Monday, June 23, 2014

2015 Keltners Come Early: Troy Percival

This year, I will start early on the Keltner list, to take breaks between my job and writing for graduate school. Sheesh.

I will begin by looking at some of the first year ballot people, which is quite an interesting list for 2015.  Today, it is Troy Percival, one of the top closers of the late 90s and early 2000s. He was drafted in the 6th Rd out of UC-Riverside. He spent his first season in the minors as a catcher in 1990, then switched to the bullpen at Boise in 1991.

  1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?
Not to my knowledge. He was well respected, but never considered "the best".
Was he the best player on his team? No, but was a big part of a World Series championship.
     2. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

Percival appeared in the post-season just once but was on the World Series champion 2002 Angels. In the 2002 post season, he recorded 7 saves in 9 appearances, and was dominant in the AL Championship series against the Twins (2 SV, 0.00 ERA, 3 1/3 perfect IP.) Down the stretch in 2002, Percival posted a great 1.61 ERA after the All Star Break. He blew a save on April 21 against the A's, dropping the Angels record to 6-12, and only blew three more during the rest of the regular season.

In 1997, Percival recorded 13 SV in August and September as the Angels faded to second. While he was voted a full share of the 2006 Tiger's series share, he was on the DL all season with a forearm injury

     3. Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play past his prime?

The aforementioned injury cost Percival the better part of two seasons before he decided to comeback with the Cardinals in 2007. The 2005 injury was at age 35, and Percival had pitched in at least 50 games 10 seasons in a row before he was hurt. After his comeback, he was not the same pitcher, but managed to last one season as a closer for the Rays in 2008.

     4. Is he the best player in history who is not in the Hall of Fame?


     5. Are most players with comparable career statistics in the Hall of Fame?

Of Percival's 10 best comps (all over 900 on the similarity scale, a very strong comp number) none are in the hall. His #2 comp was the closer on the team Percival's Angels beat in the 2002 Series, Robb Nen. While Nen, Jeff Montgomery, Rod Beck and Tom Henke were all good relievers, none are particularly good candidates.

     6. Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?

Percival never led the league in saves (ummmmmmm.....Mariano Rivera?) and is borderline on the hall of fame monitor. He is very low on the HoF standards, and his career peak is roughly 1/2 the WAR value of the 5 relievers in the hall of fame.

     7. Is there any evidence to suggest he was significantly worse or better than his statistics?

Not really. Percival may have been the first closer to be groomed as such when in the minor leagues; I am not sure about this, but he certainly was one of the first. He is also the career leader in saves for the Angels franchise.

     8. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame but not in?

I would argue no and would pick Lee Smith. One could also point to John Smoltz, but as he was a starter for the majority of his career, I would go with Lee Smith.

     9. How many Cy Young/MVP seasons did he have? Did he ever win a Cy Young award? If not, how many times was he close?

Percival never got a vote for a Cy Young award. Not one. He deserved a few in 2002 probably, and maybe a few other seasons.

     10. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the other players who played in this many go to the Hall of Fame?

Percival was selected for four ASG and pitched in three (1996, 1998-99, 2001). He was deserving in 2004. For the five relievers in the Hall, they average seven appearances, not including Mariano Rivera's non-eligible 13 appearances.

     11. If this man was the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?

I don't think so. Granted, closers are an important piece of a ballclub (regardless if the "book" covering their use is nonsense) but the one postseason appearance in Percival's career with the Angels speaks for itself. For the best Angels of the period, I would go with Tim Salmon, Darin Erstad or Jim Edmonds.

     12. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?

Again, I am not sure if Percival was the first pitcher to be groomed as a closer from A ball on. If so, that is a fairly important place.

     13. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

When Percival was voted a full share for the 2006 World Series, he used the money to pay for a box at Comerica Park for the use of the players wives. He has run multiple baseball camps in southern California, and coaches at his old high school.

While a good pitcher for quite a few years, I don't think Percival is a Hall of Fame candidate.


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