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Monday, July 30, 2012

Who Are the Hall of Famers Playing Today? 2006, Part 2


So, a quick recap. First, I went through and determined that the Hall of Fame just was not electing players at the same rate that they used to. Then, I decided to take a recent year (2006, in this case, since it gives me a little time to assess the rookies and call-ups for that year) and determine who was playing that year that could possibly make the Hall of Fame.

The first half of this list saw me list 35 players who had more or less established cases (although only one of them started after the year 2000). I’m going to continue using numbers in this part, but they’ll mean much less. This part of the list is much less a science and much more a “throw things at the wall and see what sticks” process. Similarly, the order means even less here. For a full review on the process, check out part 1. I'll be pointing out the cut-off marks for each percentage (for example, 50 players would represent 4% of the players in 2006).

36. Joe Mauer

You may be surprised to hear this, but Mauer already has a strong Hall case (granted, wWAR has changed and he no longer already makes the cut-off, but he’s close). As it turns out, catchers just don’t generally have OBPs over .400 or win batting titles. And, with his return to form this year, it appears he is back on his old track. Fangraphs already has him at 38.6 WAR through just over seven-and-a-half seasons, and he’s still not even 30 yet.


37 (The Traditional Cut-Off). Chase Utley
38. Lance Berkman

Another one who may surprise you. Again, though, second basemen don’t normally have a 127 OPS+ (there are only five Hall members ahead of him: Hornsby, Lajoie, Collins, Morgan, and Robinson). He’s also been fantastic fielder (Fangraphs and Total Zone Rating agree). I think he needs a few more solid seasons to get his career totals up (which may not happen with his recent run of injuries), but I think he’s already on the lower end of the borderline. WAR has him at 51.0 career Wins.

Also in the “needs a few more strong seasons” is Lance Berkman. On a rate basis, he’s been strong enough; he has a .953 OPS and a 146 OPS+ (nineteenth and 46th all-time). Another solid year or two should help his totals. He has 60.2 career WAR.


39. Miguel Cabrera

I don’t think I have to list too much here. He’s not yet 30 and just hit his 300th career home run. He has a 150 career OPS+ (granted, that will fall as he leaves his prime) and 47.8 career WAR. Probably a solid bet.


40. Evan Longoria
41. Ryan Zimmerman
42. David Wright

A group of young third basemen (26, 27, and 29, respectively) for the mid-2000s/early-2010s, to follow the Chipper/Rolen/Beltre trio of the late-’90s/early-2000s, the Schmidt/Brett/Boggs triad of the ’80s, the Bell/Nettles/Bando trifecta of the ‘70s, and the Robinson/Santo/Boyer triforce (I’m running out of words that mean three) of the ‘60s. My new crazy theory is that third base somehow generates three great players at the same time. Think about it; when all is said and done, that list could very well represent 18 of the 20 greatest third basemen in history.

In any case, the Hall hasn’t generally been kind to third basemen. However, with all three in their twenties and looking to play for the long-term future, I remain optimistic that all three will eventually build up overwhelming Hall cases. All three are good with the bat (I’d go Wright-Longoria-Zimmerman right now) and the glove (flip the last ranking). Right now, Wright has 45.1 WAR, Zimmerman has 32.2, and Longoria has 27.8.


43. Robinson Cano
44 (3.5%). Dustin Pedroia

And now a pair of second basemen. Maybe this is a theme? With all due respect to the other solid second basement who qualify (Ian Kinsler and Ben Zobrist spring to mind), these two best combine skill, youth, and prior performance. Cano is the better hitter right now (121 OPS+ to 114), but Pedoria has the better glove. Cano is a year older (29 to 28) and got a two-season head start on Pedroia (2005 to 2007), leading to his slight lead in WAR (29.3 to 27.2), but it’s hard to call one a favorite over the other.


45. Troy Tulowitzki

Again, with the younger players, there’s not a lot I can do other than say why they’re promising. Tulowitzki carries an above-average bat (118 OPS+) and plays a solid shortstop. Injuries may prove to be an issue, but they haven’t stopped him from putting up 26.1 WAR already. His rookie season was 2007, but he had a short call-up in 2006, meaning we can count him here.


46. David Ortiz
47. Mark Teixeira
48. Paul Konerko
49. Adam Dunn

I’ve talked about Konerko and Ortiz in the past, and I think Mark Teixera and Adam Dunn fall into their classification. More or less, I think that the only way these players get in is if: 1) they reach 500 home runs; and 2) the voters continue to rubber stamp 500 home run candidates. I’m not so sure that will remain the case, but it’s worth bringing them up in the interest of thoroughness


50 (4%). Omar Vizquel
51. Johnny Damon
52. Michael Young

Much like the 500 home run guys, I’m lumping these three together as the 3000 hit group. It’s likely none of them will make it, but it’s worth mentioning them.

I think Vizquel will get extra support for his fielding, but it’s still not enough in my opinion. I know a lot of people compare his case to Ozzie Smith’s, but the two aren’t really that close. Ozzie was a better hitter (87 OPS+ to 82) and a much better fielder (total zone, for one, gives Ozzie a 108 run lead over Vizquel). I know people like to think of Vizquel as second only to Ozzie in fielding, but he isn’t. Various stats rank players like Cal Ripken, Mark Belanger, Luis Aparicio, and Rey Sanchez between the two. He's been really incredible, but not a Hall of Fame-level player. 


53. Matt Holliday

I really don't know about Holliday. For as good as he's been, I think he's still underrated to an extent. For example, I see his name, and I don't think "Hall of Fame". And yet, he's 32, and through nine seasons (or rather, 8.5 and counting), he has 43.9 WAR. He also doesn't appear to be slowing down much, with a 155 OPS+ (to go with his 138 career mark) and 4.2 WAR on the season to date. His OPS+ has even increased every season since 2008. I remember many commentators (myself included) who wondered what year in his new deal Holliday would finally break down. It still may happen, but he may be worth that money and more before then.

As for his Hall case, there are a lot of moving parts at work. He was good in Colorado, but the voters seem very willing to discount Coors Field numbers (as seen with Larry Walker). He's been good enough that he may have a case, but he seems underrated. He's a corner outfielder, and the Hall hasn't been as hesitant to induct left fielders as they have other positions. He may not reach 500 home runs or 3000 hits (again, he's 32 and only has 1465 hits and 219 home runs), but that isn't necessarily a death sentence. I guess we just need to wait and see.


54. Hanley Ramirez 

Hanley’s case is pretty similar to Tulowitzki’s. Ramirez has been a better hitter (129 OPS+ to 118), but a much worse fielder. He’s also a year older and has an extra year of experience. There’s also the whole issue of Hanley’s reputation, though; if he can straighten things out in L.A., he can get his case back on track. Since 2006, he has 32.8 WAR.


55 (4%). Prince Fielder

I was going to list Fielder in the “500 Home Runs or Bust” group, but it felt a little early to label his chances that. He’s only 28, and a particularly strong run over the next five or six years will do wonders for his case. However, he’s pretty close to one-dimensional, which limits his value (25.9 WAR), so 500 home runs is probably the more likely method he’ll have to try for. He’s in his seventh full season and has 246 home runs. Also, it’s kind of interesting to note that his numbers to date look rather similar to Mark Teixeira’s at the same age.


56. Brian McCann
57. Yadier Molina
58. Jorge Posada

I feel like I need to list more catchers here, if only because I feel like I’ve disproportionately ignored them; having only 3 catchers (Mauer, Ivan Rodriguez, and Mike Piazza) on a list of 80 seems highly inadequate. So, really, this grouping is more of a collective listing; if you feel like the Hall of Fame should be electing something like 5% or 6% of the players active at any one point (like it has in the past), then you might want to induct a fourth catcher, especially since the group as a whole is rather underrated in the Hall.

You could make an argument that Posada is one of the fifteen best catchers in MLB history. He wouldn’t be the biggest snub from the Hall (later versions of the Hall of wWAR put him just below the cutoff), but if you’re trying to make a more reasonably-sized Hall, his inclusion wouldn’t be awful. Fangraphs has him at 47.8 WAR.

Yadier Molina and Brian McCann are more included for the possibilities. Both are under 30, so they have time. It’s very likely they don’t make the cut-off, though. Molina has 23.0 WAR, while McCann has 29.0.


59. Brian Giles

Part of the reason I’m including Giles is that I’m a fan of his. The other two parts are that he’s underrated and that you can actually construct a serious Hall case for him. Especially if you account for his late start (he was held down in AAA not because he wasn’t ready, but because he played for the Indians at a time when their outfield was Albert Belle, Kenny Lofton, and Manny Ramirez). Despite not getting regular playing time until he was 26 and playing , he managed some solid numbers; 411 doubles, 287 home runs, and a .291/.400/.502 triple slash. That looks even better when you realize he played a majority of his career in PetCo Park, and translates to a 136 OPS+. Yep; he was likely a home stadium away from becoming the 21st player with 3000 plate appearances and a .300/.400/.500 batting line.


The Full List
Player                   BA  OBP  SLG
Ty Cobb                .366 .433 .512
Rogers Hornsby         .358 .434 .577
Shoeless Joe Jackson   .356 .423 .517
Lefty ODoul            .349 .413 .532
Tris Speaker           .345 .428 .500
Ted Williams           .344 .482 .634
Babe Ruth              .342 .474 .690
Harry Heilmann         .342 .410 .520
Lou Gehrig             .340 .447 .632
Stan Musial            .331 .417 .559
Albert Pujols          .326 .416 .610
Jimmie Foxx            .325 .428 .609
Todd Helton            .320 .419 .545
Larry Walker           .313 .400 .565
Hank Greenberg         .313 .412 .605
Manny Ramirez          .312 .411 .585
Edgar Martinez         .312 .418 .515
Chipper Jones          .304 .402 .532
Mel Ott                .304 .414 .533
Frank Thomas           .301 .419 .555

That is a very solid list, I would say. 11 Hall of Famers, 8 players who will likely join them (eventually), and Lefty O’Doul (who played fewer than 10 full seasons). Even if you lower the bat to .290/.400/.500, you only add Giles, Berkman, Barry Bonds, Mickey Mantle, and Jeff Bagwell to the list. That’s more than decent company I think. Also, even with the late start, he was worth 59.2 WAR.


60. Bernie Williams

Williams, as of right now, probably falls into the lower end of the borderline for the Hall. He was a solid hitter-his 125 OPS+ ranks him ninth among center fielders with 2000 games. He's twelfth in total bases at the position,eleventh in times on base, and fourteenth in homers. Based solely on his hitting, you might be able to argue for him as a top-12 center fielder.
The problem is that Bernie was, by most accounts, an awful fielder. I've heard some people blame things like his bad routes; whatever it is, Total Zone says he cost the Yankees 118 runs. Fangraphs puts him at 152.5. Either way, it's a huge hit to his value.Fangraphs has him at 47.5 career WAR. If he were even a completely average fielder, that would bump his value all the way up to the low 60s. Bernie with an average glove easily clears the Hall's standards; Bernie as he actually was is a much bigger debate.


61. CC Sabathia

And now, we move on to pitchers. Predicting pitchers is much tougher than predicting hitters. With pitchers, there are so many things that can suddenly go wrong-injury, wildness, and so on. This isn’t too say predicting a hitter’s career is easy. Comparatively, though, it is. In any case, expect these to be quicker because of the added difficulty.

In any case, Sabathia seems to be the safest bet out of any pitcher who debuted in the 2000s. Fangraphs has him at 60.1 WAR already. He also already ha 2140 strikeouts and 186 wins. I still think he’s a solid bet to get 300 wins, which would clinch him with the voters.


62 (5%). Justin Verlander
63. Felix Hernandez
64. Zack Greinke

I would say this trio is the solid next tier of pitchers. Verlander and Hernandez got their starts in 2006, while Greinke began in 2004. All are in the middle of rather dominant stretches in their mid- to late-20s (29, 26, and 28, respectively). Also, they have 36.6, 36.6, and 34.4 WAR, respectively. I wouldn’t recommend betting on anyone from here on out, but if you were, you’d have to start here, right? Obviously, a lot depends on their 30s (which will be the case for all of these pitchers), but they have to have a leg up on the younger competition already, right?


65. Cliff Lee

Lee is a little older (33 this year), and he got it together later than most, but he’s still been rather dominant in the recent past. I remember looking at his career and Randy Johnson’s, and they both put their stuff together at about the same age. Does this mean I think Lee will put up a solid decade into his 40s where he averages 300 strikeouts per year or something crazy like that? Yes, that’s exactly what I think.

In all seriousness, though, he doesn’t need to be as good as Johnson. I’m just pointing out that the similarities exist, meaning he still does have time. Lee has 39.1 WAR.


66. Jered Weaver
67. Matt Cain
68. Cole Hamels
69. Jon Lester
70. Josh Johnson

These guys are again lumped together for age and ability. They’re all really talented and in their late-20s. Obviously, not all of them will end of even being worthy of the Hall. But they all could be, and I’m taking the “throw a bunch of darts and see what hits” approach. I would bet at least one (maybe even two or three) of these five has a clear Hall of Fame case by their mid-to-late-30s.


71. Dan Haren
72. Adam Wainwright
73. Jake Peavy
74. Josh Beckett

This is basically that last group time-shifted forward two or three years. Every one of them is between 30 and 32. The chance that all four of them is highly effective into their late 30s/early 40s? Not great. The chance that at least one of them is, thereby establishing a solid Hall case? Much better.


75 (6%). Johan Santana
76. Roy Oswalt

These two are 33 and 34, and both had their moments of dominance. Neither will likely be in the Cy Young running anymore. However, I’m not sure they need to be. A few solid or above average years will still help. A lot will depend on health, though. Santana is at 47.4 WAR, while Oswalt is at 50.7.


77. Mark Buehrle

Buehrle is sort of his own category. I’m not sure anything can slow him down. He’s 33, believe it or not. Yep, the same age as Lee and Santana. I don’t think I would have guessed that all three of them were the same age, for some reason. He’s sort of an outlier. He’s really only been great one season (2005), but he’s never really been awful, either. He just continues to be really useful every year. He has 47.8 WAR so far, and his 2012 season looks to match his 2011 or 2010 or 2009 season in value. He’s just bizarrely consistent.

Also, maybe it’s just because he’s a lefty who relies more on control, but I can totally picture him pitching into his 40s and reaching 300 wins (which would more or less lead the voters to fall in love with him). I have nothing more than a hunch to go on for this, but I see nothing to discredit it at this point in time. He currently has 170 wins.


78. Javier Vazquez
79. Tim Hudson
80. Chris Carpenter

Now I feel like I’m really reaching. These guys are in their age 35, 36, and 37 seasons (in that order). And haven’t necessarily been bad. If we’re looking for a next-tier, expanded Hall of Famer, this might be where we’re looking. They have 55.2, 50.9, and 42.4 WAR (odd that it’s the exact opposite of age). Not normally Hall of Fame numbers, but if you want to add to the Hall, you could definitely do much worse.

Also, Vazquez is currently retired, but he could always un-retire (like the next pitcher) and add to his totals. Also, did you know he has 2536 Ks? Javier Vazquez has been really good, and I feel like it’s easy to forget that.


81. Andy Pettitte

I would say Pettitte is already an upper-borderline candidate before accounting for expansion of the league. If his comeback lasts another solid year or two, I might be inclined to support him anyway.


82. Joe Nathan
83 (6.643%, the average from 1901 to 1982). Billy Wagner
84. Jonathan Papelbon
85. Francisco Rodriguez

I really don’t know what Hall voters look for in voting for relievers. It’s definitely not save totals, although that definitely doesn’t hurt. In any case, I would guess that at least one of these four will make it, if only because I doubt they’ll just stop electing relievers all together. Which one of these four? I don’t know right now.

Check back tomorrow for a final ordering of the candidates!

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