A golden glove and an underrated bat: Here’s what makes Scott Rolen a Hall of Famer

Congrats to Scott Rolen, who will be part of Fred McGriff on induction day in Cooperstown, New York, this July as the most recent members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Rolen made electoral historical past along with his choice: He now has the bottom first-year vote proportion — 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 happening right here. Scott Rolen?!? For them, he would not move the “eye test” for Hall of Fame standing — a check that often appears to prime 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 probably the most indeniable of candidates.

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

1. His WAR is Hall-worthy.

We’ll begin along with his profession WAR. Yes, it isn’t the Hall of WAR, however it’s an affordable place to begin that helps clarify why the baseball writers acquired 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 whole reply, however it’s an essential a part of the equation and provides us context past numbers like hits or residence runs that ignore place or protection.

Rolen’s profession WAR of 70.1 matches proper in with current Hall of Fame picks, effectively above even the bottom bar of gamers elected. I checked out all Baseball Writers’ Association 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). Including Rolen, that offers 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 is squeezed in between Gary Carter and Tim Raines.

2. He is 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 yr. There are a number of Hall of Famers under him, together with Home 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 form 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 glorious two-way gamers).

Here’s one other means to take a look at it. MLB Network 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’s fairly good firm if you happen to ask me. All are Hall of Famers apart from Mauer, who isn’t but eligible (and joins Beltre on the poll subsequent yr). No, these should not essentially gamers considered as inner-circle Hall of Famers, except for Gwynn, however it’s a robust listing of well-qualified Hall of Famers.

3. Yes, his protection was that good.

Rolen’s WAR is boosted by robust 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 considered whereas energetic. Going again into the contemporaneous accounts, some commentary:

  • Tony La Russa known as Rolen the very best defensive third baseman he had even seen. I instructed him as soon as, my happiest day can be if there is a sport the place 27 groundballs get to 3rd base,” La Russa mentioned. “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 won 10 Gold Gloves, said that same year that Rolen is “higher than me.”

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

  • Jim Fregosi, Rolen’s first manager in the majors: “He’s acquired extra vary than any of our shortstops.”

  • Terry Francona, Rolen’s manager with the Phillies, when asked if Rolen could play shortstop: “He’s overlaying brief now.”

The anecdotal evidence backs up the statistical measurements. Rolen was the Nolan Arenado of his generation.

4. His hitting was better than you realize.

We’ll start with some old-school stats. It’s fair to say that Rolen’s counting stats don’t scream super loud, in large part because he did miss significant time with injuries in his 30s. Still, among third basemen (who played at least 50% of their games at the position), he is:

Tied for 15th in home runs (one less career long ball than George Brett)

For rate stats (minimum 6,000 plate appearances), he is:

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

  • 12th in OPS+ (122, the same as fellow Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Paul Molitor and Tony Perez)

  • Seventh in slugging percentage

It all 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’s why Rolen is prime 10 on the place, and in my guide, if you happen to’re prime 10, you are a Hall of Famer.

Part of the important thing right here: Third base is the final word hybrid place: some offense and a few protection. It is a cause that it is the most underrepresented place in Cooperstown. It is a tough place to guage.

5. He was underrated in his personal time.

One of the anti-Rolen arguments is that his solely top-10 MVP end got here in 2004, when he completed fourth. But that is form of the purpose to every 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 National League Rookie of the Year. Rolen’s preliminary years had been spent on unhealthy Phillies groups; his first 4 Philadelphia groups averaged 91 losses, which did not assist him get loads of recognition early on. Defense has at all times been an underappreciated artwork, and each gifted defensive third basemen since Brooks Robinson has performed in his shadow and infrequently will get sufficient credit score. (Although Nolan Arenado is lastly breaking that pattern, partly as a result of it has been practically 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 residence runs. I’m not advocating that he ought to have received a number of MVP awards, and he wasn’t a top-10 hitter within the sport (besides 2004), however he was an excellent, productive hitter who was one of many sport’s finest all-around gamers for eight seasons and nonetheless a strong participant after that. We simply did not know the way good on the time.

6. Joey Votto agrees.

“I loved playing with him,” his former Reds teammate mentioned 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? Of course not. But one query that’s value asking about each Hall candidate: Does a participant increase or decrease the present Hall of Fame requirements? Rolen raises the requirements.