I'm a little busy right now, so I'll be re-running articles until
The Retired Number Series isn't the first series that I've done. Last
year, over at Bleacher Report, I published articles detailing my
thoughts on which current players might make the Hall of Fame. My
first stab at the thinking went a little awry, though, and I ended up
with one article that wasn't quite what I wanted and a sequel that had
stagnated. The second article never even got finished. But, I figured
I needed to post the whole series, good or bad. So, I present what I
guess is now the intro to my Future Hall of Fame Series, as well as
the never before seen (or finished) sequel. Also, I believe that this article was from before the 2010 season, so the stats are a little old.
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.
Derek Jeter-Rookie of the Year, Captain of the Yankees and franchise hits leader, 5 World Series, 10-time All Star...and I’ve barely even touched on his stats
Mariano Rivera-Arguably the best closer of all-time; Post-season hero; second all-time in saves, career leader in WHIP...
John Smoltz-3084 K’s, 213 wins in addition to 154 saves
Jim Thome-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.
Pedro Martinez-See above, Ken Griffey
Trevor Hoffman-Another dominant closer and all-time saves leader
Randy Johnson-Finally got his 300th win. Not that his case needed much help.
Chipper Jones-426 home runs as primarily a third basemen. He also ranks third in home runs among switch-hitters.
Ivan Rodriguez-A great defensive catcher who could hit pretty well. I will also use this time to point out there have 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 ten 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.
Mark Teixeira-Tex is only turning 30 this season, but he has 242 home runs and 798 RBIs. 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 Yankees, being a switch hitter, and any World Series the Yankees win with him.
Jorge Posada-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 3 points), Posada beats Dickey in homers. Posada is also a switch hitter. It looks like a solid case, at least.
CC Sabathia-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.
Jon Lester-He plays for the Red Sox, and has 42 wins (in not quite 3 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.
Evan Longoria-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.
Roy Halladay-Despite playing longer than Sabathia or Lester, Halladay has and 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 5 times. Playing for a strong Phillies team shouldn’t hurt, either.
Joe Mauer-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 year’s ahead of him, too. Oh, and he plays the hardest position on the field.
Miguel Cabrera-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.
Justin Verlander-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 this is his 27 year (for those of you not in the know, 27 is shown to be the mean of when a player peaks).
Mark Buehrle-In my 300 Win Club article, I marked Buehlre 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 40’s, 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.
Zack Greinke-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).
Vladimir Guerrero-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.
Andruw Jones-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 one 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 Hall of Fame 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.
Carlos Beltran-Switch-hitter Beltran is turning 33, and has 1705 hits, 273 homers, 286 stolen bases (with only 38 times caught), has 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.
Jim Edmonds-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.
Felix Hernandez-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.
Ryan Howard-He’s 30 years old for 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+.
Chase Utley-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 8 runs, or .8 wins, a year).
Hanley Ramirez-He just turned 26 last weak, 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.)
David Wright-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.
Johan Santana-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+.
Ryan Zimmerman-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.
Adam Wainwright-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.
Carlos Zambrano-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.
Prince Fielder-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.
Ryan Braun-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.
Lance Berkman-Berkman’s a switch-hitter with a career OPS+ of 147. his 313 homers put him one behind Reggie Smith for 5th 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.
Roy Oswalt- 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.
Todd Helton-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.
Troy Tulowitzki-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.
Tim Lincecum-Three full seasons, two Cy Young Awards, 676 strikeouts, and a 152 ERA+ leave a promising start.
Adrian Gonzalez-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.
Justin Upton-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.
Dan Haren-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+.
Brandon Webb-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 have to split this article into two parts. Look for part two later this week.
For Part 2, I decided to stick to players that I felt weren’t quite as likely, but who have really good chances. There was no hard and fast rule, so it’s very subjective (and, to be honest, partway through sorting player, my list got so long that I tried to speed up the process, which may have created some major problems with the list). So, if you’re favorite player made this list instead of the other one, fear not: it doesn’t carry much weight (and that’s before considering the fact that I actually have no say in the voting). And so, Part 2:
Johnny Damon: He’s only 575 hits from 3000, which would merit automatic induction. He’s been averaging about 150 hits a year, which would mean there would be almost no debate if he sticks around about four more years. Otherwise, he stands little chance.
Jonathan Papelbon: For a closer, he’s off to an impressive start. He has a career ERA+ of 254, a WHIP of .980, 151 strikeouts, and a 1.84 ERA. He’s only 29, too, so he has a chance to rack up some big numbers, not to mention playing for perennial contender (and media favorite) Boston. The Hall still doesn’t seem to have uniform standards on closers, though, which might hurt him.
Billy Wagner: Wagner may also suffer from being a closer. But, he’s sixth all-time in saves, and only five behind Dennis Eckersley. However, voters have not voted in four of the three players ahead of him, but two of those are locks (Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman). With a 2.39 ERA, a 182 ERA+, and a 3.93 K/BB ratio, he seems closer to those two than John Franco and Lee Smith.
Scott Rolen: As I mentioned in my last article, the Hall of Fame seems unsure how to treat third base and center field. The voters seem to realize they are relatively hard positions, but they don’t know had to compensate for the offense. From a totals standpoint, Rolen’s numbers look low due to a large amount of injury time, with only 283 home runs and 1810 hits. He still has time, though, at 35. His OPS+ is a more impressive 124, and he is widely acknowledged as a plus defender, between seven Gold Gloves and well over a win above average (at one of the field’s harder positions, no less).
Nick Markakis: He’s already established himself as a good fielder with a stellar arm, and, in four full seasons, has 704 hits, 161 doubles, and 77 homers. He’s one of my favorite players in the game, so I’m pulling for him.
Grady Sizemore: I mentioned the oddities of center field in Part I, but Sizemore already has a strong case. He’ll be 27 next year, and has 861 hits, 129 home runs, and a 124 OPS+, along with well-above-average fielding numbers.
Joakim Soria: Based solely on his peripherals, Soria has a good chance; a .967 WHIP, 2.09 ERA, and 4.31 K/BB rate, good for a 213 ERA+. But, as the Royals closers, he’s unlikely to rack up a large number of saves, which hurts his case.
Bobby Abreu: Abreu’s candidacy is only here because it looks like he could be the next Tim Raines; his traditional stats look underwhelming, but his other stats look good. He’s already racked up 3565 hits and walks combined, and has a good shot at 4000 in his career, which would put him in strong company. His batting average is .299, yet his OBP is .404. He does have 483 doubles, 256 homers, and 348 stolen bases, too.
Matt Holliday: I would rate his odds as not good, but he does have a small chance. He will be 30 next year, and, in six seasons as a left fielder, he’s only amassed 1030 hits and 152 homers, with a line of .318/.387/.545. He isn’t one of this list’s stronger cases.
Cole Hamels: Pitchers from the last few have been widely ignored by voters, and I feel like I may have overcompensated on my list. Hamels doesn’t look terrible, though, with 48 wins and 686 K’s and a 1.176 WHIP by the age of 26.
Josh Johnson: Another not-yet-26 pitcher, Johnson has less time than Hamels, but a stronger 126 ERA+. I think he needs a little more time for a n accurate analysis.
Brian McCann: A young catcher, like Mauer (McCann’s only 26 in 2010), but his start has not been as historic. In roughly four-and-a-half seasons, he’s got 91 home runs and a 121 OPS+, all at the hardest position. It seems like a solid beginning, though.
As you can see, I barely got enough space to cover each player. And so, I switched to the format you will see the rest of the series.