In an era of swelled offensive statistics, it seems as though more players than ever before have a shot at making the Hall of Fame. However, when the averages increase, the old standards cease to exist. Voters will create new standards leaving worthy candidates wondering why their numbers aren’t good enough to get them in. I’m going to put a best guess list together as far as how many active players will make the HOF and which players will come up short. I will be going through one position at a time.
The basis for my judgment: The average Hall of Fame career has more than a few distinct characteristics. To predict which players will make it, it’s crucial to know these characteristics. First, getting into the Hall of Fame is about numbers unless there are extenuating circumstances (ex. Kirby Puckett going blind). If the 500 home run or 3,000 hit milestone is reached, a player becomes a lock (although 3,000 hits is much more impressive than 500 home runs). To achieve these numbers, a player must become an everyday player by the age of 23. Anyone who starts after 23 must be the most dominant player at his position for 10+ years (ex. Mike Piazza). A very high career batting average can also offset a late start. To accurately predict which younger players will make the Hall of Fame, it’s only necessary to look at their age when they first contributed significant statistics. If it’s by the age of 23, then you have someone to consider.
Inside the voter-minds: I think that voters will start paying more attention to higher batting averages (like Vlad, Pujols, and Manny) and higher OPS (on base percentage + slugging percentage). In an era where almost everyone hits home runs, voters need another distinguishing statistic. I think .300 will no longer be considered with the same reverence as it used to. According to Bill James' "Historical Baseball Abstract", 20% of everyday players hit .300 or better in the 1990's. In the preceeding three decades, that percentage was 12%, 15%, and 15% respectively. The more people that hit .300, the less important it becomes.
Rules: I’m only considering players 25 and older. I'm only considering active players currently in MLB. Rickey Henderson and Roberto Alomar are locks but they're done with the majors. I want to abide by some limitations based on precedents from years past. In 1975, there were 34 (I'm counting Pete Rose because he was a Hall of Fame player and that's all I'm concerend with) active Hall of Famers in the majors. Twenty-one were hitters and thirteen were pitchers. I won't necessarily keep my projections below 34 but I'll take that number into consideration so my final total isn't out of hand.
I'm interested in hearing where people agree or differ from my projections so feel free to comment. Just click on the player’s name to view their career stats. The most useful tools for comparing player stats can be found at MLB's sortable stats engine and CNNSI's all-time stats archive.
Ken Griffey Jr.
In barring injury: (5)
Gary Sheffield Sheffield’s career has been unique. He hasn’t strung together consistently dominate seasons like most big-time hitters. However, the overall numbers are there. He’s gotten better with age and he should have no problem getting to 500 home runs. His batting average is very good. I think he will continue to be a superstar for 3-4 more years which will also put him right around 3,000 hits.
Vladimir GuerreroVlad’s numbers are unbelievable. His current numbers have him on pace to join some rare company. Only Albert Pujols can claim to have comparable stats at his age (and possibly Miguel Cabrera in four years). I would put Vlad in the lock category but a career ending injury would probably keep him from getting in.
Manny Ramirez Ramirez has been an RBI machine since he came into the league. He’s been one of the more consistent power hitters in the majors. His numbers are very good and he’s on pace to reach 500 home runs and 3,000 hits. Manny only needs three more productive seasons to become a lock.
Ichiro Suzuki The career stats won’t ever be there for Ichiro. He started his MLB career much too late to get to 3000 hits. However, his hitting ability is too good to overlook. He averages 236 hits per season. His career batting average is .336. These numbers are simply unmatched by anyone in the game today. Voters will consider the amount of time he spent in Japan when deciding his fate. He’ll get in.
Andruw Jones Some people might be shocked to see Jones on the list of players that will get in. Don’t be. He’s only 28 years old. He’s one of the two best defensive centerfielder’s in baseball (along with Torre Hunter). He’ll have 300 homers (give or take a few) by the end of this season. He’s almost a lock for 500 home runs if he stays healthy. Jones was only 20 when he broke the everyday lineup. That gives him a huge advantage in getting into the Hall.
To see why the following players probably won't make the Hall of Fame, one only needs to look at Albert Belle. Belle is proof that being one of the most feared hitters in baseball for ten seasons is not always enough to get you in. Belle won’t make the Hall of Fame despite putting up monster numbers for the Indians and Orioles. The following players will finish their careers with great numbers but need to do more than Belle did to even be considered.
Will just miss the cut: (5)
Larry Walker If Walker hadn’t played so many years in Colorado, his numbers might be good enough to get him in. The problem is that voters will judge the Colorado players with a higher standard. Walker didn’t reach any of the necessary “milestones” and never matched the success he had in Colorado with any other team.
Bobby Abreu Abreu has the talent and will have the career numbers to get heavy consideration but he hasn’t hit enough home runs. I think that will be what keeps him out. He’s one of the premier base stealers in baseball. His OBP is .413! His career batting average is .305. He does it all. The problem is that voters love the homer and he’s never hit more than 31 in a season.
Juan Gonzalez Juan gone was almost a lock. He took the same path as Jose Canseco (only with better numbers). His numbers are phenomenal for the amount of healthy seasons he’s played. However, he needed two more good years. It’s possible for him to resurrect his career and get to 500 homers which would get him in. But, he can’t even stay healthy for one game.
Carlos Beltran Out of the players in this category, Beltran has the best chance to make it. He started young. He’s a 5-tool player. He has plenty of time to improve but I think he’ll fall short of the milestones and his career batting average will never be above .285.
Garret Anderson The fact that most people will be surprised to see Anderson’s name here shows just how underrated he is. He’s been one of the most consistent players over the last ten years. His numbers won’t blow you away but he’s putting together a pretty good resume. The problem with Anderson is that he doesn’t walk enough. This hurts is OBP and OPS. He’s very good but very unlikely to make the Hall.