Ken Boyer vs. Scott Rolen

History often has a way of repeating itself. One of the things we notice is that certain teams seem to have a knack for developing or finding players at certain positions; For the St. Louis Cardinals that spot has been third base. They currently have Matt Carpenter playing there, but they have also had David Freese and Terry Pendleton. However, no third basemen have been more beloved in St. Louis than Ken Boyer and Scott Rolen.

Boyer played a majority of his career in St. Louis unlike Rolen. Rolen came up with the Phillies and spent considerable time in Toronto and Cincinnati as well. Both were members of championship teams. Both got some Hall of Fame support with Boyer getting as much as 25.5 percent and Rolen has gotten 17.2 percent. So, they were similar in their standing in St. Louis and considered similarly by the BBWAA. So, how similar are they really?

Counting Statistics

  Games Hits 2B+3B HR Runs RBI BB
Boyer 2034 2143 386 282 1104 1141 713
Rolen 2038 2077 560 318 1211 1287 899

At first, it would seem that the only way that these two are similar are in the location they played and the number of games they played. However, we have to remember that these two played in different eras. The 1960s were a depressed offensive time period, so it makes sense that Boyer’s numbers were not as good. Rolen’s numbers were sneaky good. Unfortunately, most fans think of dingers and don’t think of anything else, but having more than 500 doubles is pretty substantial.

Of course, both players were known as good defenders as well. This is where we go beyond the counting numbers. Was that reputation based on solid information or was it based on hearsay? The first thing we look at is the percentage numbers. This includes OPS+ which helps us distill out the effects of era.

Percentage Statistics 

  AVG OBP SLG OPS OPS+
Boyer .287 .349 .462 .811 116
Rolen .281 .364 .490 .854 122

Naturally, this doesn’t address the defense, but it does give us a clearer picture of each player offensively. When you combine two players that are well above average offensively and had stellar defensive reputations it is hard to understand why they didn’t get as much support as they did. In fact, these numbers seem to indicate that Rolen was the superior player. He was superior offensively anyway.

Of course, awards voting tends to have an impact on how we perceive a player. Over the years we have discovered that Gold Glove awards are not as meaningful as we thought. However, when we consider that in concert with all-star appearances and MVP voting also gives us a good look at how each player was viewed during their career.

Awards Voting 

  AS GG MVP Top 5 Top 10
Boyer 11 5 1 0 3
Rolen 7 8 0 1 0

 So, even though the numbers for Rolen seem to be better, Boyer seemed to do better in the awards voting. Of course, this can cut both ways. Boyer played in a time when there were eight and ten teams in the league. Rolen played with 15 teams. So, all-star game appearances, Gold Glove awards, and MVP voting takes on a different look based on that fact. Usually players with ten or more all-star game appearances get into the Hall of Fame.

Yet, even in that universe, Rolen won more Gold Glove awards. So, if we took a sneak peak at bWAR we’d notice that Rolen had four seasons where he finished in the top ten in WAR, but he had only the one top five finish in the voting. Obviously, having one top five finish and three top ten finishes would have looked more impressive. Sometimes the voters miss the mark. Boyer had seven seasons in the top ten in bWAR. So, we could claim that both players were equally overlooked. Sorry Cardinals fans.

Robinson Cano vs. Jeff Kent

Comparing two players is difficult enough when they come from different eras, but comparing two when one of them is active is next to impossible. Doing so requires that you suspend disbelief a little. We know the active player will add to his totals and the two will no longer be similar when he is done. We are essentially taking a snapshot in time. This will be true in Robinson Cano’s case as well, but this season has proven that players can age suddenly before your very eyes.

However, at this point in time he appears to be most similar to Jeff Kent. Considering that Kent is the all-time leader for home runs by a second baseman it would seem he would be a lock for the Hall of Fame. That’s hasn’t been the case yet. He has been on the ballot for seven years and Is currently hovering around 18 percent of the vote. Of course, Cano will add to his totals, but in the interim it might not look so good for him. However, we need to look at the counting numbers, percentage statistics, and awards voting.

Counting Numbers 

  Games Hits 2B+3B HR Runs RBI BB
Kent 2298 2461 607 377 1320 1518 801
Cano 2179 2567 593 324 1232 1270 605

The natural assumption is that Cano will make the nice slow march to 3000 hits.  He has four more seasons on his contract and players usually don’t leave 24 million per season on the table. So, he needs just over 100 hits per season to reach the magic number. With those 100 hits per season will come some extra base hits. He conservatively should have 700 doubles and triples if he plays every day. Of course, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

It is less of a sure thing that Cano will pass Kent in terms of run production. He still needs 53 home runs and nearly 250 RBI to reach Kent. Most guys with 1500 RBI are in the Hall of Fame, but counting numbers can be deceiving. We don’t have much context to surround those numbers. For one, Kent normally played on very good teams with a lot of good offensive performers. For another, he played during a good offensive era. In point of fact, the era was known for more offense than Cano’s era.

This is one of the many reasons why we take a look at the percentage statistics. In particular, we pay close attention to numbers like OPS+. It has a way of distilling the effects of home ballpark and the era. However, even the basic numbers can give us a clue as to why Kent has been so underrepresented.

Percentage Numbers

  AVG OBP SLG OPS OPS+
Kent .290 .356 .500 .856 123
Cano .302 .352 .491 .843 125

As you can see, Kent has slightly better numbers but his OPS+ is a little lower than Cano. That’s only part of the equation when it comes to figuring out why Kent is not in the Hall of Fame. The other portion comes on the defensive side of the equation. We can look at the awards voting at the time (particularly with Gold Gloves) but when we look at the index we normally look at the cold, hard numbers like defensive runs saved, ultimate zone rating, or Rfield.

Those numbers tell a more complete story. Kent had -52 runs saved according to defensive runs saved and more than -30 runs according to UZR. Cano might end up having the same issue when he retires. Players often see their fielding numbers decline as they age and Cano has been wildly inconsistent defensively.

That being said, usually the awards voting gives us a bigger clue as to how the player was perceived at the time. Jeff Kent famously told Jeff Bagwell his goal was to have no friends when he left baseball. That likely included the press. The same people that vote for those awards also vote for the Hall of Fame. Our normal benchmark for Hall of Fame fitness is ten all-star games for instance. Looking at Kent and comparing him to Cano might give us some clue as to why he hasn’t gotten more support.

Awards Voting 

  AS GG SS MVP Top 5 Top 10
Kent 5 0 4 1 0 3
Cano 8 2 5 0 4 2

These comparisons are usually a mixed bag. Kent has an MVP award to his name and those usually bring some cache with them. Cano has never won the award, but he has more all-star game appearances, gold gloves, silver slugger awards, and seasons in the top five and ten in the voting. In other words, the writers and fans (since they vote for the all-star team) seem to think Cano was the better player.

We have to dig deeper than that. Awards voting can explain why the vote turns out the way that it does, but it can’t tell us whether those awards are given to the best person. It would be difficult to call Robinson Cano likeable, but he was infinitely more likeable than Jeff Kent. We all know that shouldn’t matter, but unfortunately it does.

Gil Hodges vs. Norm Cash

One of the things we notice with the Hall of Fame is that everyone has players they are emotionally attached to. It makes perfect sense as we all have our favorite teams, so it only makes sense that this allegiance would transfer to individual players from those teams. Unfortunately, those allegiances don’t always hold up to scrutiny when we remove the emotional blinders.

There is probably no player that personifies this more than Gil Hodges. Sure, the index has its place and normally I would abide by it, but one of the things I’ve learned over time is that there is more than one way to skin a cat. What we are doing in this series is comparing players with another player at their position that they compare to closely according to similarity scores. In this case, we get to go to the top of the list. We often don’t have an emotional attachment to both players, so we can see someone like Hodges in a whole new light when we compare him someone like Norm Cash. Of course, the flip side is that we also get a better view of Cash in the process.

Counting Statistics 

  Games Hits 2B+3B HR Runs RBI BB
Hodges 2071 1921 343 370 1105 1374 943
Cash 2089 1820 282 377 1045 1104 1043

This is usually where the argument starts and ends with Hodges. He drove in more runs than Cash and scored more runs. The object of the game is to score runs and he was responsible for more runs than Cash. Ergo, he was the better player. As we all know, it is never that simple and it gets more complicated when we start to consider the fact that Hodges played in a different stadium, on a different team, and in a different era.

No one would accuse the 1960s Tigers teams of being anywhere near the Boys of Summer. Those Tigers teams had some good players (the previously studied Freehan for instance) but there weren’t any Hall of Famers. The Dodgers had four Hall of Famers in addition to Hodges. They would certainly be considered a better supporting cast and the 1950s was a better offensive era than the 1960s.

Furthermore, when we add hits and walks we see that the two were nearly identical in terms of their ability to get on base. Total bases end up being pretty close as well. So, the main difference comes in their perceived ability to produce runs. This is where we have to ask ourselves whether the players were really that different or whether they were a product of their environment. The percentage numbers can help us there. This is especially true when we add in era adjusted numbers like OPS+. OPS+ not only breaks down OPS by the era the player played, but also their home ballpark. So, if they are roughly equal then we know the run differential is based more on the players surrounding Hodges than on anything extra Hodges brought to the table.

Percentage Statistics

  AVG OBP SLG OPS OPS+
Hodges .273 .359 .487 .846 120
Cash .271 .374 .488 .862 139

What do you know? Cash was actually a better hitter than Hodges when we distill the effects of time and place. Their percentage statistics were fairly similar and those that are not sophisticated in their analysis would assume they were similar players because of it. This is the reason why we include the numbers from the index. It gives context to the contributions of the player. This includes fielding and baserunning (which we haven’t looked at here).

One of the other things that these numbers don’t show is the distribution in which they were accrued. This is what we might call the Harold Baines effect. Baines recently got elected by the Veterans Committee on the strength of some impressive career numbers. Unfortunately, he never produced any huge seasons. If someone averages 80 runs and 80 RBI for 15 years they will put up roughly the career numbers these two did. If someone produces more than 100 RBI for six or seven seasons (as Hodges did) then they can appear to be more dominant even though the career numbers look the same.

We can distill these effects out by looking at the awards voting. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to all-star appearances, Gold Glove awards, Silver Slugger awards, and MVP voting, but we begin to see a clear picture when we compare the results with what we currently have. Hodges should have a built in advantage across the board because awards tend to go to teams that win. The Dodgers won far more pennants than the Tigers, so you would expect to see him on the list more.

Awards Voting 

  All-Star GG SS MVP Top 5 Top 10
Hodges 8 3 0 0 0 3
Cash 5 0 0 0 1 0

It’s often difficult to parse these kinds of results out. Hodges went to more all-star games, but the Dodgers were also a better team. Furthermore, he played most of his career with only eight team leagues where Cash played most of his career with ten or more teams in the league. So, that might be a wash.

The Gold Gloves would seem to indicate that Hodges was a better fielder, but the sabermetric fielding numbers would say otherwise. Silver slugger awards haven’t been handed out for very long, so the fact that they don’t have any doesn’t need any. This of course brings us to the MVP voting. Cash had a magical season in 1961 (in which he admitted to using a corked bat) and we have to ask how much one magical season plays into someone’s credentials for the Hall of Fame.

I’ve asked this question before, but it bears repeating for our new readers. When you have great teams you often have to ask whether they are great because of the contributions of any single player or whether that player is great because of the support from great teammates. As you might surmise, the answer depends on the player and the team. In the case of Hodges we find that he always trailed his Hall of Fame teammates in the MVP voting. The MVP voting is not the end all be all of that question. Dodger players and executives swore by Hodges as a key member of that team. It’s just that the MVP voters at the time did not. If you look at other numbers like WAR and win shares they would tend to agree as well.

Bill Freehan vs. Brian McCann

When you throw out the tiers you can do some fun things with groups of players. So, what we will do for the foreseeable future is compare two players from each position that are not in the Hall of Fame. Some of them will be active players, but if they are active they are at the tail end of their career. We will see one such player as we compare two catchers that are either on the outside looking in or will likely be on the outside looking in.

The idea is to get two similar players utilizing Bill James’ “similarity scores” that he developed decades ago. The idea is that both players will have similar counting numbers and therefore should have similar resumes for enshrinement. As we will see, that is not necessarily the case and as such we will see one of the major reasons why uberstats were invented in the first place. We have made the following comparison before, but Brian McCann has another year under his belt and we’ve slept since we made the comparison with Tigers catcher Bill Freehan. So, if you had to pick one of these guys for the Hall of Fame who would it be?

Counting Numbers 

  Games Singles 2B+3B HR Runs RBI BB
McCann 1747 1007 298 281 741 1015 636
Freehan 1774 1115 276 200 706 758 626

Of course, counting numbers are only half of the equation for the traditionalist. We still have the percentage statistics to go, but when you look at these numbers they look fairly close until we get to RBI. McCann surpassed the 1000 RBI mark and we know how much the Hall of Fame voters love round numbers. I’m sure it will be enough to get him a few extra votes. Additionally, his 80 extra home runs will come in handy as well.

At this point, it is not clear whether McCann will continue playing or not. His value numbers are not radically different than they were in 2017 or 2018, but he certainly looked a lot better doing it than he did in 2018. That could be enough to convince the Braves and him to give it another go in 2020. Then again, he could decide to hang them up since he had a nice bounce back campaign as well.

Before we hand the trophy to McCann in this comparison we should note that the percentage numbers are the next level up in terms of sophistication. This is especially true when we include numbers like OPS+. None of the counting numbers have been normalized for the era they played in. Let’s see what happens when we include percentage statistics.

Percentage Statistics 

  AVG OBP SLG OPS OPS+
McCann .262 .337 .452 .789 110
Freehan .262 .340 .412 .752 112

Now, we see the first major reason why many of us rely on uberstats like WAR and win shares. The percentage numbers are close, but McCann has a slight advantage in slugging percentage according to the raw numbers. Freehan toiled in the 1960s when pitching was more dominant. McCann toiled in the 2000s when home runs were more plentiful. OPS+ shows us that they are remarkably similar offensively.

Unfortunately, percentage numbers only tell us so much. Yes, both are about ten percent better than the league average. At first blush, this is not particularly impressive until we take into account that most catchers aren’t league average. Before we even address their specific fielding we have to address the relative importance of fielding at that position in their respective eras.

In the 1960s and 1970s, teams routinely stole more than 100 bases a season and some teams even stole 200 bases. If we take a random season (say 1965) we would see that of the ten American League teams, three of them had 100 or more steals and they averaged 70 steals per team. Detroit allowed 50 steals that season and caught 39 percent of would be base stealers. That was 20 fewer than the league average and five percent better than the league average.

In 2010, teams in the National League were averaging 91 steals per season, but the Braves allowed 102 steals that season and they caught 30 percent. The league average caught stealing rate was 29 percent. So, McCann was probably closer to average as a defensive catcher in terms of catching would be base stealers. So, we could add a defensive category to look at different statistics we do look at catchers for.

Defensive Statistics

  Games CS% WP PB E
McCann 1607 25% 469 84 93
Freehan 1581 37% 387 108 72

Traditionally, we can measure how well catchers control the run game and how well they block pitches in the dirt. We could anecdotally measure their ability to handle a pitching staff, but past data isn’t as accurate as current data. So, if we analyze only these two facets we would have to assume that Freehan is vastly superior defensively. He caught far more base stealers and generally had fewer passed balls and wild pitches combined. Throw in a better fielding percentage and the case seems pretty clear.

Both catchers caught some pretty good pitching staffs during their career with Detroit winning the 1968 World Series and the Houston Astros winning the 2017 World Series. We know that Brian McCann was a pretty good pitch framer based on the data at billjamesonline.com, but we don’t have hard data on Freehan. McCann is +48 runs in pitch framing since they started keeping that stat in 2010. That would be five wins defensively and that helps explain why some sources of WAR and win shares vary wildly on his value.

What would happen if we were able to do the same with Freehan? I suppose we could go with anecdotal evidence based on scouting reports and eyewitness testimony, but that would be sketchy at best. We could go with reputation, but we will get to that shortly when we cover the awards voting. For now, we can assert that Freehan was likely better overall defensively, but it is hard to say by how much.

Awards Voting 

  All-Star GG SS MVP Top 5 Top 10
McCann 7 0 6 0 0 0
Freehan 11 5 0 0 2 1

 This is difficult to parse. Freehan played in a ten team league for most of his career. So, if there were three catchers on the all-star team he had a 30 percent chance of being one of them. In a similar dynamic, McCann had a 20 percent chance of being one of the three. In a similar way, MVP voting would also be a bit different. That being said, two top five finishes are pretty strong and Freehan had an excellent reputation as a two-way catcher.

Would you rather have the best offensive catcher in the league or the best defensive catcher in the league? That’s a loaded question. It honestly depends on the era and on the individual team. If we include the element of working with pitchers and pitch framing, a defensive catcher that can excel at those skills in addition to blocking pitches in the dirt and controlling the running game is worth a ton. Yet, having an offensive weapon at a position where most players aren’t explosive could be a huge advantage as well.

What makes it more difficult is the fact that neither player was even average at the other skill. McCann made up for his lack of throwing ability by framing pitches and working with pitchers. Freehan was not tremendous offensively compared to guys like Yogi Berra (early in his career) or Johnny Bench (later in his career) but he was easily one of the top five offensive catchers year in and year out.

Part of the fun of this series is avoiding the trappings of the index. Sure, we are illustrating why we would use it, but we are also bringing the debate back to the masses so to speak. So, given the information you have been given, which one of these guys would you vote for?

Handicapping the AL Cy Young Race

We like to use WAR and win shares around here, but as we will see there are some issues when we use those statistics to judge pitchers on individual seasons. For instance, Mike Minor leads the league in WAR, but likely won’t even finish in the top five in the Cy Young voting. You would be hard pressed to find any expert that would rank him there either.

So, when ranking the top five guys we probably want to use some other numbers to judge each pitcher. In this case, we will stick to the traditional numbers and go from there. In this case, we are focused on the fantasy baseball standards (wins, ERA, strikeouts, and WHIP) in addition to quality starts and innings.

Favorite: Justin Verlander– Houston Astros

Record: 16-5

ERA: 2.70

Strikeouts: 243

WHIP: 0.804

INN: 184.0

Quality Starts: 21

It hardly seems fair, but he was ejected before he could earn a quality start last night. He could get passed in that category by his own teammate. He also technically leads the league in ERA and strikeouts but those could go by the wayside as well. He also leads the major contenders in wins.

Primary Challenger: Gerrit Cole– Houston Astros

Record: 15-5

ERA: 2.75

SO: 238

WHIP: 0.953

INN: 163.2

Quality Starts: 21

Cole goes tonight, so he could equal Verlander’s won-loss record and surpass him in strikeouts and quality starts. He will need to shut them out to pass him in ERA, but he did throw seven scoreless innings in his last outing. If the award is based purely on what you have done in the second half then he is the winner. If it is overall then it is very very close.

Other Challengers: Charlie Morton–Tampa Bay Rays

Record: 13-6

ERA: 3.11

SO: 201

WHIP: 1.091

INN: 165.0

Quality Starts: 15

It’s always interesting how we can lose perspective. Last night was supposed to be a pitcher’s duel between Verlander and Morton. Instead it was a blowout. However, in the grand scheme of things the numbers haven’t changed much. Morton is still comfortably in third even if some might perceive other pitchers passing him up.

Lucas Giolito–Chicago White Sox

Record: 14-6

ERA: 3.20

SO: 194

WHIP: 1.095

INN: 151.2

Quality Starts: 15

Quality starts is a Scott Boras statistic. It was designed to make Kevin Brown look good one season when he got horrible run support. While the notion of giving into Boras might be detestable, the statistic actually has some value. If you can pitch six or more innings and keep your team in the game you have value whether you win, lose, or get a no decision. As a younger pitcher, the White Sox aren’t letting Giolito go as deep into games as some of the other veteran hurlers.

Shane Bieber–Cleveland Indians

Record: 12-6

ERA: 3.23

SO: 215

WHIP: 1.010

INN: 175.1

Quality Starts: 20

I might be inclined to put Bieber in third place because of all of the numbers. He has more strikeouts and a better WHIP than Morton. He also has more quality starts and innings. The only thing he doesn’t have is the sparkling win total. A pitcher’s job is to keep the other team from scoring runs. Let’s not get confused with some kind Jack Morris’ type argument about “knowing how to win games.”

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.