First Base: Keith Hernandez

Hall of Fame standards: 65.9 career WAR / 42.5 Peak WAR / 54.2 JAWS
Hernandez: 60.1 career WAR / 41.0 Peak WAR / 50.6 JAWS

While one can make a case here for Rafael Palmeiro (12th at the position in JAWS, and one of five players with both 3,000 hits and 500 home runs), his slide off the writers’ ballot—owing mainly to his 2005 positive test for PED use—means that he won’t be eligible again until the 2022 Today’s Game Era vote. Hence the choice for Hernandez. He didn't have the power that we normally associate with modern first basemen, hitting just 162 homers in his 17-year career from 1974 to '90. Nonetheless, he was an on-base machine (.384 OBP career, to go with a .296 batting average and .436 slugging percentage) who had seven years among the league's top three in OBP because he was also good for 80-plus walks per year. On top of that, he was a former batting champion and an elite defender according to both traditional and advanced measures; he won 11 straight Gold Gloves from 1978 to '88, and his 117 runs above average according to Total Zone ranks second among post-1900 first basemen.

In all, Hernandez ranked among the league's top five in WAR four times and among the top 10 in six seasons; when he shared the 1979 NL MVP award with Pittsburgh's Willie Stargell, he bested him in WAR 7.5 to 2.5. He won World Series championships with the Cardinals in 1982 and the Mets in 1986. Because Hernandez's career ended at age 36, after three years of playing fewer than 100 games, neither his traditional nor advanced stats measure up; he's 18th at the position in JAWS.

Hernandez never got the time of day from BBWAA voters, topping out at 10.8% in nine years on the ballot; his early career cocaine problems probably didn't help. He'd probably fare better in front of a more modern electorate given an increased appreciation for just how good his glovework was. I'd be surprised if he doesn't gain entry via a VC-style committee sometime over the next decade or so.

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