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Edmonds: The Next Forgotten One

When a good player hangs up his cleats, be it of his own volition or a lack of offers, a good chunk the baseball analysis community tends to forget everything they know, gravitating towards the Hall of Fame extremes. Either a player is or isn’t worthy of Cooperstown enshrinement. It does not matter that the writers spent countless words evaluating the subtle nuances of his performance over the years or just how valuable he was to a team, because he either played well enough to get into the Hall of Fame, or he didn’t. I’m not sure how or when this all occurred, but it is quite bothersome considering that the players who do not get in are generally forgotten unless they stick around as coaches or took part in controversies, like those involving drugs.

Sure, I might see Evan Longoria‘s torrid RBI pace (yes, I know RBIs are not that important, keep your saber-snark in your pants) to start the season and remark about the incredible offensive years from Juan Gonzalez at the turn of the century, but Juan-Gone is nothing but a footnote these days. Sadly, I fear that Jim Edmonds is in store for a similar fate, not based on his actual career accomplishments but rather the perception of what constitutes a Hall of Fame player.

Edmonds played for 16 seasons, and realistically should be playing right now given the outfield situation of at least the Braves, and likely a few others. Despite a reputation for being particularly fragile, he did manage to surpass the 400 PA plateau in all but three of his seasons. Since he became a full-time starter in 1995, and our win value data extends back to 2002, I am going to call upon Rally’s Baseball Projection site for the pertinent WAR numbers, an appropriate choice given that Edmonds began his career with the Angels. Early on, Edmonds developed a reputation for being a tremendous fielder, a reputation occasionally matched by the numbers; statistically he was not as solid as he looked but he sure was fun to watch.

The defensive reputation also overshadowed his offensive contributions. From 1995-98, his first four full seasons, Edmonds averaged 28 home runs, a .360 OBP and ranged from .371-.404 in wOBA. Fuse his offense and defense together with a mix of positional adjustment and value above replacement and Edmonds put up WAR marks of 6.2, 4.8, 4.1 and 4.2. He missed significant time in 1999 and found himself a member of the St. Louis Cardinals as the 2000 season rolled around. This would mark the beginning of Edmonds’ peak, when his 1995-98 maximum WAR of 6.2 would look a tad on the low side.

From 2000-05, Edmonds averaged 35 home runs, never hitting fewer than 28. His OBP never fell lower than .385 and his wOBA ranged from .386-.436. According to Baseball Projection, here were his win values: 6.6, 6.3, 7.2, 7.5, 8.4, 6.9. His career declined following the 2005 season thanks to the wear and tear of playing such a demanding position as well as simple aging. Even at 38 years old, though, he might serve as an upgrade over a few starting outfielders.

What doesn’t bode well for Edmonds’ chances of making the hall are his good but not insane numbers in a fantastic offensive era, his defensive reputation overshadowing the solid offense, and that the bulk of his peak not only coincided with Scott Rolen‘s, but also with the emergence of Albert Pujols. In fact, speaking of Pujols, as it currently stands, Rally’s site has Edmonds at 67.9 wins and Pujols at 67.8. Sure, Edmonds began getting regular playing time six years prior to Pujols’ debut, but to do in essentially 13 seasons what Pujols has done in eight is still incredibly impressive.

He might get bonus points for appearing clean relative to others throughout the era, which is dumb, but I digress. Edmonds had a pretty fantastic career and deserves to be more than simply a guy on the cusp of the hall that gets forgotten within ten years of being left off the ballot. If I had a vote, he would certainly garner my support, as he deserves to be remembered. What say you?