On Wednesday, we discover just who will be in the National Baseball Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2016. Currently, according to this live count overseen expertly by Ryan Thibs, we’ll be inducting Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines (31 percent of ballots were in when I checked, so it’s still early), who are all receiving more than 75 percent of the popular vote.
I agree with all four choices. Griffey is one of the greatest players ever; Piazza is arguably the greatest offensive catcher ever; Bagwell was an elite offensive player for many years; Raines was criminally underrated and excelled in multiple facets of the game.
All the handwringing about the hall of fame gets tired, but in a way it’s justified because we hold this honor up to a lofty standard. Whatever the case, this is the hall, this is what we do every year, and here we are again.
And just to show you how much we value the hall, I want to revisit a post I wrote in December 2008 – more than seven years ago – that assessed the hall of fame odds of then-current Phillies. Let’s see what’s happened since then.
Will never make hall of fame
I’m pretty confident that these are secure. Most of these players won’t even be on the ballot. Stairs will, and as he’s one of the game’s good guys, may receive a couple votes when he is eligible in 2017. But he won’t get the 5 percent necessary to stay on the ballot.
I suppose there’s a small chance Ruiz could get 5 percent whenever he’s eligible (earliest 2022), but better players have been tossed aside before. A career line of .266/.351/.396 is pretty good for a catcher, but he hasn’t quite accumulated anything substantial offensively (65 home runs, 855 hits). Chooch’s highest value is in intangibles (he caught four no-hitters, has good postseason numbers, was top-30 MVP thrice, won a World Series and was Roy Halladay’s all-time favorite backstop). That doesn’t go for much. He’ll get a few votes, especially from Philadelphia media types, but probably will drop from the ballot after one year.
Small glimmer of hope
All of these guys, sans one, are still contributing to major league rosters. Let’s start with the guy who isn’t. Myers finished his 12-year career with a 97-96 record, 40 saves, a 4.25 ERA and 1,379 strikeouts. No, he won’t be in the hall of fame. If he’s on the ballot in 2019, he won’t be on for long.
Werth is entering the final phase of his career. His numbers are nice (.272/.365/.463, 198 HR, 701 RBI) but are nowhere near hall-worthy. He’ll get a couple courtesy votes, like Ruiz, and likely be dropped after one year.
Victorino, trying to get back on track after a solid 2013, won’t make the hall either. He has four Gold Glove awards to tout, but his offensive numbers don’t stack up. Unless he has a Bonds-like late-career renaissance, I can’t think enough voters will put him over the 5 percent threshold necessary to stay on the ballot after one year.
Blanton is a no. Madson is a great story, but also a no. Happ is basically a left-handed Blanton.
Looking good so far.
Varying levels of realistic
Guess who’s eligible next year? Burrell will be on the ballot in 2017, along with Vladimir Guerrero (he should get in one day), Jorge Posada (bubble candidate at best), Manny Ramirez (should get in but who knows), former Phillie Arthur Rhodes (won’t get in) and Ivan Rodriguez (should also get in).
Back in 2008 I wrote that Burrell needed to move to the American League and bash 30 home runs per season for five or six years if he wanted to make the hall. He did move to the American League in 2009, but he only hit 14 dingers in Tampa Bay, as his bat slowed to a crawl. He picked things up after heading to San Francisco in 2010, helping the Giants win the World Series that season, but his numbers fell plenty short. He finished his career with 292 home runs.
Burrell won’t be a hall of famer. The question is whether Burrell gets a second year on the ballot. Currently first-timer Garret Anderson is on pace to be dropped from the ballot, and I see Burrell as a decent comparison. It’s likely Pat the Bat gets one year on the ballot, a couple courtesy votes, and a quick ride off into the sunset.
2018 will be fun. Quite a few former Phillies will be on the ballot for the first time (Lidge, Moyer, Scott Rolen, Jim Thome, Kevin Millwood). Thome will get in, if not in 2018. Millwood won’t get in but should get a couple courtesy votes. Rolen? That’s a longer examination for January 2018. Let’s instead focus on Lidge and Moyer.
Lidge is not going to be a hall of famer, much as we love the guy. Maybe he’ll get a couple votes. Otherwise, we should debate his case for the Phillies Wall of Fame when that moment arises.
Back in the day I wrote that Moyer needed to have another season or two like his 16-7 2008 campaign to tempt hall of fame voters. He didn’t quite have those seasons, going 12-10 with a 4.94 ERA in 2009, and 9-9 with a 4.84 ERA in 2010. He returned in 2012 and flamed out with Colorado, finishing his career at age 49 with a 269-209 record, a 4.25 ERA, 2,441 K and a league-record 522 home runs surrendered.
The “Mike and the Mad Dog” system of determining a hall of famer is this: you count the number of very-good seasons. You need a good ratio of very-good to not-very-good seasons to be a candidate. My Moyer count: 11 to 14, and that’s being charitable. He compiled. He pitched for a long time, longer than anyone. He had an amazing late-career renaissance (he really didn’t get going until he was 33). But ultimately Moyer falls short. He was never one of the game’s best pitchers, just good enough for a long time, but also pretty mediocre for a long time, too.
I think Moyer could get enough votes to stay on the ballot after a year, especially as he was one of the game’s most beloved players and a testament to longevity. But Moyer won’t make it.
Ryan Howard. In 2008 I wrote that he needs to hit another 200 home runs over the next five seasons to have a real chance. He actually started strong, with 45 dingers in 2009. His 31 and 33 longballs in 2010 and ‘11 weren’t too bad, either. Then it all went to hell. Howard has hit 357 home runs. His career numbers are still good (.262/.349/.519) but he just collapsed way too soon.
For a few years Howard was a potential once-in-a-lifetime talent, a prodigious slugger who felt bigger than the game. That wasn’t the case. He simply settled into a one-note slugger with poor defensive skill and a bloated contract.
Maybe Howard swats a bunch more homers for a few more years, but it’s much more likely that doesn’t happen. He has the MVP, the Rookie of the Year award, the three all-star appearances and big-homer seasons. That may get him past the 5 percent mark after one year, but honestly, it may not.
Hamels, however, could get serious consideration when he’s eligible for the hall. In 2008 I wrote this:
“He gets in if: He does his thing. Sure the wins are lower than they should be, but as long as his ERA hovers in the low 3s and his strikeouts continue on their current path, Hamels should be sitting pretty. By his current path, he’ll record 1,500 strikeouts by age 30, meaning he’d hit the milestones like every other Hall of Fame pitcher. Oh, and the postseason record doesn’t hurt.”
He’s still on track, and in fact, raised his game in the seven years since the write-up. After 10 years, at age 32, Hamels has a 121-91 record with a 3.31 ERA, 1,922 K and 515 BB. Again, the win total will be low, but that matters less with each year that passes. The strikeout total is superb – he could absolutely reach 3,000 before his career ends. His postseason numbers are strong. He has a no-hitter to his credit. He has been one of the game’s top-10 pitchers since basically 2008.
For Hamels to be considered for the hall, he’ll need to stay on track another six to seven years. If he does, he’ll be finishing his career with more than 3,000 strikeouts and one of the most consistent, lasting careers in recent pitching history. Plus, among his pitching peers (age 30-34) he’s arguably the best case to make the hall. As of right now, there’s no reason why he couldn’t do it.
Here’s what I wrote in 2008 about Chase Utley:
“He gets in if: He rules the bag for the next six years. A second baseman doesn’t have to be an offensive beast to win a Hall ticket, but it certainly helps. Utley is on his way to being the most prolific offensive second baseman since maybe Rogers Hornsby, and with a few more seasons of 100 ribbies and 170-plus hits (10 years is the magic total), he’ll be in elite company at the second sack. It will be difficult for Utley to knock 3,000 hits, but if he’s dominant, he won’t have trouble getting votes.”
Utley never again drove in 100. He never again notched 170 hits. Injuries defined the years since, morphing Utley from an elite second baseman to simply one of the better second basemen in the league. And most recently he’s become a fringe starter, having his worst season yet in 2015 with the Phillies and Dodgers.
So let’s see. A .281/.365/.479 line with 236 HR, 925 RBI and 1,648 hits. Six all-star appearances. Four Silver Slugger awards. Top-20 MVP voting five times. Good postseason numbers highlighted by an outstanding 2009 World Series. Great, but not hall-worthy, right?
But Utley’s case will be one of the most heated concerning the use of advanced metrics. Utley has attained a career fWAR of 62.3, one of the highest marks ever for a second baseman and higher than current inductees Bobby Doerr, Billy Herman, Joe Gordon, Tony Lazzeri and Johnny Evers. JAWS, which measures career WAR against peak-career WAR, has Utley 12th among all second basemen. From 2005 to present, only Albert Pujols has a higher fWAR among hitters. Some will tell you Chase Utley has been one of baseball’s top three players over the last 11-12 years. That’s hall-worthy, right?
But Lou Whitaker and Bobby Grich are second basemen with high metrics numbers and lower compiler numbers. They’re not in the hall. Chances are when Utley becomes eligible, his candidacy will become the most heated hall discussion in years. Advances in player evaluation may help his case, too. Will it help enough?
My guess is Utley doesn’t get into the hall right away. In fact, he may need to wait like Raines, as arguments develop and opinions sway.
Of course, he could also have an impressive final year or two of his career and hammer home his case a bit more. Either way, I think his peak is too impressive for his position. I think he gets in one day, though in the distant future.
Finally, Jimmy Rollins has another interesting case, which has been debated a bit more recently. Here’s what I wrote in 2008:
“He gets in if: The hits keep coming for another decade. Tall order, but … besides Adrian Beltre (got a two-year head start) and Albert Pujols (out of this universe), Rollins is the active leader in hits, 30 and younger. He’s practically halfway to 3,000 hits, and as he steps into his true prime, he’s capable of the feat by age 40. Add in the potential for 500 steals (11th active) and his 2007 MVP, and there’s no reason to think Rollins couldn’t enter the Hall of Fame.”
So Rollins didn’t keep up that hitting. He’s now at 2,422 hits, good for the Phillies’ all-time mark but not close enough to 3,000. He’s closer to 500 steals (465) and his power numbers at shortstop are among the best ever (229 HR, 503 2B, 928 RBI). But he’d have to play another five years to compile 3,000 hits, and even that means signing onto a team that’ll take a late-30s shortstop whose bat is slowing down.
So let’s look at metrics. Since 2001 very few players have the fWAR Rollins has attained (56 fWAR). That number is 11th over that period, with some surefire hall of famers above him (Pujols, Adrian Beltre, Miguel Cabrera, Ichiro Suzuki). Rollins is also the top full-time shortstop on that list. (Baseball Reference has him at 46 WAR, by the way).
The litmus for Rollins seems to be Barry Larkin, who reached the hall in his third year of eligibility, almost without question. Larkin’s compiler numbers (2,340 H, 198 HR, 960 RBI) were actually worse than Rollins’, but his averages were far better. Larkin was a far better metrics player than Rollins. Plus, Larkin was a top-two shortstop in an era of relative dearth at the position; Rollins had to play in an era with Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez (first half of his career), Miguel Tejada, Nomar Garciaparra, Edgar Renteria, Jose Reyes and Troy Tulowitzki.
Garciaparra is an interesting measuring stick for Rollins. While Garciaparra was often injured throughout his career, he has a pretty decent resume (1,747 H, 229 HR, 936 RBI, .313 AVG). Basically Rollins had more speed and a better glove, and Garciaparra had better contact). Currently Garciaparra has one vote in this year’s round of hall voting. That’s it. That seems crazy.
But it’s not crazy when you consider Garciaparra has to fight for votes with Griffey, Piazza, Raines and Bagwell, plus Bonds, Clemens, Schilling, McGwire, Mike Mussina, Edgar Martinez and plenty more.
Larkin, meanwhile, had to vie for votes with Roberto Alomar, Andre Dawson, Bert Blyleven, Jack Morris, Raines, McGwire and Martinez. Maybe in that year Garciaparra gets the 5 percent necessary to survive a ballot.
Rollins will get more votes than Garciaparra. But whether he has the same fate as Larkin depends on where he falls in.
Here’s the good news: the list of players likely to be entering eligibility with Rollins is not deep (Pujols, Beltre, maybe Utley). And by the time Rollins is eligible, the field should be relatively clean. I say, ultimately, Rollins gets into the hall relatively easy.
Maybe, just maybe, voters will put in Utley at the same time, bringing about the biggest celebration Cooperstown has ever seen.