Examining Pudge's 2017 HOF case

January 10th, 2017

After nearly a quarter-century in baseball, Ivan Rodriguez stands on the precipice of the game's highest honor.
Rodriguez, affectionately known as "Pudge," possessed a combination of offense and defense that has rarely -- if ever -- been seen at the catcher position. He was a respected leader, a clutch hitter and a terror to opposing baserunners.
Even if Rodriguez is not elected this winter -- his first year on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot -- he figures to get in within the next few years. Before the results of the 73rd BBWAA Hall of Fame election are revealed on Jan. 18 (6 p.m. ET live on MLB Network, and simulcast live on MLB.com at 5 p.m.), here is Pudge's best statistical Hall of Fame case, in comparison with those whose names can already be found in the Hall's Plaque Gallery:
His case based on traditional stats
• Rodriguez's 934 extra-base hits and 572 doubles are the most of any catcher in history, and he would become the only Hall of Fame backstop with at least 500 doubles and 300 homers in his career. Currently, Carlton Fisk is the only enshrined catcher with even 400 doubles and 300 homers on his resume.
• Rodriguez famously holds the record for the most defensive games at catcher with 2,427, which broke the old record of 2,226 games set by Fisk. Those two "Pudges" and Gary Carter would be the only Hall of Fame catchers who caught at least 2,000 big league games.
• Pudge led his league in caught stealing percentage nine different times, three more than any other player.
• Rodriguez finished his 21-season career with 2,844 hits, which is far ahead of second-place Fisk (among catchers), who finished with 2,356. Rodriguez reached 2,356 hits in his 17th season, while Fisk needed 24 seasons to compile that many hits.
His case based on advanced metrics
• While Rodriguez's 106 OPS+ would rank as the third-lowest total among Hall of Fame catchers, his defense more than made up the difference. Pudge's 68.9 WAR and 104 weighted runs created would rank third among the enshrined backstops -- behind Johnny Bench and Carter and in front of Fisk -- according to FanGraphs.
• Pudge's 54.0 JAWS score -- a system devised by Jay Jaffe to compare players to others at their position who are already enshrined -- is third-highest in history among catchers (again, behind Bench and Carter). It's also nearly 11 wins above replacement than the average JAWS score for catchers already enshrined in Cooperstown.
• With a peak WAR of 39.7, Rodriguez's seven best seasons rank only behind Carter, Bench and Class of 2016 inductee Mike Piazza at the catcher position.

Most similar player in the Hall: Fisk
It's not just the nickname. Both played more than 20 years and were seen as the heart and soul of their clubs. Each one brought surprising power and average at the plate as catchers, and each an indelible postseason moment: Fisk's "wave-it-fair" home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series and Rodriguez's game-ending tag of J.T. Snow at home plate that sent the Marlins on to the 2003 NLCS.
Most similar player not in the Hall: Ted Simmons
Both Pudge and Simmons played 21 years in the Majors and finished with similar OPS totals, though Rodriguez's defensive WAR total is nearly seven times that of Simmons. If Rodriguez is somehow not voted in, he'll join Simmons as the two most talented backstops not immortalized in Cooperstown.