Year Inducted: 2001 (Veterans Committee)
Bill Mazeroski typically comes up on most lists of least deserving or worst Hall of Famers, and there is a good reason for that.
But, why was he considered for induction in the first place? Mazeroski was a phenomenal defensive second baseman. Fangraphs has him as +150 fielding runs above average, which is a great amount. He also hit one of the most famous home runs in baseball history. Mazeroski owns the only walk-off home run in Game 7 history, sending the Pirates to glory and Casey Stengel to the chopping block. Even eminent baseball scholar Bill James once thought that Mazeroski had the most impressive defensive stats of any player. Of course, he thought that in 1988 before someone rewrote what it meant to be a great defender.
However, Mazeroski was literally a glove-only player. His career slash-line was .260/.299/.367 for a wRC+ of only 82. Forbes Field was a cavern (which would suppress his power numbers to a degree), but wRC+ corrects for that. He did manage to top 100 home runs in his career, so that’s not bad, but he really didn’t do a whole lot with the bat. He only scored 769 runs and drove in 853 in his career, meaning he wasn’t productive with his time offensively, either. He also added little as a base runner, managing to steal only 27 bases in a 17-year career.
Ozzie Smith serves as a decent comparison for Mazeroski, as both were renowned defenders at positions up the middle. Ozzie was the superior defender, however, and provided some value offensively. Fangraphs has Ozzie rated as a +239 run defender, as well as being worth 55 runs on the bases. Ozzie also managed to get over 2400 hits in his career. If Mazeroski had similar numbers, he’d have been a slam dunk Hall of Famer.
Maz was an excellent defender, but the game is about more than just defense, and he didn’t do enough outside of it to justify his induction. The reaction to his selection, however, is what started the process for making this ranking system, which means this has been in development off and on for over 15 years.
Stay tuned for the next update, which will feature another player from the Frisch/Terry coalition of the Veterans Committee
On deck 7/8/16: This player was the third baseman for Frisch’s Giants.