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.
Hall of Fame coverage

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: Oct 26, 2007
Posted on: January 5, 2012 9:46 pm
 

Seven active borderline Hall of Fame candidates

As Americans, the only thing we like better than ranking things is pointing out the stupidity of someone else's ranking.

So this is my suggestion for the Hall of Fame:

1) Anyone and everyone who ever made an MLB all-star team is in -- if you were voted to an all-star game or got named to one, you're a "Hall of Famer"

2) If you played before MLB all-star games and played in 200 games or more, you are a "Hall of Famer"

3) If you played in 100 games or more in the Nego leagues, you are a "Hall of Famer"

4) Once a year at the time we "used to vote for new inductees", all current members of the Hall (including those "inducted" during the preceeding all-star game), all baseball writers, and all current players on any MLB roster (not included above) vote for the top 500 players of all time

5) The new "Top 500" list is published and every single voter and non-voter alike trash it as "ridiculous"


This eliminates:

1) All the bellyaching of who should be in and out as almost everbody anyone has ever heard of is a "Hall of Famer"

2) Vote grubbing

3) Most of the whining over letting in the "very good" and "near-great" diminishing the honor of the likes of Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, etc.


This stimilates:
1) Annual reconsideration of player's impact / importance / legacy / cheating / juicing / gambling / throwing games / racism / wife beating / boozing / carrousing / beastiality / communism / etc.

2) Annual reconsideration of players based on "new" stats like GWRBI, OBP+S, WHIP, Wins after a team's loss (WAATL?) and of course the definitive D-BAG (Deking - Bunting mastery + Avg time between pitches needed to adjust clothing, helmet and Gloves)

3) Arguments like "Fenando Tatis is arguably the best player ever to put on the uniform if you look strictly at single inning stats"

4) Name calling

5) Feeling superior by saying things like "whoever voted for Willie Wilson lower than #250 is just too stupid to know the importance of triples" or "Bob Gibson may be ranked above Nolan Ryan but he never faced any DHs and got to pitch off a mound like 6ft higher than Nolan", or "Babe Ruth hit all those home runs but no one knows how much horse liniment he was using"




Since: Jan 5, 2007
Posted on: January 5, 2012 9:33 pm
 

Seven active borderline Hall of Fame candidates

I find the whole "played half his games at Coors Field" arguement useed against guys like Helton and Larry Walker as a poor arguement.  Coors field developed a reputation early on, but it is hardly that field anymore.  There are actually a few fields now that are overall better hitters parks than Coors Field.  Plus I rarely see the same arguement used to justistify that someone else's numbers were hurt by playing half their games at a heavy pitcher's park if they are a hitter/or how much they are helped likewise.



Since: May 3, 2007
Posted on: January 5, 2012 9:01 pm
 

Seven active borderline Hall of Fame candidates

Since the article is mainly based on what a player has done with the bat let me add some support for Todd Helton.  His Fielding % of 996 is ranked 6th of all time for 1B. When the HOF gets ready to look at all the numbers Helton will rank as one of the best defensive 1B in completing the pick off and digging balls out of the dirt. Oh and back to the offensive numbers as the 2012 season starts Helton is tied for 24th in all-time doubles with 554. 30 doubles in 2012 puts him in 16th place. BTW guys like Gehrig, Ruth, Mays and Williams have already been passed by Helton. Say what you want about where he plays, because there are factors in every element, but to surpass names like that is still impressive.



Since: Nov 19, 2006
Posted on: January 5, 2012 8:35 pm
 

Seven active borderline Hall of Fame candidates

I know it has been said several times in these responses but come on Matt Snyder, Ichiro is a lock too.  Maybe with yesterday's article you could only select 5 and had it allowed 6 I assume you would have picked Ichiro  Don't get me wrong those 5 you picked yesterday are all first ballot in my opinion but so is Ichiro.  His ability to hit the ball gets him in, hell even just his U.S. stats are good enough.  I can see you call the rest borderliners but with that group I say Vlad gets in with Helton, Posada and Vizquel being the next tier of players and I just don't see Andruw Jones making it.  He had power but a lot of guys have had power.



Since: Jun 3, 2010
Posted on: January 5, 2012 8:15 pm
 

Seven active borderline Hall of Fame candidates

JerichoX... we have another list that Rodriguez will be on



Since: Aug 17, 2006
Posted on: January 5, 2012 7:35 pm
 

Seven active borderline Hall of Fame candidates

Ichiro and Vlad should get in on this list and others should stay with Fred McGRiff in the parking lot. 



Since: Sep 11, 2007
Posted on: January 5, 2012 7:20 pm
 

Seven active borderline Hall of Fame candidates

Ichirio, Vlad, and Vizquel should be locks.  Helton and Rolen maybes.  Helton really was electric his first few years until the injuries started piling up. Jones and Posada no way.  Sorry Yankees fans he just was a nice player on a good team, a Bernie Williams, Don Mattingly kind of guy.  Above average but not elite.  No knock on any of these men they all were solid contributors to their respective teams but this is the HOF not a popularity contest... or it shouldn't be anyway.



Since: Jul 28, 2009
Posted on: January 5, 2012 7:17 pm
 

Seven active borderline Hall of Fame candidates

Scott Rizzle?   Hell to the nah.   Are you outside your mind?




Since: Dec 1, 2009
Posted on: January 5, 2012 7:11 pm
 

Seven active borderline Hall of Fame candidates

"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."  --Rosecrants

Those watching this nature show should know that 'ballot envy' is principally an affliction of sports writers in the early years of their majority. Those who survive in their chosen profession into their maturity may well achieve the dreams of their youth, themselves earning the right to turn thumbs up or down on those who have waged struggle within the arena. Regrettably,then, it is all too commonplace for some to abandon the idealism with which they set out on life's journey.How else to explain that not a single candidate for election to Cooperstown has received unanimous support? This one might justify saying no to Tyrus Raymond Cobb because he was a rather disagreeable piece of work. Another would claim that Hank and Willie 'lacked the necessities' and find his verdict reflected in a public vow to never cast a vote for any white player who had so much as the ghost of a chance of enshrinement. Perhaps a fourth sort looked upon the Babe as unfit for emulation by the youth of America on account of his gluttony or his philandering or his boastfulness or some such tripe. (And what of Gehrig, seemingly universally admired? I shudder to think what pettiness or worse inspired those nay votes.) So, we've come full circle, nature lovers, to the noted baseball fan, Dr. Sigmund Freud, who spoke often of this affliction, which he called 'penis envy'. Oh, the humanity!



Since: Jan 26, 2011
Posted on: January 5, 2012 6:56 pm
 

Seven active borderline Hall of Fame candidates

Anyone else surprised Ivan Rodriguez isn't on either list? I would consider him more of a lock than Chipper Jones.


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