“Some Hall of Fame Candidates” by Todd Vandenberg

On the most recent (and typically brilliant) edition of Baseball Beer and BBQ, I was lucky enough to join the fellas – said gentlemen being Mr. Fabulous, also known as Ted, and The Sexy God, known in some circles as Lee. As they refuse to acknowledge my chosen sobriquet, Manfred the Wonder Dog, I have settled for Mr. Irrelevant.

But I digress. We discussed a few current players, and whether we think they’re headed for the Hall of Fame. We only got to three, as the show was packed with excellent guests – which is good, as it gives less air time to Lee and me. As I put several hours of grueling work into preparing for the show – okay, maybe one hour – I thought, hey, why not recycle, save the Earth, ya know? As we were discussing these three on the air, I just used a fairly simple method, comparing WAR and some key counting stats to current Hall of Famers, comparable players, or a few other candidates. And to clarify, this isn’t a list of who I would vote in, or deserves to go in, but who I think will be voted in. As William Munny said, deserve’s got nuthin’ to do with it. Okay, so here are the peeps!

cooperstown

Adrian Beltre – Beltre has complied 77.9 WAR in 17 years. I’ll look at two guys that are already in and a guy everyone says is headed to the Hall. We start with arguably the best 3B ever.

Mike Schmidt – 106.5 WAR, 21 years.

Paul Molitor – 75.4 WAR, 21 years.

Chipper Jones – 85.0 WAR, 19 years.

Beltre is still performing at a very high level, averaging 6 WAR per year last 4 seasons. He’s already passed Molitor, whose time at the more demanding 2B is balanced by his DH gig, and he should pass Chipper barring injury. I see this as a big yes for Beltre.

Jimmy Rollins – He’s accounted for 45.7 WAR in 14 seasons. Rollins also has had 4 Gold Gloves, pretty darn important for shortstops. His comps:

Ozzie Smith – 65.5 WAR, 13 Gold Gloves, 19 years.

Luis Aparicio – 55.8 WAR, 9 Gold Gloves, 18 years.

Omar Vizquel -45.3 WAR, 11 Gold Gloves, 24 years.

Jimmy is still fielding very well at short, and 2013 was really his only subpar season ever. Right now he projects between Vizquel and Aparicio in career value. And Omar isn’t a sure thing (sadly).  I don’t see him as a lock at this point, so he’ll have to close strong with a few more seasons like last year’s 3.9 WAR.

Now a few pitchers; first I’ll list the following comparable pitchers for all three.

Tom Glavine – 74.0 WAR, 305 wins, 22 yrs.

Don Sutton – 68.7 WAR, 324 wins, 23 yrs.

Orel Hershiser – 51.7 WAR, 204 wins, 18 years.

Cliff Lee – 43.3 WAR, 143 wins, 13 years. Glavine had a 45.3 WAR in his first 13 seasons, so Cliff’s just a bit behind, but IF he can stay healthy, he needs five really good years. He’s been durable; 2014 was first year he pitched less than 200 Innings since 2007. Like Jimmy Rollins, he needs to close strong for five years. Three good years puts him in the range of Hershiser, and we’ve seen that isn’t good enough.

C.C. Sabathia – 53.9 WAR, 208 wins, 14 years. Sabathia is in much better position than Lee in career numbers, actually ahead of Glavine’s 14 year pace, which was 50.2 WAR – BUT – he’s now had two mediocre seasons back to back. 2013 was his first ERA over 3.38 since 2005. Unless he bounces back, he’s not going to make it.

Mark Buehrle – 58.3 WAR, 199 wins, 15 seasons. Also ahead of Glavine (53.8 WAR at 15 seasons). Tommy was still a damn good pitcher for Ted’s Mets at age 38 & 39, still effective at 40 and 41. More than Lee or Sabathia, Buehrle strikes me as the guy who will still be getting it done in 5 years. He’s NEVER pitched less than 200 innings since his rookie season. If you switch Sabathia and Buehrle’s teams, Mark would probably be sitting on 220 or even 230 wins, and CC would still be looking forward to that 200 win milestone. He’ll be one of those guys who, when they finally throw that last pitch, you look at their career and think, when did THAT happen? He’s just 10.4 WAR behind Sutton in seven fewer seasons, already more than 6 ahead of the Bulldog in three fewer years.

Back to hitters.

Chase Utley – 61.5 WAR, 1569 hits, 228 HR, 139 SB, 6 All-Star, no Gold Gloves, 12 years. Average 3.5 WAR last 2 years.

Ryne Sandberg – 67.5 WAR, 2386 hits, 282 HR 344 SB, 10 All -Star, 9 Gold Gloves, 16 years.

Lou Whitaker – 74.9 WAR, 2369 hits, 244 HR, 5 All-Star, 3 Gold Gloves, 19 years.

Ryno was 21, Lou 20 in their rookie years; Utley was 24. Sandberg ‘s last four seasons he complied 8.2 WAR total, so at least Utley is still performing well. But, he’s doubtful to me. He needs several good years; that, the lack of Gold Gloves, and especially coming up at age 24, hurts his chances. He’s a long way from Sweet Lou, and Whitaker’s not getting in. I think Chase misses out.

Carlos Beltran – 67.5 WAR, 2322 hits, 373 HR, 311 SB, 8 All-Star, 3 Gold Glove, 17 yrs.

Andre Dawson – 64.5 WAR, 2774 hits, 438 HR, 314 SB, 8 All-Star, 8 Gold Glove, 21 yrs.

Dwight Evans – 66.9 WAR, 2446 hits, 385 HR, 78 SB, 3 All-Star, 8 Gold Glove, 20 years.

Dawson actually lost 2.3 total WAR in his last 4 seasons; he was at 66.8 WAR after season 17. Like Beltran, he was also 37 years old in his 17th season, with 2.4 and 2.1 WAR in seasons 16 and 17. Beltran was at 2.4 and -.2. Evans was an excellent fielder, of course, but Beltran is the better overall hitter, and will easily pass Dewey in the counting stats soon.

He just needs a couple good years; with the Designated Cheater taking the DH slot, Carlos has his work cut out for him, but I think he’ll make it, adding in his cash money post-season performances.

I’ll close out with Big Papi, as we started off with him on the show.

David Ortiz – 47.7 WAR, 466 HR, 1533 RBI, 18 years.

Frank Thomas – 73.7 WAR, 521 HR, 1704 RBI, 19 years.

Carlos Delgado – 44.3 WAR, 473 HR, 1512 RBI, 17 years.

Edgar Martinez – 68.3 WAR, 309 HR, 1261 RBI, 21 years.

Fred McGriff – 52.4 WAR, 493 HR, 1550 RBI, 19 years.

I added a few more comparables here because I want to consider Ortiz’s merits, completely outside of the PED controversy. One thing you immediately see is how much Frank Thomas stands out. These guys were all great hitters, and Big Frank was an absolute monster. The highest vote percentage any of the other three received was Edgar’s 36.5% in 2012; with all the first time candidates coming, he stands no chance of being voted in by the writers. The Crime Dog never reached 25% at his peak, and Delgado will drop off the ballot next year due to being under the magic 5% mark during this past season’s Hall voting. They all have very comparable numbers, yet these three great hitters have zero chance of being voted in by the writers. Despite Big Papi’s post-season heroics, despite his completely bad-ass and amazing response to the Boston Marathon bombing, right now he’s on very shaky ground, considering just the numbers. But, just one more good year would put him over 500 HR and 50 WAR. That, plus playing for a marquee team, plus the aforementioned heroics, would be a big boost to his chances. If it weren’t for that pesky “I never knowingly took any steroids” statement, I’d say he’d have a good shot.

So I as I see it, Adrian Beltre is closest to a lock. Carlos Beltran just needs a couple of years to cement his place in the Hall, as does Mark Buehrle. Jimmy Rollins, Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia, and Chase Utley all have to put in at least more three good seasons each.  And David Ortiz, PED issues aside, could make it with one more good season.

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