Lee Smith, Pitcher
Smith only spent four years with the St. Louis Cardinals, but he gets the benefit of the doubt here because he is the last ever player to be an exception to the 2014 amendment.
In the most recent change to Hall of Fame voting rules, players can only be on the ballot for ten years. 2017 will be Smith’s 15th year of consideration. He is the last of three players who were granted eligibility past their 10th year. Don Mattingly and Alan Trammell, the other two names of these three grandfathered names, are both now off the ballot and neither of them are in the Hall of Fame.
This begs the question, will Smith be the shining star of the three? He has a good chance. Yet, last year he earned only 34.1 percent of the vote which is not a positive sign for his hopes. He currently owns an HOFm of 127, but an HOFs of only 13. The biggest contributor, as always is what happened during the career though, not what Sabremetrics says.
By the end of his career, Smith had become the first pitcher in MLB history to record 400 saves and ended his career with 478 saves. These 478 rank him third all time in saves. When he retired, however, these 478 were the record number. Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman have since passed the mark set by Smith.
With three Rolaids Relief Man-of-the-Year awards to his resumé, along with seven All-Star appearances, Smith makes a pretty strong case to be inducted in his final year of eligibility.
Of greatest note to Cardinals Nation is the fact that perhaps the best years of his career came as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. During his time wearing the birds on the bat he collected 160 saves with 246 strikeouts and only 68 walks in 245 games.
Unfortunately, due to his eight-year tenure with Chicago, if Smith gets a nod from the writers he will go in as a Cub. During his time there, he collected only 180 saves. With the St. Louis Cardinals, on the other hand, he twice led the league in saves, in only four years.
I don’t think Smith will be inducted by the baseball writers. The percentage he got last year is well-below the required 75 percent, and that kind of jump is a very tall task. While he had a very good career, it will be put in the hands of the appropriate committee to vote him into Cooperstown.