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2017, Sidebars

Mid-Season Update, Infield

Paul Goldschmidt, 2017Last Wednesday, we looked at the active(ish) battery and their chances at the HoME. Today, using unadjusted first half WAR through June 30, we look at the infield. This is an area where we have some of the highest guys on their respective lists – guys like Pujols, Cano, and Beltre. It’s also where we have a shortstop position without anyone who projects to be a HoMEr. Luckily we have Seager, Correa, Lindor, Bogaerts, and others getting started. The next generation looks to be better than the current one.

Make sure you come back on Wednesday for the active outfield.

Albert Pujols

Preseason Rank: 5

2017 WAR: -1.1

Current Rank: 6, falling behind Jimmie Foxx

HoME Status: Seeing that negative number in front of his WAR hurts quite a bit. I suspect he’s going to finish as the sixth best first baseman now, rather than the fifth, by my numbers. Of course, very reasonable people can still rank him ahead of Foxx and Roger Connor. He’s going to the Hall, the HoME, and anywhere else he wants on the first ballot.

Miguel Cabrera

Preseason Rank: 18

2017 WAR: 0.5

Current Rank: 16, passing Rafael Palmeiro and Jim Thome

HoME Status: This can’t be the end. Can it? I don’t even think it should be the beginning of the end, but it’s at least that. His only plus skill is a bat, but it’s a bat like few we’ve seen, even if it is fading now. To me, watching his counting numbers is a lot of fun. He has a great chance to be the sixth guy ever to reach 2000 RBIs, assuming Albert gets there before he does. And forget homers, he has a fine chance to finish his career fifth all-time in doubles. Maybe even higher if he’s not in steep decline now. He’s easily in the HoME, jammed in with a bunch of easy calls at first base. Whether he can separate from the pack and get to the top-10 will be a matter of health and time.

Joey Votto, 2017Joey Votto

Preseason Rank: 36

2017 WAR: 3.7

Current Rank: 31, passing Jason Giambi, Tony Perez, Fred Tenney, Frank Chance, and Lance Berkman

HoME Status: Before this season, Votto seemed like the type of great player the Hall could ignore because he didn’t hit a ton of home runs. Luckily for Votto, this looks to be a career power year for the on base machine from the Reds. If he can repeat his first half, he’ll be a stone’s throw away from Mark McGwire, my lowest HoMEr first baseman. He won’t get there this season, and even if he doesn’t guarantee induction next year, he will eventually. His is a skill set that’s going to age just fine. I could see him finishing in the Frank Thomas/Pete Rose range. He’s going to the HoME.

Adrian Gonzalez

Preseason Rank: 48

2017 WAR: -0.6

Current Rank: 48

HoME Status: After you’re 35, it’s hard to recover from herniated discs and become great at sports again. Of course, you might say that Gonzalez already wasn’t great, and I couldn’t disagree. He had a short run of excellence and was a very nice player for a decade. That’s not what a HoMEr is.

Paul Goldschmidt

Preseason Rank: 70

2017 WAR: 4.0

Current Rank: 57, passing Hal Trosky, Kent Hrbek, Derrek Lee, Jim Bottomley, George H. Burns, Dave Orr, Steve Garvey, Cecil Cooper, George Scott, Jake Daubert, Frank McCormick, Stuffy McInnis, and Lu Blue

HoME Status: Let’s not confuse things. Goldschmidt isn’t close yet. Still, he’s one of the best players in the game, and with a repeat of the first half, he’ll move all the way up to #52 when the season ends, just behind Don Mattingly and Mark Grace. The guy is such a complete player that I think he’ll age well. I think he can make it.

Mike Napoli, 2017Mike Napoli

Preseason Rank: 82

2017 WAR: -0.4

Current Rank: 82

HoME Status: Despite the 34 homers last year, Napoli hasn’t really been a big plus at the plate since 2014. The former catcher is now a plurality first baseman, and he’s at the point in his career where he’s going to jump from place to place looking for work. There’s no HoME in his future.

Carlos Santana

Preseason Rank: 88

2017 WAR: 0.2

Current Rank: 89, falling behind Anthony Rizzo

HoME Status: His only HoME-level skill is drawing walks. If you’re the Indians, you like having him because he hasn’t made any real money yet. A free agent at the end of the year, he has to be expecting the big payday. I wouldn’t pay him much. And he’s not going to the HoME.

Anthony Rizzo

Preseason Rank: 89

2017 WAR: 2.4

Current Rank: 86, passing Carlos Santana, Mo Vaughn, and Joe Kuhel

HoME Status: He’s a couple of years behind Goldschmidt, which isn’t such a bad thing since he’s a couple of years younger. Perhaps problematic for him is that I don’t think he’s quite the player Goldy is. Sure, he has more time for things to go right. He also has more time to show he’s just excellent, not immortal.

Freddie Freeman

Preseason Rank: 91

2017 WAR: 2.6

Current Rank: 90, passing Hal Chase

HoME Status: The Mike Trout injury got all of the tears from me, but the Freeman break of the left wrist was nearly as bad. Freeman was excellent last year and looked to be building early in this one before Aaron Loup struck him with a fastball. Maybe he’ll be great again next season at age 28. Whatever the case, he has a lot of ground to make up to eventually be considered for the HoME.

Robinson Cano, 2017Robinson Cano

Preseason Rank: 9

2017 WAR: 2.2

Current Rank: 8, passing Jackie Robinson

HoME Status: He’s already signed, sealed, and delivered. Has been for years. The question now is one of his final landing place among the all-time greats. Well, moving up the list won’t be easy. If Cano repeats his first half five more times, that’ll get him up only one more place, past Bobby Grich. Then again, at that point, both Charlie Gehringer and Frankie Frisch would be within striking distance. The active guys who have a shot at the top-five at their positions are Albert Pujols, Adrian Beltre, Mike Trout, and Cano. That’s it.

Chase Utley

Preseason Rank: 22

2017 WAR: 0.3

Current Rank: 21, passing Hardy Richardson

HoME Status: I’ve read a couple of times recently the question of holding just a few months against someone after a great 15-year career. That’s something I was prepared to do to Chase Utley when it seemed his career was coming to an end in Philadelphia in 2015. That didn’t happen, and he’s been decent since joining the Dodgers, putting up more than 3 WAR. But what if he put up -3 WAR? To me, it all counts. Whether you put up -3 WAR in your fifth year or your fifteenth, it counts. And when making your case for the HoME, we don’t just ignore some of your MLB play if it doesn’t fit into our notion of who you are as a player. I like Utley, though I don’t love him. To me, he’s just over the line. Since I think Eric likes him more than I do though, I think his chances of getting into the HoME at some point are over 90%. Of course, he could play three more years and stink up the joint. In that case, all bets are off.

Ian Kinsler

Preseason Rank: 26

2017 WAR: 2.1

Current Rank: 24, passing Fred Dunlap and Bobby Doerr

HoME Status: Kinsler is a guy I’ve been tracking publicly for at least a year now as a future HoMEr. I’ve actually been on his case for longer than that. He just passed HoMEr Bobby Doerr, and he’s closing in on territory where we can’t avoid giving him a vote. I’m not sure he’ll get there in the second half, but I expect him to seal his case before 2018 ends. Just a quick stat for you: Kinsler has more 4+ WAR seasons with my conversions than Jackie Robinson.

Dustin Pedroia

Preseason Rank: 32

2017 WAR: 0.6

Current Rank: 31, passing Lonny Frey

HoME Status: A tough dude and a really talented player, it doesn’t seem like Pedroia is going to get there. When healthy, he’s still quite good, but guys who are 33, 5’9”, and play second base just aren’t as healthy as they need to be to put up the three or four more good seasons Pedroia will need. Even though Laser Show seems to me like he loves the game more than most players, I’m not betting on him making it to the HoME.

Ben Zobrist, 2017Ben Zobrist

Preseason Rank: 33

2017 WAR: 0.7

Current Rank: 33

HoME Status: Not getting to the majors until age 25 and not becoming a regular until age 28 have doomed Zobrist. I don’t want to really bet against the guy, and he’s only 36, but I can’t imagine too many more strong years in front of him. Even three more 3-win seasons wouldn’t get him into the HoME, so, yeah, I’ll bet against him.

Jose Altuve

Preseason Rank: 59

2017 WAR: 3.8

Current Rank: 59, probably because I started charting him too early; others I don’t chart are likely better

HoME Status: Guys at Altuve’s height just don’t make it in the majors. He’s already 13th all-time in WAR for those who are 5’6” or shorter. Altuve will be 28 next year, and there are only ten players ever Altuve’s height or shorter who totaled 20+ WAR from age-28 on. He would have to reach Phil Rizzuto’s 30.6 WAR, second all-time for short dudes from age-28 on, to have even a prayer at the HoME. Yes, he’s an outstanding player right now, but his chances at the HoME are very long.

Adrian Beltre, 2017Adrian Beltre

Preseason Rank: 9

2017 WAR: 0.5

Current Rank: 9

HoME Status: If it wouldn’t disappoint him, I’d like something to happen that keeps him from getting to 3000 hits. Every deserving player who gets into the Hall without reaching one of the sure-thing milestones is a good thing. It seems like even the mainstream baseball media now think he belongs. It’s going to be tougher than I thought getting past Ron Santo, but I still put Beltre at about even money to best Paul Molitor, Chipper Jones, and Home Run Baker before he hangs ‘em up.

David Wright

Preseason Rank: 25

2017 WAR:  😦

Current Rank: 25

HoME Status: A little over a year ago I wrote a sad baseball obituary for David Wright. At just age 33 at the time, there’s no way he should have been done. But some bodies don’t hold up as well as others. Back in 2013, it seemed certain he’d be a future HoMEr. And hell, there’s still a shot. One year at 3.7 WAR puts him past Sal Bando by my numbers. And that’s how close it can be. That’s the difference between immortality and eventual obscurity for the greatest Met position player in franchise history.

Evan Longoria

Preseason Rank: 30

2017 WAR: 2.5

Current Rank: 28, passing Larry Gardner and Robin Ventura

HoME Status: One path to the HoME is a few years of greatness and then solid performances for about ten more. That’s the path Longoria hopes to take. David Wright is a cautionary tale of how a third baseman, or any player, could just break down though. Give Longoria a few more years, and he might just prove his fans of 2009-2011 right. I think he has an excellent shot of eventually making the HoME. It’ll be about health.

Josh Donaldson, 2017Josh Donaldson

Preseason Rank: 52

2017 WAR: 1.3

Current Rank: 51, passing Denny Lyons

HoME Status: It’s always disappointing to me when I remind myself of the age of someone who’s been so good and it’s not a small enough number. Since Jackie Robinson’s first season, only Donaldson, Jackie, and fourteen others have had four consecutive years at 7+ WAR. Chase Utley isn’t 100% guaranteed entry into the HoME. All of the others, aside from Donaldson, are. A calf injury held him back in the first half of the year. If his second half rebounds to the level we’ve seen since 2013, I might reconsider his status. As of now, I think it’s going to be next to impossible.

Ryan Zimmerman

Preseason Rank: 57

2017 WAR: 2.4

Current Rank: 54, passing Jimmy Dykes, Don Money, and Bill Madlock

HoME Status: Not long ago, I wrote about the April 2017 NL Player of the Month, Ryan Zimmerman. At that time I asked if we should more likely trust the month of the three years where he put up a grand total of 0.0 WAR. Through May 6 of this year he put up a line of .453/.475/.907. Since then, it’s been a very mediocre .277/.318/.446. If you’re wondering what it was the last three years, wonder no more: .242/.300/.420. Since June 5, he’s been at .253/.277/.418. Trust the last three years, not a random month. Zimmerman is not going to the HoME.

Kyle Seager, 2017Kyle Seager

Preseason Rank: 61

2017 WAR: 1.0

Current Rank: 58, passing George Kell, Richie Hebner, and Jeff Cirillo

HoME Status: Corey’s big brother is a heck of a player, albeit one who’s struggling in 2017. He’s the kind of guy who could keep hitting enough for a while, not long enough to get into the HoME though.

Manny Machado

Preseason Rank: 73

2017 WAR: 1.1

Current Rank: 72, passing Jerry Denny

HoME Status: If you want a quick answer as to what’s happened to Manny Machado’s bat, take a look at his yearly BABIP: .293, .322, .317, .297, .309, .226. Balls will start falling. The BABIP will tend to equilibrium. While it’s true that he is swinging and missing more than he has in the past, isn’t everyone? He’s not swinging at more first pitches. He’s not swinging at more bad pitches. Assuming he doesn’t press, he’ll start looking better soon enough. And I expect he’ll get what looks like it can become a HoME-worthy career back on track.

Edwin Encarnacion

Preseason Rank: 74

2017 WAR: 1.2

Current Rank: 73, passing Jerry Denny

HoME Status: Because he got good too late, he stands very little shot of getting into the HoME. He’s still a fun hitter to watch and a dangerous one to face.

Chase Headley

Preseason Rank: 76

2017 WAR: 0.7

Current Rank: 76

HoME Status: Headley should consider himself lucky to even make my third base chart. He has absolutely no chance at the HoME.

Troy Tulowitzki, 2017Troy Tulowitzki

Preseason Rank: 40

2017 WAR: 0.1

Current Rank: 40

HoME Status: He’s 32 years old now. He hasn’t been a good hitter since 2014, and he hasn’t played in 140+ games since 2011. For a guy with four seasons over 6 WAR and another two over 5 WAR, it’s pretty shocking that Tulo is a relative long shot at HoME induction. That’s in part because I think Rfield overrates his defense. Oh, and he just doesn’t play enough. In 2014, I’d have put him at 80% to get in. Now, I think he’s less than 20%.

Hanley Ramirez

Preseason Rank: 43

2017 WAR: 0.2

Current Rank: 43

HoME Status: There really isn’t much to see here. At his best, he was all hit and no field. Now he’s some hit and no field. Upon retirement, he won’t be worthy of HoME consideration.

Jose Reyes

Preseason Rank: 60

2017 WAR: -0.8

Current Rank: 60

HoME Status: Middle infielders don’t tend to age well. Reyes has been below replacement level since his age-31 season in 2014. He’s only two steals away from 500, so that’s something he could hang his hat on. HoME induction isn’t happening.

Elvis Andrus, 2017Elvis Andrus

Preseason Rank: 67

2017 WAR: 2.4

Current Rank: 66, passing Frank Crosetti

HoME Status: He doesn’t field enough to be a great shortstop, and he doesn’t hit enough to play anywhere else. To his credit though, he has turned himself into a league average hitter over the past year and a half. He would need to become far above average in a hurry to have a shot at the HoME.

Just two days until the active outfield is up.

Miller

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Discussion

2 thoughts on “Mid-Season Update, Infield

  1. Kipnis? I presume he’s a “No.”
    v

    Posted by verdun2 | July 10, 2017, 7:38 am
    • You know, I never even considered Kipnis. Perhaps I should soon, though it would kind of be work just to do work. He would rank lower than 60th among 2B. And he’s 30. That adds up to a “no”. He’s a nice player who really has no shot.

      Posted by Miller | July 10, 2017, 9:43 am

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