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Miller has written 429 posts for the Hall of Miller and Eric

End of the Year HoME Roundup, Relievers

Kenley Jansen, 2017Spoiler alert. Relief pitching is quite valuable, relievers are not. They just don’t pitch enough innings.

You know who has a lot of value though? Guys in our other ten posts.

FIRST BASE | SECOND BASE | THIRD BASE | SHORTSTOP | LEFT FIELD |CENTER FIELD | RIGHT FIELD | CATCHER | LEFT-HANDED STARTER | RIGHT-HANDED STARTER |RELIEF PITCHER |

Aroldis Chapman
2017 BBREF WAR:
1.0

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 446
Ahead of Rudy May, Mark Baldwin, and Toad Ramsey.
Trailing Will White, Dick McBride, and Steve Renko.

Eric:  333
Ahead of Red Donahue, Paul Splittorff, and George Zettlein
Trailing Dick McBride, Adonis Terry, and Matt Kilroy

Current career trajectory:
He’s a Yankee for the next two seasons before his opt out clause, so it appears he’ll get some October exposure. That will make him appear more valuable than he really is. Whatever the case, he’s 29, and though his fastball hasn’t missed a beat over the last four seasons (still above 100 MPH), it’s not going to remain in that range forever. When he loses it, and he will, things may fall apart more quickly for him than for some.

HoME Outlook:
Through age-29, I put him behind Mariano, which is no surprise. Now if he can hang on at this level for another 12-15 years, things look decent for him. I don’t think you’ll need to check back in 12-15 years to figure out whether or not Chapman is going to be in the HoME.
—Miller

Kenley Jansen
2017 BBREF WAR:
3.0

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 421
Ahead of Dave Roberts, Jordan Zimmerman, and Mike Witt.
Trailing Bob Ojeda, Tiny Bonham, and Sam Gray

Eric: 316
Ahead of Jordan Zimmerman, Ken Hotlzman, and Bob Veale
Trailing Earl Moore, Mike Cuellar, and Allie Reynolds

Current career trajectory:
Kimbrel and Jansen are on the exact same pathway. Both just completed their age-29 seasons. They are the premier relievers in their respective leagues. They both had ERAs in the ones this year. They both strike out more guys than they face. OK, that last one’s a mild exaggeration. Everything we said about Kimbrel above applies to Jansen. The only difference between them is a small degree of run prevention, which is visible in Kimbrel’s 222 lifetime ERA+ and Jensen’s mere 183. But when you’re in Mo Land with your ERA+, does it really matter?

HoME Outlook:
Jansen, like Kimbrel, just has to keep pitching forever and throw down monster relief years if he wants to sniff the HoME. That’s how Mariano did it.
—Eric

Craig Kimbrel
2017 BBREF WAR:
3.6

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 376
Ahead of Kent Tekulve, Woody Williams, and Floyd Bannister.
Trailing Billy Rhines, Ervin Santana, and Juan Guzman.

Eric: 287
Ahead of Kevin Tapani, Hooks Dauss, and Harry Howell
Trailing Jim Devlin, Guy Hecker, Bill Hutchinson

Current career trajectory:
At 29 years old, Kimbrel had his best season in years. The K-rate spiked, the walk rate dipped, and the resultant 9:1 K/BB rate feels like something out of Earl Weaver Baseball. If there’s more of this in Kimbrell’s arm, he’s going to continue being one of the three most dominant relievers out there. Presumably he will do so for the Sox who hold an option on him for 2018, but he’ll get paid either way. By the way: 222 ERA+. Career.

HoME Outlook:
Part of the reason that I choose to evaluate relievers separately from all other players, and thus not rank them with other pitchers, is that their job description has changed more rapidly and more severely than even starting pitchers. Another reason is that they earn so little in comparison to other pitchers, even taking leverage into account. Kimbrell and Kenley Jansen are the cream of the crop among relievers right now. They’ve each pitched eight seasons, and their best seven nonconsecutive seasons add up to 23.8 and 20.2 of my reliever WAR. I jam together WAR and WPA to get this figure, so I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt. These two guys debuted around 2010. Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon, and K-Rod were the cream of the previous generation of closers. Their best seven seasons totaled 32.4, 29.5, and 27.7 of my reliever WAR. That’s a huge difference, on the order of 30–50 percent. Before them giants roamed the Earth, and the tallest were Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, and Billy Wagner. Their top seven years were worth 37.4, 29.5, and 27.8. We could go on, but I’ll spare you. So we see that the top closers earn less now in general in terms of value (according to my way of looking at it), and that the ceiling for that value has dropped considerably over time. This will make it extraordinarily difficult for today’s closer to get our vote. Relief pitching is valuable, relief pitchers are not.
—Eric

Joe Nathan
2017 BBREF WAR:
0.0

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 196
Ahead of Dan Haren, Bill Hutchinson, and Josh Beckett.
Trailing Claude Osteen, Jack Taylor, and Curt Davis.

Eric: 153
Ahead of Jon Matlack, Tom Candiotti, and Jack Powell
Trailing Jack Morris, Chief Bender, and Fernando Valenzuela

Current career trajectory:
Retirement.

HoME Outlook:
When Nathan was at his best, he was among the best ever. His WAR numbers are closer-like. His Win Probability Added is impressive though, and he slots right around Trevor Hoffman in that category. Should we reconfigure the HoME to include a bunch more relievers, he has a great shot. Of course, there’s very little chance we do so. Nathan retired as a Minnesota Twin. That’s cool if it makes both parties happy.
—Miller

Francisco Rodriguez
2017 BBREF WAR:
-0.9

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 250
Ahead of Paul Derringer, Matt Cain, and Billy Wagner.
Trailing Rube Marquard, Ed Morris, and Dan Quisenberry.

Eric: 14th among relievers
Ahead of Bill Dinneen, Bruce Sutter, Sadie McMahon
Trailing Lindy McDaniel, Thornton Lee, and Rick Rhoden

Current career trajectory:
Nearing the end. Remember when he broke the saves record that Bobby Thigpen once held? Wow! Wow!! Wow!!!

HoME Outlook:
ROTFL
—Eric

Huston Street
2017 BBREF WAR:
0.1

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 433
Ahead of Ron Reed, Ben McDonald, and Bill Singer.
Trailing Yu Darvish, Paul Splittorff, and Syl Johnson.

Eric: 312
Ahead of Earl Moore, Mike Cuellar, and Allie Reynolds
Trailing Charlie Ferguson, Jon Lieber, and Frank Killen

Current career trajectory:
Well, he’ll be 34 next season. He was injured throughout almost the entire 2017 campaign and was injured or bad throughout 2016. He’s headed nowhere fast.

HoME Outlook:
I suppose Street made our charts on the strength of a 1.97 ERA from 2012-2014. He probably shouldn’t have made it, and he has no shot of ever getting into the HoME.
—Miller

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End of the Year HoME Roundup, Righty Starters

Stephen Strasburg, 2017Lots of interesting cases among righty starters. Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Felix Hernandez all either have or could make interesting cases. There remains hope for the likes of Johnny Cueto, Yu Darvish, Corey Kluber,and Jake Arrieta. There’s also a world, not one that I like, where Bartolo Colon goes to the Hall one day.

Check out our other post-season updates.

FIRST BASE | SECOND BASE | THIRD BASE | SHORTSTOP | LEFT FIELD |CENTER FIELD | RIGHT FIELD | CATCHERLEFT-HANDED STARTER | RIGHT-HANDED STARTER |RELIEF PITCHER |

Jake Arrieta

2017 BBREF WAR:
1.9

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 393
Ahead of Ismael Valdez, Chris Bosio, and Frank Kitson.
Trailing A.J. Burnett, Rollie Fingers, and Carl Weilman.

Eric: 307
Ahead of Tex Hughson, Charlie Ferguson, ad Jon Lieber
Trailing Johnny Allen, Lee Meadows, and Jose Quintana

Current career trajectory:
The shine’s come off Arrieta since his monster Cy Young 2015 campaign. He follow on with a fine if not amazing year, and in 2017, he looked worse for the wear. He was more hittable, his walks stayed above his peak level, and he coughed up a lot of homers. The Cubs good defense keeps his run-prevention numbers from sinking too much, but he’s just a little above average right now and certainly no longer appears to be a stud.

HoME Outlook:
At 31, with one all-time season, one All-Star year, and lots of also-ran stuff, he’s going to need Randy Johnson’s thirties to get to the HoME.
—Eric

Matt Cain

2017 BBREF WAR:
-0.5

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller:   252
Ahead of Billy Wagner, Earl Whitehill, and Bobby Mathews.
Trailing Paul Derringer, Francisco Rodriguez, and Rube Marquard.

Eric: 222
Ahead of John Hiller, George Mullin, and Howard Ehmke
Trailing Bruce Sutter, Sadie McMahon, and Bump Hadley

Current career trajectory:
I’m an AL fan who lives on the east coast. Forgive me if I forgot he was still in the game. He hasn’t pitched 200 innings since 2012, so perhaps I can be excused.

HoME Outlook:
Three All-Star Games and three World Series rings will have to be enough.
—Miller

Bartolo Colon

2017 BBREF WAR:
-2.2

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller:   137
Ahead of Camilo Pascual, Mel Harderr, Javier Vazquez.
Trailing Addie Joss, Sam McDowell, and Jack Chesbro.

Eric: 118
Ahead of Javier Vazquez, Chris Sale, and Tommy Bridges
Trailing Jamie Moyer, Larry Jackson, and Brad Radke

Current career trajectory:
It’s cute how the contending Twins picked up a 44-year-old starter who had been just awful in 13 starts with the Braves. It’s cuter that he began his Minnesota career in Rochester. Continuing with the cuteness, he was bombed in his one start there before getting called up. And it’s unbelievable that he allowed more than four runs in just two of his 15 starts with the Twins, albeit with a stinky 5.18 ERA. Let’s hope your favorite team doesn’t try to get cute in 2018.

HoME Outlook:
While I’d take him over a handful of Hall of Famers, he’s never going to get to the HoME.
—Miller

Johnny Cueto

2017 BBREF WAR:
1.7

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller:   267
Ahead of Jouett Meekin, Danny Darwin, and Sonny Siebert.
Trailing Preacher Roe, Jim Barr, and Willis Hudlin.

Eric: 231
Ahead of Ed Morris, Bullet Joe Bush, ad Dave Foutz
Trailing Danny Darwin, Dutch Leonard (the First), and Howie Pollet

Current career trajectory:
You’d think The Barry Zito Experience would have warned the Giants off of long-term deals for veteran pitchers in their thirties. They got a really good year out of him in 2016, but 2017 had a Zitoesque flavor. Cueto wasn’t sharp at all, had forearm issues, and barfed up a hairball 93 ERA+. That’s still enough to be juuuuust to come out above average once we factor in the poor defensive support from the Frisco Fumblers, but it’s far from the ace-level pitcher we’ve seen in the past. Like many of the pitchers we’re profiling, there’s not sure way to know whether Cueto is slipping or simply had a lost year.

HoME Outlook:
He’s almost halfway to a HoME career. But is he more than halfway to done?
—Eric

Yu Darvish

2017 BBREF WAR:
3.8

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 432
Ahead of Huston Street, Ron Reed, and Ben McDonald.
Trailing Paul Splittorff, Syl Johnson, and Clarence Mitchell.

Eric: 327
Ahead of Dick Radatz, Mike Flanagan, and Dick McBride
Trailing Elton “Ice Box” Chamberlain, Will White, and Roy Face

Current career trajectory:
Losing the better part of two years to surgery dialed back our expectations for Darvish. On the other hand, he doesn’t appear to have lost much after returning. Assuming that Darvish wishes to stay in the states to finish his career, he’ll have plenty of suitors this year, and as a moderately flyball-oriented pitcher, he might want to take care to sign with a team with some serious flycatchers on its team and spacious dimensions. While I don’t think that the Rays (with the amazing Kevin Kiermeier) will pony up for Darvish, the Twins would represent an intriguing landing spot with Byron Buxton in centerfield. Provided the Twins want to spend a buck. The Red Sox with Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, and Andrew Benintendi also represent a great opportunity—especially since right field and right center would play to Darvish’s handedness. We know what Darvish is, he still has good stuff as he turns 31, and he has an outside shot. He’s had his injury already and has come back just fine, so he’s kind of the opposite of some of the other guys we’ve talked about already.

HoME Outlook:
But I’d still put his chances at between zero and two percent until further notice.
—Eric

Zack Greinke

2017 BBREF WAR:
6.3

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 51
Ahead of Luis Tiant, Red Ruffing, and Ted Lyons.
Trailing David Cone, John Smoltz, and Jim Bunning.

Eric: 40
Ahead of Rick Reuschel, David Cone, and Jim Bunning
Trailing Amos Rusie, Jim Palmer, and Bob Feller

Current career trajectory:
We might think of Grienke as a right-handed Cole Hamels with a more wildly fluctuating career. Grienke has led the league twice each in winning percentage, ERA, ERA+, and WHIP. He also led the league in losses in 2005 with the lowly Royals (kill the win!—and the loss!). He’d probably have a second Cy Young if not for Jake Arrietta’s wins total. On the other hand, he’s swung between average and amazing while Hamels is just really good all the time. But the net result is pretty similar, if a slightly in Grienke’s favor. He can hit pretty good as well, which bolsters his value a little bit. But at 33, he bounced back from an injury-plagued off year to throw down a 6 WAR season, and he’s at the point where simply accumulating slightly above average seasons will move him up people’s lists and eventually earn him his 200th win—which is like 250 in the parlance of the era I grew up in.

HoME Outlook:
For me, he’s a made man. For others he may be sitting very close to if not on the borderline.
—Eric

Felix Hernandez

2017 BBREF WAR:
0.8

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 103
Ahead of Mickey Lolich, Tony Mullane, and Carl Mays.
Trailing Tommy John, Cliff Lee, and Dizzy Trout.

Eric: 84
Ahead of Nap Rucker, Kenny Rogers, and Pud Galvin
Trailing Billy Pierce, Whitey Ford, and Roy Oswalt

Current career trajectory:
Better not to ask? 2017 sucked for King Felix who has become a mere commoner. Pitching like Felix Heredia and not Felix Hernandez isn’t good for one’s longevity. Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto is saying that Hernandez will be on pitch limit next year in an effort to keep him healthy and effective. Let’s hope it works, and that Felix doesn’t end up another data point for working young pitchers too hard.

HoME Outlook:
In one sense, Hernandez’s outlook is bright. He’s very close to the in/out line, and he likely needs just one or two seasons of above-average pitching to edge over it. In another sense, his ominous three-year slide and injury issues could indicate the end is very, very close, in which case, he’s in that gray area where a player might make it or might not, and, indeed, probably won’t.
—Eric

Corey Kluber

2017 BBREF WAR:
8.1

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 272
Ahead of Eddie Lopat, Ed Brandt, and Harvey Haddix.
Trailing Vern Law, Sonny Siebert, and Danny Darwin.

Eric: 263
Ahead of Slim Sallee, Sparky Lyle, and Harvey Haddix
Trailing James Shields, Jason Schmidt, and Mike Garcia

Current career trajectory:
He’s in the conversation for the best non-Kershaw pitcher in baseball, and he seems to just keep getting better. The K rate is up, the BB rate is down, the soft contact rate is up, and there are no signs of slowing down. Except that he’ll be 32 next year.

HoME Outlook:
I want to say that pitchers like Kluber don’t make the HoME because that’s generally true. No pitcher with as little value as Kluber through age 31 is in. However, Whitey Ford, Randy Johnson, Jim Bunning, Curt Schilling, and Three Finger Brown were all within three WAR of Kluber through age 31. That’s five of the 94 guys within three WAR. So I’d say he has about a 6% chance.
—Miller

John Lackey

2017 BBREF WAR:
1.1

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 204
Ahead of Tom Zachary, Sadie McMahon, and Virgil Trucks.
Trailing Trevor Hoffman, Ellis Kinder, and Milt Pappas.

Eric: 192
Ahead of Dutch Leonard I, Chris Carpenter, and Wild Bill Donovan
Trailing Bob Friend, Milt Pappas, and Sal Maglie

Current career trajectory:
At 38, Lackey’s career is nearly in the can. Did you know he’s third in career wins among active pitchers with 188 (tied with Justin Verlander? He averages about 12 a year, so if he has enough left to take 30 turns in a rotation and spin another 95 ERA+ probably gets him there. That is if the free agent signs with a decent team.

HoME Outlook:
He can get 200 and wins if he wants, but he won’t that won’t get him a HoME plaque.
—Eric

Jake Peavy

2017 BBREF WAR:
0.0

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller:   190
Ahead of John Candelaria, Curt Simmons, and Curt Davis.
Trailing Dutch Leonard (the older), Ray Caldwell, and Mark Gubicza.

Eric: 169
Ahead of Doc White, Smoky Joe Wood, and Dan Haren
Trailing Lefty Gomez, Bob Friend, and Al Orth

Current career trajectory:
Well, he didn’t pitch in 2017, so it’s not looking great. He says he’s going to come back though, and I suppose I’ll trust him on that.

HoME Outlook:
He hasn’t topped 2 WAR since he was 31. He’ll be 36 if he chooses to play next year (or if he doesn’t). Even if he does return, he’s not going to be a HoMEr.
—Miller

Max Scherzer

2017 BBREF WAR:
7.6

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 90
Ahead of Noodles Hahn, Babe Adams, and Whitey Ford.
Trailing Roy Oswalt, Burleigh Grimes, and Don Sutton

Eric: 91
Ahead of Wilbur Cooper, Mordecai Brown, and Cliff Lee
Trailing Tommy John, George Uhle, and Don Sutton

Current career trajectory:
Up, up, and away!!!

HoME Outlook:
If he got run over by a bus tomorrow, we’d have a hard case on our hands. Just below the line, but in that gray zone where he’d be worth a long look and could still make it, the same way Bucky Walters did. Another couple average years or one nicely above average year—doesn’t even have to be yet another Cy Young kind of year—and he’ll probably be over the line. Obviously, another big one, and he’s golden.
—Eric

Ervin Santana

2017 BBREF WAR:
4.8

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 374
Ahead of Billy Rhines, Craig Kimbrel, and Kent Tekulve.
Trailing Juan Guzman, Jimmy Callahan, and Mike Morgan.

Eric: 277
Ahead of Bob Ewing, Jack McDowell, and Deacon Phillipe
Trailing Gus Wehying, Bobby Shantz, and Larry Dierker

Current career trajectory:
Santana had an outstanding campaign in 2017, the second best of his career by WAR. Of course, he’s not really that good, and he’ll be 35 next year.

HoME Outlook:
Eric and I sometimes discuss how deep into the active player pool we should go on these posts. I think this is deep enough.
—Miller

James Shields

2017 BBREF WAR:
0.2

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller:   315
Ahead of Charles Nagy, Johnny Podres, and Bill Hands.
Trailing Earl Moore, Bill Sherdel, and Ed Killian.

Eric: 260
Ahead of Jason Schmidt, Mike Garcia, and Corey Kluber
Trailing Sid Fernandez, Firpo Marberry, and John Franco

Current career trajectory:
Remember when he was Big Game James? In retrospect, I don’t get it. In eleven post-season starts, he only once pitched over six innings with fewer than three funs allowed. Over his last 501 innings, he has a 4.92 ERA. He’s toast.

HoME Outlook:
Um, no.
—Miller

Stephen Strasburg

2017 BBREF WAR: 6.5

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 384
Ahead of Ice Box Chamberlain, Bronson Arroyo, and Bob Smith.
Trailing Wilson Alvarez, Scott Erickson, and Vean Gregg.

Eric: 293
Ahead of Kerry Wood, Bill Hands, and Tim Lincecum
Trailing Harry Howell, Jesse Haines, and Rollie Fingers

Current career trajectory:
Stras has still only eclipsed 200 innings once, but in today’s game, the 175 innings he threw in 2017 feels like 200. The leader in MLB threw 214. No, I’m serious. Only fifteen pitchers in MLB cleared 200 innings, less than one per team. Strasburg just finished his age-28 season, and he’s already had major surgery, but this time the Nats will use him in the playoffs. His 6.5 WAR went a little under the radar, maybe because all the early career hype didn’t seem to pan out, but that’s a Cy Young contender, and his first big breakout year. He enters 2018 with a career .651 winning percentage and averaging about 4.3 WAR per 200 innings. If we’ve just begun to see what peak Strasburg looks like, then the Nats will be dominating the NL East for years to come.

HoME Outlook:
If Strasburg’s peak is just beginning, then we may see him rack up value fast over the next three to five years and gain a lot of momentum for a run to the HoME. Or, 2017 is his career year and he returns to previous career levels, in which case, he’s another talented pitcher who didn’t end up making it.
—Eric

Justin Verlander

2017 BBREF WAR:
6.4

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 55
Ahead of Urban Shocker, Dave Stieb, and Red Faber.
Trailing Ted Lyons, Red Ruffing, and Red Ruffing.

Eric: 52
Ahead of Dennis Ecersley, Bret Saberhagen, and Johan Santana
Trailng Luis Tiant, Dave Stieb, and Urban Shocker

Current career trajectory:
His profile, which didn’t need to be enhanced, has been enhanced after an impressive post-season run. More importantly, he’s had two straight great years after it seemed his career was in decline. I’m not sure where he goes next. However, I don’t feel great about the increase in walk rate, and I really dislike the greatest hard contact rate of his career per Fangraphs. On the other hand, his heater was faster this year than it’s been since 2010. Verlander may be one of those special, special players who ages not just with grace, but with excellence.

HoME Outlook:
I really, really disliked Verlander after what I considered a ridiculous MVP Award in 2011. It was ridiculous insomuch as I don’t think pitchers should win MVP Awards. And the discussion of his “dominance” that year was crazily overblown. To be fair though, it would have been easy enough to call him the best player in the AL that year. Still, I’m a Red Sox fan, and Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia were awesome in 2011. His HoME outlook is that he’s in. The question is just one of where he winds up. Let’s pretend he finishes this seasons of 6, 4, 2, and 1 WAR. If he’s able to do so, he’s going to finish up between Jim Palmer and Juan Marichal. Very impressive!
—Miller

Adam Wainwright

2017 BBREF WAR:
0.8

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 163
Ahead of Murry Dickson, Jim Maloney, and Andy Messersmith.
Trailing Jeff Pfeffer, Tommy Bond, and Jose Rijo.

Eric: 143
Ahead of Bobo Newsom, Jesse Tannehill, Bob Shawkey
Trailing Ned Garver, Carly Mays, and Camilo Pascual

Current career trajectory:
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Amazing young pitcher going along great until an injury in his early thirties destroys his career. Wainwright’s yet another reason why it’s foolish to predict career paths for pitchers. He’s returned from surgery with very little stuff left. His command has diminished enough that his gopherball rate has skyrocketed, which in combination with modest decreases in his strikeout rate and a sharp increase in his walk rate certainly portend doom. He’s under contract to the Cards through 2018, at which point he’ll have completed his age-36 season. If he is now what he was last year, he won’t last too much past that…unless maybe he goes Eckersley. He started out that way after all.

HoME Outlook:
It’s not like he’s not within striking distance of the borderline, but without a couple more good seasons (as in at least 3 WAR), he’s got no shot. I’m rooting for him.
—Eric

Jered Weaver

2017 BBREF WAR:
-1.3

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 214
Ahead of Jon Papelbon, Madison Bumgarner, and Bruce Hurst.
Trailing Russ Ford, Mort Cooper, and Sad Sam Jones

Eric: 189
Ahead of Milt Pappas, Billy Wagner, and David Price
Trailing Andy Messersmith, Dan Quisenberry, and John Tudor

Current career trajectory:
Well, since he’s now retired he won’t lose any more ground, as he has over the last five years in total.

HoME Outlook:
No shot.
—Miller

End of the Year HoME Roundup, Lefty Starters

Clayton Kershaw, 2017, 2Welcome to the ninth of our eleven post-season player updates, this one on left-handed starters, or what I like to think of as an existential question. “Is Clayton Kershaw one of the best pitchers ever because of his outstanding start to open the World Series, is he diminished because of his Game 5 disaster, is he among the best ever because of his Game 7 relief performance, or maybe, just maybe should we focus on his 1935 regular season innings more than his 122 playoff innings?”

I know, tough one.

FIRST BASE | SECOND BASE | THIRD BASE | SHORTSTOP | LEFT FIELD |CENTER FIELD | RIGHT FIELD | CATCHER |  LEFT-HANDED PITCHER | RIGHT-HANDED PITCHER |RELIEF PITCHER |

Madison Bumgarner

2017 BBREF WAR:
3.4

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller:   216
Ahead of Bruce Hurst, Charlie Hough, and David Price.
Trailing Jon Papelbon, Jered Weaver, and Russ Ford.

Eric: 203
Ahead of Bruce Hurst, Wild Bill Donovan, and Charlie Leibrandt
Trailing Barry Zito, Sam Leever, and Lee Smith

Current career trajectory:
There’s some similarities between Bumgarner and Cole Hamels at this stage of their respective careers. Despite Bumgarner’s earlier debut, they had very similar winning percentage; their ERA+ through age 27 were within two points; their wins above average and WAR were also very, very close; and they each owned a great postseason run that brought their team a championship. A difference: Bumgarner is a great hitting pitcher, Hamels merely a good one. If Bumgarner does the same thing Hamels did through age 33, then I’ll be writing much the same thing about his career as I did elsewhere in this piece about Cole.

HoME Outlook:
Not bad, actually better than a couple years ago during his famous October run. Since then he’s tacked on a couple All-Star level seasons and an effective if injury-shortened 2017. He’s still just 27, and there’s a lot of mileage already on that left arm. Let’s hope he’s a genetic mutant without the weak-elbow-ligament gene that seems to effect pretty much every other pitcher except Nolan Ryan.
—Eric

Gio Gonzalez

2017 BBREF WAR:
6.4

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller:   343
Ahead of Lefty Stewart, Jesse Haines, and Sparky Lyle.
Trailing Lefty Tyler, Fred Hutchinson, and Nels Potter.

Eric: 271
Ahead of Earl Whitehill, Willis Hudlin, and Gus Wehying
Trailing Dean Chance, Jim Bagby, and Jack Taylor

Current career trajectory:
I had written off Gio after several medicore years, but 2017 put him back on my radar. In fact, it’s his career year. Or is it? Usually in a career year, we see players redlining their peripherals, playing at the top of their abilities. Not so with Gio. Instead, his readings all came out nearly dead on his career averages. Only two things varied from his norms. His hits-allowed rate was about a hit per inning lower than usual. It’s not like the Nats defense was anything special, so hard to pin it on defensive support, but overall his batting average on balls in play was .262 versus a career .299 BABIP. Just luck? Maybe not. The other component stat way out of whack with his career rate was a 33.9 percentage of strike outs looking. Gonzalez led the league in walks, so he’s obviously trying to work the edges of the zone, and he succeeded this year like never before as those backwards Ks showed. Is it possible that he’s found better command, and in turn is inducing weaker contact?

HoME Outlook:
Even if that weaker-contact scenario were true, Gonzalez has such a long way to go at age 31 that he’d have to repeat his 2017 season three more times before we got really serious about him as a candidate. For now, the safe money is on a fluky career year.        
—Eric

Cole Hamels

2017 BBREF WAR:
2.8

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 85
Ahead of Goose Gossage, Don Sutton, and Burleigh Grimes.
Trailing Wilbur Cooper, Chuck Finley, and Dwight Gooden.

Eric: 74
Ahead of Dwight Gooden, Eddie Cicotte, and Bucky Walters
Trailing Chuck Finley, Early Wynn, and Old Hoss Radbourn

Current career trajectory:
Injuries limited Hamels to 24 starts this year after being a lock for 30–32 of them for the better part of a decade. His strikeout rate was down and his walk rate up after his return. Whether that’s rust, age, or injury we won’t know until next year, but even slightly diminished, he remained a solidly above-average hurler. As he descends from his peak, expect more of the good-if-not-great kind of seasons as he increases his career totals and makes his case for immortality.

HoME Outlook:
He’s never been a stud, but Hamels has quietly turned in a great career so far. We are still, as a fanbase (self included), tuned into older ideas of dominance. We look at wins, we look for black ink, we look at big innings totals. Those are all great indicators in their way, but with 30 teams, 150 rotation slots, and starting pitchers taking an ever-decreasing share of innings, we need to be more conscious of run prevention and less conscious of markers of in-game durability. Wins and innings, for example. Hamels’ 147-102 (.590) record doesn’t jump off the page. He’s only led the league in anything twice (WHIP and shutouts). Yet he’s racked up a 124 ERA+, and he’s saved 292 runs more than an average pitcher. Those runs add up to 33.5 wins above average. That figure is 15th among all pitchers through age 33 since 1920. Better than Carl Hubbell, Bob Gibson, and Jim Palmer among others. They pitched more innings per annum, of course. But Hamels is still 25th over the last 100 years by age 33 in wins above replacement, which accounts for those bulk innings. I’ve got Hamels right on the current in/out line, and while your mileage may vary, it’s hard not to see a very clear path for him to the HoME.
—Eric

Clayton Kershaw

2017 BBREF WAR:
5.0

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 34
Ahead of Carl Hubbell, Joe McGinnity, and Old Hoss Radbourn.
Trailing Nolan Ryan, Kevin Brown, and Juan Marichal

Eric: 33
Ahead of Dazzy Vance, Kevin Brown, and Mariano Rivera
Trailing Roy Halladay, Nolan Ryan, and Wes Ferrell

Current career trajectory:
I’m as concerned about Kershaw as a reasonable person can be right now. He’s failed to pitch 200 innings in three of the last four years. Yes, he’s been his same other-worldly self when healthy – and arguably even better – but there’s going to be an injury one of these days that keeps Kershaw from being Kershaw. At age-30 next year, I really want to see 30+ starts. Even if he only maintains this year’s level for another three seasons, he’ll vault past the likes of Bob Feller and Jim Palmer. And one more after that will put him right about at the top two dozen ever. How great he winds up is going to be a function of health and desire to keep pitching.

HoME Outlook:
Oh, he’s so in.
—Miller

Jon Lester

2017 BBREF WAR:
1.0

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 153
Ahead of Catfish Hunter, Ned Garver, and Bill Donovan.
Trailing Bill Dineen, Al Spalding, and Nig Cuppy.

Eric: 129
Ahead of Steve Rogers, Addie Joss, and Mel Harder
Trailing Dennis Martinez, Claude Passeau, and Jim Kaat

Current career trajectory:
With three rings and more than 2300 innings on his arm, it wouldn’t be a real disappointment or surprise if Lester were nearing the end. He lost some heat off his fastball in 2017, which isn’t a good sign, but it’s not as if batters were squaring him up more than in the past. His hard contact was up from 2016, but his soft contact was up too. The incredibly durable Lester (at least 31 starts every year since 2008) should still have another season or two of 3+ WAR in him if he remains healthy.

HoME Outlook:
If I’m a betting man, I’d bet against. Of course, guys through age 33 within three career WAR of Lester who are in the HoME include Goose Gossage, Chuck Finley, Curt Schilling, Red Faber, Don Sutton, Jim Bunning, John Smoltz, and Mordecai Brown. There are many more examples of pitchers who didn’t make it though. And if we allow Lester seasons of 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 WAR the rest of his career, he still ends up about 10% short of the HoME, in league with guys like Babe Adams, Hippo Vaughn, and Mark Langston.
—Miller

David Price

2017 BBREF WAR:
1.8

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 222
Ahead of Rick Sutcliffe, Charlie Leibrandt, and Teddy Higuera.
Trailing Charlie Hough, Bruce Hurst, and Madison Bumgarner.

Eric: 192
Ahead of Chris Carpenter, Catfish Hunter, and Ellis Kinder
Trailing Jered Weaver, Milt Pappas, Billy Wagner

Current career trajectory:
Last season, Price pitched okay baseball. A little above average and never seemed quite at home as a Red Sox. This year, injuries limited him, but he pitched more effectively overall. He also quarreled with Sox color man Dennis Eckersley. At 31, Price finds himself at something of a crossroads. Will he return to form as a source of innings and high-quality run prevention? Will he return to form but only start 20–25 times a year? Will he have more years instead like 2016? Was 2017 the start of a physical decline that leads to a relatively early exit from the game? Or will he got the Smoltz route and pitch humdinger relief for a couple years as his body gets healthy again? I dunno, do you?

HoME Outlook:
Through age 29, the outlook looked good. After age 30, we could still see the destination up the long highway. Now, though, some fog has settled in between Price and the goal. He’s probably not halfway to a HoME career, and he’s about to turn 32. A lot needs to go right.
—Eric

Jose Quintana

2017 BBREF WAR:
2.2

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 416
Ahead of Bob Veale, Sam Gray, and Tiny Bonham.
Trailing Scott Sanderson, Jim Devlin, and Joe Horlen.

Eric: 306
Ahead of Jake Arrieta, Tex Hughson, and Charlie Ferguson
Trailing Jack Coombs, Johnny Allen, and Lee Meadows

Current career trajectory:
Both only 28 and already 28, there’s a lot that remains up in the air about Quintana’s direction. Is he the budding star from 2013 or 2016, or is he the solid citizen he’s been otherwise? His fastball velocity remains as acceptable as ever, though he used it less last year. To be honest, I’m not sure why. Or maybe I do know that. The heater was less effective, so he threw it less. The problem is I’m not sure why it was less effective. There’s something I’m missing, for sure. So his trajectory, at least for me, is a bit unclear. Check back in a year?

HoME Outlook:
There have been 50 pitchers within 2 WAR of Quintana through age 28. Hall of Famers and HoMErs include Goose Gossage, Ted Lyons, John Smoltz, Lefty Grove, and Red Ruffing. There are other excellent pitchers on the list including Tommy John and Mark Langston. We also see active players Stephen Strasburg, David Price, and Johnny Cueto on the list. While I’m not predicting a HoME-level career for Quintana, there are far more outlandish things I’m willing to do on virtually a daily basis. His career could be fun to watch unfold over the next decade. Or he could become Ben Sheets, Jim Barr, or Howie Pollet…
—Miller

CC Sabathia

2017 BBREF WAR:
2.8

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 65
Ahead of Dennis Eckersley, Orel Hershiser, and Johan Santana.
Trailing Bob Caruthers, Sandy Koufax, and Charlie Buffinton

Eric: 48
Ahead of Luis Tiant, Davie Stieb, and Urban Shocker
Trailing Don Drysdale, Juan Marichal, and Rube Waddell

Current career trajectory:
Sabathia put together a classic late-career season, the kind where an older pitcher with some linger physical issue can’t go every turn through the rotation, but when he can go, he’s a helpful contributor. At this point, Sabathia is ladling gravy onto an outstanding career.

HoME Outlook:
No question, he’s going to be one.
—Eric

Chris Sale

2017 BBREF WAR:
6.1

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 175
Ahead of Bob Welch, Sam Leever, and Al Leiter.
Trailing Frank Dwyer, Tom Candiotti, and Lefty Gomez.

Eric: 120
Ahead of Tommy Bridges, Sam McDowell, and Hoyt Wilhelm
Trailing Brad Radke, Bartolo, and Javier Vazquez

Current career trajectory:
Perhaps there’s some merit to the idea that the svelte Sale wears down toward the end of the season. His September ERA is half a run worse than his August ERA, which is half a run worse than all but one other month. On the other hand, he has his best K rate in August. September and May are tied for second. He does allow a .331 BABIP in September though. In only one other month is it inside 30 points of that number. And his homer rate is way up in the season’s final month, more than twice as high as three other months. Would it serve him well to put on a few pounds? I don’t know. I kind of don’t think so. He had another great season. It’s just that the Astros got to him a couple of times in the playoffs, even if he did have a 12:1 K-BB ratio in those two starts.

HoME Outlook:
I’m bullish on very few players who haven’t yet made their cases. There’s just so much that can go wrong, especially for pitchers. But Sale will be just 29 next season, and I could imagine a finish of 5, 5, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 WAR. If that happens, he’ll retire smack in between HoMErs Dennis Eckersley and Orel Hershiser. He is still far away, though a career-best campaign in 2018, which certainly isn’t out of the question would make me think very highly of his chances. At least for an active player who hasn’t yet made his case.
—Miller

End of the Year HoME Roundup, C

Buster Posey, 2017Position players come to a close today as we discuss catchers and their evolving candadicies as they strive toward the Hall of Miller and Eric. Please check out all of the positions we’ve reviewed in this series.

FIRST BASE | SECOND BASE | THIRD BASE | SHORTSTOP | LEFT FIELD |CENTER FIELD | RIGHT FIELD | CATCHER | RELIEF PITCHER | LEFT-HANDED PITCHER | RIGHT-HANDED PITCHER

Joe Mauer

2017 BBREF WAR:
3.4

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 15
Ahead of Ted Simmons, Ernie Lombardi, and Thurman Munson
Trailing Roger Bresnahan, Wally Schang, and Joe Torre

Eric: 13
Ahead of Roy Campanella, Thurman Munson, and Wally Schang
Trailing Mickey Cochrane, Charlie Bennett, and Joe Torre

Current career trajectory:
Mauer’s career reminds me a lot of George Sisler’s. Great, great player until head injuries (concussion for Mauer, sinusitis for Sisler), leads to a decline in their hitting abilities. But both have soldiered on into their thirties and continued as roughly average ballplayers, adding some bulk but little else to their careers. Mauer’s pact ends next year, and unless he craters in 2018, he’ll have some mild interest for a team that needs a steady but not amazing first baseman to support a core of great younger players. Like, maybe the Red Sox?

HoME Outlook:
He’s long been above the in/out line for me as something like the Mickey Cochrane of his generation. Though without the career-ending beaning.
—Eric

Yadier Molina

2017 BBREF WAR:
2.0

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 31
Ahead of Walker Cooper, Johnny Kling, and Victor Martinez.
Trailing Deacon McGuire, Russell Martin, and Darrell Porter.

Eric: 41
Ahead of Victor Martinez, Chief Zimmer, and Jocko Milligan
Behind Johnny Kling, Sherm Lollar, and Del Crandall

Current career trajectory:
Molina has never been as great a player as given credit for. He’s got two excellent seasons (2012 and 2013) and lots of seasons between 2 WAR and 3.5 or so. In other words, he’s mostly been an average or slightly above average player during his career. Since 2014, that description has been particularly apt, and it doesn’t seem as though we’ll see any change in that diagnosis.

HoME Outlook:
Being an average catcher for a long time is a neat trick, but it won’t get you our vote. It’s possible that information about his handling and framing might improve our disposition toward him, but how much more value is left in his body? Picking up ten more career WAR makes him look like Jason Kendall. Nuf sed.
—Eric

Russell Martin

2017 BBREF WAR:
1.5

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 29
Ahead of Deacon McGuire, Yadier Milina, and Walker Cooper.
Trailing Darrell Porter, Lance Parrish, and Buster Posey.

Eric: 25
Ahead of Bill Freehan, Mike Scioscia, and Jason Kendall
Trailing Ernie Lombardi, Buster Posey, Jim Sundberg, and Jorge Posada

Current career trajectory:
After a couple years of highly positive offensive performance (for a catcher), Martin’s bat has returned to about average, actually a little below. His defense has also regressed toward average. All of which makes him, quite average, actually. He’s had some injuries that appear to have sapped some of his power and batting average, but there’s enough pop and walks still left to keep him around. Martin’s high placement on my lists comes from information about the soft parts of the art of catching that Max Marchi researched before going off to become an MLB stats maven.

HoME Outlook:
Marchi’s data ends at 2011, which is sad for Martin fans. But even so, Martin is much closer to the in/out line than one could ever have imagined. He’s not yet a hidden Hall of Famer for me, but he’s in the Jim Sundberg class right now. Given his slide to averageness, I wouldn’t expect any more advancement up the rankings, which would leave him short of my vote.
—Eric

Buster Posey

2017 BBREF WAR:
4.0

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 26
Ahead of Lance Parrish, Darrell Porter, and Russell Martin.
Trailing Jack Clements, Jason Kendall, and Jim Sundberg.

Eric: 23
Ahead of Jorge Posada, Russell Martin, and Bill Freehan
Trailing Jim Sundberg, Tony Pena, and Ernie Lombardi

Current career trajectory:
After a terrible 2011 injury ended his season and changed contact at home plate as we knew it for all of baseball history, Posey returned in 2012 to become an elite catcher. While he’s not the super-stud of 2012, he’s still the best catcher in baseball. If you’re looking for inner circle status someday, you have to like that the Giants are happy to let him play some 1B. You also have to like that his rates are as solid as ever.

HoME Outlook:
It looks very, very good. There are eight catchers in baseball history within 5 WAR of Posey through their age-30 seasons. Every single one of them is in the HoME. A year like he had this year would put him past Bill Freehan and Roy Campanella for me. No, it’s not a certainty, but it’s as close as most backstops his age would ever be.
—Miller

Victor Martinez

2017 BBREF WAR:
-0.6

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 34
Ahead of Del Crandall, Sherm Lollar, and Cal McVey.
Trailing Johnny Kling, Walker Cooper, and Yadier Molina.

Eric: 42
Ahead of Chief Zimmer, Jocko Milligan, and Brian McCann
Trailing Sherm Lollar, Del Crandall, and Yadier Molina

Current career trajectory:
What a nice career – 2000+ hits, 1000+ driven in, an OBP title, five All-Star teams, and at least $122 million in his pocket. As a DH who can’t hit, he’s kind of done, posting negative WAR over his last three years. That’s okay though. It was a nice run.

HoME Outlook:
While I give him more 3-WAR seasons than a couple of guys, he’s not going, and he’s not too close.
—Miller

Brian McCann

2017 BBREF WAR:
1.2

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 41
Ahead of Ed Bailey, Mickey Tettleton, and Duke Farrell.
Trailing Rick Ferrell, Smoky Burgess, and Ray Schalk.

Eric: 45
Ahead of Rick Ferrell, Elston Howard, and John Clapp
Trailing Victor Martinez, Chief Zimmer, and Jocko Milligan

Current career trajectory:
His career trajectory hasn’t changed much this decade other than when you’re in the second half of the decade and still haven’t put up a season of over 2.8 WAR, you’re almost certainly not going to get there. McCann will be 34 next year, and though he should play like an old 34 since he’s been a starting catcher since he was 22, he’s not really showing age yet.

HoME Outlook:
We have to chart Brian McCann. Due to a long career behind the plate where he’s been pretty good, he’s one of the 50 best catchers ever, even if he doesn’t inspire a lot of excitement. Yes, the position is that that tough. He has a nice shot at 300 homers and 1100 runs batted in, which would make him one of just seven catchers to reach those levels. The other six are all very comfortably in the HoME. I guess that would make McCann the exception that proves the rule.
—Miller

Salvador Perez

2017 BBREF WAR:
2.5

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 60+
Ahead of nobody worth noting.
Behind everyone justifiably ranked.

Eric: 63
Ahead of all the other catchers
Trailing Rick Dempsey, Pop Snyder, and Ed Bailey

Current career trajectory:
Perez might be the best catcher in the AL right now. Which may be praise by damn feinting. But he’s in the midst of his prime now and has been durable by catcher standards. He’s quite the free swinger but the power plays and so does the defense. As he enters his age 28 season, if he picked up that “old player skill” of drawing the occasional walk, he’ll end up much better than Benito Santiago with whose career, I sense a kindred spirit in Perez’s.

HoME Outlook:
Not drawing walks is a terrible way to get to the HoME because it sucks away your offensive value. But Perez’s hitting is just a little below average despite that thanks to the power. He’s earned 19 WAR thorugh age 27, which is half way between what postwar HoME catchers average and what HoME runners-up catchers average. From here, the HoMErs average a gain of five WAR a year for the next three years, then three a year from age 31 to 32, then it’s dribs and drabs. The runners-up average an increase of three WAR a year through age 33, two a year at 33 and 35, then little else. Perez has been about a three-win player over his career. If his old-guy skills emerge and he draws 10 more walks and hits three to five more homers a year, he could make a very interesting case for himself. Catchers are said to bloom late as hitters, so don’t write off his long-shot odds quite yet.
—Eric

We start looking at pitchers, specifically relievers, on Monday.

The Modern Baseball Ballot, A Miller and Eric Conversation

Murphy, Garvey, ParkerMiller: Okay, so we’re off to the races in our 2018 Hall of Fame coverage with the Modern Era ballot that includes Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Marvin Miller, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons, Luis Tiant, and Alan Trammel.

Despite being so frustratingly predictable, I don’t hate the ballot. I can support four of the guys Miller, Trammell, Tiant, and Simmons), and it would be less than devastating if another got in (John).

What do you think?

Eric: As usual, it’s the lack of imagination that bothers me about this ballot. As Jay Jaffe reported in The Cooperstown Casebook, the first questions these folks ask is “How did he do in the BBWAA voting?” So we end up with people who got votes there and nothing for Bobby Grich, Dave Stieb, and Lou Whitaker (among others). Grich would be the best player on this ballot and not by a little. Whitaker would vie with Trammell for the second best. Yeah, I can support several of these fellows, but the bigger issue is that other than Trammell and Miller, they aren’t the best choices from the available consideration set, and none of them is the best available player.

Miller: So I’m usually the one in this conversation who finds the positive, and I can certainly find the positive in this ballot, but I’m actually angry. You say there’s a “lack of imagination”. I think it’s a combination of laziness, stubbornness, and stupidity. Dave Parker is Tim Salmon. He’s Jesse freakin’ Barfield. There’s no excuse for having him on the ballot. And Garvey is even worse. He’s Kent Hrbek. He’s Derrek Lee. I understand why Mattingly, Murphy, and Morris are on the ballot. I may not like it, but I understand it. It’s just awful that Garvey and Parker are there.

Trammell and MorrisBrian Kenny, who I normally like well enough, tweeted yesterday about Steve Garvey, and it made my blood boil. He said it’s not nothing that Garvey slugged .550 across 11 post-season series. He’s right, it’s not nothing, but it’s sooooo close to nothing. I care much less about 232 plate appearances in the playoffs than I do about 9466 during the regular season. And if you’re trying to craft a post-season argument, I might want to point out that his World Series slugging percentage is  .407 in 118 plate appearances.

Eric: Yeah, I was Don Mattingly’s biggest fan as a Little Leaguer playing first base in Orange County, New York as kid. But even I can’t see how he has any business on this ballot. At all. He’s not the best first baseman of this epoch available. Actually, let’s take a moment and ask ourselves who the best available at each position are in this era (we’ll take a few pitchers). For me:

Catcher: Thurman Munson
First Base: Keith Hernandez
Second Base: Bobby Grich (apologies to Lou Whitaker)
Third Base: Buddy Bell
Shorststop: Alan Trammell
Left Field: Roy White
Centerfield: Reggie Smith
Rightfield: Dwight Evans
Pitcher: Rick Reuschel, Luis Tiant, Dave Stieb

They got two players out of the 11 I’ve named. What about you?

Miller: I agree with you in all of those areas, and I’ll take Darrell Evans, Graig Nettles, and Bobby Bonds too. All are better than the weak six on the ballot.

But let me circle back to the lack of imagination or laziness. I’ve been saying for a number of years that the voters are improving. And when the BBWAA elects deserving players in large numbers, I can hold to that claim. But now we have these Era Committees just plucking from the BBWAA also rans rather than looking for the best candidates from the era, so we could have many years to come when the Hall opens its doors to players the analytics community would never endorse.

Yeah, I’d absolutely love it if Alan Trammell and Marvin Miller got plaques next summer, but we both know that’s not going to happen. What I fear will happen is…

Eric: …AJackalypse Now? Day of the Jackal? The Accidental Morris? You know, Rob Neyer said this, and I think it’s true. The number one constituency of the Hall is not fans, nor historians, nor BBWAA members, nor even MLB. It’s Hall of Famers. If the Hall of Famers don’t show up and don’t take the honor seriously then the place becomes just another museum, and one that’s inconveniently located at that. So the Hall will likely never stop engaging Hall members to do something they are only partially qualified for. They’ve reformed the VC 723 times, and each time there’s one constant: Hall members do the voting. It’s true that other kinds of electors do as well. They tend to be either the lousy BBWAA voters who got us here (euphemistically called “historians”), former players in other roles, or Steve Hirdt, the big cheese from Elias Sports Bureau, the official statistics provider of MLB. The screening committee that assembles the ballot is heavy on “historians” and light on actual, you know, historians. As much as I’ve been impressed by the BBWAA’s steps toward a better balloting system, the VC is stuck in the mud.

Miller: You and Rob aren’t wrong about the players. And you’re not wrong about Jack Morris. But so, so many people are. Let me say the following to those people.

We often hear Jack Morris called the pitcher of the ‘80s. And that’s pretty much true if you think the most important measuring sticks are wins, opening day starts, perceived toughness, or moustache size. We don’t, but enough ex-players do, I fear.

So to attack their silly argument, what I did was try to define the best pitcher of the 80s. If you define “best” as the most wins or innings, yes, it’s Jack Morris. Of course, Morris also had the third most losses. I like WAR, though some may not, so I checked out ERA+ and FIP for pitchers with at least 1000 innings. ERA+, as you know, basically measures ERA while leveling the playing field for park and era. FIP is fielding independent pitching. Basically, that focuses on what a pitcher can control (HR, BB, HBP, and K) and puts that number on an ERA scale. For the decade of the 1980s, Morris is tied with Steve Carlton for 30th in ERA+. Remember, Carlton posted an actual ERA of 4.64 from 1984 on. Morris also trails mediocrities like Britt Burns, Bob Stanley, Bud Black, Danny Darwin, and Bryn Smith. In FIP, Morris is even worse. He’s tied with Ed Whitson as the 67th best pitcher in the decade who threw over 1000 innings. Larry McWilliams was better. So were Dave LaPoint and Mike LaCoss. And I’m only picking out pitchers with a capital letter in the middle of their name! Part of the problem is that Morris gave up more homers in the decade than anyone else. He also led all of baseball in wild pitches, more than the notoriously wild Nolan Ryan or knucklers Joe Niekro and Charlie Hough. And his K/BB ratio was worse than more than half of pitchers who threw 1500 innings in the decade. Morris fans should actually love it when detractors look at WAR, because he’s actually eighth in the decade by that measure. There’s no non-ridiculous measure that makes him look better.

What’s more, the 1980s weren’t a good era for pitchers. Seaver, Carlton, Palmer, Niekro, Ryan, Blyleven, Perry, and Jenkins were at their best in the 70s. Clemens, Maddux, Johnson, and Pedro were pitchers of the 90s. The competition Morris has is a lesser version of Blyleven and Ryan, both of whom beat him even in their lesser states. He also has to deal with Dave Stieb, who crushes him. And Bob Welch, Fernando Valenzuela, John Tudor, and Charlie Hough all beat him too.

Many Morris backers want a great postseason pitcher. Okay then, who do you prefer?

Pitcher 1: 5-1 record, 1.98 ERA
Pitcher 2: 7-4 record, 3.80 ERA

It’s not even close. What if I told you Pitcher 1 also had more WAR than Morris in the 1980s and that all of his post-season pitching was in the 1980s? And that he’s also eligible for this ballot? Who would you vote for, Jack Morris or Fernando Valenzuela?

Luis Tiant, Tommy JohnIf you still say Morris, it’s because you’ve disregarded your own arguments. And maybe you want to look at career value now.

Okay, Morris beats Fernando in career WAR 44.1 to 42.1. Great! Now you can vote for Morris over Fernando. However, if you want to bring in career WAR, there are 81 pitchers not in the Hall of Fame who had a higher career WAR than Jack Morris. Luis Tiant and Tommy John are two of them, by the way.

There’s no logical way you can slice it where Jack Morris isn’t a terrible selection.

 

Eric: Furthermore, he wouldn’t even have the best facial hair in the Hall. Rollie Fingers’ STASH+ kills everyone because he sported his famous handlebar in an era when they were exceedingly rare. He dominated his time like no one else in big league history. Between about 1890 and Fingers’s own career, basically no one had facial hair. But before the 1890s, everybody had it, lowering their STASH+ dramatically. Fingers stood like a giant among pipsqueaks. Even so, Morris wouldn’t rank second. I’d take Eddie Murray’s chops-connecting-to-stash look any time. Your mileage may vary, but I’d also rank both Goose Gossage’s and Gorman Thomas’ fu manchus above Jack’s Scottish broom. But all kidding aside we’ve both flogged this particular equine corpse into a pulp of slushy gore over the years, but here’s a comparison that really casts doubt on Morris’ electability on this ballot:

PITCHER A: 254-186 (.577), 3824 IP, 3.90 ERA, 105 ERA+, 2478 K, 1390 BB, 389 HR, 43.8 WAR, 0 Cy Youngs, 5 All-Star Games

PITCHER B: 288-231 (.555), 4710 IP, 3.34 ERA, 111 ERA+, 2245 K, 1259 BB, 302 HR, 62.3 WAR, 0  Cy Youngs, 4 All-Star Games

We all know that A is Morris. And you’ve likely spotted that B is Tommy John. If you took away the voting percentages and just looked at these stat lines, this wouldn’t be a contest, right? TJ has the edge on Morris in too many places across the board to make a convincing argument that Morris is the best pitcher on this ballot or that he is worth a vote and TJ isn’t. Then, you look at Tiant versus Morris and all hell breaks loose in Jacktown.

Miller: So how does this play out?

If I had my druthers, four guys would get in: Miller, Simmons, Tiant, and Trammell. If I could have three, it would be Miller, Tiant, and Trammell. If just two, it would be Miller and Trammell.

But I don’t think I’m getting what I want here. I think Jack Morris will be the only one to get in. And I think he’ll share the stage with another unqualified pitcher, Trevor Hoffman, next summer. So 2018 will be the first time since Kirby Puckett and Bill Mazeroski that two abjectly unqualified players will be inducted into the Hall. And frankly, I can squint just right and accept Puckett. Going back to Lou Brock and Hoyt Wilhelm in 1985, I still dislike the potential of 2018 more. So for me, we have to go back to 1984 when Luis Aparicio and Rick Ferrell got their plaques that the Hall did a worse job. A third of a century.

Makes a guy who’s been defending Hall voters for a few years look really silly.

Eric: If for some bizarre reason, the VC should elect two people, we could be set up for a massive 2018 Hall class. Let’s say it’s Morris and Miller from the VC. Hoffman and Vlad Guerrero are above the 70% mark and virtual shoe-ins (just ask Craig Biggio!). Newcomer Chipper Jones will sail on in, and Jim Thome has a very strong shot as well. A six-person class isn’t way out there in dreamland. That said, Morris and Hoffman are terrible and Guerrero is borderline. I’m great with Jones and Thome, but unless the sixth guy were Trammell, Tiant, Simmons, or Miller, this will be ugly. On the other hand, I welcome the chance to elect five or six players to the Hall of Miller and Eric!

Miller: Agree with you there. The Modern Baseball Committee votes at the Winter Meetings on December 10. Tune in soon after that to hear us laud or lament.

End of the Year HoME Roundup, RF

Mookie Betts, 2017Today we finish our post-season evaluation of active outfielders with right field. Let’s consider the chances these guys ultimately reach the Hall of Miller and Eric. And please take a look at our analysis of other positions in this series.

FIRST BASE | SECOND BASE | THIRD BASE | SHORTSTOP | LEFT FIELD |CENTER FIELD | RIGHT FIELD | CATCHER | RELIEF PITCHER | LEFT-HANDED PITCHER | RIGHT-HANDED PITCHER

Ichiro Suzuki

2017 BBREF WAR:
-0.3

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 23
Ahead of Bobby Abreu, Vlad Guerrero, and Reggie Smith.
Trailing Sammy Sosa, Dave Winfield, and Harry Hooper.

Eric: 17
Ahead of Gary Sheffield, Dave Winfield, and Harry Hooper
Trailing Bobby Bonds, Willie Keeler, and Sammy Sosa

Current career trajectory:
Will the Fish bring him back? Will anyone?

HoME Outlook:
He’s a made man.
—Eric

Jose Bautista

2017 BBREF WAR:
-1.7

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 47
Ahead of Dixie Walker, Roger Maris, and Darryl Strawberry
Trailing Rusty Staub, Paul O’Neill, and Jose Canseco

Eric: 45
Ahead of Jose Canseco, Paul O’Neill, and Dixie Walker
Trailing Rocky Colavito, Gavvy Cravath, and Ken Singleton

Current career trajectory:
A year ago, I thought Bautista had something left. I guess I was wrong. He turned 36, and his K rate went crazy. The Jays absolutely should decline his option this winter, though I’d give him another shot if I needed a DH and bench bat.

HoME Outlook:
Bautista got a late start and put in a really good run. Trying to make an interesting case, he has as many 5-win seasons as Dave Winfield. On the other hand, Winfield is still above 3 WAR when Bautista is below replacement level. He’s not going to the Hall, but a guy who ranks ahead of Roger Maris, Kirk Gibson, and others certainly can be proud of his career.
—Miller

Shin-Soo Choo

2017 BBREF WAR:
1.1

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 64
Ahead of Reggie Sanders, Juan Gonzalez, and Nelson Cruz.
Trailing Giancarlo Stanton, Tommy Henrich, and Magglio Ordonez.

Eric: 64
Ahead of Rossy Youngs, Tommy Henrich, and Nelson Cruz
Trailing Magglio Ordonez, David Justice, and Roger Maris

Current career trajectory:
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Choo got a late start to his career. He had some very nice years, but he wasn’t quite great enough or anywhere near healthy enough. Sure, Choo was healthy last year, but he’s no longer a plus bat. His power is diminishing little by little, and last year he increased his ground balls. Not a good sign. If he weren’t signed for three years and $62 million, I’d say he’d be in for a reduced role in 2018.

HoME Outlook:
There’s not a shot unless he adopts the Jim O’Rourke or Deacon White path. Yeah, he needs another decade with reasonable production, which absolutely isn’t going to happen.
—Miller

Nelson Cruz

2017 BBREF WAR:
4.1

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 66
Ahead of Ross Youngs, Harold Baines, and Bob Allison.
Trailing Juan Gonzalez, Reggie Sanders, and Shin-Soo Choo.

Eric: 67
Ahead of Bobby Allison, Juan Gonzalez, and Reggie Sanders
Trailing Shin-Shoo Choo, Ross Youngs, and Tommy Henrich

Current career trajectory:
There’s no figuring some guys. Cruz was a failed prospect until he wasn’t. He took the AL by storm at the end of 2008 and became a star in 2009 at the age of 28. By 2011, he seemed done, posting just 4.2 WAR over three seasons. Since then, he’s been excellent for four years, averaging over 4.5 WAR per. He’ll be 37 next year, but I’m not going to count him out. That’s because he increased his fly ball rate in 2017. At the same time he had his career-best full season walk rate, and his whiffs dipped.

HoME Outlook:
Remember back in December of 2014 when the Mariners signed him to a foolish contract of four years and $57 million? Yeah, I thought you’d conveniently forgotten that. I know did. In any case, much like Bautista and Choo, Cruz got started too late. Unlike them, he can still rake. I could see him getting to the Jose Canseco, Paul O’Neill, Rusty Staub level, but not the HoME.
—Miller

Jason Heyward

2017 BBREF WAR:
2.3

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 73
Ahead of Bobby Murcer, Brian Jordan, and John Titus.
Trailing Ken Griffey, Orator Shafer, and Bob Allison.

Eric: 71
Ahead of Bobby Murcer, Riggs Stephenson, and Ken Griffey, Sr.
Trailing Bob Allison, Juan Gonzalez, and Reggie Sanders

Current career trajectory:
Don’t tell anyone, but Jason Heyward can’t hit. He has just 13 Rbat since amassing 32 as a rookie in 2010. He’s good to excellent at everything else, but unless he can find a swing that’s been missing all decade we’re looking at just another guy. On the plus side, he’s cutting those strikeouts. A minus is that he’s cutting the walks too. And he certainly isn’t part of the launch angle revolution. He’s just 28 next season though, so at least there’s time.

HoME Outlook:
Hall of Famers with about Heywards WAR through age-27 include Joe Cronin, Mike Schmidt, Lou Boudreau, Roberto Alomar, and George Sisler. That’s some impressive company. On the other hand, those guys weren’t just so-so from 26 to 27. Still, if he plays until he’s 40 and totals just 2 WAR per year, he’ll retire in league with Dave Parker and Chuck Klein, which isn’t so bad. If he rediscovers All-Star form for three years and then slaps together a bunch of 2-win years, he’s right around Sam Thompson and Enos Slaughter. In other words, he’s just barely out. I want to give him a year or two to see if he can rediscover his bat.
—Miller

Giancarlo Stanton

2017 BBREF WAR:
7.6

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 63
Ahead of Shin-Soo Choo, Reggie Sanders, and Juan Gonzalez.
Trailing Tommy Henrich, Magglio Ordonez, and Roy Cullenbine.

Eric: 58
Ahead of J.D. Drew, Orator Shafer, and Magglio Ordonez
Trailing Carl Furillo, Wally Moses, and Kirk Gibson

Current career trajectory:
He didn’t get to 60 home runs this season, so… More seriously, Stanton showed us what he can do if he’s completely healthy. He’s the same age as Heyward and looking like he’s getting better – walking more and striking out less. But beware the huge spike in grounders. Yep, more grounders. But when he hits it in the air, it goes a long way. There are two things that will direct his career going forward, his health and his home park. While WAR will adjust for park effects, it would be pretty fun to see what he would do in Baltimore or Boston.

HoME Outlook:
He’s still awfully young to feel good about. On the other hand, he’s averaging about 1 WAR every 25 games for the last four years. If he can keep that up for the next four and play 150 games per year, he’ll be above the HoME line. In fact, I’d rank him ahead of four HoME right fielders. I could see a scenario where he finishes ahead of King Kelly as the ninth best RF ever. There’s a long way to go, but it’s totally possible.
—Miller

Bryce Harper

2017 BBREF WAR:
4.7

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 81
Ahead of Jackie Jensen, Chicken Wolf, and Mookie Betts.
Trailing Vic Wertz, Jim Fogerty, and Hank Bauer.

Eric: 79
Ahead of Jim Fogarty, Jackie Jensen, and Tommy McCarthy
Trailing Justin Upton, Hank Bauer, and John Titus

Current career trajectory:
Harper is among the more enigmatic players in the game. Light-tower power, hustle, pretty good glove, can-do attitude, lots of walks. On the other hand, he misses about 35 games a year, and those injuries seem to affect his hitting. The one year it all came together we witnessed a generational talent’s greatest moment. But outside of that, teasing frustration. Still, in all, dude’s got 26 career WAR at age 24. Unless his body completely falls apart, he’s going to have some healthy seasons. But even so, the Larry Walker path to career stardom has its rewards.

HoME Outlook:
How many postwar HoME rightfielders popped out 26 BBREF WAR by age 24? Three: Al Kaline (33.3), Henry Aaron (29.9), and Frank Robinson (29.7). None of them had the inconsistency that Harper has shown on a year-to-year basis, and all of them were somewhat more valuable than Harper. It’s a pretty strong indication, however, of his special talent. His peak is still to come.
—Eric

Justin Upton

2017 BBREF WAR:
5.6

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 77
Ahead of Hank Bauer, Jim Fogerty, and Vic Wertz.
Trailing John Titus, Brian Jordan, and Bobby Murcer.

Eric: 76
Ahead of Hank Bauer, John Titus, and Bryce Harper
Trailing Riggs Stephenson, Ken Griffey, Sr., and Brian Jordan

Current career trajectory:
Who is Justin Upton? The All-Star player with speed, power, and a glove? Or the slightly better than average guy whose early-career performance hasn’t turned into the annual MVP candidate we’d all hoped for? At twenty-nine years old, we can say with some certainty, that he’s a guy who tops out as an All-Star and bottoms out as an average right fielder. That’s a nice player to have on the roster, and it’s a guy who even has a sneak chance at 500 homers and 3000 hits thanks to his early start. His comps include some really solid HoMErs, but also Greg Luzinski and Ruben Sierra. He could have a long career with his broad skill set, but he’s more Tony Perez or Rusty Staub than Yaz or Frank Robinson.

HoME Outlook:
Not nearly as good as you might think given his career totals at age 29.
—Eric

Mookie Betts

2017 BBREF WAR:
6.4

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 84
Ahead of Tommy McCarthy, Frank Schulte, and unranked guys.
Trailing Chicken Wolf, Jackie Jensen, and Bryce Harper.

Eric: 83
Ahead of the rest of right fielding history
Trailing Jim Fogarty, Jackie Jensen, and Tommy McCarthy

Current career trajectory:
Terrible BABIP luck hurt Betts’s batting average this year, and his home run power dipped a bit thanks to some hand and wrist issues. He nonetheless managed 46 doubles, boosted his walk rate by two-thirds, and still ran the bases like prime Willie Mays. Fly balls enter Fenway’s right-field event horizon when they fly over the spot where the infield dirt turns into outfield grass. Everything thereafter is inextricably drawn to the black hole in the pocket of Betts’ glove. Plus he’s got a pretty good arm. All of this means that the Sox have apparently discovered how to combine the DNA of Dwight Evans and Barry Larkin in a single player. Sox fans, treat him well and hope that he loves the town so much he signs a long-term deal.

HoME Outlook:
After something of a dry spell, right field may have entered a glory time. Let’s run a list similar to the one that I mentioned in my commentary on Bryce Harper. This is every rightfielder since the war who earned 20 or more BBREF WAR through age 24:

  1. Al Kaline: 33.3
  2. Hank Aaron: 29.9
  3. Frank Robinson: 29.7 (though he was a left fielder at this time in his career, he ended up playing more games in right field in his career)
  4. Bryce Harper 26.0
  5. Jason Heyward: 24.6
  6. Stan Musial: 24.1 (or you could call him a left fielder…or a first baseman)
  7. Mookie Betts: 24.0
  8. Giancarlo Stanton: 21.3

That’s it. There’s not a retiree on this list you wouldn’t consider an automatic Hall of Anythinger. Plus three young guys who appear well on their way. Plus Jason Heyward whose inability to continue as a top flight player is as inexplicable as it is frustrating. So Betts’ outlook is pretty damned rosy at this point. For what it’s worth at age 24.
—Eric

We finish up position players on Friday with the catchers.

End of the Year HoME Roundup, CF

Mike Trout, 2017Continuing down the road with our post-season evaluation of active major leaguers, today we move to center field. What are the chances Mike Trout and others eventually get elected to the Hall of Miller and Eric? Read on to find out. And please check out our analysis of other positions in this series.

FIRST BASE | SECOND BASE | THIRD BASE | SHORTSTOP | LEFT FIELD |
CENTER FIELD | RIGHT FIELD | CATCHER | RELIEF PITCHERS | LEFT-HANDED PITCHERS | RIGHT-HANDED PITCHERS

Carlos Beltran

2017 BBREF WAR:
-0.4

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller:   12
Ahead of Kenny Lofton, Duke Snider, and Mike Trout.
Trailing Andruw Jones, Jim Edmonds, and Paul Hines.

Eric: 10
Ahead of Paul Hines, Mike Trout, and Andruw Jones
Trailing Billy Hamilton, Rich Ashburn, and Jim Edmonds

Current career trajectory:
Beltran’s career could be over after a lousy 2017 campaign.

HoME Outlook:
But what a great career it is/was. He’s one of the greatest base stealers of all time with an 86% success rate in 361 attempts. He’s hit nearly 450 homers, collected 2725 hits, poled 565 doubles and 78 triples and walked 1084 times. He even leads all active players in sacrifice flies for Pete’s sake. Defensively, until his legs gave out in his early thirties, Beltran played plus defense and sometimes plus-plus defense. About the only thing he couldn’t do was pitch, though he never tried in a game. For years, concerned sabrmetric citizens bemoaned a likely shunning by the writers, but his longevity and several blistering post-season series have made that outcome unlikely. Then again, HoME-wise, he’s been a made man since somewhere between 2008 and 2010.
—Eric

Mike Trout

2017 BBREF WAR:
6.7

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller:   15
Ahead of Jimmy Wynn, George Gore, and Max Carey.
Trailing Duke Snider, Kenny Lofton, and Carlos Beltran.

Eric: 12
Ahead of Andruw Jones, Kenny Lofton, and Duke Snider
Trailing Jim Edmonds, Carlos Beltran, and Paul Hines, and none of them for long

Current career trajectory:
No one is like Mike Trout. He’s doing things that only guys with names like Cobb, Mantle, and Mays do. Assuming he’s still MIKE TROUT in 2018, he could conceivably pass Billy Hamilton and Ken Griffey, Jr., in my personal rankings. In just 4700 or so PAs. Extreme? These three all have basically the same seven-year peak after all of my adjustments: 52–54 WAR. But because Trout has only played for seven years, we’re including his 135-PA 2011 season, and the 0.5 WAR my system spits back for it. So if Trout has merely a 7.0 WAR season next year, then his peak will be not 53 WAR but 60. Here’s the list of guys who in my system have assembled a 60+ WAR seven-year peak (nonconsecutive):

  1. Babe Ruth: 85
  2. Rogers Hornsby: 77
  3. Ty Cobb: 76
  4. Ted Williams: 76
  5. Willie Mays: 74
  6. Barry Bonds: 72
  7. Nap Lajoie: 72
  8. Tris Speaker: 71
  9. Honus Wagner: 69
  10. Stan Musial: 68
  11. Lou Gehrig: 68
  12. Eddie Collins 67
  13. Mickey Mantle: 66
  14. Hank Aaron: 64
  15. Alex Rodriguez: 64
  16. Mike Schmidt: 64
  17. Albert Pujols: 63
  18. Rickey Henderson: 62
  19. Jimmie Foxx: 62
  20. Carl Yastrzemski: 60

You couldn’t ask for better company. I’m rooting for Trout’s return to 10-WAR play just like everyone else, but even a mere fringe-MVP campaign puts him into some amazing company.

HoME Outlook:
Wait, what? He needs a rest of his career? Well, sure, of course. But if Mike Trout played replacement level baseball for another 6000 PA he’d still be a HoMEr.
—Eric

Curtis Granderson

2017 BBREF WAR:
1.5

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller:   50
Ahead of Andy Van Slyke, Earle Combs, and Steve Finley.
Trailing Devon White, Edd Roush, and Andrew McCutchen

Eric: 46
Ahead of Torii Hunter, Andy Van Slyke, and Earle Combs
Trailing Edd Roush, Earl Averill, and Devon White

Current career trajectory:
An interesting career is winding down. His bat and glove are both still passable though, unless you consider an elevated infield pop rate skill degradation. He’ll have a job if he wants it and doesn’t demand huge money.

HoME Outlook:
Clearly he’s not going. But Edd Roush is in the Hall of Fame, and Curtis Granderson will retire as much the same player, so anything is possible.
—Miller

Andrew McCutchen

2017 BBREF WAR:
2.5

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller:   45
Ahead of Edd Roush, Devon White, and Curtis Granderson.
Trailing Torii Hunter, Fred Lynn, and Lenny Dykstra.

Eric: 39
Ahead of Fred Lynn, Ellis Burks, and Roy Thomas
Trailing Mike Cameron, Vada Pinson, and Lenny Dykstra

Current career trajectory:
Trajectory connotes an arc to me. Like the trajectory of a baseball off a bat. Sure, spin will affect it greatly, but there’s still a roundness of some sort. Not McCutchen. That pothole in 2016 dropped the bottom out of the parabola. A bounce back to merely average in 2017 sure makes it seem like the end of his prime. His rebound offensively earned him a mere 16 batting runs, less than half of his peak years. His doubles have begun to ebb away. He hits about half as many triples now and steals fewer than half as many bases. With the loss of batting skill has come a drop in walk rate. His BABIPs have plunged 30 to 50 points thanks, surely, to some combination in loss of batting skill and speed. Indeed, on the bases, he turned in his third straight year of -3 runs or more. The percentage of extra bases he’s taken once on base has dipped from well above average (peak in the 60%+ range) to Ortizian (29%, 27%, 37% in the last three years). In the field, his continued immobility cost the 2017 Bucs 13 runs, his fourth consecutive campaign under par, and third of four in double-digit negatives. The saving grace to all of this could be a move to right field. No, he doesn’t have the arm of a right fielder, but his range, even diminished as it now is, plays well enough there to be average or positive. That was the plan for 2017, but Starling Marte’s untimely suspension crippled not only the Bucco’s offense, but its defense, forcing McCutchen back to center, which he then never relinquished. Hopefully the team, almost certain to pick up his cheap option, will once again station him in the rightmost pasture in 2018.

HoME Outlook:
Curiouser and curiouser, I’d say. Cutch’s peak is only decent since 2016 and 2017 ate up two years of what should be his prime. If he picked up 20 more WAR in his next 3000 plate appearances—4 a year for the next five or six years—he might squeak by as a borderline candidate. Or not. He’s such a wild card at this point, an amazing thing to say about someone whom two years ago could nearly have written his ticket to immortality with one more great season or a couple merely good ones.
—Eric

Adam Jones

2017 BBREF WAR:
2.5

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller:   66
Ahead of Dwayne Murphy, Brady Anderson, and Chili Davis.
Trailing Hack Wilson, Bill Lange, and Dummy Hoy.

Eric: 67
Ahead of Mickey Rivers, Brady Anderson, and Al Oliver
Trailing Dummy Hoy, Bill Lange, and Dwayne Murphy

Current career trajectory:
Before discussing Jones, let me just interject how crazy it is to call Chili Davis a center fielder in my rankings. Sure, I don’t categorize anyone as a DH since comparison would be so difficult. But center field? Yeah, he played 539 games there, more than at any other defensive position. Still, it’s weird. Back to Adam Jones. What a solid citizen and player. When the season begins, the Orioles know what they’re going to get, about 150 games, about 28 homers, and about a 110 OPS+. He’ll only be 32 next year, so there’s a reasonable chance he can keep doing this for a few more years.

HoME Outlook:
No, there’s no reasonable projection of Adam Jones that suggests he can get to the HoME. However, I could envision a scenario where he reached 400 home runs and 2500 hits. If he does that, he’d join only Willie Mays, Ken Griffey, and Carlos Beltran among center fielders with those numbers. If this were 1997, we could create a scenario under which he’d get enough votes. As the voters improve, however, that’s less and less likely.
—Miller

Jacoby Ellsbury

2017 BBREF WAR:
1.7

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller:   79
Ahead of Lorenzo Cain, Lloyd Waner, and unranked guys.
Trailing Benny Kauff, Grady Sizemore, and Dode Paskert.

Eric: 84
Ahead of Gary Pettis, Lloyd Waner, and teeming throngs of the middle pasture
Trailing Lorenzo Cain, Dode Paskert, and Rick Monday

Current career trajectory:
Health hasn’t been Ellsbury’s calling card in his career, and he’s simply not the player many hoped he would be after his breakout 2011 campaign. It’s been a while since then with mediocre season after mediocre season. He’s signed for three more years, which is pretty funny if you’re not a Yankee fan. If you’re looking for a positive, he did have the best BB rate of his career in 2017. That’s not nothing. Just close to it…

HoME Outlook:
Through age-33, his profile isn’t so different from that of Phil Rizzuto. So Ellsbury’s path to the Hall seems to be laying down a track with Meatloaf and becoming an insane announcer who checks out of games early, both intellectually and literally. Even if things work out for him, he’s unlikely to be among the best 70 center fielders ever.
—Miller

Clearly, Miller underrates Ells. Doesn’t breaking the coveted catcher’s interference record get someone at least to the borderline?
—Eric

Lorenzo Cain

2017 BBREF WAR:
5.3

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller:   80
Ahead of Lloyd Waner and guys I haven’t ranked.
Trailing Jacoby Ellsbury, Benny Kauff, and Grady Sizemore.

Eric: 81
Ahead of Dod Paskert, Rick Monday, and Jacoby Ellsbury
Trailing Curt Welch, Chicken Wolf, and Grady Sizemore

Current career trajectory:
Cain didn’t become a regular until he was 27 or 28, which is why we shouldn’t expect so many more seasons from him like this one. On the other hand, his vast skill set should be able to hold up for a few more years. Those hoping to sign Cain this winter may point to career best K and BB rates, and then salivate. Others will see that his calling card great defense has been getting less great for years, and he’s on what they call the wrong side of 30.

HoME Outlook:
Guys who start as regulars at age 27 don’t get into the HoME, and Cain will be no different. But let’s imagine another season like last year followed by a long slow fade to one win per year. If that happened, he’ll retire at a level with Earl Averill, Mike Cameron, and Dale Murphy. There’s nothing wrong with that.
—Miller

We finish the outfield with right fielders on Monday.

End of the Year HoME Roundup, LF

Christian Yelich, 2017Our post-season evaluation of active major leaguers turns to the outfield today, specifically left field. As with other posts in this series, we’re looking at candidates to determine who may be a viable candidate for the Hall of Miller and Eric. Please check out our analysis of the infield as well.

FIRST BASE | SECOND BASE | THIRD BASE | SHORTSTOP | LEFT FIELD | CENTER FIELD | RIGHT FIELD | CATCHER | RELIEF PITCHERS | LEFT-HANDED PITCHERS
RIGHT-HANDED PITCHERS

Ryan Braun

2017 BBREF WAR:
1.2

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 36
Ahead of George L. Burns, Brian Downing, and Lou Brock.
Trailing Mike Smith, Charlie Keller, and Matt Holliday.

Eric: 36
Ahead of Charley Jones, George J. Burns, and Mike/Elmer Smith
Trailing George Foster, Matt Holliday, and Luis Gonzalez

Current career trajectory:
Do you remember when this jerk threw the guy who collected his urine under the bus? I almost never think this about someone, but I’m glad his career isn’t amounting to anything HoME-worthy. He’s just a decent player, who’s decently healthy, who could do a decent thing like giving the guy who he excoriated a couple of million dollars and not feel a difference.

HoME Outlook:
If he has a run out like Fred Clarke, there’s a shot. Otherwise, I’ll be happy to write him off. And stop writing about him.
—Miller

Matt Holliday

2017 BBREF WAR:
0.0

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 34
Ahead of Charlie Keller, Mike Smith, and Ryan Braun.
Trailing Luis Gonzalez, George Foster, and Albert Belle.

Eric: 35
Ahead of Luis Gonzalez, Ryan Braun, and Charley Jones
Trailing Willie Stargell, Kip Selbach, and George Foster

Current career trajectory:
Well, he’ll be 38 next season. Pretty much everyone is done by the time they’re 38, so his trajectory is downward. What’s that? You’re not sure I’m right? Consider that in 2016 he had a typical, for him, 16.7% K rate. Last year it spiked to 26.7%. Seriously. If he wants to play at all, I think he’ll get a contract. If he doesn’t get off to a strong start, I suspect he’ll be released next May or June. If he does, perhaps he’ll sign another contract in 2019 so I can write the same thing here next year. Hopefully at that point his K rate won’t have jumped to 36.7%

HoME Outlook:
There’s no way to twist Holliday out of the Hall of Very Good and into the Hall of Fame except for an over-excited Era Committee. Eric and I don’t get that excited, so there’s no HoME in the offing.
—Miller

Alex Gordon

2017 BBREF WAR:
0.1

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 51
Ahead of Tom York, Ron Gant, and Riggs Stephenson.
Trailing Del Ennis, Dusty Baker, and Jeff Heath.

Eric: 52
Ahead of Don Buford, Abner Dalrymple, and Gene Woodling
Trailing Tom York, Dusty Baker, and Moises Alou

Current career trajectory:
Gordon has had a very interesting career. He was a huge third base prospect who absolutely failed. Then he came back as a brilliant left fielder with an excellent bat. The bat was up and down for a few years, but the glove was outstanding from 2011-2014. By 2015, his glove slipped, and he didn’t have much of a bat. And the last two years, the bat has gotten worse and worse. It’s the other aspects of his game that keep him above replacement level. That’s unlikely to last for long entering his age-34 season.

HoME Outlook:
He has no shot at the HoME. His only chance at the Hall is as a mistake. Even if things go well, he has almost no hope of reaching the level of Matt Holliday and Ryan Braun today.
—Miller

Carlos Gonzalez

2017 BBREF WAR:
-0.2

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 59
Ahead of Brett Gardner, Lefty O’Doul, and B.J. Surhoff.
Trailing Gene Woodling, Rico Carty, and Don Buford

Eric: 60
Ahead of Chick Hafey, Lefty O’Doul, and Bob Meusel
Trailing Rico Carty, Brett Gardner, and Tip O’Neill

Current career trajectory: Two of the last four years he’s been a sub-replacement player per BBREF, and with just two seasons of All-Star-level play in his entire career, he’s getting to that place where his free agent market this winter could look very bleak indeed.

HoME Outlook: I’ve always had a soft spot for CarGo, probably because the first album I ever bought was also named Cargo. The Men at Work classic. And while CarGo is, himself, hard at work, it’s hardly working for him or the Rockies. Unless he turns into Mr. Jive during his 30s, in which case we’d better take cover, when he’s done, Miller and I will be asking “Who can it be knocking at our door?” And if we elect him, then it’s a mistake.
—Eric

Brett Gardner

2017 BBREF WAR:
4.9

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 60
Ahead of Lefty O’Doul, B.J. Surhoff, and Tip O’Neill.
Trailing Carlos Gonzalez, Gene Woodling, and Rico Carty.

Eric: 58
Ahead of Tip O’Neill, Carlos Gonzalez, and Chick Hafey
Trailing Gene Woodling, Ron Gant, and Rico Carry

Current career trajectory:
Gardner has been healthy and productive for the last five years, and he has a wide skill set. Yes, he’s going to be 34 next year, but there’s been no degradation in his skill set yet. Perhaps there are a few more years at this level.

HoME Outlook:
I’ll admit that I love Brett Gardner. I’ll also admit that the only way he gets into the Hall is as a mistake like Luis Aparicio or Bill Mazeroski. And even if he can stay at his current level for three more seasons before regressing, he’s still not going to reach Lou Brock’s level. Or Carl Crawford’s.
—Miller

Starling Marte

2017 BBREF WAR:
1.4

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 80+
Ahead of Pat Burrell and guys I haven’t charted.
Trailing Hideki Matsui, Greg Luzinski, and a number of others.

Eric: Somewhere between 68 and 100
Ahead of Pat Burrell and the zillions of other leftfielders I haven’t evaluated
Trailing Topsy Hartsel, Hideki Matsui, and Greg Luzinski

Current career trajectory:
Marte has consistently popped out 3–4 win seasons. In centerfield this year, optimists like me saw an opportunity to perhaps step up a bit since centerfielders with 120 OPS+es aren’t a ubiquitous commodity. Instead…he didn’t. Entering his age-29 season, it’s not as though we don’t know who he is, and the athleticism that makes him a good defender and baserunner may well start running out soon.

HoME Outlook:
Missing half a year to PED suspension put a dent in his reputation and doesn’t help his cause here either. He’s put together several years out of the Adam Jones collection, but he needed to step up a couple notches to really kick off a HoMEward-bound drive. That’s still possible, but really? Nah. Less than 3% odds by me.
—Eric

Christian Yelich

2017 BBREF WAR:
3.9

Current career trajectory:
He’s only twenty-five, but it feels like Yelich has been around forever. He’s already racked up 2812 plate appearances, and he’s been a good, if not great player. The power finally arrived in 2016, and while he’s no Giancarlo Stanton, Yelich is now patrolling centerfield. Up-the-middle guys who hit 20 homers and 35+ doubles and whose glove hovers around average are highly valuable assets. At least the departure of the execrable ownership of Jeffrey Loria means Yelich could have a future on Florida’s next good team. Unless of course Captain Marlin decides to gut the team and start over, which would be incomprehensibly stupid from an on-the-field perspective given the excellent core of young talent that includes a homegrown outfield that’s the envy of any organization.

As a left fielder, Yelich has started off his career in a reasonably good HoME fashion. The average HoME leftfielder since the war earned about 20 WAR by this age. The average borderliner 7. Yeah, 7. Yelich is at 18. It’ll be a little harder for him if he sticks in centerfield because those guys have actually had better careers than the left fielders. At least until their late thirties when the flankers pass them and pad out a big lead. Thanks, Barry! Yelich has a combination of skills that should age well. He only lacks for a good arm, but that’s an impediment in name only to a long and valuable career. His game speed helps him on the bases, in GIDP situations, and in tracking flyballs. His coming power has created a big bump in his walk rate without a concomitant increase in punchouts. He’s also been able to stay relatively healthy thus far. He’s an exciting watch moving forward as he enters what are the traditional peak years for most players, and a step up in his game could lay the groundwork for an eventual run at the HoME. Because he’s not played like a superstar yet, it’s a long shot, but it’s definitely in the realm of possible.
—Eric

In just four days, it’s center field.

End of the Year HoME Roundup, SS

Francisco Lindor, 2017We continue evaluating the candidacies of active major leaguers and look at their chances of reaching the Hall of Miller and Eric. Today, we’ll report on the third basemen. We hope you’ll check out our analysis of all the positions.

FIRST BASE | SECOND BASE | THIRD BASE | SHORTSTOP | LEFT FIELD | CENTER FIELD RIGHT FIELD | CATCHER | RELIEF PITCHERS | LEFT-HANDED PITCHERS
RIGHT-HANDED PITCHERS

Troy Tulowitzki

2017 BBREF WAR:
0.1

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 43
Ahead of Tony Fernandez, Hanley Ramirez, and Freddy Parent.
Trailing Phil Rizzuto, Jack Rowe, and Luis Aparicio.

Eric: 37
Ahead of Jack Rowe, Travis Jackson, and Herman Long
Trailing Dick Bartell, Dave Concepcion, and Maury Wills

Current career trajectory:
Tulo has fallen from great while healthy, to good while healthy, to healthy while healthy. And he’s not very healthy. There are other warning signs too. His walk rate is down, he’s hitting for less power, and he’s predictably hitting more balls on the ground. Even though he’s striking out less, he makes up for that plus with weak contact. Maybe he was hiding an injury? Okay, of course there was an injury – it’s Troy Tulowitzki.

HoME Outlook:
For one of a zillion examples reminding us that we can’t put someone in the Hall or HoME before they turn 30, Tulowitzki reminds us that some bodies aren’t meant for baseball. He’s topped 131 games only three times in his entire career. That’s the same number of times he’s been below 100. Tulowitzki shows us that there are no guarantees, so maybe the guy will somehow find health over his 33-35 seasons. Of course, he’s still about three All-Star type of seasons away from strong consideration. He’s not going to get there.
—Miller

Hanley Ramirez

2017 BBREF WAR:
-0.3

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 43
Ahead of Freddy Parent, Rafael Furcal, and Germany Smith.
Trailing Tony Fernandez, Troy Tulowitzki, and Phil Rizzuto.

Eric: 46
Ahead of Tony Fernandez, Johnny Pesky, and Rafael Furcal
Trailing Luis Aparicio, Al Dark, and Freddy Parent

Current career trajectory:
Originally a shortstop, Hanley couldn’t field the position. Then he couldn’t field at third base, in left field, or at first base. Now he’s a designated hitter, and he seemingly can’t field that position either. Only once since 2010 has he been healthy and good at the same time, so I think it’s reasonable to say that he’s nearly done at age-34 next year. Sox fans and Hanley fans may think differently, but they should look at his 2016 HR/FB%. It shouldn’t be that high. It masked decline that took place the year prior, so I don’t imagine it’s going to get a lot better for Hanley.

HoME Outlook:
We can speculate that guys like Jeff Kent were at a similar place at a similar age, but Hanley is different. Not being able to field or hit makes you, um, special. He has money coming to him, sure, but he doesn’t have much more WAR in him. He’s not going to the Hall, and he’s not going to the HoME. It’s pretty sad that of the two third basemen the Red Sox signed after the 2014 season, Hanley is better.
—Miller

Jose Reyes

2017 BBREF WAR:
-0.6

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 58
Ahead of Garry Templeton, John Valentin, and Cecil Travis.
Trailing Jimmy Rollins, Davy Force, and Rico Petrocelli.

Eric: 55
Ahead of Dick Groat, Terry Turner, and Jose Valetin
Trailing Mark Belanger, Johnny Logan, Ed McKean

Current career trajectory:
We’re looking at a player who’s gone backwards in the WAR department over the last three years. His playing days are pretty much over, at least they should be.

HoME Outlook:
A joy to watch for much of his career as a speed first, second, and third player, Reyes reached 2,000 hits and 500 stolen bases this year, which is something only 31 others have ever done. If we throw in his 135 homers as another criterion, it’s just Reyes and seven other guys. Those distinctions will have to be enough because the HoME isn’t possible.
—Miller

Elvis Andrus

2017 BBREF WAR:
4.7

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 66
Ahead of Orlando Cabrera, Carlos Correa, and Dickey Pearce.
Trailing Frankie Crosetti, Jose Offerman, and Edgar Renteria.

Eric: 71
Ahead of Andrelton Simmons, Frankie Crosetti, and Orlando Cabrera
Trailing Marty Marion, Eddie Joost, and Edgar Renteria

Current career trajectory:
Andrus looked at one point like he might develop into a multifaceted player with speed, glove, and a bat with some doubles power and enough walks to be helpful. All those things have happened, but not at the same time. Although the doubles have come, and this year he added 20-homer power, his walk rate has declined annually. The speed has played well on the bases, but he’s also twice led the AL in caught stealing. He’s alternated above and below average seasons with the glove. He’s going to be 29 next year, so unless he consolidates all those skills over the rest of his peak, he’s going to end up as his generation’s Edgar Renteria.

HoME Outlook:
Edgar Renteria was a pretty good player, and a key to several playoff teams. He’s not close to the HoME. With nearly 1500 hits through age 28, Andrus might actually have a better shot at the Hall of Fame than our little gallery.
—Eric

Andrelton Simmons

2017 BBREF WAR:
7.1

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 68
Ahead of Marty Marion, Edgar Renteria, and Jose Offerman.
Trailing Eddie Joost, Omar Vizquel, and Chris Speier.

Eric: 72
Ahead of Frankie Crosetti, Orlando Cabrera, and Dickey Pearce’s post-1870 career
Trailing Eddie Joost, Edgar Renteria, and Elvis Andrus

Current career trajectory:
Simmons is one of the best defensive players any of us have ever seen. And this year he hit a bit too. Through age-27, he has the look of someone on the rise, as evidenced by career bests in walk rate and extra base hit rate. If those numbers hold up, and if he’s someone who can keep an elite glove for a few more years, we might be looking at something surprising and special.

HoME Outlook:
In terms of value, he looks quite a bit like a bunch of excellent Hall of Fame middle infielders through age-27: Rod Carew, Joe Morgan, Billy Herman, Joe Gordon, Ryne Sandberg, Barry Larkin, and Bobby Doerr. Sure, he accumulates value differently from those guys, but value is value. Just for reference, he crushes Ozzie Smith through the same age. But will Andrelton age like the Wizard?
—Miller

Francisco Lindor

2017 BBREF WAR:
5.5

Current career trajectory:
I’m writing about Lindor just a couple hours after he hit a playoff grand slam that turned an 8-3 laugher into and 8-7 nail biter that the Indians took to extras thanks to a Jay Bruce round tripper. Lindor is an electric player with smile and style, but with 16 WAR at age 23, he’s got a lot of substance too. We’ve elected seven postwar shortstops so far, and at age 23, they averaged ten WAR. Their seven nearest competitors averaged five. So Lindor is well ahead of the game. In fact, he’s ahead of everyone since the war but Cal Ripken, Jim Fregosi, and the next guy on our list.

HoME Outlook:
Where he goes from here is probably upward. His BBREF age-based comps are full of good to great players, and he has a wide enough breadth of skills that as he ages, he should continue to provide plenty of value. He’s a very special player with a great shot at the HoME.
—Eric

Carlos Correa

2017 BBREF WAR:
6.3

HoME Outlook:
Correa only gets better. Even while missing a third of the year, he stamped out 6.3 WAR. He’s a decent shortstop with some speed (though that’s diminishing a bit), but his real calling card is the best shortstop bat since Alex Rodriguez’s debut. Look, we’re all jaded by Trout, Harper, and Machado’s amazing early careers, but this fella is bringin’ it. He’s earned 16 WAR through age 22. He places second behind A-Rod (23 WAR) in this regard. Only Robin Yount and Cal Ripken among HoME shortstops even earned more than 10 WAR by 22, and only Jim Fregosi did it among non-HoMErs. Lindor may be very special, but it is Correa who will duel with Manny Machado for the distinction of the best infielder of his generation.
—Eric

Addison Russell

2017 BBREF WAR:
2.4

Current career trajectory:
Yes, I know you think it’s silly for me to include Russell. After all, he’s probably not even the most well known player whose name begins Addison R–. But this guy’s a pretty interesting young player. If you squint a bit you can see an Alan Trammell starter kit. At 23, Russell has 10 WAR to his name, which we’ve shown before is a pretty rare thing for a shortstop. He’s pretty rough around the edges as a hitter. He’s got good pop, including a 20-homer year at age 22. But he sells out for power and strikes out a fair amount for a player of his type. The result is that he hits .240, and when he puts the ball in play, if it’s not a homer he doesn’t get a lot of extra bases. Still, in all, you’ll take a 170 ISO from your shortstop every day of the week and twice on Sundays. And he walks just enough that if he could jack up his average a mere twenty points, he’d have an OBP at the league average. Meanwhile, Russell can pick it. BBREF thinks he’s got nearly two wins’ worth of value in his glove per annum, and DRA sees nearly a win’s worth per annum.

HoME Outlook:
In a time with fewer homers, fewer K’s, and more steals, Alan Trammell rung up a 94 OPS+ from age 19 to age 23 in about 600 more PAs than Russell has now. Trammell had about 30 points of average on Russell, but his ISO was 100 points lower. They both walked about the same amount, and although Tram stole much more often, he was a poor thief and got caught way too much. One thing they had in common, however, was a seeming inability to gather up doubles and triples. At 24, in 1982, Trammell’s power sparked to life, and he hit 34 doubles despite a mere .258 average. Then in 1983, the homers followed. Trammell had a good glove at this time, perhaps not as strong as Russell’s, but solidly positive. He turned out pretty good. Robin Yount followed a similar path and was a worse hitter than either Trammell or Russell. At age 24, he clocked in with a fabulous season, finally putting all the pieces together with 49 doubles and 23 homers. Both those guys hit for a little more average, Russell for more power. But some of that is the league context. I’m very interested to see whether Russell continues to develop as a hitter as he piles on the reps or whether we’ve seen what kind of player he truly is. But HoME-level players aren’t always greats from day one, and they often surprise us. But maybe they don’t surprise scouts? Yount was the third overall pick of the 1974 draft. Trammell went in the second round. Oh, and Addison Russell? First round, 11th overall.
—Eric

Xander Bogaerts

2017 BBREF WAR:
2.2

Current career trajectory:
Bogey’s excellent 2015 season at age 22 presaged superstardom. Instead, he’s regressed into an average shortstop. In 2017, his bat dipped below average, and although he ran the bases well, his speed doesn’t translate into great range. Instead, he finished with double-digit negative BBREF fielding for the third time in four years. DRA likes his fielding even less. If Bogaerts can’t hack shortstop, the Sox have a difficult decision to make. It’s an open question whether Bogaerts could hit enough to stick at third, but anyway, Rafael Devers appears to be a the long-term solution there. Dustin Pedroia’s contract runs through 2021, and it’s not as though the Sox would find an active market for a 34 year-old second baseman who’s been banged up a lot the last three years. Xander has never played the outfield, defensive whiz Jackie Bradley, Jr. roams the center pasture at Fenway, and Bogaerts wouldn’t hit enough to stick there anyway. Worse yet, the team doesn’t have an understudy in the wings.

HoME Outlook:
So the Sox either move Bogaerts or stick with him. It’s senseless to cut bait now when his value has ebbed, and starting shortstops don’t grow on trees. So they’ll have to run him back out there and see if the bat will develop. If it does, and he can crank it up to 10–15 batting runs a year, then he might be able to get back on the HoME path. Right now, we’re not optimistic, but we’re not declaring him dead in the water. Not yet, anyway.
—Eric

Corey Seager

2017 BBREF WAR:
5.6

Current career trajectory:
Seager is traveling along the same path as Lindor and is one of the handful of shortstops since the war with more than 10 WAR by age 23. That’s a pretty great start to a career. Offensively, Kyle’s kid brother took a small step backward in power but increased his walk rate. The K-rate went up with it, but not dangerously so. At this point, reviews on his defense are mixed with BBREF liking it, and DRA saying he’s below average. The Dodgers can live with below average as long as Seager continues to hit so well, and especially if he continues to develop more power.

HoME Outlook:
Seager, Lindor, and Correa may prove to be this generation’s shortstop trinity. Maybe Bogaerts will play Miguel Tejada and Andrelton Simmons Omar Vizquel. But there’s an agglomeration of talent at this position right now that’s far superior to the previous generation whose leading lights in the shortfield were Tulowitzki, Ramirez, and Reyes.
—Eric

Next up on Monday, it’s left field.

End of the Year HoME Roundup, 3B

Manny Machado, 2017, 2We continue evaluating the candidacies of active major leaguers and look at their chances of reaching the Hall of Miller and Eric. Today, we’ll report on the third basemen. We hope you’ll check out our analysis of all the positions.

FIRST BASE | SECOND BASE | THIRD BASE | SHORTSTOP | LEFT FIELD | CENTER FIELD | RIGHT FIELD | CATCHER | RELIEF PITCHERS | LEFT-HANDED PITCHERS | RIGHT-HANDED PITCHERS

Adrian Beltre

2017 BBREF WAR:
3.7

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 8
Ahead of Paul Molitor, Buddy Bell, and Edgar Martinez
Trailing Chipper Jones, Home Run Baker, and Ron Santo

Eric: 9
Ahead of Ken Boyer, Scott Rolen, and Brooks Robinson
Trailing Ron Santo, Deacon White, and Chipper Jones

Current career trajectory:
Beltre seems ageless. Were in not for injuries, he was on pace for the second best season of his career. At age 38! However, he was injured, a grade 2 left hamstring injury most recently. He has to begin to regress. Just don’t tell him. Seriously though, his regression will at least be health-related in 2018. And if we’re being fair, health is a skill, so Beltre did regress.

HoME Outlook:
He’s already in. And he’s in the Hall too, not just because of the 3000 hits, but because everyone’s saying it. When enough people start talking about you as a Hall of Famer, you reach a tipping point, and there’s no going back for Beltre. He still has a chance to finish his career as the fifth best 3B of all-time. And he could retire in the top-ten in hits in MLB history. Wow!
—Miller

David Wright

2017 BBREF WAR:
0.0

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 26
Ahead of Toby Harrah, Bob Elliot, and Larry Gardner.
Trailing Ron Cey, Evan Longoria, and John McGraw.

Eric: 21
Ahead of Sal Bando, Heinie Groh, and Ron Cey
Trailing John McGraw, Ned Williamson, and Evan Longoria

Current career trajectory:
As I wrote about 15 months ago, I fear Wright’s career is over. Still, he’ll only be 34, and he’s owed $47 million over the next three years. Maybe. Please!

HoME Outlook:
Unless I’m wrong, he’s not very likely to go to the HoME. Eric ranks him ahead of HoMEr Sal Bando, but I have some space between him and the nearest HoMEr at the position as you can see above. For me, he’s going to need to get back on the field. I’m hoping.
—Miller

Evan Longoria

2017 BBREF WAR:
3.6

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 24
Ahead of Ron Cey, David Wright, and Toby Harrah.
Trailing John McGraw, Heinie Groh, and Sal Bando.

Eric: 20
Ahead of David Wright, Sal Bando, and Heinie Groh
Trailing Tommy Leach, John McGraw, and Ned Williamson

Current career trajectory:
I’ve long enjoyed watching Longo move his face up the totem pole at third base. However, he seems to be in a long, slow fade. He came out of the gate hot as a young player, but his skills are eroding in front of our eyes. He was below average at the bat for the first time in his career. His home run power slid out from under him this year, leading to the lowest total for a full season in his career. He walked just 46 times, continuing a puzzling and disturbing trend of less selectivity. His overall value has ebbed away, taking him from a six-to-seven-win player to a three-to-five win player. He’s no longer a franchise cornerstone, though his super team-friendly contract makes him a Ray until 2023 unless the team gets bowled over by an offer for him. His comps are filled with guys like Hank Blalock, Scott Rolen, Bob Horner, and Eric Chavez who lost a lot of zip in their 30s and whose careers took a nose dive fast.

HoME Outlook:
Despite that glowing endorsement of the current state of Longoria’s career, he’s practically a made man for me. I’ve got him right on the line of electability (99.9 CHEWS+, where 100 indicates the borderline), so anything he adds in his thirties bolsters his case considerably. Miller has him lower than I do, but close enough that he’s about to ease on by the borderliners in his hot corner rankings.
—Eric

Josh Donaldson

2017 BBREF WAR:
4.8

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 44
Ahead of Bobby Bonilla, Heinie Zimmerman, and Billy Nash.
Trailing Al Rosen, Art Devlin, and Doug DeCinces.

Eric: 40
Ahead of Art Devlin, Ken Caminiti, and Heinie Zimmerman
Trailing Pie Trainer, Al Rosen, and Bill Joyce

Current career trajectory:
Donaldson is still a star, which his 4.8 WAR in only 113 games indicates. And though he wasn’t a regular until age-27, he’s averaged 7.2 WAR per season since then. At 32 next year, he needs a couple of very productive seasons in 2018–2019 to really take him seriously as a candidate.

HoME Outlook:
Imagine six more seasons of 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 WAR. That gets him past Sal Bando, and it likely makes him a HoMEr. Donaldson has a real shot of doing something like that. So much will depend on health, as it always does. We should know quite a bit more a year from now. Of course, that’s mere speculation. A better way to estimate what he’ll do might be to look at comparable third basemen through age-31. And when we do so, I’m less optimistic. Tony Perez is on the list, but he’s not so deserving of his Hall spot. Tommy Leach is there too, so there’s a positive note. But we also see Troy Glaus and Travis Fryman and Eric Chavez. Like I said, next season could be quite telling.
—Miller

Ryan Zimmerman

2017 BBREF WAR:
2.7

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 55
Ahead of Don Money, Kyle Seager, and Jimmy Dykes.
Trailing Bill Madlock, Willie Kamm, and Denny Lyons.

Eric: 53
Ahead of Bob “Death to Flying Things” Ferguson, Bill Madlock, and Don Money
Trailing Ken Keltner, Kyle Seager, and Travis Fryman

Current career trajectory:
You can say 2017 was something of a revival for Zimmerman, but it really wasn’t. From May 8 through the end of the season, he posted a fairly pedestrian .269/.328/.486 line. Sure, that’s better than his 2014–2016 line, but it’s not one that makes us think he’s suddenly fighting for a spot among the game’s elite. He’ll be only 33 next season so stranger things have happened. Still, take away five weeks before it warmed up, and you aren’t remotely excited.

HoME Outlook:
Gary Sheffield and Jimmy Collins became HoMErs from about where Zimmerman is now. A bunch of others got to the Hall, but they generally fall into the categories of undeserving and just over the borderline. I don’t think Zimmerman is dead, just mostly dead.
—Miller

Kyle Seager

2017 BBREF WAR:
2.5

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 58
Ahead of Jimmy Dykes, Jeff Cirillo, and Richie Hebner.
Trailing Don Money, Ryan Zimmerman, and Bill Madlock.

Eric: 51
Ahead of Travis Fryman, Ryan Zimmerman, and Bob Ferguson
Trailing Troy Glaus, Billy Nash, and Ken “Keltner” List

Current career trajectory:
At 29, we know what Seager is. He’s a very strong defensive player with a one-to-two-win bat that relies on good power and slightly above average walk rates. He’s also incredibly durable. BBREF chalks him up for 27 WAR. That’s not impressive for a HoME third base candidate. Then again, Darrell Evans, Graig Nettles, Edgar Martinez earned fewer, and Paul Molitor just a couple more by the same age. The thing is that BBREF sees Seager as merely slightly above average defensively. But DRA sees him as a defensive star with 70 more defensive runs than BBREF shows. In other words, seven more wins’ worth of value. That gets him around 32–35 WAR, which puts him much closer to the range of strong candidates.

HoME Outlook: What’s most worrisome is Seager’s offense in 2017. His batting average tumbled to .249 (thanks, BABIP!), which drove his batting down to league-average levels despite the homers. If the downward trend continues, he’s done as a HoME candidate. If he stabilizes with even slightly above average offense and continues being an outstanding defender, he’s got a good shot at coming along the outside to break the tape. Something tells me it’s a long shot.
—Eric

Edwin Encarnacion

2017 BBREF WAR:
2.8

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 70
Ahead of Billy Werber, Eddie Foster, and Red Smith.
Trailing Terry Pendleton, Aramis Ramirez, and Harry Steinfeldt.

Eric: 72
Ahead of Gary Gaetti, Ken McMullen, and Edgardo Alfonzo
Trailing Terry Pendleton, Manny Machado, and Tom Burns

Current career trajectory:
It’s not hard to remember that Encarnacion was sort of nothing until he turned 29. What that means is that he’ll be 35 next year and isn’t a threat to put up huge numbers going forward. He has a real shot at 400 home runs though, which he can tell his grandkids.

HoME Outlook:
If he’s getting to the Hall of Fame, it’s likely he’s following the Ross Youngs, Chick Hafey, Freddie Lindstrom, Rick Ferrell path, which means he won’t deserve it. He’s a lot of fun to watch play, and I think I’d love being his teammate. Still, he’ll be largely forgotten a couple of years after he’s gone.
—Miller

Manny Machado

2017 BBREF WAR:
3.5

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 78
Ahead of Ken McMullen, Ossie Bluege, and Fred Lindstrom.
Trailing Jim Ray Hart, Eddie Yost, and Bob Bailey.

Eric: 70
Ahead of Tom Burns, Edwin Encarnacion, and Gary Gaetti
Trailing Richie Hebner, Eddie Foster, and Terry Pendleton

Current career trajectory: Despite a down year both offensively and defensively, Machado is one of the game’s prized young players. His closest BBREF comp is Adrian Beltre, which makes a lot of sense. Ron Santo is among his top ten age-based comps. Intuitively, this makes sense because Beltre and Santo started very early and were successful quickly at the hot corner. He’s no Mike Trout, but if the O’s manage to keep Machado around, he could be the new Brooks Robinson.

HoME Outlook: The average HoME third baseman since the war has 11 BBREF WAR by age 24. Manny Machado has 28. Only one HoME third baseman has done better, Eddie Mathews. In fact, he’s the only third baseman in baseball history to outperform Machado through age 24. Good news for Manny: The 3.4 WAR separating him from Mathews is less than the 22.7 WAR separating him from Dick Allen and George Davis. Here’s the top ten, well, eleven, but you’ll see:

  1. Eddie Mathews: 31.4
  2. Manny Machado: 28.0
  3. Dick Allen: 22.7
  4. George Davis: 22.7
  5. George Brett: 22.1
  6. Freddie Lindstrom: 21.3
  7. John McGraw: 20
  8. Evan Longoria: 19.9
  9. Buddy Lewis: 19.9
  10. David Wright: 19.3
  11. Ron Santo: 19.3

Scratch out Lewis who lost his prime to the war, and you’ve got five HoMErs, three active players, two of whom are right on my borderline, one guy (McGraw) that would have been entirely defensible to elect based on his playing career, and one of the Hall of Fame’s worst selections, Freddie Lindstrom. Though clearly he was pretty good through age 24. That’s the kind of list that helps you recognize how great a young player is. Keep it up, Manny!
—Eric

If I may interject, Machado could be better than Brooks. If we give him 5.5 WAR for the next four seasons through age-28, a total he’s topped three times in his four healthy years, and then slowly regress him half a win per year until he’s down to 1 WAR at when he’s 37, I would rank him tenth ever at the position, a few slots ahead of Brooks. It’s a lot of speculation on my part, I know, but there’s a path in that direction.
—Miller

Martin Prado

2017 BBREF WAR:
0.1

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 92
Ahead of Howard Johnson, Mike Lowell, and Corey Koskie.
Trailing Jimmy Austin, Doug Rader, and Billy Shindle.

Eric: 88
Ahead of Wid Conroy, Doug Rader, and Jimmy Austin
Trailing Lee Tannehill, Billy Shindle, and Mike Lowell

Current career trajectory:
Prado might be today’s version of Tony Phillips, sort of, which speaks to just how much times have changed. Phillips was a far, far superior player. Prado will be “just” 34 in 2018, so he might have some time left to move up the ranks. Of course, his best days, which were of All-Star quality, are likely behind him.

HoME Outlook:
A number of underserving Hall of Famers turned their careers into one that got them into Cooperstown from basically where Prado is now. But so did Sam Rice and Jim O’Rourke. It’s possible Prado can find his way to an O’Rourke type of career, I suppose. Odds are quite long though.
—Miller

Nolan Arenado

2017 BBREF WAR:
7.2

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 82
Ahead of Edgardo Alfonzo, Jerry Denny, and Chase Headley
Trailing Fred Lindstrom, Ossie Bluege, and Ken McMullen.

Eric: 79
Ahead of Clete Boyer, Jim Ray Hart, and Jerry Denny
Trailing Eddie Yost, Bob Bailey, and Freddie Lindstrom

Current career trajectory:
If this guy played in New York or Chicago or Boston, everyone would know his name and lots and lots of people would buy his jersey. Instead, he’s on one of those boring teams out west that no one seems to bother much with, so he’s that guy who’s pretty good whose name you can’t quite remember. In 1962, Brooks Robinson finished 9th in the MVP voting with a 6.1 WAR breakout season at age 25. He contributed 20 runs above average at the plate and another 18 in the field. That’s pretty much Arenado’s season every year. Only better. Actually, he’s improving. His walk rate has been increasing, and he’s hitting for higher and higher averages. All with the power you’d expect from a guy who in the last three years has led the NL in homers twice and doubles the third year. His WAR has increased every single year of his career. At 26, his career stats are comparable to a young Scott Rolen. Even if Arenado never improved on his 7.2 BBREF WAR season of 2017, he’s got a great start to what promises to be a fun career to watch.

HoME Outlook:
With 27 WAR through age 26, Arenado’s already in the range of our highest-quality HoME third base candidates at that same age. Where Manny Machado is exploring the thermosphere, maybe Arenado is just tooling around the stratosphere. Arenado, however, has an important advantage that few others have in the HoME voting. He’s born on my birthday.
—Eric

Kris Bryant

2017 BBREF WAR:
6.1

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 98
Ahead of Sammy Strang, Don Hoak, and Todd Zeile.
Trailing Casey Blake, Bill Mueller, and Corey Koskie.

Eric: 97
Ahead of Bill Mueller, Don Hoak, and Ed Charles
Trailing Corey Koski, Sammy Strang, and Casey Blake

Current career trajectory:
What’s not to love? Concern trolling about Bryant’s defense proved overblown, and he’s proven to be a good if not great defender, one hell of a hitter, and a gamer who rarely sits. And watch out for him next year. Although he took a very slight step down in OPS+ this year, he lowered his strikeout rate and increased his walk rate. The guess here is that he got a lot fewer pitches to hit this season and adapted well, taking his walks instead of selling out and going fishing. When a player’s background skills all point in a positive direction, it can’t be long before he goes hardcore on the league.

HoME Outlook:
Only time and injury can stop Kris Bryant. He’s been athletic enough to play around the diamond as part of Joe Maddon’s roving gang of gloves. So he’s not a guy who’s too slow to play the outfield but doesn’t hit enough to play first base. He could stay around a while. Already, he’s surpassed the HoME-average postwar third baseman through age 25 as he establishes a foundation for a run at internet immortality.
—Eric

Jose Ramirez

2017 BBREF WAR:
6.9

Who the heck is this Jose Ramirez who showed some sparkle at the plate last year and busted out all over in 2017? He was signed out of the Domincan as a teenager and reached the US minors at age 18. In five minor league seasons he hit a respectable 304/355/411. Nothing great, and nothing that presaged the game power he’s shown. He never slugged over .465 in any full minor league season. He hit all of 13 homers in 1539 career minor-league and winter league plate appearances. He first appeared with the Indians at age 20 and increasingly picked up playing time despite having the bat knocked out of his hands at 22. Yet the next year, he hit for an .825 OPS and continued to improve at all facets of hitting until this year happened.

Here’s one guess at what’s happened. At each of his minor league stops, he’s been, about three or four years younger than his league. In the Dominican winter leagues, he’s been about six years younger than the league’s average player. Some guys are polished and dominate from the get go. Others, though, learn through reps and develop skills as their body fills out and their body of experience grows. When a player is challenged repeatedly in leagues way over his age and experience level, he either sinks or swims. The Indians have perhaps seen enough progress in his approach that they’ve decided to keep challenging him. Now, 1539 minor and winter league plate appearances later, he’s consolidated his skills into a fringe-MVP level player who is just 24 years old.

If the skills persist, Ramirez will make up ground fast. Obviously he’s miles behind the likes of Machado. But think about this, Kris Bryant did his learning at UC San Diego then put in half the minor league and winter league plate appearances that Ramirez did. Ramirez might well not have much of a HoME outlook. What makes a player great is the ability to repeat excellence year after year. But when a player establishes a set of skills like Ramirez has in 2016–2017, we should sit up and take notice.
—Eric

Tune in again as we review shortstops on Friday.

Institutional History

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