Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Great 2017 MLB Playoffs Trivia Preview

Over my years of writing at Hot Corner Harbor, I’ve acquired several traditions of pre-playoff previews, all of which make for interesting trivia. I’ve explored all of them in-depth in the past, so this year, I decided to combine them all into one mega-preview. So without further ado, let’s jump right in.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hiroki Kuroda's Unique Place in International Baseball History

I want to talk about Hiroki Kuroda for a moment.

Maybe you haven’t thought about him much in the recent past. I wouldn’t really blame you, considering that he left the Majors back in 2014 and hasn’t really been in the public eye (in the US, at least) since. That’s totally fair; he had seven years as a solid starter in the majors, which isn’t nothing, but still…time moves on, you know?

I was basically in the same boat anyway, so I can’t really say that I blame you. Plenty of pitchers have good seven year runs, and even if you’ve like me and have devoted as much of your memory to random baseball trivia at the expense of most other useful things, you just can’t remember all of them all the time. But that just made it all the more surprising when I saw his name pop up recently in some research that I was doing.

In case you haven’t thought about Kuroda’s career lately, it’s worth noting that, when he debuted in the Majors way back in 2008, he was already 33, with over a decade of seasons in Japan already under his belt. Despite his rookie season coming at such an advanced age, Kuroda went on to post a surprisingly strong career line: in 1319 innings pitched, Kuroda posted a 986 to 292 strikeout-to-walk ratio, a 1.172 WHIP, and a 3.45 ERA (good for a 115 ERA+). All of that adds up to 21.7 Wins Above Replacement, in spite of the rather mediocre-looking 79-79 career record.

That would be a good run for just about anyone, but for a pitcher to post that in their ages 33 to 39 seasons is especially impressive! And not only that, he went back to Japan for two more seasons with his longtime NPB* team, the Hiroshima Toyo Carp.

*Nippon Professional Baseball

To have a run like that, at those ages, is pretty exceptional. In fact, Kuroda ranks 55th all time in pitching WAR after age 33. Even more notable are some of the names immediately around him: you’ve got a trio of Hall of Famers (Fergie Jenkins 22.8, Whitey Ford 21.6, Jesse Haines 21.6) and another trio of knuckleballers (Tim Wakefield 22.8, Tom Candiotti 22.8, R.A. Dickey 22.7). That’s interesting company, if nothing else.

And pitching that good late in your career isn’t exactly a guarantee that one is destined for Cooperstown (those knuckleballers are evidence of that, as are numerous others on the list), but it’s also certainly not nothing. Indeed, only 27 Hall of Famers are better. It’s certainly enough to make me wonder: how might Hiroki Kuroda have done if he had started his career in the Majors? Would he be looking at a possible Cooperstown induction? I decided to take a stab at it.

Monday, September 11, 2017

How Many Active Players Should Make the Hall of Fame?: Using 2008 as a Case Study

Recently, I looked at active players to determine who would possibly make the Hall of Fame if it was more accurately sized. In this case, “accurately” refers to “in regards to historical precedence”, which is a little up for debate, but is definitely bigger than what we’re getting now. At the lower-end, that should be at the very least 40 players in any given year; at the upper-end, that number may go as high as something like 75 players active at once making Cooperstown. Realistically, I think something in the fifties is reasonable, but I wanted to demonstrate that.

While looking at active players is fun, it’s also difficult and hard to visualize. In part, that’s because at least some of your active players, by law of averages, have to be just starting out, which makes them hard to predict. So I figured, why not do it for a year a little further in the past? I’ve done this before, but it was a while ago, so I figured I’d update it and use a different year for good measure.

In this case, I picked 2008. Players who debuted in 2008 are now a decade into their careers, meaning they have the ten years required to appear on the Hall of Fame ballot, as well as a decade in the majors under their belt to help us evaluate if they have a realistic shot at Cooperstown.

In fact, some players active in 2008 are already inducted.

Already Inducted: Ivan Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas

That’s eight players that we for-sure need to account for. On top of that, there were two players active in 2008 who each received over 70% of the vote, Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman. For all intents and purposes, we should probably consider them as good as in, bringing our number to 10. Additionally, Mike Mussina finally topped 50% of the vote last year. Given that he still has over half of his time on the ballot ahead of him and that he’s more than deserving, we may as well include him, giving us 11 players.

Next, we can probably run down the locks quickly, since no one will argue them.

Friday, August 4, 2017

What Would a Hypothetical Backyard Baseball 2017 Look Like?

The recent Hall of Fame induction ceremony gave me a lot of varied ideas for articles. This one might be the silliest though, so of course I had to follow through on it.

Few things have been as influential a part of my life as baseball, but video games are up there. Maybe you already knew that though; after all, I sometimes even write about them. And, like many kids my age who grew up with a love of both things, one title reigned supreme: Backyard Baseball.*

*You too can enjoy having this song stuck in your head, just as I did while writing this (in alternating shifts with this, of course).

For those who might not be aware, Backyard Baseball was a series that started with a computer game released in 1997. The premise was generally pretty simple: it was a relative simple baseball game* aimed at younger audiences, with a colorful cast of neighborhood kids, straightforward and easy-to-understand gameplay, and a slew of cartoonish elements serving as the main selling points, and it made a strong enough impression that in spawned an entire, multi-sport franchise that became a cultural touchstone for a generation of sports fans.

*Fun fact: in researching this, I read that the original game was made in a point-and-click engine, which seems like a strange way to build a sports game, but makes more sense given that maker Humongous Entertainment was known for that style of game.

The second game, released in 2000 (but titled Backyard Baseball 2001), is probably even better known, however, as it tightened up things from the first game and added a bunch of features, including one of the things the series is most known for, the addition of 31 major league stars as kids to the game’s roster. A 2002 follow-up (but again subtitled 2003) would repeat the formula with a slightly shuffled set of 31 players (then subsequent games would shuffle the formula even more as the series generally declined in quality, but we won’t go there).

What got me thinking about it in relation to the Hall of Fame was that, as the writers at Cespedes Family BBQ noted, two of the inductees were on the Backyard Baseball 2001 roster. Indeed, Ivan Rodriguez and Jeff Bagwell are actually the eighth and ninth Backyard Representatives in the Baseball Hall of Fame. But it was their reference to Tim Raines that got me thinking, where they called him “one that would have been had the game been made 15 years earlier”; it’s been even longer than that since the release of 2001. What would a Backyard Baseball 2017* installment look like, as far as major league stars go? Since the series is functionally dead at this point, this will forever be stuck in the realm of fantasy, but it’ll still be a lot of fun to think about.

*Keeping track of 2001 and 2003 is already hard enough, so I won’t be calling this one Backyard Baseball 2018. Sorry.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Who Are the Hall of Famers Playing Today, If We Adjust for Size?

With the Hall of Fame induction over the past weekend, I’ve had a few ideas for related articles lately. Let’s start with the most directly-related idea.

I saw an interesting article over at Sporting News recently from Hall of Fame expert Graham Womack. If you aren’t already familiar with his work, you may still recognize his name from the “50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame” Project that I frequently participate in. In any case, he ran a piece recently looking at how many active players today might one day make it to Cooperstown.

It actually reminded me of something I wrote several years ago, and even though we took slightly different approaches, we wound up with similar conclusions: the Hall of Fame, as is, is just too small. And not just that, but we even wound up with similar numbers for our numbers too: while we’re seeing a little under 40 active players per season making the Hall, based on the precedent, it should probably be a little over 50 at least, possibly even as much as 75 (although we both agreed that end of the spectrum seemed a little too high).

It’s nice to see someone else who knows what they’re talking about come to that conclusion. And I figured it could be a good opportunity to run an update on my subsequent articles on the matter, where I tried to demonstrate how a Hall of this size would look transposed onto modern times (using both 2012 and 2006; you can find all of those pieces on this page under “Series 2”). It’s been five years, and the Hall of Fame induction ceremony was on Sunday* after all, so this is extra timely!

*Also, six months later, it’s still hard for me to believe Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines , and Ivan Rodriguez all got in this year, let alone that two more players missed by less than 20 votes.

So, what would 40/50/60/70+ active players making the Hall of Fame look like in todays game? Which players would we be looking at?

Friday, July 14, 2017

2017 Champions? Revisiting the Famous Astros Sports Illustrated Cover, and How Well My Prediction of Their Plan Has Held Up

Three years ago, Sports Illustrated published a notable* cover in which they declared the Houston Astros “Your 2017 World Series Champs”. It got some derision at the time, seeing as the team was then in the middle of a 92-loss season coming on the tails of three straight 100-plus-loss seasons (all of which saw them finish with the worst record in the majors). Some writers, myself included, defended the call, though.

*and pretty cool-looking

And then immediately after that, the Astros started the next season on a hot start and rode that all the way to the Division Series. In fact, they came a bad eighth inning away from going even further. In any case, the people who had been critical of the original cover mostly shut up at that point. However, the cover is getting renewed attention lately, partially because it’s the year Sports Illustrated originally gave, and partially because this year’s stellar Astros team is looking like Galactus, devourer of punier baseball teams, in turn making SI look like a bunch of prophets. So with that, I wanted to go back and look at my original take on the article and see how much of it came true to get the Astros to where they are today

The first thing I noted back in 2014 was the strength of the Astros’ farm system: they had six prospects in Baseball America’s Top 100 rankings from that year. I noted that it wasn’t realistic to expect all of them to hit their best-case scenarios, and that certainly happened. Mark Appel (now with Philadelphia) still hasn’t reached the majors at 25, Jon Singleton saw some time at the Major League level back in 2014 and ’15 but is back at AA, and Mike Foltynewicz is with Atlanta now* (but finally putting together his first above-average season, so good for him at least).

*Folty and Rio Ruiz, who I also name-dropped in my original piece, were part of the package to bring Evan Gattis and another key 2017er to Houston. Part of the upside in prospects though is being able to trade them for things you need, so it’s probably fair to call this one a success for the Astros as well, even if Foltynewicz isn’t himself an ace.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Is It Time for Dan Duquette and the Orioles to Part Ways?

The Orioles have felt like they’re in something of a tenuous position over the last few years. That may seem odd, given that no other team in the American League won more games in the previous five seasons. Indeed, from 2012 to 2016, the Orioles’ 444 wins were surpassed only by the Cardinals (461), Dodgers (455), and their Beltway Buddies, the Nationals (458). They’ve also managed three playoff appearances in that five-year span, more than 22 other teams and behind only the Dodgers and Cardinals at four apiece.

So why did it always feel like they were teetering on the edge of disaster? Maybe because there was a decent amount of luck involved; the Orioles have regularly beaten their projected record based on runs scored and allowed (even this year, which has been rather miserable thus far, they’re running five games ahead). Maybe it’s how they’ve pretty routinely outplayed even the best projection systems.

You’d think after years of stuff like that, their position would feel a little more stable, but it doesn’t. The closest comparison I can think of is to a few years ago, when Dave Duncan was the Cardinals’ pitching coach and they would regularly enter the season with a patchwork rotation: you’d know things would look bad on paper, but there would be faith that things would turn out okay. The only issue is, it’s a lot harder to feel like things are under control when that’s the approach for the entire roster instead of the 3 through 5 slots in the rotation.

And of course, on top of that, it's always hard to separate out how much of that overperformance is the result of Duquette's moves and how much is from other factors, like Buck Showalter's in-game management skills. It's worth separating out how much Duquette himself is responsible for in evaluating his performance, at least to the extent that it's possible to do so.

Friday, June 23, 2017

2017 Teams With a Chance to Set Home Run History: The Double-Digit Dinger Club

A few years ago, the Houston Astros shocked everyone by jumping out to a surprising early division lead, and they did it in part by hitting a lot of dingers. As I watched the season progress, an interesting subplot cropped up, beneath the question of whether the surprising young club would hold on to make the playoffs: they had a chance to make home run history.

No individual player was challenging any records, though. Rather, it was a team record the announcers would update viewers on: Most players with double-digit home runs. The all-time record was 11, set by the 2004 Detroit Tigers, who, like the 2015 ‘Stros, had no big masher leading the way; both teams were led by 27-homer guys (Carlos Pena and Evan Gattis, respectively). The Astros ended up tying this mark towards the end of the year, and had two more players finishing the season with 9.*

*Trivia time: almost half of those players aren’t on the Astros anymore, just a season and a half later. I’ll let you know who they are later in the column.

It’s a remarkable set of circumstances that leads to a team having more 10-home run guys than available lineup spots, but MLB was entering a period ideal for this, given the overall upward shift in home run totals. That trend continued in 2016, and another team joined those two atop the leaderboards: the 2016 Twins. Despite losing 103 games, just shy of a dozen Minnesota players went yard ten or more times last year.

MLB has seen yet another increase in home run totals this year, which got me wondering: could we see our fourth 11-10-homer team this year? Is there a better name for that exclusive club? And most importantly, what are the odds that some time has a full twelve players reach that mark? With just over 70 games in the books, lets take a look at the early leaders in 10-homer players, and who else they might see reach that total.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Do the Astros Need to Make Any Trades?

Today is the sixth anniversary of Hot Corner Harbor, and by some coincidence, I’ll be looking at a similar question as I did six years ago. Back then, I was wondering if one of the top teams in the league needed to make any moves to shore up their roster, despite having the second-best record in the majors. Today, I’ll be doing the same, only this time for the team with the best record in the majors: do the Astros need to make a trade, and if so, for whom?

Let’s start with the obvious: the Astros are already a really, really good team. You don’t get to a 38-16 record at the start of June if you aren’t. Sure, sometimes bad teams will fluke their way into a division lead at this point, or close to it. For instance, look no further than June 1, 2014, where half of the division leaders finished the season between 79 and 83 wins… but those types of teams aren’t generally 38-16 with a 11-game division lead. The Astros are already in rare territory.

Of course, nothing guarantees that they’ll keep up this pace, and even if they do finish the year with 114 wins, there’s still a chance they get bounced early in the playoffs (remember the 2001 Mariners?). Upgrading an area of weakness couldn’t hurt.

So what would that area of weakness be? Well, the team is second in the majors in both most runs scored per game (barely behind the Nationals) and fewest runs allowed per game (behind the Dodgers). That…seems pretty balanced. Digging deeper, we see that the Astros lead the majors with a 121 wRC+. That’s as a team, which is just incredible. They’ve hit, on average, 21% better than a league-average hitter. So yeah, they’ve got their bases covered there, both metaphorically and literally.

Their pitching isn’t quite that strong; they have a team ERA- (like ERA+, but below 100 is better instead of above) of 86, fourth-best staff in the majors. However, it’s worth noting that they’re currently outperforming their FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) by a little bit. At 90, they drop all the way to seventh in the league. Both are good, they just don’t live up to the high standards the hitters set.

Breaking it down to starters and closers is a little rougher; while their bullpen rates highly, their starters currently carry an 87 ERA- (fifth in the league) and a 97 FIP-. This makes some sense: while Dallas Keuchel has looked like his old Cy-Young-winning self and Lance McCullers has broken out in a big way, the rest of the rotation has been more ordinary. Collin McHugh has been hurt all year, Charlie Morton has been fine but just went on the DL, Joe Musgrove isn’t super overpowering and is prone to surrendering dingers, and Mike Fiers at the back end has been giving up homers like he thinks the Sky Gods demand sacrifices. They could stand to have a little bit more depth here. After all, you can never have enough arms.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Out of the Park Baseball 18: Trying to Build a Playoff-Caliber Core, Part 3

Out of the Park Baseball allowed me to try their latest release, Out of the Park Baseball 18. For this year’s edition of my review, I wanted to do something different: a multi-part attempt to build a championship core for a rebuilding team to get them to the playoffs. In Part 1, I added Mike Trout to this year’s San Diego Padres and watched them go 68-94. In Part 2, I added Trout and Chris Sale and watched the team miss the second Wild Card in the last week of the season, finishing 83-78. What would my third go-around bring?

ATTEMPT 3: 2017-B

As the start of the season rolled around in the 2017-B timeline, the San Diego Padres made a series of shocking moves. On a single day, they managed to trade Manuel Margot for Mike Trout, Jered Weaver for Chris Sale, and Erick Aybar for Manny Machado. Fans didn't question this stroke of good luck, as it considerably brightened their outlook on the coming year.

Opening Day was a 4-1 loss to Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers, with the new acquisitions putting up some mediocre performances. Trout went 2-4 with 2 singles, Machado went 0-3, and Sale gave up 4 runs on 5 hits (2 home runs) and 4 walks with 5 strikeouts in 7.0 innings.

We end the first month just above .500, at 14-13. That puts us in third place, just three games behind the NL West-leading Diamondbacks and a half-game behind the second place Dodgers. That feels a little disappointing, but it is two games ahead of where the Machado-less Padres of 2017-A were at this point, and they turned okay.*

*And in a representation of the variance that occurs within any baseball season, it also means that we're six games ahead of the Sale-and-Machado-less Padres of 2017, and three games ahead of the Trout-Sale-and-Machado-less Padres of real-world 2017 were at the end of April.

Mike Trout is doing his usual Mike-Trout-esque things, hitting .302/.407/.615 (a 185 OPS+) with 7 homers. Chris Sale is only kind of doing Chris-Sale-type things, though (44 K, 2.98 ERA, 125 ERA+, 3.25 FIP in 42.1 IP), and Manny Machado is decidedly un-Manny-Machado-like (.240/.339/.310, 86 OPS+; mediocre fielding stats, although he's playing shortstop now). We also don't really have the backup we did in 2017-A; Yangervis Solarte is playing decently, but not one else is really stepping up yet.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Out of the Park Baseball 18: Trying to Build a Playoff-Caliber Core, Part 2

Out of the Park Baseball once again gave me the chance to try the newest version of their game, Out of the Park Baseball 18. I decided that, this year, I would run a more comprehensive simulation than it years’ past: I would take the roster of a tanking team (namely, the San Diego Padres) and slowly add star players until the team made it to the postseason.

In Part 1, the team got an infusion of Mike Trout in center field, but it wound up not being enough; the team lost 94 games, coming nowhere near playoff baseball. Clearly, one man wouldn’t be enough to turn this team into a powerhouse. But what about two men? Enjoy these dispatches from the alternate timeline, 2017-A:

ATTEMPT 2: 2017-A

Okay, so the best position player of today wouldn't be enough to bump the Padres up to playoff status. What about the best pitcher on top of that?

There was just one problem with that: if my goal was to take the Padres to the playoffs, taking Clayton Kershaw directly from a division rival would have double the effect of just adding a great pitcher. I'd be directly harming someone standing right in the way of my goal. So at this point, I basically decided that I would have to limit myself to taking only the best AL players, as even players from other NL teams would still make my path to the Wild Card easier.

And so, that's how I wound up adding both Mike Trout and Chris Sale to the 2017-A San Diego Padres. After once again sending Manuel Margot to the Angels, I followed that up by sending Jered Weaver to Boston. They probably won't notice the difference, right?

Monday, May 8, 2017

Out of the Park Baseball 18: Trying to Build a Playoff-Caliber Core, Part 1

Once again this year, I was given a chance to try this year’s edition of Out of the Park Baseball (Out of the Park Baseball 18) and review it in some way. For those who are unaware, Out of the Park Baseball is a simulation game, meaning it focuses on the managerial and front office side of the game. But even that is underselling it; it's the most complete experience a baseball fan could want in this regard. You can simulate the current season into the future, or start from any historical season in history, or even generate an entirely fictitious league.

In the past, I’ve used the game’s amazing simulation abilities to run some scenarios of various levels of craziness; this year, I wanted to go in a slightly different direction though. Something equally as impossible as putting Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, and Kevin Brown on the same team in their prime. Rather than getting deep into one scenario, I want to instead use it to re-run the same scenario many times, each time tweaking things and recording the results. The basis of this thought experiment is simple: every now and then, I'll sit and think about various "cores" of good teams, specifically things like how good the best stars on a team need to be, or how many of them a team needs.*

*For one example of some of this, see my ramblings on Lou Piniella and the Mariners from when he was on the Veterans Committee Hall of Fame ballot this past offseason.

In practical terms: I'm going to take the 2017 Padres*, and I'm going to add Mike Trout and see if they make the playoffs.** If they don't, I'll go back to the start of 2017 and add a second amazing player; if they don't make it that time, start the process over a third time, and so on.

*While they aren't the worst team in the majors right now, I settled on this example before the season. It just took me a while to carve out the free time to play, at which point it was too late to switch. Either way, it's hard to argue that a team looked more in it to tank in 2017 than San Diego.

**Some may argue that this isn’t too different than the 2017 Angels. I’m not sure I could argue against that claim too vigorously.

Without further ado, here is the first part of my grand experiment for this year:

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Predicting Future Hall of Famers 2017 Follow-Up: The Disappearance of Below-Median Starters

In the previous post, I was discussing active pitchers above the median Wins Above Replacement for Hall of Famers by age when I noted something interesting at the end: there are only two starters* above the overall median who are eligible for the Hall but not inducted or still on the ballot. Kevin Brown and Rick Reuschel both cleared the median by less than a full Win. Other than them, everyone above the median has made it.

*As defined last time, this is pitchers who began post-1919 with 10% or more of their total games as a starter. See last time for the reasoning on that, although I'll be jumping back and forth in this one between "Live Ball" starters and "Total" starters; I'll make the distinction clear when those shifts happen.

This makes for an interesting contrast with the hitters. Limiting ourselves to just post-1919 debuts so that we're working with comparable sets of players, the median WAR for hitters is 65.1 (held by Craig Biggio)*, just a bit lower than the pitchers' mark of 67.95 (between Jim Palmer and Carl Hubbell). While there are only two pitchers above the median not yet in or still on the ballot, there are nine such hitters, ranging from Rafael Palmeiro (71.6 WAR) to Willie Randolph (65.5). And if we expand this to include players on the ballot, it becomes five starters to thirteen position players (plus the ineligible Pete Rose). And while those three pitchers all look likely to get inducted, the four hitters are much more uncertain, with Barry Bonds and Edgar Martinez looking likely to get inducted before they age out but Larry Walker and Manny Ramirez looking like long shots.

*Note that this is a little different than the median I used in the previous piece; that’s because I did not limit that median to post-1919 batters. However, I wanted the two to be on a level playing field here, so there’s a slight upwards shift as a result.

That's an interesting level of uniformity. Maybe this is a sign of those pitchers all being particularly obvious? But let's look at the flip-side; how have players below the median done? After all, the median is the middle point, not the end-all, be-all. We should be seeing at least some below-median names getting inducted, right? Well, that's the interesting part: we really aren't for pitchers.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Predicting Today's Future Hall of Fame Starting Pitchers, 2017 Edition

Continuing the fifth anniversary of my “Predicting Future Hall of Famer” projects, we of course have the pitchers next. Here’s this year’s hitters article, if you need to get caught up first, though.

As a quick recap of how this works, I look at what the Hall median Wins Above Replacement is for starters at each age, look at how many total players had that much WAR at that same age (only for retired players who have had a chance to appear on the ballot, with pitchers still on the ballot factored out to account for their uncertain outcome), then take a percentage to figure out a rough numerical “chance” each active player has.

I’m interested especially in starting pitchers specifically, as relievers are their own sort of beast. The Hall has only inducted a handful of relievers, and the few they’ve inducted don’t adhere to a pattern quite as well as the starters, who correlate pretty strongly with career WAR. At every step of the way, I’ve filtered my numbers down to pitchers who started 10% of more of their games played; this seems low, but I wanted to factor in starters who were eased into the role via the bullpen, as some Hall of Famers were.

Additionally, I’ve filtered this just to Hall of Famers who debuted post-deadball era (1920 on). Starting pitching is a pretty constantly evolving role, and a lot of the earliest starters would really mess with our numbers; take, for instance, Old Hoss Radbourn, who debuted at 26, pitched for eleven seasons, including ones of over 13 and 19 WAR, and then retired. We simply aren’t going to have any pitchers today who have a career that looks like that, so it didn’t make much sense to me to include them. I’ve picked a hard cut-off for the sake of convenience.

And I’ll run through the standard disclaimers, which are even more relevant for the pitchers than for the hitters. This is solely based on precedent, which can be a fickle thing in Hall of Fame voting. This is especially true when you factor in that the players in each “not in the Hall of Fame” group still have a chance to reach Cooperstown in the future by way of the Veterans Committee, which is even less predictable than the standard BBWAA voting. And of course, this isn’t to determine who will wind up “deserving” of making the Hall of Fame, as plenty of deserving players get snubbed. On the flip side, this doesn’t mean any player has no chance, as half of the players in the Hall didn’t reach the median, by definition.

Okay then, onward to the modern starters with Hall hopes:

Friday, March 3, 2017

Predicting Today's Future Hall of Fame Hitters, 2017 Edition

This year is the fifth anniversary of my annual “Predicting Future Hall of Famers” project (see the past four years here), so I don’t know how much of an introduction is necessary. Let’s just jump right into the methodology refresher so that we can move on to the active players on pace, shall we?

Basically, I’m looking at how the Hall’s elected players (hitters today, pitchers next) have historically looked at each age en route to their eventual election into the Hall of Fame. I use Wins Above Replacement (Baseball-Reference’s version, for the sake of research) due to its high correlation to Hall election, and look at how each hitter looked, career-total-wise, each year. I pick out the median as a baseline, then look at what percentage of players with the median WAR at that age eventually got into the Hall.

To put concrete numbers on this, say that there were 99 hiters in the Hall of Fame, and the 50th most WAR at the age of 28 was 30. I would then see how many total players in history had 30 WAR at 28, then take a percentage of players in the Hall out of total players (removing players still on the ballot or not yet eligible, as their status is still up in the air). So if there were 100 players with 30 WAR at 28, we’d say there was a 50% chance of a player at the Hall median for WAR at age 28 eventually getting elected. It’s a little simple and crude, but it’s a good visualization of how historic Hall of Fame careers have looked.

And of course, the standard disclaimers: this is based entirely on precedent, which is a fickle thing in Hall voting. Good, deserving players get snubbed all the time from Cooperstown. Other times they have to wait years before the Veterans Committee before they get in. On the flip side, by definition, half of the players in the Hall of Fame were below the median, so not hitting the mark is not a death sentence for their eventual enshrinement. This is just to pick out the strongest cases and assign rough odds.

Good, now, with all that out of the way, let’s see who all is absolutely, totally, 100% going to get elected on the first ballot 20 years from now: