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2017, Sidebars

Year End HoME Roundup, 1B

Paul Goldschmidt, 2017, 2Today we begin our discussion of how players improved (or didn’t) their Hall of Miller and Eric candidacies with their 2017 performances. We start today with first base.

Albert Pujols

2017 BBREF WAR: -1.8

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller:   6
Ahead of Dan Brouthers, Jeff Bagwell, and Rod Carew.
Trailing Jimmie Foxx, Roger Connor, and Cap Anson.

Eric:       4
Ahead of Jimmie Foxx, Roger Connor, and Dan Brouthers
Trailing Stan Musial, Lou Gehrig, and Cap Anson

Current career trajectory:
Oh, things are going downhill in a hurry. Back in April I said I thought he’d catch Roger Connor for fourth place on my all-time 1B list. I no longer think that. In fact, I don’t think he’ll repass Jimmie Foxx. And the Angels still owe him well over $100 million. Yikes!

HoME Outlook:
Pujols guaranteed admission into the Hall as soon as he stepped onto the field for his tenth season. He was in the HoME before that. Clearly he’s not going to fall out of the HoME, though for kids who are 14 or so, they’re going to think Pujols was a stinky player. Unless what they think is important is driving in runs. Thanks to Mike Trout, he still had 101 of those this year.

Miguel Cabrera

2017 BBREF WAR: -0.8

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller:   17
Ahead of Jim Thome, Hank Greenberg, and Rafael Palmeiro.
Trailing Keith Hernandez, George Sisler, and Ernie Banks.

Eric:       19
Ahead of Willie McCovey, Joey Votto, and Eddie Murray
Trailing Todd Helton, Bill Terry, and Rafael Palmeiro

Current career trajectory:
So Cabrera turns 35 in April, had injury issues (groin, oblique, hip, back) throughout the year, and has forgotten how to hit. This isn’t the same drop that he experienced three years ago when he merely fell from beast-level to excellent. This is a drop that makes him look more like the current Albert Pujols than the old one who he sort of resembled.

HoME Outlook:
Miggy has been clearly above the HoME in/out line for a couple of years now. At this point we’re just talking legacy, and chances of getting into the inner circle. In April I was hopeful he’d rise as high at 8th at 1B before he hung ‘em up. Now I think not losing ground might be an accomplishment. Then again, he’s only going to be 35 next year, and it’s possible he’ll be injury-free in 2018. If he is, there’s still some reason to believe he can more closely resemble the 155 OPS+ player from 2016 than the 92 OPS+ player he was in 2017.

Joey Votto

2017 BBREF WAR: 7.5

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller:   26
Ahead of Jake Beckley, Mark McGwire, and Will Clark.
Trailing Bill Terry, Eddie Murray, and Dick Allen.

Eric: 21
Ahead of Eddie Murray, Mark McGwire, and Harry Stovey
Trailing Rafael Palmeiro, Miguel Cabrera, and Willie McCovey

Current career trajectory: With a deal that runs through age 40, Votto’s got some job security. On the other hand, he makes his living via old-player skills. Virtually all of his BBREF comps cratered in their 30s. On the other other hand, Votto seems like a very intelligent player who uses information in wise ways. He may age a little more gracefully if he adapts his game on the fly. Regardless, it’s not crazy at this juncture to imagine him finishing in the top ten among first basemen. Of course one’s mileage may vary depending on whether you consider Stan Musial, Rod Carew, and Ernie Banks first basemen.

HoME Outlook: Unless he starts churning out Pujols 2017 seasons for several years running, bronze awaits him.

Adrian Gonzalez

2017 BBREF WAR: -1.2

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller:   48
Ahead of Harry Davis, Don Mattingly, and Mark Grace.
Trailing Dolph Camilli, Joe Start, and Jack Fournier.

Eric: 45
Ahead of Paul Goldschmidt, Harry Davis, and Mark Grace
Trailing Orlando Cepeda, Joe Start, and Don Mattingly

Current career trajectory:
Next year he’ll be 36 with a bad back. His career trajectory is heading toward retirement.

HoME Outlook: He’s like Don Mattingly or Mark Grace or Carlos Delgado, a very nice player who we should never confuse with a Hall of Famer.

Paul Goldschmidt

2017 BBREF WAR: 5.8

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller:   52
Ahead of Pedro Guerrero, Rudy York, and Bill White.
Trailing Mark Grace, Don Mattingly, and Harry Davis.

Eric: 46
Ahead of Harry Davis, Mark Grace, and Dave Orr
Trailing Joe Start, Don Mattingly, and Adrian Gonzalez

Current career trajectory: Goldschmidt is in the midst of his peak years. There’s only one thing he on the field that’s below average at, and that’s avoiding double plays. He’s athletic and effectively turns those abilities into high-impact baseball. The player he reminds me most of is Jeff Bagwell who similarly could field, run, and hit like crazy.

HoME Outlook: Nine first basemen since the war have made the Hall of Miller and Eric. They averaged 35 BBREF WAR by age 28. Goldschmidt has earned that exact amount. Which guarantees nothing. Will Clark had earned 34 by that age and Orlando Cepeda 33. But none of the nine next highest 1Bs below the borderline topped Clark’s 34. In fact, they averaged 25. Goldschmidt is in the midst of assembling a fine peak and a very strong start, but unless your peak looks like Mike Trout’s, that’s only getting you so far. In fact, it gets you to the borderline but not much further. Just ask Clark or John Olerud. Goldschmidt needs to keep riding the crest of his peak then bank a lot of shoulder seasons to go with it. He seems likely to make it at this point, but we might have said the same for Don Mattingly and his 32 BBREF WAR at 28.

Freddie Freeman

2017 BBREF WAR: 4.5

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 93
Ahead of Mo Vaughn, Hal Chase, and Charlie Comiskey.
Trailing Prince Fielder, Joe Kuhel, and Bill Skowron.

Eric: 91
Ahead of Hal Chase and every other first baseman in history below Chase
Trailing Mo Vaughn, Bill Skowron, and Joe Kuhel

Current career trajectory: Freeman’s career isn’t dissimilar to Rafael Palmeiro’s at the same age. I wouldn’t bet on his duplicating Raffy’s stellar second decade in the game, but as a guy whose value bubbles just above but mostly just below All-Star level, that’s the map he’ll have to follow.

HoME Outlook: Hmmm. On one hand, his 27 BBREF WAR place between the average postwar HoME first baseman at age 27 and their nearest competitors just below the borderline. On the other hand, Freeman’s total is a couple marks below the HoME average, though well above the trailers’ average. Despite this he’s borderliners Clark and Cepeda. So far he appears to be on the long-and-low route. That’s a tough path that Jake Beckley, Gil Hodges, and Tony Perez fell short with. Importantly, we have yet to see evidence that Freeman can produce an MVP-level year. Let alone a couple or a few.

Anthony Rizzo

2017 BBREF WAR: 4.4

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 88
Ahead of Carlos Santana, Bill Skowron, and Joe Kuhel.
Trailing Bob Watson, Mike Napoli, and Kevin Youkilis.

Eric: 84
Ahead of Vic Wertz, Prince Fielder, and Roy Sievers
Trailing Joe Adcock, Bob Watson, and Ron Fairly

Current career trajectory: His comps are filled with dudes who fizzed in their 30s. Kent Hrbek, guys like that. But deeper down are some guys who lasted longer too. But they are borderliners like Olerud and Clark.

HoME Outlook: Another 27 year old, Rizzo falls into exactly the same spot that Freeman does in terms of his career so far vis a vis HoMErs and runners up. But Rizzo has bunched up several All-Star type seasons where Freeman hasn’t. With strong defensive chops, Rizzo could do a little better than some of his scarier comps (Jason Thompson, John Mayberry in addition to Hrbek). He’s amazingly durable, too. But as a hitter, if he’s a finished product, he’s going the Eddie Murray/Rafael Palmeiro route, which means he needs to be not only durable but have impressive longevity. Turning out an MVP-level year would really help us see his case more clearly and open up more paths to glory for him.

Mike Napoli

2017 BBREF WAR: -0.4

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 86
Ahead of Bob Watson, Anthony Rizzo, and Carlos Santana.
Trailing Kevin Youkilis, Mickey Vernon, and Roy Sievers.

Eric: 78
Ahead of Carlos Santana, Tino Martinez, and Joe Adcock
Trailing Phil Cavaretta, Kevin Youkilis, and Mickey Vernon

Current career trajectory:
Napoli will be 36 next season, and guys who are 36 don’t tend to fare too well. Does he have the 33 home runs in him that it will take to reach 300? Maybe.

HoME Outlook
I wouldn’t put my money on Mike Napoli getting into the Hall, but it’s not totally out of the question either, if he knows some of the guys on the selection committee, that is. Hall of Famers within five career WAR of Napoli through age-35 include Ross Youngs, Chick Hafey, Ray Schalk, Freddie Lindstrom, High Pockets, Kelly, Rick Ferrell, Lloyd Waner, and Deacon White. I suspect Napoli won’t get so lucky.

Carlos Santana

2017 BBREF WAR: 3.4

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 89
Ahead of Bill Skowron, Joe Kuhel, and Prince Fielder.
Trailing Anthony Rizzo, Bob Watson, and Mike Napoli.

Eric: 79
Ahead of Tino Martinez, Joe Adcock, and Bob Watson
Trailing Kevin Youkilis, Mickey Vernon, and Mike Napoli

Current career trajectory:
He’s never been a great player. That won’t likely turn around next year at age 32.

HoME Outlook:
Even if we decide to triple the HoME in size, he’s not going. At least that’s my prediction. There are a few all-time greats within five WAR of Santana at the same age. Of course, they’re special cases like Roy Campanella and Jackie Robinson. They’re middle infielders and catchers like Luke Appling and Ernie Lombardi. But maybe Santana could turn into Jim O’Rourke or Edgar Martinez if things work out a certain, almost impossible way. Like I said, he’s not going.

Second base is on its way Friday!



4 thoughts on “Year End HoME Roundup, 1B

  1. This article lends hope that a healthy Cabrera can go back to mashing:

    Do you guys see at least 1 of Goldschmidt/Freeman/Rizzo making it?
    Rizzo has the post-season narrative going for him.

    Posted by Ryan | October 16, 2017, 10:14 pm
    • I don’t know. The post-season stuff only helps when writers decide it does. See Schilling, Curt.

      Freeman will have to be a career candidate since his peak isn’t that great, and he’s entering his age-28 season. Rizzo is in just a shade better shape at the same age. And I don’t love the .228/.317/.423 post-season line. Then again, as you say, it’s narrative. Goldschmidt is two years older, but he has a shade more greatness in him than the other two. He reminds me a bit of Todd Helton or John Olerud. I think he’ll be close. However, as is the case for any player whose trajectory is pretty good but not amazing, I’ll take the under. Don Mattingly broke. Fred McGriff and Mark Teixeira pulled up short.

      Betting on each individually, I’d say “no”. As a group, I’m guessing one will emerge, though I put that at only about 60%. And I don’t really have a guess as to which one it will be.

      Posted by Miller | October 17, 2017, 1:28 am
    • Oh yeah. I’m bullish on Goldschmidt. He’s not far from bus-land. Freeman, I’m not very keen on. Too low a peak, so he’ll have to play forever. Rizzo is in between them, and he’s just another good first baseman until he rips off an 8 WAR kind of year or strings a few more All-Star seasons together. The battlefield at first base is littered with the bodies of guys who started out like Rizzo and Freeman.

      Posted by eric | October 18, 2017, 4:45 pm
  2. Thanks guys, I’m pulling for “Goldie,” seems like the consummate professional, I enjoyed seeing a 3 game series with my buddy in Arizona this year, what a treat to watch in person.

    Posted by Ryan | October 20, 2017, 8:40 am

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