USA TODAY Sports is counting down the top 10 candidates on the 2019 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot in advance of the Jan. 22 election results. The countdown is based on voting by our power rankings panel, which includes five Hall voters.

No. 5 (tie): Edgar Martinez

Martinez was a consummate hitter during his 18-year career spent with the Seattle Mariners.

He was so good Major League Baseball renamed an award after him, the Edgar Martinez Award, in 2004, which is presented annually to the most outstanding designated hitter in the American League.

The seven-time All-Star, who blossomed late in his career, reached legendary status in the Great Northwest, helping lead the Mariners’ four playoff runs in six seasons from 1995-2001. 

However, his Hall of Fame candidacy has been up for debate during his 10 years on the ballot, with the stigma of spending three-quarters of his career as a designated hitter weighing against him.

The case for

Martinez won two AL batting titles and registered a career batting average of .312 with 309 home runs and an OPS of .933.

His career numbers rank among the best members of the Hall of Fame, proving his worthiness.

Among those:

  • On-base percentage (.418) is superior to Stan Musial (.417).
  • On-base-plus slugging percentage (.933) ranks above Frank Robinson (.926). 
  • Slugging percentage (.515) is the same as Willie McCovey’s.

His .418 on-base percentage ranks 15th among current Hall of Famers and his .933 OPS is close to Jeff Bagwell’s .948 mark, and Bagwell was elected to the Hall in 2017.

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The case against

Martinez is recognized as one of the top three DHs of all-time alongside Frank Thomas and David Ortiz. Yet, he has been dogged by the fact that he played a majority of his career as a hitter and contributed little as a fielder. He wasn’t much of a baserunner either.

He started 1,396 of his 2,055 career games at DH, compared to just 532 at third base.

Also, as a designated hitter, he didn’t have the power many of his contemporaries had during the height of the so-called steroid era — especially for a position that warranted one. He retired with 309 home runs, which ranked only 132nd on the all-time list, and his 1,261 RBI are just one notch higher.

He also finished in the top five in the MVP voting just once, third in 1995, when he led the AL in batting average. 

X-factor

Are designated hitters finally being recognized in Cooperstown? 

Some of today’s voters are taking a different approach when it comes to voting for a DH, which is good sign for future candidate Ortiz.

In 2014, Thomas became the first player elected after spending the majority of his career as DH, a position instituted in 1973. Then came Harold Baines, who was elected by Today’s Modern Game Era committee in December.

Baines’ election, in all likelihood, will cement Martinez’s chances. Baines was a six-time All-Star who produced 2,866 hits, 384 homers and 1,628 RBI. By comparison, Martinez had better offensive numbers despite playing nearly 800 fewer games.

  • Batting average: .312 vs. .289
  • On-base percentage: .418 vs. .356
  • Slugging percentage: .515 vs. .465
  • On-base-plus slugging percentage: .933 vs. .820
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Consensus

The time has come — his 10th and final year of eligibility on the ballot. In 2018, Martinez collected 70.4% of the vote, 20 votes shy of the 75% needed for induction. Judging by the rise in voting figures — from 27% in 2015 to a near-miss in 2018 — his case should all but be cemented, especially with Baines election by Today’s Modern Game Era committee in December. 

And according to early returns from @NotMrTibbs’ ballot tracker, he is trending well above the mark needed for induction, with 90.3% of the current votes casted.

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