Posted by Andy on March 2, 2010
On a recent blog post here, a reader pointed us to a discussion on another blog about Jim Edmonds' Hall of Fame chances. The source blog is this post on The House that Dewey Built, writing generally dedicated to the Red Sox.
According to the author, Edmonds has 72.20 wins above a replacement player, more than numerous other Hall of Famers such as Willie Stargell, Dave Winfield, Ande Dawson, and Jim Rice. Also noted is Edmonds' career OPS+ of 132, a really good number.
I have to admit--if I had been asked about Edmonds before seeing these numbers, I would have regarded his HOF chances as slim to none. That 132 number is tough to ignore, though, especially given that he was (is?) a centerfielder.
Let's see what we can find as far as numbers go. There are only 64 players since 1901 with more plate appearances than Edmonds and an OPS+ of at least 132. The vast majority of those guys are Hall of Famers with some of the leftovers including Edgar Martinez, Ken Singleton, Will Clark, Jose Canseco, Reggie Smith, Norm Cash, and Boog Powell. Of the 29 non-HOFers ahead of Edmonds, an excellent HOF case can be made for at least 16 of them (when ignoring steroids-related issues.) That means the total number of non-HOF calibur players ahead of Edmonds is at best a dozen players. There are another 18 HOFs below Edmonds (with fewer PAs.) So, right off, this is clearly not a crazy debate.
I think in terms of raw numbers and length of career, Edmonds is clearly good enough to be reasonably considered for the Hall of Fame. Let's look at his peak and see how dominant he was. His best 5-year career stretch was clearly 2000-2004, his first 5 seasons with the Cardinals, when his seasonal OPS+ was never below 146. Let's look at leaders over that period.
Here are the top OPS+ figures for the years 2000-2004, minimum 2000 plate appearances:
So Edmonds slides into the top 10, well ahead of lots of excellent players. Bonds was in a class by himself, but at 156 Edmonds isn't all that far off the pace of the #2 guy, Jason Giambi. I think a reasonable argument can be made that Edmonds was one of the dominant players in baseball at his peak. I'm sure he was helped immensely by hitting in the same order as Albert Pujols, but I don't think Edmonds can be penalized for this. He took the opportunities given to him and did the most with them. Incidentally, for the period 2000-2004, Edmonds also makes the top 10 for home runs.
Edmonds also played on two World Series teams, including one winner (2006 Cardinals.)
Regarding his defense, I know there are mixed opinions. I know early in his career he was accused of intentionally taking slow routes to balls just so he could make a diving catch and get on SportsCenter. Some thought he missed a few balls due to showboating. I have no idea if these are true. The detailed defensive stats suggest that his range wasn't as good as some think. I'm not sure how to look at the numbers here, but I will say this: the guy was good enough to be a starting centerfielder for many years, and that says something. From a defensive standpoint, the CF is more valuable than the LF or the RF and so Edmonds deserves some 'extra credit' here.
The biggest knocks on Edmonds that I can back up are that his ancillary batting numbers are not all that great. While he's 56th career in homers and 50th in slugging percentage, his RBI total is good for only 148th. Why didn't he drive in more runs? His career walk total is only 121st all time but he's 26th in strikeouts. He's ranked in the top 10 in hits or batting (for a given season) only once each and career wise he's way down the lists. His most similar players are Andruw Jones, Ellis Burks, Jason Giambi, Dick Allen, and Shawn Green. That's a good group but not Hall of Famers.
Hmm, so what do you think? Please vote in the poll below and post a comment with your opinion.