Analysis

Scott Rolen’s Case for Cooperstown

2022 marks the fifth time that Scott Rolen has appeared on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame ballot. After passing the 5% threshold by securing 10% of the vote in 2018, his first year on the ballot, he has steadily gained more traction each year since. He finished with 17% of the vote in 2019, 35% in 2020, and 53% in 2021. Historically, players who were on a similar trajectory have almost always reached the 75% mark required for induction. Scott Rolen’s career speaks for itself, he deserves to join this elite company.

One of the most important rules about the voting process is that each writer is allowed to select a maximum of 10 players on the ballot. In 2022 there is a total of 30 eligible players. He is one of 5 with a career Baseball Reference WAR above 70 along with Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, and Curt Schilling. His peak numbers also stack up well, with his WAR7, his Baseball Reference WAR from his best 7 seasons, ranking 8th in this group. Additionally, during the span of 1998-2004 he accumulated the third most FanGraphs WAR in the major leagues, trailing only Bonds and Rodriguez. Rolen has a strong case among candidates on the ballot this year, but another standard that can add some clarity are Hall of Famers at his position.

There are currently 17 third basemen in the Hall of Fame, the least among any position on the field behind catchers at 19. Even at the most exclusive position in Cooperstown, Scott Rolen makes a very strong case for why he belongs with them. His offensive numbers alone hold their own within this group. His 316 HRs would rank 8th, his .364 OBP would rank 10th, his .490 SLG would rank 5th, and his 122 wRC+ would rank 9th. However, his defense is what pushes him over the edge. His 180.3 Defensive Runs Above Average rank 5th among third basemen all-time and would rank 2nd among Hall of Fame third basemen behind only Brooks Robinson. All of this together would give him the 8th best fWAR for a 3B in the HOF. Seeing as these 17 players have already been enshrined, it means that he would be above average in what is already the least represented position.

Although these statistics make a very good case for Rolen, the Hall of Fame is subjective by design. There is no specific milestone that a player can reach in their career that guarantees them a spot. Additional considerations are factored in such as the character clause which has kept Schilling off many voter’s ballots. PED allegations have seriously hurt the case of many players on the 2022 ballot including Bonds, Clemens, and Rodriguez as well. Rolen is one of the only players on the ballot who had such a distinguished career without drawing this type of controversy in recent years. And while his statistics make his case alone, he also has the hardware to back it up. In his 17 seasons he won Rookie of the Year, a Silver Slugger, 8 Gold Gloves, got 7 All Star Game nods, and received MVP votes in 4 seasons, finishing 4th in 2004.

In a vacuum, Scott Rolen had a great career that stacks up to his peers during his playing days as well as the other great third basemen that came before him. His accomplishments only look even more impressive coming from the high offense era when he played. His accolades solidify his case from every possible angle. Overall, Scott Rolen stands out as one of the strongest candidates on the Hall of Fame ballot as it stands as well as an all-time great third baseman.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.


Featured Photo: Cardinals / Twitter

Quinn Mortimore

I'm a Cardinals fan from Springfield, MO. I love everything about baseball. @QuinnSTLCards on Twitter.

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