Former St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Scott Rolen is a Hall of Famer. Change my mind.
On January 26th, 2021, the Baseball Writers’ Association of American (BBWAA) will release the voting results for the 2021 Hall of Fame class. If Scott Rolen does not make it this year, he should in the next few years. His eight Gold Glove awards make him one of the greatest defensive third basemen of all time. To compliment his defensive prowess, Rolen belted over 300 home-runs and eclipsed the 2,000 hit mark.
Sabermetrics show Rolen as a Hall of Famer, as his numbers parallel with other Hall of Fame third-basemen. Jay Jaffe of FanGraphs recently posted his JAWS score for the Hall of Fame candidates earlier this week. When writing about Rolen, Jaffe notes that he was the best third-basemen of his generation, headlined by a stellar 2004 season that saw Rolen finish 4th in the NL MVP voting.
A breakdown of Rolen’s career WAR, peak WAR and JAWS score shows he is right there with the best:
- Scott Rolen: 70.1 bWAR, 43.6 Peak WAR, 56.9 JAWS score
- Average HOF 3B: 68.4 bWAR, 43.1 Peak WAR, 55.7 JAWS score
Not only does Rolen compare to the best of the best, his career statistics are similar to a noteworthy Hall of Fame third baseman for a National League rival. Let’s look at Rolen’s numbers compared to Chicago Cubs legend Ron Santo:
- Scott Rolen: .364 OBP, .490 SLG, 2077 Hits, 316 HRs, 70.1 bWAR, .368 wOBA, 122 wRC+
- Ron Santo: .362 OBP, .464 SLG, 2254 Hits, 342 HRs, 70.5 bWAR, .367 wOBA, 126 wRC+
While Santo has the advantage in hits, home runs and weighted runs-created +, Rolen bests Santo in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and weighted on-base average. When two baseball players have a difference of .4 between them in WAR, they are often considered the same player. I personally do not like to play the “What-If” game, but one has to wonder if Rolen did not catch the injury bug in various seasons, could he have bested Santo in hits and homers?
The 2021 Hall of Fame ballot does not feature any names that instantly stand out. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens would be shoe-ins for induction, but PED allegations have hindered their candidacy. Perhaps the most likely candidate to make it this year, Curt Schilling, may not make it in not for drugs or performance, but for being bat (bleeping) crazy.
Not all Hall of Fame candidates are perfect, and this is true in the case of Rolen. Some writers might question whether he belongs in Cooperstown or in the mythical “Hall of Very Good”. Some might say that Rolen was not the best player on his team during his peak years, nor did he have a signature moment ala Carlton Fisk or Bill Mazeroski. These detractors can be put to the wayside.
- Game 7, 2004 NLCS, off Roger Clemens
- Game 1, 2006 World Series, off a rookie pitcher named Justin Verlander
Rolen’s individual accolades and numbers show he belongs in the Hall of Fame. With statistics almost equivalent to Ron Santo, the case for his enshrinement strengthens. His ability to deliver in the postseason, plus have a clean reputation void of performance-enhancing drugs should behoove the BBWAA members to check his name on their ballot.