Wagner among Mets getting closer to HOF

January 26th, 2021

NEW YORK -- Given the discourse surrounding the Hall of Fame cases of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling and other polarizing candidates, it can be easy to lose sight of Billy Wagner’s candidacy, which is debatable in its own way. Some view Wagner as one of the greatest relievers of all-time, easily worthy of a spot in Cooperstown. Others believe he did not do enough for enshrinement.

The endpoint of this discussion remains uncertain. Wagner, one of the most prominent players with Mets ties on the 2021 Hall of Fame ballot, received 46.4 percent of the vote, up from 31.7 percent a year ago, according to results released Tuesday. With four years of candidacy remaining, Wagner is trending in the right direction for eventual enshrinement, but it may not be enough.

Here is a look at every ex-Met on this year’s ballot, which saw no candidate earn the 75 percent needed to enter the Hall of Fame.

Billy Wagner, RP
2021 Vote total: 46.4 percent
2020 Vote total: 31.7 percent
Years left on ballot: 4

Voters who support Wagner tend to shape their arguments around how he compares to closers already in Cooperstown. For example, Wagner owns a better ERA and league-adjusted ERA+ than Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman -- both by significant margins. He is second in baseball history in those categories among relievers with at least 700 innings, trailing only first-ballot Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera. Wagner’s ERA also rates second-lowest among all qualified pitchers whose careers began in the Live Ball Era (since 1920).

In addition, Wagner sports the highest K/9 rate among pitchers with at least 700 innings, and more total punchouts than Rivera (1,196 vs. 1,135). He does have a relatively low saves total (422) compared to Rivera (652) and Hoffman (601), as well as a relatively low innings total of 903, both of which have hurt his candidacy. But voters’ views on that appear to be changing.

, OF
2021 vote total: 40.6 percent
2020 vote total: 30.5 percent
Years left on ballot: 3

Statistically, Sheffield has the most polished Hall of Fame case of anyone on this list. He just didn’t do much of that polishing with the Mets, playing 100 games for them in 2009 before retiring. Sheffield did hit his 500th career homer at Citi Field, giving him a signature moment with the franchise, and managed an .823 OPS at age 40. Overall, Sheffield bashed 509 homers over a 22-year career, posting a .907 OPS and a 140 league-adjusted OPS+.

, 2B
2021 vote total: 32.4 percent
2020 vote total: 27.5 percent
Years left on ballot: 2

Like Wagner, the power-hitting Kent has seen a spike in support over the past two years, though Kent's jump has not been quite so extreme. (This is the first year Wagner has received more support than Kent, who hovered between 14 and 18 percent during his first six years on the ballot.) Over a 17-year career largely in San Francisco, Kent batted .290 with 377 home runs and an .855 OPS, making him one of the top offensive second basemen of all time. He spent five of those seasons with the Mets, hitting 67 homers.

, OF
2021 vote total: 8.7 percent
2020 vote total: 5.5 percent
Years left on ballot: 8

Abreu spent just one year with the Mets, finishing his career in a part-time role. He is better known for his nine years with the Phillies, which saw his patient plate approach and sweet left-handed swing produce a career .395 on-base percentage with an .870 OPS, 288 homers, 1,476 walks and 400 stolen bases. It’s the OBP that really sticks out for Abreu, who produced a higher mark than all but 40 Hall of Famers. Abreu seems unlikely to make it to Cooperstown due to his lack of other overwhelming statistics, but he’s already managed to stick around the ballot longer than some expected.

One and done
Known as one of the game’s foremost gentlemen, played nine years with the Twins and another nine elsewhere before spending one year in Flushing in 2013. He did not receive enough votes to remain on the ballot next year. … Neither did , another well-respected former Twin who played one year with the Mets in '15 (winning the National League pennant alongside one of his best friends, David Wright) before unexpectedly retiring after the season.