Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Active Hall of Fame Outfielders

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.


Outfield:

In:

Locks: (3)

Barry Bonds
Ken Griffey Jr.
Sammy Sosa



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.

Not in:

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.

6 comments:

Matt said...

Roberto Alomar is no more a HOF'er than Omar Vizquel. I don't care what their statistics look like. They might make it if there is a weak ballot, or someday on the veteran's committee. Vizquel played in an era of great SS's, like Ripken, Tejeda, Jeter, Rodriguez, etc. Alomar will forever be dogged by the spitting incident, and he tailed off badly at the end of his career.

Tony said...

Roberto Alomar's numbers are very comparable to Ryne Sandberg, a little less pop with more sbs and a higher average. Sandberg is being inducted into the Hall of Fame along with Boggs in a little over a week. Alomar might not be first ballot, but he'll make it.

As for outfielders. I think Bonds and Jr are locks. Sosa is likely a first ballot guy as well, with those 60 hr seasons. I believe we'll see Shef in the HOF too. Vlad is unreal, but he could suffer the Juan Gon or Joey Albert Belle syndrome and find himself on the outside looking in. But Vlad has hit over 300 every year, from 21 years of age till today, and I don't expect a fall off soon.

I guess I'm not sold on Andruw Jones. I have problems with guys with an average in the 260s getting in, but the fact he has had success since he, like Vlad, was so young, combined with the fact he'll clear 500 hr and have a dozen gold gloves means he'll be a lock barring injury.

Don't rule out Bobby Abreu yet. He is only 31. 7 more productive years and he'd find himself on the plus side of 400 hr and 400 sbs with an average over 300. Only one other player has reached those three numbers, and thats Barry Bonds, and he's barely holding on with a 300 career average. Heck, only Bonds and Mays have the distinction of being in the 300-300-300 club of AVG-HR-SB. Abreu is not a lock by any means yet, and when his career is over, he might be along the lines of an Andre Dawson debate of Hall of very good, but in the company of Mays and Bonds is truly special.

Lombaowski said...

Alomar is borderline and Vizquel is a little further off. Alan Trammell or Lou Whitaker should be in if those guys get in. I still think Whitaker was as good as Sandberg (career stats are close) but never won those gold gloves because he was up against the great Frank White in the AL. Don't get me started on Jack Morris which completely makes no sense.

On the outfielders list I see no mention of Jim Edmunds. 7 Gold Gloves, 300 HRs, and a .300 career average at 35 isn't bad. If guys like Larry Walker are mentioned Edmunds should be mentoned also.

What about Andre Thorton, Henry Cotto, and Cliff Floyd? Come on!

Jake said...

The next player on the list would've been Edmonds but his chances are slim at best. His career average is .293 (which is good but you're giving him too much credit by saying he's a .300 hitter) and dropping. He doesn't have 1,000 RBI's and barely has 1,000 runs. He only has 1,600 career hits. He's only hit more than 30 home runs four times. He's only driven in 100 runs four times. He doesn't do anything on the base paths. He doesn't walk. He's a phenomenal center fielder and a very good power hitter. He just doesn't have the career numbers.

Larry Walker dwarfs Edmonds in every category. I understand the argument that even Pete Incaviglia would've hit .300 with 30 home runs in Colorado which is why Walker won't get in. However, his career OPS is much higher than Edmonds. His career batting average is .312 (name me a guy with a career batting average that high who hasn't gotten in). He has over 200 sb's. His OBP is .400. If we talk about Edmonds then Walker has to get in first. That's not happening.

When it's all said and done, Edmonds might have a better case than Garret Anderson but Anderson is two years younger so I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Plus, there's going to be a full-fledged controversey if Garret Anderson reaches 3,000 hits.

Lombaowski said...

Babe Herman, Tiger Bob Fothergill, and Shoeless Joe Jackson just to name a few players who batted .312 over a career and aren't in the HOF. I agree Larry Walker would be ahead of Edmunds but Edmunds still has some years left and although he may be on the outside looking in, I think he still has a chance because he is a darling of ESPN. In today's game, don't think that doesn't count for something.

Lombaowski said...

Edgar Martinez also hit .312 and he is very borderline. I'm glad you mention these things because it proves that the baseball HOF is by far the most difficult to get in. The football version lets you in if you played for the Steelers in the 1970s (sorry Drew Pierson you big Fokking baby).

 

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