Friends of HBT Bill and The Common Man — proprietors of the Platoon Advantage blog — are writing over at ESPN’s Sweet Spot today. Their big conversation starter of the day: a proposal for the Hall of Fame to lower the bar. This, Bill and TCM argue, will help alleve the giant backlog that many have identified as a major problem with future Hall of Fame ballots:
So, to combat the problem, we propose a simple solution: The Hall of Fame should lower the voting threshold needed to elect a candidate from three-fourths of BBWAA voters to two-thirds.
Before you go screaming about this, know this tidbit that Bill and TCM point out: almost everyone who has ever gotten two-thirds of the vote has eventually gotten in anyway. As such, rather than lowering the actual quality of Hall of Fame inductees, it would merely lower the amount of time it would take to get the current quality of players inducted. Rather than let in the unworthy, it would merely eliminate that last year or two in which players who are destined for induction anyway are pushed over the current 75% threshold. Think of it as eliminating one of those years everyone spent arguing for Bert Blyleven. Think of it as cutting off the small cadre of dead enders who penalized Roberto Alomar last year from exacting their moral price.
I’m struggling to think of any real problems with this apart from that of perception, but perception would be a huge problem. It would certainly be spun as the Hall of cheapening its standards, even if no one who wouldn’t have otherwise gotten in gets in now. Unfortunately I think this perception problem would be enough to render the proposal dead on arrival.
Really, the practical way to deal with this is to reform the voting pool, not the voting standards. The actual working baseball writers — the ones who vote on awards and follow the game closely — tend to do a damn fine job when it comes to this sort of thing. The problems, it seems, tend to come from guys who last covered baseball during the Ford administration and hold on to their Hall of Fame voting privileges despite the fact that they now do the senior beat at the Southeast Valley Suburban Advertiser or whatever.
Food for thought, though.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.
Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon hasn’t selected a fifth starter for his 2017 rotation yet, but told reporters that he could envision left-handers Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery sharing the spot throughout the year. Neither pitcher was stretched out to the full 200-inning threshold last year, Maddon added, and suggested that the two could alternate innings out of the rotation and bullpen as needed (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).
Anderson, 29, was acquired by the Cubs in January on a $3.5 million deal. He’s coming off a rough 2016, during which he underwent back surgery and missed all but 11 1/3 innings of his last season with the Dodgers. His last full, healthy year in the majors yielded a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 over 180 1/3 innings with Los Angeles in 2015.
Montgomery, meanwhile, is vying for a rotation spot after pitching almost exclusively from the bullpen during the second half of the Cubs’ 2016 run. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 2.82 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings for Chicago last year, returning in the postseason to post a 3.14 ERA during the Cubs’ championship finish.
Maddon also mentioned the possibility of throwing a sixth starter into the mix, which would help prevent his other starters from getting overworked too early in the year. Either way, Anderson and Montgomery are expected to get a lot of looks early in spring training as rotation spots are finalized in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.