OK, I have this idea based on
Look: In nine seasons, Pujols has only 16 fewer home runs than new Hall of Famer
Look: His career 172
Look: There are seven players in baseball history with 1,000 runs, 1,000 RBIs, 350 home runs and at least a .325 batting average. I know you can play all sorts of games by sorting numbers, but my point is:
So, Pujols is in. He will likely play many more years and he has a chance (as the old scribes used to write and the old announcers used to say) to have his own chapter in the record book. But the point here is that I think he has already clinched his spot in the Hall of Fame. The rest is just jockeying for position in the all-time great horse race.
Beyond Pujols, it's hard to tell who among young players will thrive long enough to become Hall of Famers. At 29,
So, it's a foolish thing to try to predict which players under 30 will end up in Cooperstown. To finalize the point, if I tried to pick 10 players in 1985, the list would have looked something like this:
1. Dale Murphy (not in)
So, six out of those 10 are not in. Well, yes, it's a guessing game. But what the heck, right? Just know that these are merely predictions. Some of these players -- like Pujols -- are well on their way. Others will need to improve dramatically.
The rules: I am picking 10 players -- all younger than 30, who have either (A) played 500 games; (B) won 50 games; or (C) saved 100 games -- who I think will end up in the Hall of Fame. Here we go:
Shortstop No. 1: .323/.370/.555, OPS+ 134
They both played in big markets and on winning teams. They both won Rookie of the Year Awards. They both were All-Stars most of the time. Neither one won a Gold Glove, and reports about their defense were sporadic. They both had terrific moments in the playoffs.
Shortstop No. 1 led the league in hitting twice, and at different times in hits, doubles, triples -- he scored 100-plus runs six times and drove in 100-plus runs another four.
Shortstop No. 2 also scored 100 runs six times and had driven in 100 runs once. He led the league in runs scored once and in hits once.
You have certainly guessed that No. 1 is
Right now, Hanley Ramirez seems to me like a future Hall of Famer. He plays a premium defensive position (and the numbers indicate that he really hasn't been bad defensively the last two years despite a bad reputation), he just won a batting title, he hits with power, he has stolen 50 bases in a season, and he will take a walk.
His career numbers at age 25: .318/.386/.543.
Then again, Nomar's numbers at a similar career point: .333/.382/.573.
Ya never know. I'm betting on Hanley, though.
He just stopped hitting home runs. It's tempting to say this was because of the Mets' new stadium... and that no doubt played a role. Wright's home run swing fit old Shea Stadium. But the truth is that while he hit only five home runs at home, he also hit only five home runs on the road. It's a strange thing to see home run numbers drop so dramatically for a 26-year-old player, especially a player as good as Wright.
So, the question here: When thinking about future performance and such, how much stock do you put into a daunting home run drop? I don't think you can just ignore it. Still, it seems to me that Wright is such a good player in so many ways -- he hits for average, draws walks, steals bases, plays good third base defense (though his defensive numbers did fall off in 2009), and there's reason to believe his home runs will come back. I still think he's a good Hall of Fame bet. I think he'll get there.
What makes Sabathia a good Hall of Fame bet is that even though he reached the big leagues at age 20, he has never had a BAD season. And he has had four exceptional seasons in a row -- pitching for three different teams in both leagues. People in baseball will tell you that no pitcher is a sure thing, and it's true. Injuries, shattered confidence, a slider that stops sliding, control issues, a tell that tips pitches -- lots of things can derail a pitcher.
But Sabathia seems pretty close to a sure thing. He seems utterly comfortable and at the height of his powers with the Yankees. He figures to get great run support year after year, and he showed in the playoffs that he can pitch supreme baseball under the intense glare. I suspect he will win another Cy Young in the next three or four years. And I think he will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
One odd thing about Sizemore is that his batting average has dropped in each of the last three seasons -- from .290 to .277 to .268 and finally, last year, to .248. He walks quite a lot so that has made up for some of it. Still, it's weird. I suspect a part of the problem is that it's hard to punch up a good batting average when you strike out as often as Sizemore does (he has struck out once every four or five at-bats over his career). I think there has also been this weird vibe around Sizemore because he was expected to be one kind of player (fast, scrappy, moderate power,
For a while, we in the American League Central would have a fun argument -- who is better, Grady Sizemore or
First: Zimmerman. I've written this before, I think: I remember when the Royals had the No. 2 pick in the 2005 draft, and everyone -- EVERYONE -- said that
But there were a couple of high-ranking people in the Royals organization who seemed to think that Zimmerman might end up the better player. It wasn't that they were down on Gordon. They just thought Zimmerman's defense was so superior that he was ready to play third base (or shortstop, according to one of the Royals executives) in the big leagues immediately. As for the bat, they were not sure how good a hitter Zimmerman would become, but they thought he was such a good athlete and so adaptable that they expected he would hit.
Well, here it is, five years later... and Gordon is still trying to find himself, while Zimmerman had a superior season at 24. He punched up a 133 OPS+, banged 33 home runs, managed a .373 on-base percentage against lefties, and won a Gold Glove that is truly golden. His +31
It is only his first exceptional year, and, to paraphrase the old golf line, the slums of Chicago are filled with third basemen who had one exceptional year (Hello,
Greinke became a full-time starter again at the end of the 2007 season. Here are a few of his numbers since then (including his final seven starts in 2007) compared to some of the best in baseball:
Greinke: 72 starts, 2.71 ERA, 466 IP, 456 Ks, 117 walks, 36 HRs
And so on. This isn't just one year. This is who Zack Greinke has become. The truth is that, if you were watching closely, you could see greatness building in Greinke. I predicted before the season that Greinke would win the Cy Young in 2009 -- one of the craziest predictions I ever had come true. But I had the advantage of watching Greinke pitch almost every time out in 2008 -- I could see what a great pitcher he was becoming.
Lincecum is not eligible for my list because he has not yet won 50 games... I do think Lincecum is an awfully good bet for the Hall of Fame. Better than Greinke? I don't think so. I know many people prefer Lincecum's greatness, but I think a lot of that is because Lincecum pitches in the National League*. And, as good and as well-publicized a year as Greinke had, I think many people STILL don't quite get how good he is.
Here's what I have seen: Greinke has things figured out. I don't know that his 2010 season can be as good as 2009 -- seasons THAT GREAT don't just happen all the time. But I do think that over the next few years he actually will get better with a better team around him -- which has to happen sooner or later. He's a great competitor with four plus pitches and supreme confidence. Yes, he will have to pitch at a very high level for many years to become a Hall of Famer... but I think he has it in him.