The Immortal Edmonds?

Aaron Gleeman notes that Jim Edmonds is talking about hanging it up, and that Edmonds really should get more serious consideration for the Hall of Fame:

I’m fairly certain Edmonds won’t come close to getting the votes necessary for the Hall of Fame, but he has a very good case and is perhaps one of the most underrated players of this era. He’s an eight-time Gold Glove winner with 391 career homers and a .902 lifetime OPS that ranks 10th all time among center fielders. Few people seem to recognize it, but Edmonds is likely one of the dozen best center fielders in baseball history.

I didn’t rate Edmonds when I ran my look at similar players after the 2005 season and don’t have time to do a full run of those numbers now, but I’d agree that he deserves a look; his issue is durability. If you isolate his 11-year prime from 1995-2005, you get an excellent hitter (.293/.388/.554, 141 OPS+) and fielder over enough years to make the core of a Hall of Fame career; quality-wise, my guess is he stacks up pretty well in the company of Earl Averill, Bernie Williams, Kirby Puckett, Larry Doby and Earle Combs, four of whom are already in Cooperstown on the basis of 9-10 year primes. But then look at their plate appearances per 162 scheduled games: 699 for Averill, 649 for Bernie, 678 for Puckett, 630 for Doby, 682 for Combs; Edmonds, at 560, is more in the league with Reggie Smith, Jimmy Wynn and Fred Lynn, all of whom were also Cooperstown-quality talents. The plate appearances largely reflect a lost 1999 season, although he also missed extensive time in 1996 and played fewer than 145 games in 1997, 2002, 2003 and 2005, notching 600 plate appearances only five times in a 17-year career. Edmonds’ per-162 line for 1995-2005, age 25-35: 135 games, 560 PA, 94 Runs, 88 RBI, 30 HR, only 8 GDP. Fairly or not, he’s also lacking the extensive postseason heroics of guys like Bernie and Puckett, although his .274/.361/.513 line in the postseason, two pennants and a World Series ring (all with the Cardinals) aren’t too shabby.
I’ll need to look at his candidacy more closely down the line, but the lost time chips away at his credentials in a fairly substantial way. I know I’ve belabored this point, but far too much statistical analysis overlooks the value of in-season durability. Edmonds deserves a look and maybe on further reflection he belongs in, but he’s going to be a borderline candidate, in my view.

6 thoughts on “The Immortal Edmonds?”

  1. I certainly know Edmonds but never saw him play enough to develop a big-picture view of him. The four things I do know (or have been told) that I think may play against him (other than the durability that you mentioned) are:
    1) His best power numbers come in 2000-2004. While I don’t know that anyone thinks Edmonds was PEDing it certainly doesn’t help your cause that 3 of your 4 years that you went for more than 30 HRs came here and the only 2 40+ HR years are in here as well. Not even hinting that Edmonds was juicing but this era is so freaking tainted that virtually everyone is suspect.
    2) He was on a WS winning team but his WS numbers are .156/.250/.219 and way more people are going to remember him striking out about 50 times against Keith Foulke in 2004 than anything else he did in 2006.
    3) He was never the best or really even among the best OFs of his era (and perhaps this relates to PEDs and works in his favor if people think he was completely clean).
    4) While I saw the highlight reel catches as much as anyone did several Cardinal and Angel fans swear that a large portion of them were born of poor positioning, bad jumps on the ball and questionable routes to the ball. Don’t know if it’s true or not but when a bunch of people who watched him a lot say stuff like that you have to wonder what voters think.
    Just saying. Don’t really know, but I would guess he’s not getting in.
    Since you datamine I would be interested to see an overview on the actually fairly interesting race for the Triple Crown going on between Votto and Pujols. I know Pujols is now over .010 behind in BA but that is really the stat that can be made up most easily in a couple of hot/cold days. Certainly there have been a lot of guys who have made runs at the Triple Crown over the past 40+ years but when was the last time that two guys in the same league came into the last month of the season with a realistic shot of winning it? And can Omar Infante ruin it on the last day or two of the year with his 502nd PA and completely screw over one of the two if they had the lead going into the last weekend?

  2. “with 391 career homers and a .902 lifetime OPS that ranks 10th all time among center fielders”
    Subtract 100 homers and .100 in OPS, because he played in the steroid era. Then tell me where he ranks.

  3. So based on the above do you think Bernie Williams has a better HOF case than Edmonds? Remembering all his post season heroics and where he batted in that lineup.

  4. jim – I think it’s fair to say that Edmonds’ career pattern – a guy who battled injuries in his 20s, then found more power and durability in his 30s – in the context of the times will subject him to questions about PEDs even in the absence of any evidence that he took them.
    A.S. – Look at the 141 OPS+ – Edmonds was significantly better than the league-average hitter when adjusted for context.
    dch – I think Bernie will make it. His virtues were subtle, but guys like that can get in if they’ve won enough championships. Of course, while Bernie hit .321/.413/.549 career in the ALCS, he also hit .208/.319/.358 career in the World Series.

  5. In HOF arguments, context is everything. And for a centerfielder, it’s probably the hardest of all. Because looming large for Edmonds, and Bernie Williams too, who comes up a bit earlier, but won’t be a first ballot guy probably, is Ken Griffey Jr. Among the few superstarts untainted by steroids, and among the greatest to ever play a historically packed position, Edmonds will look really bad. Silly because he was really good. Maybe a Chipper Jones type of good, but Larry played mostly third, a less crowded place to be.
    Junior played on the Mantle/Mays/Cobb level. Where does he stand? Well, if Griffey was your first draft choice to start a team, I don’t think anyone is going to complain. And if you have to analyze if someone belongs in the Hall and give it some thought, he ain’t a Hall of Famer.

  6. jim,
    Edmonds played intentionally more shallow than most CF because he was able to get back and get those long fly balls despite being positioned in a place you don’t seem to have liked. Playing shallow allowed him to get to balls that might otherwise drop in if he were positioned as you seem to want him to have been – yet he could still get to the deep balls as well.

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