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Omar Vizquel and Mark Belanger, Can’t Take One Without the Other

Omar Vizquel, 1997Back in 1988 Mark Belanger was on his first and, quite deservedly, his only Hall of Fame ballot. My guess on the number of Hall votes he received would have been too low. Surprisingly, there were 16 writers who found him deserving. Of course, the fact that 18 geniuses voted for Manny Mota, a guy who never had a 3-win season and who topped 1.4 only four times, calls into question the Belanger votes. On a related topic, only three voted for Reggie Smith even though he had eleven seasons better than Mota’s best. Okay then, we now have data point 61,926 that the BBWAA hasn’t done a good job with their votes. And we also have another data point that they’re improving. Chris Carpenter won’t get a dozen votes this year.

Anyway, this post isn’t about Mota or Smith or Carpenter. It’s about Mark Belanger and a shortstop who many believe should be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Welcome to the second in a three-post series where I explain why Omar Vizquel doesn’t belong in the Hall. Check out last week when I put Omar through our Saberhagen List. I’m here to tell you that Mark Belanger and Omar Vizquel are essentially the same player, at least in terms of value.

WAR

Let’s start with my numbers over their top-13 seasons. The truth is that I like Belanger more than I like Vizquel.

Belanger: 6.7, 4.8, 4.7, 4.6, 4.2, 3.0, 2.7, 2.5, 2.5, 1.8, 0.6, 0.4, 0.3
Vizquel:  4.6, 3.9, 3.2, 3.1, 3.1, 3.0, 2.7, 2.5, 2.2, 1.6, 1.3, 1.3, 1.2

Beyond the 13 seasons you see above, Belanger was worth -0.2 WAR, while Vizquel was worth 1.3 on the positive side. My career numbers have Belanger with a 38.4 to 34.8 edge.

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m biased. Let’s check out BBREF.

Belanger: 6.5, 5.0, 4.6, 4.5, 4.2, 3.6, 3.5, 3.4, 2.7, 1.8. 0.7, 0.5, 0.5
Vizquel:  6.0, 4.0, 3.5, 3.5, 3.3, 3.3, 3.0, 2.9, 2.8, 2.6, 2.1, 2.0, 1.5

Belanger is worth another -0.6 WAR, while Vizquel puts up a respectable 3.1 more over his weakest eleven seasons not seen above. Vizquel’s career edge is 45.3 to 41.0.

And just to show that I’m fair, I’ll give you Fangraphs too.

Belanger: 5.6, 4.3, 4.1, 3.9, 3.8, 3.3, 3.0, 2.8, 2.7, 1.1, 0.4, 0.2, 0.1
Vizquel:  6.0, 3.4, 3.4, 3.3, 3.3, 3.2, 3.2, 2.7, 2.5, 2.3, 2.0, 1.9, 1.7

Give Vizquel another 3.7 WAR for 42.6 total. Belanger limps to the line with -0.9 bringing him to just 34.9 total.

In career value, I prefer Belanger, while the other two prefer Vizquel. Now let’s look at peak and prime, with peak being the best five seasons and prime being the best dozen. Your mileage may vary.

                 Belanger  Vizquel
MAPES Peak:        25.0     17.9 
BBREF Peak:        24.8     20.3
Fangraphs Peak:    21.7     19.4

We can all agree that we’d rather have a peak Belanger.

                 Belanger  Vizquel
MAPES Prime:       38.5     32.5
BBREF Prime:       41.0     39.0
Fangraphs Prime:   35.2     37.2

BBREF and I prefer prime Belanger, while Fangraphs would take Vizquel.

So let’s take a score of sorts:

                 Belanger  Vizquel
MAPES Peak:         X
BBREF Peak:         X
Fangraphs Peak:     X
MAPES Prime:        X
BBREF Prime:        X
Fangraphs Prime:              X
MAPES Career:       X
BBREF Career:                 X
Fangraphs Career:             X

Belanger wins this fight 6-3. If you don’t like my numbers, it’s 3-3. A tie. And if you prefer Fangraphs, you can have Omar win 2-1, I suppose. But just don’t forget that the guy who Vizquel “beat” is Mark Belanger.

Defense

              Belanger  Vizquel
Gold Gloves:         8       11 
DRA:             199.6    -31.0
Rfield:            241      128
Fdef:            345.6    263.8

So as you can see, by each of these measures, except for awards handed out by writers, Belanger wins. And he wins by a lot in every single one. Belanger wasn’t a little better defensively, he was far and away better defensively if you believe any of these metrics.

So if your pro-VizMark Belanger, 1975quel argument is that he’s next best to Ozzie Smith, clearly that’s ridiculous. Mark Belanger was a far better defender.

Other Numbers

Before we get to the bat, let’s review three other numbers to show that Vizquel isn’t better than Belanger.

              Belanger  Vizquel
Rbaser:             16       -1 
Rdp:                12        9
Rpos:              111      152

The first number shows that Belanger was better on the bases than Vizquel. Yes, Vizquel stole 404 bases, but he only did so at a 71% clip. You might protest that Belanger only had 167 and was successful only 69% of the time. Good protest! However, while both were below an acceptable mark for stealing bases, Vizquel tried more, and thus he hurt his team even more. Also, because of the higher scoring environment in which Vizquel played, he needed to steal at a far higher clip than Belanger to help his team. Outs were even more precious when Vizquel played than when Belanger did.

Rdp says that Vizquel helped his teams a shade less by avoiding double plays. And Rpos says, basically, that Vizquel played more innings at shortstop than Belanger did.

At the Plate

If you’re a Vizquel fan and you need to find somewhere to hang your hat in the battle against MARK BELANGER this is where you do it.

Belanger was a disgustingly bad hitter, posting a career .228/.300/.280 line with a 68 OPS+. That means his hitting was 32% worse than the league average, adjusted for park. Vizquel beats him handily with a career lone of .272/.336/.352 with an OPS+ of 82. What means he was 18% worse than the average hitter in the league when he played, again, adjusted for park.

So Vizquel was a better hitter than Belanger. Kind of. On a per-season basis, Vizquel hurt his teams less than Belanger did. But Vizquel kept playing and playing. That means he kept hurting his teams more and more. The BBREF Rbat feature, which explains how much better or worse someone was than the average player, puts Vizquel at -244. Belanager is “only” at -219.

Shortstops aren’t generally good hitters. That’s because the importance of their defensive position means that there are fewer excellent hitters who could be competent shortstops. There are 56 guys with over 5,000 plate appearances who played the majority of their games at shortstop who have an Rbat of -100 or worse. There are 32 who are -150 or worse. But there are only 20 shortstops ever who are at -200 or worse. If we open that to all positions, we only have 28 players.

Let me reiterate. Of all players in the history of baseball, only 28 have come to the plate at least 5,000 times and have hurt their teams to the tune of 200 runs or more.

Let’s narrow one more time. I’d say that 7,000 plate appearances is roughly equivalent to 12 years of full-time play. The only players in baseball history who came to the plate 7,000 or more times who hurt their teams offensively as much as Omar Vizquel were Germany Smith, Don Kessinger, Alfredo Griffin, Ozzie Guillen, Larry Bowa, and Tommy Corcoran.

We’re not talking about a bad hitter. We’re talking about a historically bad hitter. People will talk about Vizquel’s hit total of 2877 as something that should help him get into the Hall. Well, it shouldn’t. Looking at players with at least 2000 hits, only 15 were even 1/3 as hurtful to their teams at the plate as Vizquel. And only two were worse. We are looking at one of the worst long career hitters who ever lived.

If you’ve read all that’s above, maybe you consider Omar Vizquel a bit better than Mark Belanger, maybe a bit worse. But what you can’t consider him is a Hall of Famer.

I hope you will enjoy the continued evisceration next week.

Miller

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Omar Vizquel Goes Saberhagen

Right off the bat I am going to admit that I have a pretty strong anti-Omar disposition as it relates to the HallOmar Vizquel, 1989, as you’ll see today and the next two Mondays. And while I know I’m not alone, there are a number of people whose work I respect who are less sure about Vizquel’s status as an also ran. I think I’m right, but given the stances of others, I’m not completely certain. Luckily for me, I have a plan that helps to guide my thinking when that uncertainty arises.

It has been quite a while, over two years, since we’ve reviewed a player via our Saberhagen List. Basically, Saberhagen is our version Bill James’ Keltner List, a way to better understand a player’s candidacy.

So let’s take a look at Vizquel to see if my thinking is legitimate or if the Hall-hype, and early votes, surrounding the three-time All-Star makes more sense.

How many All-Star-type seasons did he have?

Our first question doesn’t focus on All-Star Games, which are popularity contests on a lot of levels. Rather, this question refers to 5-WAR seasons, the level generally considered to be All-Star quality.

But before we can answer this question very well, he have to consider my adjustment system. There are a couple of things I do that have an effect on Vizquel’s numbers. The first is to scale up his 1994 and 1995 numbers to partially account for games missed due to work stoppage. The other is to remove 2/3 of BBREF’s Rfield number and replace it with Michael Humphreys’ DRA. Basically, I prefer the way DRA measures defense, but because I’m not completely certain, I don’t replace all of Rfield.

With that out of the way, I give Vizquel exactly zero seasons at All-Star level. Not a single one. None. His best season, in my opinion, was 1999, his age-32 season in Cleveland, which was worth 4.61 runs by my account. To be fair, DRA doesn’t like Vizquel. While Rfield gives him +14 runs that season, DRA sees him at -3.4 runs.

So let’s say that I’m wrong, the DRA is wrong, and that Rfield and BBREF are right. In that case, 1999 is still Vizquel’s best season, worth 6.0 WAR. And it’s his only season the All-Star level. In fact, it’s his only such season within a win of that level.

Maybe you prefer Fangraphs. Reasonable, I suppose. Well, they agree with BBREF that he has one season at 6.0 WAR, but they rank his second best at 3.4.

So here’s a breakdown for those who have missed it. Depending on who you trust, Vizquel played like an All-Star either once or never in his 24 seasons.

How many MVP-type seasons did he have?

Unless math and logic aren’t your forte, you probably know the answer to this one. Zippo.

Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play regularly after passing his prime?

It depends who you believe. If you trust BBREF, Vizquel’s last season of 3+ WAR was 2004, his last year in Cleveland. He was a regular for three years after that. Once he was good (2.9 WAR), once fine (1.5 WAR), and once pretty unhelpful (0.6 WAR).

Fangraphs thinks he was still a 3-win player two years later. After that he was only a regular once, a decent 2.0 in 2007.

My numbers think his prime ended even earlier than BBREF believes. And he was a regular for another five seasons. In only two of those seasons was he decent.

Are his most comparable players in the HoME?

If you trust Similarity Scores, Vizquel looks quite good. Six of the eight players most similar to him are in the Hall. And another, Bill Dahlen belongs there. However, Luis Aparicio, Rabbit Maranville, and Nellie Fox are particularly weak players for Hall of Famers. Also, Similarity Scores are more than 30 years old, based on career totals, which are inflated for Vizquel because he hung around for 1806 trips to the plate and only 0.5 BBREF WAR after age 40. Oh, also, it’s a fun but basically BS stat.

So what I did was to look at all of the middle infielders in my database who are within 20% of Vizquel in career WAR, WAR for his top-5 seasons, and WAR for his top-12 seasons. And there are 12 players who are within 20% of Vizquel on all of those lists. It’s not pretty.

By career WAR, they are Jose Valentin, George Grantham, Marty McManus, Jimmy Rollins, Larry Doyle, Frank White, Chris Speier, Claude Ritchey, Pete Runnels, Davey Johnson, Edgar Renteria, and Jose Offerman. They’re all nice players, but it’s clear by my numbers that the players most comparable to Vizquel aren’t in the HoME or the Hall.

If you prefer JAWS, we can look at those shortstops within 5% of his JAWS score, we have Tony Fernandez, Phil Rizzuto, Roger Peckinpaugh, Rabbit Maranville, Hanley Ramirez, Mark Belanger, Donie Bush, Rico Petrocelli, Dick Bartell, Rafael Furcal, Dave Concepcion, Maury Wills, and Jay Bell. None of those guys are in the HoME, though two, Rizzuto and Maranville, are in the Hall. In his Cooperstown Casebook, Jaffe lists the most dubious honorees at each position. He mentions just two shortstops. And you guessed it, they’re Rizuto and Maranville.

Was he ever the best shortstop in baseball? Or in his league?

In the very best season of his career, both Derek Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra were better. He had four consecutive seasons of 3.3+ WAR from 1996-1999. Those represent four of the best six seasons of his career. And during that peak run, he was just the sixth best shortstop in baseball, a shade behind Jay Bell. Opening it up from his first decent season until his last, 1991-2006, a 16-year run perfectly suited to Vizquel but no other, he’s just fifth in baseball among shortstops. And none of the guys four in front or eleven immediately behind were even active in all of those seasons.

No, he was never, ever baseball’s best shortstop.

Did he ever have a reasonable case for being called the best player in baseball? Or in his league?

Hahahahahahaha!

Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?

DRA drags him down. A lot. He’s 42nd among all shortstops by JAWS. However, he was  62nd by my MAPES system until it tipped a little more peak-centered. Now he’s down to 75th.

One argument that will be used for Vizquel is his eleven Gold Gloves. On so many levels, that’s a ridiculous argument. Gold Gloves are awarded based on votes from observers, not any metric. They’re guesses. There’s one other player in baseball history, by the way, with eleven Gold Gloves. That’s Keith Hernandez.

Vizquel: .272/.336/.352, 82 OPS+

Hernandez: .296/.384/.436, 128 OPS+

Oh, let’s look at defensive numbers too.

Vizquel is at 129 in Rfield and -31.0 in DRA. Hernandez is similar in Rfield with 118, but massacres Vizquel by the superior DRA stat with 220.2.

This Saberhagen question asks for evidence, and no, the eye test is not evidence. You are right to think Hernandez is insanely more qualified than Vizquel.

Did he have a positive impact on pennant races and in post-season series?

Since nobody cites Omar’s post-season play or clutch work as an argument for his inclusion in the Hall, I’m not going to dive too deeply into this except to point out a couple of numbers. The triple slash in the playoffs is a stinky .250/.327/.316. He did steal 23/26 bases, which is excellent. Oh, just in case you’re wondering, his World Series slash line was .208/.288/.283. Yuck!

Is he the best eligible player at his position not in the HoME?

Jack Glasscock, Bill Dahlen, Alan Trammell, Art Fletcher, Hughie Jennings, Bert Campaneris, Roger Peckinpaugh, Vern Stephens, and 40 others rank ahead of Vizquel for me.

He’s not even the best Venezuelan shortstop eligible. That’s Dave Concepcion. And Davey absolutely shouldn’t go.

Hate my numbers? Well, there are 13 eligible superior shortstops outside the Hall by JAWS.

Is he the best eligible candidate not in the HoME?

Hell no! Let’s just look at the current ballot. Omar Vizquel is 20th in career WAR, right between Jamie Moyer and Carlos Zambrano. He’s 24th in WAR in his best seven seasons, right between Orlando Hudson and Kerry Wood.

Conclusion

Now I’m completely certain. A vote for Omar Vizquel is a vote to diminish the Hall of Fame. You’re not sure yet? Well, in the next couple of weeks, I’ll have more.

Miller

Mount Rushmore, New York Yankees

Monument ParkIt’s been a while since our last Rushmore post. Welcome back! As a Celtic fan, I like to think of the Yankees as the Celtics of MLB. As a fan of accuracy, however, the Yankees are just the Yankees, without a peer in the battle for best big-4 franchise of all time. With 27 World Series wins, they have seven more than the next two teams combined. They’ve played 20 fewer years than the Phillies, yet they have about 500 more wins. The have the best winning percentage ever, topping the Giants .569 to .537 (at the time of this writing). They’re so good that the entire format of this series is going to change because of them. What an incredible franchise with remarkable stability.

Yankee Mount Rushmore, #1

Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Derek Jeter

Yankee Mount Rushmore, #2

Mariano Rivera, Whitey Ford, Bill Dickey, Bernie Williams

Thurman Munson, 1978Yankee Mount Rushmore, #3

Ron Guidry, Thurman Munson, Mel Stottlemyre, Jorge Posada

Two Others

Babe Ruth, Earle Combs

My Yankee Rushmore

Babe Ruth: Since I have a passion for the Red Sox, I also have a sort of passion for the Yankees, though not in a good way. Also, I can’t believe I felt the need to link to Ruth’s BBREF page. But I looked at it, and I learned something new. One of his nicknames was Jidge. Every day you should go to BBREF and learn something new.

Lou Gehrig: Even Red Sox fans love him.

Mariano Rivera, 2012Mariano Rivera: I met him years ago. He was super nice to me, and I was about 80% fanboy. Oh, and he’s the best relief pitcher ever.

Thurman Munson: This is the way I ask for forgiveness. One of the great sports rivalries when I was a kid was Fisk/Munson. As a Red Sox fan, you know my answer. And that is the right answer in terms of career value. Ranking the two, even including peak, it’s still Fisk. But Munson had an extended 8-year peak where he averaged 5.0 WAR per year. The best Fisk can do over such a period is 4.4 WAR. Over seven years, it’s very close, but Munson still wins. My real apology is to Munson and fans regarding his Hall case. As a not-yet-formed researcher, I found Munson’s case to be clearly lacking. Then I added some advanced statistical knowledge to my base, and more importantly added context and comparison to other catchers. Munson belongs.

On their way next week will be the Philadelphia Phillies.

Miller

Joe Morgan Wishes You A Happy Thanksgiving, and Judges You

Joe Morgan, SportscasterHappy Thanksgiving, everyone! Today my wife and I head to her parents’ house. Her dad makes a turkey, though he’s the only one aside from the dog who eats it. And he plies me with alcohol, so that’s pretty cool. At some point after the dog passes out from all the turkey, my wife drives me home. For me, it’s kind of blissful. My wife’s parents are two of the most wonderful people in the world.

Joe Morgan isn’t.

I’m not saying he’s the opposite of them. Their opposite is the political figures you’re arguing about with your families today. I’m going after Joe Morgan here, not politics.

As I’m sure you know, Morgan, with the assistance of the Baseball Hall of Fame, sent a letter to the members of the BBWAA, the voters, basically requesting that they not vote for steroid users. As readers of the Hall of Miller and Eric would expect, I have several problems with Morgan and his letter. Since he decided to put his words in writing, I’ll use those words.

  • There is a sanctity to being elected to the Hall.” Sure Joe, maybe there was. But that sanctity went away in about 1939 when the Hall elected Cap Anson, a man who helped rid the game of black players, robbing white fans from seeing the greatness of Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleston, and many others.
  • Players playing during the steroid era have become eligible for entry into the Hall of Fame.” Um, Joe, do you know you sent this letter in 2017? You’re aware that Mark McGwire, for example, has already had his ten years on the ballot. There’s no urgency today that there wasn’t ten years ago.
  • Many of us have come to think that silence will be considered complicity.” Many? How many, Joe? And when did you become complicit? Was it when you didn’t write this letter in 2015? Or when you didn’t write it in 2011? Or when you didn’t write it in 2007? Was it when you were a member of the media for about 20 years, almost certainly knowledgeable of PED use, but you said nothing? Was it when you were a player, almost certainly knowledgeable of PED use, and you said nothing? Now you think your silence will be considered complicity? I don’t get it, Joe.
  • Of course, I also don’t get why you criticized Moneyball with such fervor despite never having read it. What I’m doing here is criticizing your letter, something I’ve actually read. Joe, maybe we just don’t understand each other. Or we don’t understand logic in the same way.
  • I have faith in your judgment…” Maybe so, but it’s my guess that this line is one of the many in the letter pandering with emotional appeals rather than logical ones. It’s a smart tactic, though not necessarily either ethical or honest. I’d give Joe the benefit of the doubt, but he’s taught me that he doesn’t deserve it.
  • But it still occurs to me that anyone who took body-altering chemicals in a deliberate effort to cheat the game we love…” I have so many problems with this statement. The first is the use of the word “cheat.” In order to cheat, something must be done that is against the rules. When Mark McGwire used performance enhancing drugs, they weren’t against the rules. Thus, he didn’t cheat. When Hank Aaron used performance enhancing drugs, he didn’t cheat either.
  • You may think, “but Miller, Morgan talked about body altering chemicals in that line, and the amphetamines (greenies) Aaron and hundreds of others took aren’t body-altering.” Well, MedlinePlus, from the U.S. National Library of Medicine says, “Amphetamines are stimulant drugs. They make the messages between your brain and body move faster.” Very clearly we’re talking about a body-altering drug here. If your brain can tell your body to swing just a little sooner, you have more time to make up your mind. That’s a huge advantage! But I suppose you knew that already. Joe, did you use greenies? Did ya?
  • …in a deliberate effort to cheat the game…” Yes, I’m parsing words here, but players weren’t trying to cheat the game. They weren’t trying to hurt the game. Their goal was to help themselves and their teams. Before steroids were banned, players weren’t cheating. After they were banned, they were cheating, but they weren’t trying to cheat the game. They were just trying to cheat. If you don’t want to vote for Manny Ramirez or Rafael Palmeiro, I disagree with you. However, your argument might make total sense. They cheated! Don’t vote for cheaters if you don’t want. But Barry Bonds didn’t cheat. Nobody did before PEDs were banned.
  • Did you know amphetamines weren’t banned by baseball until 2006 (I think), though the U.S. banned them in 1970. Even in 2006, we essentially joked about amphetamine use. And since they weren’t banned until after the careers of players in Morgan’s era, I don’t think those players cheated, just like I don’t think PED users cheated until those drugs were banned by MLB

I could go on, but I want this to be a happy day. After all, it’s Thanksgiving, and I get to see my in-laws soon! Lemme close things out here.

Did Manny Ramirez and Rafael Palmeiro cheat? Yes, they broke one of Major League Baseball’s rules. Did Roger Clemens and Hank Aaron cheat? No, they didn’t break any rules. The greenies players of Morgan’s era took weren’t made illegal until 1970, so if he wanted to punish those players who used them after 1970, at least he’d be consistent in his stances. But he doesn’t want to punish those players, those who “cheated” as much as players from the early steroid era.

One of the reasons you’re going to fight with your families today over politics is because some people make decisions on gut or feel. They don’t think things through. They can’t and won’t change their minds. Perhaps they make up their minds about a whole era of baseball thought without ever reading the book explaining that though? I don’t know. Just spit-balling here. Joe Morgan should be nobody’s idea of a thought leader. That he’d try to lead the way on this issue over a decade after Mark McGwire made the ballot is laughable. There’s no internal consistency in his message. There’s no logic. There’s only anger, self-importance, and hypocrisy.

Go away, Joe. Please just go away.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Miller

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

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.

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.

Institutional History

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