I think there’s a pretty strong argument that he is.
(1) His career WAR of 38.7 isn’t in the top 500. And that’s by far his BEST advanced stat, as he had an extremely long career.
(2) In his best seven years he averaged three wins above replacement! That’s an average starter. And those are his best seasons in a 22-year career. He never had a 5+ WAR season, he had one season in his whole career with a WAR above 4, and two seasons, total, with a WAR above three. I haven’t checked but those have got to be the worst stats in regard to those metrics of anybody in the HOF, including the truckload of horrible veterans committee choices from the 1960s and 1970s, when the committee was putting a bunch of their cronies in.
(3) He never finished higher than 9th in the MVP voting, which is real bad for a HOF candidate, but the thing is his stats never came close to justifying a top ten MVP finish.
(4) Worst of all, this isn’t 1970 or even 1995. Advanced stats are well understood. Baines was an average player who managed to hang on for a long time. Compare him to his almost exact contemporary Lou Whitaker, who had ten 4+ WAR seasons to Baines’s one, and nearly double Baines’s career WAR (Tiger fan talking here, but there are several other equally outrageous comparisons).
. . . per BR, some Baines/Whitaker comparisons.
The best year of Baines’s career would have been the 9th best of Whitaker’s.
Whitaker had 15 consecutive seasons that were better than the second-best year of Baines’s career.
Baines and Whitaker played together in the AL for 16 straight seasons. Baines had a better year than Whitaker once, in 1995, when Whitaker retired.
I’m going to stand by the claim that this is the worst player baseball HOF pick ever. The terrible VC choices from the Frankie Frisch era were made in conditions of relative statistical ignorance, which mitigates their terribleness somewhat. (As Scott says, what’s most offensive about those picks was the rank cronyism behind them, but the same seems to be the case in regard to Baines’s selection).
Also too, the argument X should be in the HOF because Baines is in will always be a bad argument. Citing the worst mistake that’s been made as precedent for future decisions makes no sense on any level. The argument has to be that somebody was vastly better than Baines, because Baines is way below any reasonable cutoff line.