Scott Rolen’s Hall of Fame case is undoubtedly one of the most interesting ones among players who are currently eligible.
Rolen’s HOF chances could rely heavily on modern analytics. A majority of Hall of Fame voters tend to be traditionalists, which is part of the reason why players linked with steroids have had such a hard time getting to Cooperstown. But Rolen could face similar difficulties for a different reason.
For what it’s worth, Scott Rolen’s Hall of Fame votes so far give him a fighting chance to get in one day. He received just 10.2% of the vote in his first year of eligibility, although that was more than enough to keep him on the ballot.
That number has steadily increased to 17.2% the following year and 35.3% the year after that. In 2021, his fourth year on the ballot, he got up to 52.9%, indicating that Scott Rolen’s Hall of Fame case is getting stronger, giving him a legitimate chance at reaching 75% before his 10-year window is up.
Scott Rolen Hall of Fame case
If one were making Scott Rolen’s Hall of Fame case, the biggest argument involves three little letters: WAR, or wins above replacement. During the first half of Rolen’s career from 1997 to 2004, only Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds had a higher WAR than Rolen. Obviously, both would be first-ballot Hall of Famers if it weren’t for their connection to performance-enhancing drugs.
Since Rolen has no clear connection to steroids, the argument can be made that he had the best WAR in the majors during that eight-year stretch. It’s also worth mentioning that his WAR during that time period was higher than Jeff Bagwell, Chipper Jones, Larry Walker, and Derek Jeter, who are all enshrined in Cooperstown.
Questions to be asked
But is Rolen’s WAR during an eight-year period going to be enough to sway close to 25% more voters in his favor?
Players with at least 120 OPS+ and 170 TZ/DRS, MLB history
* Willie Mays
* Roberto Clemente
* Carl Yastrzemski
* Barry Bonds
* Scott Rolen
— Foolish Baseball (@FoolishBB) December 30, 2021
Metrics like WAR have clearly become a big part of how MLB front offices operate and make judgments about players. However, it remains to be seen if Hall of Fame voters value things like WAR as opposed to looking at the rest of Rolen’s career statistics.
To be fair, his career numbers are more than enough to give Rolen a fighting chance at getting into the Hall of Fame. He was a career .281 hitter who finished his 17-year career in the majors with a little over 2,000 hits and 316 career home runs. Rolen also won National League Rookie of the Year honors in 1997 and was a seven-time all-star with four of his all-star invitations coming after the span from 1997 to 2004 when he was among the leaders in WAR.
Playing both sides
Rolen’s defensive prowess also gives his Hall of Fame candidacy a significant boost. He won eight Gold Gloves during his career with the first coming in 1998 and his last one coming in 2010. There’s a strong argument that Rolen is among the five best defensive third basemen in baseball history.
Between his offensive numbers and Rolen’s standout defensive abilities, it becomes harder to argue that he doesn’t deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.
Of course, Scott Rolen’s Hall of Fame case isn’t overly convincing. His performance dropped off late in his career, negating some of the great years that he had during the first half of his career.
Ultimately, Rolen’s HOF chances depend on how voters value metrics like WAR and Rolen’s defensive prowess. However, things are undoubtedly trending in the right direction, giving Rolen a strong chance to get to Cooperstown one day.