Kevin Brown (1.2) – Based on historical trends, his 1.2 should get him a plaque eventually, but a lot of history happened before there were 30 teams pumping D-level candidates into the pool. Brown is on the good side of the D group, though, and he was truly great for a couple of years. The Hall of Fame has always preferred a little great over a lotta good.
Orlando Cabrera (0.0) – Ed Renteria, without the postseason highlights.
Mike Cameron (0.1) – Centerfield is one of the hardest positions to rate based on defensive statistics, because opportunity itself is too small a sample size in any given season. How slow is too slow? We really don’t know, because nobody lets Pete Incavilia play centerfield for 150 games.
Guys like Cameron often play centerfield, despite steadily declining range, well into their thirties, and they always seem to land on contenders. Their careers usually end about 15 minutes after their managers decide they are too slow to play centerfield.
I called Cameron a second-wife centerfielder last year, but I should have said “truck stop waitress.” He kept a lot of teams warm, helping contenders when their prospects failed, until he lost his looks; now he works at Mel’s Diner. Kiss my grits.
Chris Carpenter (0.7) – He’s impossible to rate on a systematic scale. He was a big-game pitcher who spent much of his career injured, so he has no volume in his record. He spent several years in Toronto getting his brains beat in, ruining his metrics. His St. Louis career looks a lot like Jose Rijo’s career: a condensed version of a Hall of Fame career. He was 95-44, 133 era+, and had three top-3 finishes in the Cy Young award voting, winning in 2005. He finished with a 10-4, 3.00 era postseason record; he was 7-1, including 3-0 in the World Series, during the Cardinals’ two championship runs.
David Cone (1.0) – Cone’s Achilles heel is his win total. The BBWAA barely looked at him, but the Veterans might give him a harder look. If the current crop of pitchers are any indication, there might not be a bunch of 250+, let alone 300+ winners to look at when he is getting serious looks. His other stuff – postseason, hardware, reputation and style points – all point in the right direction.
Francisco Cordero (0.0) – He made the ballot because he saved 329 games. His eras don’t look all that impressive for a reliever, until you compare him to the league averages. His 3.38 career era translates to an era+ of 135.
Johnny Damon – (0.9) – Damon rides the border on a lot of the Test questions; he could be anywhere from 0.4 to 1.8, depending on how thumbsy you are, and which side of the scale you are thumbing. His career numbers are superficially impressive, but they are about as puffed up as any you’ll ever see. On the good side, he was certainly famous. Had he just stayed in Boston, rather than taking the enemy’s money, his chances would be a good bit better. The Test says he’s a slight underdog to get a plaque. I think he’ll get one, but I doubt I’ll live long enough to see it.
Carlos Delgado (1.0) – He looks like Eddie Murray or Willie McCovey in the book, but he looks more like Gil Hodges once you take the air out of his numbers. He’s like Bobby Bonds was before the PED era, the guy whose numbers jump out of the book but don’t look so dominating on closer inspection.
Jim Edmonds (1.1) – Nobody ever talks about the time factor; that’s one of the fundamental fallacies of the Hall of Fame discussion. Edmonds is a controversial candidate, a popular, gold glove-winning, highlight reel filling slugger with good numbers according to the most popular value metrics, but also a guy who didn’t win big awards or lead the league in stuff. He’s part of the in-or-out argument; guys like that never get elected quickly.
Is he a Hall of Famer? Sure. There at least a dozen comparable players – already enshrined – who lose in a comparison to Edmonds. His numbers will keep him in the room forever, or until somebody asks him to dance. How long will it be? Now we’re getting somewhere. My guess is 40 years, give or take a few here, a hundred there. It will depend on how many dancers the Hall of Fame old timers are looking for, and if Edmonds is having a good hair day when they come looking.
Tom Glavine (2.3) – My crafty lefty mountain is Warren Spahn, Glavine, Whitey Ford and Tommy John, with honorable mention to Eddie Plank.
What would be the opposite? The not-so-crafty lefty mountain? I’ll go with Mitch Williams, Sam McDowell, Rube Waddell and John Candelaria. Waddell and Tommy John, as celestial bodies, would be the two left corners of the universe.
Who would the right corners be? I’ll go with Cy Young and Nolan Ryan. Since I’m here:
Crafty righty mountain is Cy Young, Christy Mathewson, Jim Palmer and Gaylord Perry. The not-so-crafty mountain is Nolan Ryan, Ryne Duran, Denny McLain and Doc Gooden.
Vlad Guerrero (2.2) – When I’m in a bad mood, Vladdie is the modern Joe Medwick. When I’m in a good mood, he’s the modern Al Simmons. And Jim Rice has to wear the duck costume.
Livan Hernandez (0.0) – Was he basically a more thoroughly tanned replacement for Bill Gullickson? Gullickson retired after the 1994 season, and Hernandez came up in 1996. Both had memorable high-strikeout games, early in their careers, and then spent forever throwing glorified batting practice and sometimes winning a lot of games. Gullickson finished 162-136 with a 98 era+, Hernandez 178-177 and 95.
Trevor Hoffman (0.6) – That score isn’t fair to Hoffman, who is going to get in to the real Hall of Fame as soon as this year. The Test isn’t well suited to relief pitchers, and particularly poorly suited to one-inning pitchers. I could make one for relievers, but I don’t think the Hall of Fame itself has defined lines of separation yet. For example, I don’t see a clear line separating Hoffman and, say, Lee Smith.
Orlando Hudson (0.1) – He barely registers on the Test, but he was as good as several of the honorable mention types of second basemen who made it into the Historical Abstracts. His defensive numbers are genuinely impressive, “proving” his 4 Gold Gloves. He was an above average hitter in his prime. He’s famous for being brittle, or at least I remember him as a brittle player, but he qualified for the batting title every year but one from ages 25-33.
Aubrey Huff (0.2) – If you buy into the Rick and Morty infinite universes theory, Huff was Don Mincher in a bunch of them.
Jason Isringhausen (0.0) – I’m sure you remember back when Izzy, Paul Wilson and Bill Pulsipher were supposed to be “Generation K.” Buster Olney and the rest of the Met-fan platoon of New York writers always freaked out about any Mets pitcher with a decent fastball and a recent birth certificate, so eventually we all got a little jaded. Even the most recent crop of guys, who had genuinely impressive fastballs, had more Tommy John surgeries than all-star appearances when Olney started humping on their legs.
Nick Johnson (0.0) – Johnson wasn’t necessarily fat, but he always looked a little soft, a little pudgy. I think of him as a Mike Hargrovish player, probably a little more talented but the same basic model. Hargrove had a butt you could store furniture in, but he managed to stay on the field. Johnson’s body kept breaking down, unable to withstand the strain of competing with the perfectly chiseled bodies of the PED era. They both lasted 12 years, but Hargrove played twice as many games, 1666-832.
Andruw Jones (0.8) – Speaking of asses you could store a cannon in … I don’t know that Andruw actually has one in there, but I’m not going to stand behind him in the buffet line.
Jones is a weird case; he has no chance of getting in through the BBWAA, but he will become a SABR darling as soon as he shows up in front of the Veterans Committee. His case relies heavily on his defensive metrics. The writers won’t pay much attention to them – they don’t have to; Jones is too far below the BBWAA line for them to dig deeper into his case – but the vets might. They will still be there, long after all the writers who remember him – and how he shot from one end of the defensive spectrum to the other faster than a cannonball (sorry) – are gone.
Chipper Jones – (2.7) – Jones has some tweener problems in his numbers. They won’t keep him out of the Hall – don’t be silly – but they might keep him out of the penthouse. He was always on the high side of good, but only ticked up over the great line for that one insane hot streak toward the end of the 1999 season. His numbers are tremendous for a thirdbaseman, but he wasn’t a particularly good defensive player, so that’s a fairly empty comparison.
Still, he’s one of the 3-5 best hitters to ever play the position, and he wasn’t a terrible defender. He wasn’t as famous as he could have been, mostly because the Braves kept falling short in the playoffs, so he’s a B- rather than a B+, but he’s a solid, no-brainer B. He’s most likely going to get elected to the GOR – and the real Hall of Fame – in his first try.
Adam Kennedy (0.0) – I don’t remember why I listed him – all I know about him is that he hit 3 homers in a playoff game and he batted lefty. There used to be a law, I think, that Cardinal secondbasemen had to have names that left no doubt whatsoever that they were white. Ted Sizemore, Mike Tyson, Ad- oh, wait. Never mind.
Jeff Kent (1.1) – If elected, his would be the most backloaded career elected to the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA since Dazzy Vance in 1955. He’s more likely to wind up sharing Veterans Committee ballots with Jim Edmonds.
Carlos Lee (0.3) – He hit 358 career homeruns, but he never finished higher than 10th in any season, and he only finished 10th once. He was known as an RBI man, but he only finished in the top 5 once, higher than 10th 3 times. His career RBI total, compiled in the highest offensive context in baseball history, barely cracks the top 100. His top BBR comp is Orlando Cepeda, but I think he was more like a poor man’s Lee May. His .285 career batting average would have been more like May’s .267, had they played at the same time, and May had a lot more power.
Brad Lidge (0.1) – Did that ball ever come down?
Kenny Lofton (1.3) – I generally don’t have pet candidates, but if I did Kenny Lofton would have his own supper dish. He changed teams nine times between 2001 and 2007, and the only time he missed the playoffs was when the Phillies had him (in 2005; Lofton hit .335) and didn’t trade him. He changed teams seven times in his playoff career. I don’t know if that’s a record, but I bet it would be hard to top.
If Mike Cameron was a truck stop waitress, Lofton was a high class hooker. He was expensive, but always on short-term contracts, and he always landed in prime spots. He played 47 postseason games for five teams after he turned 35, and all but one of them won a playoff series.
I wonder what Ed Taubensee is doing these days.
Hideki Matsui (0.4) – Godzilla may have been the most overrated outfielder I ever saw, not because everybody thought he was great, but because most people failed to realize just how awful he was. He ran around out in left field like a hummingbird with a busted GPS. The ugly bastard could hit, though. He was 29 when he came to the States, and he didn’t leave the lineup until his fourth year. He put up a 125 ops+ in his first five years, ages 29-33. It would be interesting to see what a Matsui Brock2 (or whatever number it is now) would look like.
I don’t know what it means, but if you type “hide” into BBR’s search engine you get four Japanese players.
Willie McGee (0.4) – The perfect E candidate. If the Hall of Fame expanded its circle to the next hoop out, Willie would be a terrific addition.
Kevin Millwood (0.0) – After leaving the Braves, Millwood started 283 games over the final 10 years of his career without making a single relief appearance, posting an era+ of 100. In short, Millwood was a perfect LAIM (league-average innings muncher). Mike Torrez, eat your heart out.
Jamie Moyer (0.5) – If you hit a major league homerun, chances are Jamie Moyer gave it up. He gave up an alltime record 522, in just over 4,000 innings. He was 33 years old when he finally got it together, with Boston in 1996. From there through the age of 45 he went 187-109, with an era of 4.05 but an era+ of 111.
Is he a Hall of Famer? I doubt it. His career era+ is just 103 and his 4.25 career era would be the worst by a good bit. But he won 269 games. There are only a few guys who won that many and aren’t in. One of them, Tommy John, is probably Moyer’s closest comp, though that only works one way. John’s comps are mostly guys who were a good bit better than Moyer.
Mike Mussina (1.7) – Deeply closeted Yankee fan Bob would yell at me all the time when I said Moose was more of a back-end C level candidate than a slam dunk, but the first time we Tested him, Bob had him lower than I did!
John Olerud (0.8) – The modern Joe Judge. Olerud was several inches taller, but they were both line-drive hitting lefties with good batting eyes and good gloves who had enough pop to hit in the middle of the order. Judge hit 57 of his 71 career homers on the road and came up five years before the clean ball era began. Had he came up in 1990, I see no reason why he wouldn’t have matched Olerud’s power, plate discipline and ops+ statistics.
Rafael Palmiero (1.3) – Will Clark was as good or a little better than Palmiero, even if you ignore the PED accusations. Their comparison is one of the best examples I’ve found to illustrate how much air has to be let out of the 1990s-early 2000s numbers, even before you adjust for chemicals.
Palmiero, Jeff Kent and several other PED-accused players played seemingly forever, never seeming to age. If you adjust for PED factors, don’t forget to look at longevity and aging patterns.
There’s a report that Raffy wants to come back, at 53 years old. He’s subject to a suspension if he does, I think, so maybe he’s just trying to clear that off his desk.
Tony Phillips (0.3) – Baseball’s Dennis Rodman. Neither one ever ranks high on greatness lists, but both would be immensely valuable as role players in contests between historical greats.
Jorge Posada (0.9) – One of the most consistent players ever, his case won’t come up any time soon. When it does, it’s going to ride or die on his defensive reputation.
Manny Ramirez (2.6) – Manny owns the highest single season RBI total since the 1930s, driving in 165 for Cleveland in 1999. It was his only RBI title. He led in batting in 2002 and homeruns in 2004, giving him a best-ball triple crown. I don’t know how many players did that, but it ain’t as many as you might think.
Manny’s reputation is larger than life, but his career numbers, while outstanding, don’t match up with the pantheon level players. His career black ink total is 21 (average Hall of Famer 27), his grey ink 154 (average 144). If I take the Test questions about fame and impact out, Manny is pretty much a solid C player, averaging around 2.0.
The Mannycomps timeline, updated every year (I don’t know why):
Scott Rolen (1.4) – Had steroids never been invented, I think Rolen would have been a no-brainer Hall of Famer. His career profile scans as a guy who was clean in Philly, dirty in St. Louis for a couple of years, then clean again after 2004, when testing got going in earnest. I haven’t looked at it much, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if there were a coupla dozen players – maybe several dozen – who show that clear back line between 2004 and 2005. Pudge Rodriquez famously lost 40 pounds (and 40 ops+ points) over that winter.
Rolen has the metric profile of a Hall of Famer, but not the bulk numbers or the superstar reputation. Had he not been competing with a bunch of Michelin men, his impressive balance of good offense and outstanding defense might have made him a lot more famous. His relatively early fade (his last good year came at 35 years old, and he sputtered after he turned 30) wouldn’t have looked so sickly if relative mediocrities in their 20s, like Jeff Kent for example, hadn’t lasted a decade longer than their natural talent deserved.
Johan Santana (2.1) – Several reader posts threads have argued Santana’s case, but always under an assumed name. I think one called him “Koufax” and asked what his case would be like if he was missing his final season. Another called him “Kershaw” and asked if he would make the Hall of Fame if he retired immediately. Toss in Joe Wood and Addie Joss, mix thoroughly, and pour over Dizzy Dean.
Is Johan a Hall of Famer? His Test score predicts a BBWAA election, but it’s hard to see them voting for him with just 139 career wins. Dizzy Dean only won 150, though, and he pitched when pitchers routinely won 25; he himself once won 30. The BBWAA elected him. Roy Halladay (RIP) is getting in without too much trouble. The writers who are going to vote him in all covered Santana, and they all know Santana was the alpha dog of the two.
Johan put up a 150 era+ over a nine year period. There are others who have done that, but I doubt it was more than 15-20 guys, and most of them were from the early days, when competitive balance was comparatively weak. There are only two starting pitchers who beat 150 era+ in their career, and one of those (Kershaw) is still active.
Santana’s case will get better if pitchers stop winning 300, and it’ll get great if they stop winning 250. The Hall of Fame voters historically have chosen ephemeral greatness over sustained goodness, so Santanta has that going for him. Which is nice.
Curt Schilling (2.2) – I don’t have to eat dinner with the guy, and his finger, foot and bloody sock prints are all over the game. Let the KKK give his dinner, put his plaque between Satchel and Campy, and move on with your life.
Gary Sheffield (1.7) – You could have made a lot of money in early 1992, betting a parley on whether Sheffield would be (1) alive (3/5), (2) not in jail (9/5), (3) a serious Hall of Fame contender (100/1), and (4) working in television (what?).
Put Curt Schilling and Gary Sheffield in a room, turn on the cameras, and lock the door. How fun would that conversation be?
Ben Sheets (0.1) – Would Sheets make the “best players who were still colossal disappointments” team? He flamed out early, retiring with a losing record after being hyped as much as Kershaw or Clemens. But he was actually pretty good; his career era+ was 113, and he accumulated 45 points of gray ink.
In his case, it’s obvious what happened. He posted a 162 era+, a league-leading 8.25-1 k/bb ratio and 264 strikeouts in 2004, at age 25. He wasn’t the same pitcher after that. Was it the workload (237 innings), or the PED wall? It don’t suppose it matters now. He’s retired, restoring old cars, coaching his kid’s little league teams and burning dead cows in his back yard.
John Smoltz (2.2) – I was surprised when he got elected immediately, but he was a certainly a solid choice. Did anyone think he would be a first-ballot Hall of Famer in the spring of 1995? He was 28 years old, 78-75 in his career and coming off a 6-10, 4.14 era season. He was Ben Sheets.
In the following 13 years – 1995-2007 – he went 129-70 with a 142 era+. He missed a year and spent four years in the bullpen; he won 6 games in those 5 years. He still got to 200 wins and 3,000 strikeouts.
Sammy Sosa (2.0) – I think he’s a Hall of Famer, but he’s likely going to have to wait awhile. Without the juice, he was Chuck Klein or Jose Canseco. Even with the juice, he didn’t dominate. He didn’t lead the league in homers in any of his 60 homer seasons. I have him at 2.0, but realistically he should be seen more as a 1.4 or 1.5. The writers aren’t going to give him a pass for the PED stuff; his use was too prominent. He will have to wait at least until McGwire gets in.
Dave Stieb (0.9) – He has an argument for being the unluckiest Hall of Fame candidate of his time. He should have won more games, he should have won more hardware, he should have been involved in more postseasons, and he should have been more famous. It’s hard to overcome that sort of 0-4.
Matt Stairs (0.0) – He looked like the catcher on a slowpitch softball team, but he had some good years and lasted forever. His grandkids will be thoroughly entertained.
Jim Thome (2.4) – Somebody looked at the young 6’4”, 240-pound Peoria farm boy incarnation of Jim Thome and decided he was a thirdbaseman. In his first two major league trials his fielding percentages were .900 and .882. He continued to play third for another four years, better than that but still pretty bad.
Thome, especially early in his career, looked as scary at the plate as any player I ever saw. He looked like one of those slowpitch softball ringers the boss hires to wash his car, and everybody just walks him every time he comes up. Major league pitchers weren’t all that excited to see him, either, walking him over 100 times in nine different seasons.
Thome got a lot of flack for not driving in runs when he was young, and I know people who swear, to this day, that he’s retarded. He isn’t, of course; it’s just what gets out in the air when you look like Moose from the Archie comics.
Omar Vizquel (0.9) – I think he’ll be treated a little better than that Test result; I expect the Vets to elect him while he’s still alive to enjoy it. His 11 Gold Gloves will keep him on the radar until he gets elected, assuming he doesn’t go win four titles as a manager and get in that way first.
Billy Wagner (0.4) – A better pitcher than Hall of Fame candidate, given his unfortunate big-game record. There is just no way to explain away his big game history to the writers who watched him play. He might emerge as a good candidate down the road, when his regular season numbers might win an argument with writers who didn’t watch him fold like a cheap lawn chair every time a big game was on the line.
Tim Wakefield (0.1) – Wakefield has just one knuckleballer on his age 44 comp list. That seems weird.
Larry Walker (1.4) – Walker might wind up battling Sosa and McGwire for votes a decade or so from now. If so – considering his clean reputation – he might have a pretty good chance.
Bernie Williams (1.2) – Williams had one of the few lasting, successful first-wife centerfield marriages of his era, surviving one famous rough patch when he threatened to go marry
Richard Burton the Red Sox.
Bernie eventually got old and
passed away retired, though, so the Yankees had to move on. First, they had an affair with high-priced hooker Kenny Lofton, and then they Liz Taylored Eddie Fisher stole Johnny Damon from the Red Sox. The lovely couple was happy for a couple of years, but they went through their own rough patch, when the Yanks started messing around with the younger, supposedly hotter Melky Cabrera. Damon suffered in silence over in right field for a year or so, then rode off on the back of the Tigers’ motorcycle.
flat-chested powerless Cabrera was a horrible wife, never learning how to cook or clean or turn on a fastball, and he put on weight, so the Yankees dumped him and stole Debbie Reynolds’ husband the Tigers’ centerfielder, Curtis Granderson. Meanwhile, Melky moved to Kansas City and got a boob job Victor Conti’s phone number.
Matt Williams (1.1) – Matty is the meat in the Hall-candidate thirdbase sandwich. Graig Nettles and Darrell Evans are the bread. They kill each other’s chances, because, well … they ain’t all getting in. But which one do you pick?
They should have one of those Highlander things where they chop off everybody’s head until there is only one. Or how about a reality show? The Hot Corner. Bring in all the borderline guys and vote them off thirdbase until there is only one left. Toss that guy a plaque, and make him give a speech.
Once one gets in, his election will be the basis for every argument in defense of the other two.
Kerry Wood (0.1) – What do they call that useless flap of skin surrounding Wood’s 20-strikeout game? His career. Get it? Ah, nuts to ya.
I’m just kidding … Wood had a tremendous season in 2003, striking out 266 and pitching great in the playoffs until that disaster of a 7th game. Dusty Baker has ruined more young right arms than Hugh Hefner.
Carlos Zambrano (who the hell knows but it ain’t a lot) – Gawd was he fun to watch, no matter what he was doing. He had a huge, violent lefthanded swing that led to 24 career homeruns and a lot of Chicago’s reputation as the Windy City. He even stole a base, which should have gotten that catcher fired; he ran the bases like a fat tourist looking for the food court, five minutes before the mall closed.
As a pitcher, he did something that I bet used to be common, and might come back. He’d throw 89-91 mph fastballs all day long, 2-seamer after 2-seamer. He threw a few changes, and I heard rumors that he had some sort of breaking ball, but mostly he just tossed up that 2-seamer at 90 percent capacity, over and over – except every once in awhile he’d cross the seams and air out a chest-high, 96 mph 4-seamer. I think his ability to pace himself like that allowed him to fade Dusty’s influence, but his career ended at 31 anyway because he couldn’t fade the food court.