Hall of Fame Index: Centerfield Update

As we continue through the diamond we find a position that has quite a few players that have reached the ten year mark. That makes them eligible to be on the ballot for the Hall of Fame. I’d surmise that all of these players will be on the ballot some day even though most are probably nowhere near where they need to be to be legitimate candidates. It’s one of the many problems with the Hall of Fame.

As we have done with the other positions, we will take a look at each player’s slash line and their current ratings in BWAR, FWAR, and WS/5. Some players have helped themselves this season and others haven’t. Some have even hurt their Hall of Fame candidacies and we will discuss how that can possibly work.

Lorenzo Cain– Milwaukee Brewers

Slash: .251/.314/.369

BWAR: 1.6

FWAR: 0.8

WS/5: 1.2

Cain has an uphill battle to get any kind of broad support for the Hall of Fame. He likely will play another three or four solid seasons and that certainly will help, but he will not have the counting numbers necessary to get broad based support. Cain is where he is value wise because he is normally a two win player defensively. That’s why he got some darkhorse MVP support a few seasons ago in Kansas City.

Even if you consider defensive value, we know that it wanes as players age. So, Cain will need to improve offensively to add the value necessary to get support from even new age baseball analysts and historians. He still has time this year to have a hot streak, but the early returns aren’t encouraging.

Dexter Fowler–St. Louis Cardinals

Slash: .247/.341/.420

BWAR: 1.3

FWAR: 1.2

WS/5: 2.0

Fowler is probably just trying to get on the ballot at this point in his career. His particular skill set (ability to get on base) is not particularly sexy, but it has been effective in the past in terms of value. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the defensive ability that Cain does and has been moved to right field in the process. He’s playing center again this year, but he hasn’t been particularly good at it.

Curtis Granderson– Miami Marlins

Slash: .183/.270/.361

BWAR: -0.3

FWAR: -1.2

WS/5: 0.6

There is always a delicate point in the tug of war between adding value and adding numbers. We saw this with Craig Biggio locally, but every team has that guy that seems to be hanging on too long. Granderson has said this is his final season and I suppose there is no way to calculate how much he has been able to teach the young Marlins about being a professional. All that being said, he has not added to his Hall of Fame resume this season and you could argue he has actually detracted from it. Even if you ignore the index numbers, you have to think harder to remember a time when Granderson was a good player. That’s part of the Hall of Fame calculus. Six years from now who will be the Granderson you remember?

Adam Jones– Arizona Diamondbacks

Slash: .269/.319/.455

BWAR: 0.3

FWAR: 0.2

WS/5: 1.2

Jones has the exact opposite problem that Cain and Fowler have. He has been consistently productive in terms of runs and RBI. He hasn’t been great, but he consistently hits 20+ home runs and drives in 80+ runs a season. That’s nothing to sneeze at. Anyone that can do that for more than a decade is already a good player. The problem Jones runs into is the fact that he hasn’t been a particularly good defensive outfielder and he hardly ever draws a walk. Add to that a lack of speed and you really don’t have anything outside of the run production. Hall of Famer voters are getting more and more wise to value, so it is difficult to see him getting much traction.

Matt Kemp– Free Agent

Slash: .200/.210/.283

BWAR: -0.9

FWAR: -0.8

WS/5: 0.0

Kemp had a good season last year and it was enough to lead some to think he had a few good seasons left in him. He probably should have been the NL MVP in 2011 and if he had been then we might think of him differently. This season in Cincinnati was a disaster, but they really didn’t give him much of an opportunity. The Mets signed him and then dumped him almost immediately. He is only 34 years old, so it might be over for him. He likely will have to be a DH from this point on.

Andrew McCutchen– Philadelphia Phillies

Slash: .256/.378/.457

BWAR: 1.6

FWAR: 1.6

WS/5: 1.8

The value numbers may not look like a lot, but this was actually a renaissance season for McCutchen before the ACL tear. He definitely isn’t a center fielder anymore and the knee injury probably solidifies that. McCutchen’s game is about good power and good patience, so his knee injury shouldn’t slow him down too much moving forward. Unlike the other guys here, he is young enough and has built up enough value to get over the hump. He also has an MVP in his tool chest.

Hall of Fame Index: Left Field Update

There are a number of left fielders that have played ten seasons or more, but none of them are slam dunk Hall of Famers. So, what they have accomplished this season could go a long way in determining whether any of them will make the cut. As we well know, there is the value necessary to make it, but the voters also like counting numbers. We will take a brief look at the current players looking to build on their Hall of Fame resumes.

Michael Brantley– Houston Astros

Slash: .321/.382/.516

BWAR: 3.7

FWAR: 3.2

WS/5: 3.2

Brantley is currently on pace to have five wins across the board for the first time in years. Brantley has two issues when it comes to a Cooperstown candidacy. First, his injury history has limited his counting numbers. This is doubly important considering that he has never hit more than 20 home runs in a season. Simply put, voters dig the long ball and just isn’t Brantley’s game.

In many ways, Brantley is a throw back to a previous generation. He isn’t particularly good defensively, he doesn’t run the bases well, and he isn’t all that flamboyant. He just hits. He doesn’t strike out. Previously this season, he went through a streak of almost 50 plate appearances without a swing and miss. Read that again. I’m not talking a streak without strikeouts. It was a streak without a swing and miss. That’s unheard of these days.

Alex Gordon– Kansas City Royals

Slash: .281/.355/.440

BWAR: 1.3

FWAR: 1.7

WS/5: 2.0

Gordon and Brantley are similar in that they won’t have the counting statistics necessary for enshrinement. Yet, their value comes from different places. 2019 marks the first time Gordon has been below average according to defnsive runs saved. It also is the last year of a contract that has been pretty disastrous for the Royals. I suppose there is a possibility that he could come back for much less, but the Royals would probably like to move on.

In a normal universe, a two or three win player would have no problem finding work, but these are new times. Losing teams really don’t want to pay the price for an average player and winning teams usually have someone better than average. Just last season he was +18 according to defensive runs saved, so maybe a team might take a chance on him rediscovering his glove like he has done with the bat this season.

Justin Upton– Los Angeles Angels

Slash: .218/.302/.391

BWAR: -0.1

FWAR: 0.1

WS/5: 0.2

It’s been a lost season for Upton because of injuries. He missed the first two months and have gotten off to a dreadful start. However, with two months left there is time for him to get things turned around and at least put up good percentage numbers. Upton has always been a good player, but has never been a great one. More was expected as a number one overall pick and that might hurt him when it comes time for voters to vote.

The Angels seem to have a habit of sinking money into these guys. At least he has some job security as the Angels can’t justify cutting him and with his huge contract they will find a spot in the lineup for him. He is still young enough to rebound from a bad season and return to the level of play he was exhibiting before. Two or three more seasons of production might be enough to give him the counting numbers.

Ryan Braun– Milwaukee Brewers

Slash: .273/.325/.476

BWAR: 0.8

FWAR: 1.0

WS/5: 1.6

Given his numbers, most people would naturally assume that Braun is a Hall of Famer in waiting. At 35, he is beginning to show signs of age. He can’t play everyday and he only shows occasional glimmers of greatness, but they are enough to give him respectable numbers. The problem is how you justify his candidacy given his place in the PED history of the game.

A part of that depends on timing. If you are able to produce after getting caught you can quiet the whispers. However, optics are also key. Andy Pettitte is probably the model of how to handle the scandal. You come clean and admit wrongdoing. Braun did the opposite and even soiled the reputation of the courier that handled his testing sample. If it were a lesson on how to be an ass then Braun would be professor emeritus. The question will be whether time will heal all wounds.

Brett Gardner– New York Yankees

Slash: .243/.325/.460

BWAR: 2.6

FWAR; 2.0

WS/5: 1.6

Gardner is a player in the mold of Alex Gordon. He has been a plus defender in left field and center field for over a decade. He is a combined +8 this year according to defensive runs saved and that reached a peak of +33 in 2010. In other words, in that season he was worth almost four wins defensively. Like Gordon, the offensive numbers aren’t overwhelming. This year he is demonstrating more power than he ever has and he still might not reach 20 home runs.

The question for guys like Gordon and Gardner is whether the BBWAA will recognize different forms of value. Traditionally they haven’t, but the BBWAA continues to get younger and more progressive and in another decade that will probably be more so when guys like Gordon and Gardner will be on the ballot.

Shin-soo Choo– Texas Rangers

Slash: .278/.374/.487

BWAR: 1.3

FWAR: 1.4

WS/5: 2.6

Choo rounds out a current crop of left fielders that don’t fit the stereotypical mold. Still, with another productive season or two he will surpass 50 wins in the win shares/5 model and will approach 40 wins in the two WAR models. Choo has always gotten on base everywhere he has been. Injuries have derailed his counting numbers some, but even when healthy he didn’t put up huge power numbers. He just got on base and got on base often.

Like the others, he needs to finish his career with some strong seasons and he needs some imagination from the voters. He has one more big season on his contract (21 million) and then the Rangers will likely let him go. If he finishes 2020 like he has been playing in 2019 he will find work somewhere. If he sputters then his career might be finished.

 

 

Hall of Fame Index: Shortstop and Third Base Update

We are combining these two positions because there are only three players combined that fit the bill at these two positions. There are a number of players in both spots that are a season away from qualifying. As we saw with Dustin Pedroia, there is a reason why we wait ten seasons to profile these players. Sometimes they fall right off the map and we will see that with one of the players we are profiling this time around.

Evan Longoria– San Francisco Giants

Slash: .241/.318/.446

BWAR: 1.8

FWAR: 1.4

WS/5: 1.8

Longoria is actually doing better than many of the guys we’ve profiled this season, but his decline is pretty typical. If 300 is the standard by which we put guys into the Hall of Fame, he is currently short of his goal. As of this writing, he has 45.4 WS/5 to go along 50.5 FWAR and 53.6 BWAR. In other words, he is relatively close if he can manage to throw up another couple of seasons like he has the last two.

Longoria has three seasons remaining on his contract, so the Giants are likely stuck with him anyway. Pablo Sandoval has eaten into his playing time this season. If he gets dealt before the deadline then Longoria could surge down the stretch and get to the 20 home run plateau. Longoria seems to be on the same kind of career path of guys like Scott Rolen and David Wright. No, they didn’t have the same career track, but they are guys that fans thought should have done more. That might have a more dramatic impact on his candidacy than any of the numbers themselves.

Elvis Andrus– Texas Rangers

Slash: .287/.323/.418

BWAR: 1.4

FWAR: 1.7

WS/5: 2.6

Andrus is only 30 years old, but he has been around since 2009. However, much of his game has been predicated on speed and defense. He has 22 steals so far this season, so he hasn’t seemed to have slowed down any. Some thought Andrus was taking the next step in 2017 when he developed some power, but that power has seemingly disappeared over the past two seasons.

Andrus has three more guaranteed seasons with the Rangers and then an option season for 2023. If he finishes his contract he will almost certainly surpass 2000 hits and 1000 runs scored. He will also surpass 300 steals as early as this season and has an outside chance at 400. Unfortunately, outside of that 2017 he hasn’t had any season that we could call a signature season. He has only two seasons with an .800 OPS or higher. Defensive metrics are not as high on his defense as many of the so-called pundits. He will probably be doing good to stay mediocre for the remainder of the contract.

Troy Tulowitzki– New York Yankees

Slash: .182/.308/.545

BWAR: 0.0

FWAR: 0.0

WS/5: 0.0

Tiulowitzki officially retired from baseball last week. It was a sad ending to a career where so much more was expected. The list of guys like Tulowitzki is long and distinguished. Essentially, it starts like “he would have been a Hall of Famer but…” In his case he really couldn’t stay on the field long enough to get the requisite value necessary to get in.

Tulowitzki missed most of 2017 and all of 2018 suffering through ankle injuries. He tried to make a go of it this season, but just couldn’t answer the bell after a few at bats in April. The writing was on the wall, but give him credit for recognizing it and immediately going to work as a college coach. Often players in that situation can linger and and try desperately to hold on to their dreams.

 

 

 

 

Hall of Fame Index: Second Base Update

With the induction ceremonies coming soon, we are updating the active players at each position to look at how they are strengthening (or not strengthening) their Hall of Fame case. We have four first baseman that qualify based on playing at least ten years and having a significant career. We do have several players in their ninth season as well, but we will ignore them for the time being.

Dustin Pedroia– Boston Red Sox

Slash: .100/.143/.100

BWAR: -0.5

FWAR: -0.4

WS/5: 0.0

There is a reason why we wait ten years and Pedroia is the poster child for that. He may never play again because of his knee injury. He hasn’t done anything of note for nearly two seasons. Time marches on and so do the Red Sox. They called up Michael Chavis and it’s iike nothing has happened there. Father Time is undefeated and it looks like he has taken another victim.

Ben Zobrist– Chicago Cubs

Slash: .241/.343/.253

BWAR: -0.2

FWAR: 0.1

WS/5: 0.4

Zobrist has taken most of 2019 off because he is going through a nasty divorce. Let’s take a moment and acknowledge how creepy it is that we actually know this. Supposedly, he is ready to go on a rehabilitation assignment and return. There is still time to salvage some of the season. He doesn’t have a whole lot of time left until his career comes to a close. He might be able to get another decent season or two in and if he does he has a decent chance.

Daniel Murphy– Colorado Rockies

Slash: .287/.338/.481

BWAR: 0.2

FWAR: 0.0

WS/5: 1.0

Murphy is a good example of what happens when you bring only half of the game to the table. ┬áHe has put up some huge numbers offensively, but he doesn’t bring a ton of defensive value to the table. Even when you look at his numbers this year you see that he hits well, but when you play half of your games in the mile high city you are expected to put up huge numbers.

Starlin Castro– Miami Marlins

Slash: .248/.274/.356

BWAR: -0.6

FWAR: -0.6

WS/5: 0.8

Castro is 29 years old and has over 1500 hits. If he continues to play every day for the next five years he will surpass 2000 hits and may even surpass 1000 runs and 1000 RBI if he plays long enough. He still won’t come anywhere near the value necessary to get into the Hall of Fame. Still, there will be those that would vote for anyone that surpasses a certain number of hits, runs, and RBI.

Robinson Cano– New York Mets

Slash: .250/.295/.410

BWAR: -0.1

FWAR: 0.0

WS/5: 0.6

Cano just had a three home run game. Great players can always muster up greatness even when they aren’t great anymore. Maybe he can muster a month or two of greatness. If he can do that his numbers might even look close to career norms. The problem is that he was busted for PEDs last season, so there will be those that think he is washed up. He needs a strong August and September to prove the end is not near.

Ian Kinsler– San Diego Padres

Slash: .214/.274/.357

BWAR: -0.3

FWAR: -0.4

WS/5: 0.6

Here we see another aging player spinning his wheels. The difference is that he can at least field his position a little. He got off to an absolutely dreadful start, so maybe he can right the ship some if the Padres allow him to keep playing. Given the circumstances, they probably want to allow younger players to take over given their situation. Unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer opportunities for aging veterans like Kinsler. This might be his swan song.

 

 

Hall of Fame Index: First Base Update

With the induction ceremonies coming soon, we are updating the active players at each position to look at how they are strengthening (or not strengthening) their Hall of Fame case. We have four first baseman that qualify based on playing at least ten years and having a significant career. We do have several players in their ninth season as well, but we will ignore them for the time being.

Miguel Cabrera–Detroit Tigers

Slash: .283/.346/.373

BWAR: -0.1

FWAR: -0.3

WS/5: 1.4

Father Time is undefeated. The good news is that Cabrera has been healthy this season. He will add over 100 hits and 50 RBI to his resume. He will clearly 2800 hits some time next season if he doesn’t get there this season and will clear 1700 RBI for his career. He is in the Hall of Fame, but the value numbers above reflect that he is merely accumulating numbers at this point.

Of course, the problem for the Tigers is that they have signed him through 2023 with options for 2024 and 2025. If you are Cabrera do you continue to play and collect a paycheck or do you hang it up because you clearly aren’t the same guy? Could he end up with a contender and rejuvinate himself?

Edwin Encarnacion– New York Yankees

Slash: .223/.332/.515

BWAR: 2.0

FWAR: 1.7

WS/5: 2.6

In 2012, Encarnacion became Encarnacion. He hit 42 home runs and drove in 110 runs. Between 2012 and 2018 he averaged over 100 RBI a season. He averaged about 35 home runs a season. His OPS was somewhere around .900 over that time as well. 2012 was the only season with five or more wins in BWAR. 2019 is more of the same. No, he likely won’t have a .900 OPS, but he will get to 30 home runs and 100 RBI if he is healthy. That will be eight seasons of heavy production.

As of this writing, he sits at 34.2 BWAR. He likely will be at 35 wins after the season. So, when he finally retires, he will likely be over 2000 hits, 1200 runs, 1400 RBI, and 450 home runs. Yet, he won’t get to 300 in the index. You have to have some fielding value to get into the Hall of Fame. He just doesn’t have it.

Albert Pujols–Los Angeles Angels

Slash: .247/.311/.445

BWAR: 0.4

FWAR: 0.2

WS/5: 1.2

Pujols has had a bit of a resurgence this season in that he is actually adding some value. He also surpassed 2000 RBI for his career. He stands fifth all-time in RBI. When you see that he is 19th in runs scored that is a perfect microcosm of where he has been over the past several seasons. It’s why you have to be careful about paying attention to individual numbers. He drives in runs. He doesn’t do much else these days.

With the positive output so far, he is back over 100 wins for his career. That firmly puts him second all-time amongst first baseman to the great Lou Gehrig. He isn’t catching Gehrig. So, he really can’t add to the legacy in any real way beyond creeping up the all-time lists in home runs, hits, runs, and RBI.

Joey Votto–Cincinnati Reds

Slash: .256/.346/.393

BWAR: 0.5

FWAR: 0.2

WS/5: 1.2

This is yet another example of what happens when Father Time catches up with you. It’s hard to believe that Votto is 35 and what has happened to him is predictable. He still gets on base at a healthy clip. When this season is over it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see him hitting back around .280 and getting on base at a .370 clip. That’s impressive at any age. A sluggling percentage barely over .400 is not impressive at any age.

The question is whether he will add enough value over the next couple of years to get into the Hall of Fame. He will likely get to 2000 hits, 1000 runs, and 1000 RBI, but not much beyond that. He might get to 300 home runs, but he won’t get to 400. It will take imagination to vote for him. He will be a different kind of candidate and it remains to be seen whether the BBWAAA will have the imagination to put him in.

HOF Index Update: Catchers

We normally update these numbers when the season is over, but that doesn’t leave a lot for us to do during the season. So, we will take a look at the current catchers and see if they are adding to their Hall of Fame resumes this season. We have already profiled Russell Martin, Brian McCann, and Yadier Molina. We will be adding Buster Posey to the conversation.

Russell Martin– Los Angeles Dodgers

Slash: .225/.358/.295

BWAR: 0.4

FWAR: 0.6

WS/5: 0.8

The Dodgers brough Martin back to be a backup catcher, so it is not a huge surprise that he is not producing a ton of value. You can’t produce a ton of value in 159 plate appearances after all. He has been near the end for a few years now. He gets on base at a very healthy clip, but an isolated power north of .200 since 2015. This season may end up being his last one. He’s had a nice career, but when you look at the counting numbers you don’t see any of the normal markers that the BBWAA are looking for.

Brian McCann– Atlanta Braves

Slash: .268/.335/.447

BWAR: 0.6

FWAR: 0.8

WS/5: 1.4

McCann has had the best season of all of the catchers on this list. If he continues on his current pace he will hit about 12 home runs and drive in 50 runs. This all the while platooning with Tyler Flowers. He also surpassed 1000 RBIs this year. That may not be enough to get him in, but it is enough to get him into a conversation. This may be his last rodeo and if it is it has been a good final season.

Yadier Molina– St. Louis Cardinals

Slash: .261/.286/.368

BWAR: 0.1

FWAR: -0.2

WS/5: 1.8

It’s always interesting to see how different platforms treat different guys. The WAR categories seem to think he is replacement level where win shares thinks fairly high of him. It almost certainly has something to do with fielding. Pitch framing data is fairly new and it doesn’t like Molina. Win shares doesn’t necessarily use that. Molina is what we would call an accumulator. He has more than 2000 hits. If he continues playing he could reach 1000 RBI and 800 runs scored if he continues to play through 2020.

Buster Posey– San Francisco Giants

Slash: .259/.320/.395

BWAR: 0.3

FWAR: 1.4

WS/5: 1.6

Posey has just started to heat up, so this may look considerably different when the season ends. However, the decline is noticeable. He hit five home runs last season and has only five this season. This is after eight consecutive seasons that saw him produce 12 or more when healthy. He is still producing defensively and that is why he is strong in both win shares and FWAR.

Why do we wait ten years?

I had one of those interesting debates that always seems to happen on Twitter. Someone asked a question about who was the greatest hitter of our generation and the answers tended towards the usual suspects. The name left out was the one the shocked me the most. No one mentioned the name Albert Pujols. It seemed shocking considering he just surpassed 2000 RBI this season and has over 600 home runs.

If we adjust that for our purposes, we know that he is currently the second most valuable first baseman in history according to the Hall of Fame Index. Normally, we would say he has time to get to the top spot, but the last several seasons have shown that he is spinning his wheels in terms of value.

This brings us to the topic of the conversation. Why do we wait ten seasons to include players in the index? The player most mentioned in that poll was Mike Trout of the Angels. Yes, he is currently the best player in the game. At least he is when we consider multiple seasons. I didn’t mention him because he just hasn’t been doing it long enough. I remember watching him come up in 2011.

Is he a Hall of Famer? I would say the Vegas odds are pretty good at this point considering his index score would already put him there. However, making such a prognostication ignores all of the possibilities that could occur from this point forward. Let’s compare Trout through season eight to other prominent players in history through season eight and tell me what you notice. I’ll ignore the index and simply go with OPS+.

Player A: 171

Player B: 175

Player C: 164

Who are these three? Well, we know Pujols and Trout (A and B), but what about Dick Allen? Allen wasn’t quite as good as those two, but he was pretty darn close through year nine of his career. Add in another season and he was pretty darn good through year ten. What happened to him after that? Well, it was a variety of things. We could blame it on injuries, but there was also a portion that could be attributed to the fact that teams got tired of dealing with him.

Every position has guys like Allen. I could make a veritable all-star team of players that could be Hall of Famers that fell off the table for one reason or another. We can start from one of the players currently active. Has anyone been tracking what has happened to Buster Posey lately? Two years ago he looked like one of the greatest catchers in the history of the game. It’s been a disaster since then. So, let’s take a look at the greats through their first eight full seasons and what happened to them after that. We will look merely at bWAR just for fun.

Catcher: Buster Posey (38.3 vs 3.1)

First Base: Don Mattingly (34.4 vs 8.0)

Second Base: Carlos Baerga (20.6 vs -1.0)

Third Base: David Wright (39.1 vs. 11.3)

Shortstop: Nomar Garciaparra (42.3 vs 1.9)

Left Field: Albert Belle (36.2 vs. 3.9)

Center Field: Cesar Cedeno (39.8 vs. 13.0)

Right Field: Tony Oliva (42.2 vs. 0.9)

What does all of this have to do with Trout? Well, these were all players that most of us would have sworn would be Hall of Famers after their first eight full seasons. Well, Baerga may be an exception there, but you get the idea. Anything can happen at any time. Trout may turn into one of these guys. He could turn into another Pujols and that wouldn’t be all that bad either.

A large part of the calculus of determining who is the best at anything depends greatly on how that player ages. We don’t know that in Trout’s case. He is at the heighth of his powers and that is a horrible time to judge anything. We can apply complex mathematical models to guess how he might age, but there is really no telling what might happen. He might age like Willie Mays or Ted Williams and he might age like one of the guys above. The truth is probably somewhere in between, but that guesswork short changes not only everyone else, but Trout himself.

He deserves the opportunity to continue his career. When he gets to the ten year mark we will start profiling him in earnest, but even then he deserves the benefit of enjoying a full career arc before we make any lasting declarations. That’s all part of the process and all eight guys above serve as cautionary tales.