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HoME Improvement 2014: Hitters

More power! (Unless you're Ichiro, of course.)

More power! (Unless you’re Ichiro, of course.)

It’s time for HoME Improvement! In 2014, who boosted their standing in the race to the Hall of Miller and Eric? (Yes, we know none of them care about the HoME, but please humor us because we do.) Today we’ll answer that question among batters, and next time out, we’ll see about the pitchers.

Since it’s Miller’s and my Hall, and since I’m writing this article, I’m going to quote my own equivalent WAR (which incorporates DRA and adjusts for length of schedule among other things) and use CHEWS (Chalek’s Equivalent WAR System) to examine players. CHEWS is just like JAWS only more peak-centric and based on my eqWAR. At 40 CHEWS, you’re nearing contention. Around 45 you’re nearing the borderline. At 50, you’re getting a plaque at any but the toughest positions. Every player with 55 or more CHEWS has been elected. Usually on their first try. (Ratchet these guidelines down by 10–15% for catchers.)

Let’s get to it.

CATCHERS

                               2013    2014
NAME                  eqWAR   CHEWS   CHEWS
============================================
CURRENT AVERAGE HOME C  67             53.8
Joe Mauer               50     44.6    45.3
LOWEST RANKED HOME C    52             44.5
Victor Martinez         39     31.4    35.2
Russell Martin          35     27.6    32.6
Yadier Molina           33     29.4    30.7
Brian McCann            27     25.0    25.9
Buster Posey            24     18.6    24.0
  • Joe Mauer: His odds increased, but he was already going to get a plaque: went from 16th to 15th best CHEWS rating for catchers.
  • Victor Martinez: Great season boosts him to about as strong a case as Deacon McGuire though with a very different shape. A repeat would put him in the top 20–25 catchers ever.
  • Russell Martin: I’m surprised too. DRA loves the defense, and if the pitch-framing studies are right, there’s even more value here. He’s already as good a candidate as another defensive standout, Hall of Famer Rick Ferrell.
  • Yadier Molina: Injury shorted out his season, and his outlook remains roughly the same. He’s currently a similar candidate to Elston Howard.
  • Brian McCann: Forgettable season, still ranks with forgettable catchers.
  • Buster Posey: Another nice season, another stepping stone on the way greatness.

FIRST BASEMEN/DESIGNATED HITTERS

                               2013    2014
NAME                  eqWAR   CHEWS   CHEWS 
====================================================
Albert Pujols           100    78.3    79.9
CURRENT AVERAGE HOME 1B  89            70.4 
LOWEST RANKED HOME 1B    62            53.3
Miguel Cabrera           59    48.1    50.8
Jason Giambi             52    47.4    47.2
Mark Teixeira            48    41.6    42.1
David Ortiz              48    39.5    40.6
Joey Votto               37    35.3    37.0
  • Albert Pujols: Still a HoMEr, still an all-time great.
  • Miguel Cabrera: At any other position, Cabrera would already be a slam-dunk. At 1B, he’s the 21st best of all time by CHEWS, and this year he elbowed past John Olerud, Will Clark, Harry Stovey, Mark McGwire and eternal borderliner Jake Beckley to get there. A typical Miggy year will push him into some very serious names such as Eddie Murray and Bill Terry, the latter of which his career thus far resembles in the shape of his peak and career value.
  • Jason Giambi: He’s still just about one All-Star season short.
  • Mark Teixeira: Started and ended the year in McGriff/Delgado territory.
  • David Ortiz: Despite all the homers and rings, Ortiz’s terrible base running, the replacement level for designated hitters, and his poor fielding when has played the field together drag down his case. It’s extraordinarily unlikely going into his age 39 season that Big Papi can come up with another ten CHEWS points before The End.
  • Joey Votto: The injury killed a chance to make a big move. Grace and Mattingly are in his sights next. A huge year could also get him close to Orlando Cepeda and set up a run at the bottom tier of HoME first basemen.

SECOND BASEMEN

                               2013    2014
NAME                  eqWAR   CHEWS   CHEWS 
============================================
CURRENT AVERAGE HOME 2B 89             71.1 
LOWEST RANKED HOME 2B   58             50.2
Robinson Cano           53     44.8    49.2
Chase Utley             53     45.4    47.0
Ian Kinsler             42     36.3    39.0
Ben Zobrist             35     29.8    35.7
Dustin Pedroia          36     32.3    34.4
  • Robinson Cano: Another 6 win season to jump over Richardson, Kent, Utley, Doerr, Phillips, and Herman en route to ranking 18th at second base. If he does it again, he’ll pass Childs, McPhee, Biggio and Randolph and land in 14th Great chance to end up among top ten keystone men.
  • Chase Utley: Climbed over Bobby Doerr this year. All-Star days are over, but he’s within HoME range. If his body holds up he’ll nudge into the borderline alongside Billy Herman and Tony Phillips.
  • Ian Kinsler: Yeah, seriously, Kinsler. He’s still productive and is positioned to make a run. Went from a Knoblauchian case to something between Lonny Frey and Del Pratt. After Pratt his next targets are Hall of Famers Johnny Evers and Tony Lazzeri.
  • Ben Zobrist: Quietly in the midst of four straight All-Star level campaigns and five in six years. How did he leap over Pedroia? CHEWS’s peak term is based on a player’s seven best seasons (just like JAWS’). His 5.4 WAR campaign replaced his -0.7 freshman outing. At 34, however, he’s going to run out of time fast.
  • Dustin Pedroia: The injury kept his CHEWS down in the Robby Thompson range. There’s some wear and tear here, and a return to health and productivity is needed to get back on the path to greatness. He’ll be 31 in 2015 so there’s time because his game isn’t built around speed.

THIRD BASEMEN

                                2013    2014
NAME                   eqWAR   CHEWS   CHEWS
=============================================
CURRENT AVERAGE HOME 3B  75             59.7 
Adrian Beltre            67     49.4    52.5
LOWEST RANKED HOME 3B    62             52.3
David Wright             51     44.3    45.3
Evan Longoria            39     34.5    39.4
Ryan Zimmerman           33     31.2    31.4
Aramis Ramirez           31     28.7    29.0
  • Adrian Beltre: Congratulations to Beltre whose fine season pushed him over the minimums at his position. Already the sixteenth best third baseman, and he’s not slowing down. Could end up near Brooks Robinson or beyond.
  • David Wright: Tough season but still in fantastic position, roughly tied with Ron Cey and nearing Heinie Groh and Sal Bando. Could pass both next year. Already ranks twenty-third at third base.
  • Evan Longoria: Disappointed at the plate in 2014, but good defensively. Rose from Troy Glaus’ level to Tim Wallach’ A typical Longo year will push him over Robin Ventura and into the top 25 third basemen ever.
  • Ryan Zimmerman: All the shoulder problems have derailed a dark-horse candidacy. Travis Fryman is the next stop for him, and that’s starting to feel like an interesting comp.
  • Aramis Ramirez: Today’s Gary Gaetti.

SHORTSTOPS

                                2013     2014
NAME                   eqWAR   CHEWS    CHEWS 
==============================================
CURRENT AVERAGE HOME SS   74             62.2 
Derek Jeter               66     52.2    51.9
LOWEST RANKED HOME SS     58             48.4
Hanley Ramirez            36     32.8    34.9
Troy Tulowitzki           35     30.4    34.5
Jose Reyes                34     27.6    31.0
Jimmy Rollins             36     28.7    30.5
  • Derek Jeter: Let’s not rehash the arguments. He’s in and we all know it.
  • Hanley Ramirez: If Ramirez could field…. If he could stay healthy…. If he could repeat his All-Star form consistently…. There’s still time, but he’s tied with Garry Templeton at age 30.
  • Troy Tulowitzki: He can field and does play like an All-Star. But he can’t stay healthy. Trying to assemble a HoME career 100 games at a time must be tough. Near Johnny Pesky right now.
  • Jose Reyes: Another guy who can’t stay on the field. He’s got as good a case as Cecil Travis and is now on the downside at age 31 as his speed ebbs.
  • Jimmy Rollins: Was always overrated and at this late date has no chance for the HoME.

LEFT FIELDERS

                                 2013     2014
NAME                    eqWAR   CHEWS    CHEWS 
===============================================
CURRENT AVERAGE HOME LF   76              60.4 
LOWEST RANKED HOME LF     62              49.6
Matt Holiday              44      37.9    39.1
Carl Crawford             44      37.9    39.0
Ryan Braun                37      35.6    36.4
Alex Gordon               28      22.1    28.3
  • Matt Holliday: Appears to be winding down toward merely average and didn’t gain much ground.
  • Carl Crawford: Ditto.
  • Ryan Braun: Injury and poor performance. And perhaps a lot of booing. Still near Heinie Manush and Augie Galan. Still very far away from a plaque but there’s time enough for a guy with old-player skills.
  • Alex Gordon: Did you know he and Braun are the same age? Fantastic year, vaulting him from the neighborhood of Hideki Matsui to that of Rico Carty. Already 30 but three excellent three years in the last four. If he’s a late bloomer, there’s the slimmest of chances, and he took a big step this year. Now he’s got to do it again. And again. And again….

CENTER FIELDERS

                                  2013    2014
NAME                    eqWAR    CHEWS   CHEWS 
===============================================
CURRENT AVERAGE HOME CF    95            72.6 
Carlos Beltran             67     55.2   55.2
LOWEST RANKED HOME CF      58            49.2
Torii Hunter               50     38.9   39.1
Curtis Granderson          37     33.9   34.6
Andrew McCutchen           33     25.9   32.6
Mike Trout                 27     19.4   27.1
Adam Jones                 27     22.8   26.5
  • Carlos Beltran: A stealth HoMEr sandwiched between two others, Andruw Jones and Jim Edmonds. Looked bad and was hurt a lot this year. Ceiling is probably Paul Hines and number nine or ten among centerfielders. Currently eleventh.
  • Torii Hunter: No longer even an average player thanks to his glove. Very similar case to Devon White and Ellis Burks.
  • Curtis Granderson: Similar in many ways to Ray Lankford, who is right now his closest HoME analog after a disappointing season.
  • Andrew McCutchen: This guy is really something. Made a huge move. Ranked with Rick Monday after 2013, now within a CHEWS point of Hack Wilson. That doesn’t sound like much, but McCutchen’s only got six seasons compared to their much longer careers. He’s going to be 28 next year, had his best year at the plate in 2014, is durable, and has averaged about 7 wins a year for the last four seasons. If he keeps that up, then after 2016, he’d already be on par with Dale Murphy in about half of Murph’s seasons.
  • Adam Jones: Churns out four-win seasons like clockwork. His next one will put him at Willie McGee’s level at age 30. But four-win seasons aren’t near enough.
  • Mike Trout: His last three years give him nearly as good a shot as Hall of Famer Lloyd Waner’s entire career. The Hall of Fame requires ten seasons of play, so let’s play if-then with Trout’s next six seasons.

IF in the next six seasons he
…is league-average THEN his case will exceed Eric Davis.
…loses a win a year THEN his case will exceed George Gore (18th ranked center fielder).
…gets five wins a year (All-Star) THEN his case will exceed Duke Snider (14th).
…loses half a win a year THEN his case will exceed Jim Edmonds (10th).
…averages 6.5 wins a year THEN his case will exceed Rich Ashburn (8th).
…maintains his 2014 rate THEN his case will exceed Billy Hamilton (7th).

Keep in mind, that’s only ten total years.

Kid’s pretty good.

RIGHT FIELDERS

                                 2013     2014
NAME                    eqWAR   CHEWS    CHEWS
===============================================
CURRENT AVERAGE HOME RF   89              67.4 
Ichiro Suzuki             60     51.7     52.1
LOWEST RANKED HOME RF     61              48.9
Jose Bautista             32     26.0     32.4
Giancarlo Stanton         21     15.0     21.1
Jason Heyward             21     15.6     21.1
Justin Upton              19     15.7     19.4
  • Ichiro Suzuki: Safely among the third-tier of HoME right fielders. Here’s hoping he picks up another 156 hits.
  • Jose Bautista: Big jump for Joey Bats from nowheresville to even with Juan Gonzalez, a somewhat comparable player. Most of Bautista’s BBREF comps were not productive for long after 33, but most of them weren’t late bloomers like Bautista. If if if…he can stay on the field and continue his assault on AL pitching, could he get on the Edgar Martinez path to glory? He would need to at least double his current 32 career eqWAR. Per BBREF’s Play Index, only three players since expansion have earned 30 or more Wins from 34 onward: Barry Bonds (63), Hank Aaron (38), and Edgar Martinez (33). Bautista is an outstanding hitter, yet he’s not near as good a hitter as any of those guys. These past five wonderful years have led to an OPS+ of 158. Aaron’s career OPS+ was 155. I’d put his odds at less than 1% despite making a big move this year.
  • Giancarlo Stanton: Another big jumper. Also more injury trouble for Stanton. But the guy is only twenty-four. He’s got a solid foundation for a peak that may still be two or three seasons away. Scary, huh?
  • Jason Heyward: An All-Star year thanks to his glove. He’s tracking even with Stanton who is the same baseball age. But Stanton’s power excites more than Heyward’s rounded game. Could be an interesting battle for years, especially if Heyward’s bat matures and returns to his rookie level. Then again, his speed and glove have probably already peaked, while Stanton’s bat has not.
  • Justin Upton: Just wanted to be sure not to forget him. He’s entering his peak now and the talent that led to a big year in 2011 is still there, somewhere. Right?

Lots to watch for in 2015, especially as Cabrera, Cano, Utley, and Wright look to surge past the bottom line at their positions and into the territory that essentially guarantees them my vote for the HoME. Can Victor Martinez keep Father Time at bay for another year? Will Tulo and Longo climb the rankings? Will Mike Trout play all nine positions at once for 162 games and earn 90-something WAR all by himself? It’ll be fun to see.

Watch for our next post when we turn our gaze to the mound and see if anyone there made a big move this year.

—Eric

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