Note: all numbers are current as of September 16.
On September 12, Freddie Freeman celebrated his 31st birthday. He still looks like a big kid to me, but he’s been in the big leagues a full decade, and as magnificent a player as he is, he’s likely closer to his retirement than to his rookie year. (He finished second in the 2011 RoY vote to Craig Kimbrel, just for comparison.)
So, whenever he hangs up his spikes, is he likely to be a Hall of Famer?
Short answer: he’s almost halfway there.
First, let’s start with the facts: there are 24 first basemen in the Hall of Fame. Three played primarily in the Negro Leagues: Buck Leonard, Mule Suttles, and Ben Taylor. Many of them played nearly a hundred years ago.
Only nine Hall of Fame first basemen played the majority of their major league careers after World War II: Jeff Bagwell, Orlando Cepeda, Harmon Killebrew, Willie McCovey, Johnny Mize, Eddie Murray, Tony Perez, Frank Thomas, and Jim Thome.
Let’s add a tenth, Albert Pujols, who will be in the Hall of Fame two seconds after he retires, an eleventh, Miguel Cabrera, who is an above-average Hall of Famer and very likely to make it even if he is not inner-circle like Pujols. (According to Jay Jaffe’s JAWS system, linked on baseball-reference.com, Cabrera’s just above the cutoff; Joey Votto is just below it.)
I’m going to pointedly ignore Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire, poster children for the Steroid Era; it’s hard to know what to do with their numbers, so I’ll ignore them the way that voters have.
So we’ll focus on these eleven guys, since there aren’t as many useful comparisons to be drawn between Freeman and, say, Dan Brouthers and Cap Anson.
Oh, and one more thing: by Bill James Similarity Scores, Freddie Freeman‘s most similar player by age, for every single full season of his career â€” ages 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, and 29 â€” is a Hall of Fame first baseman: Steady Eddie Murray.
Please Allow Me to Introduce Himself
Frederick Charles Freeman was born in California to Canadian parents, and he represented Canada in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. His high school, El Modena, was not a hotbed of prep talent but it wasn’t unknown to scouts, either; in 2001, the Yankees took a 19th-rounder from El Mo, and in 1999, the White Sox took a guy in the 15th round and the Cubs took a guy in the 26th. Freeman was the first and so far only high draft pick taken from the school, and of the six draftees to date, he’s the only one so far to reach the majors.
However, nothing he’s done could have been entirely shocking to anyone who saw him in high school. A 2005 scouting report of a 15-year-old first baseman named Freddie C. Freeman is astonishingly prescient:
Mechs: Tall stance, spread base. Slight knee flex. High back elbow.
Fielding: Soft hands. Makes the plays at him.
Range: Slow 1st step. Gets to what he can.
Abilities: Plus bat spd, slight uppercut plane. Good leverage, gets arms ext. Fills gaps w/ backspin ld. Plenty of loft & raw pwr. Middle-pull HR juice now. Ez avg arm, on-line carry.
Weaknesses: bad wheels, uncoordinated, choppy strides. Slow out of box, tick better underway.
Summation: Young LHH w/ a high ceiling, still 15 yrs old. Solid feel to hit now. Shows abil to go the other way & when needed, drop some serious bat head. Solid follow, still 2 yrs away.Baseball Hall of Fame, PASTIME Scouting Reports
Two years later, he was the Braves’ second-round pick. And a decade and a half after that scouting report was filed, just about everything that scout wrote remains true â€” Freddie’s literally reached the full potential of the guy he was as a prospect.
(Fun fact: Jason Heyward, the team’s first-round pick, has 38.3 rWAR; Freddie, the second-round pick, has 38.1 rWAR. Whatever happens, Jason Heyward has had a hell of a career and I will never stop rooting for him.)
Freddie had a pretty uneventful march through the minors. In his first full season, the Braves assigned the 18-year-old to Single-A Rome, and he hit .316/.378/.521. He hit well at High-A Myrtle Beach in 2009, then struggled a bit at the end of the year after a promotion to Double-A Mississippi.
But when he was promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett in 2010, he had the exact same OBP/SLG as he did at Rome: .319/.378/.521. And that’s almost identical to what he would hit in the majors from 2013-2019, .300/.390/.520. He was 20 that year, in 2010. The next year, he finished second in the Rookie of the Year vote.
The key takeaway from his past: Freddie Freeman is pretty much exactly the guy he’s always been, except he’s the best possible version of that guy.
Oh, except for one minor thing: he’s still getting better. Freddie is leading the majors in 2B and wRC, and he’s second in BA, OBP, and TB, OPS, wOBA, wRC+, and fWAR. He has finished in the top 10 of the MVP vote in four of the last seven seasons, and he may finish in the top two this year. Not bad for a 31-year-old who scouts were calling slow back when he was 15.
Hall of Fame Standards for First Basemen
First base “standards” are descriptive and sometimes predictive, but they’re not normative. For the purposes of the below, I’m going to summarize the work of Jay Jaffe and Bill James in describing who has made the Hall in the past; this work reflects the Hall’s own imperfect past decisions. Many Hall of Famers are worse than many players who aren’t in the Hall of Fame.
In general, it makes sense to focus on the “average” Hall of Famer at a position, particularly because of the egregious decisions made by past Veterans Committees. The worst Hall of Fame first baseman is probably High Pockets Kelly, who is a strong contender for worst Hall of Famer ever, along with guys like Rube Marquard and Freddie Lindstrom. So it doesn’t make sense to compare Freddie to Kelly.
Instead, I’m going to focus on the eleven modern players I mentioned above: Bagwell, Cabrera, Cepeda, Killebrew, McCovey, Mize, Murray, Perez, Pujols, Thomas, and Thome, with a look at the overall average of the 11 â€” nine Hall of Famers and two modern players whose near-certain Hall of Fame careers are nearly over â€” as well as a specific look at Freddie’s most-similar player, Eddie Murray:
Like I said: Freddie’s just about exactly halfway to the average, and Eddie Murray is just about exactly average. So if Freddie basically doubles his career numbers, he’ll be Eddie Murray, and he’ll also be a Hall of Famer.
How First Basemen Get Older
One way to measure how a player’s getting older is their speed. Freddie isn’t fast, but he has a high baseball IQ and just as the scout noted back in high school, he picks up speed once underway. And by one aggregate statistical measure, Freddie’s speed isn’t getting worse.
Fangraphs tracks “base running runs above average,” and early in his career, Freddie was pretty negative on this: from 2010 to 2014, Freddie was at -7.9 runs. But since then, he’s at +6.1 runs, including +1.3 runs in 2018, -0.1 runs in 2019, and +0.5 runs this year. So he went from slightly below-average to slightly above-average and holding.
That said, he doesn’t have a lot of margin to play with here, and if he does ever lose a step, his foot speed could quickly go from slow to unplayable.
(For a comparison that illustrates how BsR can capture loss of game speed, Ender Inciarte was at 4.5 UBR in 2016, 2.3 in 2017, 6.1 in 2018, but 2.6 in 2019, and he’s at 1.5 in 2020 â€” a huge dropoff, particularly for an up-the-middle defender who has not yet turned 30. That tracks with what our eyes are seeing.)
Clearly, Freddie’s a very good player, and this year he’s hitting better than he ever has. In addition to being at or near the top of the league in most offensive categories, he’s setting Statcast personal highs in average exit velocity, Barrel%, and HardHit%. Last year, he set a personal record for home runs with 38; and this year he would be on pace for about 35 home runs, along with about 58 doubles.
So he’s hitting great right now, and despite being a leadfoot playing the easiest position on the diamond, he’s still nearly the most valuable player in all of baseball.
But that’s new for him. Since 2016, he has 22.6 WAR â€” ninth-most in baseball, just about indistinguishable from Jose Altuve, behind Nolan Arenado and Jose Ramirez, and just ahead of Kris Bryant and Xander Bogaerts. Good players all, but none at the absolute top of the league.
The biggest question area for Freddie is: he’s been steady, but his peak is not as high as the peak of the biggest stars in baseball, and as a first baseman, there’s always a fear that he’ll reach a point where he gets old quickly, as Pujols and Cabrera did. (For the purposes of this article, I’m ignoring the prominent rumors that Pujols is two years older than his listed age; it really doesn’t change the aggregate math that much.)
In all, in all seasons before their age-30 season, the eleven first basemen had an OPS+ of about 153; in all the seasons age-30 and after, they had an OPS+ of about 133. For Freddie, whose age-29 season was last year, his OPS+ from 2010-2019 is 136 â€” so his performance is closer to the older diminished players than to the younger versions of Hall of Famers. Here’s how that looks:
|Before Age 30||PA||HR||RBI||Triple Slash||OPS+|
|Age 30 & After||PA||HR||RBI||Triple Slash||OPS+|
Obviously, Freddie has played in an offensive era less lofty than the era in which Bagwell and Thomas and Thome and Pujols had their peaks. Murray, his closest comparison, is closer to Freddie, with an under-30 OPS+ of 144, which declined to 116 after the age of 30.
But Murray hung around for a very long time after turning 30. Not all of the players did.
Miguel Cabrera has had fewer than 4000 PAs since the beginning of his age-30 season, and he’s turned into a pumpkin. Pujols has had 6281 PA after 30, and the last 1811 of them â€” the last four seasons â€” have been below replacement level.
Johnny Mize, the Big Cat, had fewer than 3200 PAs after 30, because World War II robbed him of three of his best years; when he came back, he was 33, though his performance in those years was still excellent. Bagwell’s balky shoulder gave him scarcely more than 5000 PAs after 30, but he too was producing right up to the end.
Murray’s longevity got him to the magic numbers of 500 and 3000, which undoubtedly helped his candidacy, but he was still a far better player before he turned 30 than he was afterwards. Also, both Mize and Bagwell had established a Hall of Fame-level peak performance in their earlier years, as Bagwell was an MVP at age 26, and Mize had two straight second-place MVP finishes at ages 26 and 27. Freddie has not reached their heights.
(Freddie has only knocked 30 homers twice in his career and only exceeded 180 hits once, so is unlikely to get to those magic numbers. Bill James’s Favorite Toy estimates the odds of 500 homers at 22 percent, and the odds of 3000 hits at 20 percent.)
Freddie’s at 38 WAR right now. If he gets to 65 he’ll have a shot, and if he gets to 70, I’d call him relatively likely to be elected.
So, he needs six more seasons of five-WAR production from 2021 to 2026, since 2020 is already almost over. He needs for 2020 to be a legitimate improvement in his peak, he needs to hit like this for a full year in 2021 and 2022, and then he needs to decline gracefully for another half-decade after that, before becoming a part-time player and then finally hanging up his spikes.
One piece of good news, though: not every player declined after turning 30. Killebrew’s OPS+ was a smidge higher after 30 than before, 143 to 142. Thome improved by even more: 144 to 149. And McCovey’s OPS+ barely moved: 149 before 30, 146 after.
If Freeman’s able to stay healthy, and continue to improve his approach, it’s not inconceivable that he could continue to become a better hitter for the next couple of years, and establish a higher level of production for his golden years than he maintained in his youth, before the toll of time is unmistakeable.
While We’re At It, Here’s the Keltner List
Because this is a Hall of Fame discussion, and because this is Braves Journal, this piece wouldn’t be complete without a discussion of the Keltner List. I won’t answer each of the questions fully because his career isn’t yet complete, but they’re worth raising, because this is a good way of structuring the argument: this is how we’ll argue about Freddie in a decade, once the full shape of his career is clear.
- Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball? (No.)
- Was he the best player on his team? (Frequently, yes.)
- Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position? (Yes, at times.)
- Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races? (Some.)
- Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play regularly after passing his prime? (TBD)
- Is he the very best player in baseball history who is not in the Hall of Fame? (No.)
- Are most players who have comparable career statistics in the Hall of Fame? (TBD)
- Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics? (The announcers would probably say yes, because Freddie’s pretty good at digging out balls in the dirt. Your mileage may vary.)
- Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame but not in? (Not impossible; he’d have to pass Helton and Votto and, depending on how you treat their numbers, Palmeiro and McGwire.)
- How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close? (His fourth-place finish is the closest he’s come; it’s not impossible that he wins one, and this year may be his best shot. He currently has 1.30 career MVP shares, from his various top-10 finishes)
- How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the other players who played in this many go into the Hall of Fame? (Four ASG appearances to date, which is okay if on the low side for a guy whose career is half over. This year would have been a deserving fifth.)
- If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant? (Qualified yes. His Braves won division titles in 2013, 2018, and 2019, but zero league pennants. I’d say he was ontologically the “best player on the team” all three times, but by rWAR, the team leader in 2013 was Andrelton Simmons, and by both fWAR and rWAR, Josh Donaldson, Ronald Acuna, and Ozzie Albies all had more WAR in 2019. Freeman was the undisputed WAR leader in 2018.)
- What impact did the player have on baseball history? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way? (No.)
- Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider? (Yes.)
The goal here is to ask a number of questions about the player’s eliteness, as well as qualitative questions to try to draw out anything that wouldn’t be obvious from the back of the baseball card. The answers will always be the same: Freddie is one of the best players in baseball, but he will never be considered one of the top two or three or four or five players in baseball. His only shot at the Hall will be as a prolific compiler, so his longevity will be crucial.
All in All
Will Freddie Freeman be a Hall of Famer? My best answer: maybe.
I think he’s on pace to be on the bubble. If everything continued exactly as is, and he followed a normal aging path for a normal first baseman with exactly his production, I think he would likely just miss out, though he would probably have a strong lobby raising his case with the Veterans Committee for decades.
If he’s better â€” if the new-and-improved Statcast barrel monster we’re seeing in 2020 is a reflection of true talent, and not just a fluke of a weirdly short season, then I’d upgrade my own gut feeling.
(If this year’s performance is a bit of a fluke, one thing that is not a likely culprit is his BABIP, by the way: it’s .372 this year, which seems high, but it actually isn’t unusual for him. His BABIP was .371 in 2013 and .370 in 2016. His career BABIP is .342. He always, always has a high average on balls in play.)
So what we’re left with is somewhere between “too close to call” and “too soon to tell.”
That said, it’s worth making a note about the Big Hall versus the Small Hall, which Mac would probably do if he were writing this piece.
To put it at its simplest, Small-Hall people basically want to restrict the Hall of Fame to the elite of the elite, the people who, when you watch them play, make you think, “That guy’s a Hall of Famer.” To them, no more High Pockets Kellys should be elected, and no more Eddie Murrays should be elected, either.
Big-Hall people would like every player who meets at least the standard of an average Hall of Famer to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. In other words, they’d agree that no more High Pockets Kellys should be inducted, but no one should be held to a standard that does not acknowledge the fact that numerous non-elite players â€” from High Pockets Kelly to Tony Perez and Orlando Cepeda â€” are already Hall of Famers.
Therefore, to a Big-Hall guy, compared to the existing standard of the Hall of Fame, Eddie Murray is clearly deserving. If Freddie is a Hall of Famer, he’ll be a Hall of Famer whose candidacy a Big-Hall guy would support but a Small-Hall guy would not.
Freddie isn’t Chipper Jones. He’s not a first-ballot sure shot. But he’s one of the best players in baseball, just like he has been for years, and he’s basically on track to meet the exact average standard for a first baseman. Will that be enough for voters? Hard to say.
But it’s enough for me.
Would it be fair to call you a Small-Hall guy, Chief? That’s what I would have guessed.
I think he needs to hit for more power in his 30s than he hit in his 20s. He has a comparable profile to Will Clark (not a HOF’er).
He is on the MVP short list this season. A win would definitely help his eventual case.
Clark’s a pretty good comparison for another reason. He was very good in his 20s — realistically, he was appreciably better than Freddie’s been, as he had four top-five MVP finishes in five years from 1987 to 1991. But then his performance dropped off and his power cratered, and injuries contributed to his retirement after age 36. His case would have hung on counting stats, and he just didn’t compile enough.
Another guy with similar numbers: Fred McGriff. In the Keltner List that Mac wrote for him, he made the following key point: “McGriff, for whatever reason, was unable to take advantage of the elevated offensive environment of the mid-to-late-nineties, and in fact his raw numbers declined dramatically, especially his power numbers.” Famously, he retired with 493 homers; frankly, if he had reached 500, voters may well have embraced him, even if it was nothing more than an anti-McGwire protest.
Clark and McGriff are both tall, powerful lefty first basemen whose power numbers dropped off in their 30s; if they had continued doing exactly what they did in their 20s (like Thome did), they probably would have snuck into the Hall.
At the end of the day, that’s exactly why I said Freddie’s on pace to be on the bubble, and unless he improves a bit from his established level of performance, he’s likely to just miss. But since the last couple of months give reason to hope that he may actually be in the process of making that kind of improvement, he certainly has a shot at immortality.
If Freddie were playing in a full season at age 30, he’d likely be ahead of Clark by a few bWAR, but with a 60-game season, he’ll likely be about 1 WAR behind him. I feel like Freddie’s swing is going to age well (as did Clark’s), but the difference between Hall and no Hall for Freddie will be health. If he can play until he’s 40, he’s got a real chance.
I think if he manages to win a couple of MVPs, the Braves win a WS (and he has good playoffs), and his decline from 30 is graceful and longish (36/37 at least), he’ll be in. It won’t be easy. And the quest for an MVP aside from this year will be made challenging by presence of Acuna who is likely a better player (if not now, in the very near future) and quite charismatic, robbing Freeman of the notoriety necessary for an MVP.
Wow, AAR. Great piece. Thank you.
I love the Keltner’s, and I love Alex’s spins on the Keltner’s. Buddy, you ever put out a book about just about anything, and I’m buying that book. Great writing.
I don’t think Freddie relates very well to the bad-body types like Cabrera and Pujols. Those guys’ bodies failed them, their own fault or not. I like Joey Votto as a comp for Freddie, but while this seems lazy since he also played for the Braves, I think McGriff is the best comp. And sadly, I think Freddie and Fred will go down as power-hitting first basemen who didn’t quite hit for enough power. It is, however, encouraging that Freddie is playing his best baseball at age 30, and he seems to be athletic enough to have a decent decline phase. But even if Freddie hit 25 HRs every year for the next 8 years, he would finish with 438 HRs, and that ain’t gonna cut it.
I think he’s definitely on the outside looking in.
This next decade will tell the story. McGriff averaged less than 2 WAR/year his last 10 years which made him fall short of the 60 WAR mark. If Freddie can get an MVP, go to a lot of postseasons, and average 2.5 WAR for 10 years, he’s in. If he averages 3 and doesn’t have the accolades, he gets in.
Once again, a stellar effort by Mr. Remington. Bravo. Los Bravos. Barvo. Something like that.
My thinking is if Freddie has a moderately better 30 and up than you would project or expect (better health and slower decline, he probably gets in.
@8, I don’t think Pujols is quite a bad body. (As a young man, he went from pudgy to cut.) It’s really just his plantar fasciitis. Same thing that killed Phil Nevin’s career.
Whether or not he makes the HoF, I’m certainly rooting for Freddie to have as many great seasons as it might take to get more serious consideration. He has been an absolute pleasure to watch.
And, here in MetsLand, to a degree, he’s taken over the Met-Killer mantle from Chipper… which is nice. He is genuinely feared.
But looking at the list of guys who made the HoF & those who just missed… it’s funny how you watch baseball over the years & there are guys like Dale Murphy, Will Clark, Don Mattingly or Daryl Strawberry that are, for a time, at or near the very top of the list of “guys you don’t ever want to face in a big spot.” And, in those moments, you think that they’re shoe-ins for Cooperstown… but for a variety of reasons (injuries, drugs, post-30 flameouts) they don’t quite make it to the finish line. Bully for the compilers, I suppose.
FWIW, I’m a smaller-hall guy, but not a microscopic-hall guy. (Eg. – Eddie Murray, yes; Tony Perez, maybe not.)
@8 “And sadly, I think Freddie and Fred will go down as power-hitting first basemen who didn’t quite hit for enough power”. Were it not for the inflated power numbers of the steroid era, McGriff, who no one suspects of using the juice, would not look inadequate in comparison. Take away those artificial numbers that shifted the paradigm and he would appear more to “hit for enough power” and I believe would get quite a few more Hall votes, though maybe still not enough to get in. I think I fall in the middle of the big vs small Hall argument. Of recent 1B inductees I firmly believe Perez doesn’t belong, among a couple of others overall, Baines cough cough. But I firmly believe Andruw does. Even given my above stated “if, but” regarding McGriff, I think he falls just short.
Good read. I think some of the “expert talkers” forget that Dale Murphy & Fred McGriff, who fell just short of “magic” numbers, played during Strike seasons. Murph’s 398 Homers would have surely been at least 410 except for the 81 strike that took about 50 games. McGriff’s 493 would have been >500 except for the ’94 Strike plus reduced ’95 beginning. Will people remember that Freddie is missing 100 games during 2020? Probably not, unless he played in NY. That’s why those “milestones” are over-rated.
@2 Yes. Very small.
Way too many good players in the Hall of FAME, IMO.
Harold Baines, GMAB.
And I gag every time I see Dale’s name mentioned in the HOF discussion. He is one of my all time favorite if not favorite player, but just no. He didn’t even hit 400 (!) HRs and the last quarter of his career was embarrassingly bad.
He shouldn’t really even be in the discussion.
Andruw is one that troubles me. If he was a marginally better hitter he’d be IN. But he wasn’t, hit for a low average and just wasn’t a good enough hitter to get in.
Frankly, I think Baines and Perez don’t belong. I feel that Andruw does. So I’m right about where @13 is.
Fred McGriff is one of those on-the-fence guys who has terrific post-season numbers (50 G, 218 PA, 303/385/532), which, IMO, should really help his candidacy.
Hope this year’s numbers reflect a new level of hitting ability that Freddie can sustain for a while. I feel like he’s had a few extended hot streaks like this before. There was one time when he was quoted telling Chipper something like, “They just can’t stop me,” because he was so hot. Might have been in 2017 just before the Toronto pitcher broke his wrist and caused him to miss several weeks. I don’t know whether he’s unusually streaky, or if his having hit at this level before is a good sign (more likely he can sustain it) or a bad sign (he’s had short spells like this before but hasn’t been able to sustain them).
On big Hall vs. small Hall, I’m at least a smaller-than-present Hall person. Another dividing line is whether you prefer a higher sustained peak (ex: Johan Santana) or a longer sustained career (ex: Sutton). Murph might get more support from the sustained-peak people.
IMO, you just can’t let Vizquel in with horrid offensive numbers then leave Andruw out. Andruw deserves to be there.
Andruw belongs in the HOF.
With respect to power numbers, don’t forget about doubles! 2B/162 through age 31 (should have done through 30 per Freddie’s seasonal age but whatevs):
48 – Helton
42 – Cabrera
41 – Pujols, Votto
39 – Freddie, Olerud, Giambi, Teixeira
38 – Palmeiro, Goldschmidt
35 – Bagwell, Hernandez, Will Clark
32 – Thomas, Murray
31 – Thome
29 – Perez, McGriff
21 – McCovey, Killebrew
@20. Exactly. No one questions Ozzie being in the Hall. Compare the numbers overall and against the players of their eras. Consider that both of them are getting in primarily for defense at a key position. Ozzie may have been productive longer, Andruw had a more dominant peak imo. Both were generational talents defensively and strong arguments for the best ever at their positions. If Ozzie is a slam dunk Hall guy, and Vizquel a serious candidate, why can’t Andruw even get close? He’s almost exactly in between the two. 14 WAR behind Ozzie but 15 WAR better than Vizquel!!
I am HARD no on Vizquel. .272 4 HR and 52 RBI (162 game averages) is a HUGE NO. Sorry, no way.
If you’re a bad hitter, you need to be the GOAT at your position as a fielder. This is why I think that Andruw at least has a case. Having said that, he played in a highly offensive era. If he’d have played in the 1950s, he would have been a 1st ballot HOFer, IMO.
An interesting corollary would be is Tony Boselli a HOFer?
Chief, this is why Andruw belongs. Besides having an strong argument for GOAT defensively in CF, he was far from being bad offensively. In a “highly offensive era” he STILL had a career OPS+ of 111.
Andruw is a HoFer. McGriff is borderline. Dale is not.
I think that Andruw has a strong case. I have wondered if his off the field ‘exploits’ have removed some of the benefit of the doubt.
Yeah, Vizquel is a joke. There is no universe in which he should be in.
Really interesting look at all the numbers here! Personally I would put Freddie in a “Hall of Very Good” status right now with a chance to reach the HOF if he finishes strong, but there are players worse than him in and players better than him out. It’s such a grey area.
It’s really difficult to stack half a Hall of Fame career on top of half a Hall of Fame career, and Alex does a great job cataloging those who fell short.
I imagine WAR will be even more important to voters over the next 12 – 15 years than it is now, although 1st base is probably the position where it is least informative relative to others at the position. Alex notes The Favorite Toy gives Freddie a 22% chance at 500 homers and a 20% chance at 3000 hits, and I think that is a good estimate of about where Freddie’s HOF chances stand as well.
The social dilemma.
You guys can jostle your numbers and comparos. Alex, reading yours I doubt anyone could do a better job. And, yes, the likelihood he will fall just short would be the betting favorite today, looking ahead.
So throw out the baby with the bathwater and take stock of where we all are today. We are divided, nastily so. It is all we hear about, read about, talk about. And then think of Freddie Freeman, every night, as we watch him interact. Not just with ours but THEIRS. Much more important, much more difficult for the average player many of whom would decline the effort, night after night, all with that smile.
He has been doing this for years and gradually the league has become aware of it. So you tell me there’s no WAR for that. I tell you that there’s something more powerful once we come to our senses. And a player who’s been earning the respect and admiration of his opponents as well as his teammates, if his numbers leave him a little short, would be propelled by a groundswell into the Hall. As he should be.
Freddie is most definitely on pace to be a hall of famer. Anyone saying otherwise clearly doesn’t watch him play a whole lot. And yes it’s a crime that Andruw Jones isnt in the HOF. How can you leave off the best defensive not just Center fielder but outfielder in general in my opinion and it’s not like he was just a good defender the dude could mash. With Jim Edmonds as a pretty distant #2.
@31 Your boy is doing a good job on the TEE VEE… Just wanted to say.
From our fiercest critic, praise indeed, thank you.
I just spend 2 hours on the scouting reports site you linked to. What a great find, thank you! So much fun to read, and, I must say, usually spot-on. Maddux, Chipper, Andruw – all raves (except for that one White Sox scout, who thougt Chipper was a sloppy player…).
Absolutely! I love that site so much.
As others have said, great piece AAR. I rarely find myself reading all the way to the end, but you were informative and my brain was hungry.
As a Braves fan, I find myself arriving at basically the same conclusion: Maybe. He has a long difficult road ahead of him. Not only has he been just very good his first 10-11 seasons, but he’s playing in an era where players seemingly peak early and decline rapidly after age 30. Is there any current star in baseball who will replicate their first 10 seasons? I doubt there will be, even among the very good steady guys.
I would have liked to have seen Freeman on those 90’s era squads. I would like see him in some critical late October situations, getting that huge base hit that turns the tide of a game, etc. In my mind, Freddie is the spiritual continuation/reincarnation of Chipper Jones. But even that is, itself, a revealing comparison about the quality of career Freddie is having. Chipper was having a better career by this point and had, again, a higher peak. Of course, Chipper is both a switch-hitter and a 3B, so that’s as far as comparison goes. If it’s any indicator, Freddie will have to avoid decline.
Furthermore, it’s really tough to get into the Hall. The Braves had only one HOF bat from that 90’s/00’s squad.
Alex, could you provide the link that Frank69 alludes to once again? I’d like to peruse that as well.
Very much agreed with @14, at least on Freddie and McGriff. McGriff would be in the Hall of Fame right now if it wasn’t for the strike. A guy who everyone assumes didn’t do steroids and hit 500 home runs? That magic number is the difference between him being in and not. Will losing 100 games this year (and let’s hope not any additional next year) hurt Freddie’s Hall of Fame chances? Well, it certainly can’t help.
I disagree with @14 that Murphy’s candidacy is much better if he gets to 400 home runs, but I guess it couldn’t have hurt.
Here’s a good start:
There have been work stoppages all throughout history. I don’t know if it’s possible to isolate missed games for each individual player.
Yes, Freddie Freeman will earn his way into HOF.
No, Joe Buck does not belong in NFL HOF in Canton. That waters everything down, IMHO.
Couple of interesting updates:
Josh Donaldson: .215, 5 HR and 10 RBI this year for Twins
Julio Teheran: 0-3, 8.90 ERA with 10 homers allowed for the Angels
Time for the Mets…
I’m actually kinda rooting for the Mets to finish 8th, but… obviously can’t root for them this weekend. I’d prefer to break their hearts.
A Few Sweet Reminders:
Overall, I’m kind of with ububba on small-ish hall or medium hall or whatever you wanna call it. Eddie Murray should be in, Craig Biggio should be in, Paul Molitor should be in…you get the point. It’s not that it should be left to the five best players of each era and everyone else can take a hike, but there are a bunch of people in (and not just old-timey Veterans Committee types) who I don’t think really deserve it.
Here’s a brief list of people who should either not be in or who probably should’ve at least been shelved on the main vote and left for the Veterans Committee (and I’ll try and avoid the low-hanging fruit of Harold Baines and Omar Vizquel and so forth): Kirby Puckett, Andre Dawson, Catfish Hunter, Tony Perez (agree with ububba here), Joe Medwick, Jim Rice, Bruce Sutter, and maybe my personal favorite, Bill Mazeroski, who best I can tell is mainly in for hitting a walk-off home run in Game 7 of the World Series (and it being against the unstoppable, deified Yankees surely helped). I mean, if hitting a home run that ends the World Series right there is a shoo-in proposition, Joe Carter should feel rightly aggrieved. (To be clear, if you place both Mazeroski and Carter before me and tell me I have to put one in the Hall of Fame, I’m picking Mazeroski, but that’s not really the point.)
I’m also unsure how to feel about the relief pitchers (Eckersley, Gossage, Fingers) who were the best at that position of all-time at one point, but whose resumes now look fairly meh.
There are more people that are in that I think should not be than that aren’t and I think should be. There are a few, though (and that’s even without wading into the steroid, gambling or game-throwing quagmires). Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell should both be in IMO.
As far as Braves, Murphy absolutely does not belong in. I’ve come around on Andruw Jones on the basis that he might be the best defensive center fielder of all-time. He’s close, but I’d probably put him in at this point.
For anyone who saw Mazeroski play, they’ll always tell you that he turned the DP faster than anyone. It was like he was a magician at 2B.
In fact, I know a guy who made a point to see the Pirates play every time they came to town in the Braves first couple years in Atlanta. Between Clemente & Mazeroski, he said, you had 2 of the greatest defensive players of all time on one team & both were worth the price of admission.
That said… for the HoF, Clemente, yes… Maz, no.
The real injustice is that Maz is in while Lou Whitaker and Bobby Grich are on the outside looking in. Whitaker and Grich are both worth twice as many WAR! The inconsistency is what feels so unfair. (Obviously, the case for Maz is that he’s the greatest defensive second baseman ever. So how you feel about him comes down to how you feel about all defensive stats. We’re gonna be in for the EXACT SAME THING when Yadier Molina retires.)
Donaldson in 2020 has been a lot like he was in 2018: he’s actually been good when he’s been on the field (you don’t need me to tell you this, but ignore his .215 average and focus on his .358/.477 OBP and SLG). He’s just been hurt most of the year.
The more things change…
His average suffers because his glorious mane has been sheared.
For the record BTW, if I were to wade into the steroid, gambling and game-throwing quagmires, I’d say yes to Bonds, Clemens and Rose, no to McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro and Shoeless Joe. Essentially, it’s not a flat, all-encompassing no for me, but if you’re gonna be tainted like that, then it does become “top five of your era or take a hike,” as far as I’m concerned.
I mean, you should have some offensive contribution, right? I’ve always stood up for Grich, who played in an era of lower offense that included a lotta hitters who just didn’t walk (Ralph Garr, etc.). He was a good defender who had pop & got on base all the time.
Yadier, yes, that conversation’s going to happen… and he’re another one… Andrelton Simmons.
At this point in his career, he’s ahead of Ozzie Smith’s pace on dWAR. If that matters to anyone, he could shatter the career dWAR at SS.
In 19 seasons, Ozzie finished with 44.2; in 9 seasons, Andrelton’s at 26.8. (FWIW, after 9 seasons, Ozzie stood at 23.5.) Andrelton doesn’t do flips, but he’s by-far the best defensive shortstop in his era. He’s more like Andruw — he makes the difficult look easy.
I do think it’s more than just Ozzie being the best defensive shortstop of all-time at that point, though. Ozzie played for the Cardinals, Ozzie did flips, Ozzie won a World Series, Ozzie went to 15 All-Star games, Ozzie won 13 Gold Gloves, Ozzie hit a walk-off homer in an NLCS game, etc. Andrelton played for the Braves and Angels, doesn’t do flips, has never made it past the Division Series round (and only made that once), his most memorable postseason moment is hitting into the “outfield fly,” he’s made zero (!) All-Star games and has won four Gold Gloves.
Now, I do know that All-Star appearances and Gold Gloves are imperfect metrics, to say the least, and maybe by the time Andrelton hangs it up, voters will largely just look at defensive WAR and defensive runs saved and so forth rather than the above things. He also has time to get closer to Ozzie on Gold Gloves. But if you extrapolate Andrelton’s career to its logical conclusion and have the voting bloc as it’s currently constructed look at his candidacy, he’d have no shot.
I know I just said Andruw deserves in for his defensive prowess, but he has 10 Gold Gloves, five All-Star appearances, a Silver Slugger, a Hank Aaron Award, and league HR and RBI titles. He also had the ’96 World Series, the game-winning RBI in the ’99 NLCS (admittedly via bases-loaded walk) and a generally deeper postseason resume. So it wouldn’t be quite the same thing there.
Back to back great pieces as Alan gives us what many Braves fans have been wondering. This will also serve as a game thread.
Yeah, I get all that & that’s why I mentioned that (at the moment) most folks might not care about career dWAR. If voters aren’t feeling Andruw, they definitely aren’t gonna love Andrelton.
But, to my point… as great as Ozzie was on the diamond, and he was, he played in an era where (other than Ripken, really) the SS just didn’t hit (a lotta Bill Russells & Chris Speiers, not the kinds of guys we’re seeing now). In Andrelton’s era, more teams were looking for an Asdrubel Cabrera (some pop, but just-decent defensively) than a Mark Belanger (all D, no O).
So an offensively challenged player like Andrelton (fwiw, still better than Ozzie) almost certainly gets overlooked for his real skills in this era. He won’t get voted (or selected) onto the all-star game, but some guys who aren’t in the same universe defensively (like Cabrera or Edgar Renteria) will. That didn’t happen in Ozzie’s era partially b/c his main competition at SS couldn’t hit either.
And the fact that Andrelton hasn’t won more Gold Gloves is an indictment of the voters, not Andrelton’s accomplishments, IMO.
FWIW, I’m not saying the he or Yadier will or should ever get into the HoF, but if we’re talking about giving greatest defensive players consideration, he’s on that list.