This is a follow-up to a piece I wrote in April about which current Major League Baseball players I thought had a good shot at making the Hall of Fame.
Which Major League Baseball players helped boost their Hall of Fame chances this season? Several did. I’m going to add a couple of names I didn’t talk about in April, but I won’t touch on every single player I wrote about six months ago. One very interesting theme about several of the players who helped state their case — some of them got off to a really slow start this season, but then played outstanding in the second half of their seasons.
Guys who really helped their cases
Clayton Kershaw, after a slow start this season — at one point he was only 5-6 — won 11 out of his last 12 decisions to end up at 16-7, with a solid 2.13 ERA and 301 strikeouts. Those would be Cy Young-winning numbers in a lot of seasons, but Kershaw will almost assuredly finish third behind Jake Arrieta and Zack Greinke. Kershaw has now won 114 games (114-56, .671 winning percentage), has a career ERA of 2.44 and has won three Cy Youngs — all at the age of 27. After this season, he will have five top-3 finishes in the Cy Young vote. He is almost certain to go to the Hall of Fame. He should have at least 140 wins before the age of 30 and could have over 150. With any luck and good health, he should be over 200 wins before the age of 35. Kershaw also pitched well for the first time in the postseason this year, so that’s no longer a knock on him. Speaking of Greinke:
I didn’t talk about Greinke in April, but after this season, you have to consider him a serious Hall of Fame candidate. He went 19-3 this season and led the NL with a 1.66 ERA. He will finish either first or second in the Cy Young voting (his numbers are so close to Jake Arrieta’s either guy could win. I give a slight edge to Arrieta.). Greinke already has one Cy Young award. Over the past five seasons, Greinke is an incredible 82-26 (a .759 winning percentage). He has 142 wins at the age of 31, so it’s very possible for him to get to 200 wins by the age of 36. I think he still needs to do a bit more. He isn’t a sure-fire Hall of Famer like Kershaw.
Felix actually had one of his poorest seasons in recent years, yet he still went 18-9 (he did have a respectable 3.53 ERA — for him that’s high). Felix was helped this season by a lot of run support (for once in his career) and a lot of decisions. He has been burned in the past somewhat by pitching for a bad offensive club that left him with a ton of no-decisions. Felix is now at 143-101 for his career and is still only 29. He has a good chance to reach 200 wins at the age of 33. He has won one Cy Young and finished second in the Cy Young voting twice. He cracked 2,000 strikeouts this season and will likely crack 3,000 before he is done.
Ortiz had a huge year for a 39-year-old player. He hit 37 home runs, the most he has hit since 2006. He also added 108 RBIs. Most importantly, he cracked 500 home runs for his career. He is 30th all-time in RBIs with 1,640. After next year, I expect Ortiz to be in the top 20 all-time in home runs and 22nd all-time in RBIs. Obviously, Ortiz has the numbers for an automatic Hall of Fame inclusion (especially if you consider his incredible postseason numbers), except there are two complications that are going to hurt Ortiz in the HOF vote. The first is he’s been a DH most of his career, and no pure DH has gone into the Hall yet (Frank Thomas played about 56 percent of his career at DH) and the bigger issue is a positive test for a banned substance leaked to the New York Times in 2003. No one knows what Ortiz tested positive for and he insists supplements triggered the positive result. I think if Mike Piazza gets in the Hall of Fame, which he almost surely will this year (he got 69 percent of the vote last year), that should help Ortiz’s case, because there’s some really strong suspicions Piazza juiced (in fact, he has admitted taking Andro) and more writers are starting to dismiss “suspicions” for keeping a guy out of the HOF. It will also help if Jeff Bagwell gets in, too, because there’s “suspicions” about him as well. I don’t know how the vote will go with Ortiz. The only prediction I will make is he won’t get in the Hall on the first ballot mostly because of the 2003 incident. But at least there will be no question about whether Ortiz’s stats are worthy of the HOF.
Like Kershaw, Beltre had a slow start this season, then a huge second half that helped his HOF case. He was only hitting .255 at the All-Star break, but was red-hot the last two months of the season, ending up at .287, 18 HRs and 83 RBIs. His power numbers were down a bit, but that won’t hurt him — he topped 400 career home runs this year (he currently sits at 413 HRs). Most importantly, he had 163 hits this year, which puts him at 2,767 hits, only 233 short of 3,000 at the age of 36. He could get to 3,000 hits by July or August of 2017 when he is 38. That is automatic HOF. He’s close to automatic already with four Gold Gloves on top of all those hitting stats. There’s only eight guys in MLB history who have collected both 3,000 hits and 400 home runs. Beltre could be the ninth.
I cracked up at all the Yankee fans in a baseball group I am in who earlier this year were constantly teeing off on Cano and what a terrible free agent signing he was for the Mariners. He was another player who had a slow first half. He was hitting just .235 in July, then much like Beltre, absolutely scorched the second half, ending up at .287 with 21 HRs and 79 RBIs. That doesn’t hurt his chances at all. Cano is now at 2,015 hits at the age of 32. He has an outside chance of getting to 3,000 hits by the age of 39. Even if he doesn’t get to 3,000 hits, with 239 HRs already at second base (likely over 300 by the time he is done) and a .307 lifetime average, I think he has a very good shot at the HOF.
If Bumgarner had never pitched an inning in the postseason, I’m not sure I’d even be talking about him. But, his postseason numbers are so epic, you have to mention him as a HOF candidate. Bumgarner went 18-9 this season; he now has 85 wins (85-59 overall) and is still just 26 years old. He could easily have 140 wins at the age of 30. What also helps his case is being 4-0 (with a mind-blowing 0.25 ERA) in the World Series, and having an NLCS MVP and a World Series MVP.
Votto doesn’t get a lot of HOF hype, but some of his career numbers are incredible. He had a very good bounceback season after a lot of injuries last year. He hit .314 with 29 home runs and 80 RBIs, his best season since 2011. Votto also walks a lot and puts up incredible on-base percentage and OPS numbers. His career batting average is .311, his career OBP is .423 and his career OPS is .957 (his OPS this year was 1.001.). His career OPS is 18th all-time, ahead of guys like Mel Ott, Henry Aaron, Willie Mays and Ty Cobb. Votto has lost about a season-and-a-half to injuries, so his cumulative numbers aren’t great. He is still only 32. I think he needs to have at least another four or five really solid years (.290-plus, 20 HRs-plus) to get serious Hall of Fame consideration.
Mike Trout hit 40 home runs for the first time in his career and ended up with 41. He has an incredible 139 home runs at the age of 24. Seriously, he could have well over 300 home runs before he hits 30. For the fourth straight year, he will probably finish first or second in the MVP voting. He’s also a .304 career hitter so far and a great defensive player (though he has never won a Gold Glove, surprisingly).
Buster Posey quietly had another great season. He hit .318 with 19 HRs and 95 RBIs. He is a .310 career hitter, which is outstanding for a catcher, though the Giants are playing him 40 or 50 games a year at first base to keep him in the lineup every day. He may move to first base permanently one day because he’s such a good hitter.
Teixeira had another mixed, injury-riddled season. However, he did have his best power numbers since 2011 with 31 home runs. He was on pace for a monster bounceback season with 45 or more home runs when he went down in August with a fractured leg. He has really battled injuries the last four or five years. The only reason I include Teixeira is those 31 home runs did put him at 394 for his career, within legitimate range of 500. He will be 36 years old next year and he could easily hit 106 home runs in the next four years, putting him at 500 before the age of 40 and pretty much automatic Hall of Fame. I think the only way he gets in the Hall is if he gets to 500 home runs. He could be on the outside looking in like Carlos Delgado and Fred McGriff if he ends up at like 480 home runs. Hurting Teixeira is the fact that he hasn’t managed to hit even .260 since 2009 (He has batted .244 over the past six seasons).
Guys that neither went up or down
Pujols had his best power season since 2010 with 40 home runs, putting him at 560. He had his worst year ever as far as batting, however, at .244. Pujols is already automatic for the Hall of Fame, with likely 600 home runs and 3,000 hits before he is done (He is at 2,666 hits and will be 36 next year). A bigger question with Pujols is can he break Barry Bonds’ home run record of 762? — assuming A-Rod doesn’t break it first. Say Pujols plays seven more years, retiring at the age of 42. He needs 203 home runs to break the record, meaning he needs to average 29 home runs a season over his final seven seasons. Difficult, but plausible. A-Rod is 40 and is at 687 home runs. He would have to play until he is 43 and average 25 home runs a year for three years to do it. I think it’s a longshot for both guys.
Ichiro had a very poor season. He ended up at .229 for the season. He was batting .248 at the All-Star break, so his second half was particularly awful. Ichiro says he plans to come back another year, but we’ll see if a team will take a 42-year-old guy who hit .229 last year. He is at 2,935 hits, tantalisingly close to 3,000. He could conceivably get to 3,000 hits with about another 250 at-bats. I really don’t think he needs to get to 3,000 hits to get in the Hall of Fame, but it would help his case.
Pedroia was on pace to have a great season in 2015, but then ended up having another injury-riddled year. He lost about two months of playing time to a torn hamstring. Still, he put up decent numbers this season — .291, 12 HRs, 42 RBIs in only 93 games. He needs to stay healthy if he wants to make the Hall of Fame. He’s lost nearly 100 games the past two seasons to injuries. He is still only 32 and could have another five or six solid years left. He is a .299 career hitter and has won an MVP, ROY and four Gold Gloves.
Giancarlo Stanton is another guy who just can’t avoid the injury bug. He was on his way to having a monster season, on pace for nearly 60 home runs when he got hurt in June. Still, he hit 27 home runs this season and is at 181 home runs at the age of 25. That’s after missing 190 games the past four seasons. Imagine the numbers he could put up if he could actually stay in the lineup for 150 games a year.
Cabrera had a weirdly off year. He was hurt a lot; he missed 43 games and he only hit 18 home runs and drove in 76 runs, which are really low numbers for him. But, he did win his fourth batting title by hitting .338. Cabrera at this point is probably an automatic Hall of Famer already. He’s a .321 career hitter, has hit over 400 home runs and has two MVPs. At 2,331 hits and 408 home runs at the age of 32, he should get to 3,000 hits and 500 home runs in another five years when he will still only be 37.
Scherzer’s kind of an outside chance guy anyway. He had a strange year. In many ways, it was his best season. He had a 2.79 ERA (his best ever), 276 strikeouts (his best ever) and threw two no-hitters in one season. However, pitching for an underachieving Washington team, he only went 14-12. Still, he is only 31 and is 105-62 in his career. With any luck, he could have 170-180 wins by the age of 36.
Guys whose HOF stock went down
It’s hard to believe that at one time, Sabathia was a good candidate to reach 300 wins. He went 6-10 this year and has won only 9 games the past two seasons (9-14 combined over two years). The past three seasons, Sabathia’s ERA has been over 4.50 (4.81 combined the past three seasons). However, he just entered alcohol rehab, so perhaps this has been part of his recent problems. Sabathia is sitting at 214 wins. He is still only 35, so there is time for him to turn his career around. A couple of more decent seasons, say at 15-10 with an ERA under 4.00, he’ll be at the doorstep of 250 wins and Hall of Fame consideration. When I brought up his name as a Hall of Famer in a baseball group, a lot of people guffawed, but I think people forget how dominant he was for 11-12 years. At one point in his career, his won-loss record was 191-102 and he had a Cy Young trophy and four other top-5 Cy Young finishes.
Verlander is another guy like Sabathia who is a shell of his former dominating self. Three years ago, Verlander looked like a sure-fire Hall of Famer. But, after two sub-par years, he had another down and injured year this season, going 5-8 (his ERA was OK at 3.38.) Verlander is only 32 and has 157 wins, but he needs to turn his numbers around to make the Hall of Fame. His last really good season was in 2012.