By In Stuff

Ballot 25: Edgar Renteria

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Edgar Renteria

Played 16 years for seven different teams

Five-time All-Star won two Gold Glove and two World Series rings, 32.1 WAR, 4.4 WAA

Pro argument: Compares favorably to several Hall of Fame shortstops.

Con argument:  Those comparisons are a bit of an illusion.

Deserves to be in Hall?: No

Will get elected this year?: No

Will ever get elected?: Probably not.

* * *

There are two main topics to discuss with Edgar Renteria, and the first is — as with just about every player on this ballot — context. We start again with our Player A, Player B comparison. These are two shortstops of the last 50 years who won multiple Gold Gloves.

Player A: .286 average, 2,327 hits, 436 doubles, 294 stolen bases, 1,200 runs, 923 RBIs, five All-Star Games.

Player B: .285 average, 2,365 hits, 415 doubles, 236 stolen bases, 1,231 runs, 1003 RBIs, six All-Star Games.

Well,  those two players look pretty darned similar. right? Now, to add a little fun, I will tell you that Player A is also one of only four players — the other three are no less than Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Yogi Berra — to have two World Series clinching hits. Seems pretty clear that the two have similar, if not identical, Hall of Fame cases.

Yes, Player A is, as expected, Edgar Renteria.

And Player B is beloved stathead Hall of Fame candidate Alan Trammell.

Now, of course, you probably saw that I have used various sleights of hand that I have picked up while working on my book on Today’s Houdini (oh, wait, did I mention that I’m doing a book on Houdini in today’s world?). You will notice, for instance, that I called them
“shortstops who won multiple Gold Gloves” which is absolutely true. Well, rephrase — it’s true but not ABSOLUTELY true. Trammell won four while Renteria won two, which is not the same thing.

In the list, I include doubles because Renteria had more but I do not include triples (Trammell leads 55-29) or homers (Trammell leads 185-140) or any detail that takes into account that Trammell and Renteria played in very different offensive periods.

Renteria’s career OPS+ is 94. Trammell’s is 110.

Renteria’s career WAR is 32.1. Trammell’s is 70.4.

They were not the same player, not close to the same player, not when you consider how few runs were scored in the 1980s, not when you take into account Trammell’s real defensive value, and so on. But many of their raw numbers — like hits and runs scored and RBIs — are close enough that Trammell is Renteria’s No. 1 comp in Baseball Reference’s Similarity Scores and vice versa. This allows us to see what we want to see.

At the Winter Meetings this year, a writer came up to me (not sure he would want me using his name … I’ll add it if he wants that) and he somewhat bizarrely offered to give me his wedding ring AND his class ring if I could find one 1970s baseball writer, just one, who thought Bert Blyleven was a better pitcher in the 1970s than Catfish Hunter.

You probably know: I’ve written a few times that Blyleven was a better pitcher than Hunter. Well, Bert Blyleven WAS a better pitcher than Catfish Hunter in the 1970s, and it wasn’t especially close. Blyleven’s ERA in the 1970s was better (2.88 to 3.17). His ERA in context was also better (130 ERA+ to 110). His Fielding Independent Pitching number which takes into account only strikeouts, walks and homers allowed was better (2.81 to 3.67) because while he walked 100 more batters he struck out 750 more and allowed 70 fewer homers. In the decade, Blyleven threw nine more shutouts, completed five more games, threw 200 more innings and had a significantly better strikeout to walk ratio. He also played for significantly worse teams for the most part. It’s not close, really.

All that said, I have no idea if I could find a 1970s baseball writer who would say definitively that Blyleven was better than Hunter because Catfish won more games (169 to 148), won a Cy Young Award and was an ace on the team of the decade while Blyleven mostly threw curveballs in the shadows. The illusion of Catfish Hunter was so overpowering that the baseball writers rushed him into the Hall of Fame in just three years even though he lacked the benchmark totals in wins (he won 224), strikeouts (2,012) or ERA (3.26 lifetime) that usually marks a Hall of Famer.

Blyleven with 67 more wins, 1,700 more strikeouts and about the same ERA (3.31 — but better than Hunter in context) had to wait for 13 grueling years and even now many are bitter that he was elected at all. Heck I have baseball writers offering me jewelry if I could just find a writer in that time who thought Blyleven was any damned good at all.

We are getting away from Edgar Renteria, of course, but the point is context. Renteria is the first player on the ballot so far that I did not have a flat “No” on in the “Will ever get elected” question. I don’t THINK Renteria ever will get elected. I feel confident that in the short run he will not get close to the 5% necessary to  keep him on the BBWAA ballot after this year. I suspect he gets fewer than 10 votes, and maybe none at all.*

*After posting this, the incomparable Ryan Thibodaux — who keeps track of Hall of Fame ballots — alerted me via Twitter that Renteria has already received one vote with just a few ballots in.

But as time goes on, I would not be entirely surprised if Renteria, with all those hits and with his postseason heroics finds himself on some Veteran’s Committee ballot. I would not be surprised if some player of his time champions his Hall of Fame case. Hey, it’s all how you look at it.

The second topic with Edgar Renteria is postseason heroics — he had his share. He grew up in Colombia and signed with Florida when he was 15 years old. The kid was playing in the Midwest League when he was just 16, and even though he hit only .203 and made 34 errors, well, he was SIXTEEN YEARS OLD.

At 17, he held his own in high A-Ball. At 18, he hit .289 in Class AA, stole 30 bases, made some dazzling defensive plays and left no doubt about his future. The very next year, he was called to the big leagues and he hit .309 as an everyday shortstop. He should have won the Rookie of the Year award. Instead it went to Todd Hollandsworth for reasons that still remain blurry — he was the fifth straight Dodgers player to win the award, so maybe voters just did not know that they could vote for a non-Dodger.*

*Rookie of the Year Awards

1992: Eric Karros, Dodgers

1993: Mike Piazza, Dodgers

1994: Raul Mondesi, Dodgers

1995: Hideo Nomo, Dodgers

1996: Todd Hollandsworth, Dodgers.

Five Rookie of the Year Awards in a row and the Dodgers did not win a single playoff game in the entire 1990s. That’s hard to pull off.

A year later, Renteria was the everyday shortstop for a Marlins’ team that won the World Series — and it was Renteria’s walk-off single that ended the series. That was his first series clinching hit. The next would come 13 years later.

Over those 13 years, Renteria had good years and shaky ones. He was fantastic in 2003 when he hit .330/.394/480 for the Cardinals. He smashed 47 doubles and 13 homers — he scored 96 runs and drove in 100. He also won the Gold Glove award that year. That was a Hall of Fame caliber season.

That was also clearly his best year but he had excellent seasons in 2002 for St. Louis, in 2006 and 2007 for Atlanta. He bounced around a lot — he was traded three times, and he signed as a free agent three times. The movement allowed him to make $85 million in his career. It also broke up his career into many different segments and so, camouflage style, it’s hard to get a full picture of the Renteria career. It’s OK. I’m sure he’ll take the money.

Then in 2008, he signed with San Francisco and that led to his magical World Series in 2010. He hit .412 in that series, and both of his home runs were game-winners. Well, the first home run just started the scoring in a 9-0 Giants victory. But the second homer came in the seventh inning of a scoreless Game 5; he cracked a three-run homer off Cliff Lee to put the game and the series on ice. He won the Series MVP award.

And, it’s funny, the perception — certainly my perception — was that Renteria was like 1,000 years old at the time. He’d been around for so long that this seemed like the sweet tale of an old man having one last bit of glory. But Renteria had started so young, he was only 34 when he hit those two home runs. Heck, he’s only 40 years old NOW.

If he could have reinvented himself as an outfielder or first baseman or someone worth giving another 2,500 at-bats — another five years, basically — he could have gotten to 3,000 hits, which would have put his career in a whole different light. You look at some of the players with similar hit totals through age 34.

Edgar Renteria, 2,327 hits (finished with 2,327 hits)

Tony Gwynn, 2,204 hits (finished with 3,141 hits)

Eddie Murray, 2,342 hits (finished with 3,255 hits)

Lou Brock, 2,194 hits (finished with 3,023 hits)

Craig Biggio, 1,969 hits (finished with 3,060 hits)

Of course, Renteria was not as good as any of those guys. As far as pure hit total, he fell 673 hits short of 3,000 because he retired at 34. He just wasn’t good enough or healthy enough to have that hang-on period that allows players to reach landmark career totals.

I think he will drop quietly off the Hall of Fame ballot … and while there’s a chance he will be considered again down the road, I suspect he won’t. Still, Renteria will always be a hero to Marlins’ fans and Giants’ fans. That’s not a bad baseball life.

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31 Responses to Ballot 25: Edgar Renteria

  1. Tim says:

    I’ve been waiting for this one. Around that period of time I remember following players who I thought had a chance at 3,000. Pudge, damon, hell, I even box score watched for omar vizquel knowing damn well he would get close but not play enough to reach 3,000. Renteria was the other and I was always baffled that he retired at that age. I thought he had a 30 percent shot to reach it at the time. Who knows if teams would of kept giving him at bats after age 36, but it would of been fun to watch.

  2. Sean says:

    He had a third series clinching hit, grounding out to Keith Foulke to end the 2004 World Series.

  3. Ajnrules says:

    Edgar Renteria broke my heart twice. I was a bandwagon Indians fan in 1997 when he drove in Craig Counsell then. And by 2010 I had moved to Texas and got on the Rangers bandwagon.

    And (with apologies to BR Donald A. Coffin) Javier Vazquez still couldn’t make the ballot

  4. Kubi says:

    Edgar Renteria, 2,327 hits (finished with 2,237 hits)

    Dang! He lost 100 hits after turning 34. Maybe I should check b-r.com to see if he lost any more this morning…. 🙂

  5. Brian Rostron says:

    The knock on Blyleven in the 1970s was that he had great stuff but needed to become a better overall pitcher – http://wezen-ball.com/2010-articles/the-origin-of-the-blyleven-narrative.html

    • Rob Smith says:

      Well, I think it had a lot more to do with the lousy teams he was on and the corresponding number of losses he compiled. I had Angels season tickets. Whenever his teams came into town, no matter how bad his teams were, there were always the warnings from the media that they had to get by Blyleven one game. The odds were more than evened up when he was on the mound even if his teams couldn’t hit a lick. Having seen him pitch dozens of times, I never could understand why he wasn’t a lock HOFer. But in those days, if you didn’t see games in person, then you didn’t see a guy like Blyleven much. Game of the Week on Saturday was about all there was, and they didn’t tend to put his lousy teams on very often. So, his teams didn’t win much & that led to higher loss totals and hardly and appearances on national TV. That’s the real narrative. Better overall pitcher? That’s grasping at straws.

  6. birtelcom says:

    Most career Win Probability Added (baseball-reference) by a shortstop in World Series games:
    0.8 Edgar Rentaria
    0.7 Roger Peckinpaugh
    0.5 Tommy Thevenow
    0.4 Alan Trammell, Robin Yount, David Eckstein, Granny Hamner, Frankie Crosetti

  7. Darrel says:

    Bert Blyleven is a no-doubt, sure fire, inner circle, first ballot member of the Hall of Very Good.

    • Johnny P says:

      It is hard to believe that, after all this time, people still don’t think Blyleven is a Hall of Famer. His career bWAR is 96.5, which is the 11th best among pitchers.

      • Rob Smith says:

        I think it’s people who never saw him pitch, and the losses. He was real tough. He always got discounted because his teams were so bad, so nobody paid a lot of attention to him & he got little exposure in the pre-ESPN world. I saw him pitch, in person, a lot. He was often the only pitcher that gave his team a chance. If you saw him pitch, you would never call him a Hall of Very Good pitcher. To me, it was embarrassing that it took so long for him to get voted in.

  8. Binyamin says:

    That Series-ending groundout in ’04 convinced the Red Sox to throw Orlando Cepeda overboard in the offseason for what Theo claimed was a clear upgrade in Renteria. As history records, he was dreadful in crimson hose. Rent-a-Wreck was the kindest thing he was called in Boston. Thus kicking off 10 years of continuous shortstop turnover in Boston. Kinda funny to imagine him on a HoF ballot.

    • ajnrules says:

      You mean Orlando Cabrera, who is incidentally also on the ballot? XP

      • Kevin Fitzgerald says:

        I am sure Binyamin did. That move was not one of Theo’s best. Most Sox fans were unhappy to see Cabrera go. He had become that popular, especially after the acrimony surrounding Nomah. That probably put more pressure on Rent-A-Wreck. His stay was brief and unfortunate. He bounced back after moving on, but he sure as hell will not get many votes from New England writers.

        • MikeN says:

          Theo had a lot of bad moves, that were defended on this site as ‘Hey he knows the Sox have lots of money and can move on from mistakes!’ There are lots of other managers that would look very good if they had that backup plan.
          I do wonder though if Billy Beane would have been a bad choice for GM. Too interested in finding value, and not able to field the best team for big money.

          • Rob Smith says:

            I’m confident that if Beane was allowed to spend money, he would have been able to do it well. Actually, any idiot can buy high priced talent. *cough* *cough* Brian Cashman *cough* *cough*

      • Binyamin says:

        Thanks, yeah, I meant Cabrera, what a dumb thing to type.

  9. Edwin says:

    I am Colombian, and it was very exciting times when Renteria was at the top of his game. We look at our neighbor Venezuela popping major leaguers like corn and it is difficult not to be a little bit envious. Edgar is by far the best Colombian born player in the MLB ever, and he and Orlando Cabrera brought awareness and visibility to the sport in the country, where is only popular in the Caribbean cities (soccer is the king in Colombia, hands down). Not that it matters for the Hall of Fame, he clearly falls short, but for us he was great, and all those post season heroics made us really proud as a nation.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Maybe some day the best Colombian player will be Julio Teheran. Two All Star appearance in his first four full years, and he’s only going to be 26 next year. Who knows.

  10. Edwin says:

    On that note, I wonder how many people is going to check Renteria’s name overlooking and thinking they are voting for Edgar Martinez?

  11. Rob Smith says:

    Renteria was one of my favorite (friendly) taunts to my Tiger fan friends. I called Renteria for Jair Jurrgens the Doyle Alexander for John Smoltz 2.0. Unfortunately Jurrgens couldn’t stay healthy and only had four good years. But, nonetheless, those four years were better than what Renteria gave the Tigers. I have to admit I was surprised. Renteria just flat hit bullets in his two years for the Braves. After he left, he fell off a cliff. It was a head shaker when he failed so miserably in Detroit and Boston. I just figured that he got old…. but he wasn’t really that old.

    • JimWalewander says:

      He didn’t hit much with the Tigers, and didn’t field much either. Didn’t make a bunch of errors, but didn’t have much range, he was like a statue out there. For a guy with such a solid resume he was a complete drag to watch in Detroit. Especially as Jurrjens put up a nice year in Atlanta while we were shuffling Armando Galarraga, Nate Robertson, and Jeremy Bonderman through the rotation.

  12. Wes Tovich says:

    Gratuitous Joe Poz Blyleven shout out/Catfish slam in an Edgar Renteria article. Gee guy. Usually whenever I start reading him again, this is the kind of junk that makes me not again for some time. Stop. Polish your narrative agenda where appropriate. This was about Renteria, not the guy you use as an anti Jack Morris straw man. Okay?

  13. Edwin says:

    Jack Morris sucks.

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