Where would Craig Biggio rank among the first-ballot Hall of Famers?

Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE

You could make a pretty good team out of the Hall of Famers who didn't crack one percent in their first year on the Hall of Fame ballot. Bobby Doerr, Arky Vaughn, Joe DiMaggio, Luke App-

Wait, wait, wait. Joe DiMaggio? Well, there's a bit of an asterisk here, as the first time he picked up a vote was in 1945, when he was 30 years old and reluctantly in the Army during World War II. He came back and played six more seasons, five of which were outstanding. And then, five years after he retired, the voters did the right thing and … passed him over on two more ballots. He finished with 44.3 percent in 1953, and 69.4 in 1954, both times below Rabbit Maranville.

After a while, as more and more of the legends got in one way or another, it became a little easier to get in on the first ballot. There have been 10 first-ballot Hall of Famers since 2000 -- more than there were in the first 32 years of the Hall, including the inaugural class of five.

Which brings us to Craig Biggio. By the time you read this, the voting results might be known for the 2013 Hall of Fame class. Biggio might have joined the first-ballot crew, or he might have just missed. This is a look to see where he ranks (or would rank) among first-ballot Hall of Famers.

We'll do two ways. The first is with a blunt instrument, Baseball Reference's WAR:

Player

WAR

1. Babe Ruth

159

Walter Johnson

158

Willie Mays

151

Ty Cobb

145

Hank Aaron

137

Honus Wagner

126

Stan Musial

123

Ted Williams

120

Rickey Henderson

107


10. Mickey Mantle

106

Tom Seaver

105

Mike Schmidt

103

Frank Robinson

101

Christy Mathewson

97

Joe Morgan

97

Warren Spahn

94

Cal Ripken

91

Carl Yastrzemski

90

Wade Boggs

88


20. Al Kaline

87

Bob Gibson

85

Steve Carlton

85

George Brett

84

Rod Carew

77

Nolan Ryan

75

Ozzie Smith

73

Brooks Robinson

73

Paul Molitor

73

Robin Yount

72


30. Johnny Bench

72

Reggie Jackson

68

Tony Gwynn

65

Jim Palmer

64

Eddie Murray

63

Ernie Banks

63

Willie McCovey

61

Dave Winfield

59

Jackie Robinson

59

Dennis Eckersley

58


40. Bob Feller

58

Willie Stargell

54

Kirby Puckett

48

Sandy Koufax

46

Lou Brock

43


From Ruth to Brock, there are the 44 first-ballot Hall of Famers. Biggio's career WAR (according to Baseball Reference) is 62, which would be good for 36th out of 44. He would be far from the worst first-ballot player, but he'd be even farther from the top half of the group. More than 20 wins separate him from #22 on the list, Steve Carlton.

But that's just one way to look at it. The blunt instrument. WAR is an imperfect stat, but it's easy. It's adjusted for era, for park, for position, and it's one of the best ways to measure hitters and pitchers directly against each other. It's still imperfect.

I know it's easy to laugh at the Jack Morris voters who use the feel test to support their vote. Morris just feels like a Hall of Famer to them. You can picture those writers making a face like they're squeezing a grapefruit in a farmer's market, checking for ripeness when they say that word. Does he feeeeel like a Hall of Famer?

It's not a wholly inappropriate way to guide your vote or evaluation, though. The objective evidence is up there, and now it's time to tally the subjective. Does Biggio feel like a first-ballot guy?

I'm biased because I watched him play. But I guess that's the point. And when Biggio was in his prime, he was amazing, one of the best patience/power/speed guys in the game. He could annoy you in every way possible, and I mean that in the best way possible. He did all of this despite being a large, abnormally tall man. Look at him in comparison to a modern-day second baseman:

Biggio_medium
Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE

Biggio towers over the second basemen of today. Yet Biggio still ran the bases like an ideal leadoff hitter. That's a unique talent.

I would put Biggio in the same class of players as Paul Molitor and Rod Carew, neither of whom were ever the best players in the game during their respective eras, but were both in the top tier of players for an exceptionally long time. Biggio doesn't have the mythology of a player like Lou Brock, whose stolen-base record would stand forever and ever, nor did he have the larger-than-life presence that Dave Winfield had. He wasn't iconic, like Ernie Banks or Reggie Jackson.

Biggio was just really, really fantastic for a really, really long time. And he'll get into the Hall unless there's some sort of scandal or asteroid between now and then. He would fit in fine with the first-ballot bunch, especially considering the last 10 to make it. But he doesn't grab you by the lapels and necessarily demand your first-ballot respect.

When it gets down to it, the first-ballot stuff is pretty silly. Is there really a need for an arbitrary and invisible stratification within the Hall of Fame? Probably not. But as long as it's (kind of) there, we can see how Biggio stacks up with the other first-ballot inductees. He could go either way.

Which is almost how you might describe his first-ballot chances. Biggio will get in. But it might not be with the elite company within the elite company. That might be a shame, unless it isn't.

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