cooperstown. I believe that another four have, for various reasons, an interesting enough candidacy that they merit more prolonged discussion. That leaves us with 13 other players remaining on the ballot. These men, whose careers are detailed below, are those 13.

Before I begin, you surely noticed the table at the beginning of this post. Included there are links to the other articles in my Hall of Fame series, including my one on the Modern Era Ballot. The table was added to the Introduction and Modern Era pieces as well, and will be updated to include links to all published articles as they are released. This is an easy way to catch up on any posts you may have missed on the subject.

Also, a couple short, housekeeping-type notes. The metrics used in my player discussions, such as Score and HoF100 were explained in the Introduction and Modern Era articles (linked above), so feel free to consult those about any confusion. Please note that I will be talking about players in alphabetical order, not the order in which I feel they are meritorious. Lastly, as always, feel free to sound off in the comments about any disagreements or thoughts you have on my work (though remember I have the right to delete any comments I feel are truly inappropriate). Now, to the players.

Josh Beckett (SP)

  • Score: 468.2
  • Mean: 710.6
  • Median: 712.0
  • HoF100: -45
  • Percentile: 7.41

Despite a young debut (age 21) and postseason heroics (2003 World Series MVP and 2007 ALCS MVP), Beckett has little claim to a bronze plaque. The second overall pick in the 1999 draft by the then-Florida Marlins, he would debut in the big leagues just about two years later, throwing six shutout innings against a strong Cubs team in his first start. He would surpass rookie limits the following season, 2002, posting a decent 104 ERA- and 90 FIP- across 107.2 IP, good for 1.9 fWAR. In 2003 at age 23 he would truly break out, with 142 IP of a 69 FIP- and 74 ERA- leading to a 4-win season. His postseason that year would put the entire league on notice, as Beckett allowed just 10 ER in 42.2 IP (2.11 ERA) with 47 K, including a complete game shutout with 9 K in the deciding Game 7, giving him the first of two rings he’d earn in his career. He followed up that run in 2003 with a solid 7.5 fWAR in the next two combined, before being traded to the Red Sox prior to 2006. Beckett would cross the 200 inning threshold for the first time in 2006, but he would do it struggling mightily, with his ERA and FIP both rocketing over 5. Righting the ship in 2007, he would have the best season of his career, with 6.5 bWAR, 5.7 fWAR, and a 3.08 FIP in 200.2 IP, en route to an All-Star appearance and a runner-up finish in Cy Young voting. Again he would dominate in the postseason in pursuit of a championship, to the tune of a 1.20 ERA and 17.5 K/BB over 30 IP, earning him both his second ring and the ALCS MVP award. Though he was very good in both 2008 and 2009, getting his second All-Star nod in the latter, Beckett would never again reach the heights of 2007, and was blasted in the playoffs both seasons. Below league average performance in 2010, 2012, and 2013 sandwiched his third All-Star campaign in 2011, while age, injuries, and performance ended his career after a BABIP-driven rebound in 2014. Overall, Beckett posted good-but-not-spectacular numbers of 90 ERA- and 91 FIP- in 2051 career IP. He accumulated 36.3 fWAR and 35.2 bWAR, well below Hall of Fame standards for a starting pitcher. His peak doesn’t hold up either, though he did exceed 4 fWAR five times. All told, he ranks better than just 3 of the 65 starting pitchers currently enshrined in the Hall. Beckett will always have his postseason accolades, and, hopefully, a soft spot in the hearts of Marlins and Red Sox fans. But he should not have a spot in Cooperstown.

Heath Bell (RP)

  • Score: 137.4
  • Mean: 297.5
  • Median: 280.6
  • HoF100: -82
  • Percentile: 3.43

Don’t just talk about the slide. Don’t just talk about the slide. Don’t just talk about the slide. Heath Bell was one of baseball’s most celebrated closers in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s. Armed with a mid-to-upper 90’s fastball and an eccentric personality, he was also among the most beloved. It took Bell seven years after he was drafted to make his major league debut, in 2004, and far longer to settle into the league. From 2004 to 2006 he struggled in the Mets bullpen, with an 87 ERA+ in total across 108 innings, though a FIP well over a run lower than his ERA (4.92 vs 3.67) indicated that there may be hope for him. The Padres took a chance, trading for him before the 2007 season, and they reaped the rewards immediately. In a high-leverage role, Bell had his finest season, with an ERA- of 50 and FIP- of 57, and was second among all relievers in both fWAR and RA/9 WAR. He regressed in 2008, with his ERA and FIP both middling around league average, but was named closer before the 2009 season, and never looked back. In his three years as the Padres closer, Bell earned 132 saves, tops in MLB, and was fourth among all relievers in fWAR, with 5.2. He was named an All-Star in all three of those seasons. From 2009-2010 in particular he was lethal, ranking third in FIP- and fifteenth in ERA- among all relievers. Combined with Mike Adams and Luke Gregerson, he gave the Padres a very intimidating back end of the bullpen. In the third of those seasons, however, Bell’s performance slipped, despite his doing this (the slide!) in the All-Star Game. He still had a low ERA (2.44), but his FIP and xFIP approached league average. The Marlins ignored those warning signs, inking Bell to $24M/3-years to be their closer. In his new home, he struggled, losing the closer job and posting a 5.09 ERA (131 ERA-). Stints with the Diamondbacks and Rays in 2013 and 2014 did nothing to stop the decline. In his final three seasons, Bell struggled to reach replacement level, and combined for an ERA around 5. He retired after failing to make an MLB team in 2015. While Bell provided an exciting 5-year run with the Padres (150 ERA+ from 2007 to 2011) and plenty of fond memories, the rest of his career falls extremely flat in comparison. He ranks below every relief pitcher currently enshrined, and is far short of the Hall of Fame’s lofty standards for relievers.

Adam Dunn (LF)

  • Score: 303.7
  • Mean: 649.1
  • Median: 660.45
  • HoF100: -96
  • Percentile: 2.51

This is a fun one. If we could somehow go back in time and prevent Adam Dunn from ever playing the field, he would have a much better Hall of Fame case. Instead, we’re dealing with this player, one ranked behind every Hall of Fame left fielder. Dunn could hit from the time he reached the majors at age 21, bashing his way to a 138 wRC+ and a 2-win season in 66 games as a rookie in 2001. He could still hit years later, only once having a wRC+ lower than 107 in his career. Most known for homeruns and strikeouts, Dunn didn’t start to post gaudy numbers in the former until 2004. In 2002 and 2003 he combined for around 6 WAR, but 2004 was truly the breakout for Dunn. In that, the best season of his career, he slashed .266/.388/.569 with a 142 wRC+ and 46 HR. This would kick off a seven-year span during which Dunn would average 40 HR a season, with a 136 OPS+ and a .533 SLG. His 134 wRC+ was 25th among qualified hitters for those seven years, while the .533 SLG was 19th, .381 OBP was 27th, and 282 HR 2nd. Even with the loud offense, he was worth only 17.6 fWAR during those seven seasons with the Reds and Nationals, 68th among hitters, with an average of just 2.5 per year. That, however, didn’t scare off the White Sox, who offered him $56M over four years as a free agent entering 2011. Their idea was a good one, as they planned to use Dunn as a DH, and he had been, on average, a 4-win player per oWAR the past seven seasons. What followed was a monstrous collapse, as Dunn slashed .159/.292/.277 with a 60 wRC+ and 222 K in 2011, nearly 3 wins below replacement level, ranking as the second-worst season of the decade. He would rebound back to above replacement for the rest of the deal, but after a 2014 trade to the A’s he struggled and was unceremoniously released. Dunn would retire before the next season. Dunn’s career bWAR is just 17.4, thanks in large part to -28.9 dWAR. He rates more favorably in fWAR, with 25.6 total, thanks to their defensive component being not as cruel to him as DRS (-167 career). As a DH his whole career, his 35.2 oWAR and 462 HR would constitute a stronger candidate, but with defense included, Dunn is not even close to Cooperstown.

Chone Figgins (3B)

  • Score: 336.9
  • Mean: 715.3
  • Median: 757.7
  • HoF100: -74
  • Percentile: 4.11

Quite honestly, when I hear the name Chone Figgins I remember him as the leadoff man for my franchise for MLB 2k11. By that point in his career he was well below average as a hitter, but with guys like Utley, Fielder, McCann, and Bautista in my lineup, all I needed Figgins to do was poke singles and cause chaos on the bases. Figgins was really good at both of those things early in his career, as he averaged 40 SB a season and had a cumulative .292 AVG from his rookie season in 2003 until 2009. Unfortunately, those were the only things he was good at doing. Despite being just about a league average hitter, Figgins ran and fielded his way to 1.7 fWAR in 2003 and 3.5 in 2004. A more frequent move to third base drained his defensive value in 2005, but his 62 SB kept him as a 3-win player. With a walk rate consistently under 10% and an ISO around .100, Figgins had to hit for a high average to be a productive player; when his BABIP fell in 2006, he barely remained replacement level and only hit for a wRC+ of 87. The following year, 2007, would be his best one offensively, as a .391 BABIP helped him to an OBP just under .400 and a wRC+ of 122, en route to his first 4-win season. A 3-win 2008 would follow, but 2009 was truly the peak for Figgins. By then a good defensive third baseman, Figgins posted a career-best .395 OBP to go with the fielding and baserunning. He was worth 7.7 bWAR and 6.6 fWAR. Figgins leveraged this into a new contract with the Mariners, and promptly forgot how to hit. In three seasons with Seattle, Figgins was below replacement level, and remained around it in his 2014 cameo with the Dodgers, a season that would be his last. Figgins stole at least 34 bases every season from 2004 to 2010, with his total of 307 ranking fourth in the majors. Yet Figgins offered little else in the way of value, trailing behind even the worst third basemen in the Hall, and having only 22.2 career WAR (the total is identical on Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs). His exit from the ballot will be as fast as he was in his prime.

Rafael Furcal (SS)

  • Score: 450.7
  • Mean: 682.7
  • Median: 716.65
  • HoF100: -71
  • Percentile: 4.35

Rafael Furcal had a really nice career. He won Rookie of the Year for the Braves in 2000 with a 4-win season. That was a good indicator of what was to come with Furcal: offense right around league average with good-but-not-elite defense. Struggles and injuries kept Furcal to about replacement level in 2002, but he was back to form in 2003 with a 3-win campaign. He wouldn’t drop below 2 WAR again until a down year with the Dodgers in 2007. From 2002 to 2006, Furcal averaged 4.4 bWAR a season, and his 17.8 fWAR in those five years was fifth among shortstops. This span included his best season in 2005, a 6.5 bWAR/4.5 fWAR year when his defense was at its best and his offense was above league average. The following year, 2006, was a banner one as well, as the 113 wRC+ he produced was his best in a full season, and he would receive MVP consideration, placing 14th in the vote. The 2007 campaign was an outlier, with his wRC+ dropping to 82, but his defense keeping him from falling into replacement level territory. Furcal was injured for much of 2008 and 2010, but played like his old self when healthy, producing 5.0 bWAR per 650 PA in 2008-2010, even earning his second All-Star selection in the last of those years. A sub-replacement start to 2011 with the Dodgers looked like the end for Furcal, but a trade to the Cardinals rejuvenated him, with him posting a 102 OPS+ in his new home. Though he played badly in the postseason, he scored the only run in Game 5 of the NLDS against Roy Halladay and the Phillies after a triple to leadoff the game, and eventually would up with a World Series ring for his efforts. Injuries would limit Furcal in 2012, though he was an All-Star again, and would keep him out for all of 2013 and most of 2014. He would retire while in the minor leagues in 2015. Furcal doesn’t lag too far behind the worst shortstops in Cooperstown, but Rabbit Maranville isn’t exactly the benchmark for getting there. While I am grateful for the chance to remember Furcal due to his spot on the ballot, using a vote on him would be nearly criminal.

Raúl Ibañez (LF)

  • Score: 287.6
  • Mean: 649.1
  • Median: 660.45
  • HoF100: -103
  • Percentile: 2.13

I really like Ibañez. His torrid first few months with the Phillies left quite an impression on 9-year old me. Never an elite hitter, though always a solidly good one, Ibañez, much like the previously discussed Dunn, would have more of a candidacy if he’d never played the field. Ibañez took several years to adjust to the majors, not turning in a season above replacement level until 2001 (age 29) after debuting in 1996 and surpassing rookie limits in 1999. Into his 30’s then, Ibañez made up for lost time, slashing .290/.351/.483 from 2001-2006, good for a 116 OPS+. By that time he had become a consistent hitter in first the Royals then Mariners lineups, with a wRC+ around 115 each year. This offense continued from 2007-2009, though by that time Ibañez was in his mid-30’s and played such poor defense he struggled to reach 3 WAR in a season. Still, in 2009 at age 37, he put up a 130 wRC+, the best of his career, and 3.4 fWAR (2.9 bWAR). His 160 wRC+ in the first half that season netted him his only All-Star selection, but masked the fact that he hit below league average in the second half. Showing his age, Ibañez struggled in 2010, with his .444 SLG the lowest it had been in a decade. In 2011 everything was abysmal, and Ibañez was nearly 2 wins below replacement. He hung around several more seasons, including a shocking 29 HR, 121 wRC+ campaign back with the Mariners in 2013 at age 41, but retired in 2014 after a terrible start with the Royals. Much like Dunn, Ibañez is dragged down by his dWAR, -17.7 for his career. He managed 20.4 bWAR and 19.3 fWAR in total, and his Score is well short of Hall of Fame left fielders. Ibañez was well-liked across baseball, maybe enough to earn him a handful of pity votes. But I will not vote by pity when other players are far more deserving.

Paul Konerko (1B)

  • Score: 311.1
  • Mean: 727.0
  • Median: 717.9
  • HoF100: -106
  • Percentile: 1.99

Of all of the players in this article, Paul Konerko is the one I could most see sticking around for another year on the ballot. Not that he’s the most deserving among them—I’d actually put most of them over him—but he’s the one who has that feel about him. As weird as it is to think about, Konerko wasn’t originally on the White Sox; he was drafted by the Dodgers 13th overall in the 1994 draft and debuted with them at the end of 1997. After he failed to hit in that cup of coffee and a longer stint in 1998, the Dodgers shipped Konerko to the Reds in July of 1998, where he continued to hit well-below league average. In those two seasons combined he was about a win below replacement level and managed only a 60 OPS+ in 247 PA. That offseason the Reds dealt Konerko to the South Side of Chicago, a team he wouldn’t leave for 16 years. Buoyed by a far-more-normal .300 BABIP—thanks in large part to consistent playing time—Konerko would slash .294/.352/.511 with 24 HR in 1999, good for a 117 wRC+ and a 2-win season. The next three years would be very similar, with wRC+ marks of 113, 121, and 124, respectively, and a WAR (website aside) bouncing between 1.4 and 2.3. Though his walk and strikeout rates actually improved in 2003, Konerko ran afoul of the BABIP gods, and posted only a 79 wRC+ while being a win under replacement. The production would return in a big way in 2004, as Konerko clubbed a career-high 41 HR to notch another 2-win season, and received down-ballot MVP support. A perfect storm would strike in 2005, when Konerko would have his best season by fWAR (3.8) and his White Sox would win their first World Series since 1917. He himself would place sixth in MVP voting (fueled by a second straight 40 HR campaign) and earn ALCS MVP honors after slugging .619 in a five game series against the Angels. A free agent after the season, Konerko stayed in Chicago, as he would the other two times he’d hit the open market as well. Aside from a weak year in 2008, Konerko would perform exactly as expected, producing 2-to-3-win seasons in 2006, 2007, and 2009. With a career-best .393 OBP in 2010, a 34-year old Konerko had maybe his finest season, with a 158 wRC+, 3.6 fWAR, 4.7 bWAR, and a fifth place MVP finish, as well as his fourth All-Star Game. He would hit as if in his prime the next two years, both including All-Star appearances, with a combined .299/.380/.502 slash and 135 OPS+, and a total of about 5 WAR. The end would come suddenly for Konerko the following two seasons, with his power sapped to to the tune of a .111 ISO and just 17 HR. He would be 2.5 wins below replacement level in those years, and hung up his cleats following 2014. In his accomplished career, Konerko racked up some big power numbers, namely 439 HR and 1412 RBI (118 wRC+ and OPS+). Yet his dreadful fielding (-18.1 dWAR) and baserunning (-85.2 runs) cap his fWAR at 24.0 and bWAR at 27.7. Scoring well below all Cooperstown first basemen, Konerko was much beloved on the South Side, and for good reason, but does not deserve the same love from the voters.

Carlos Peña (1B)

  • Score: 328.6
  • Mean: 727.0
  • Median: 717.9
  • HoF100: -98
  • Percentile: 2.36

With likely the single best season of any of these one-and-done players, that and a handful of other good years aren’t enough to save Carlos Peña from their ranks. Throughout his career, Peña was really good at walking and hitting homers, making him a good fit for the A’s teams of the early 2000’s. Under a season after being traded to Oakland from Texas, he would fail to reach base at even a league average clip, and was soon on the move again, this time to Detroit. With the Tigers, Peña would hit above league average, yet he was only even a 2-win player once in his three full years there. In an injury-riddled 2006 with the Red Sox he would manage only a 100 wRC+ and 0.1 WAR, and limped into free agency. Taking a flyer on him, the then-Devil Rays signed a 29-year old Peña, and he rewarded them immediately. Peña was a legitimate MVP candidate in 2007, with a .282/.411/.627 slash and 167 wRC+. He hit 46 HR and walked 103 times, with 8 DRS and above average baserunning all culminating in 7.2 bWAR and 5.9 fWAR. Peña was ninth in MVP voting, but deserved to be higher. He would finish ninth in 2008 as well, as the Rays (no longer Devil) won the AL Pennant. Not quite as good as in the previous year, Peña still hit 31 HR, produced a 132 wRC+, and saved 15 runs with his glove in a season of 5.1 bWAR (3.8 fWAR). He dominated in the first two rounds of the playoffs as well, with a 1.045 OPS in the ALDS and 1.060 in the ALCS. Unfortunately for him, the Rays ran into a lefty heavy Phillies staff in the World Series, and Peña was limited to just a single, a double, and three walks in five games. The World Series turned out not to be a harbinger of things to come, and Peña once again had a 132 wRC+ in 2009, with 39 HR and his lone All-Star nob in a 3-win campaign. Including the next year, 2010, Peña had a 135 OPS+ in his (first) four seasons in Tampa Bay, averaging 36 HR, 4.4 bWAR, and 5 DRS a year. He would sign with the Cubs for 2011, and was very Peña-like, with 2.5 fWAR, 28 HR, and 121 wRC+; however at age 33 his days as an elite defender were behind him. From 2012 to 2014 with the Rays and Rangers again, Astros, and Royals, Peña would fail to hit at even a league average rate, and often didn’t crack replacement level. He retired to become an analyst on MLB Network. Peña’s career slash of .232/.346/.462 (117 wRC+) illustrates the type of player he was—a power-first, low average hitter with good plate discipline. His stretch with the Rays as a dangerous hitter and plus-plus defensive first baseman ranks him as one of the best players in franchise history, but his 18.9 fWAR and 25.1 bWAR put him below every currently enshrined player at his position. Peña’s plaque belongs in the Ray’s Hall of Fame, but not baseball’s.

Brad Penny (SP)

  • Score: 333.0
  • Mean: 710.6
  • Median: 712.0
  • HoF100: -128
  • Percentile: 1.13

I won’t sugarcoat it, Brad Penny is the lowest ranked of the players on this ballot. Look at that HoF100. Just look at it. Nevertheless, he had a 14 year career and deserves at least some recognition. After turning in roughly league average work as a 22-year old Marlins rookie in 2000, Penny broke out in 2001, tossing 205 innings of a 79 FIP- and 4.6 fWAR. Unfortunately for Penny, he would reach these heights only once more in his career. A massive regression would come for Penny in 2002, as his rates were all worse than league average, and his performance was barely above replacement level. The next season was a significant step forward, with rates around league average (and his career totals), making Penny a 3-win player. Heading towards a career year in 2004, with a 76 ERA- and 83 FIP-, Penny was sent from the Marlins to the Dodgers over the summer, but injuries would limit him to just 11.2 IP with his new team, and only 143 on the season. Three consecutive productive seasons followed, as he averaged 191 IP with a 3.73 ERA and 3.72 FIP from 2005 to 2007, including two All-Star appearances. During that span he he annually around a 4-win player, including 6.0 bWAR (4.4 fWAR) in 2007, when he pitched 208 innings of a 70 ERA-. Penny was a legitimate Cy Young contender for that one season, finishing third in the voting, but, along with 2001, the big years of his career were behind him. Injuries mercifully limited Penny’s 2008, as he was below replacement level and ran an eye-poppingly terrible 149 ERA-. Only once more would he pitch at even a league average level again, as from 2008 to 2014 he totaled an ERA of 5.23 (80 ERA+), while averaging -0.2 bWAR. Brief stints with the Red Sox, Giants (twice), Cardinals, Tigers, and a return to the Marlins ranged from fine to atrocious, and Penny retired after spending 2015 out of the majors. Is Penny a Hall of Famer? His career WAR sitting right around 20, and his 4-year peak totaling only 14.7 bWAR clearly say no, as does the fact that he scores lower than every Hall of Fame starter. But does his career deserve to be remembered here for a moment? Of course it does. Penny likely won’t get a single vote, and he shouldn’t. But his spot on the ballot is a nice excuse to remember him.

J.J. Putz (RP)

  • Score: 177.0
  • Mean: 297.5
  • Median: 280.6
  • HoF100: -50
  • Percentile: 6.67

The best non-Billy Wagner reliever on the ballot, J.J Putz’s stretches of dominance still leave him far short of the induction standard. After performing at roughly replacement level in both his 2004 rookie season and in 2005, Putz burst onto the scene in 2006, gaining nearly a mile per hour on his fastball and incorporating a splitter into his pitch mix. As a legitimate four-pitch reliever, Putz was dominant in 2006, leading all relievers in fWAR and xFIP-, while placing second in FIP-. He would take over the Mariners closer role that season, notching 36 saves. By some measures 2007 would go even better, as Putz’s ERA would drop from 2.30 to 1.38 (319 ERA+), and he’d add another 40 saves. In the two year stretch he would pace the position in fWAR and xFIP-, and would trail only Jonathan Papelbon in RA/9 WAR and Takashi Saito in FIP-. Unfortunately, the next two years would prove why relievers are considered especially volatile, and Putz’s ERA jumped 2.5 runs in 2008, and his BB/9 ballooned from 1.63 to 5.44. The decline would continue in 2009, when Putz, now with the Mets, recorded an ERA and FIP worse than league average, and could stay healthy for only 29.1 innings. Looking for another shot, he signed a one-year deal with the White Sox for 2010, and the gamble paid off. A 65 ERA- and 57 FIP- later, Putz cashed in on a four-year contract with the Diamondbacks. The resurgence continued his first two years in Arizona, with a combined 2.48 ERA and 2.46 FIP, and an average 38.5 saves per season. At age 36 in 2013, Putz started to show his age; a 90.9 LOB% allowed his 61 ERA- to mask his FIP rising to above league average. The next season was less kind, and 13.2 IP with a 6.59 ERA lead to Putz’s release in late June. Overall, though when he was good he was excellent, Putz checks in at just 13.7 fWAR and 13.1 bWAR, totals comparable to the 4-year peaks of Hall of Fame relievers, all of whom score higher than he does. The traditional numbers don’t make a case either, as he finished with just 189 career saves and only a singular All-Star nod. Putz was maybe the best in the game at his best, but was not there for close to long enough to compare to the best of all-time.

Brian Roberts (2B)

  • Score: 422.0
  • Mean: 710.7
  • Median: 699.15
  • HoF100: -27
  • Percentile: 10.22

According to scores, Roberts is the most deserving among the players in this article, and even ranks above a Hall of Famer at his position (Bill Mazeroski). Roberts was a different case for me than everyone else listed here, as I remember watching all of them either in their peak or at a time when they were still decent. With Roberts all I remember is him being good but injury-prone, and never unlocking him in Backyard Baseball ’10. So let’s learn about his career together. Through 441 PA in 2001 and 2002, Roberts slashed a pathetic .244/.292/.327 (68 OPS+) and was below replacement level. The Orioles, however, kept playing him, and his BABIP stabilized itself in 2003, helping him to a 91 wRC+. Combined with excellent defense (13 DRS) and baserunning (6.2), Roberts put up a 3-win season. The defense and baserunning would regress a bit in 2004, but the offense remained, and Roberts had himself another solid campaign (2.6 fWAR and 2.4 bWAR). Spikes in both BABIP and power fueled a 140 wRC+ in 2005, and the outstanding defense returned to the tune of 15 DRS. This all culminated in a 7-win season, complete with an All-Star selection and down-ballot MVP votes. The batted ball luck of 2005 couldn’t be maintained in 2006, but the offense would stay good enough to pair with the rest of Roberts’s game, and produce another 3-win year. Notably, Roberts set a then-career high with 36 SB in 2006, a sign of what was to come. By 2007 Roberts was no longer a plus-plus fielder, but merely an average one. What value this lost for him, however, he made up for with his bat and his legs. A 115 wRC+ and an AL-leading 50 SB lead to Roberts’s second All-Star Game, as he posted 4.9 fWAR and 4.2 bWAR. He’d have essentially the same season in 2008, with now bad defense (-8 DRS) being more than offset by 40 SB and a 119 wRC+, and Roberts would again be a 5-win player. A drop to 109 wRC+ and 30 SB would reduce Roberts to a good-but-not-great 3.5 fWAR (3.0 bWAR) in 2009, the final full-season he’d play. From 2010 to 2014, plagued by concussions and various other injuries, Roberts would top out at 348 PA in a season, and averaged only 231 per year. When healthy he could still contribute, totaling 1.4 bWAR/650 PA in that span, but he was rarely healthy, and these injuries would force him out of the game in 2014. The 7-year peak for Roberts was very good, with him averaging 4.0 bWAR a season from 2003-2009, along with 665 PA and 34 SB per year, with a 108 OPS+. That peak, though, represents the entirety of Roberts’s career accomplishments, and is clearly not a high enough summit to propel him to Cooperstown.

Alfonso Soriano (LF)

  • Score: 434.8
  • Mean: 649.1
  • Median: 660.45
  • HoF100: -33
  • Percentile: 9.14

If in a cruel twist of fate some cosmic-level being forced me to vote for one of these players, Alfonso Soriano would be my choice. Never drafted, Soriano was bought by the Yankees out of Japanese baseball, and was highly touted as a prospect, thrice ranked in the top 40 by Baseball America. His tools didn’t disappoint in his 2001 rookie season, as 18 HR and 43 SB garnered him a third place finish in RoY voting, though a total lack of plate discipline (4.7 BB%) and atrocious second base defense (-19 Total Zone) kept his offense below league average and his total performance at replacement level. The following year would see a much improved Soriano, one who, despite walking even less often, hit for a healthy 131 wRC+. He slashed .300/.332/.547 and almost joined the 40/40 club, coming up a single homerun short. The defense was still bad, but not horrendous as it had been, leading to 5.6 fWAR, 4.8 bWAR, and a slew of accolades, including a third place finish in MVP voting. He’d have a very similar line the next season, with a 124 wRC+ and a 5-win season by both measures, also earning the second of seven consecutive All-Star picks. After being included in the Alex Rodriguez trade, Soriano was merely good in 2004 with the Rangers, as his wRC+ dropped to 98 and he stole only 18 bases. Despite a BABIP drop in 2005, Soriano rebounded to a 108 wRC+ and another 30/30 season; however, the defense (-36 DRS) and batting eye (66 BB) were still quite bad and limited him to just 2-win seasons both years in Texas. Going into his contract year, the Rangers dealt Soriano to the Nationals, and in the capital he proceeded to return to star-level performance. In his lone season in DC, everything clicked for Soriano. He walked at a career-best 9.2% clip, put up an impressive 18 DRS as a left fielder, and famously joined the 40/40 club with 46 HR and 41 SB. This all totaled to a 6-win player and a sixth-place MVP finish, along with his fourth and final Silver Slugger. Buying into the upside of power, speed, and now good defense, the Cubs inked Soriano to a deal that became much maligned—8-years/$136M. In the first year he certainly delivered, putting up a 122 wRC+ and keeping his improved defense en route to 6.7 fWAR, his best season by the metric. The second year would go smoothly as well, though it was the first time since 2004 that Soriano failed to hit 30 HR. He played only 109 games in that season, 2008, but still managed 3.8 fWAR. Everything collapsed in 2009, as BABIP and power drops caused Soriano to produce only an 83 wRC+, the lowest of his career. By then 33-years old, his defense and baserunning could not bail him out, in fact they dragged him down more, and Soriano checked in below replacement level. He would bounce back, averaging 574 PA, 29 HR, 1.4 bWAR, and a 113 OPS+ the next four seasons, but his contract was already an albatross to the Cubs—and their fans. After a 2013 trade back to whence he began, with the Yankees, Soriano raked in 58 games with the team, hitting 17 HR and producing a 131 OPS+. At age 38 by the time 2014 arrived, Soriano showed his age clearly, with a feeble 66 wRC+ in 238 PA, and only 6 HR. He was released mid-season and retired. For four seasons of his career, Soriano was legitimately a superstar, with 22.8 fWAR and 20.6 bWAR in those seasons. He continued to be good for the rest of his career, but not enough to merit a spot in the Hall, as his 38.9 fWAR is well short of standards, and that measure is much kinder to him than Baseball Reference’s. Again, if I had to vote for one of these players, Alfonso Soriano’s high peak would win me over, but I don’t have that requirement, and therefore would not cast a ballot with his name checked.

José Valverde (RP)

  • Score: 149.2
  • Mean: 297.5
  • Median: 280.6
  • HoF100: -74
  • Percentile: 4.13

In a short and very entertaining career, José Valverde was often above average but rarely anything else. Lacking the extreme velocity of many other successful relievers, Valverde nevertheless settled in quickly to MLB competition, posting an ERA- of 47 and a FIP- of 65 in his rookie season while striking out 12.7 per 9 innings. In his second season, 2004, regression and injuries would both come for Valverde, as he had a FIP well over 5 in just 29.2 IP. His healthy return in 2005 would mark the best season of his career, with a 2.73 FIP, 3.25 xFIP, 2.71 BB/9, and 1.6 fWAR all setting career highs he would never top. He would gain the Diamondbacks closer role mid-season and notch 15 saves. The walk problems that plagued his career returned in 2006, and that, along with an unlucky 64.0 LOB%, lead to an ERA of nearly 6, despite a 3.39 FIP. Continuing his roller coaster path of a career, Valverde would be an All-Star for the first time in 2007, saving an MLB-best 47 games with a 57 ERA-. Consistent for once, Valverde topped the NL in saves again with 2008, notching 44 now with the Astros. His ERA, however, would rise to 3.38 and his FIP to 3.67. In a second season with the Astros the ERA remained low, but the FIP continued to be higher, now at an 82 FIP-, and he saved just 25 games. Valverde would join the Tigers prior to 2010 to be their closer, and he outperformed his FIP again the first two seasons there. In 2011 he famously went 49/49 in save opportunities, but his K/9 dipped below 9 for the first time in his career, and the BB/9 remained over 4. Coming off two All-Star Games, luck finally caught up to Valverde in 2012, as he posted a 3.78 ERA (91 ERA-). The next two seasons would be disastrous, and Valverde was dancing no longer (did I mention he would dance and scream on the mound after his saves?). He pitched to a combined 5.63 ERA and 5.59 FIP in 2013 and 2014, ending his career with a whimper, though he pitched in the Mexican league (unsuccessfully) in 2019. Ultimately, a career 11.4 bWAR and 11.1 fWAR are substantially short of every reliever in Cooperstown, and 288 saves won’t move the needle with more traditionally minded voters.

None of these players are going to make the Hall of Fame. None of them will probably even get a second year on the ballot. Why then, was it worth spending nearly 6000 words on them? This article will be much different than the others in this series, which will be more discussions of whether or not the players merit induction. It’s clear that these 13 do not, so instead this is an opportunity to appreciate their careers for a brief moment before moving on to the more celebrated members of the ballot. All of their careers deserve recognition, as they were all productive and at least somewhat prolonged. The ballot gave me an excuse to show them the recognition they deserve for their fine lives’ work.

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