Thursday, January 20, 2011

What Active Players are Future Hall of Famers?

If you're a fairly regular reader of this blog, you probably know that a couple friends and I have a longstanding annual tradition of traveling to Cooperstown for the weekend of the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. On one such occasion, about ten years ago, my pal Will and I decided to create a time capsule of sorts. By that, I mean we predicted what active players would go on to produce Hall of Fame careers.

I believe we're supposed to look at that list in about 15 years, and I think I actually know where I stashed the sheet of paper I wrote it on, although it's possible it got lost in the move. Now that I think about it further, one name I recall we disagreed on was the prior year's National League Rookie of the Year. Will said yes, he would eventually be a Hall of Famer. I said no.

The player in question was Albert Pujols. So, of course, this means it was the summer of 2002, and one and a half years into his career, Will already had Pujols pegged as a Hall of Famer. Obviously, I am willing to concede I was wrong about that one.

A couple weeks ago, there was discussion in the baseball blogging community about an article by Nate Silver which posited that, at any given point in time, there are 30 to 35 active players who will go on to become Hall of Famers. So, of course, I couldn't resist the urge to try to predict who the current group would be.

To help me with this undertaking, I solicited the opinions of the regular contributors to the always interesting sports discussion that takes place at Pickin' Splinters. The guys "on the pine" turned out to be a good litmus test for a few players whose reputations I may have over-estimated. That is, their feedback reminded me that the outcome of this exercise is not to produce a list of the names I consider most worthy, but rather to predict who will eventually earn the votes necessary to gain entrance to the Hall of Fame.

I also used the Bill James metric called Hall of Fame Monitor, which attempts to determine how likely a player is to make it to Cooperstown, and compared how each candidate's progress measures up with respect to his age. I decided that I would select a minimum of 30 players—with the list maxing out at 35—so I thought it would be appropriate to start with 15 players under 30 years old, and 15 age 30 and up. From there, I would choose up to five additional players, regardless of age.

Before I reveal the list, I thought I'd explain away a few of the close calls that I left off. All of these players have a Hall of Fame Monitor score of 100 or higher. According to James, that is the number above which a player has a strong likelihood of making the Hall of Fame. Personally, I'm thinking this is no longer the case, and that the threshold is now even higher.

Omar Vizquel & Andruw Jones
It seems odd to pair these two together, but if they don't make the Hall of Fame, they'll be the only players in baseball history to win 10 or more Gold Gloves at up-the-middle defensive positions and not get in. Jones flamed out too early, and unless he has a bit of a resurgence, I'm pretty sure he'll be left out. Vizquel draws Ozzie Smith comparisons, and while I don't think the gap between these two is as big as the difference between a first-ballot inductee and a non-Hall of Famer, I just don't think the voters are going to be kind to him.

Miguel Tejada & Jason Giambi
Several of the players who are listed below as my predicted future Hall of Famers have the PED cloud hanging over their heads as well, so I really don't know how they're going to be treated by the voters. But, they're in that otherwise slam-dunk category, and I truly believe those are the steroid era players who will get in. Borderline cases like Tejada and Giambi, I think, will be left out.

Jorge Posada & Andy Pettitte
The lesser half of the Yankees' core four don't quite have the credentials for the Hall, although I don't consider them out of the question either.

Billy Wagner
Voters are extremely picky when it comes to relief pitchers. Personally, I think Wagner should be a Hall of Famer, but my gut feeling is that Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman are the only closers from his era who will be.

Todd Helton
I asked Will about Helton the other day, and he compared him to Don Mattingly. Helton's peak lasted a little longer than did Mattingly's, but he also has the pre-humidor Colorado bias to overcome. If Larry Walker's support on this year's ballot is any indication, Helton's going to have a tough time.

David Ortiz
Big Papi has two major negatives to overcome: the anti-DH bias and the PED issue. Postseason heroism not withstanding, Ortiz gets left out.

Now, on to the list. Here are the 32 players, active as of the 2010 season, who I'm predicting will eventually be enshrined in the little museum on the southern end of Otsego Lake:

Player Age HOFM
Trevor Hoffman 43 176
Ken Griffey 41 235
Mariano Rivera 41 227
Jim Thome 40 146
Ivan Rodriguez 39 224
Manny Ramirez 38 222
Chipper Jones 38 162
Ichiro Suzuki 37 214
Derek Jeter 36 274
Vladimir Guerrero 36 196
Alex Rodriguez 35 367
Roy Halladay 33 108
Johan Santana 32 82
Chase Utley 32 73
Albert Pujols 31 262
Ryan Howard 31 90
CC Sabathia 30 82
Carl Crawford 29 48
David Wright 28 70
Robinson Cano 28 58
Adrian Gonzalez 28 42
Miguel Cabrera 27 96
Joe Mauer 27 80
Hanley Ramirez 27 64
Ryan Braun 27 58
Justin Verlander 27 40
Tim Lincecum 26 54
Prince Fielder 26 50
Ryan Zimmerman 26 22
Troy Tulowitzki 26 20
Evan Longoria 25 28
Felix Hernandez 24 25

If this site still exists 20-25 years from now, it will be interesting to see how well I do. I'm sure there are a few names I'll be laughing at myself for selecting.


  1. Cool post. Score seems low for Chipper Jones who was arguably the best 3rd baseman in the game for quite some time.

  2. Thanks JP. If you care to take a closer look at how Hall of Fame Monitor is calculated, check out the Leaderboard Glossary on

  3. Interesting. Thanks for that. Jones misses a lot of points for being a 3rd baseman (all the league championships would have given him more points were he a shortstop). I was not aware that he never won a gold glove. I suppose he's the Piazza of 3rd base.

  4. Well...Jones has a better defensive reputation than Piazza. However, considering Jones was nothing special and Piazza played a tougher position, I wouldn't necessarily rate him as any more Hall-worthy as a fielder.