Phil Dellio's Homepage
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Looks like I last did a Hall of Fame round-up here in 2010 (my second on this site). The idea was to do one every 10 years or so...eight is close enough. If I end up doing another one after this, well, the idea that I’ll still be engaged enough to care (and healthy enough to write coherently) in 2025 or thereabouts, that’d be a bit of a surprise from this vantage point. Quick rundown of my predictions last time: 1. Cloudy PED associations: Bagwell, Thome, I-Rod. I hedged a bit, but “short of any revelations still to come, all three of these guys will be inducted.” As they have been. 2. Guys I identified as a 100% lock: Maddux, Johnson, Rivera, Piazza, Alomar, Jeter, Griffey. Those were easy--five are in, Rivera goes in this year, Jeter next year. 3. A group of players I said were sure things but possibly second- or third-ballot inductions: Pedro, Glavine, Thomas, Biggio, Chipper, Guerrero. All six are in. 4. Helton, Larkin: Larkin was inducted in 2012. Helton goes onto the ballot for the first time this year; the Colorado factor still hasn’t had a clean test case (Walker’s been a partial test case, complicated further by the era he played in), so I’m still not sure what’ll happen. 5. Pujols, Ichiro: Said they were locks, just as their careers were about to rapidly head south. Nothing’s changed--first-ballot picks. Pujols’ career has followed a path similar to Frank Thomas’s, although Thomas was never quite as great as Pujols in his prime, nor was he ever as bad as Pujols has been the last two or three seasons. 6. John Smoltz, Trevor Hoffman: I predicted they’d go in and they have. 7. Roy Halladay, Johan Santana, CC Sabathia, Tim Lincecum: “One for sure, maybe two.” Halladay will go in this year (and, I think, would have easily done so with or without the plane crash). More on CC later. 8. Miguel Cabrera, Joe Mauer. “Today, on track to be 100% locks. But they’re both 27; cf., Juan Gonzalez.” Or cf. Joe Mauer (more later). I also tacked on a group of longshot projections, without committing to any of them, and many of whom I’ll revisit below. All in all, I got all of the easy stuff right. It’s those longshots that are much harder--of the eight I mentioned, the only one that panned out, Robinson Cano, got nabbed for PEDs, and now even he won’t go in for the foreseeable future. And I didn’t mention David Ortiz anywhere, whose improbable late-career surge moves him into the sure-thing category, even with the twin obstacles of having been a career DH with a trace of PED-association. Some new groupings for 2018 (active players only). 100% Locks: Pujols, Cabrera, Beltre, Verlander, Kershaw, Trout, Scherzer, Votto. With players like Kershaw and Trout, people always add “provided their career doesn’t end tomorrow.” You don’t need to add that: if their careers were to end tomorrow, they’d be first-ballot picks regardless. There’s a greater emphasis on peak value now, and if anything, all that closing the books would do would be to eliminate the risk of a prolonged decade of mediocrity (cf., Albert Pujols; Cabrera may finish up that way too). They’d still make it if that were to improbably happen, but it’s a moot point--they’re both in already. Verlander was starting to look a bit shaky three years ago, but after a solid 2016 season, and then all that’s happened to him with the Astros, he’s in the clear now. With the way he’s pitch- ing, and with the Astros embarking on what looks like a mini-dynasty, he may even end up with 250+ wins. (I say that in passing--wins, as everyone knows, are no longer a big deal, even on a HOF resume.) Scherzer’s got three Cy Youngs (they’re still a big deal), he’ll finish second this year, and he gives no indication of slowing down at 33; even better, I stand to win $40 if he’s inducted (and lose $100 if he isn’t--yes, I actually gave odds on that bet two years ago). Beltre was an underappreciated sabermetric favourite for years; he still is, and he’s additionally added old-school benchmarks (3,000 hits the biggest) and an all-around good-guy reputation to his cre- dentials. And by the time Votto gets on the ballot, a more sabermetric voting body will probably make him a first-ballot, 90-95% pick. Good bets: Altuve, Stanton, Betts, Sale, Machado, Lindor, Goldschmidt, Posey. The careers here range from Lindor, who just finished his fourth year, to Posey, about to start his 11th. But I’ve grouped them together because I think they’re all good bets--not locks by any means, especially Lindor, but putting together recognizably HOF-type careers: awards (Betts’ MVP this year will make four for the group; Sale hasn’t yet won a Cy Young, and probably won’t win this year because of the injury, but this will be his seventh consecutive year in the top six), black ink, postseason exposure, impressive numbers both traditional and sabermetric, and, with at least five of them, face-of-the-franchise status. Altuve’s got a good jump on 3,000 hits, Stanton on 600 HR. Machado may finish his career as the best third baseman since Schmidt and Brett: he's still only 25 (he came up at 19 and was a regular at 20), and among third baseman, he trails only Eddie Matthews in career WAR for his age. (Not a really a fair comparison, I know--Schmidt and Boggs were just getting started at 25.) He's also about to sign for a quarter of a billion dollars with someone; hopefully he remains the same player after he cashes in. Goldschmidt still doesn’t get a lot of attention, but he’s a perennial MVP candidate and, just rounding 30, he’s hanging around the .300/.400/.500 career slash line, which still means something. Posey will have to keep going for a few more seasons, but unless you think there’ll be zero active catchers inducted, he’s the most obvious consensus pick. Building a case: Rizzo, Arenado, Freeman, Bryant. You could, I suppose, move Arenado into the good- bets group, but the Colorado-factor is again an issue (his home/road splits are as drastic as they were for Dante Bichette or Vinny Castilla)--he does have defense going for him. Freeman’s a lesser version of Goldschmidt, but, his injury last year aside, he’s about as consistent as it gets. (Both he and Goldschmidt are missing those eye-popping years one associates with HOF first-baseman, though.) The two Cubs guys...have a chance. Hard to say: Harper, Kluber, Kimbrel, Bumgarner, Sabathia, Molina, Correa. Harper is the game’s most mercurial mystery. In 2015 he had a Trout-like 10-WAR season, and it looked like the two of them would have the top of the mountain to themselves for the next few years; since then, he’s had one year that was shaping up as a worthy encore until he got hurt, and another two that were pretty mediocre (a lot of walks, a few home runs, and not much else). Kluber got such a late start--he didn’t have his first great season until he was 28--but wow, has he ever made up for lost time: two Cy Youngs, a 3rd- and a 9th-place finish, and he’ll probably finish 3rd or 4th this year. (He is developing something of a David Price/Clayton Kershaw-problem in the postseason.) I don’t know of any historical precedent for a non-knuckleball pitcher getting such a late start, so we’ll have to see how long he can remain dominant; there’s not a big margin of error for him. (Josh Donaldson was in a comparable place heading into the 2018 season, but I think he just used up his margin of error.) Kimbrel has one huge obstacle to overcome: the widespread feeling that Mariano Rivera is now the standard for HOF closers, which is another way of saying that--even though Trevor Hoffman was kind of grandfathered in (to the dismay of many; not me)--no more closers should go in. Kimbrel’s career line at this point is so imposing--a career ERA of 1.91, 14.7 K/9, 4.8 H/9, 333 saves at age 30; saves have been more or less discredited, and ERA and H/9 are fading, but these things don’t disappear overnight--he’s going to put that to the test if he can keep going for another six or seven years. Actually, he has a couple of other obstacles, too: he doesn’t have the postseason résumé that Rivera had (no one does), and there are two other closers, Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman, whose career boxes aren’t all that dissimilar to his. If you believe that one of them, at most, will go in, then Kimbrel still has to separate himself some more from the other two. Bumgarner, with a huge assist from his World Series heroics, looked like a very good bet after the 2014 season, but since then he’s had a penchant for strange, self-induced injuries that have cost him big chunks of two seasons; he’s still pitching well, but he may need an off-season lifestyle coach. I mentioned on a message-board last week that Sabathia might be the last Jack Morris-type starter to go into the HOF--workhorse, relatively high ERA, lots of wins--but a couple of people countered that there’s a sabermetric case for him too. I don’t know...he does sit at 62.2 WAR on Baseball Reference, but that’s largely a function of that workhorse quality about him. He’s never had a season over 7.0, and he’s only been in the 6.0-7.0 range three times; I suggested he was a compiler of a different kind, a WAR compiler, with a lot of 3.0-5.0 seasons. If he goes in, I’m fine with that, but then I never found any reason to get all apoplectic about Morris’s induction, either (even though I rationally knew he didn’t belong). Yadier Molina’s HOF case was a big topic of conversation two or three years ago; I don’t see him going in myself, but he still has his advocates. Correa’s probably too young for this group, but after last year’s MVP-type season cut short by an injury, and then another injury and a big step back this year, the hard-to-say part very much applies. Starters: Lester, Hamels, Greinke, David Price. The most interesting group of all to me--four pitchers, three of them coming off their age-34 seasons, the other one 32, who aren’t badly positioned, Greinke especially, even though intuitively no one really views Lester or Hamels as a HOF pitcher (Greinke and Price, maybe). The problem with Greinke--or at least I think it’s a problem--is that so much of his career value resides in two spectacular seasons; at the moment, 2009 (10.4) and 2015 (9.1) account for almost a third of the 61.5 WAR for his career. But that percentage drops with every good season, and he’s had five good-to-great ones out of six since switching leagues. I think two or three more are all he needs. Lester and Hamels are on shakier ground (I pegged Lester at about 5% in the Sabathia post mentioned earlier). Lester sits at 177-98, 3.50 ERA, and 44.6 WAR for his career; Hamels, 156-114, 3.40, 55.4. Both have been good in the post-season (Hamels was the 2008 Series MVP), both are pitch- ing for the Cubs right now; Hamels has the edge, but Lester’s coming off the better season. For either one to have a realistic chance, I think you’re looking at five more solid seasons at least, but they’re not out of the running yet. Price has endured a bit of a nightmare since arriving in Boston, but in two of the three seasons he’s actually pitched well, and he managed to go 17-9 in the one where he didn’t, 2016. So he’s made some incremental progress. Something I read a couple of months ago clued me in to his biggest problem in Boston, which is probably not race--Ortiz and Betts are loved in Boston-- and probably not even that interview he gave where he dumped on Dennis Eckersley; it’s that the Yankees have just killed him the last three years. His post-season travails remain a mystery. (I’m looking at two Google headlines right now in advance of the LCS: one says “Alex Cora gives David Price a chance he does not deserve,” the other “Evidence bears out Cora’s trust in Price for G2.”) In any event, he’s now 143-75 for his career, with a 3.25 ERA, 38.2 WAR, one Cy Young, three second-place finishes, and another two Top-10s (with possibly a third on the way). He’s definitely light on WAR--by the time he goes on the ballot, I doubt a starting pitcher under 60 will even have a chance. Purgatory: Cano, Braun. Cano was pretty much a lock before his suspension, the 7th-greatest second baseman ever according to Jay Jaffe’s JAWs metric; all that awaits him now is the 1st-Stupidest Player of the Post-Sammy-Sosa-Era Award. With Braun, you’ve basically got a chicken-and-the-egg question: will he not make the HOF because a) he stopped being a great player at age 29, b) because he was sus- pended for PEDs, or c) because he stopped being a great player because the drugs were taken away from him at age 29? I think that’s a chicken-and-egg question...sort of, anyway. He’s not going in. Probably not: Mauer, Felix, Longoria, Pedroia. I still come across Joe Mauer advocacy, but to me he’s basically Andruw Jones, masked somewhat by incremental yearly gains in his career WAR (up to 55.1-- he may not make it to 60.0) and the fact that he’s still a regular first baseman/DH who periodically shows flashes of the great player he was before he hit 30 (he was leading the league in hitting for a few days in April this year, I think). Felix’s rapid decline the past four seasons (his ERA has climbed from 2.14 to 3.53, 3.82, 4.36, and 5.55) has all but finished him, barring a sudden turn- around; his career numbers are actually better than Lester’s or Hamels’, but he ended 2018 as a middle reliever. Longoria maybe belongs in the hard-to-say group. His defense remains strong, he’s still only 32, and his last two years have been okay, not disastrous (.250, around 20 HR--decent production at third). But he needs to climb back somewhere close to where he was in his heyday, and then sustain that for another five years at least--unlikely. Pedroia was basically out of commis- sion for the entirety of the 2018 season, and his team moved on without him. I’m not sure if he has a job next year. (At the exact moment I type those words, Brock Holt--one of Pedroia’s three replace- ments this year--is finishing off the first-ever post-season cycle.) Barely started: Acuna, Soto, Albies. A couple of the most promising rookie seasons ever (Acuna and Soto have a five-year jump on what Judge did last year), and a second-year-guy, Albies, who’s a 21- year-old middle infielder with 24 HR and 69 XBH this year. Long way to go, but I bet at least one of them will be around for the long haul. As always, there are other names I could slot somewhere up there, usually in the hard-to-say category: Yelich (all of a sudden), Judge, Bellinger, Ohtani, Snell, Ramirez, etc. The one thing that links them all is what’s commonly referred to as recency bias. If I revisit this again, one or two of them will merit a closer look, as will Bartolo Colon at 52, or 55, or however old he’ll be by then. Everything above more or less makes sense to me. Stevie Nicks, solo artist, on the Rock and Roll HOF ballot, that makes no sense at all.