75% Likely to Make the Baseball Hall of Fame? Part I–Hitters

In Jeff Sullivan’s chat this morning, it was posited that Mike Trout has approximately a 75% chance to make the HOF, given that he’s duplicated his 20 year old season for the ages with a 21 year old season that in many ways is better.  While 75% seems high given that Trout has only 2 seasons under his belt, it is hard for me to make an argument that it’s wrong for a player who has accumulated the same bWAR as Joe Carter did in his 2200 game career.  What I started thinking about though is who else active today stands a 75% chance of making it to Cooperstown?

Here is the list of the active players with at least 40 bWAR – obviously the average HOF has more like 60 or 70 WAR, but we’re trying to capture not only qualified players, but those on the right trajectory that may not have the longest track record.    The 21 players break down into five groups:

Not That Close:

Lance Berkman


Jason Giambi


Torii Hunter


Mark Teixeira


Jimmy Rollins


Placido Polanco


These are terrific players that have had great careers.   They include two MVPs (Rollins and Giambi) and one of the truly underrated hitters of all time (Berkman).  I don’t think any one of them, however, is even a borderline Hall of Famer unless you favor an HOF that includes just about anyone with multiple ASG appearances.


Alex Rodriguez


Manny Ramirez


Miguel Tejada


These 3 players have interesting cases – on the numbers, A-Rod is a no doubt inner circle Hall of Famer, Manny Ramirez was I think the best hitter of his generation, and Tejada probably didn’t have a long enough peak, but accumulated almost the entirety of his career WAR over the 8 years from 1999-2006 during which he missed a TOTAL of 3 games. Nevertheless, I don’t see any of them even getting close to induction because of the multiple PED suspensions.

Close But Not Quite Enough:

Carlos Beltran


Todd Helton


Chase Utley


David Ortiz


Carlos Beltran is deserving of enshrinement in Cooperstown.  However, outside of his legendary performance in the 2005 playoffs, he has toiled in KC, spent some injured seasons in NY, delivered a lot of value with speed and defense, failed to win an MVP award and generally delivered HOF performance while somehow avoiding milestones that voters hang their respective hats on.  Todd Helton is poised to retire as the 21st player in baseball history to finish with 300/400/500 AVG/OBP/SLG, but his years in Coors Field carry with it a probably overstated discount rate HOF will likely apply.  Utley is another player that I think should get a long look from voters, but he didn’t play a full season until age 26 and has averaged only 100 games over the last 4 seasons – the later start and games lost to injury probably cost him his spot.   David Ortiz’s candidacy will probably hinge on how the Hall treats Edgar Martinez – Ortiz was largely washed up in Minnesota but a move to Boston rejuvenated his career as a full-time DH.  Though he’s never tested positive, his association with Manny may give him some PED taint as well.  These guys all have an argument, but that argument doesn’t approach 75%.

On Track – 75%

Miguel Cabrera

Joe Mauer 44.1
Robinson Cano 43.6
David Wright 46.4

These guys are all 30 years old with a ton of HOF-level accomplishments.  Cabrera has locked up his 3rd consecutive batting title and 2nd MVP award and is making a run at back to back triple crowns.  If he retired today, he might be elected on that basis alone.  Joe Mauer also has 3 batting titles (the only 3 ever won by an AL catcher).  Cano and Wright have 12 all-star appearances between them, are career .300 hitters that project to finish with between 300 and 400 HRs, and it never hurts that they play under the brightest lights in baseball.   I don’t think any of them are locks if they walked away from the game today, but they’ve all got 5-7 years left of productive baseball barring injury and even assuming steep aging curves, all four look like they’re in good shape.

Mortal Locks – 100%

Albert Pujols

Derek Jeter 72.1
Adrian Beltre 70.7
Ichiro Suzuki 59.1

Not much else to add.  Albert Pujols may have the worst contract in baseball, but he would waltz into Cooperstown on the 1st ballot if he quit tomorrow.  Ditto Cap’n Jetes and Ichiro (we don’t give him full credit for his work in Japan but 4000 hits between MLB and Japan are enough to put him into “lock” territory).  Beltre is probably the only controversial pick here but as I’ve written back in 2010, he’s going to go down as the 2nd greatest 3B ever (behind Mike Schmidt and ahead of Brooks Robinson) and has a chance at 3000 hits while he will top 400 HRs.  Barring a positive PED test, these guys are first ballot hall of famers.

SO there you have it – basically 8 current hitters who are way over 75% to make the HOF, 5 that could get in today with their numbers, 3 more that can afford to age gracefully and smooth their way into Cooperstown.

Tomorrow:  Pitchers


About Bill Porter

Bill is an aspiring sportswriter (attorney by day) born in Washington DC, raised in New York, and currently living in San Francisco with his wife Kirsten and two spazzy labs, Fletch and Bear. Follow me on Twitter at @wfporter1972
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