Active Players on a Hall of Fame Path

January 23, 2019
 With this year’s Hall of Fame class announced, here’s a look at which active players have cleared the bar of Bill James’ Hall of Fame Value Standard.

As a reminder, a player’s Hall of Fame Value (HOF-V) is his Win Shares plus four times his Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement (WAR). The standard for Hall of Fame worthiness is a score of 500.

Not surprisingly, Angels DH and first baseman Albert Pujols leads the way. With 477 Win Shares and 99.9 WAR, he’s at 876.6 on the HOF-V scale. That ranks 27th all-time, sandwiched between legends Mike Schmidt (894.2) and Carl Yastrzemski (873.6).

Miguel Cabrera is also well above the HOF-V line at 670.6. A ruptured biceps limited Cabrera to 38 games last season, but his .316/.395/.551 career slash line and 465 home runs solidify his status among the game’s greats.

Robinson Cano’s Hall of Fame candidacy was addressed in an earlier Stat of the Week . A PED-related suspension complicates his status, but his numbers (.304/.355/.493 with 311 home runs) easily clear the HOF-V threshold. He’s at 613.8, not far from Hall-of-Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg (618).

Ichiro Suzuki says he wants to play in 2019, and for the purposes of this exercise, let’s presume he sees considerable time. By HOF-V, he’s Hall of Fame worthy at 561.2, just behind Hall of Famers Mike Piazza (562.4) and Vladimir Guerrero (561.6).

Reds first baseman Joey Votto has a .311/.427/.530 slashline, in a 12-year career and has led the National League in on-base percentage seven times including each of the last three seasons. His Win Shares and WAR combination produces an HOF-V of 533.2, a little over the line for worthiness.

Lastly, Mike Trout is only 27 years old and has played eight MLB seasons. But he’s already surpassed the HOF-V bar. He’s at 523.2, a remarkable total for a player of his age and experience. Trout has added at least 70 points to his HOF-V total in six of the last seven seasons. If he does so in the next two seasons, he’ll rank among the top 100 players in this stat (and having played 10 seasons, he will officially be Cooperstown eligible).

If he averages 70 HOF-V over the next 10 seasons, he'll be at 1,223.2, not far behind Willie Mays (1,267.6) for fifth all-time.

Yadier Molina (499.9) is as close as you can come to reaching the bar. He should clear the threshold almost immediately in 2019, presuming no injuries or major performance issues.

You might have noticed that there are no active pitchers on this list. The pitcher who is closest to a 500 HOF-V is Yankees starter CC Sabathia (489.8). Sabathia has averaged 21.6 HOF-V the last three seasons, so he’s got a good chance to surpass the 500 mark in 2019. Likewise, Justin Verlander (467.6) should clear 500 so long as he pitches at the level he did in each of the last three seasons, in which he averaged an HOF-V of 45.5.

Perhaps surprisingly Zack Greinke (465.8) is in a similar spot. Another season matching his 2018 campaign (17 Win Shares, 4.8 WAR, 36.2 HOF-V) would push him over the line.

For those wondering about Clayton Kershaw (444.4) and Max Scherzer (387), public perception may differ from this form of statistical analysis. Both still have a little way to go. Kershaw has been hurt by injuries the last three seasons that have limited his innings. Scherzer didn’t reach a level of consistent excellence until his sixth MLB season, so he still has some ground to make up.

Three players retired in 2018 who surpassed 500 on the HOF-V scale. Adrian Beltre (755.8), Joe Mauer (631.7), and Chase Utley (552.6) and will all have their names come for discussion in five years. By the measure of this stat, they are Hall Of Fame worthy.

If you want to check where your favorite player stands in the Hall of Fame Value Standard, go to Bill James Online. If you would like to read more about the Hall of Fame Value Standard, purchase the 2019 Bill James Handbook or visit the SIS Blog.

Active Leaders in HOF-V
Name HOF-V
Albert Pujols 876.6
Miguel Cabrera 670.6
Robinson Cano 613.8
Ichiro Suzuki 561.2
Joey Votto 533.2
Mike Trout 523.2
Yadier Molina 499.9
CC Sabathia 489.8
Ian Kinsler 475.2
Justin Verlander 467.6
Zack Greinke 465.8

COMMENTS (11 Comments, most recent shown first)

I wouldn't much quibble if you want to put Pujols higher, but there are 2 reasons I put Trout higher:

-- Trout, in terms of what we know about him now and what anyone has said or apparently thought about him as of now (which was what I was talking about) is an absolute no-doubt utter slam dunk. He's universally thought of as one of the very greatest players of all time, on a Mays-Mantle level.

-- Pujols has some PED murmurings -- not-inconsiderable murmurings actually. I don't consider those significant enough to take him below the top few, but to me it puts him lower than the ones I put above him, because it might give some pause to some voters.
7:59 PM Jan 31st
I won't go through your entire list (except to comment that I never have thought of Kinsler as a HOFer -- and I lived in Dallas and was a Ranger fan; can someone tell me how he won a Gold Glove this year?).

But I don't think there is any question that Pujols is a much stronger HOF candidate than Trout at this time. HOF voters have, I believe, traditionally focused on cumulative counting stats -- things like 500 homers and 3000 hits were the bellwethers. He's even got the career .300 batting average.

If their careers ended today, voters five years from now would think much less about the last several years of his career, and more about the cumulative totals. Trout would get in, but on the Kirby Puckett argument.

Oh, and I also never thought of Bill Freehan as a HOFer (0.5% from the BBWAA) but am surprised in retrospect at how good he really was (and how similar to Molina.)
7:34 PM Jan 31st
I am a strong believer that Bonds and Clemens and ARod should get in and no system based on on-field performance can adjust for PEDs, so I keep my ranking for Cano. As to the BBWAA, I think that they are increasingly influenced by JAWS and bbref, as shown by MVP and Cy Young votes and as reflected on sites like The stories I read after this year's election made reference to that. Edgar Martinez' election also reflects that. Now the Veteran Committee...
3:03 PM Jan 27th
....About my saying that I think Bill might (would?) agree that the "seat-of-the-pants" ranking is closer to actuality:

There was an interesting and curious thing he wrote (funny also), I think in one of the earlier Historical Abstracts, about player rankings that others had done. He mentioned the rankings from The Hidden Game of Baseball and 1 or 2 other analytic rankings, then mentioned a "top 100" by the old-school sportswriter Maury Allen, which was very seat-of-the-pants, and Bill did indicate that Allen's work was hardly analytic. But then, with ironic effect, he added that the rankings he probably agreed with the most were Maury Allen's. Granted, analytic rankings of that time were inferior to what we have now, but that was still a surprising and delightful thing to see from Bill. (I'm not surprised any more with such things from him.)
12:32 AM Jan 26th
P.S. re Robin: About Cano, you seem to have ignored the main extra consideration about him.
12:18 PM Jan 25th
Robin: Remember, I wasn't talking at all about "how good" they are or were, only how I'm guessing they'd do with the BBWAA (with their right-now careers).
11:02 AM Jan 25th
Brock Hanke
I admit that, as a St. Louisan, I am thrilled to see Yadier Molina make it this high, and will almost certainly be over the line when next year is finished. I've worried about Yadi's candidacy for the Hall not because I don't think he is qualified, but because his stats don't look like anyone else's in the Hall. About half the Hall catchers are power hitters with Gold Gloves: Yogi, Bench, Hartnett, Carter, Fisk, Buck Ewing and others are like that. There are two who don't have the power, but who hit .300, took a hundred walks a year, and were fast enough to play center field: Cochrane and Bresnahan. Ernie Lombardi and Mike Piazza are power hitters with poor gloves. Other than that, you get the guys who aren't in the Hall just for their play, but for other contributions added on to their play: Robinson, Tebbets, Schalk. No Hall catcher has numbers like Yadi's - not the quality, but the shape. If they elected Bill Freehan, which they probably should do, he would be by far the closest match to Yadi. It's very comforting to know that a system that employs both Win Shares AND WAR has him over the line.
10:25 AM Jan 25th
I think that Marisfan's list has both a recency and traditional stat bias. Pujols and Cabrera have had greater careers than Trout to date. Yes Trout will probably exceed both by the time he retires, but that is not what this is trying to measure. Ichiro is a HOF, as the list confirms, but Pujols and Cabrera were much more valuable. Votto and Cano are underrated by both Marisfan and the public. I do agree that the system does not work for modern day starting pitchers (or relievers as Rivera's unanimous selection makes clear). It underrates pitchers and overweights longevity and innings over peak value.
10:01 AM Jan 25th
No real arguments with your list, Maris. I think your top 4 could pretty much appear in any order, and the only reason it's not a top 5 is that Scherzer took a while to develop and Verlander had a couple of down seasons.

Ichiro, of course, is an icon.

Trout is certainly a better player than Pujols, taking whole careers into consideration, but sometimes we tend to forget what a player Albert was before injuries and age-related decline. Taking just his 11 years with the Cardinals, his OPS was a staggering 1.037, compared to Trout's .990 for his whole career to date. (OPS+ are 170 and 175, however.) This should serve as a reminder that we don't yet know what Trout will look like when all is said and done. I still wonder how that linebacker body will play in his 30s.
8:43 AM Jan 25th
Here's some "seat of the pants" vs. "metric."

I submit that the seat-of-the-pants ranking (mine, in this case) is far better, i.e. far more in line with actuality, than the metric ranking.
And BTW I don't feel like I'm particularly arguing with anybody, because I suspect that people like Bill would agree, and probably John too, although I'd be more circumspect about that (even more) :-) because I haven't seen as much about how he thinks.

Here's my rank-ordering of the named active players' Hall of Fame cred as of right now, i.e. if their careers as of right now were their entire careers; let's define Hall-of-Fame-cred as how much BBWAA vote they'd get; together with their rank-ordering by that metric.
(Listed in seat-of-the-pants order; HOF-V rankings follow the names.
BTW my "seat-of-the-pants" doesn't ignore metrics.)

I invite anyone not just to comment (vitriol allowed) :-) but also to offer your own seat-of-the-pants rankings.
In fact I'd love it.

1. Trout (if we imagine 10 yrs isn't required), 6th on HOF-V
2. Ichiro, 4th
3. Pujols, 1st
4. Kershaw, not in top 11
5. Scherzer, not in top 11
6. Verlander, 10th
7. Cabrera, 2nd
8. Sabathia, 8th
9. Molina, 7th
10. Cano, 3rd
11. Greinke, 11th
12. Votto, 5th (think of him much higher till I look at his stat page)
13. Kinsler, 9th
10:40 PM Jan 24th
Thanks John. Much harder for pitchers to cross the threshold, why is that so? Lower IP totals? How does that reflect on relievers -- or are they counted differently? Thanks
10:08 PM Jan 24th
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