Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Who Are the Hall of Famers Playing Today? 2012

First, I looked at the Hall of Fame and determined that it may not be inducting enough players, compared to years past. Anywhere from 40 to even as high as 90 active players at any one time may be Hall of Fame-worthy, going by past standards. So, I looked at the active players in 2006 to come up with a list of (40 to) 80 players who fit the bill as most likely future Hall of Famers. As stated in the last article, starting with 2006 was three-fold; it let me examine the up-coming Hall ballots while lowering the amount of guesswork needed in projecting players, and it gave me a start on looking at this year’s players. If you have any questions on why I put a player somewhere and there’s nothing present here, go check to 2006 articles.

Going by the numbers for 2011 (since 2012 hasn’t finished yet), if 37 players active today (the average number from 1901 to 1982) eventually make the Hall of Fame, it would represent 2.882% of all active players, easily the lowest mark in the history, even dating back to the founding of the National League in 1876. The following number of electees would represent these percentages:

3%: 38.5
3.5%: 45
4%: 51
5%: 64
6%: 77
6.643% (average from 1901 to 1982): 85

Last time, I named 85 players (am I a good planner or what?). The following players named on my 2006 list have retired since then:

Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Thomas, Craig Biggio, Manny Ramirez (hasn’t played in 2012, so he doesn’t count towards the total), Ivan Rodriguez, Mike Piazza, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina, John Smoltz, Jim Edmonds, Vladimir Guerrero, Jeff Kent, Gary Sheffield, Trevor Hoffman, Kenny Lofton, Brian Giles, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, Javier Vazquez, and Billy Wagner.

Whew. That’s 26 players to take off the list. However, in this part, we’re trading assuredness for quantity. I added 38 names, mostly because I’m very bullish on young players. I’ll get more in depth with that later. I’m going to go down the list again in tiers of likeliness.

Tier 1
Like last time, this tier is the players who are already locks for the Hall. They could retire today and I don’t think anyone would object to much to labeling them Future Hall of Famers. And like I said on steroids in the past, I think steroid users will eventually make the Hall, especially as voters start to realize they’ve elected cheaters like ball-doctorers and amphetamine-users in the past.

1. Albert Pujols
2. Alex Rodriguez
3. Chipper Jones
4. Derek Jeter
5. Jim Thome
6. Mariano Rivera
7. Ichiro Suzuki

That’s quite a drop-off from 2006, which saw 19 people listed here. But that’s a reflection of the younger list.

Tier 2 

Tier 2 is sort of the “Bert Blyleven Tier”-players who already have a worthy case, but who I think will be overlooked by the Hall voters. It dropped from ten players to just two. It felt so empty that I moved up a third-Carlos Beltran, who I originally said last time might be a tier 2 with one more good season. Some reconsideration since then makes me think he could qualify here already, though.

8. Scott Rolen
9. Roy Halladay
10. Carlos Beltran

Tier 3
This one is basically the holding area for tiers 1 and 2. These players are off to great starts, and can easily fill out their Hall qualifications at the rates they’re going. It’ll just be a matter of seeing if they can continue playing at their current level for a bit. This one absorbed a lot of Tier 2’s loss.

11. Adrian Beltre (who I think will get to 3000 hits eventually, making his case for the voters clearer)
12. Joe Mauer
13. Miguel Cabrera
14. CC Sabathia
15. Justin Verlander
16. Felix Hernandez
17. Zack Greinke
NEW 18. Ryan Braun
NEW 19. Joey Votto

Votto and Braun have been impressive hitters since their 2007 debuts. Both already have MVPs, too, which portends great things. If you were wondering, Votto already has 27.6 Wins Above Replacement, while Braun has 31.0 (WAR totals from Fangraphs).

Tier 4
Another small group. This is sort of like Tier 2, but more underrated-they all already have upper-borderline Hall cases, but I don’t think the voters will see them at all.

20. Todd Helton
21. Bobby Abreu
22. Andruw Jones

Tier 5
To continue on the last description, Tier 5 is like Tier 3, but with an extra condition in addition to “they have to keep it up”. For returning players, I’ll include these conditions from last time.

23. Chase Utley
24. Lance Berkman (Yeah, but...can they put in one to three more solid seasons before injuries finish them off?)

25. Evan Longoria (He debuted in 2008, but I messed up and included him on the 2006 list; I’m leaving him here for convenience.)
26. Ryan Zimmerman
27. David Wright (Yeah, but...will the Hall voters eventually come to acknowledge that third base is, in fact, a position?)

28. Robinson Cano
29. Dustin Pedroia
30. Troy Tulowitzki (Yeah, but...will their bodies wear down from the rigors of the middle infield?)

31. Matt Holliday (Yeah, but...can he stay this good? And for how much longer? And if he does, will anybody notice?)

32. Hanley Ramirez (Yeah, but...can he rediscover whatever it was that made him so good a few years ago?)

33. Prince Fielder (Yeah, but...will his body hold up? And if his value doesn’t keep up, will they care enough about milestones?)

34. Cliff Lee
35. Jered Weaver
36. Matt Cain
37. Cole Hamels
38. Jon Lester
39. Josh Johnson (Yeah, but...they’re pitchers. Are you kidding? They may burst into flame at any minute. Or snap a ligament. Something along those lines.)

40. Dan Haren
41. Adam Wainwright
42. Jake Peavy
43. Josh Beckett (Yeah, but...they’re even older pitchers. One of them might pitch until they’re 40 and build up a solid case. Several of them might. None of them might. Do you want to bet on any specific one?)

44. Johan Santana
45. Roy Oswalt (Yeah, but...if you’ve been paying attention, I shouldn’t need to clarify these two very much.)

NEW 46. Matt Kemp
Yeah, I should have included him on the last list. Instead, I went with Evan Longoria for some reason. Oh, well. (Yeah, but...can he string together a few more years like his last one-and-a-half? There’s a good chance, but can his body hold up too?)

NEW 47. Tim Lincecum
The two Cy Young Awards make for a good start for a case. And he was dominant not so long ago (ie; last year). (Yeah, but...can he rediscover whatever it was that made him good before while continuing to avoid injuries? His peripherals and recent performance give me reason to think so.)

NEW 48. Clayton Kershaw
NEW 49. David Price
These two get the benefit of the doubt and go here, especially since Kershaw already has a Cy Young and Price has a second-place finish. They’re a little young, but I would put them here over the lower tiers. (Yeah, but...young pitchers again. You know how it is.)

Tier 6

I said last time that this tier was more or less the leftovers. I don’t think that’s entirely true this time, though. This is sort of the players who don’t immediately project as Hall of Famers. However, you can see what they would need to do to become Hall of Famers, and it’s not totally out of the question. It’s just much less likely.

50. David Ortiz
51. Mark Teixeira
52. Paul Konerko
53. Adam Dunn (Well, maybe they’ll reach 500 home runs and get rubber-stamped in.)

54. Johnny Damon
55. Michael Young (Well, maybe they’ll reach 3000 hits.)
56. Omar Vizquel (Well, maybe he’ll reach 3000 hits or voters will overestimate his glove.)

57. Brian McCann
58. Yadier Molina (Well, maybe voters will pick another catcher to go with Joe Mauer for the 2000s generation.)

59. Mark Buehrle (Well, maybe he can keep doing his Mark Buehrle thing for another half a decade.)
60. Tim Hudson (Well, maybe he’ll do that if Mark Buehlre can’t.)

61. Javier Vazquez (Well, maybe he’ll come back and get close to 3000 strikeouts.)
62. Chris Carpenter (Well, maybe this time the paper clips and chewing gum in his arm will hold for a few years.)
63. Andy Pettitte (Well, maybe this comeback is a multi-year thing.)

64. Joe Nathan
65. Billy Wagner
66. Jonathan Papelbon
67. Francisco Rodriguez (Well, maybe one of them will remain effective into their 40s, becoming Mariano Rivera’s heir apparent for the title of Best Closer in the League. Failing that, maybe the voters still don’t know what to make of closers.)

NEW 68. Joakim Soria
I think he fits into that last group. Maybe he’ll be the next great closer. Who knows.

NEW 69. Josh Hamilton 
Well, maybe his current slump is temporary, and he has enough talent to remain effective into his later years. Failing that, maybe voters will give him extra credit for his story.

Tier 7
Tier 7 is basically total projection. These are the players who have had early success, were highly rated, or something in between the two. I think everyone on the list is younger than 27 (although I may be wrong), and I would think, therefore, too young to discount. (Also, as a side note, these players are all new to the list.)

70. Justin Upton
71. Andrew McCutchen
72. Starlin Castro
73. Giancarlo Stanton
74. Jason Heyward
75. Mike Trout
76. Stephen Strasburg
77. Bryce Harper
78. Buster Posey

79. Carlos Gonzalez
80. Pablo Sandoval
81. Jay Bruce
82. Matt Wieters
83. Elvis Andrus
84. Colby Rasmus
85. Carlos Santana
86. Austin Jackson
86. Brett Lawrie
87. Dustin Ackley
88. Mark Trumbo
89. Yovani Gallardo
90. Johnny Cueto
91. Gio Gonzalez
92. Jordan Zimmermann
93. Neftali Feliz
94. Madison Bumgarner
95. Craig Kimbrel
96. Chris Sale
97. Jeremy Hellickson
98. Matt Moore
99. Aroldis Chapman
100. Yu Darvish

I added a sort of split into sub-tiers between 78 and 79, based more or less on the ones that have combined some sort of consistent success at the major level with high praise as prospects and considerable youth. But really, there’s not enough of a hard-and-fast rule to make it a Tier 7 and Tier 8; it’s more like Tier 7 and Tier 7.5.

I know some people will criticize this tier, saying “Why bother putting all of these young players? Almost none of them will wind up Hall-of-Fame-worthy.” Of course. That’s the point-the more promising young players we name, the better chance there is of hitting. And there is a good chance that something like 4 to 8 (or even more) will end up Hall of Fame worthy. Technically speaking, with 37 players playing at any one time and the average player career length below 20 seasons, there’s probably an average of two Hall of Fame careers starting every season. And that’s only if you think the Hall is at the right size right now-there a good chance that number should be higher.

In short, this is probably a good guideline for the Hall of Fame, circa 2040. Particularly if the Hall voters begin to correct for their current stingy voting. In my opinion, it’s never too early to start considering these things, if only to fight the horrible “No one thought of X as a Hall of Famer while he was playing” argument that crops up every year.After writing a piece like this, I can safely say that, for the best players, it’s very rarely true.


  1. Love this series. I hope you bring this piece back in 2017 so you can pat yourself on the back (Wieters, Bumgarner, maybe?) and laugh at yourself (Rasmus, Hellickson?) about the way these guys' careers have played out. I hope Joakim Soria justifies his position here.

    1. Yeah, it should be interesting. Definitely better than just making a bunch of safe picks.