Torii Hunter gets another shot at induction this year after getting 6.9 percent of the votes last year. His smile was infectious whether he was in a Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Angels, or Detroit Tigers uniform. His reputation for robbing home runs and making spectacular grabs in centerfield earned him the nickname “Spiderman”. He won’t get in this year, but does Hunter have enough to start gaining votes? Let’s take a look at his case for Cooperstown.
Torii Kedar Hunter was the 20th overall pick in the 1993 MLB Draft out of Pine Bluff HS (AR). The Twins outfielder played in seven total games between 1997 and 1998 with the big club before taking over the full-time starting gig in centerfield for Minnesota in 1999. He didn’t show a lot of pop as he hit 14 homers in his first 780 plate appearances in 1999 and 2000. In 2001, Hunter broke out blasting 27 home runs and driving in 92 while taking home the first of nine consecutive Gold Gloves.
As talks of contraction of the Twins ballclub by MLB were seemingly gaining steam in 2002, Hunter and his squad, under the direction of new manager Ron Gardenhire, surprised baseball by winning the American League Central and making it to the ALCS eventually falling to the Angels and the Rally Monkey. Hunter also finished sixth in MVP voting that year and earned his first All-Star nod. The next five years saw Spiderman average 24 home runs, 16 stolen bases, and 89 RBIs with an .805 OPS while winning the Gold Glove each year. In 2007, he set career-highs in RBIs (107), runs (94), and doubles (45).
Los Angeles, Detroit, and back to Minnesota
At the end of the year, Hunter opted for free agency and the Angels signed him for five years and $90 million. His offense remained solid for Anaheim. Hunter averaged 21 homers and an .814 OPS over his five-year deal. He even accumulated 20.7 bWAR over that time. Hunter moved on to Detroit for a couple of years and played well, although his power and defense seemed to wane in his late 30s. He went back to Minnesota for one final year in 2015 and although he managed 22 homers and 81 RBIs, he batted .240 and had a sub-.750 OPS for the first time since 2000. At 40 years old, Hunter decided to hang the cleats up for good.
The Case for Hunter
Hunter was known for his defense. He won nine consecutive Gold Gloves from 2001-2009. Since DRS started in 2003, Hunter put up 47 in the last seven years of that span and averaged over eight DRS/162. He has solid offensive numbers especially later in his career. While he was a solid hitter for the Twins, in the seven seasons from 2008-2014 playing for the Angels and Tigers, Hunter had a .350 wOBA and 120 wRC+. He also averaged 30 doubles, 20 homers, and nearly 10 swipes in that time.
Of the 14 outfielders who have won at least eight Gold Gloves, Hunter is one of only six to also have 350+ HRs and 150+ SBs. The others are Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Andruw Jones, Barry Bonds, and Andre Dawson. Pretty good company for sure. His overall counting stats are good as well: 2,452 hits, 1,296 runs, 1,391 RBIs, 353 HRs, 195 SBs, and 498 doubles.
The Case Against Hunter
His career bWAR is 50.7 which is solid but not incredible, and Fangraphs has him even lower at 43.0. Hunter wasn’t known for his plate discipline either as he struck out 1,741 times (33rd on the all-time list) and only had 661 walks (420th on the all-time list). His career .793 OPS and 110 OPS+ doesn’t scream Hall of Fame either. While he was a fairly consistent player hitting 20+ HRs 11 times and driving in 90+ eight times, he never led the league in any major offensive category and was never in the top five of MVP voting.
While his defense was very good, Hunter isn’t close to guys like Mays, Jones, or Kenny Lofton to mention a few. The nine Gold Gloves are nice, but he lacks any other hardware or “black ink”. He had a very good defensive peak and then a good offensive peak, but they didn’t quite coincide. He got another year on the ballot and was a good player for a long time with solid all-around skills. He had the personality to match as well. Unfortunately, it will not be enough to get Hunter inducted into Cooperstown.
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