This is the time of year when we typically write about the Hall of Fame-worthiness of players on this year’s ballot.
We’ve previously written about almost all of the prominent candidates and we can sum it up thusly:
By the Bill James-created Hall of Fame Value stat (HOF-V)*, which sums a player’s Win Shares and four times his Baseball-Reference WAR, nine players on this year’s ballot have cleared the target score, which is a HOF-V of 500.
They are Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramírez, Gary Sheffield, Carlos Beltrán, Bobby Abreu, Scott Rolen, Todd Helton, Jeff Kent, and Andruw Jones.
* For a more in-depth analysis of HOF-V, check out this article from The Bill James Handbook 2018.
The first three on that list have PED-related issues that complicate their candidacies. Beltrán, in his first year on the ballot, has the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal on his ledger. All four would be clearcut Hall of Fame electees if not for their problematic pasts.
From the other five, let’s again spotlight Abreu and Helton. Abreu has the highest HOF-V among the quintet. Helton seems to be gaining momentum based on Ryan Thibodaux’s compilation of votes thus far.
Abreu hit .291 with an .870 OPS over an 18-year career in which he totaled 2,470 hits, 400 stolen bases, and 288 home runs. Despite lacking prodigious power, Abreu was a highly productive player. He ranks in the Top 25 all-time in both doubles and walks. He averaged nearly 6 WAR per season from 1998 to 2004.
Abreu, with an HOF-V of 596.7, is exactly the kind of player that HOF-V is meant to showcase. But he’s far from the Hall of Fame. He’s held steady the last two years, receiving just under 9% of the vote, with 75% needed for election.
Helton’s candidacy may have been boosted by the election of Larry Walker, his former Rockies teammate. Helton totaled 2,519 hits and 369 home runs in his 17 MLB seasons. Similar to Abreu, he ranks 20th all-time in doubles and 38th in walks. He also won three Gold Glove Awards. Of the top 10 players who Helton rates most similar to by Bill James’ Similarity Scores, seven are in the Hall of Fame, including newly-elected Fred McGriff.
The knock on Helton is that he played half his games in Coors Field. But Helton was a highly-respectable player outside the altitude, with a career road slash line of .287/.386/.469.
Helton netted 16.5% of the BBWAA vote on his first Hall of Fame ballot in 2019, but that total has steadily climbed to 52% in 2022. He still has some people to convince but the numbers bode well for him to eventually find his way to Cooperstown. As Jayson Stark of The Athletic noted, every position player to reach 50% of the vote within his first four Hall of Fame ballots has eventually been elected.
One last note for those looking for an evaluation of Billy Wagner. Both WAR and Win Shares don’t typically scale in a way such that relief pitchers reach a 500 HOF-V. Even Mariano Rivera came up a little short (498.2). Wagner’s HOF-V of 292.8 is better than two of the eight relievers in the Hall of Fame – Rollie Fingers (290.4) and Bruce Sutter (264.0) – and comparable to Trevor Hoffman (299.6). If you wanted to say Wagner was deserving of election, you’d have a reasonable case.
Highest Hall Of Fame Value (HOF-V)
Candidates on 2023 Hall of Fame Ballot