Rolen gains ground in 5th year on HOF ballot

January 26th, 2022

It may be coming, one year sooner or later, but  is not a Hall of Famer.

At least, not yet.

Rolen missed out on the 75 percent threshold for admittance to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, as announced on MLB Network on Tuesday evening, earning 63.2 percent of the vote from eligible members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

But the trend is wholly positive; after receiving 52.9 percent of eligible votes in 2021, Rolen jumped up by over 10 percentage points in ’22. He has five more chances on the BBWAA ballot to make up the final gap.

Rolen has seen a surge of voting support in recent years, climbing from 10.2 percent in year one to 17.2 in year two to now knocking on the door. Rolen made gains among several first-time voters, as tracked by unrivaled Hall of Fame vote tracker Ryan Thibodaux (@NotMrTibbs) and his team on Twitter, as well as several first-time votes from some returning voters.

But Rolen will have to wait. Only Red Sox slugger David Ortiz was added by the BBWAA to the Class of 2022, joining Bud Fowler, Buck O’Neil, Gil Hodges, former Cardinals Jim Kaat and Minnie Miñoso, and Tony Oliva -- all of whom were selected by a committee. Catcher  was the only other player on the ballot with Cardinal ties, but he will no longer appear on it going forward due to falling under the 5 percent threshold with just two votes to his name. Ken Boyer was also under consideration from the Golden Days Era Committee in December and fell short.

The focus, though, is Rolen. A darling of analytics that have emerged since he retired, Rolen sits right up there with other third basemen already admitted to the Hall of Fame.

JAWS, a system that evaluates a player’s worthiness for the Hall of Fame based on others at his position, has Rolen ranked as the 10th-best third baseman in AL/NL history, his 70.1 bWAR just behind Paul Molitor, ahead of Edgar Martinez and safely above the average of Hall of Famers from the position.

Those in St. Louis, though, value Rolen for the plentiful contributions he made. A member of the club’s Hall of Fame, Rolen was central to the 2006 World Series squad, putting up All-Star numbers during the season and a gaudy 1.213 OPS in the Fall Classic against Detroit.

At his peak, Rolen slashed .286/.376/.518 from 1997 -- when he won NL Rookie of the Year as a Phillie -- until 2006. In St. Louis alone, he slugged 111 homers, compiled a career-high 127 OPS+ and took home three Gold Glove Awards. For his career, Rolen collected 2,077 hits with an .855 OPS across 2,038 games.