I saw an article the other day (at ESPN) commenting on David Ortiz’s Hall of Fame chances. The basic conclusion was that he’s not there yet, which I agree with. But this got me wondering; Ortiz’s chances will be based entirely on his hitting. How does he stack up?
Well, went to Fangraphs and looked at 2000 through 2013 hitting stats, which includes almost all of Ortiz’s productive playing time. Then, I sorted by adjusted weighted runs created (wRC+). Basically, the stat accounts for home park and league averages and determines how productive a player was compared to league average (it works like OPS+; 100 is average, 120 is 20% better, and so on).
In that time, Ortiz has posted a very good 140 wRC+. To do that over 7,350 plate appearances like he has is impressive, and a lot of the players ahead of him are truly exceptional (Albert Pujols, Barry Bonds, Jim Thome, A-Rod...You know the best in the business type), or have had much less playing time, so they haven’t hit their inevitable decline phase (if Buster Posey, Joey Votto, et al. can keep up their current rates over another eight or nine seasons, they’ll be more comparable, but that’s a long ways away). 140 wRC+ is respectable, and could be in Hall territory depending on things like career length, etc.
But look at some of the other players around him. For example, there’s Matt Holliday. I write about Holliday a lot, so his name jumped out at me. Now, he’s about two seasons short of matching Ortiz in length, but he’s put up a 138 mark in that time, while playing above average defense in left. That’s partly why Wins Above Replacement gives Holliday the edge, despite the time disadvantage (42.7 to 37.9).
Lance Berkman does even better, with a 147 Runs Created in an extra seasons worth of plate appearances. Even while playing below average defense, he’s been more valuable.
Jason Giambi only has 5928 plate appearances, but you do lose some of his early career numbers (including his great 1999 season). Even then, he still managed a 148 wRC+ despite playing with numerous injuries an nearing the end of his career. His WAR is about equal to Ortiz. Brian Giles falls in the same category; he’s a little bit short on time, but you’re missing his great 1999 and adding his bad final year. He still put up a 136 mark in right field.
So yeah, I suppose if you want to include Ortiz in the Hall, it’s your call. But maybe you should consider if his hitting has been overrated. He has been great, but what exactly puts him that far ahead of Holliday, or Berkman, or Giles, or Giambi? You can say it’s his postseason heroics, but keep in mind that Berkman and Giambi have higher postseason OPSes (and Giles’s teams were generally non-factors in October, meaning he didn’t even have much of a chance to outdo them).