Wade Boggs: A First-Ballot Hall of Famer (Part One)
The Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) mailed out the 2005 Hall of Fame ballots to more than 500 voting members during the past week. The list of candidates features 12 players who are eligible for the first time plus 15 holdovers from the 2004 ballot in which Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley gained election. The voting results will be announced on Tuesday, January 4, 2005.
According to the Rules for Election to the Hall of Fame, "voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played."
There is a newcomer whose record and contributions to his teams rank among the best ever. His career totals speak for themselves.
Wade Anthony Boggs
Bats Left, Throws Right
Height 6' 2", Weight 197 lb.
Born: 6/15/58, Omaha, NE
'82-'92 BOS, '93-'97 NYY, '98-'99 TB
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Boggs 2440 9180 1513 3010 578 61 118 1014 1412 745 24
AVG OBP SLG OPS OPS+
.328 .415 .443 .858 130
Wade Boggs averaged 200 hits and 94 walks per 162 games for his entire career. Only Lou Gehrig (204, 113) has averaged more hits and walks per 162 games. Richie Ashburn (190, 89), Eddie Collins (190, 86), Charlie Gehringer (198, 83), Stan Musial (194, 86), and Tris Speaker (204, 80) were close but not quite at Boggs' level in terms of hits and walks.
There have been others, of course, who have exceeded Boggs' averages in one or the other by a wide margin, such as Ty Cobb (224), Rogers Hornsby (210), Joe Jackson (216), Nap Lajoie (212), Al Simmons (214), and George Sisler (222) in hits and Max Bishop (140), Barry Bonds (137), Rickey Henderson (115), Mickey Mantle (117), Mark McGwire (114), Joe Morgan (114), Babe Ruth (133), Frank Thomas (122), Jim Thome (117), Ted Williams (143), and Eddie Yost (124) in walks.
In short, Boggs was an on-base machine. To wit, Boggs ranks among the top 22 in six different hitting categories (involving getting on base) among all players since the turn of the last century.
All-Time Career Totals and Rankings
Hits 3010 20th
Doubles 578 12th
Walks 1412 22nd
Times on Base 4445 17th
On Base Pct .415 17th
Batting Avg .328 20th
As you can see, we're not talking just about a Hall of Famer here. We're looking at one of the truly elite players in the history of the game. Boggs ranks among the top four third basemen of all time and the greatest 20 non-pitchers from the post-expansion era (more on both in Part Two, which is scheduled to run tomorrow). He is a legitimate first-ballot HOFer, a player in which there should be ZERO questions about his qualifications.
During the past 10 years, the following players were elected in their first year of eligibility:
Year Player Pct
2004 Paul Molitor 85.2
2003 Eddie Murray 85.3
2002 Ozzie Smith 91.7
2001 Dave Winfield 84.4
Kirby Puckett 82.1
1999 George Brett 98.2
Robin Yount 77.5
1995 Mike Schmidt 96.5
The eight first-ballot honorees over the past ten years have garnered an average of 87.6% of the vote. Let's take a look to see if Boggs is worthy of a similar percentage of the total vote.
AVG OBP SLG OPS OPS+
Boggs .328 .415 .443 .858 130
Molitor .306 .369 .448 .817 122
Murray .287 .359 .476 .836 129
Smith .262 .337 .328 .666 87
Winfield .283 .353 .475 .827 129
Puckett .318 .360 .477 .837 124
Brett .305 .369 .487 .857 135
Yount .285 .342 .430 .772 115
Schmidt .267 .380 .527 .908 147
Wtd Avg .293 .363 .454 .817 124
Boggs has the best career batting average and on-base percentage. He is just below the mean for slugging average and is above the norm for OPS and OPS+. Mike Schmidt's greatness stands out as well.
Boggs 4445 4064
Molitor 4460 4854
Murray 4606 5397
Smith 3565 3084
Winfield 4351 5221
Puckett 2810 3453
Brett 4283 5044
Yount 4156 4730
Schmidt 3820 4404
Average 4055 4472
Eddie Murray rules here. It didn't hurt that Steady Eddie is the only player in the group to play in 3000 games. Boggs is about 10% above the average in times on base and 9% below the average in total bases in 6% fewer games.
In addition to the offensive measurements listed above, I thought it would be instructive to analyze these nine players by a more comprehensive system such as Win Shares (which takes into account, among other things, defensive contributions).
WS >30 >20 WS/100
Boggs 394 5 10 16.2
Molitor 414 2 10 15.4
Murray 437 3 15 14.4
Smith 325 1 8 12.6
Winfield 415 2 12 14.0
Puckett 281 2 9 15.8
Brett 432 4 11 16.0
Yount 423 4 10 14.8
Schmidt 467 9 14 19.4
Average 399 4 11 15.4
Boggs is just about in line with the norm in terms of the number of Win Shares and seasons with over 30 and 20 but is nearly one full win share per 100 games above his peers (ranking second behind Schmidt). Michael Jack stands out once again, leading in three of the four ways I chose to use Win Shares.
I would conclude from this study that Boggs is not only fully qualified but is likely to receive close to 90% of the vote. Only 15 non-pitchers -- Cobb, Ruth, Honus Wagner, Williams, Musial, Willlie Mays, Hank Aaron, Brooks Robinson, Johnny Bench, Carl Yastrzemski, Rod Carew, Reggie Jackson, Schmidt, George Brett, and Ozzie Smith -- have ever received such a high percentage of the total so it would be noteworthy if Boggs could reach that level. Hard to believe that more than 10% of the voters thought Joe DiMaggio (twice), Mantle, Frank Robinson, and Morgan weren't worthy of the HOF.
Is Boggs as good as DiMaggio, Mantle, (Frank) Robinson, and Morgan? No, he is a cut below those four greats. However, I have no doubt that Boggs was a better player than (Brooks) Robinson -- which is significant given that they played the same position -- Carew, and Smith and is arguably in the same ballpark as Yastrzemski, Jackson, and even Brett.
It is also important to note that voters have become more liberal over the years with respect to voting for players who are eligible for the first time. In other words, I am quite confident that if DiMaggio, Mantle, Robinson, and Morgan -- as well as Collins, Jimmie Foxx, Hornsby, Mel Ott, and Speaker -- were put up to a vote today that they would indeed get at least a 90% share.
I think it is safe to say that Boggs will easily exceed the minimum threshold of 75% and could get as much as 90% of the vote. I would put the over/under at 88%.
Tomorrow: Part Two. A more in depth review of Boggs' accomplishments plus how he ranks among the all-time great third basemen and post-expansion era hitters.