The Hall of Fame case of Vladimir Guerrero

This week, TOC will be looking at five players who recently announced their retirements from the game and their potential Hall of Fame cases. Today, things get a lot more complicated, as we look at Vladimir Guerrero.

In his prime, Vladimir Guerrero was one of the most electric players to watch in baseball. He could hit a pitch at his shoelaces over the fence, dump a pitch a foot outside into right right, and then steal second without a throw. But Guerrero's prime was spent in Montreal, and by the time he stepped into the limelight with the Angels, he wasn't that same player anymore. Without any further ado, the Keltner List.

Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?
In 2004, Guerrero won the AL MVP award, topping Gary Sheffield in the voting by 100 points. He wasn't the best player in baseball at the time because of the years Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols, and Adrian Beltre were having, but Guerrero was a destroyer in the American League. You can also scale things back a bit to 2000, when Guerrero belted 44 homers and hit .345, and 2002, when Guerrero finished one home run shy of a 40/40 season, and look at him as a top five player in baseball (or better) in each of those years.

Was he the best player on his team?
Guerrero was not only the best players on the Expos during his career as a full-time player in Montreal, he was one of the few competent players that the team had while the team struggled to break out of the bottom half of the NL East.

Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?
When you ignore Sammy Sosa's fits of ridiculousness with the Cubs, Guerrero was either 1 or 1A in the hierarchy of right fielders in baseball during his prime along with Larry Walker.

Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?
Unfortunately for Expos fans, no. Montreal's highest win total during Guerrero's time as a starter was 83, and they were never really much of a factor in the Postseason. However, during his six years with the Angels, they made the playoffs in five of those seasons and won at least 89 games in all of them. Guerrero also was a member of the 2010 AL Champion Rangers, but hit just .263/.324/.339 in ten career playoff series.

Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play regularly after passing his prime?
For all intents and purposes, Guerrero was done at 35. He hit .290 with the Orioles in 2011 at age 36, but his power was gone and he couldn't play the field at all. His drop off was quick and a little stunning, considering he was third in the MVP voting in 2007 at age 32, and was done after that 2011 season.

Is he the very best player in baseball history who is not in the Hall of Fame?
No, and he's not even the best Expo not in the Hall of Fame! Damn Tim Raines…

Are most players who have comparable career statistics in the Hall of Fame?
Guerrero's 50.6 JAWS is a hair under that of Hall of Famer Dave Winfield (who had 3000 more plate appearances than Guerrero), but it also falls short of players like Walker, Sosa, Dwight Evans, and Reggie Smith. His 140 OPS+ is the same as Sheffield's and a hair lower than Walker's, both of whom have compelling Hall of Fame cases.

Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?
Guerrero lacks most of the counting stats compared to other players because of how quickly his career ended. His seven year peak WAR of 41.2 bests Tony Gwynn, Winfield, Sheffield, and Chuck Klein, but falls short of Walker, Ichiro, Sosa, and Bobby Abreu. Guerrero's 449 homers and tenth among right fielders, and the only players with more not in the Hall of Fame are Sosa, Sheffield, and Jose Canseco, all of whom are significant PED ties.

Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?
This guy was so good, yet because he played in Montreal during his early years, no one noticed what he did. From 1998-2003, Guerrero hit .326/.395/.600 with 220 homers and 120 stolen bases. That's good for a 146 wRC+ and .412 wOBA, both of which are absurd. During those six years, the only players to hit 200 homers and steal 100 bases were Guerrero, Alex Rodriguez, and Shawn Green. Not bad.

Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame but not in?
You actually could make the argument that he is. You've got Sosa, Sheffield, Walker, Abreu, and Guerrero all up for election in the coming years, and while you could make an argument for either, Guerrero is probably at the top of the list.

How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?
As I outlined earlier, Guerrero was a perennial MVP candidate, especially once he got out of Montreal. He won the award in 2004 with the Angels, earned two more top three finishes during his career with Anaheim, and earned both fourth and sixth place finishes as an Expo. All in all, Guerrero received MVP votes in 12 of his 14 full seasons in the bigs, and finished in the top 15 in ten of those 12 seasons.

How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the other players who played in this many go to the Hall of Fame?
Guerrero was a nine-time All-Star, which matches Sheffield. Every right fielder with at least ten All-Star nods is in the Hall of Fame aside from Ichiro, who is still active. However, no right fielder who made between five and nine All-Star Games has entered the Hall. Bizarre.

If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?
Sure, but he couldn't do it alone. When he won the MVP in 2004, the Angels were swept by the Red Sox in the ALDS, due in large part to their pitching staff allowing 25 runs in three games. The Angels scored 11 runs while losing the 2005 ALCS to the White Sox in five games. The Angels scored four runs in an ALDS sweep by the Red Sox in 2007. I think you get the picture here. If it wasn't something, it was another. As for his years with the Expos, Montreal surrounded him with no talent at all, and the team was a disaster.

What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?
Not that I know of.

Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?
No PED links, no notable of the field incidents, and no notable on the field incidents, for that matter. 

Monday: Mariano Rivera
Tuesday: Todd Helton
Wednesday: Andy Pettitte

Joe Lucia

About Joe Lucia

Managing editor of Awful Announcing. News editor of The Comeback. Managing editor of The Outside Corner. You guessed it - not actually Frank Stallone.