With the Hall of Fame election fast approaching, I’ve been meaning to write an article or two on the election, starting with my article before last. I’ve had plenty ideas of what to cover, but I finally decided to try and project the future of the Hall of Fame. I realize just how tricky this can get, with baseball’s unpredictability.
As a general introduction, I have to confess I am more of a “big-hall” kind of guy. I do have a line drawn for what I think a Hall of Famer should be, but it is not as high as others’. That, coupled with a relentless sense of optimism, may lead to rather rosy predictions. But where’s the harm in that?
With so many players to cover, I tried to stick to the basics, partly because that’s what many of the Hall voters will look at.
I would like to start with the locks. These are players that I think, if they retired tomorrow, would make the Hall of Fame. Their credentials are already there. I’ll try to keep these short.
Rookie of the Year, Captain of the Yankees, and franchise hits leader. Five World Series, 10-time All-Star...and I’ve barely even touched on his stats.
Arguably the best closer of all time; a postseason hero. Second all-time in saves, career leader in WHIP...
3084 K's, 213 wins, in addition to 154 saves.
An incredible hitter with 564 home runs and a career .961 OPS.
Ken Griffey, Jr.
You’ve probably heard of him. He used to be pretty good when he played full seasons.
See Ken Griffey above.
Another dominant closer and all-time saves leader.
Finally got his 300th win. Not that his case needed much help.
426 home runs primarily as a third basemen. He also ranks third in home runs among switch-hitters.
A great defensive catcher who could hit pretty well. I will also use this time to point out there has been no official evidence of steroid use against him, just Jose Canseco’s claims.
Additionally, Albert Pujols and Ichiro Suzuki are both one year short of the 10 seasons needed to appear on the ballot, but both seem to be locks. Let’s be honest: outside of randomly quitting because they decide they have enough money, any other reason they could quit playing would probably be seen as a tragedy and garner support for an exception.
And so, with those out of the way, I would like to move on to the players I feel are most likely to make the Hall of Fame.
Tex is only turning 30 this season, but he has 242 home runs and 798 RBI. He should figure to get protection and RBI chances in the Yankees’ lineup for years to come, and is likely to get extra credit for playing on the Yankees, being a switch hitter, and any World Series the Yankees win with him.
The hall seems confused about catchers at times. Even the great Yogi Berra didn’t get in on his first try. However, I feel like Bill Dickey sets a precedence in Jorge’s favor. Both are seen as leaders of championship Yankees teams, and both are above-average hitters. Dickey edges Posada in hits (and OPS+ by three points), Posada beats Dickey in homers. Posada is also a switch hitter. It looks like a solid case, at least.
CC isn’t yet 30, and is signed long-term to the Yankees, which should help him rack up wins (I put him as a favorite to make 300 wins in my article on the topic). He’s durable. He also already has 1590 strikeouts, and a career ERA+ of 121. Seems like a solid start and, like Teixeira, can help his case with more World Series wins.
He plays for the Red Sox, and has 42 wins (in just under three seasons) all before the age of 26. He already has 487 K’s, and his career ERA+ is 128. Lester is still improving. Also, beating cancer certainly doesn’t hurt his chances.
I mostly tried to avoid players with little experience, but Longoria is a little too impressive. The third basemen has 60 homers already in two years, and will not turn 25 until next postseason. Wrap your mind around that.
Despite playing longer than Sabathia or Lester, Halladay has an even better career ERA+ at 133. He’s just about at 150 wins, has been historically durable, and has led the league in complete games five times. Playing for a strong Phillies team shouldn’t hurt, either.
He’s 27, and has already become the first, second, and third catcher to lead the AL in batting. Last year’s AL MVP should still have his best years ahead of him too. Oh, and he plays the hardest position on the field.
Believe it or not, Miguel Cabrera is only a day older than Mauer. The almost 27-year-old has 209 home runs, a .311 batting average, and a 140 OPS+ for his career.
I am a believer that 3000 strikeouts should be one of those “magical platoons” like 500 home runs, or 3000 hits. After this season, his fourth full one, Verlander has 746 K’s. Last year was his best yet, and he'll turn 27 this year (for those of you not in the know, 27 is shown to be the mean age when a player peaks).
In my 300-win club article, I marked Buehrle as a favorite to win 300 games. True, at 135, he seems a little behind for a player turning 31, but he seems very durable, and gives me the impression he could pitch until he’s in his 40s, like Randy Johnson. Obviously, he’s one of my shakier favorites, but I like his odds as a dark horse, as far as favorites go.
After last season, Greinke looks to be in good position. His team won’t provide much support though, so 300 wins might be out. But he’s only 26 next season, and looks like a good bet to enact the Sandy Koufax Postulate (dominate the league for a few years, and you get in).
Guerrero’s an above-average fielder with 409 home runs and a good arm. He’s also at 2249 hits. Guerrero might also invoke the Sandy Koufax Postulate: from 1998 to 2007, he never had a seasonal OPS+ of less than 138. That span includes six seasons of 150 or better.
He has 388 home runs, but seems like a weaker choice once you see his OPS+. However, he also is one of the best fielders on this list; he has saved, on average, nearly two entire games a year just with his defense. He could get in for doing both well, although his abysmal 2008 probably hurt his chances. Writers seem a little shaky on what makes a HOF center fielder (or third basemen—both only have seven representatives each). Both are fairly difficult positions, but aren’t given even a portion of the extra credit other positions get.
Switch-hitting Beltran is turning 33, has 1705 hits, 273 homers, 286 stolen bases (with only 38 times caught), great postseason success, and saves over half a game a year with his defense in center field. He looks like a solid all-around candidate.
I know he’s not active, but he’s one of my favorite players, and I figured since I was already on the topic of center fielders, why not? 382 homers, a 132 career OPS+, numerous gold gloves, several memorable plays, and good for three-quarters of a win on defense each season. He looks like an even more solid choice than the last two.
You may recognize him as the runner-up to Zack Greinke in the AL Cy Young. He’s turning 24 this season, and already has 58 wins, 810 strikeouts, a 3.45 ERA, and a 1.271 WHIP.
He’s 30 years old this season, and he did get a late start. But, he already has 222 home runs in about four-and-a-half years, with a 142 OPS+.
He’s a year older than Howard, and has only 161 home runs. But, he has a higher batting average (.295) and 978 hits in five-and-a-half seasons, all at a premium defensive position (which he plays quite well, saving eight runs, or .8 wins, a year).
He just turned 26 last week, and has 103 home runs, 771 hits, and a .316 average in four seasons. He’s also 164 for 213 in stolen base attempts, all while playing the hardest non-catcher position in the game. (And, with the exception of his rookie season, he’s been slightly above average there, too.)
Wright is entering his prime this season, as he turned 27 last week. He had been improving every season before last, and I don’t expect him to remain at that level. He already has 140 home runs and 983 hits, good for a career line of .309/.389/.518.
He’ll be 31 next season, and already has a pair of Cy Young Awards (plus a few more he arguably had a claim to). He has 1733 K’s and 122 wins, a pitching Triple Crown (wins, ERA, and K’s), a 3.12 ERA, a 1.113 WHIP, and a 143 OPS+.
Zimmerman has high expectations, and finally had a breakout season in 2009 at the age of 24, with 33 home runs, 37 doubles, and a .292 average while playing solid third base. For his (roughly four-year) career, he has 91 homers and 672 hits.
The now 28-year-old Wainwright also had a breakout 2009, racking up 19 wins and 212 strikeouts with a 2.63 ERA, 1.210 WHIP, and 157 ERA+. In four full seasons (one of which he was in the bullpen), he has a 3.17 ERA, 46 wins, and 511 K’s.
Zambrano will be 29 for 2010, which seems hard to believe also. In eight seasons (one partly from the bullpen), he has 105 wins and 1324 strikeouts. 2009 was the first year he didn’t make 188 innings since his bullpen year in 2002, so he’s also durable. His 127 ERA+ looks good, too. He probably won’t make it, though, if he retires at the end of his contract, like he claims he will.
Fielder will turn 26 in May and, in four full years, has 160 home runs and 675 hits, with a career OPS of .941, and an OPS+ of 140. That’s a rather strong start.
The 26-year-old only has three seasons under his belt (including a 113-game Rookie of the Year season), but has 103 home runs and 104 doubles. He also led the NL in hits last year, and has a career .308 average. Again, that’s a rather torrid start.
Berkman’s a switch-hitter with a career OPS+ of 147. His 313 homers put him one behind Reggie Smith for fifth all time in home runs for switch-hitters, and he has 359 career doubles to go with a line of .299/.412/.555. He is turning 34, though.
32-year-old Oswalt has 137 wins, a 3.23 ERA, a 1.202 WHIP, and 1473 strikeouts. He also has an impressive K/BB rate of 3.58, and an ERA+ of 135.
Helton turned 36 in August, and has 2134 hits, 509 doubles, 325 home runs, a .328 average, and a .994 OPS (good for a 140 OPS+). He also has saved an average of .7 wins a year. He may be counted against for his home park, though.
Tulowitzki has only played three full years, yet has 460 hits and 65 home runs, while saving better than a win a year at shortstop. He will be 25 for next season.
Three full seasons, two Cy Young Awards, 676 strikeouts, and a 152 ERA+ leave a promising start.
Gonzalez turns 28 next May, and has 137 home runs and 724 hits in just over four years, while saving half of a win on defense each year. His park may also hurt his chances, though, due to its negative effects.
In essentially two full seasons, Upton has 43 homers and 278 hits, and saves almost .7 wins a year on defense. That doesn’t sound as impressive as some, until you realize that he will not turn 23 until August.
Haren is still improving, as he had his best season last year at 28. He’s already up to 1035 K’s, and had an insane 1.003 WHIP and a 5.87 K/BB ratio last year (both led the NL), bringing his career numbers to a 1.178 WHIP, a 3.83 K/BB ratio, a 3.61 ERA, and a 123 ERA+.
Webb will be 31 for most of next year, but for his career, has 87 wins, a 3.27 ERA, 1065 K’s, and 142 ERA+. His injury last year does make this seem more doubtful.
If a favorite player is not here, fear not. My list was so long that I had to split this article into two parts. Look for part two later this week.