Blog Entry

Seven active borderline Hall of Fame candidates

Posted on: January 5, 2012 5:54 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 6:49 pm
 


By C. Trent Rosecrans


It's Hall of Fame season, so instead of whining about how other people vote and hiding our ballot envy behind the safety of snark and namecalling, the Eye on Baseball team is looking ahead to future Hall of Fame classes. Yesterday, Matt Snyder looked at five sure-fire, no-doubt, if-their-career-ended-today active Hall of Fame players.
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Today, we'll look at what makes the Hall a little bit more fun -- the borderline guys. These are guys that if their career ended today would have an argument for the Hall of Fame and could get in or may not. What makes it a little more fun is that Matt and I couldn't even agree on the lists -- so here we go.

Vladimir Guerrero -- Guerrero's best years were in Montreal, where he was invisible to most baseball fans, like Tim Raines and Andre Dawson before him. Still, Guerrero has made nine All-Star teams and won the American League MVP in 2004, his first season outside of Montreal. Through 16 seasons, Guerrero has 2,590 hits and 449 home runs. At this point, it seems like he just doesn't have enough in the tank to get to 3,000 and 500 -- marks that would make his chances much better. Still, he's a career .318/.379/.553 hitter and has a career OPS+ of 140. He also has a career WAR of 59.2 (according to Baseball-Reference.com). 

If Guerrero's career ended now (which isn't a stretch, considering he's currently not under contract and is limited to DH), he'd be one of six players to finish their career with more than 400 home runs and a career batting average better than .315, joining Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig and Stan Musial. Guerrero had 12 seasons with a .300 average and more than 25 homers -- only Williams (14), Ruth (14) and Hank Aaron (13) have as many as Guerrero.

Todd Helton -- Like Guerrero, it appears that he'll fall just short of the magic numbers of 3,000 hits and 500 homers. Helton, 38, has 2,363 career hits and is coming off another .300 season, but needs another 637 hits to get to 3,000 -- and over the last five seasons he has 663 hits. While he's signed through the next two seasons and could play into his 40s, his recent back problems make it seem like he's unlikely to get there.

Helton's a career .323/.421/550 hitter -- with his .421 on-base percentage the highest among active players.  Helton made five straight All-Star teams from 2000-2004, finishing int he top 10 in MVP voting in three of those years. He also won four Silver Sluggers and three Gold Gloves, all during that same period.

The biggest strike against Helton, though, is where he played. All 15 of his seasons have been with the Rockies and he's certainly benefitted by playing half of his games in Colorado. His career splits are .354/.451/.620 at home and .291/.391/.478 on the road. It should be pointed out those are still pretty darn good numbers -- another Hall of Fame first baseman, Tony Perez, hit .279/.391/.463 in his career. Overall, Helton has a career OPS+ of 136. That number accounts for not only what other players are doing, but also includes park factors. Helton's career WAR, according to Baseball-Reference.com, is 59.9 -- better than Dave Winfield, Richie Ashburn, Willie Stargell and Hank Greenberg, among other Hall of Famers.

Andruw Jones -- The knee-jerk reaction to Andruw Jones and the Hall of Fame is of course not -- the thought just doesn't seem right. Instead, for many, Jones represents the squandering of talent, not the Hall of Fame. Jones came up at 19 and immediately made an impact in the 1996 World Series.

Jones is just a career .256/.339/.488 hitter and will need a couple more years in his current role of a fourth outfielder to get to 2,000 hits. He does have 420 homers, but hit just .256/.339/.448 in his first 16 seasons in the big leagues.

But then there's the defense. Jones is a 10-time Gold Glove winner in center field, but that only starts to tell how good Jones was defensively in his prime. In a Hall of Fame discussion, it may be best to compare Jones to Ozzie Smith -- another transcendent defensive player. Smith was a career .262/.337/.328 hitter, with Jones' power numbers more than making up for the difference in batting averages. While shortstop is unquestionably the most important defensive position on the field, center field is probably second. And at his prime, there's probably no center fielder as good as Jones.

Overall, Jones checks in with a 60.4 career WAR from Baseball-Reference, but FanGraphs.com's formula rates him even higher, at 71.7. Both numbers are inflated by defense, but few players were ever as good as Jones was defensively.

Jorge Posada -- Posada's always been lumped in with Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera as the trio came up with the Yankees at the same time in the mid-90s and were parts of not only the late-90s World Series dynasty, but also the team's run in the 2000s. While Posada isn't a slam-dunk like Jeter and Rivera, he has a case.

In his 17 seasons, all with the Yankees, Posada hit .273/.374/.474 with 275 home runs and 1,664 hits. He's not going to reach any of the magical numbers, but as a catcher, those are tough to achieve. Over his career, he has an OPS+ of 121 and a WAR of 44.7. His career OPS+ is better than Carlton Fisk and Gary Carter, the last two catchers inducted in Cooperstown.

While many can point to his participation in so many postseason games, he was hardly a great player during the fall, hitting .248/.358/.387 with 11 home runs and 42 RBI in 125 career postseason games. In 29 World Series games, Posada hit just .219/.333/.333 with two homers.

Defensively, Posada probably wasn't as bad as his reputation, but he was hardly Ivan Rodriguez, his contemporary -- and along with Johnny Bench one of the top two defensive catchers ever.

Scott Rolen -- Really. He's not the type that you think of when you think of Hall of Famers. Some people -- and I used to be one -- say you know a Hall of Famer when you see one. And Rolen never fit in that mold. He was always seen as good, but maybe not great. But when you look at his career as a whole, he certainly merits discussion and consideration.

While Rolen's counting stats of 2,005 career hits and 308 homers and the fact he'll be 37 in April mean he's unlikely to hit the big milestones, has a .282/.366/.494 career line with an OPS+ of 123. He has a Silver Slugger to his resume, was the 1997 Rookie of the Year and finished fourth in the 2004 MVP voting.

Third base is the most underrepresented position in the Hall of Fame, and Rolen may not be Mike Schmidt or George Brett, but he does rank up with the best to ever play the position. Of players who played more than 50 percent of their games at third base, only three third basemen have 2,000 hits, 300 home runs, 1,200 RBI and 500 doubles -- Brett, Chipper Jones and Rolen.

And then there's the case of defense -- Rolen has been an outstanding defensive third baseman his entire career, winning eight Gold Gloves. Only Brooks Robinson and Schmidt have more Gold Gloves at third than Rolen.

Ron Santo will get his well-deserved enshrinement in Cooperstown this summer, and the two have similar career numbers. Santo hit .277/.362/.464 with 2,254 career hits, 342 homers and five Gold Gloves. Santo's career OPS+ was 125.

Rolen's career WAR is 66.2 according to Baseball-Reference.com, tied with Craig Biggio and just behind Gary Carter (66.3) and Santo (66.4) and better than Willie McCovey (65.1) and Ernie Banks (64.4).

Ichiro Suzuki -- While I seem to think if the border is located in Brownsville, Ichiro is Houston -- and at the very least Corpus Christi. But Matt thought differently, so I guess that makes him ineligible for the "no doubt."

Leave aside for the moment Suzuki's accomplishments in Japan -- in just the United States, Suzuki has 2,428 hits, 423 stolen bases and a .326/.370/.421 line. He's also been named to 10 All-Star games, won two batting titles, won the MVP in 2001, the same year he won the Rookie of the Year, and has finished in the top 10 of MVP voting four times and in the top 20 eight times. He also has 10 Gold Gloves and three Silver Sluggers. He also had more than 200 hits in each of his first 10 seasons in the United States, leading the majors in that category seven times. 

Honestly, like I said, I'm not sure why he's on this list and not the "no doubt" list. Maybe his career WAR is a little low at 54.5 (according to BaseballReference.com), but remember that's just 11 years.

Suzuki is 38 and will likely play at the least two more years and with three, he's nearly a lock to get to 3,000 career hits in the United States. If he gets to 3,000 in the big leagues, he'll have 4,278 career hits combined between Japan and the United States.

Omar Vizquel -- Only Ozzie Smith has more Gold Gloves at shortstop than Vizquel's 11, and if any shortstop can be mentioned in the same breath as Smith defensively, it's Vizquel.

The two are also similar offensively. Vizquel's career line is .272/.337/.353 with an OPS+ of 82, picking up 2,841 hits, while stealing 401 bases. Smith was a career .262/.337/.328 hitter with an OPS+ of 87, accumulating 2,460 hits, while stealing 580 bases.

Vizquel has just one top 20 MVP finish, while Smith had four. Smith also had 15 All-Star nods to Vizquel's three, but Vizquel played in the post-Cal Ripken era when more was expected offensively out of shortstops.

Vizquel will be 45 in April and hopes to play another season, but it seems unlikely he'll be able to get the 159 hits he needs to get to 3,000 and make him an easier choice.

Wednesday: Surefire active Hall of Famers
Coming Friday: Players over 30 who have a shot of getting there with a few more good years
Saturday: Players under 30 building a good foundation
Sunday: Asterisk candidates -- on-field numbers good enough but PED issues cloud matters

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Comments

Since: Nov 2, 2007
Posted on: January 10, 2012 10:08 pm
 

Seven active borderline Hall of Fame candidates

Helton (one of only 11 players w/.320+BA and 300+HR) and Guerrero (one of only 14 players w/.300+BA and 400+HR) are automatic to me as is Ichiro. And, the .315/400hr club also includes Pujols, any time your on a list of 7 players and the others are Ruth, Gehrig, Williams, Foxx, Musial and Pujols, you are a lock for the Hall of Fame (at least you should be)



Since: Jun 10, 2011
Posted on: January 9, 2012 5:00 pm
 

Seven active borderline Hall of Fame candidates

LOVE your post, SMF52! Wrigley Field has been a launching pad for years and years but few people talk about it. Fenway, with its short right field walls and close left field Monster is similar. And will pitchers like Hoffman or Oswalt or Felix be penalized for pitching in pitcher-friendly stadiums? What about Johan Santana, who pitches in a ballpark that was so outta whack that NY decided to move the outfield walls closer? Will Santana have to overcome that?

I never thought of Galarraga or Walker or especially Castilla as HOFers when they played and I honestly still dont, even though I genuinely like them as players. Walker was supremely talented but couldnt stay healthy, otherwise I think he'd be in. But Helton? Dude needs to be in the HOF. If he can stick around long enough to get 2700+ hits and 620+ doubles while keeping his BA above .300, they've got to put him in...



Since: Oct 30, 2010
Posted on: January 9, 2012 4:31 pm
 

Seven active borderline Hall of Fame candidates

Actually, Posada was above average offensively. His prime matches up with the median HOF catcher's offensive prime easy - probably most comparable to Bill Dickey, and better than Gary Carter's or Gabby Hartnett's or Pudge Rodriguez's. It's too bad Jorge was so awful on defense. But he was, and that's what leaves him on the outside looking in, in my book. 



Since: Sep 18, 2006
Posted on: January 9, 2012 4:25 pm
 

Seven active borderline Hall of Fame candidates

Totally agree with you Charly.  They also forgot to mention that Ichiro holds the MLB record for hits in a season.  The only thing missing in his game is a lot of home runs.  The other parts of his game were outstanding.  He was a great glove and had a good arm.  I'd be happy to have a player of his caliber on my team.  I do believe he might have sacrificed some power for average but you can live with that.  The other thing also is he showed that there are good players in the Japanese Leagues.  Ichiro should be a first ballot selectee when eligible.  He earned and deserves it.



Since: Sep 6, 2006
Posted on: January 9, 2012 2:13 pm
 

Seven active borderline Hall of Fame candidates

Terrible list.  If Suzuki is not automatic, nobody is.  Just because he started in Japan and played his first several years there?  Sorry, but his numbers at such a short period of time outshine probably 25% of those already in the Hall, and if he was here for those years in Japan he would be Tony Gwynn or Rod Carew...enshrined on the first time ballots.



Since: Oct 26, 2007
Posted on: January 9, 2012 1:59 pm
 

Seven active borderline Hall of Fame candidates

Todd Helton should be elected to the HOF when it is his time but he probably won't be due to the fact that he played half of his games at Coors Field. His numbers are good though on the road or at home. Furthermore, he played most of his career at Coors Field with the humidor which has made the ballpark less of a launching pad. It has not led the majors in HRs since the humidor was installed. Have Red Sox players been denied entry to the HOF because they played at smallish Fenway? Last year I compiled a list of the amazing statistics which I can't find now, that rank him with the greats of the game. He is also underrated defensively. His offensive numbers would be even better if he hadn't been dealing with back problems for about the last 5 years.

The Coors Field bias has tainted other old Rockies' achievements for consideration for the HOF like Andres Galarragga and Larry Walker, Helton is the one who really deserves admission though. If Helton is denied admission because of Coors Field what will that mean many years from now for Troy Tulowitzki, assuming he continues to play the way he has since he joined the Rockies.  Respected shortstops from baseball's history, such as Cal Ripken, have said that when Tulo is done he may be the best shortstop of all time. Right now he has 2 Gold Gloves, 2 Silver Sluggers, 2 Fielding Bible Defensive awards, and has wound up in the top 10 for MVP voting multiple times. His defense alone is worth the price of admission and he is considerred the best two way shortstop in baseball. If that continues, will he be denied a spot in the Hall because of Coors Field?

At some point voters just have to accept that there is a variation in ballparks and throughout history players have made it into the Hall perhaps partially because of the bandboxes they played in. Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field- all hallowed, revered ballparks where it is easier to hit a HR than, say  Petco Park in San Diego. Does that mean pitchers from San Diego should have a bias against them because they pitch in a pitcher's ballpark? If the Rockies were to ever have a pitcher who was a borderline candidate for the Hall, should he get extra consideration because he pitched half of his games at Coors Field?

It is just not right to single out one ballpark and say the players from that team have to meet a different standard because of the conditions of the park. The humidor at Coors Field has leveled the playing field considerably and Todd Helton deserves admission into the HOF when it is time.



Since: Sep 5, 2008
Posted on: January 9, 2012 1:34 pm
 

Seven active borderline Hall of Fame candidates

JEFF BAGWELL!



Since: May 29, 2008
Posted on: January 9, 2012 1:21 pm
 

Seven active borderline Hall of Fame candidates

Scott Rolen in the HOF???!!!  I want what this guy is smoking!!!  Scott Rolen is an average to good 3rd baseman on his BEST day!!  On his worse day he's David Bell.  This guys shouldn't even be mentioned in the same breath with HOF.  Imagine if this guy gets in but Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens don't??  Would make the HOF rather farcical dontcha think??



Since: Jan 16, 2009
Posted on: January 9, 2012 12:41 pm
 

Seven active borderline Hall of Fame candidates

Andruw Jones being mentioned has to be a joke of some kind. Sure he was a good outfielder... but so was Gary Pettis



Since: Jan 16, 2009
Posted on: January 9, 2012 12:38 pm
 

Seven active borderline Hall of Fame candidates

Ichiro and Guerrero should make it... the rest of these guys were good but not HOF material



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