Thursday, June 30, 2005

Oden, O-damn!

Greg Oden has committed to Ohio St. Oden could've been the #1 pick in next year's draft if the NBA hadn't changed it's age rule. Oden said, "it didn't really affect my decision, because I always knew I wanted to go to college". Whatever! In my lifetime, I have never seen a top 3 lottery pick turn down the draft. Oden can love college all he wants but I bet he loves millions of dollars more.

In any event, Oden's commitment to the Buckeyes continues Ohio St.'s basketball renaissance. Oden's teammate and nationally ranked high school recruit Mike Conley will also play college basketball for Ohio St. In a season marred by probation, coach Thad Matta and Co. gave top ranked Illinois their only regular season loss and managed to play respectable ball. Unfortunately for Michigan fans, Ohio State Basketball seems to be making the leap right before our eyes. How this happened, I have no idea.

If there's any consolation, I highly doubt Oden will be in Columbus for more than one season. Regardless, the Oden and Conley commitments will surely make some noise in the recruiting world and give potential recruits plenty of reason to head to Columbus. Bummer.

June Swoon

So this is how things are going to be?

The Tigers had the winning run on third base in the eighth, ninth and 11th innings and loaded the bases with one out in the 13th, but the White Sox bullpen kept Detroit at bay.

Yep, that's right. All the Tigers needed to do to beat the ChiSox last night was bring home a guy from 3rd base 1 out of 4 times. They stranded five guys in scoring position AFTER the 8th inning!

On Saturday, June 25, the Tigers were 1 game over .500. Sunday's game featured Detroit's ace Jeremy Bonderman against a depleted D-backs lineup that was missing Luis Gonzalez and Troy Glaus. Bonderman promptly gave up eight earned runs in two innings and the Tigers got pummeled 13-7. Add the two one-run losses to the first place White Sox and the Tigers have lost 4 out of 5 with the Yankees coming to town. This could get ugly.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Michigan Football Preview

Each Michigan football season provides hope for a National Championship. At least half of the Michigan schedules over the last 12 years have given the Wolverines a legitimate chance of going undefeated. Michigan is usually the best team in the Big Ten which gives them a decent chance of going undefeated in conference. On top of that, Michigan’s non-conference schedule usually features a combination of a slightly above average team from a major conference (often the Pac-10), Notre Dame, and a MAC team. These schedules are often eye candy for any Michigan fan. If you look at this year’s schedule, you’ll find one of these schedules except the “slightly above average team from a major conference” is replaced by ANOTHER MAC team. I wish this meant that Michigan will go undefeated this year but that’s hardly the case. It doesn’t matter who’s on the schedule (unless we miss Ohio St. and Iowa and play 3 home games in the non-conference against weak opponents) Michigan will lose 3-4 games per year. It’s a disturbing trend that has plagued Lloyd Carr’s coaching career. So, I suggest you do what I’ve done which is enjoy the helmets and Michigan Stadium. Enjoy the uniforms and close games. Enjoy the blowouts over Indiana and Illinois. Enjoy the tradition. Michigan football is about tempering your expectations unless you’re a masochist. If you enjoy the disappointment, fluke losses, and prehistoric game management, then more power to you. If you're a rabid fan who lives and dies with every play of every game, then I suggest you scale back and enjoy the scenery. There’s nothing like the tradition of Michigan football. Enjoy that.

Now that you know how I feel about Michigan’s National Championship hopes, I’ll preview the team.


Passing game:
I find it hard to believe that the offense will be better this year than last year. I think this year’s offense will score a lot of points and provide difficult matchups for everyone on the schedule. I just have a lot of respect for last year’s offense. As good as Chad Henne played, Braylon Edwards was unstoppable. There is no way Michigan pulls out the win against Michigan St. without Braylon. There is no way Michigan hangs with and almost beats Texas without Braylon. Henne will be improved. Breaston will certainly be more effective since he’ll be healthy. Avant is a good but not spectacular receiver. The passing game will be a strong suit for the team no doubt. I think the following equation holds true:

Braylon Edwards=Henne’s Improvement + Breaston being healthy

Henne’s improvement and Breaston being healthy will offset the loss of Edwards. Nothing more, nothing less. Terry Malone stepped up big time last year with surprisingly effective play calling. There were head-scratchers as usual like the 3rd down call in the Rose Bowl that pretty much ruined Michigan’s chances of winning. The running game was running on all cylinders and Malone called for a difficult out pattern to the sidelines that had no chance of working. But, to my surprise, that was a rarity throughout the season. Malone is obviously more comfortable calling plays than in years past and I think he’ll be a strength for the team.

Running game:
The running game could be better than last year. I’ve never been a big fan of a running back-by-committee approach. I rationalized that the team will run the same amount of times each game regardless of who’s in the backfield so they might as well use the best back every time. However, that was before I saw Auburn last year. With Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams splitting carries, each guy was twice as fresh as the average back. Not to mention, a competition arose between the two where they tried to top each other. The only way to stay in the game is make it impossible for the coach to take you out. I can’t think of a better way to motivate a player to pick up his game. As a result, I think the committee approach will make the Michigan running game better this year than last year. I fully appreciate how good Dave Baas was. He was versatile and dominant. However, it’s important to note that he played center. Center is the equivalent to a safety. They’re important but your team can still be good without a great one. If Ruben Riley can play 80% as well as Baas, then there shouldn’t be an issue. Mike Hart will only get better with more playing time. He was a wrecking ball last year rarely going down on tackle attempts 1-5. He has an uncanny ability to stay on his feet even in the direst situations. Hart is no fluke. It will be hard to watch him leave the game as a fan and I’m sure it will be equally as hard for the coaching staff. However, with Max Martin showing the coaching staff big-time potential and the addition of top 20 high school player Kevin Grady, the coaching staff can opt to keep a fresh running back in the game at all times. This will help the most in the 4th qtr when the opposing defenses are fatigued and the Michigan backfield is just getting started.

Key Players:
We all know the best players on the offense. Henne, Hart, and Breaston will show up. The potency of the offense will depend on how certain key players perform. The players that will determine just how successful the offense will be are Tim Massaquoi, Adam Stenavich, Ruben Riley, Jason Avant, Adrian Arrington and Doug Dutch. Surely there will be other players that step up and play better than anyone expected. However, if I had to choose a group of players that had to have above average seasons for Michigan to dominate, these would be the guys I’d point to.

Jason Avant: If Avant can become a reliable possession receiver then the offense will be tough to stop. Last year, if Avant was open, then great but if he wasn’t, Henne had the Braylon option. Avant was not relied on for success last year. His numbers weren’t overly impressive and they didn’t need to be. However, without Braylon to bail out the offense, Avant needs to be a factor. He’ll be called on in key 3rd down situations. He has shown a knack for hanging on to the ball and making difficult catches. That’s fine and dandy but he’ll need to become a reliable target to keep the chains moving.

Tim Massaquoi: Ever since Massaquoi came in to the program as one of the top wr’s in high school, hopes have been high. It’s safe to say that most people thought that he would’ve contributed more by now. Massaquoi has had good games and will likely improve upon last year’s performance. For Michigan to reach its potential on offense this year, the TE position will need to be a strength. Michigan has been at its best historically when all facets of the passing game are going which includes the TE. Massaquoi has all the physical attributes and now has the experience to go with it.

Ruben Riley: So far, the only thing Michigan fans know about Ruben Riley as far as ability is that he’s versatile. He can play anywhere on the line which makes him an ideal candidate to replace Baas. Ever since the Michigan coaching staff made the decision to start the best 5 lineman regardless of position, the line has been effective. Riley should make it possible for this strategy to continue. If Riley stumbles, the running game could suffer as it did with Mark Bihl at center at the start of last season.

Adam Stenavich: Stenavich surely has ability. You don’t start on the OL at Michigan during your freshmen year without being good. However, Stenavich is probably the most overrated Wolverine on the team. He’s constantly in a position battle with his understudies. He’s been more like Tony Pape than Jake Long in terms of being a reliable pass protector. CFN pegged him as one of the best lineman in the country which is high praise for someone who hasn’t sniffed their potential. If Stenavich plays as well as CFN thinks he will, then get ready for the Rose Bowl. However, I’m just hoping for some improvement over last year.

Doug Dutch/Adrian Arrington: I think most Michigan fans feel the same way here. It doesn’t matter who steps up as long as someone does. Dutch is fast. Arrington is big. Can either be good? I think both will get a fair shot at the number three wr spot. The problem that exists with Breaston and Avant as the top two wr’s is that neither is a physical mismatch for the opposing team. Breaston is slippery and quick but a bigger DB will be able to play physical. Avant is tough but he’s not big or fast. The offense needs a big, physical WR in the mold of Braylon, David Terrell, and Marquise Walker. Breaston and Avant don’t fit the mold. If the offense is going to have someone like that to take the pressure off of Breaston and Avant, it will likely have to come from Dutch or Arrington.


The 2004 defense was one of the worst defenses in Michigan football history. The hype entering the season was that Michigan had more depth than anyone in college football on the defensive side of the ball. Marlin Jackson and Ernest Shazor were pre-season All-Americans in the defensive backfield. Gabe Watson was supposed to dominate the running game by himself. The expectations for Pierre Woods were astronomical coming off of his one-man-show in the 2004 Rose Bowl loss to USC. With an early season schedule that featured one-dimensional offenses such as Miami (OH) and San Diego St., Michigan seemed to be living up to the expectations. However, the last few games of the season provided Michigan with its first showdown with legitimate offenses. The results were atrocious. Drew Stanton made a mockery of the Michigan defense as Michigan St. dominated the Wolverine defense before Stanton left with an injury. Ohio St.’s sometimes starter, sometimes backup Troy Smith smoked the Wolverines defense time after time as the Buckeyes routed Michigan in an embarrassing regular season finale. Unfortunately for Michigan fans, the worst was yet to come. Vince Young turned in a Michael Vick vs. a high school team type performance as Texas rolled up 38 points in the Rose Bowl. Michigan’s only effective defense came in the form of the game clock reaching :00. It was ugly and it was ugly often.

With the expectations not even remotely close to last seasons, Michigan’s 2005 defense may just surprise a few people. Jackson and Shazor are gone. Lawrence Reid is gone. Larry Harrison Jr. is gone. Markus Curry is gone. But most importantly, the 3-4 and Jim Herrmann’s untouchable status as Michigan def. coordinator are also gone. There has never been a talent problem on the defense. There aren’t many teams in college football that would take their players over Michigan’s talent-laden roster. That leaves the blame squarely on the coaching staff. With Lloyd Carr finally holding Herrmann responsible for his inept game-management, and the debacle that was the 3-4 defense, I think the 2005 defense is headed for a revival.

Key Acquisition:

Before I get into the position breakdown, I want to highlight the single best move the Michigan coaching staff has made in my lifetime. Stealing Steve Stripling from Michigan St. will turn out to be a genius move. He is a fiery defensive line coach who has had success wherever he’s been. Most Michigan coaches come from within the program and thus have little on their resumes in terms of success at other places. Stripling is different. He’s had dominant and active defensive lines wherever he’s been. He’s succeeded at Louisville, Minnesota, Indiana and Michigan St. just to name a few. He lead Louisville to 77 sacks in two seasons and an impressive ranking in total defense of 22nd in 2002. He helped Minnesota to 44 sacks and a 22nd rated defense in 1999. He helped Michigan St. lead the Big Ten with 45 sacks in 2003. To put those numbers in perspective, Michigan had 29 sacks in 2003 and 21 sacks in 2004. I would venture to say that the athletes that Stripling had at Louisville, Minnesota and Michigan St. were not as talented as the ones he will inherit at Michigan. Because of this, I think Michigan’s defensive line will explode in 2005. Stripling is a fresh face with a proven track record. I’m taking the bait on this one hook, line, and sinker. Things will be better.

Defensive Line:

There is no question that the defensive line is the strength of the defense already without Stripling’s influence. I can’t remember a deeper line not only in Michigan history, but college football history. I’m not saying it’s the best line, but when you can go 9 deep, you’ve got something. Gabe Watson is back and ready to improve 2% like he’s done the last two years. Despite not reaching coaches and fans expectations, Watson is a load in the middle of the line and can dominate opposing OL. Lamar Woodley was often the best player on the field last year and will benefit from the return to the 4-3 defense. Woodley’s first step is lightning quick and could set Michigan’s all-time single season sack record. He is Michigan’s first true pass rushing terror since David Bowen’s brief tenure. Pat Massey will not do anything extraordinary but he keeps fighting all game and interrupts passing lanes with his 6’9 frame. Jeremy Van Alstyne production will likely be greatly improved as he finally comes into a season healthy atop the depth chart. I don’t know what to expect from Van Alstyne since he hasn’t been on the field much but the coaches rave about his ability. I expect absolutely nothing from Pierre Woods. He had 0 impact on last year’s season and it would shock me if he even played at all. No expectations=no let down. If he contributes then it’s a bonus. The rest of the depth includes Tim Jamison, Will Johnson, Alan Branch, Marques Walton, Rondel Biggs, Will Paul and two exceptional freshmen in James McKinney and Terrance Taylor.


Lawrence Reid was unheralded. Despite the lack of attention, Reid was a tackling machine and will be missed. I feel bad for a guy that’s obviously worked hard to get to where he’s gotten. However, the linebackers will be a pleasant surprise. Just when the disappointment from last season started to creep into the expectations for this season, reports of Chris Graham’s ability began to hit the internet. If I didn’t know better, I’d be expecting to see Ray Lewis in a Maize and Blue uniform this fall. In reality, Graham will likely be a pleasant surprise and a much needed help to a depleted position. Reports of McGlintock possibly losing his starting job are actually a positive since it signifies some semblance of depth. Michigan fans will finally get to see Prescott Burgess for an extended period of time. Until now, Burgess was best known as a guy that we stole from Ohio St. I have to admit, at the time, I was just happy we took someone out of their own backyard. But, it’s been 2 years and it’s time to see Burgess do it on the field. I think his athleticism will be a great attribute to the Michigan defense. Like Burgess, Shawn Crable was stolen from the buckeye state in a classic recruiting battle. He hasn’t seen the field much but should see significant playing time this year. One thing that seems to be the theme for this year’s linebacker corps is the athleticism. As we’ve seen in the past though, athleticism is no antidote to missed tackles. The success of the linebackers will be judged on missed tackles and little else. If they limit the yards after first contact, the Michigan defense will already be ahead of last year.

Defensive Backfield:

This is where things get a little dicey. Marlin Jackson and Markus Curry are gone. Jackson was very good. He’ll be missed. Curry was terrible and will not be missed. Lloyd has mentioned that Leon Hall could be one of the better corners that he’s ever had. If that’s the case, then Jackson’s loss will be little if any. However, I have a hard time believing hype without much to base it on. Hall was ok last year. I have not seen any reason to think he’ll be better than ok. I hope I’m wrong. Curry’s replacement couldn’t possibly be worse unless his name is Andre Weathers, James Whitley, or Todd Howard. And to the best of my knowledge, their eligibility is up. The players in the mix for the 2nd corner spot are Grant Mason, Brandon Harrison, Darnell Hood and Charles Stewart. To be honest, I have no idea how any of these guys will perform. Usually I have a good idea based on previous performance or spring practice reviews but these guys are really unknowns as far as ability. I know that Grant Mason looked pretty athletic last year on special teams and was fairly effective in limited action in the secondary. The safeties will be green as well. Ryan Mundy is back. He isn’t terrible. But, after seeing how he performed in the Pennsylvania/Ohio High School All-Star game, many fans were thrilled when he arrived on campus. In fairness to Mundy, he’s only a junior this year and has two years left to make his mark. I would consider his career up to this point to be a wash. Mundy has time to make a name for himself and I think he will. The other safety position goes to Brandon Englemon or Jamar Adams. Both have little experience and big shoes to fill. I will reserve judgment since I have not seen enough of either guy. The bottom line here is that unknown commodities can turn out to be gold or busts. The defensive backfield is clearly the big question mark for the defense. I honestly think that things will be better this year. There will be the patented blown coverage that Michigan has been so good at and you will see our db’s chasing after wide open wr’s as they head for the end zone. However, with Markus Curry graduated and Ernest Shazor off the team, the potential for this group is unlimited.

Key Players:

As I stated earlier, we usually know who’s going to be good. However, that wasn’t the case last year. Clearly, Shazor and Woods were monumental disappointments. They were akin to having Henne and Hart lay a stink-bomb this year. With the Michigan defense, it’s never a given who will perform. I think the most important players on the defense this year will be Gabe Watson, Lamar Woodley, Prescott Burgess, Chris Graham, and Leon Hall.

Gabe Watson: When he’s on his game, the opposing offense has nowhere to run. This creates a Charles Woodson-esque situation by cutting down half the field. The difference being that Woodson always shut down half the field while Big Gabe shuts it down 10% of the time. If that percentage can get somewhere in the neighborhood of 50%, then the defense will be imposing. Gabe’s conditioning has been an issue since he committed to play for Michigan out of high school. If by some miracle he comes into the fall in good shape, then the defense could be special. It’s hard to pin the success of a defense on one guy but the difference between lazy Gabe and active Gabe is so big that it has an effect on the overall effectiveness of the defense.

Lamar Woodley: Woodley can go in two directions. He can go the route of Pierre Woods and become a total bust. You have to remember that after Woods’ 2004 Rose Bowl performance, the expectations on him were much higher than the expectations on Woodley coming into this season. So a Woodley free-fall wouldn’t even be the biggest bust of the last two years. The other direction Woodley could go is that of a pass-rushing terror. I am inclined to believe he’ll go the way of the latter. He’s fast and strong. He’s not a tweener like Woods. Woodley is a prototypical defensive end and he’s got two more letters in his last name than Woods. To me, that’s the difference. If Woodley can provide consistent pressure off the edge, then the opposing offense will not have as much time to toast our db’s. The important equation here being: more time for opposing qb to throw=our db’s turning into burnt toast.

Prescott Burgess: I hope he’s good. He hasn’t had much playing time so nobody knows for sure what he’ll do this year. If he can clean up his missed tackles, he’ll be a force for the defense. His numbers and accolades in high school were ridiculous. If they can translate into success in big time D-1 football, then Michigan will be able to turn an unknown into a strength. If the d-line can occupy the OL on a regular basis, I think you’ll see Burgess turn into a ball-hawk. The only question here is whether he’s that good. Time will tell.

Chris Graham: I put Graham here because it sounds like he’s already the best linebacker in Michigan history. If he’s even 50% of that statement, then he’ll help Michigan improve greatly over last year. Graham sounds a little bit like Dat Nguyen to me. I would take that in a second. I don’t think Graham will live up to the spring practice expectations since it would be nearly impossible to be that good. However, I think Graham could have a very productive year.

Leon Hall: In my mind, and likely many Michigan fans minds, you’re either a good cb or a terrible cb. There is little room for error. It sure seems like that’s the case for Michigan corners. There aren’t too many players that I can say, “Yeah, that guy was an average db”. Because of this phenomenon, Leon Hall will likely either make or break the secondary. If he’s good, then the secondary can be good. If he’s terrible, then the secondary will probably be terrible. I hate to pin it on one guy but I think that’s how it’s going to be. As a matter of personal opinion, I think he’ll be good.


The special teams have taken a lot of heat over the past few years and deservedly so. However, I think this could be the best special teams unit we've seen in quite some time. Garret Rivas was very accurate last year in terms of field goal %. I get nervous every time he kicks regardless of the distance. But, he made them and that's what counts. Steve Breaston was dynamite two years ago and will be dynamite again this year. It's been a while since Breaston has been explosive on a regular basis. It was really only the Texas game last year where he got comfortable. The punting duties have yet to be handed out, however freshmen Zoltan Mesko is getting plenty of publicity without having ever played a college game. Word of his booming kicks and lengthy hang-time have penetrated Michigan message boards ever since he committed. It would be nice if Mesko could provide more consistency than Adam Finley. Finley was good some games and middle school-ish in other games.

Shabaj over and out

The prospects for the Michigan State Spartans' football team took an enormous hit as senior loudmouth WR Agim Shabaj was ruled academically ineligible. Shabaj's best season came during his sophomore year when he had 57 catches for 692 yards and 5 tds. The most memorable moment of the season came when Shabaj summed up Michigan's dominating win over Michigan St. with his "the better team didn't win" comment. Michigan RB Chris Perry set the Michigan single game carry record by running 51 times for 219 yards. Michigan held a 17 point lead in the 4th qtr before Michigan St. made a blowout a little bit closer. Hopefully Shabaj finds a place on the Michigan St. coaching staff where he can add some of his enlightening insight.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Future looking bright

Enough about the Tigers. Let's talk about the future Tigers. You can't talk about the future without starting with Justin Verlander. I remember reading Lynn Henning's preview of the 2004 draft in the Detroit News and being intrigued by Verlander's numbers. Henning said he was a bit wild but had a devastating fast ball and big time potential. I didn't know anything else about him but that's the guy I was hoping for. Sure enough, the Tigers pulled the trigger. After a lengthy holdout, Verlander signed and the Tigers lucked out big time. He's been nothing short of outstanding in A ball and now AA. His first two starts in AA went 14 innings with 0 er's and 17 k's. This guy could be pitching for the Tigers right now but the depth in the organization means he'll likely be a September call-up when the roster expands. Stopping Verlander from a June call-up to the Tigers is Sean Douglass who was 9-1 for the Mudhens. His impressive big league debut against the D-backs likely means he'll be around for a little while. Also fighting for a September call-up is Kenny Baugh. Baugh is a blast from the past. He was a top pick in the mlb draft. The Tigers had high hopes before he encountered serious arm problems. Baugh has fought his way back with an impressive performance for Toledo. Joining Verlander in Triple AA Erie is Joel Zumaya. Zumaya is only 20 years old and has matched Verlander's dominance in AA. He's 5-3 with a 3.16 era. His most impressive numbers are his 121 k's in 88.1 innings.

The pitching depth in the Tigers farm system is probably better than the combined depth of the previous ten years. It might be a stretch to expect much out of Baugh but stranger things have happened. It's also important to remember that Wil Ledezma has above average stuff. He was effective in his brief stint with the Tigers last year. It says a lot for the organization that a guy who started the season as the 5th starter is now fighting his way up in the minors. Depth is a good problem especially when it's been since the grunge era that the Tigers have had any.

The hitting on the Tigers farm clubs isn't as impressive but it's a far cry from the system that produced nobody in the last ten years. Curtis Ganderson was poised to make the team in spring training but the Tigers didn't have room. He's been nothing but exceptional for AA Erie this year. Brent Clevelan has been a monster for the Lakeland Tigers. Look for Ganderson and Clevelan to be starting in the outfield as soon as '07. With Carlos Pena tearing up triple A, Tony Giarrantano making noise for Erie and Marcus Thames proving to be a valuable pickup, the Tigers have hitting depth that has been missing for quite some time.

I can't emphasize enough how important hiring Dave Dombrowski has been. His drafts, trades and free agent signings have been more than anyone could ask for. Kyle Sleeth was supposed to be the Tigers ace of the future. He went down with arm problems and probably won't begin pitching for at least 18 months. Normally, that would've been devastating news for Tiger baseball. Instead, it's disappointing news. Dombrowski has acquired so much depth that the loss of Sleeth does little to deflate the hopes for the future. Surely it sucks for Sleeth to have such a terrible injury and it would've been nice as a fan to see him climb the ranks. However, it just goes to show that this organization has come a long way in a few short years. Enjoy the Tigers quest for a +.500 record this season. But, expect big things to come starting next year.

Detroit Tigers State of the Team Address

Given the fact that the Tigers have been perennial losers since the days of Rob Deer, it's a nice feeling to look at the standings a week before the All-Star break and see a .500 winning percentage. Having said that, the first half has been a roller coaster of emotions. It seemed as though the stars were aligned on opening day when everything went right. Bonderman pitched a gem. The offense was in full force. It's been 3 months and sadly, that's still the highlight of the season so far. It seems as though that game had more to do with the opponent (Royals) than the ability of the Tigers. The Tigers were inconsistent for much of the first few weeks and that was before the injury bug hit. Mags went out for 3 months with a hernia. C. Guillen's knee flared up. Percival missed a month. The up and down play was a staple of the first half. Every time the Tigers approached .500, they promptly went on a losing streak.

Now for the good news. The regular day lineup that the Tigers will field in the second half will be drastically improved. With the addition of Placido Polanco in the Urbina trade, C. Guillen's return from the DL and Mags pending return, the Tigers will be poised to break out offensively. You can expect a lineup like this on a regular basis:

Inge 3b
Polanco 2b
C. Guillen SS
Mags OF
Pudge C
D. Young 1b/DH
R. White OF
Shelton 1b/DH
C. Monroe/Nook Logan OF

That's a far cry from the lineups that featured Marcus Thames, Omar Infante, Carlos Pena, Tony Giarrantano, Vance Wilson, Ramon Martinez and Alexis Gomez. Most of those guys have potential but don't provide much to a lineup at the moment. There won't be a weak spot in the lineup. To be honest with you, the first 5 hitters could be the best in MLB. I'm giddy.

Although the Tigers have wasted way too many quality starts from their pitching staff, there is room for improvement. Jeremy Bonderman appears to have arrived as the team ace. He's 9-5 with a 4.30 era. Jason Johnson has added a new pitch to his repertoire and appears to be confident throwing all his pitches. Nate Robertson bounced back after a slow start to put together a fine first half. Mike Maroth has been average to disappointing. If I knew before the season that these four pitchers would pitch the way they have, I would've been happy. The big problem has come from the 5th spot. Wil Ledezma was atrocious. The Tigers stuck with him a little too long before opting to go with a 4 man rotation while the schedule allowed. Last week, the Tigers needed a 5th starter and that gave Sean Douglass his first major league start. He pitched 6 innings of 1 run ball to get the win. If Douglass can hang on to the 5th spot with average pitching, the Tigers will be in much better shape in the second half.

The bullpen has been the big surprise. After Percival started off slowly and then got hurt, it looked like all of the pre-season hype for the bullpen would turn out to be just that. However, depth can make up for a lot of things. With Farnsworth, German, and Walker pitching well from the start, the Tigers have had one of the top bullpens in the majors. The Tigers were even able to part with bullpen stalwart Ugie Urbina and not miss a beat. With Fernando Rodney and Chris Spurling coming on as of late, it looks like the bullpen will continue to be dependable.

Now it's time to be honest. The Tigers have no chance to make the playoffs this year. Despite all of the excitement of a +.500 winning % and the young pitchers in the farm system, the Tigers are at least a year away from contending for the playoffs. The White Sox could play .500 ball for the rest of the season and still run away with the division. The Wild Card is a pipe dream. With the Yankees, Orioles, Rangers, Twins, Indians, A's, and Blue Jays all fighting the Tigers for the Wild Card, I highly doubt the Tigers will be able to pull it out. I know that Dave Dombrowski has to keep some semblance of optimism so you surely won't hear him say that the Tigers are out of it until it's obvious. However, deep in the doldrums of the front office, Tiger brass knows this isn't the year. To be honest, I don't care. All I've wanted for the last decade is a competitive team. I am happy with this year. Next year is a different story. However, with the Wild Card being such a long shot, Dombrowski should be willing to trade away some of his veteran commodities. I love how Jason Johnson has pitched. It's almost as if he's a completely different pitcher. His string of 8 inning games has been phenomenal. However, he's 31. That's not prehistoric by any means but the Tigers have depth in the farm system. Johnson's value will never be more than it is right now. There is no doubt that the Tigers could trade him in for some prospects. The other bargaining chip is R. White. White could be the second most valuable Tiger batter of the first half behind Brandon Inge. White, like Johnson is not too old to perform but with the depth in the outfield, White becomes expendable. I admire how both of these guys have played this year and it would be tough to see them go. However, you get better by trading depth. For the first time in ages, the Tigers have depth.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Criterion for top 50 lists

Every "All-Time" sports list differs from every other "All-Time" list because the criterion that goes into the rankings is entirely in the hands of the person creating the list. With billions of opinions and unique perspectives in the world, no two lists will have the same emphasis. Some may put more worth on individual awards. Others might throw out career length all together and focus on the best three-year stretch. As a result of the countless ways a person could choose to create a list, I think it's important for me to explain what I used in creating my lists.


The only time period limitation that I used was to limit the players eligible for the baseball list to players that played the majority of their career after 1900. I didn't limit any list to one specific league. Participants in the AFL, USFL, ABA, and WHA were eligible as long as they played in the major leagues (MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL) at some point in their career and for a good portion of their career. I reluctantly did not include baseball players from the Negro Leagues that never made it to MLB. Had I rated such greats as Oscar Charleston, Josh Gibson, and Satchel Paige, they would have been randomly thrown onto the lists. I don't have any way of knowing how good they were. I would rather not rate them at all and admit that this is a MLB-only list than do a disservice to those players by arbitrarily throwing them someplace. Let's just say that if African-Americans weren't barred from playing in MLB for close to 70 years, this list would look a lot different. I also did not include players who spent the majority of their careers in foreign leagues. I realize Aryvdas Sabonis was a phenomenal basketball player before he ever entered the NBA but there is no way for me to know how good he was. The same goes for Russian hockey players. I'm sure there were unbelievable players in Russia that never made it to the NHL. These lists are based on my experiences and the information that is available to me. That means they are based on players from American leagues. If someone wants to explore foreign leagues, be my guest.


If I were to make two lists for every league with one list based on the best career numbers and the other list based on best three-year stretches, the lists would be vastly different. I don't necessarily think either of those lists encompasses all of the dynamics that I would like to see in an "All-Time" list. My main objective was to simply identify the 50 best resumes of all-time for the four major sports. That means taking into consideration such factors as career length, statistical performance relative to peers, per game statistics, playoff success, individual awards, career statistics, player reputation, records held, and competition level. I would like to think that I gave each dynamic the same weight. The lists are designed in such a way that they reflect the average rating among all of those categories in order. If player "A" is rated ahead of player "B" it is because I felt that player "A" had a better resume based on the above factors. There will be many cases where player "B" has an enormous advantage in one or two of the factors but comes up short in the majority of the rest.

I tried as diligently as possible to avoid showing favoritism to "legends" from long ago. It is easy to fall into the trap of overrating players that put up huge numbers in a less competitive era. Since one of the factors that I used to create the lists was competition level, you can expect to see a larger representation of players from eras that were more competitive. Since it seems as though the competitiveness of sports seems to steadily grow, you will see a larger representation from modern players in most instances.

Special circumstances:

This is one of the factors that will differentiate one person's list from another the most. I tried to force myself to rate some of the "legends" that I left off the lists but in some instances I just couldn't rationalize it. For instance, I did not rate Sandy Koufax, O.J. Simpson, or Gale Sayers in the top 50. All would have been in the top 75. All three were brilliant for about the exact same length. All three had about 4.5 seasons of elite play. That might have been long enough to make the basketball and hockey lists since the total number of basketball and hockey players is significantly lower than that of football and baseball. I will say that those three players didn't miss by much. There were just too many other qualified players to put any three of those guys on my lists. Had I made the sole criteria for the list the best "three-year stretch" then all three would have made it easily. I suspect the majority of objections will come with the omission of these players and other players of the like who I didn't feel performed long enough to be included. I feel that "All-Time" lists often include certain players simply because those players are always included on other "All-Time" lists. In most cases, the players that are always rated deserve to be rated. In these instances, I think these players are rated because it's easier to rate them than not. Perception goes a long way in the way players from the past are remembered. I had no idea that Sayers only played for four plus years. I had no idea that Simpson only had three truly great seasons. Once I found those things out, I couldn't pretend to be oblivious.

Another special circumstance is military service. I did not punish players who had to take a break to serve in the war. In almost every case of a great player who served, that player came back and continued playing at an extraordinary level. I believe that is proof that a player would have continued performing at an elite level had his career not been interrupted. I didn't recalculate career totals based on the suspected results of missed seasons but I did make educated guesses as to how that player's career numbers may have looked. If player "A" served in a war but won an MVP award before and after serving, then I won't give player "B" an edge in the individual award comparison simply because player "B" won slightly more awards. In that instance, I would allow for a strong possibility that player "A" would have won an award in the time missed due to service. Make sense? I hope so.

As for rating players that were very good for a short time before suffering injuries, I did not give the same treatment as players that missed prime years in the service. To me, these are two totally different things. A player that performed at an elite level before and after missing time in the service would have performed well had he not missed that time barring injury. A player that had a career altering injury early on (i.e. Koufax, Chris Webber, Terrell Davis) was not given the "what if" treatment because that opens up a "can of worms" that I don't want to deal with nor do I think it should be dealt with. It's unfortunate that great players have suffered terrible injuries but a byproduct of those injuries is that it changes that player's place in history. That's just the way it goes.

Active Players:

Another aspect of the lists that I suspect may garner objections is my treatment of active players. Some people that have made "All-Time" lists do it in a manner in which a player can never go backwards on the list. I do not buy into that thinking. I think there needs to be a healthy median. I rated active players assuming that they will have a consistently good remainder of their career. I didn't assume that Albert Pujols would break the all-time home run record. I just assumed that Pujols would continue to be a good player for the rest of his career. If for some inexplicable reason, Pujols proceeds to hit below .300 for the next ten years, then he probably will end up lower on my list and I suspect it would be the same for every other list out there. If Pujols continues to set records, then he will gradually climb up my list. The way I chose to rate LeBron James and Dwyane Wade probably provides the most insight as to how I treated active players. If James never wins a championship or an MVP award but continues to put up similar numbers, I expect him to rate no lower than 29th on the all-time list. The same goes for Dwyane Wade. The only assumption that I have made in rating active players is the assumption of continued health. I feel that is a reasonable way to rate active players.


One thing I can assure you is that I didn't just throw together a list in an hour. It took me months to put these together. If I have a player rated ahead of another player, there are many reasons for it. For some player comparisons, it was like splitting hairs. The summary that I have under each player is an attempt to give some insight as to why I rated that player where I did. For every agreement that you have with the list, you will probably have at least two disagreements. The chances of even five or ten similarities between two lists made by two completely different people are extremely small.


My motivation for making theses lists was twofold; 1) I wanted to give sports fans a fairly accurate depiction of the best players in each sport, educate people on where certain players rate in the history of the sport and bring to light lesser known stars and 2) I wanted to see how I would rate the best players in history in the four major sports. I know I accomplished "2". Hopefully I've accomplished "1" as well.

The criteria for the "100" of the last 25 years


I had a tough time with many of these players. In many cases, I had to rank personal favorites lower than I’d like because the case for another player was just too strong. In compiling these rankings, I used multiple methods of differentiation. I compared players on All-American status, All-Big Ten status, awards, career numbers, efficiency, draft status, personal recollection, and historical depiction.

I originally had Todd Collins out of the top 100 of the last 25 years but his numbers were too persuasive for me to keep him out. He's the all-time leader in passing percentage which isn't a statistic that benefits from playing a certain amount of time. He's also the all-time leader in average yards per play. Collins is also third all-time in passing efficiency. He beats Navarre in all three of these categories by a significant amount. Collins' numbers alone would be enough to consider putting him in the top 100 "All-time" but I watched Collins play and I don't believe he is one of the best 100 players in Michigan history. Although, I think an argument could be made.

I know a lot of people are pissed at Drew Henson for leaving. That certainly left us in a precarious position and ultimately led to Navarre being the unchallenged starter for three seasons. However, in terms of talent and production while he played, there is no question in my mind that Drew Henson was better than John Navarre. Take away the politics and then choose the quarterback that you'd rather have. I suspect anyone that would rather have John Navarre's career over Drew Henson's career is holding on to a pretty strong vendetta. It took two bad seasons before Navarre became a decent quarterback. Drew Henson was always a decent quarterback and became a great one in 2000.

Contrary to how it might look, I did consider kickers for the top 100 of all-time. I couldn't rationalize ranking a kicker in the top 100. I don't think any UM kicker has been in the top 100 players in Michigan history. However, I did feel that three kickers were among the top 100 of the last 25 years. Remy Hamilton was an All-American and holds many UM kicking records. J.D. Carlson was All-Big ten three years in a row. Mike Gillette was an All-Big Ten kicker and punter. Ali Haji-Shekh and Monte Robbins would be the next two but they fall just out of the top 100 from the last 25 years. Both were dependable kickers but did not have the same individual honors as the other three kickers.

A player with high career totals did not automatically make the list. High career totals can be attained simply by playing for 3-4 years. This does not necessarily indicate the ability of the player rather it could indicate that there was little competition for that particular position. I offset the “advantage” that 3-4 year players have by focusing more on efficiency along with the raw totals. If efficiency and raw totals were present, then that particular player ranked very high on the list. If efficiency was present but raw totals were not, that player likely made the list, and if raw totals were present but efficiency was not, then that player probably did not make the list. I broke the players down into positions and ranked each position. Then, in a draft format, I selected the best player available until the list of 100 was completed. Then, I did direct comparisons between players to make sure nobody was ranked below someone that they were better than (subjectively of course). To make this list, a player only needed to play at least one season in 1980 or later.

Record books only tell so much:

My intention was to put together a list of the 100 best players from the last 25 years. I wasn’t interested in the 100 “best on paper” or the 100 names that appear the most in the record book. This is why you won’t find John Navarre on the list of top 100 of the last 25 years. Navarre is in the Michigan record books as the leader in many categories. However, Navarre has almost double the amount of pass attempts as any other quarterback on the list. He had the luxury of playing 3.5 seasons without competition. It is my belief that any quarterback that’s given close to double the amount of pass attempts as any other quarterback in Michigan history will show up favorably in touchdowns and passing yards. The best way to judge in this instance is to compare averages such as passing efficiency, completion percentage and yards per play. Navarre rates below the other quarterbacks on the “Top 100 of the last 25 years” in all three of these categories. Navarre improved mightily from the UCLA game to his senior year. He was very gracious to the media and took criticism as well as anyone I’ve ever seen in sports. He left Michigan as a capable starting quarterback. However, I don’t believe that he is one of the top 100 football players of the past 25 years. There are a number of reasons why I believe this but the number one reason is that when comparing Navarre's career to other Michigan players, I believe there are 100 better careers over the last 25 years. Navarre's career featured two below average seasons with a good season as the payoff. Michigan normally doesn't have to trudge through two bad seasons for a payoff so, in all likelihood, the payoff wasn't worth the two below average seasons at quarterback.

However, I believe that the future will remember Navarre as being better than he actually was.

Here’s an example of what I think will happen:

“I was surprised to see that Ralph Kiner was ranked in the top 100 by the SABR Poll, The Sporting News, Total Baseball, and Maury Allen. I don’t know if you’re old enough to remember this, but when Ralph Kiner was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1975, his selection was widely assailed as a mistake. The Hall of Fame has 200+ members. A consensus seems to have developed placing Kiner in the top 100, meaning the top half of the Hall of Fame.” Bill James, Historical Baseball Abstract

I think the same thing that happened to Ralph Kiner will happen to Navarre. As time goes by, people will start focusing on career totals. Since Navarre is at the top of the touchdown and yards list, I believe that Navarre will be remembered in the future as one of the top 100 players in Michigan history. However, I watched Navarre for 3.5 years and I'm confident he isn't one of the 100 best in Michigan history or of the last 25 years.

The criteria for the "100"

I’ve always been a big fan of lists. I was thinking the other day that out of the “all-time” lists that I’ve seen, none have been of Michigan football. Sure, we know about Tom Harmon’s Heisman Trophy and Dan Dierdorf’s Hall of Fame NFL career but we don’t know how they compare to other UM greats. When I started seeing names like William Heston and Germany Shulz I realized that much of Michigan’s football history is hidden deep within the record books. I was surprised to find that many of the people who I thought for sure would be on the top 100 list didn’t make it. It just goes to show how many talented athletes have come through Ann Arbor.

I realize that any “best ever” list requires 100% subjectivity. I imagine that anybody could come up with a list that would differ greatly from what I’ve put together. I would guess that there would probably be a 20% difference between any two lists and possibly more depending on what the list-maker emphasizes. My goal for the list was to make it as accurate as possible using every possible measuring tool available. I considered among other things; All-American status, All-Big Ten status, career statistics, single season statistics, awards, team success, status as a draft pick, college football hall of fame status, varsity letters, and historical depictions.

As you might imagine, since there are many comparable players it’s often very difficult to differentiate between them. Since the length of a college career can last anywhere from 1-4 years (more if you’re Brian Cardinal or Jess Settles), it’s nearly impossible to make a decision on statistics alone. In the case where two players had vastly different career lengths, I used various tiebreakers. Instead of comparing a four year starter’s career numbers to a one year starter, I compared statistics that factored in averages. An example would be quarterback efficiency or average yards per carry. One All-American season can be enough to offset a four year career of above average contributions. This is particularly the case with some players who only had one or two seasons before leaving to fight in WWI and WWII. Players who leave early have no way of equaling career statistics of four year starters. Likewise, a player who rode the bench for three years before getting his shot won’t show up in the record books no matter how well they played.

I did not use NFL success as a primary tool to determine a players ranking. If I did this, then Dan Dierdorf, “Crazy Legs” Hirsch and Tom Brady would be in the top five. However, I used NFL success to a). break a tie, and b). add more information to a player who had an incomplete or partial resume. For instance, Tom Brady was a very good quarterback at Michigan. He didn’t play enough to put up significant career numbers. In fact, he a good portion of his career sharing the quarterback duties with Drew Henson. This wasn’t necessarily Brady’s fault. As a result, it’s almost impossible to compare Brady to other quarterbacks based on his career at Michigan since it was so short. In this case, I used his success as an NFL player to merely confirm that he was that good rather than using it to show he was that good. The line might seem a little blurry but I used it only when it helped break a tie.

There is a larger representation from the latter half of the century. I think there are three reasons for this (possibly more) 1). I believe that the quality of play in football continuously improves over time. 2). In 1918, there were 17 players on the roster. In 1932 there were 25 players on the roster. In 2004, there are over 100. As the player pool increases, competition also increases. Many Michigan players from the first half of the century made the All-American team. When you compare the total amount of players in college football in the early 1900’s to the current amount in college football, it’s very likely that being an All-American in 1900 was similar to being All-conference in this era. 3). The presence of the internet gives the modern player more press. A player from the early 1900’s had to be fantastic to stand above his peers and show up on the All-American team in the newspaper. Today, there are no less than ten All-American teams. There are countless college football websites devoted to chronicling each an every football player. In 1900, Walter Camp was the only All-American selector. Other than All-American status and brief anecdotes, there really aren’t many ways of determining the value of a player that long ago.

The players who were most difficult to rank were everyone in the top five, Desmond Howard, Tom Brady, the All-American OL from the late 70's/early 80's, Anthony Thomas, Ty Law, Jon Runyan, Marquise Walker and "Crazy Legs" Hirsch.

Tom Harmon finished second in the Heisman voting and then won the Heisman the following year. Since only Archie Griffin won multiple Heismans, Harmon's feat was extremely impressive. That's why I gave Harmon the nod over Charles Woodson. Woodson is second because he also won the Heisman and was the sole reason Michigan won a National Championship. No Woodson would've meant no National Title. He was the first and only defensive player to win the Heisman. He may have been number one on the list had he come back for his senior year. The Braylon Edwards-Bennie Oosterbaan-Anthony Carter debate was very hard. I ranked Edwards first for a few reasons. He carried the Michigan team throughout the 2004 and 2005 seasons. I have not seen a Michigan player in my lifetime be the deciding factor in so many games. The "Braylon option" turned into a legitimate offensive strategy. He was physically superior to any offensive player in Michigan history. He's 6'3. He could bench press 225 for 25 reps. He was as good of a jumper as I've seen. He owns virtually every Michigan pass receiving record. It's hard to rank someone recent over someone legendary like AC but Braylon is/was the perfect wide receiver. That leaves Oosterbaan and Anthony Carter. Both were the only three time All-Americans in Michigan history. I could've easily rationalized ranking AC ahead of Oosterbaan but Oosterbaan was named to the "All-Time All-American team" in 1951. That means that he was considered one of the best wide receivers over the first 50 years of the 20th century. AC was unbelievable but, in my opinion, Oosterbaan's legacy outweighs AC's by the slightest of margins. This is no knock on AC. I have him ranked in the top five in the history of Michigan football. I would not have a problem with anyone wanting to put these three in a different order.

Desmond Howard was tough to rate because a Heisman trophy winner would normally be ranked higher than 11th all time. In fact, the debate between Desmond and Rick Leach represents the most difficult issue I had to deal with in compiling these rankings. Rick Leach was all-big ten quarterback three years in a row. He finished in the Heisman voting three straight years. He broke all of UM's passing, touchdown and total yard records. He broke the all-time NCAA touchdown record. He even won multiple player of the year awards for his senior season. Desmond certainly has the best highlight of the two players but it just seems like Leach has the better overall resume. I don't think this is a knock on Desmond as it is a tribute to how many great players UM has had. The season in which he won the Heisman was one of the great single seasons in college football history. I don't think I've ranked him too low but I would not argue if someone felt he should be ranked higher.

Ty Law and Jon Runyan both left early. It's likely that they would be much higher on the list had they come back for their senior seasons. I strongly believe that Law was a). more respected and b) more productive than Runyan. Runyan was very good but he's done more in the NFL than he ever did at U of M.

Anthony Thomas is the leader in career rushing yards and touchdowns. He is definitely one of the top running backs but I've seen Jamie Morris, Tyrone Wheatley and Chris Perry and I think all three of those players were just a bit better than the A-Train.

I read a little while ago on a message board that Marquise Walker was one of the most overrated Michigan football players ever. I'm not sure if this is a widely held belief or an isolated opinion but I watched Marquise Walker play in 2001 and he was a one-man show. He wasn't fast and he wasn't as good as David Terrell. However, Walker had a truly phenomenal career at Michigan. He almost won the Ohio St. game single handily after Michigan fell down 23-0. In my opinion, Walker is one of the five best wide receivers to come to Michigan.

I debated whether or not Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch should be rated in the top 100. He only played one season at Michigan. He didn't make the All-American or All-Big Ten teams. Based on my criteria, Hirsch probably should not be ranked in the top 100. If Hirsch was ranked in the top 100, then Brady would have to be ranked in the top five along with Dierdorf. The parameter for this list was to rank the 100 best "UM" players of all-time.

From 1976-1983, Michigan had eight All-American offensive lineman. It was a chore to rank these players in order from 1-8, let alone placing them in the top 100. Mark Donahue was twice selected as a first team All-American so he stands out from that group.

I'll be releasing a list of the top 100 UM players of the last 25 years in the next few days. I realize that there might be some people who feel that John Navarre is one of the best 100 players in Michigan history. The same people would inevitably feel that Navarre is one of the best UM players of the last 25 years. If the only criteria for making the list was total yards and total touchdowns regardless of ability, then I'd probably have to include Navarre on both lists. However, my intention was to put together a list of the 100 best players. I wasn’t interested in the 100 “best on paper” or the 100 names that appear the most in the record book. This is why you won’t find John Navarre on either list. Navarre is in the Michigan record books as the leader in many categories. However, Navarre has almost double the amount of pass attempts as any other quarterback on the list. He had the luxury of playing 3.5 seasons without competition. It is my belief that any quarterback that’s given close to double the amount of pass attempts as any other quarterback in Michigan history will show up favorably in touchdowns and passing yards. The best way to judge in this instance is to compare averages such as passing efficiency, completion percentage and yards per play. Navarre rates below the other quarterbacks on the “Top 100 of the last 25 years” in all three of these categories. Navarre improved mightily from the UCLA game in 2000 to his senior year. He was very gracious to the media and took criticism as well as anyone I’ve ever seen in sports. He left Michigan as a capable starting quarterback. However, I don’t believe that he is one of the top 100 football players of the past 25 years. There are a number of reasons why I believe this but the number one reason is that when comparing Navarre's career to other Michigan players, I believe there are 100 better careers over the last 25 years. Navarre's career featured two below average seasons with a good season as the payoff. Michigan normally doesn't have to trudge through two bad seasons for a payoff so, in all likelihood, the payoff wasn't worth the two below average seasons at quarterback.

However, I believe that the future will remember Navarre as being better than he actually was.

Here’s an example of what I think will happen:

“I was surprised to see that Ralph Kiner was ranked in the top 100 by the SABR Poll, The Sporting News, Total Baseball, and Maury Allen. I don’t know if you’re old enough to remember this, but when Ralph Kiner was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1975, his selection was widely assailed as a mistake. The Hall of Fame has 200+ members. A consensus seems to have developed placing Kiner in the top 100, meaning the top half of the Hall of Fame.” Bill James, Historical Baseball Abstract

I think the same thing that happened to Ralph Kiner will happen to Navarre. As time goes by, people will start focusing on career totals. Since Navarre is at the top of the touchdown and yards list, I believe that Navarre will be remembered in the future as one of the top 100 players in Michigan history. However, I watched Navarre for 3.5 years and I'm confident he isn't one of the 100 best in Michigan history or of the last 25 years.

Active Hall of Famers in MLB

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.


In: (8)

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 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.

Adam Dunn Dunn has
146 career home runs and he’s only 25. That’s why he’s on this list. His other numbers are either average or terrible. His batting average is .249. He strikes out more than Alfonso Soriano. His OPS is .907 which is respectable but very low compared to the other first basemen in this category. I think Dunn will improve as his career moves along but I doubt he’ll ever have a career batting average over .270. I doubt he’ll ever be able to cut down enough on his strike outs. His low batting average will sabotage any chance of having an overwhelming OPS.


This is probably the easiest category to judge. The line between being a Hall of Fame catcher and not being a Hall of Fame catcher is very clear. If you're a catcher and you've dominated in any way over a period of ten or more years, then you're probably going to the Hall. My apologies to Vance Wilson. He has seemingly been in the lineup as much as Pudge as of late but Vance just misses the cut.

In: (2)

Locks: (2)

Ivan Rodriguez “Pudge” is everything you want in a catcher. He’s a very good hitter. He’s one of the best defensive catcher’s in MLB history (10 Gold Gloves). He’s anchored a pitching staff that won the World Series. He’s taken a Detroit Tiger franchise from one of the worst teams in MLB history into the realm of respectability. He plays when injured. If I had to pick one guy in baseball history to be my catcher, I think I’d pick Pudge.

Mike Piazza Five years ago, it was a 50/50 proposition that Piazza would end up being considered the best catcher ever. In 2000, Piazza’s career average was an unbelievable .328. Five years later, the only "best ever" that he's in the running for is "best athlete ever to be fraudently accused of being Mick from Teen Wolf." His overall production is nowhere near what he put up in the 90’s. However, 500 home runs is still within reach which would make Piazza the first catcher to reach that milestone. Piazza is one of the worst defensive catchers in baseball. He's thrown out 24% of base-runners for his career. In comparison, "Pudge" has thrown out 48%. He was so good before that his defensive shortcomings were justified by his offensive brilliance. However, now that he isn’t producing with the bat, his poor defense is magnified.

In barring injury: (0) "Pudge" and Piazza are likely the only two catchers that will make the HOF from this era.

Not in:

Will just miss the cut: (2)

Jorge Posada The most impressive note about Posada won’t be found by looking at his career stats. He’s won three World Series with the Yankees and that number will probably go up. His defense is above average with his most notable assett being his ability to call games. Posada's thrown out 30% of baserunners which is in the middle of the pack for catchers. He’s a very good hitter compared to most catchers. If he started his career at an early age, he would be in great position to make the HOF. 27 is just too late to make a significant run at the Hall. Even still, Posada has consistently been a top 5 catcher over the last decade.

Javy Lopez Lopez showed his potential in 2003 when he had career numbers across the board. Everything seemed to "click" for Lopez following that season. He's a completely different hitter. Needless to say, if he produced that way over the span of his career, he would be a “lock”. The problem is that a few very good years in the twighlight of a career usually don’t overshadow a career of average/decent hitting. Lopez has a respectable batting average with .290. His OPS of .840 is very good for a catcher. Lopez and Posada are among the best catchers in baseball today. Unfortunately, that’s not enough for a ticket to Cooperstown.

First Base

This is by far the toughest category to project. There are a few very good first basemen that won’t make the Hall of Fame. Don Mattingly is the first player that comes to mind. “Donny Baseball” was the premier first baseman of the 1980’s. He retired early but he was every bit as good as Kirby Puckett who's in the HOF. As I mentioned in the introduction, their will be new standards in getting into the HOF. Fred McGriff will probably be the first victim of those new standards. If the “Crime Dog” started his career five years earlier, he would likely be in. However, McGriff’s numbers pale in comparison to today’s sluggers.

One player that I do contend will make the Hall of Fame despite recent voter-polls indicating otherwise is Mark McGwire. I just don’t see how Big Mac can be kept out. It’s one thing to keep Giambi out since his numbers won’t be overwhelming but Big Mac took over baseball for five years. Bill James has McGwire rated as the 31st best player in baseball history. He has 583 career home runs. His career OPS is .982. He had six seasons with an OPS of 1.100 or higher! Nobody is going to confuse Big Mac with Tony Gwynn or Ichiro, but let’s be serious here.

There's no question that Big Mac rubbed sportswriters and fans the wrong way with his “I’m not here to talk about the past” speech at the senate hearings. It was right after those hearings that voters were polled about whether they’d vote for McGwire. Five or ten years from now, people won’t be as pissed and he’ll get in easily.


Locks: (3)

Rafael Palmeiro Despite Skip Bayless’ best attempts, Palmeiro is a “lock” for the HOF. How many players can you remember that have hit 37 or more home runs in 8 straight seasons? The answer should be one….and it’s Palmeiro. He’s got 3,000 hits. He’ll finish with 600 home runs. Only Willie Mays and Hank Aaron can lay claim to those numbers. If a tree falls in the forest and nobody’s there to see it, does it really fall? Sure. Just go back to the forest 20 years later and judge for yourself. Who cares if Raffy didn’t get the publicity that some of the other guys got during his career. His resume is right in front of us. Take a look. It’s mighty impressive.

Frank Thomas Famed baseball historian and statistician Bill James thinks that Frank Thomas was the best player of the 90’s. That alone will likely get Frank into Cooperstown. His numbers were phenomenal with a heavy emphasis on were. He’s dropped off significantly as of late but he has the highest OPS (On base percentage + Slugging percentage) among the players in this category at .995. His career batting average is also the highest at .307. It seems like the Big Hurt hasn’t been good for a number of years but his career stats show just how dominant he was. He could hit as well as anyone but also possessed a keen eye which has led to an amazing .427 OBP (On base percentage). His walk numbers are among the best for the decade. There’s no question that he is HOF worthy. The frustrating thing with the Big Hurt was those down years in his prime. His numbers would be unmatched had he remained consistent.

Jeff Bagwell Bagwell’s numbers are very comparable to Frank’s. Both players were born on the same day. They share almost identical career stats. Both players dominated the 1990’s. Frank was slightly a better hitter and Bags was a better fielder. Bags has lost the momentum towards 500 home runs and 3,000 hits due to his arthritic shoulder. His numbers have steadily declined and his career is probably one year away from being over. I think this is actually an advantage over Thomas because Bags at least has an excuse for his tapering numbers. The Big Hurt had too many shady seasons for what was supposed to be his prime years.

In barring injury:(4)

Albert Pujols Pujols is the “lock” of locks to make the HOF. There’s only two things that could keep him out, 1). a gambling habit, or 2). an injury within the next three years. Aside from Bonds (and I hate admitting that), Pujols is the best hitter I’ve ever seen. His numbers are off the charts. He’s produced since day one in the majors. His career batting average is .334. His OPS is 1.038 and he’s NOT playing his home games in Colorado. As long as Pujols doesn’t get injured, he’ll go down as one of the five greatest hitters ever.

Jim Thome Thome will more than likely make it. Although, my confidence level here is much lower than in the previous categories because Thome’s career batting average is much lower than Thomas and Bagwell’s. Thome should finish with 500 home runs. His batting average is higher than one would expect at .281. His OPS is better than Bagwell’s. Thome has eight less home runs than Bagwell but has had 1,000 less at bats. As a home run hitter, Thome trumps both Bagwell and Thomas. His OBP is equal to Bagwell’s. He has been the premier home run hitter of the last few years. If he can get over his elbow problems, he should be able to pile on the numbers to get into the HOF. If Bagwell and Frank Thomas are locks, then Thome will have a very strong argument when his career is done.

Todd Helton I change my tone on Helton every day. I personally think he should be a shoe-in. His numbers are in a whole different stratosphere. However, nobody knows for sure how the voters will treat the players from Colorado. My question with that is, how much better than Helton would a player have to be to make the HOF after playing in Colorado? He leads all first basemen, including Albert Pujols, in every major offensive category. His career OPS is 1.035. His career batting average is .335. His OBP is .430! He got a late start and he has some injuries that could potentially shorten his career. However, his numbers are too impressive to overlook. He’s a Hall of Famer.

Mark Teixeira I’m going to make a prediction here. If Teixeira doesn’t get hurt, he will be in the Hall of Fame. He started hitting as soon as he arrived in Arlington. He’s among the league leaders in home runs in only his third season. His batting average is suspect but all of the other numbers are there. He got an early enough start to hit all the milestones. It’s hard to project 15 years in advance but this is how a HOF generally starts.

Not in:

Will just miss the cut:(4)

Carlos Delgado This is where the “new standards” start to come into play. Voters know they can’t just admit every good first baseman. There’s been too many of them over the last 15 years. So, they’ll start cutting off the fat. Unfortunately for Delgado, they will probably start with him. Check out his numbers. They’re ridiculous. His OPS is .948. He has a legitimate shot at reaching 500 home runs. His batting average is in the Thome range at .283 He’s like Raffy in terms of being underrated. People don’t notice him but he produces every year. His numbers will compare to many first baseman that have made the HOF. I just think he’ll be the victim of increasing supply with a lowering demand.

Jason Giambi Giambi was well on his way just two years ago. He had the Pujols combination of power and average. Everything changed after he went to the Yankees. His power numbers were similar but his batting average tailed off significantly. I’m not sure why this happened. I don’t know if he concentrated more on his power numbers or what but there was clearly something different about Giambi’s approach to the plate. Even still, his OPS is .951 which is higher than Bagwell. Giambi also has a higher OBP than Bagwell and Thome. The fact that he was outed for taking steroids will be what inevitably gives the voters the green light to pass on him. His career numbers will be there but give the voters a reason to keep you out, and they will.

David Ortiz Aside from Pujols and Helton, there isn’t a better hitting first baseman in the game today. Ortiz is a terror at the plate. He seemingly hits a home run or double everyday. It’s unfortunate that the Twins dropped the ball on Big Papi. He showed flashes of brilliance while playing in Minnesota but they put him on the shelf for three seasons. Those three seasons will likely be the difference between admittance and denial to Cooperstown. Ortiz is 30. At this stage in a career, the typical HOF player has a much better resume. Making the Hall of Fame is a simple combination of brilliance over time. Unfortunately for Ortiz, that combination is pretty much unattainable.

Second Base

There’s quite a dilemma with projecting active second basemen. The dilemma being Jeff Kent. In the previous two position projections (of and c), it seemed like there was a pretty clear line as to who will likely make the HOF and who won’t. I would venture to guess that you could ask 100 baseball fans about Kent getting into the Hall and you’d get 50 to say yes and 50 to say no. I don’t think Kent is a lock by any means, however, I think he’ll have a pretty good case when it’s all said and done.

In: (3)

Locks: (1)

Craig Biggio Bill James has Craig Biggio ranked as the 35th best player in baseball history. I think that’s probably a little high but when James says something, it’s usually more true than not. Biggio has been an outstanding second basemen. He’ll easily reach 3,000 hits. He has over 400 stolen bases. He’ll finish with over 600 doubles. He should finish with close to 1,800 runs. Biggio, along with Raffy, is one of the most unheralded player of the 90’s. The only question here is which ballot he makes it on.

Just need more time: (2)

Jeff Kent The problem with Jeff Kent is that he’s not considered one of the dominant players of his era. He gets about as much publicity for his defense as Bobby Bonilla did. His career OBP is far from overwhelming at .354. Those are the negatives. What Kent has going for him is the fact that he’s the all-time home run leader for second basemen. His OPS is a very respectable .860. He’s probably the best power hitting second basemen in baseball history and he won the 2000 NL MVP award. In addition, there's actually a compelling argument that Kent is not only a decent second basemen, but better than Biggio and Roberto Alomar. Even though Kent’s 38 years old, I think he needs two more productive seasons to cement his status as a HOF. Hall of Fame voters are superficial. It's about numbers and perception. If you fall 10 hits short of 3,000 you might as well have fallen 200 hits short. A .300 batting average means a lot more than .295. As Fred McGriff will find out, 500 home runs are night and day compared to 493. Your numbers need to be good in the right places to get in. Normally, the last two years don’t decide whether or player gets in. Most major leaguers are done by the age of 38. This is a unique situation where the player actually has to keep producing meaningful numbers past 38 to get in. He’s showing no signs of slowing down which leads me to believe he’ll do just enough to get into the Hall.

Alfonso Soriano Unfortunately for Soriano, he didn’t get started as an everyday player until he was 25. That’s usually a deal breaker for the Hall of Fame. Luckily for Soriano, he plays second base. Soriano will finish his career as the best power hitting second basemen in MLB history (supplanting Kent). His defense is atrocious. He’s led all second basemen in errors four seasons running. His OBP is terrible at .322. He’s a yearly lock to finish with more than 120 K’s and less than 40 walks. If Soriano played first base or outfield, I would say he’d have virtually no chance at the Hall. His numbers leave a lot to be desired but his power and speed combination will be enough to get him in.

Not in:

I don't think there are any other second basemen that deserve HOF consideration in MLB today.


Just a few short years ago it looked like the shortstop position was experiencing a revolution. The position would no longer be home to below average hitters. Big, physical athletes like Arod and Derek Jeter were changing how teams viewed their shortstops. Flash forward a few years and it looks like the revolution was a false alarm. Arod moved to third base. Nomar became the president of the walking wounded. Now, a power hitting shortstop is as rare as Piazza gunning down a basestealer.

In: (2)


Derek Jeter Jeter is one of the few elite non-power hitters in MLB today. Jeter has been a hit-machine ever since coming into the league. He averages close to 190 hits per season. His career batting average is .313. He has over 200 stolen bases. He’ll easily reach 3,000 hits barring injury. In fact, if he plays until he’s 41, he should be close to 3,800 hits which would put him third on the all-time list. His World Series heroics will only bolster his legend. I think Jeter will be one of those players that is remembered more fondly after they finish playing. Jeter is very good and will be deserving of a HOF nod.

Just need a little more time: (1)

Miguel Tejada Three years ago, Tejada was trying to turn the Big Three (Arod, Jeter, and Nomar) into the Big Four. Who would’ve thought that three years later, he’d be the best shortstop in the game? He’s every bit as dangerous as Manny Ramirez but adds strong defense to the equation. Tejada has big numbers across the board. As long as he doesn’t get hurt, he’ll waltz into the HOF. This will be his sixth straight season with 100+ RBI’s. His best year came last season when he won the AL MVP by hitting .311 with 34 home runs and 150 RBI’s. With Arod and Nomar no longer in the SS debate, Tejada is the game’s elite power hitting shortstop.

Not in:

Will come up just short: (2)

Nomar Garciaparra Nomar was well on his way to Cooperstown. It’s actually kind of sad because he had everything set up to be the “Golden Boy” of baseball. He won two batting titles. His hit totals in his first six full seasons went 209, 195, 190, 197, 197, and 198. His career batting average is .320 but he’s only reached that once in the last five seasons. His OPS is very respectable at .912. Nomar couldn’t have had it better. Then, he inexplicably became injury prone. His last two seasons have produced a total of 107 hits. He’s 32 years old and despite his impressive numbers early on, he’s behind the curve. Nomar would need to come back strong to get back on pace for the Hall. He no longer has a legitimate shot at reaching 3,000 hits. Nomar is proof that you can never be sure how a career will turn out. It would not be impossible for him to make the HOF. His career average of .320 will go along way but it’s important to remember that public sentiment plays a roll. If the voters like you, they might overlook a deficiency in raw numbers. If they don’t like you, then you’re SOL. It’s safe to say that Nomar was more popular before his outrageous contract demands and his “injury” that popped up when Boston wouldn’t give him his ransom.

Michael Young Three years ago, nobody had even heard of Michael Young. Now it looks like he’s taking over where Nomar left off. His career batting average is a remarkable .324. He’s well on his way to his third straight season of 200+ hits. Young is unquestionably one of the best shortstops in the game today. The unfortunate thing for Young is that he didn’t play his first full season until he was 25. That should be the end of the discussion. However, if Young plays ten more seasons (that would put him at 38) and averages 180 hits which is a significant reduction in his current yearly average, he would have 2,600 hits. If he keeps his batting average above .315 and gets to 2,600 hits, I think he’ll be headed to the Hall. As it stands now, it’s probably about a 25% proposition.

Third Base

Projecting which elite third basemen will eventually end up in Cooperstown is a tough task to say the least. Besides catcher, there are less third baseman in the Hall of Fame than any other position. Only four third basemen that have started their careers after 1965 have made the Hall of Fame (Schmidt, Brett, Boggs, and Molitor). However, from 1982-1986, all four of these players (as well as Tony Perez) were playing at the same time . I believe that there are four active players that deserve heavy consideration for the Hall of Fame. History has shown that there have been few very good third basemen. The best third basemen that aren't in the Hall of Fame are Ron Santo, Darrell Evans, Stan Hack, Ken Boyer and Craig Nettles. I believe that the three active players in question are considerably better than any of those third basemen and better than half of the third basemen that are actually in the Hall of Fame.

It's important to remember a few things about third basemen. 1). It should be remembered that third basemen don't put up the same kind of power numbers as outfielders and first basemen. 2). There isn't an abundance of good third basemen in the majors right now, nor has there been over the last thirty years. 3) Aside from catching, it's the hardest defensive position on the field. An excellent fielding third basemen gets a significant amount of credit especially when it's combined with above average offensive ability. Those three factors are the primary reasons why I think the elite two-way third basemen in the game today will make the HOF.



Alex Rodriguez I only have one thing to say about Arod. There’s a very good possibility that Arod could end up being the all-time leader in many categories He has a very good shot at being the all-time leader in home runs, rbi’s, and runs. Clearly, he has to play quite a few more seasons but he’s on track.

Just need more time:(3)

Chipper Jones Chipper Jones will make the Hall of Fame. He’s been the most consistent third basemen over the last ten years. He won the National League MVP award in 1999. His string of eight straight 100 rbi seasons ended last year only because he missed 25 games due to injury. Still, he finished with 96. His career batting average is .302. His OPS is .935 which is far and away the best of active third basemen. Arod plays third base now but the majority of his career has been at ss. His OBP is .400. At 33, he’s four seasons a way from having a resume that reads 400 home runs, 1,500 runs, 1,500 rbi and 2,400 hits.

Scott Rolen If Rolen’s going to get in, it’ll be because of his defense. He has six Gold Glove awards and has been the best defense third basemen since he came into the league. Don’t get me wrong about Rolen’s offense. He’s an excellent hitter. His OPS is .890 which is considerably better than Chavez and Glaus. His streak of four straight 100 rbi seasons will end this year only because of an injury. As of now, Rolen is on the cusp. However, he’s only 32 years old. He benefits from breaking into the majors at 21. I think he’ll play long enough to get his career numbers to a respectable place. With his defense being so superior to his contemporaries, I think 1,200 runs, 1,200 rbi and 350 home runs will get him in.

Eric Chavez Chavez is 27 years old and has won four golden glove awards. He’s one of the premier defensive players in MLB today. In addition, Chavez is the clean-up hitter for the A’s. His offensive numbers are quite impressive. He already has three 100 rbi seasons and would’ve had a fourth last season but he missed close to 40 games with an injury. His offensive numbers are par for the course for Hall of Fame third basemen. He’s one of the best offense/defense combinations in baseball. If it came down to choosing between Chavez and Rolen, I would probably give Chavez the better chance. However, I think both will make it.

Not in:

Troy Glaus Three years ago, Glaus was building a powerful resume. He led the American League in home runs in 2000 with 47. He had three straight 100 rbi seasons before the age of 26. That was all before Glaus started picking up injuries by the dozen. His career batting average is .252. His overall numbers won’t be good enough after missing most of two seasons in his prime. His OPS is slightly higher than Chavez’ but Chavez has him beat on defense and offensive consistency.


It's very difficult to differentiate a Hall of Fame pitcher from a non-Hall of Fame pitcher early in a career. The difference is usually longevity. The years from 30-40 have been very kind to many pitchers in MLB today. The problem with projecting pitchers is that there's no way of knowing who will be able to pitch effectively until the age of 40. Doc Gooden looked to be a sure bet before his career came to a screeching halt. Kerry Wood struck out 20 batters in a game at the age of 20. In the seven year since, he has 70 wins. He's never won more than 14 games in a season. Wood is proof that you can never be sure with a pitcher. On the other side, when Curt Schilling was 30, I would've bet quite a bit of money that he wasn't going to make the Hall of Fame. He had a grand total of 52 wins. After four seasons, Tom Glavine's record was 33-41. Sometimes the best young pitchers disappear before we ever knew what happened. Other times, a marginal pitcher matures into an elite pitcher after seven or eight big league seasons. That is why I'm having a particularly tough time projecting Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Barry Zito, and Johan Santana. However, I do have a "gut feeling" on these players that leads me to believe that two will make it to Cooperstown.

In: (11)

Locks: (6)

Roger Clemens
Greg Maddux
Randy Johnson
Pedro Martinez

Mariano Rivera Rivera is a lock for the Hall. He’ll likely end up second on the all-time saves list. His career numbers are absurd. His ERA is 2.34. His Whip is 1.05 and his batting average against is 2.12. Not to mention, he’s having the best season by a relief pitcher ever. His ERA is .83 and his Whip is .76.

Trevor Hoffman Hoffman will be the all-time saves leader when his career is over. Hoffman has been brilliant over a long period of time. Most closers have one but not the other. Franco was consistent over time but not brilliant. Gagne was brilliant but not over time. Hoffman has both. Hoffman’s numbers are actually right on par with Rivera’s. He has the same Whip and a better batting average against.

Just needs more time: (5)

Tom Glavine ESPN thinks that Glavine belongs in the same category as the "lock" pitchers. I won’t go that far. Glavine has been one of the best pitchers in the majors since he broke into the league. He has two Cy Young awards five twenty-win seasons. However, his ERA is quite low compared to the locks in this category at 3.48. His batting average against is shockingly high for a player being considered for the Hall of Fame at .256. His WHIP is below average at best at 1.31. Other than the number in the win column, Glavine’s numbers are not very impressive. However, a pitcher is generally judged on three basic things; 1).ERA , 2). Wins, and 3). Winning percentage. Glavine’s career winning percentage is .600. He has 269 career wins which is a considerable amount for this era. Glavine will get into the HOF but he’s not in the same category as Clemens, Maddux, Big Unit and Pedro.

John Smoltz Smoltz is every bit as deserving as Dennis Eckersley. Smoltz won the Cy Young in 1996 when he won 24 games. He then converted to the closer role where he recorded over 150 saves in three seasons leading the league in 2002. His career ERA, Whip, and batting average against are all significantly better than Glavine’s. There’s no question that Smoltz has been the better pitcher. The only category in which it doesn’t show is the win column. Smoltz only has 174 career wins. Aside from his 24 win season in 1996, Smoltz has never won more than 17 games. In fact, he’s only won more than 15 games twice. Smoltz has been plagued by low run support but his secondary stats tell all we need to know. He’s a Hall of Famer ahead of Glavine.

Curt Schilling Schilling will get in but not from his career numbers. He’ll get in because he was a dominant pitcher for ten years. He was the reason that two franchises won a World Series. He combined with the Big Unit to form the most devastating 1-2 punch since Koufax and Drysdale. He’ll be remembered as a big game pitcher. His bloody ankle will go down as folk lore. Don’t get me wrong, his career numbers aren’t awful. He has three seasons of 21 wins or more. His career ERA is 3.36. His Whip is a very impressive 1.12. He has 187 career wins. He’ll probably finish somewhere around 225. Schilling won’t ever have the win total of Tom Glavine but Schilling has clearly been the better pitcher. Sometimes career stats don’t tell the whole story and that’s the case here.

Roy Oswalt Based on what he’s accomplished so far, Oswalt is well on his way to Cooperstown. His ERA is a paltry 2.97. He has one 20-win season under his belt as well as a 19-win season. He has 77 career wins at the age of 27. His career winning percentage is .690. If Oswalt can avoid serious injury, he has a great chance at the Hall.

Roy Halladay Halladay has a chance to follow in Schilling’s footsteps. Halladay already has a 20 win season and a 19 win season. He was well on his way to his second 20 win season this year before he fractured his leg. He won the AL Cy Young award in 2003. Halladay’s career numbers don’t jump out at you (3.70 ERA) but he is one of the premier talents in baseball. Schilling did all of his resume building during the second half of his career. Halladay is ahead of Schilling’s pace when he was 28. Like most pitchers, Halladay’s case will depend on whether he can avoid injuries. He hasn’t done a very good job of that so far but I have to think his hard luck will end soon.

Not in:

Mike Mussina Mike Mussina could’ve been a Hall of Famer but something went wrong. While other pitchers were picking up Cy Youngs and twenty-win seasons, Mussina sat idly by. A pitcher's resume is incomplete without those accomplishments. He has five seasons of 18 wins or more. His career winning % is .645 and that has actually decreased since he joined the Yankees. He has 221 career wins. He’s 37 years old. If he averages 15 wins a year for the next six years, he will get to 300 wins. That would get him in. But, I don’t think he’ll pitch until he’s 43.

Johan Santana I was surprised to see how unimpressive Santana’s career stats are up to this point. He just hadn’t been given the chance to start as much as most pitchers. In fact, last season was the first time he’s ever had more than 18 starts. The results were ridiculous as Santana won the AL Cy Young award. His Whip was a ridiculous .92. Santana is only 26. He’s not a candidate for 300 wins based on his career up to this point but he is a candidate for the Hall of Fame. I think he’ll be the great pitcher in baseball once all of the 40+ pitchers that dominate the game today retire. I'd put his odds of making the HOF at 49.999% so I have to leave him off the "in" list.

Barry Zito Believe it or not, Zito actually has the best resume of the "Big Three" pitchers. Despite struggling last year and parts of this year, Zito has 82 career wins and he's only 27. In contrast, Johan Santana has 43 wins and he's less than a year younger than Zito. Zito won the Cy Young award in 2002. I don't think anyone really knows what caused the drop off in production over the last two seasons but if that trend continues, Zito won't be anywhere near Cooperstown. However, of active pitchers under the age of 30, Zito has one of the best resumes to date.

Tim Hudson I was surprised to see that Hudson is already 30 years old. He's three years older than Zito and has only 17 more wins. Hudson's ERA is pretty good at 3.34 but he isn't a dominate pitcher. He hasn't won a Cy Young. He's a good bet for 200 career wins but probably not much more than that. Hudson will be remembered as a very good pitcher but not a Hall of Famer.

Mark Mulder Mulder's in a better position than Hudson since he has 92 wins and is two years younger. However, Mulder's ERA is a robust 3.90. Wins go along way but they won't overcome a mediocre ERA. Mulder will continue to be an above average pitcher but he won't make the Hall of Fame.

Mark Buehrle Before this season, I wouldn't have included Buerhle in any HOF talk. He's always been a decent pitcher but his ERA has been less than spectacular. This year he's been a completely different pitcher. Nobody in the league is as efficient as Buerhle. He works the quickest games in the league and has a career best ERA at 2.96. If Buerhle keeps getting better, I can see him making a run at the Hall.

Bartolo Colon Colon has been Mr. Consistent. He has won at least 14 games in each of the last eight seasons. He has one 20 win season and two 18 win seasons. He has 130 wins but at 32, he's way off the mark of a Hall of Fame career. His ERA is right around 4.00. He's very good but not good enough.

Kevin Brown In his prime, Kevin Brown was as good as they come. His stuff is filthy. In fact, I’ll go on the record in saying that Brown would’ve made the Hall of Fame had he been healthy throughout his career. Where the average pitcher has anywhere from 33-35 starts per season, Brown had seasons of 28, 26, 25, 26, 19, 10, 22 and 13. It’s hard to imagine that he has been able to win 211 wins with all of those partial seasons. His career ERA is very impressive at 3.28. He has one twenty-win season and no Cy Young awards.

John Franco Franco is second on the all-time list in saves. He’s the active leader and has led the league three times in this category. His career ERA is 2.84. Here is the problem with Franco’s career; he’s never saved more than 40 games in a season and he’s only saved more than 32 saves in a season four times. He has saved at least 29 games 12 different times. For a relief pitcher to get into the Hall of Fame, they need to have dominant seasons. Franco is just your average closer who happened to have a longer career than most. Not having a 40 win season is saying a lot. Mariano Rivera has five. Armando Benitez has three. Trevor Hoffman has six. Jose Mesa has four. Smoltz has three. Franco has zero. A player must be dominating to get into the Hall of Fame. I don’t think Franco was dominating; consistent, but not dominating.

Other possible Hall of Fame Candidates

There are a few players that I didn't address that will fail to reach the Hall of Fame because of injuries or late starts. These players have been some of the best MLB has had to offer but really have no chance of making it to Cooperstown. There are two players in specific that I'm only addressing because ESPN is out of its mind.

Johnny Damon I have to address Damon because ESPN actually predicted Damon to be in the Hall of Fame last week. I have a big problem with this. Damon will be 32 at the end of the season. His career batting average is .290. He's not a power hitter by any means. His OPS is .788. His OBP is .353. If you're not a power hitter, you have to be a great singles hitter like Jeter or Tony Gwynn. Damon isn't even close to a .300 career batting average. He's considered one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball. However, his career OBP (On base percentage) is nowhere near acceptable for a leadoff hitter. Ricky Henderson is a Hall of Fame leadoff hitter (although his induction isn't scheduled until 2084). His OBP was .401. The ONLY thing Damon has going for him is that he has an outside chance at reaching 3,000 hits. If this happens, I would not be against having Damon be the first player ever to reach 3,000 hits and not make the HOF. He's not a HOF player and the numbers say so.

Omar Vizquel This is another player that I have to address because of ESPN. Omar Vizquel has a 0% chance of making the Hall of Fame. I don't like to call people out but I'll make an exception in this case. David Schoenfield of ESPN thinks Vizquel is headed for the Hall. He compares Vizquel to Ozzie Smith as part of his argument. The problem is that Ozzie has more hits, runs, rbi's and stolen bases on offense and he has more Gold Gloves on defense. Ozzie made 15 All-Star games and Vizquel made three. If Vizquel makes the Hall of Fame, then I'll send David Schoenfield $100.

Lance Berkman Unbelievably, Berkman is #5 on the active OPS list. He's only behind Bonds, Helton, Manny and Big Hurt. His career batting average is .304. He seems to be in the midst of his prime. He didn't play his first full season until he was 25 which will have an impact on his career numbers. He probably won't reach 500 home runs or 3,000 hits but his average numbers (like OPS, batting average, OBP, slugging percentage) will always be very good. Having said that, the HOF is very unlikely.

Brian Giles Giles was practically an old man when he finally played an entire season. He got his first everyday job at 28. Despite that major setback, Giles has made the most of his time in the majors. He's #9 in career OPS among active players. He's ahead of Arod, Griffey, Giambi, Chipper, Bagwell, Delgado and Sosa among others. He's one of the better OF's in the majors but his numbers won't be there.

Jim Edmonds I like Edmonds and I'm actually rooting for him to make the HOF but it probably won't happen. Edmonds is a spectacular centerfielder. He has very good offensive numbers across the board. However, he doesn't have any eye-popping numbers. His career batting average is .292. His OPS is .927. He has 321 career home runs and 970 RBI's. Edmonds is 35 and has probably three good seasons left. He'll probably just miss the HOF.

Magglio Ordonez Mags has been as consistent as anyone. His knee injury stole a season in his prime. That would make a big difference in terms of where he stands right now compared to other Hall of Famers at his age. I think he'll continue to be productive for at least five more seasons. His career batting average is very good at .307 but his OPS is only .889. For a power hitting outfielder, it should probably be higher.

Edgar Renteria Renteria isn't bad. Aside from two very good seasons, he's been average at best. He benefits from a career beginning at 21 but that's about it.

Under 25 Hall of Fame candidates

I wanted to make this a separate category because projecting players this young usually requires a crystal ball and unfortunately, I don't have one. However, the following players clearly have a headstart in making it to Cooperstown.

Miguel Cabrera Cabrera will follow in Vlad and Manny's footsteps. He's a monster already and will only get better. Barring injury, there's about a 95% chance Cabrera will make the HOF.

David Wright Wright is 22. He has 29 career home runs. He's hitting close to .300 as a third basemen. I don't think he could ask for a better start to a career. Based on his age and how good he is right now, I can't say with confidence that he won't make the HOF.

Jake Peavy Peavy will probably win more than his fair share of ERA titles. He's an awesome pitcher. It might help if he got out of San Diego but I actually think he'll make it.

Dontrelle Willis Willis is only 23 and he already has 38 career wins. He has struggled mightily in the second half in every season he's been in the majors. If he gets that worked out, he has a great start to a possible HOF career.

Hank Blalock Blalock has produced ever since the Rangers put him in the lineup. He's only 24 but he already has 83 career home runs. He could make a run at 500 which would be a lock for a third basemen.

Huston Street Street is phenomenal. In his first season, he has a 1.41 ERA and a .98 Whip. He's only 21 years old.

Francisco Rodriquez Frod is the heir apparent to Mariano Rivera. At 23, he's already one of the dominant closers in baseball.

Jeremy Bonderman Obviously, Bonderman is the hometown favorite. He's started off young enough. One minor setback is that he's 9 games under .500 for his career. His ERA took a tremendous hit in his first two seasons. In any other organization, "Bondo" would be making his debut this season. The 2003 Tigers were so bad that a 20 year old rooke fit right in.

Mark Prior Prior is the injury machine. I honestly don't remember Prior when he was his dominant self. It seemed so long ago. I think Kerry Wood has rubbed off a little on Prior. If he can ever stay healthy, Prior is as good as any pitcher in the league.

Joe Mauer Mauer is the best young catching prospect in baseball. He's been decent in parts of two seasons with the Twins. I think he'll be one of the best catchers over the next 15 years but I don't think he'll make the HOF.

Justin Morneau Morneau is good but Mark Grace was good too. John Olerud was also good. I think Morneau has a lot of Grace and Olerud in him.

Rich Harden Harden is as good as any young pitcher in the game. His numbers this season have been phenomenal. He's 9-4 with a 2.54 ERA and a 1.08 Whip. The most impressive number is his .206 batting average against. He's only 24. Harden has a very good shot if he can stay healthy.

Zach Duke Duke has only had seven starts. He's 5-0 with ridiculous numbers. Everyone else on this list has done more than Duke but I don't want to look foolish in 20 years by not having him on the under 25 list.

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