St. Louis Cardinals: Jim Edmonds and the Hall of Fame case
By Paul Layton
By Christmas 2015, the Hall of Fame will have voted on the class of 2016, including St. Louis Cardinals’ former center fielder Jim Edmonds. I am biased towards Jimmy Baseball getting into the HOF, so I felt the need to test my viewpoint. I needed to measure his history more objectively to understand the level of credibility of my claim. With no intent to perform advanced measures and to get more of an old-school feel, I pulled up Baseball Almanac’s stats for center fielders, slapped it into a spreadsheet, and added Edmonds’ stats from Fangraphs.
Edmonds highest ranking is in home runs, rating 5th behind only Mays (660), Mantle (536), Dawson (438) and Snyder (407). Edmonds hit more home runs than DiMaggio and more than Ty Cobb and Kirby Puckett combined. His epic walk-off home run to end Game 6 of the 2004 NLCS stands as just one of his dingers. Having a clutch post-season walk-off along with a high overall tally of 393 home runs links his career performance to my heart. Hopefully the accomplishment sways the Baseball Writers’ Association of America as well.
In slugging percentage he ranks 7th, in front of hall-of-famers Cobb, Dawson, and 12 others. The slugging percentage surprised me, especially to be in front of Dawson who’s years in Montreal and Chicago included many jacks, peaking at 49 during his first year in Chicago. Dawson also holds the record for most times intentionally walked in a game with five. That’s an indication of serious respect and Edmonds stats demonstrate he possessed even more power.
His RBI total ranks 9th as he’s squarely placed in the middle of the pack with 1199 RBIs. He racked up 111 RBIs in 2004 when the Cardinals led the majors with 105 wins. Jim raked in more than 100 RBIs in two other seasons as he hit 108 RBIs in 2000 (his first year in St. Louis) and 110 in 2001, so it’s no single-season fluke. Edmonds produced 80 or more RBIs nine times in his career.
Moving into the weaker categories for Edmonds versus a stellar list of HOF center fielders, he ranks 17th in batting average, 15th in stolen bases, 14th in on-base percentage, and 12th in runs scored. While I use the term “weaker” please remember the measure is within the pool of current hall-of-fame center fielders, which is the best of the best. Also please notice that in all of these offensive categories he never ranks last.
On the defensive side of analysis, I decided to be less quantitative and more qualitative. While I could research the stats, for defense there seems to be more of a feeling about how a person plays more than anything. Edmonds played with reckless abandon. That fervor probably what caused most of his injuries throughout his career, not to mention those in the weight room.
"“It was a spectacular play. It was not out of the ordinary for Jimmy Edmonds. That may have saved the game for them.” – Brad Ausmus on Edmonds 2004 NLCS catch"
Authors of best of lists and directors of highlight reels always include Edmonds’ catches, with two standing out. In the clutch during Game 7 of the NLCS, down one run to Houston in the second inning with runners on first and second, Brad Ausmus cracked a sure hit into the left field gap. Edmonds made an incredible catch to rob him of two RBIs. Ausmus later said, “It was a spectacular play. It was not out of the ordinary for Jimmy Edmonds. That may have saved the game for them.”
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His most incredible catch occurred in an Angels uniform on June 10, 1997 when he made an amazing leaping snag while sprinting back and then diving straight towards the center field wall. It rivals (arguably surpasses) Willie Mays’ epic over the shoulder catch. Reverence for Mays usually lists his as number one, but nobody could argue that Jim’s wasn’t as good or better.
Willie Mays leads all HOF center fielders with 12 gold gloves. As an 8-time gold glove winner, Edmonds tied Dawson and has one more than Puckett’s seven. With many of the members of the HOF earning the award before gold gloves existed, Edmonds cannot be ranked against the entire list but a simple eye test proves his defensive capabilities clearly surpass many in the HOF.
A quick look at Jim Edmonds versus the Hall of Fame center fielder’s stats demonstrates his worthiness to be on the ballot. However, timing works against his rapid entry into the hall itself. Unfortunately for Edmonds, fellow center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. joins him on a first-time ballot with even better offensive numbers. While Griffey Jr. may make it in on his first try, history says there will be at least a 2 year wait for Edmonds. For some odd reason, most players must pay penance in HOF ballot purgatory for awhile. Let’s hope fairness prevails in the process and we see Jimmy Baseball enshrined by 2018.
Editor’s note: For more insightful data on Edmonds and the HOF check out @JimEdmondsHOF on twitter.