Red Sox DH: David Ortiz
Career Stats: .286/.380/.552, 141 OPS+, 2472 H, 541 HR, 1768 RBI, 55.3 WAR
Year on Ballot: 10th
Current Percentage: 83.6%
The biggest story of the 2022 Hall of Fame election cycle is whether David Ortiz can sneak over the 75% threshold and become just the fourth majority DH to be elected to Cooperstown. According to Jason Sardell’s model, Ortiz is projected to get 77.6% of the vote and get elected in 79% of the simulations.
There is no doubt that the elections of Edgar Martinez and Harold Baines have helped Ortiz’s odds. Though Frank Thomas was the first Hall of Famer to play most of his games at DH, Martinez redefined the position, as the league’s top DH award is named after him. Martinez was no doubt the more efficient player, as he has Ortiz beat handily in average (.312 to .286), on-base percentage (.418 to .380), and JAWS (55.8 to 45.3).
What Ortiz lacks in rate stats, however, he makes up in volume. Ortiz blows Martinez out of the water in home runs (555 to 309), total bases (4765 to 3718), and RBI (1768 to 1283). All in all, Martinez and Ortiz are pretty similar players, and Ortiz would likely not have the same support if not for Martinez’s election in 2019.
If Martinez’s election helped Ortiz’s odds, Baines’ one should make Ortiz a shoo-in. Baines had one of the weakest resumes of any modern Hall of Famer. His 38.7 WAR is the lowest of any Hall of Famer who has debuted in the expansion era. Baines cannot stack up to Ortiz in any category, whether it be accolades like All-Star appearances (10-6), rate stats like OPS+ (141 to 121), or cumulative stats like home runs (555 to 383). By any measure, Ortiz was a far superior player.
There are two big knocks that voters use when dismissing Ortiz’s candidacy. The first is his lack of innings in the field. While there have been other players elected to the Hall of Fame who have spent substantial time at DH, none spent nearly as much time as Ortiz, who took nearly 87% of his plate appearances at the position. This lack of defensive value leaves Ortiz’s career JAWS at just 45.3, nearly nine points below the Hall of Fame first base standard.
The second knock on Ortiz’s candidacy is his appearance in the 2003 Mitchell Report. It was revealed in 2009 that Ortiz was one of more than 100 players that tested positive for a now-banned substance during the league’s 2003 anonymous tests. Yet Oritz is already polling higher than steroid users Clemens and Ramirez.
His defenders can point to the fact that he did not fail a steroid test in the thirteen years of his career when MLB conducted tests. Ortiz was further vindicated by commissioner Rober Manfred casting doubt on the results of the 2003 tests. “Even if your name was on the list, it was entirely possible that you were not positive,” said Manfred in 2016.
With Ortiz polling at over 83%, it is clear that most voters are willing to focus more on Ortiz’s elite hitting ability and incredible October resume (.289/.404/.542, 17 HR, 61 RBI) than his nonexistent defense and steroid allegations. Odds are that he will receive the necessary 75% this year, and even if he doesn’t get elected in 2022, Ortiz’s time will come sooner than later.