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The Cooperstown Sox

August 5, 2017
How many Hall-of-Famers do the Red Sox have on their roster?
Let me clarify that question a little. I'm not trying to guess how many players on the Red Sox could waltz into the plaque room in Cooperstown if they retired tomorrow. With David Ortiz enjoying his first year of retirement, the Red Sox don’t have any players who are obvious selections for the Hall-of-Fame. There is no one like Albert Pujols or Adrian Beltre or Miguel Cabrera on the team.
What I want to know is how many players on the Red Sox are within careers that could reasonably be viewed as having a Hall-of-Fame trajectory. That is, how many of these guys are doing things at twenty-three or twenty-eight or thirty-five years old that wouldn’t look out of place on a Hall-of-Famer’s page on Baseball-Reference.
How many Red Sox seem like they’re in Hall-of-Fame careers?
A lot.
*             *             *
This thought came to me the other day, as I was watching Chris Sale blow past the Mariners a week ago. Chris Sale was looking the part of a Hall-of-Famer that afternoon, and he’s looked the part for most of this year. Unless something drastic happens, he’s going to win the AL Cy Young Award. He might win the AL MVP.
You would have to think that Sale is on a solid trajectory to a plaque in Cooperstown. He’s twenty-eight this year, and he’s received Cy Young votes every single year he’s been a regular in the majors. He’s going to score a shiny trophy this year, and he’s going to get some Black Ink in a few of the important pitching categories.
None of that makes Chris Sale a lock for the Hall of Fame, of course, but he’s doing everything he could be doing to build a case. He’s been a remarkably steady player, and his career seems to be hitting its natural peak. He’s the best pitcher in the American League right now.
What struck me, watching Sale, that a lot of the Red Sox players are in the same boat: there are a lot of players in Boston whose career trajectories look like the trajectories you’d expect from a Hall-of-Fame player.
Like Mookie Betts.
Mookie Betts is a long way away from being a serious candidate for the Hall of Fame. He’s in third year of his career, so it’s premature to start collecting bronze for his plaque. That said, Mookie Betts has one a lot to build his case going forward. He won’t be twenty-five until the season is over, but he’s already accumulated more WAR at his age than most outfielders in the Hall of Fame. He’s won a Gold Glove and he put up an elite season that would have won hardware in any league that didn’t have Mike Trout residing in it. Mookie is a year away from reaching triple digits in career homeruns and stolen bases, and his batting average should tick across the .300 line. He’s recognized as the best player on a team that is going to contend for the next couple of years. It’s a nice start.
And Mookie just feels like the kind of player who is going to have a good career. He’s very smart, and he seems to play within himself, to be contained. This is just an observer’s intuition, but it never seems like Mookie carries one bad at-bat over into another one. His defense doesn’t slip when he’s putting up an 0-fer. He doesn’t get picked off or make a mistake on the bases when the hits aren’t dropped. His many skill sets exist distinctly of one another. And while I’m sure that he plays baseball with passion, his passion is always controlled. He just never seems to get outside of himself too much: he plays with the understand that a baseball season is a long span, with ebbs and flows of the tide. I don’t think Mookie Betts has quite as much pure talent as Bryce Harper, but I would bet that he will have a longer career than Harper, for that reason.
Xander Bogaerts is doing pretty well. He’s the same age as Mookie Betts, and though his batting line isn’t nearly as impressive, Xander is a decent defensive shortstop who will have amassed close to 700 hits by the season’s end.
The thing about having a Hall of Fame is that there are a lot of ways to slip off the rails. With players who haven’t yet reached their peak seasons, one of the big markers is whether they’ve just been good for most of their years. Xander hasn’t been great yet, but he hasn’t slipped either. He’s not a surefire Hall-of-Famer, but he has the pedigree and the background of a Hall-of-Famer…now he needs to put in the big seasons.
Dustin Pedroia, in my opinion, is already about 85% of the way to the Hall: he just has to stay reasonably healthy (and keep his average above .300), and he’ll be a comfortable ‘yes.’ Pedroia had a lot of hardware (ROY, MVP, four Gold Gloves), and he does pretty well by the advanced metrics.
Phrased differently: he’s an Alan Trammell candidate. Alan Trammell got very little support from the BBWAA voters, but he (and teammate Lou Whitaker) are discussed as two of the most overlooked players in baseball. I don’t think that Pedroia will be overlooked nearly as much: for traditional voters, he gets ticks for winning an MVP and being a ‘grit’ player. For those of us on the sabermetrics side, Pedroia has a decent case.
Hanley Ramirez probably isn’t going to the Hall of Fame. That said, his career numbers, through Age-33, eerily parallel the numbers of Paul Molitor:
Player X
Hanley, like Molitor, was a high-impact player whose young numbers were limited by injuries. Molitor had a remarkable renaissance when he crossed into his mid-thirties, and it is very unlikely that Hanley Ramirez will have the same success in his waning years. But there is a chance of it happening: you can’t say that about most thirty-three-year-old players.
This is just an aside, but one thing that has surprised me about Hanley Ramirez since he’s come to Boston is how much fun he seems to have during games. He almost always joking with fans, or goofing off in the clubhouse, or grinning at the camera. If you watch a Red Sox broadcast and look for it, you’ll see him laughing in the corner of a dugout shot at least once a game.
When Hanley was coming up through the Red Sox system, the rumor was that he had a little bit of an ego problem. Maybe he did: it was a long time ago, and I’m too lazy to research the background. It doesn’t matter: he’s having fun now.
It occurs to me that there’s more than one way to mature in this life…that maturity isn’t always a line towards an increasingly somber mode of existing in the world. Sometimes maturity can be realizing the great fortune of your life, and enjoying that fortune. Hanley has had a fine career in the majors, and he’s still a helluva hitter. It’s nice that he’s enjoying it so much.
That’s five guys: Sale, Mookie, Xander, Dustin, and Hanley. I think on most teams that would be a good amount of players tracking to the Hall-of-Fame.
Just checking that…let’s look at the rest of the AL East.
The Rays probably have one player who has any shot at the Hall-of-Fame, and that’s Evan Longoria. Chris Archer is a fine pitcher, but he is twenty-eight, and his record still has more losses than wins. Maybe Jacob Faria has a chance. Logan Morrison has started a bit too late. Two players, one a really long shot.
Baltimore has Manny Machado and Adam Jones as potential candidates, though Jones would’ve been a better candidate in another era. Jonathan Schoop, in the middle of a breakout year, has a shot, I suppose. All the starting pitchers have to buy their tickets. Three?
The Yankees have Judge and Sanchez to look forward to, and Starlin Castro is a sneaky candidate to get to 3000 hits, so we shouldn’t discount him. Sabbathia was a HOF’er in his twenties, something else in his thirties…there’s still time for a rebound, and he certainly has a case even now. I like Luis Severino, though he’s still a long way off. Matt Holliday is going to fall off the ballot in his first year of eligibility, but he’s had a fine career. Ellsbury and Gardner were born three weeks apart, and it remains to be decided which one of them will have the better career when all is said and done. That said, neither one of them is getting a plaque. Ellsbury had the peaks, but Gardner’s had better health, and he’s more productive right now, so you could probably make a Hall-of-Fame career from the two of them. The Rickey/Raines of their generation, I suppose.  That five players in the Bronx.
Toronto’s best candidate might be Osuna, though that’s really premature. Donaldson has had a HOF peak, and just has to fill in the years to make him a candidate before time runs out. Bautista is on the decline, and isn’t really a candidate. Russell Martin is an interesting candidate…if you’re partial to Yadier Molina, Martin deserves your attention. Stroman hasn’t gone off the rails, but he’s a pitcher, so there’s plenty of time. Tulo is an 100-game Hall-of-Famer: he plays like a HOF’er for about a hundred games a year. 
So that’s the rest of the division: the teams have two or three or five potential candidates, but no one who really leaps out at you.
Back to Boston.
David Price is not a crazy candidate, though he probably hasn’t done himself any favors with the Veterans’ Committee this year. Price has a 126-68 record at the moment, and he’s just thirty-one years old: if he can manage to avoid the DL and pitch effectively into his thirties, he could build a case.
I’m not confident he will, though….I’m just saying that he could. I think Price’s recent bickering with Red Sox announcer Dennis Eckersley suggests that David Price isn’t going to have a particularly effective career going forward.
Let’s just think about the context of all of it. David Price is the highest-paid player on the Red Sox, and he’s struggling. He’s working to come back from injuries, trying to figure out how to pitch.
So what does he decide to focus on, given that context?
He focuses on a television broadcaster making some critical comments about one of his teammates getting hammered in a minor league assignment, and that broadcaster’s more generalized tendency to tell the truth to fans watching a broadcast. That’s what Price decided to get riled up about: Eck saying that giving up seven runs in a rehab start isn’t a cause for optimism. That’s what got Price’s knickers in a twist.
I think it’s important to note that we’re not talking about a one-and-done flash of anger. I mean, I could get that. We all have moments where we’re less than our best selves, and I wouldn’t hold that against David Price, not for a second.  
What I hold against Price is that he has opted, at every single turn since the first, to make it a big damned deal about it. What I hold against him is that we’ve had to listen to endless crap about who is on what side, and who is apologizing and who won’t apologize, all because he doesn’t know how to shut up and be decent about it.  
And the first incident showed Price as a coward. Price accosted Eckersley on the team charter, Price surrounded by his teammates, Eck just trying to make his way to the back of the place. That’s a really brave move, harassing a non-player in a crowd of teammates. Cussing out a sixty-two year man trying to board a plane. All of it showed real guts. 
Just me, I’m not betting on David Price having a Hall-of-Fame career. A lot of pitchers struggle through their early thirties, when they lose some miles-per-hour on their fastball and struggle to figure out a new way to pitch. The guys who get through that struggle…the guys who come out the other end still pitching effectively…are the one who can prioritize that challenge over secondary concerns.  David Price got distracted for a month because a broadcaster editorialized on some facts: just my sense, but I don’t think a guy like that is going to have the focus to get the job done. I hope that I’m wrong.
Anyway, David Price’s career record was 86-51 through his Age-28 season. Rick Porcello, at the same age, is sitting at 112-96…a lesser winning percentage, but he’ll have about thirty more wins in the bank by the year’s end.
I don’t think that Rick Porcello is going to make the Hall-of-Fame, mostly because I think the strikeout rate is too low for him to be an effective pitcher for long enough to hit the big pitching benchmarks. That said, his strikeout rate isn’t that bad, and he has the benefit of an early start. And he’s been extremely healthy. He has a much better chance of winning 300 games than David Price, and he’s probably a little better positioned than Sale (112 wins to 87, both men being the same approximate age), though that could change pretty quickly.
I think Porcello is a longshot for the Hall-of-Fame, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he was the active leader in career wins at some point in his career. And if he hits the ballot with 240 career victories (and is surrounded by guys with 140 or 160 wins), it’s possible he’ll get support as the best pitcher in a weak class.
Craig Kimbrel has a career ERA that is comfortably under 2.00, and he’ll be tipping close to 300 saves by the year’s end. I have no idea what the Hall-of-Fame measures for relief pitchers will be going forward, but if you were going to pick one reliever to get in, Kimbrel would be your guy. He is about eight or nine years away from the all-time saves record, though Kimbrel probably doesn’t need to pass Mariano to get elected.
The last two guys are at the start of their careers, so we’re being premature in talking about their chances for Cooperstown. Andrew Benintendi is a twenty-three year old outfielder who can hit and run, and whose walk and strikeout rates are both ticking in the right direction. Rafael Devers, a couple years younger than Benintendi, is hitting like George Brett on a hot streak.
And I suppose we could count Eduardo Rodriguez, who just turned twenty-four. Rodriguez has a record of 17-16 and an ERA of 4.21, so there’s not a lot of evidence that he’s going to be a star. That said, he’s a) a southpaw, and b) someone who can strike hitters out. Randy Johnson was barely in the majors at 25, and didn’t figure out his wildness until he was twenty-nine. Lefties are weird. He’s a wild card. 
So that’s eleven players on the Red Sox who have an established chance of winding up in the Hall of Fame. Just off-the-cuff, my view of their chances:
Dustin Pedroia – 85%
Chris Sale – probably 45%. Goes up across 50% if he wins the MVP.
Craig Kimbrell – 40%
David Price – 35%
Mookie Betts – 30%. This is going to climb pretty quick.
Xander Bogearts – 18%
Rick Porcello – 15%
Hanley Ramirez – 10%
Rafael Devers – 7%
Andrew Benintendi – 4%
Eduardo Rodriguez – 1%
I think those numbers are about right. We can sort of think them through.
Chris Sale
David Price
Let’s assume Sale wins three more games this year. Going forward, He would have to go 36-14 over the next three seasons to match David Price in career victories…that’s a 12-5 record every year. It’s possible that Chris Sale won’t do that, but it is more probable that Chris Sale will exceed those totals: he’s been pretty sharp so far as a Red Sox. And he’s already ahead of Price according to WAR…we’re just waiting for the traditional numbers to match the sabermetric ones. I think most of us would take the over on those traditional numbers, so Sale is a better candidate for the Hall than Price.
Hanley Ramirez is thirty-three, and he was a great hitter as recently as last year. We wouldn’t expect a great hitter to have an extended run of effective hitting through their late 30’s, but it’s not that uncommon. David Ortiz and Paul Molitor went from ‘fringe’ to ‘first-ballot’ at that age. Dwight Evans had productive hitting years in his thirties. We’re not anticipating that happens for Hanley….we’re just saying there’s a 1-in-10 chance that it happens.
I put Rafael Devers at 7%: he’s played nine games so far. Maybe that’s a little high.
And maybe it’s not. Devers has posted a WAR of 0.7 in those nine games. In the history of baseball, only 20 players have posted a WAR of 0.7 or higher as a twenty-year old third baseman: Manny Machado, Rogers Hornsby, Jimmie Foxx, Adrian Beltre, Freddie Lindstrom, Milt Stock, Buddy Lewis, Eddie Mathews, Bob Horner, Cap Anson, Bob Bailey, Cecil Travis, Gregg Jefferies, John Ward, Ezra Sutton, Bruno Betzel, Joe Evans, Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Zimmerman, and…Rafael Devers.
You’ve heard of some of those guys, right?  
That list is a little bit of a cheat, of course. Rogers Hornsby posted a 5.3 WAR as a 20-year old. Eddie Mathews hit 25 homers. They don’t compare to Devers: they were much better than Devers.
But it’s not just the guys ahead of Devers that make a case for him. Ron Santo played 95 games as a 20-year old….not so great on defense or the bases, but he hit a little bit. He’s a bit behind Devers. Brooks Robinson played 50 games, and was a positive contributor in a short stint. The list of twenty-year old third basemen who do something positive is crowded with a) Hall-of-Famers, b) future Hall-of-Famers, and c) guys who had pretty good major league careers. If you adjust to only count guys who hit at least a pair of homeruns, the worst player on the list is Gregg Jefferies.
It’s too early to give Devers much more than a 7% chance to make the Hall of Fame, but he is a twenty-year old who has enough hitting ability to produce at the major league level. That’s a rare thing.
Dave Fleming is a writer who used to live in New Zealand. He lives in western Virginia now, somewhere along the Waffle House/IHOP faultline. He can still be reached at  

COMMENTS (26 Comments, most recent shown first)

Utley is going to be an interesting test case for what the electorate is favoring. Most of us on the saber-side viewed peak Utley as one of the very best players of his generation...a talent on par with someone like peak George Brett or peak Ryne Sandberg. He just did EVERYTHING exceptionally well: he hit for power and average, played his position brilliantly, stole a lot of bases at an exception clip, drew walks, got hit by pitches, avoided double plays...he contributed in every single facet that a position player can contribute. His five-year peak was one of the very best I've witnessed: he was an MVP-level player for half a decade.

But.... that might get lost. He got almost no Black Ink over that time....he led the majors once in runs scored and a bunch of times in HBP.

I think it's going to be really interesting to see how he is judged....him and Carlos Beltran and Joe Mauer and Ben Zobrist...the saber-darlings. It will be interesting if they emerge as serious candidates on the ballot, or if they drop off. My sense is that the BBWAA voting trends will shift dramatically once the steroid guys are timed out/finally elected, but I don't really know.

9:37 AM Aug 8th
Interesting to compare Pedroia with Chase Utley. I've been a fan of both, of the latter since the first time I saw him live maybe ten years ago, which made me aware as numbers cannot of his defensive excellence.

At BBRef, they look very similar as hitters (OBP, SLG, OPS, OPS+):

Pedroia: .367 .443 .810 114

Utley: .360 .470 .830 118

Almost all of Utley's edge is power, 257 HR to 159.

OK, OK, their WARs are 52.5 and 65.1, respectively. Likewise the dWARs are similar, at 15.2 and 17.7, which passes the smell test.

Utley's played three more seasons, so the decline is figured in to a greater degree than Pedroia's, especially considering that the latter was two years younger when he came up.

So if Pedroia is on a HOF track, Utley is farther along on the same track. And he's getting intangibles credit as a leader with the Dodgers, which adds to the narrative.

And yet, somehow I don't picture him being elected. I hope I'm wrong.
8:14 AM Aug 8th
ventboys wrote: "WAR is attractive to simple minds."

That's an example of the tiresome anti-WAR diatribes often featured by the frequent posters on this website. It's an ad hominen attack.​
7:22 AM Aug 8th
Oops, sometimes I can't read. :-)
I misread MWeddell's last post as basically the opposite of what it is....
9:41 PM Aug 7th
"Stop fighting it ... just follow the herd and everything will be neater and more orderly."

No. NO.

Why do we fight it? Because there are too many people who WON'T, and we don't want WAR to replace analysis any more than we want to replace a varied menu with some sort of goop that nourishes us.

I'm sorry so many people don't understand this, but it HAS to be done. WAR is attractive to simple minds, and it's dangerous to put too much power into something attractive to simple minds. I'm not sure why I came up with that analogy, but then again the people I'm trying to reach are probably the same people I wasted 100,000 words on last summer and fall.
5:42 PM Aug 7th
.....but that's just what this was, or seems to have been -- which was all I was saying, and which I rail against in such a way.
2:51 PM Aug 7th
Likewise, as sabermetrics evolves, we hopefully also can avoid knee-jerk rejections of WAR or other large metrics.
1:45 PM Aug 7th
To MWeddell: Fair enough, if you're banking on the idea that in the future, Hall of Fame picks will follow things like Career WAR and JAWS more than they have to date.

Don't count on it, and all I can say is, I hope not -- even if it will become more and more sabermetrically guided, which I would agree that it will.

What I would like to think is that as sabermetrics evolves, it will subsume more and more recognition of what common concepts of "greatness" can include (and what they tend not to include), and that it won't be so guided by what I would call knee-jerk use of large metrics.

But be that as it may, I'd say that in general it's not a great bet to assume that the criteria for a thing will become different in a certain kind of way. Anyway, if that's what Dave was assuming, I would think he would have said so.
12:11 PM Aug 7th
I totally agree that it's a good quick way of getting comparables.
But, you were talking about this other thing, a very specific thing: Estimated chance of getting into the Hall of Fame, and you were comparing two specific players on it - plus, if I saw it right, you sort of "want" one of the players to come out higher, and some disappointment seems to drip from the page when you point out that Kinsler shows perhaps a little better.

One way to look at what I said is that in a case like this, for the specific question you were looking at, you don't need to worry about what WAR or JAWS might suggest -- you didn't even need to look at them -- because you have this other stuff that shows loud and clear that Pedroia (the guy I think you want!) is a far stronger candidate.

I'm going to quote another thing of Bill's, I think maybe from the old "Asking the trees" article: You could quickly see that Dale Murphy was a better hitter than Jerry Royster. (I think that was his example.) Likewise, you can quickly see that Pedroia is a far stronger HOF candidate than Kinsler, almost without even looking -- and so I don't know why anyone would want to look to WAR or JAWS, which we know are not particularly good predictors of HOF chance, compared to those other things I mentioned.

Moreover, and why I did the comment at all, this seemed to be a bold example of the near-habitual use of things like Career WAR or JAWS to evaluate 'whatever' without really considering how applicable they are to the question, and even when there are other readily available things -- sometimes, things that we mostly just know, without looking up anything -- that address the question far better.
12:05 PM Aug 7th
To Zeke's 85/85 point....that's actually true. Having 85% of a HOF career does not mean that you have an 85% chance of getting there. On the other hand, if I had written that Pedroia had 85% of a HOF career, and then put his odds at 55%, every third response would be wondering why I short-changed Dustin.

I think you're right about two keys to Pedroia slipping over to 'lock' status: staying on as a regular 2B through his contract, and staying above .300. One thing that makes me feel confident about that happening is that the Red Sox, as an organization, have cultivated a very good relationship with Pedroia. He gave up a few bucks to stay in Boston because he really likes playing and living in Boston, and I think the team management is going to be generous to him in return. And it's not like he can't do the job: he remains a fine defensive player, and he can still hit, and he's the heart of the team. I think the guys who make decisions understand all of that, and I doubt that they're going to push him off the gig until he wants to give it up.
12:02 PM Aug 7th
MarisFan61 wrote: Why do so many of you keep using "WAR" as your main yardstick for stuff like this, when there's other stuff that's so far superior for the question at hand?

I wrote: Gee, maybe it's because WAR is the best yardstick for a discussion like this?

MarisFan61 wrote: You think that things like career WAR and "JAWS" are better predictors of getting into the Hall of Fame than those other things?

* * * * *

I'm not talking about whether WAR is a better predictor of whether players in the past have been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

It seems to me that roughly twenty years from now, when writers are voting on whether the guys in this article should be in the Hall of Fame, it is reasonable for Dave and others to believe that WAR (plus whatever tweaks are made to it during the intervening roughly twenty years) will be a big part of these players' Hall of Fame debate.

There are many other advantages with starting the discussion with WAR. It is succinct. It is objective in the sense that one isn't picking and choosing which evidence to emphasize for each player. It is recognized by statistically-inclined baseball fans everywhere.

I don't know why so many of the frequent posters at BJOL dislike it when writers use WAR. If you don't want to use it, that's fine. However, there's no need to make those of us who favor using WAR have to defend the majority position repeatedly. Citing one (or two) popularly used statistics to summarize a player's career value is a useful thing to do.
11:53 AM Aug 7th
On Maris's WAR question: it's just a quick and easy way to find some comparables. Instead of having to look up two dozen middle infielders to see who has produced similar value to a player like Pedroia, I can get a decent shortlist to look at with a few clicks.

I mean, WAR isn't perfect. But it's pretty darned good, and Jaffe's JAWS approach is an interesting way of blending peak and career levels of performance. I think the conclusion that JAWS reached about Pedroia is pretty good: he's ahead of guys Nellie Fox and Doerr and Lazzeri, but he's still trailing the likes of Biggio and Gordon and Alomar. He's behind Cano and Utley....he doesn't have Utley's peak or Robbie Cano's health and power. Those results seem to make an intuitive sense, at least to me. Yeah, Kinsler is a surprise, but Kinsler is a fine player, and maybe we've all overlooked him a bit.

And WAR is germane (and Tito) to the conversation we're having. Whether or not we like WAR, it's already having a tremendous influence on how the BBWAA votes in annual awards, and it will likely have an influence when Pedroia hits the HOF ballot. Ignoring that would be like ignoring Hank Aaron's RBI tally if you were discussing his candidacy in 1976...whether or not we like the metric, it's going to have a big influence on Pedroia's chances.
11:51 AM Aug 7th
Something jumped out at me in your discussion of Pedroia...the first time he came up, you said he was "already about 85% of the way to the Hall" and then later you gave him an 85% chance of making it. But those aren't the same proposition!

(In fairness, I think this is what MarisFan was getting at in his first post.)

I'd absolutely agree that Pedroia's had 85% of a Hall of Fame career, but a lot of people have had 85% of a Hall of Fame career and never added the last 15 percentage points. IF he can play out the last 4 years of his contract in Boston WHILE staying an everyday 2B AND keeping his AVG over .300, then I think he's made it...but what would you say are the chances of all that? I don't know (of course!) but I'd guess it's closer to 50/50 than 85%.

11:04 AM Aug 7th
P.S. Another thing we could add to that list of stuff that's more indicative:
The "Inks" and the HOF "Monitors," just about anybody's Monitor.

When you have one player who's pretty good on the Inks and another who's almost zero, and the first one comes out pretty good on the Monitors and the other is almost nowhere on it, you don't need to worry on behalf of the first guy if the second one comes out a little better on the large metrics.
9:58 AM Aug 7th
MWeddell: Lemme get this straight. :-)

You think that things like career WAR and "JAWS" are better predictors of getting into the Hall of Fame than those other things?
In fact, let me make it easier for you:
You think career WAR and JAWS are anywhere near as good predictors?

Vent: I overstated it only if those WAR things are anywhere near as good predictors.

Remember, this isn't about 'how good' the players are. It's about predicting/guessing their HOF chances. Those things aren't the same.
9:53 AM Aug 7th
WAR is OK for sorting, sure. As long as you don't just salute and say Yes, sir." I think Maris overstates his side, but it's an important point to make.
8:16 AM Aug 7th
Gee, maybe it's because WAR is the best yardstick for a discussion like this?
3:51 AM Aug 7th
Dave, help me out here.
(No smiley, because while it's a little tongue in cheek, it's too sincere for a smiley.)

Also please anybody else inclined toward the thing I'm going to question, help me out too.

Why do so many of you keep using "WAR" as your main yardstick for stuff like this, when there's other stuff that's so far superior for the question at hand?
And actually in this case it's not part of any "WAR vs. Win Shares" thing although I'd quarrel less if it were Win Shares.
It's more just, why are you turning to some 'great metric' for your best answer?

I'm going to quote Bill again.....for all I know, Bill himself might not appreciate all the times I quote him because maybe he thinks I misuse the quotes more than I use them right. I hope not.

Bill wrote, years ago, that sabermetrics isn't numbers; it's the search for better information. I don't think anyone would disagree that if you've got a choice between metrics and better information, you'd want the better information. You might say that most of the time, the best info is metrics. But, how about when it isn't? Why pretend that it is? Has it become an irrepressible reflex, at the sacrifice of much else?

[There is simply no doubt that Dustin Pedroia is a better Hall of Fame candidate than Ian Kinsler.

I agree with the comment that "85%" is way high as a current estimate of Pedroia's chance, but, he's a terrific candidate. I know that he and Kinsler seems comparable in terms of many statistical things, and that Kinsler actually gets ranked a tad higher than Pedroia on that WAR-based thing called JAWS. He comes out better (a bit better) on Win Shares too.

But no matter. There's no comparison. Pedroia is a strong HOF candidate; Kinsler probably isn't a candidate at all. I don't mean Pedroia has been a better player; it has nothing to do with who's better or who has had more calculatable value. That won't determine it.

Pedroia won an MVP; Kinsler didn't. Pedroia had 2 other top-10 finishes, for a total of 3; Kinsler had none. (He was 11th once.) Pedroia won 4 Gold Gloves, Kinsler won 1. Sorry to talk about batting average, but 'it is what it is,' even still (at least some), and Pedroia is about 30 points higher. Pedroia has had two 200-hit seasons; Kinsler, none. Pedroia has been a key member, one of the top several players, of what will be known and remembered as a great team; Kinsler isn't. I talk about all-star selections in stuff like this too; they both had 4 (not great but OK). Kinsler has more HR's, but his number of HR's won't do much for any player's HOF case. The one thing Kinsler has which weighs a little against the rest is that he has a better post-season record -- a terrific post-season record, mostly unsung. But that doesn't nearly outweigh the rest (including because Pedroia has had super post-seasons too) -- and I'm saying that this other kind of stuff is far more telling than large metrics are, for Hall-of-Fame-ness.

I realize that Dave isn't using WAR and JAWS as his ultimate measure of them, but he gives those WAR things some pretty high obeisance in the comparison, and anyway, he's got lots of company. I wouldn't be talking about it except that it's what most sabermetrically oriented people seem to do. It's probably considered the most sophisticated kind of way to look at it, and probably it reflects what most such people think it should be mainly based on. But if, historically, other things besides the large metric give better guidance, why worry about the large metric at all?

The main reason I went through all this isn't because I care very much about the comparison between Pedroia and Kinsler (I like them both, a lot) or because I'm invested in whether either makes the Hall of Fame (I'd be happy if both do). It's that I'm a big believer in, well, that quote of Bill's: looking for better information. It seems that looking to a large metric (usually WAR) has become a knee-jerk way of looking at most baseball questions, to the exclusion (yes, exclusion) of thinking about it and wondering what the heck is the best way of getting at a question, even when better ways are right there.

I'm sure this isn't the last time I'll give this speech. :-)
11:23 PM Aug 6th
Regarding Dustin Pedroia: JAWS is a handy tool to consider a candidate's chances for the measures a player's peak and career value against his peers.

Pedroia ranks 19th among 2B's according to JAWS. He's ahead of a group of Veterans' Committee guys (Doerr, Fox, Lazzeri), but he's trailing the next tier of 2B's right now....Gordon, Biggio, Alomar, Whitaker. He's in a deadlock with Ian Kinsler and Willie Randolph and Jeff Kent.

My sense is that people think of Pedroia as a greater player than Kinsler. His peak value is comparable to Biggio and Alomar (and comfortably ahead of Whitaker's), but his career value is trailing those guys. If he sticks around a few more years posting 2-3 win seasons, he should sit comfortably with the Biggio/Gordon/Alomar tier.

That's a WAR-centric analysis, and while I think WAR (or whatever replaces it) will be a big factor, Pedroia, at least in my view, has always felt like the kind of player the Hall tends to recognize eventually: he's a hard-worker who everyone likes, he's played on one (very successful) franchise his entire career, he's got some hardware, and he's a middle infielder. I think he'll get in without too much trouble.
1:51 PM Aug 6th
Watching a Cleveland-Boston game a few days ago, I got to wondering about Dustin Pedroia, whose career to date I've enjoyed immensely. So I looked him up in the BJ Handbook: through his age 32 season, .301/.366/.445, 1683 hits, 375 2B, 15 3B, 133 HR. A bit hard to project, as injuries have been more and more frequent (he was fighting a knee and didn't play in the game I watched). Nice numbers for a second baseman, but no Joe Morgan.

I'd like to see him make the Hall on entertainment value alone, but 85% seems wildly optimistic.
12:55 PM Aug 6th
Neat article. How many future Hall of Famers did the 1975 Red Sox have? That was a talented young bunch. At the time, only Yastrzemski looked to be a lock. But three of them (Yaz, Fisk, and Rice) are in, and Tiant and Evans may yet make it. How about the '75 Reds? At the time, I think Rose and Bench were locks, Morgan was probably 75%, and Perez, Concepcion, and Gullett all looked to have a shot (Foster wouldn't look like a candidate till the following year). Perez made it, and I think they're done.

The point is, it's rare to have three Hall of Famers on the same time, but it's not outlandishly rare.
8:59 AM Aug 6th
you forgot that Benintendi is a 100% lock to get to the HOF
8:56 AM Aug 6th
Glad you pegged Kimbrel's chances relatively high. The pendulum with closers has swung so far in the other direction right now, I think the bar has been set impossibly high at the moment: basically at Mariano, although looks like Hoffman will get in too. This is good insofar as I don't think Sutter should be in there, and Fingers is iffy. But there has to be some middle ground, and what Kimbrel and Jansen are doing right now (and Chapman before this season) seems qualitatively different to me than anything that's ever been done before in terms of H/9, K/BB, and ERA. (Or, if you insist on newer stats, WHIP and FIP.) If they stay healthy, I think at least one of them will end up in the HOF.
8:39 AM Aug 6th
Thanks for the nice comments, guys. And don't take the percentages too seriously...

I'm not sure how Price hasn't been near his best levels in recent years...he was 17-9 last year, granting that he had a Fenway ERA. The year before that he was 18-5, and he led the AL in ERA (2.45). I think that's pretty good, right?

The reason I guessed 35% for Price is that he's in a pack of pitchers in their early thirties who a) have about 120-160 wins, b) with a good winning percentage, and c) a CY or two. He's in the pack with Scherzer and Lester and Grienke and Verlander and Hamels and Felix. Seven pitchers.

I think one or two of those guys will wind up in the Hall, though it's anyone's guess who it will be. I'd probably take Max, but we don't have any baseline on how HOF voters feel about guys with freakish eyes.

Price is holding with the pack, though he might have fallen behind it a bit this year. One potential edge is that he's a left-hander.

* * *

What's interesting about Porcello is that he's basically DONE what we want the guys in the Price group to do going forward: he's cobbled together a bunch of high-inning seasons with double-digits wins and positive WAR's.

Porcello isn't a good candidate for the Hall...not with a 4.24 ERA. That said, he is well-positioned to rack up an impressive amount of career victories. He is the three months older than Chris Sale, and twenty-five wins ahead of him right's possible that Chris Sale will never catch him.

Or take Stephen Strasburg. Rick Porcello is six months YOUNGER than Strasburg, and he's 33 wins ahead of him in career victories. If you asked 100 baseball fans who has a better shot to make the HOF, all of them would pick Strasburg. I don't see it. Porcello is about two years worth of wins ahead of Strasburg, and he's got a CY. Strasburg has had one year where he's tossed 200 innings.

I'm not saying that Porcello is a great candidate: wins are an overrated statistic, and they'll be less overrated when Porcello hits the ballot. But Porcello could be the only Jack Morris on a ballot of Dave Stiebs...if that happens, he could get a chance.
6:56 AM Aug 6th
Nice article, Dave, entertaining and well-written as always. I think you thumbed the scales like crazy, but that's part of the fun.

If you would like to make a prop bet, I'll bet you any amount you dare on Porcello, who you characterize as on a Hall of Fame path, versus Chris Archer, who you dismissed out of hand.

I am not sure if I want to cheer, laugh, cry or burp about your Devers analysis. I have to respect a man who can build a Hall of Fame case based on a 9-game sample, using 0.7 WAR as the baseline.

As reaches go, that one is heroic. How many thirdbasemen are in the Hall, and how many of them began their careers at 20? Devers' hot streak got him to 20th in a group of ... 80? 150? How many thirdbasemen have started their careers at 20 years old?

Anyway, it's all part of the fun, and I always devour your writing, Dave. Thanks for sharing.​
5:24 AM Aug 6th
Interesting. I love stuff like this, and very often try to think of current players and teams in such a way.

In general I think your % estimates are too high. They don't seem to take enough heed of "stuff happens." Including that sometimes -- probably often -- players just don't progress quite how it seems they might, even without any particular identifiable events.

But even forget about "stuff happens," just look at this.
I think Mookie Betts is one of the very most likely Red Sox guys to have a career like he'd need, yet, look at his top 10 similar-by-age players on

1. Duke Snider (970.4) *
2. Grady Sizemore (968.1)
3. Tommy Davis (958.0)
4. Ellis Valentine (951.5)
5. Del Ennis (946.5)
6. Pete Reiser (942.3)
7. Pablo Sandoval (935.6)
8. David Wright (933.6)
9. Yasiel Puig (932.5)
10. Willie Mays (931.0) *

I agree basically with what you say about him, and we might say that Betts seems like he's not prone to the kinds of things that held back some of those guys. Plus, I'd say that these players, as a group, are remarkably un-similar to Betts, as these things go, in terms of what kinds of players and athletes they were. But I think it's probably indicative that he doesn't get a better and 'more coherent' list. It's probably because his career has been just a bit up-and-down, and I think your 30% estimate is considerably on the high side.

The most out-of-whack estimate of yours, I'm comfortable saying, is David Price. You say 35%; that's what I'd say it might be for a pitcher his age with his career totals if his last few years had all been near his best level. He's had only 1 real-real-good year since 2012. In order for him to be a strong candidate, I'd say he needs at least 2 more years at his best level, probably at least 3 more (and this year won't be one of them), probably plus 1 more Cy Young, and enough more 'mass' to put him well over 200 wins. The chance of that isn't anywhere remotely close to 35%.

Cliff's Notes: I'm saying that except for over-the-top young players like Mike Trout, you need to allow for a heck of a lot more "you never know" in guessing Hall of Fame chances of young players.​
11:03 PM Aug 5th
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