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Who Are The Most Worthy Candidates for the Baseball Hall of Fame?

December 4, 2020
Unlike last year when Derek Jeter was the featured candidate, this year’s ballot offers no certainties among likely Hall of Fame inductees.
There are plenty of prominent holdover candidates, most notably Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Curt Schilling, but no newcomers whose ledger suggests Hall-of-Fame worthiness.

In the 2019 Bill James Handbook, Bill James unveiled a new stat (explained here and here) to show a player’s Hall of Fame Value and set the standard for election as receiving a HOF-V score of 500 or higher (the score is based on a combination of a player’s Win Shares and four times his Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement).

There are 11 candidates on this year’s ballot who meet that threshold. We’ll get to some of them in a moment. There are five players who come within 50 points of 500, including three newcomers on the ballot. Those three are Torii Hunter (477.3), Mark Buehrle (457.3) and Tim Hudson (451.8).

Hunter hit 353 home runs, won nine Gold Gloves, and made five All-Star teams in a 19-year career. Buehrle won 214 games and posted double-digit victory totals in the last 15 seasons of a 16-year career. He also pitched two no-hitters (one was a perfect game), won four Gold Gloves, and won a World Series with the 2005 White Sox. Hudson won 222 games and had a 3.49 ERA in a 17-year career that included a World Series title with the 2014 Giants.

All three were very good players whose credentials come up just a little short when put before this evaluation tool.

Among returning candidates, putting aside those whose cases are hindered by PED-related issues or other matters, there are several worthy players. Last year, we evaluated the candidacies of Larry Walker (who was elected to the Hall of Fame), Scott Rolen, and Bobby Abreu. Let’s touch on two other candidates from that list of those who have cleared the HOF-V threshold, who warrant a closer look.

Todd Helton

Todd Helton hit .316 with a .953 OPS and 369 home runs and won three Gold Gloves in a 17-year career, all with the Rockies. Helton’s voting support jumped by nearly 13 percentage points from 2019 to 2020, but at 29% he’s got a long way to go to reach the 75% needed for election.

Helton’s best argument is that six of his eight most similar hitters by
Bill James Similarity Score are Hall of Famers, including the No. 1 comp, Jeff Bagwell. The challenge Helton has is that he’s perceived to be a hitter whose stats were boosted by playing 81 games a year in Coors Field (where he hit .345 and had an OPS nearly 200 points higher than his road OPS).

Jeff Kent

Jeff Kent compiled one of the best offensive careers for a second baseman, hitting 377 home runs with an .855 OPS. He meets the Hall of Fame Value threshold. But in seven tries on the ballot, he’s never garnered more than 27.5% of the vote.

Kent’s best argument is that over an eight-year period from 1997 to 2005, he was one of the game’s best run producers, averaging 110 RBI and 94 runs scored per season with the Giants, Astros, and Dodgers.

He is hurt by his being a slow baserunner and poor defensive player, which kept his overall value down. Still, this statistical system deems him Hall-worthy.

Highest Hall of Fame Value Score
Among Candidates on Hall of Fame Ballot

Player HOF Value
Barry Bonds 1355.2
Roger Clemens 995.3
Manny Ramírez 685.4
Gary Sheffield 672.1
Bobby Abreu 596.1
Scott Rolen 584.7
Curt Schilling 570.4
Todd Helton 562.8
Jeff Kent 560.6
Sammy Sosa 555.3
Andruw Jones 527.2
Torii Hunter 477.3
Andy Pettitte 465.0
Omar Vizquel 464.3
Mark Buehrle 457.3
Tim Hudson 451.8

To see the Hall of Fame Value for your favorite player, go to Bill James Online.


COMMENTS (12 Comments, most recent shown first)

I'm guessing that 800+ may be a no-questions-asked hall of famer, and 500-800 is a gray area (500-650 the weak side and 650-800 the strong side of it). Of course, a player could be better than their score when credit is given to post-season achievements. I think credit should certainly be given to post-season, but an extremely great player without much or any post-season time should also be able to get selected if they one of the best ever at what they did.
5:04 PM Dec 7th
P.S. Perhaps further qualifying that:
It isn't any big deal to say that a field has its share of stupid things, IMO, because every field probably has its share. (Hence, "its share.") :-)
I haven't known of any field that doesn't, including ones that I've been in.
3:02 PM Dec 5th
Frank: About Pettitte and whether post-season counts, or should count:

If my post at the bottom was abusive, I don't know what to call what I'm going to say here. :-)

(Not about Frank -- as I said, I think it was well said -- but about, well let's see.)

Relatively little sabermetric work of this sort -- i.e. attempts to represent a career in a number in order to indicate "Hall of Fame-ness" -- takes any account of post-season.

With perhaps at least a small "IMO" on this :-) ....Of all the stupid things in the wonderful field of sabermetrics, which despite being wonderful has its share of stupid things, this is by far the very stupidest.

In my post at the bottom there, I questioned whether the member had thought much about what he said before he said it. It was hard for me to fathom that someone who is a strong enough baseball fan to be a participant in this site and who asks such highbrow questions would fail to know easily that what he was wondering wasn't so (and frankly it does put me more toward the category of those who suspect that his BJOL account isn't that of an actual person).
Somewhat similarly, while I have no doubt that all the major people in sabermetrics are actual people :-) I cannot fathom how they could ever develop metrics that aim to indicate degree of 'greatness' or of 'Hall of Fame-ness' without including performance in the very most important games -- the games from which come the games that are remembered the most and which contain the most memorable and immortal plays, and the games which for many people play such a high role in their concept of players' greatness.

Well OK, now that I have that out of my system :-) ...I'll put it softer:
It isn't real smart. Even granting the idea that to some extent it would be "unfair" to count kinds of games in which some players just had more of an opportunity to be in them than others did, which I know to be the main rationale, I cannot fathom that thoughtful creators of such metrics would see fit to omit consideration of such an obviously important and relevant thing.
12:59 PM Dec 5th
Another WAR vs WS ? Torii Hunter vs Bernie Williams vs Andruw Jones. Bernie was summarily rejected by the Writers and not eligible for long shot status on the veteran's ballot until 2022. Bernie and Torii are pretty much equals in WAR with around 50, Bernie is ahead in WS by just over 300 to 280 for Hunter. Bernie of course had higher impact s, topping season topping out around 30 and Torii was in the low 20s. Andruw was clearly ahead in WAR at around 60 and high impact seasons, but only in the 280s in WS. Torii and Andruw are pretty close on the list above, Bernie is not on it. So the method shows it limitations with those 2 on the same level. Is Torii really any better candidate than Bernie? I say no. Is he close to Andruw Jones? again I say no.
10:25 AM Dec 5th
I am surprised that Torii Hunter scores so high. As a Twins fan I always liked him. Good to very good in everything. Perhaps that he wasn't great in anything (except in CF defense) causes him to not stand out. Good test to see if long-time solid performance is enough to get HOF votes. Does the Any Pettite score reflect his post season accomplishments. Even without rating a post-season game more important than a regular season game, I hope Pettite's post-season record is counted - he basically pitched a whole extra season counting those games. And think of the added strain on an arm of those beyond end-of-season innings. I would vote Pettitte in.
1:12 AM Dec 5th
Was Kent a poor defensive player or just not as good as his 2B peers? He was able to hold down the job for a very long time for multiple playoff caliber teams, so he couldn't have been a liability out there in a very important position, otherwise he would've lost his position. And he could turn two, the toughest part of playing 2B. I didn't watch him on a regular basis, except Oct where he didn't seem egregious by any means, so I'm truly asking. I've heard a few commentators and players indicate that his perceived defensive woes are overblown. Based on UZR and DRS, his worst seasons by far, are his last 3-4 years at age 37-40, which is expected. But during his prime years he seems to be hovering around mid-level, which I'd take given his bat.
7:21 PM Dec 4th
Sansho: The main reason I did the post was indeed because of the felt-possibility that this member isn't for real. If and when stuff like that is being done, I think it's beneficial to let whoever's doing it to be aware that there is suspicion.
4:27 PM Dec 4th
Fair enough, it reads badly.
4:21 PM Dec 4th
(To sansho: If you are referring to what I said in that second paragraph, I was merely making reference to a thing that has been said and discussed quite a bit on Reader Posts, without me having said or participated in that at all. It is and has been on the site for some time.)
1:05 PM Dec 4th
I didn't and don't think so, but if it is, I apologize profusely, and hope it is possible for my post to be removed.
1:03 PM Dec 4th
Abusive, reported.
4:40 AM Dec 4th
W/r/t Mark Buehrle, what's the Hall value of a perfect game? Is everyone with one in, or not? I would imagine that it's not sufficient by itself, but that it might have enough value to push the Pale Hose stalwart over the line. Can you point me to anything? Thanks!
2:29 AM Dec 4th
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