It’s Hall of Fame debate season, so now seems like as good a time as any to reopen Will Clark’s Hall of Fame case for discussion. Clark was on the ballot back in 2006 when he received 23 votes (4.4% total), falling just short of the threshold necessary to remain on the ballot for the following year. His case isn’t rock-solid, but from a pure numbers standpoint, he’s worthy.
Right off the bat, Clark’s case is hurt because he doesn’t hit the typical arbitrary “Hall of Fame milestones.” At 2176 career hits, he’s far from 3000, and the 284 home run total doesn’t come close to what’s generally considered to be Hall of Fame worthy. Clark only played 15 seasons, so he didn’t stick around long enough to compile great counting stats. Additionally, he’s hurt without attention to context. His peak years occurred from 1987 to 1992, during which time he hit .303/.378/.515 with 151 homers. That’s quite good, but it’s even better when you consider how weak offense was during that period. In four of those six years, the National League OPS was below .690, and in two of them, it was below .680. In particular, 1988 and 1989 were historically bad years for offense. It’s thus no surprise that Clark rates very well by the park/league-adjusted numbers. In that six-year period, his 147 wRC+ was the fifth-best mark in baseball, behind the likes of Barry Bonds, Fred McGriff, Rickey Henderson, and Frank Thomas.
In terms of peak value, Clark isn’t particularly special. If we say 5 WAR is elite, Clark only had three “elite” seasons — and it’s two if you go by Baseball-Reference’s implementation of WAR. Clark wasn’t consistently elite, but he did post above-average numbers with great consistency. He exceeded 3 WAR in ten different seasons, and by wRC+, not once was he below average with the bat.
Fangraphs has Clark at 54.4 career WAR; Baseball Prospectus has him at 50.09; and Baseball-Reference has him at 57.6. Those aren’t eye-popping totals, but that’s right in line with current Hall of Famers. As Sean Forman wrote back in 2010, 55 WAR is the midpoint level for all Hall of Famers:
A high career WAR marks a Hall of Fame career better than any other statistic. Among the top 100 players in career WAR not under current or future Hall of Fame consideration, only five have not made the Hall of Fame: Bill Dahlen, Tony Mullane, Bob Caruthers, Lou Whitaker and Bobby Grich. In general, 55 WAR has been the midpoint level for all Hall of Famers as three-fourths of the eligible players with 55 or more WAR are in the Hall of Fame. Whitey Ford, Andre Dawson and Jim Bunning are good examples of median Hall of Famers.
For comparison’s sake, let’s look at another Giants 1B, one that was inducted into the Hall of Fame: Orlando Cepeda. Clark and Cepeda, interestingly enough, finished with rather similar PA totals — Clark at 8283, and Cepeda at 8695. Cepeda has the advantage in terms of career hit totals (2351), and he blows Clark out of the water in terms of home runs (379). Throughout his career, however, Clark proved better than Cepeda in two areas: drawing walks, and avoiding double plays. Despite otherwise fantastic numbers, Cepeda’s career OBP sits right at .350. It’s a solid mark, but for a first baseman in the Hall of Fame, it’s relatively low. Over his career, Cepeda walked in just 6.8% of his plate appearances, and never once posted a walk rate above 10%. In fact, he was consistently below average in that regard. Clark, on the other hand, was very skilled at drawing walks (11.3% clip), and nearly totaled 1000 for his career. Clark wasn’t speedy, and he actually finished with half as many (67) career stolen bases as Cepeda (142), but he grounded into far fewer double plays, which — over the course of an entire career — makes a rather significant difference. Clark grounded into 100 double plays, whereas Cepeda grounded into 218. In the end, the two have pretty similar qualifications. They played the same position (mostly), and were both similarly great hitters (Clark – 135 wRC+, Cepeda – 131 wRC+) over similar career lengths. It’s hard to say that Clark is any less deserving than Cepeda; in fact, by Adam Darowski’s wWAR, Clark is in and Cepeda is out.
I guess I’m more of a big-hall kind of guy, but I’d say both are worthy. In any event, none is much more so than the other.
Three months ago, Zack explored the possibility of a Madison Bumgarner extension. It’s something that’s been discussed a lot lately though; with Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum set to earn monster deals, why not lock up Bumgarner as soon as possible for the purposes of cost certainty? As Zack noted, a pitcher of Bumgarner’s caliber — assuming he continues to pitch as well as he has — will inevitably cost a lot of money going year to year in arbitration. Even a deal that just buys out his arbitration years could save the Giants a good chunk of money in the long run. And a deal that buys out his arb years and – say — his first couple years of free agency? Well, that’s obviously more risky, but accordingly, leaves more potential for reward.
Anyway, over at MLB Trade Rumors, Tim Dierkes looks at Madison Bumgarner as an extension candidate. Given a) how talented Bumgarner is, b) how little the Giants would be risking in the grand scheme of things, and c) the modest potential for reward, I say go for it:
A Madison Bumgarner extension is risky, as is the case w/ any SP. But the potential rewards/savings make it worth pursuing.
As most of you probably know by now, the Cardinals yesterday signed Carlos Beltran to a 2 year $26 Million contract. That contract is very reasonable and one that the Giants could have fit into their payroll, had they made re-signing him the top priority. They did not though, and that has angered a lot of Giants fans, myself included. Why didn’t the Giants make Beltran the top priority though? Hank Schulman of the SF Chronicle has some answers
Sabean always has believed that it makes little sense to have one or two big players if the supporting cast is weak. He would rather own a room full of toys than one Xbox 360. He was ripped for that philosophy in 1996, ripped for it again after the 2003 season when he didn’t make a move for Vlad Guerrero and is being ripped for it today. But he is not budging
The 2003 example is interesting compared to the current situation. Barry Bonds was the greatest player in baseball, but was aging and transitioning from a guy with an OPS in the mid 1000′s to a guy with an OPS in the low 1000′s. He was starting to go into the twilight of his career which, while still incredibly good did make him look closer to mortal. The Giants had also lost the Robin to Bonds’ superman after 2002 when Jeff Kent went to Houston. So the Giants had a fantastic slugger but their core was aging and could use an infusion of talent. Which brought up RF Vladimir Guerrero who was a 28 year old free agent coming off a huge year, hitting .330/.426/.586 with more walks than strikeouts. So did the Giants make an effort to sign him?
Q: Did you ever make an offer for Vladimir Guerrero?
Sabean: In a word: No. If we had signed Guerrero or [Gary] Sheffield, we would have been without [Jim] Brower, [Scott] Eyre, [Matt] Herges, [Dustin] Hermanson, [Brett] Tomko, [A.J.] Pierzynski, [Pedro] Feliz, [J.T.] Snow, [Jeffrey] Hammonds, [Dustan] Mohr and [Michael] Tucker–obviously not being able to field a competitive team, especially from an experience standpoint, given our level of spending.
Now this may come across as overly cynical-and I truly don’t mean it to be. But I just see some similarities to the 2003 team and this team. I think given the rising salaries of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and even Madison Bumgarner combined with the rate of attrition for pitchers the Giants window of opportunity could be shorter than most think. I do think that the Giants are in better shape for the future than they were in 2003. But I do think that given Arizona and San Diego’s strong farm systems, Los Angeles’ forthcoming ownership improvement, and Colorado’s solid balance, the time for the Giants to strike was now, but instead Sabean is again seeing a window close and not changing his methods to help extend the Giants window of opportunity.