Hey there folks. Sorry if it’s been a while, but it’s been a busy off-season for me and time has flown by. I’ve been thinking about a variety of things lately and one of them is our favorite catcher, Yadier Molina and another is the Hall of Fame.
As you know, Yadi won his 9th Gold Glove this year. He is regarded by many as a future HOF-er. However, there is another former Cardinal with more GGs than Yadi with 11 (and an MVP award) who has never sniffed the Hall. Keith Hernandez.
Let’s set aside the fact catcher is a more important defensive position than first base, as you know that’s the first thing everyone will say to me. If Yadi retired right now, he’d have roughly 38 WAR, while Keith retired with 60 WAR. Yadi is on the downside of his career, so that 22 WAR difference is going to be hard to make up. (BTW, I’m using the BBREF WAR for reference.) Given this, why is Yadi the sure thing while Keith didn’t even sniff the HOF?
I checked the average WAR for both catchers and first baseman already in the Hall. For catchers it’s 53.5. Yadi is at 38.9 currently. For first base it’s 68.8. Keith retired with 60.4. I don’t think Yadi will make up the entire difference, though he’ll close the gap a bit. Still, that means both players will be below the Hall’s average. I love Yadi, and what he brings to the ball club, but setting aside the fan in me, it seems like you can make a better argument for Keith. More GGs, MVP, higher career average…
On the other hand, Yadi has more All-Star appearances. I wonder though, if, at this point, some of Yadi’s ASG appearances are legacy and respect ones. He puts up solid stats certainly, but he’s also a well known and highly regarded player both by the fans and within the sport. Heck, and this may be blasphemy, but it may even be possible that he’s into legacy territory with the GGs too. He’s no Derek Jeter but his arm isn’t as young as it once was either. Still, Keith’s has more GGs, an MVP, higher career average and OBP (.296/.384 to Yadi’s .282/.334). He also had more top 5 MVP finishes (3 to 2) and Silver Slugger awards (2 to 1)
That means, therefore, it’s about 2 things.
1) Positional expectations.
This is where Keith suffers the most in my opinion. He wasn’t your typical power hitting 1B. Rather he was a defensive guy who hit for a good average, had some line drive pop, and had good plate discipline. From what I’ve seen, HOF voters don’t look for defense at 1B. Average and eye, some, but what they really want is power. Keith didn’t have that and it hurt his chances. Yadi, on the other hand, is a good defender at a position where defense is valued. The fact that he had an above average bat for most of his career only adds to his value.
In this regard, it’s the expectations that matter.
This is always a murky category in my opinion, especially given the different positions these two played. Still, Yadi has a reputation as an excellent on field leader and is often seen as a second pitchin coach out there on the field. Few catchers have ever handled pitchers better. Based on a brief scan, I didn’t see such things said about Keith in regards, to say, aligning the infield defense according to hitter tendencies. From what I’ve seen, he didn’t have the same on field reputation as Yadi. The edge to Yadi, therefore, comes from expectations and leadership, nothing statistical.
I think those things added to his stats will get him in. The fan in me will rejoice. The statistician in me will wonder why.
As always, thanks for reading.