Why Scott Rolen is headed to the Baseball Hall of Fame

Congrats to Scott Rolen, who will be a part of Fred McGriff on induction day in Cooperstown, New York, this July as the latest members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Rolen made electoral historical past together with his choice: He now has the bottom first-year vote share — simply 10.2% — of any participant to finally get to the 75% required from the writers since trendy voting procedures started in 1966.

Rolen’s meteoric rise over six ballots has some followers questioning … effectively, to place it politely, what the heck is occurring right here. Scott Rolen?!? For them, he does not cross the “eye test” for Hall of Fame standing — a check that often appears to high out with the likes of Willie Mays, Henry Aaron, Johnny Bench and Ken Griffey Jr., as if the Hall of Fame ought to solely elect essentially the most indeniable of candidates.

With that thoughts, allow us to dig into Rolen’s profession somewhat bit. Listed here are six causes he’s headed to Cooperstown.

1. His WAR is Hall-worthy.

We’ll begin together with his profession WAR. Sure, it isn’t the Hall of WAR, however it’s an inexpensive place to begin that helps clarify why the baseball writers received round to supporting Rolen. The Hall of Fame has at all times been about electing the finest gamers — some mixture of profession worth and peak excellence. WAR is a information to profession worth and helps us assess a participant extra successfully than counting on the attention check or a intestine feeling. No, it isn’t the entire reply, however it’s an vital a part of the equation and provides us context past numbers like hits or house runs that ignore place or protection.

Rolen’s profession WAR of 70.1 suits proper in with latest Hall of Fame picks, effectively above even the bottom bar of gamers elected. I checked out all Baseball Writers’ Affiliation of America picks since 2000 — ignoring aid pitchers (who’ve decrease WAR totals) and veterans committee picks (since committees take the leftovers the writers fail to elect). Together with Rolen, that provides us an inventory of 39 Hall of Famers.

Their common WAR is 73.4. Rolen comes proper smack within the center: 19 gamers have extra profession WAR, and 19 have much less. He’s squeezed in between Gary Carter and Tim Raines.

2. He’s the ninth-best third baseman of all time.

Of the eight gamers forward of Rolen in WAR on the place, seven are within the Hall of Fame and the eighth is Adrian Beltre, who hits the poll subsequent 12 months. There are a number of Hall of Famers under him, together with Residence Run Baker, Jimmy Collins, Pie Traynor and George Kell — a reminder that you do not have to be Mike Schmidt or George Brett to make it.

Rolen’s worth is type of the dividing line between the Hall of Famers and different extra trendy third basemen who did not get in, together with Ken Boyer, Darrell Evans and Graig Nettles (all wonderful two-way gamers).

This is one other approach to take a look at it. MLB Community ran an inventory of the ninth-best gamers at every place:

C – Joe Mauer (55.2)

1B – Willie McCovey (64.5)

2B – Roberto Alomar (67.0)

SS – Pee Wee Reese (68.4)

3B – Scott Rolen (70.1)

LF – Willie Stargell (57.5)

CF – Richie Ashburn (64.2)

RF – Tony Gwynn (69.2)

That is fairly good firm for those who ask me. All are Hall of Famers aside from Mauer, who just isn’t but eligible (and joins Beltre on the poll subsequent 12 months). No, these aren’t essentially gamers seen as inner-circle Hall of Famers, except Gwynn, however it’s a robust listing of well-qualified Hall of Famers.

3. Sure, his protection was that good.

Rolen’s WAR is boosted by sturdy defensive metrics; however if you wish to imagine within the eye check, then his protection additionally passes with Secretariat-like flourish. He received eight Gold Gloves, which speaks to how his D was seen whereas lively. Going again into the contemporaneous accounts, some commentary:

  • Tony La Russa known as Rolen the very best defensive third baseman he had ever seen. “I told him once, my happiest day would be if there’s a game where 27 ground balls get to third base,” La Russa stated in 2002. “The way he plays that position, the way he runs the bases, the way he takes his at-bats, he is a complete player.”

  • Mike Schmidt, who received 10 Gold Gloves, stated in 2004 that Rolen is “better than me.”

  • Dusty Baker, Rolen’s supervisor in Cincinnati: “He has one of the truest throws to first I’ve seen.”

  • Jim Fregosi, Rolen’s first supervisor within the majors: “He’s got more range than any of our shortstops.”

  • Terry Francona, Rolen’s supervisor with the Phillies, when requested if Rolen may play shortstop: “He’s covering short now.”

The anecdotal proof backs up the statistical measurements. Rolen was the Nolan Arenado of his technology.

4. His hitting was higher than you understand.

We’ll begin with some old-school stats. It is honest to say that Rolen’s counting stats do not scream tremendous loud, largely as a result of he did miss vital time with accidents in his 30s. Nonetheless, amongst third basemen (who performed at the very least 50% of their video games on the place), he’s:

Tied for fifteenth in house runs (one much less profession lengthy ball than George Brett)

For fee stats (minimal 6,000 plate appearances), he’s:

  • Seventh in OPS (his OPS was .855; Brett’s was .857)

  • twelfth in OPS+ (122, the identical as fellow Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Paul Molitor and Tony Perez)

  • Seventh in slugging share

All of it provides as much as a borderline top-10 offensive third basemen and one of many biggest defensive third basemen of all time. (Baseball-Reference’s fielding metrics credit score solely Brooks Robinson and Adrian Beltre with extra fielding runs at third base.) That is why Rolen is high 10 on the place, and in my e book, for those who’re high 10, you are a Hall of Famer.

A part of the important thing right here: Third base is the last word hybrid place: some offense and a few protection. It’s a motive that it is the most underrepresented place in Cooperstown. It is a troublesome place to judge.

5. He was underrated in his personal time.

One of many anti-Rolen arguments is that his solely top-10 MVP end got here in 2004, when he completed fourth. However that is type of the purpose to every little thing right here: We’re smarter than we was once, higher at understanding why groups win and lose baseball video games than we had been in 1997, when Rolen was named Nationwide League Rookie of the Yr. Rolen’s preliminary years had been spent on dangerous Phillies groups; his first 4 Philadelphia groups averaged 91 losses, which did not assist him get quite a lot of recognition early on. Protection has at all times been an underappreciated artwork, and each gifted defensive third basemen since Brooks Robinson has performed in his shadow and barely will get sufficient credit score. (Though Nolan Arenado is lastly breaking that pattern, partially as a result of it has been almost 50 years since Robinson performed, in order that shadow is lastly waning.)

From 1997 to 2004, his eight-year peak, Rolen was third in WAR, behind Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez. In uncooked batting totals, he was eighth in doubles, 14th in RBIs, seventeenth in runs and twenty third in house runs. I am not advocating that he ought to have received a number of MVP awards, and he wasn’t a top-10 hitter within the recreation (besides 2004), however he was an excellent, productive hitter who was one of many recreation’s finest all-around gamers for eight seasons and nonetheless a strong participant after that. We simply did not understand how good on the time.

6. Joey Votto agrees.

“I loved playing with him,” his former Reds teammate stated in a video posted on social media. “I learned so much. If any player is lucky enough to have a role model and a teammate like him, they’re as lucky as it gets. I shaped my career, my effort, my work in his mold. He’s a Hall of Famer today. Deserving. And I have nothing but respect for him and his achievements.”

Is Rolen a slam dunk Hall of Famer? After all not. However one query that’s price asking about each Hall candidate: Does a participant increase or decrease the present Hall of Fame requirements? Rolen raises the requirements.