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Wednesday, February 12, 2003

500 Homerun Club Braces For a Flood

Who’s heading for the milestone?

It has now been ten years since baseball?s offensive surge began.  In an era when 40 homeruns in a season has become almost as common as 30 homerun seasons were in the previous era, it was apparent by the late 1990?s that the 500-homerun club would see a flood of new members.

 

We stand now at the edge of that flood.  Four players can make it this coming season and, barring an extended strike, look for five to ten others to reach 500 homers by 2012.  Let?s start by taking a brief look at the history of the 500 club.

The Club

The initial member of the 500 club was, of course, Babe Ruth, who hit his 500th homer in 1929.  Lou Gehrig figured to be next, but he was stopped short at 493 in 1939.  Soon after, Jimmie Foxx hit #500 in 1940 and Mel Ott followed in 1945.

 

There was a long gap after this.  WW-II sabotaged any shot at 500 for Joe DiMaggio (361), Johnny Mize (359), and Hank Greenberg (331).  Finally, Ted Williams overcame his 4+ years missed to military service and hit #500 in 1960.

 

Meanwhile, a group of young sluggers was surging to 500.  The cozy club of four would welcome seven new members from 1965 to 1971:  Willie Mays (1965), Mickey Mantle (1967), Eddie Mathews (1967), Hank Aaron (1968), Ernie Banks (1970), Harmon Killebrew (1971), and Frank Robinson (1971).

 

The pace for new additions to the 500 club slowed to a trickle after that.  Willie McCovey joined in 1978, followed by Reggie Jackson (1984), Mike Schmidt (1987) and Eddie Murray (1996).  This brought club membership up to 15 players.

 

Murray retired in 1997.  Before that season I wrote of the coming flood in an unpublished article: "With 40-homer seasons now commonplace, a player joining the 500 club could become an annual event in the first decade of the next century."

 

Concerning Barry Bonds (334 HR then) and Mark McGwire (329) I wrote: "One of these two will be the next to 500, perhaps as soon as the year 2000."  That forecast wasn?t quite accurate, as McGwire began hitting dingers at an unprecedented rate and joined the club in August 1999.  Bonds became the 17th player to hit 500 in April 2001.

Ran Out of Gas

That article six years ago identified 13 other players on the road to 500.  Seven of these are still good candidates: McGriff, Palmeiro, Griffey, J. Gonzalez, Sosa, Sheffield, and Thomas.  Let?s look first at the six who have fallen by the wayside.

Albert Belle: Six years ago Belle was the game?s top slugger with an established level of 51, and he had just become baseball?s first $10 million man.  Even three years ago he was still slugging along, projected to hit #500 in 2003.  Then his hip went bad and his career was over, just like that, at age 34.  Final total 381 homers.

Jose Canseco: From a young age, Jose was projected to hit over 500 homeruns.  He shows up on the age-26 list below with ARod and Vlad.  Three years ago, at age 35, he needed only 69 more for 500, coming off seasons of 46 and 34 homers.  For some reason, teams became increasingly reluctant to hire Jose and his career petered out with 462 as his final total.

Mo Vaughn and Cecil Fielder: Six years ago I wrote, "Both need to maintain their high established levels until their late 30?s.  However, these big-body types historically lack such longevity."  Cecil?s career collapsed at that point, and he was done by age 35 with 319 homeruns. Mo is now 35; perhaps he?s not the guy for Mets fans to hang their hopes on.  A biceps injury that caused him to miss the 2001 season all but ended his shot at 500 homers.  Vaughn is 175 away from 500; his estimated chance stands at 3%.

Matt Williams: Six years ago I wrote, "He was hit by injuries the last two years after a 61-homer pace in 1994.  The rule of thumb says halfway there at age 30 puts you in the running, so he?s doing OK."  He added a couple more 30-homer years, but was injured too much.  He?s now 37 years old and 126 homers away, with an established level of 15.5.

Jay Buhner: His career got off to a slow start; Jay didn?t play regularly until age 26.  Five years ago, after hitting the 40-homer mark three straight years, he had about as good a chance for 500 as Rafael Palmeiro (who?s one month younger).  Anyone who establishes himself as a 40-homer man has a shot at 500, but Buhner got hurt and never played full time after that.  He retired in 2001 with 310 homers.

The Head of the Pack

Current candidates for the 500 club can be divided into three groups: four players who can make it in 2003; eight players who project as four to six years away; seven players who seem about seven to nine years away.  Many young players also have a chance, but it?s usually too early to seriously speculate about players less than one-third of the way to a target.

 

Numbers in parentheses are: age at 7/1/03, career HR opening 2003, and established HR level.  The estimated chances are figured using a modified version of Bill James? "Favorite Toy" formula.

Barry Bonds (38.9, 613, 50.7) ? Entering the 2000 season, he was not a candidate to challenge Aaron?s record.  He was 35 years old and 310 homers away.  Now Barry?s had his three best years with 49-73-46.  (Aaron likewise had his best three-year stretch from ages 35 to 37.)  If his production declines to his late 90?s HR level of 37, he?s four years away from Aaron.  Estimated chance for 755: 22%.

Sammy Sosa (34.6, 499, 55.1) ? He averaged 48 HR from 1993-2002 (adjusting for the strike) and in the past five years he has a record 292 homers.  If he averages 43 HR for the next six years, he?ll pass Aaron before he?s 40 years old.  Est chance for 600: 95%.  Est chance for 755: 34%.

Rafael Palmeiro (38.8, 490, 43.8) ? He wasn?t much of a slugger in his younger years, hitting his 100th homer at age 28.  Then Raffy hit his stride and averaged 41 HR 1993-2002 (adjusting for the strike).  He has a decent shot at the 600 HR mark, and is also 366 hits away from 3000.  Est chance for 600: 27%.

Fred McGriff (39.7, 478, 28.9) ? Four years ago I had written off his chances for 500.  McGriff was 35 years old after his fourth straight year of a decline in HR rate.  He was still 142 homers short, coming off years of 28-22-19, and seemed to have one foot out the retirement door. However, he found the power switch and just bashed 30+ homers at ages 37 and 38, joining Babe Ruth 1932-33 and Hank Aaron 1971-72 as the only players to accomplish that feat.  Now he?s away from the friendly confines of Wrigley Field (the Dodgers have him), he?s not yet a lock for 500.  Est chance for 500: 90%.

Ken Griffey, Jr. (33.6, 468, 28.7) ? Three years ago he looked like the best bet to challenge Aaron?s record.  Early in the 2000 season, at age 30, he became the youngest man to reach the 400 mark and was averaging 52 HR per season.  However, he?s been injured most of the past two seasons, his training regime has been questioned and his shot at 755 seems all but gone.  He needs to average 36 homers for the next eight years to catch Aaron when he?s 40 years old.  Est chance for 500: 97%.  Est chance for 600: 46%.

The Next Wave

The eight players in this next group are about four to six years away from 500 homeruns.

Juan Gonzalez (33.7, 405, 25.9) ? Like Griffey, his prospects have taken a sharp downturn in the last three years.  Still, it would be a big surprise if he doesn?t reach 500.  In fact, 600 is still possible, requiring him to average 28 homers for the next seven years to make it before he turns 40.  Est chance for 500: 69%.  Est chance for 600: 10%.

Jeff Bagwell (35.1, 380, 37.7) ? Escaping from the Astrodome after 1999 was just the boost he needed.  Although he seems to be in decline now (last three years 47-39-31), he should hit #500 in 2006 or 2007.  Est chance for 500: 64%.  Est chance for 600: 13%.

Frank Thomas (35.1, 376, 24.2) ? Five years ago he was flying high, averaging more than 40 homers per year and had just passed the halfway point before his 30th birthday.  Now, at the three-quarters mark, we wonder if he can make it.  At his current pace he won?t hit #500 until he?s 40 years old.  Est chance for 500: 21%.

Mike Piazza (34.8, 347, 34.8) ? No catcher has ever hit 400 homers, let alone 500.  He needs to average 25.5 HR for the next six years, which seems doable.  I think his chances would improve if he could move to first base or DH.  Est chance for 500: 36%.

Gary Sheffield (34.6, 340, 32.8) ? His up and down career needs to stay up for 5+ years for him to make 500.  If he averages 27 HR for the next six years he?ll make it before he turns 40.  Est chance for 500: 30%.

Jim Thome (32.8, 334, 45.0) ? He?s reached the 30-homer mark for seven years in a row.  After hitting 101 homers in the last two years (only Sosa, Bonds and ARod have higher established levels) he?s in position to make a run at 600.  If he averages 33 for the next eight years, he?s there by age 40.  Est chance for 500: 82%.  Est chance for 600: 32%.

Manny Ramirez (31.1, 310, 37.5) ? If he maintains his current pace, he can hit #500 in 2007.  He is in about as good a position for a run at 600 as his ex-teammate, Thome.  Manny?s halfway there at age 30 and needs to average 32 for the next nine years to reach 600 before he turns 40.  Est chance for 500: 63%.  Est chance for 600: 24%.

Alex Rodriguez (27.9, 298, 50.8) ? He and Sosa are the only players to hit 40+ homers in each of the last five seasons.  Most career HR thru age-26 season:

 

	A.Rodriguez	298		O.Cepeda	222

	J.Foxx		266		H.Aaron	219

	E.Mathews	253		J.Gonzalez	214

	M.Mantle	249		J.Bench	212

	M.Ott		242		V.Guerrero	209

	F.Robinson	241		J.Canseco	209

	K.Griffey	238		J.DiMaggio	198

	

Compare him to Griffey, Foxx and Guerrero at the same ages:

	age	A.Rod	Junior	Jimmie	  Vlad

	19	  5	  16	  3	  —

	20	  36	  22	  13	    1

	21	  23	  22	  33	  11

	22	  42	  27	  37	  38

	23	  42	  45	  30	  42

	24	  41	  40	  58	  44

	25	  52	  17	  48	  34

	26	  57 	  49	  44	  39

	27	 —	  56	  36	  —

 

To mention one possible scenario, he can catch Aaron by averaging 38 homers for 12 years.  Est chance for 500: 89%.  Est chance for 755: 31%.

On the Road

Let?s also look at seven other candidates who are seven to nine years away from homer #500 (at their current paces):

Carlos Delgado (31.0, 262, 37.5) ? His HR total declined for the third straight year, but he extended his streak of 30-homer years to six.  Est chance for 500: 41%.

Chipper Jones (31.2, 253, 33.5) ? Like Delgado, he was 30 years old at the halfway mark.  He just needs to keep hitting 30 homers to get to 500 in eight years.  Est chance for 500: 27%.

Shawn Green (30.6, 234, 40.5) ? Solidified his place as one of today?s top sluggers, topping 40 HR for the third time in four years.  Est chance for 500: 41%.

Jason Giambi (32.5, 228, 39.7) ? He got off to a slow start, exceeding the 20-homer mark for the first time at age 27.  As we said for Buhner, anyone who establishes himself as a 40-homer man has a shot at 500. Eight years averaging 34 HR gets him there before his 40th birthday.  Est chance for 500: 23%.

Vladimir Guerrero (27.4, 209, 39.1) ? See listing under ARod.  It will be interesting to see to what level he and Alex can rise through their upcoming prime-age years.  Est chance for 500: 51%.  Est chance for 600: 26%.

Todd Helton (29.9, 186, 38.6) ? He suffered a major power outage last season, declining from 49 to 30 HR.  Est chance for 500: 28%.

Andruw Jones (26.2, 185, 34.8) ? He?s had three straight years in the mid 30?s for homers.  Can he take it to the next level?  Est chance for 500: 39%.

 

One more candidate who is in good position early on for a run at 500:

Troy Glaus (26.9, 148, 36.6) - Estimated chance for 500: 31%.

 

As we saw earlier, a lot can happen on the road to 500.  Players who seem headed for the club can be permanently detoured by injury.  The odds say that about four or five of the eight "Next Wave" players and only two or three of the last eight will eventually join the club.  So in the next ten seasons, we should expect the 500 club to increase from 17 to about 28 members.

Notes on Formulas

I employ a subjective approach to the application of the formulas.  IMO, I get more accurate results that way.  After all, it?s called The Favorite Toy, so it?s meant to be played around with.  To those who are curious, or prefer to make different calculations, I provide this explanation.

 

     

  1. The Established Levels are figured using four different formulas, whichever seems to apply best to the player in question:

 

  • 5 Years weighted .1+.15+.2+.25+.3.  Used for recently injured and some old players due for decline.  (Griffey, Gonzalez, Thomas, Vaughn, Bonds, McGriff).
  • 4 Years weighted .1+.2+.3+.4.  Used for most players.
  • 4 Years weighted .15+.2167+.2833+.35.  Used for a few players who are thought to be more accurate by putting less weight on recent years.  (Thome, Guerrero).
  • 3 Years weighted .1667+.3333+.5.  Bill James? original weights.  Used for a few players whose most recent performance is seen as relevant.  (A. Jones, Piazza).

 

     

  1. Years Needed are calculated: Need HR / Established Level.
  2. Age is as of July 1 of the upcoming season.
  3. For Remaining Years, I give players more time than the original Favorite Toy:
  4. Rem Yrs = 24.9 - (.6 * Age)

     

    James said that anyone still playing full-time was assumed to have at least 1.5 remaining years.  I upped this to 2.06 years for Bonds and 2.0 for Palmeiro in the calculations.  For McGriff I used the 1.1 years that the formula calculated.

     

  5. Projected HR are calculated: Rem Yrs * Established Level
  6. Estimated Chance is figured in two steps.  First we use James? formula:

 

(Proj HR / Need HR) ? 0.5

 

James said to figure a 3% chance per year of a sudden career end.  So we multiply the previous result by: .97^Years Needed.

 

For an example, let?s figure Barry Bonds? estimated chance for 755 homeruns.  He now has 613.  In the past five years he hit 37-34-49-73-46.

 

     

  1. Established Level = (.1*37)+(.15*34)+(.2*49)+(.25*73)+(.3*46) = 50.65
  2. Years Needed = 142 / 50.65 = 2.8036
  3. Bonds was born 7/24/64 so he?s 38.9 years old on 7/1/03.
  4. Rem Yrs = 24.9 ? (.6 * 38.9) = 1.56; because he?s performing at such a high level, we?ll add .5 to that.
  5. Proj HR = 2.06 * 50.65 = 104.3
  6. Est Chance = (104.3 / 142) ? 0.5 = .235 or 23.5%;

 

    .97^2.8036 = .91815 * 23.5% = 21.6%

 

No doubt, many will think his chance is much greater than 22%.  Clearly, the assumptions I make have everything to do with Bonds? estimated chance.  If we figure his Established Level based on the 3-year formula, he?s at 55.5 and his estimated chance is 28.2%.  Or, if we assume three full Remaining Years, his chance is 52.3%.  If we do both of these, his chance is 62.2%.

 

IMO, those are unreasonable assumptions.  I tend toward conservative estimates.  I think the odds are very much against Bonds catching Aaron.  The formula says he only has 1.6 years left to play while needing 2.8 years to catch Hank.  IMO, he has more time remaining than that, but he?s unlikely to maintain the 50-homer level.

 

It?s easy to see what Bonds needs to do, there?s no question he?s capable of doing it, and he has four more years on his contract.  In the past four years he?s hit 202 homers, so you might think that hitting 142 would be easy.  But no player his age has ever hit nearly that many homers in their remaining career.  That?s asking for four years something like this: 41-38-34-29.  History shows that at his age, it can be over very quickly.  Just ask McGwire, for one.

 

If Bonds cruises past Mays (660) with 50+ homers in 2003, his chances become much more realistic; to go from 142 homers away to 90 closes the gap significantly and would justify optimism in his chances.  However, at his age there?s little margin for error.  If injuries make him miss the 25-homer mark in ?03 or ?04, his shot at 755 is pretty much over.

Daniel Greenia Posted: February 12, 2003 at 06:00 AM | 27 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Scott Posted: February 12, 2003 at 02:30 AM (#608761)
I remember when Dave Kingman was the only 400-HR guy not in the HOF. Now there will be a number of 400-HR guys not voted in. Any guesses as to who will be the first 500-HR guy not voted in?
   2. DanG Posted: February 13, 2003 at 02:30 AM (#608763)
In these circumstances, injecting a little subjectivity is entirely appropriate. An empirical formula isn't possible due to the lack of data points. That is to say, since so few players have reached 500 homers, there is no reliable, established pattern to achieve the goal.

The Favorite toy formulas are also ignorant of individual conditions. I'm sure an improved formula could be developed incorporating many more variables than age and established level. I haven't seen one yet, though.

Sure, I could use one, set-in-stone formula. What fun would that be? And I doubt the results would prove to be as reliable as mine.
   3. Bangkok9 eschews 1 from Column A Posted: February 13, 2003 at 02:30 AM (#608767)
I'd wager on Larry Walker reaching 450 and having to buy a ticket for C'town.
   4. Mom makes botox doctors furious Posted: February 13, 2003 at 02:30 AM (#608771)
The McGriff debate is a great one.

Best Sims:

Willie Stargell
Rafael Palmeiro
Willie McCovey

Best Sims through 38 (McGriff's age):

Reggie Jackson
Billy Williams
Dave Winfield
Eddie Murray

Peak:

7 consecutive years top 5 OPS (1988-1994)
6 consecutive years top 10 MVP (1989-1994)

Nice career achievements:

10 seasons 30+ homeruns
15 seasons 80+ RBI

If McGriff retired today, I'd guess no HOF induction. But if he puts together two more seasons like 2001/2002, he's in after a few years.

500 HR and 1700 RBI still shines bright in a voters' eye.
   5. Scott Posted: February 13, 2003 at 02:30 AM (#608775)
In the HOF debates on Primer, there was discussion of Palmiero/McGriff. If I remember correctly, both had surprisingly strong and surprisingly similar HOF cases. McGriff had many of his best seasons before the HR explosion, so his early years look less impressive due to this "era effect." Both Palmiero & McGriff are better than the 1970s/1980s "almost-HOF" 1Bs like Garvey, Hernandez, Mattingly.

Juan Gonzalez may be my vote. He's at 405, so he'll have to rack up a few more years, but I'm underwhelmed by him. His lack of durability is striking: only 2 yrs of 150+ games; 4 yrs in the low 140s; and it's downhill from there. Most years, a team counting on Juan to fill a spot ends up with 130 games of Juan and 30 games of their 4th/5th OF. So in my mind, he's less of an asset than the raw numbers show. And I don't think he ever was considered a defensive asset (was he?).
   6. Justin Binek Posted: February 13, 2003 at 02:30 AM (#608787)
Back on the Jeff Kent/Astros thread, I posted this comment about McGriff:

All right. Since no one else will, I'll Keltnerize Fred McGriff (see #111):

1. 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?

I think we can safely say Fred McGriff was never regarded as the best player in baseball.

2. Was he the best player on his team?

He was definitely the best player on the Blue Jays from 1988-90 and the Padres in 1991. Gary Sheffield was slightly better in 1992. He was the best position player on the Braves in 1993-94.

3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?

He was the best 1B in the AL in 1989, and one of the two best in 1988 and 1990 (along with Don Mattingly and Cecil Fielder, respectively). He was also the best 1B in the NL in 1992, and one of the two best in 1991, 1993 and 1994 (along with Will Clark, Andres Galaragga, and Jeff Bagwell, respectively).

It seems to me that for the seven-year span from 1988 to 1994, Fred McGriff was the top first baseman in the game, or something very close to that. (Will Clark fans, insert argument here. Mark McGwire fans, don't even start arguing.)

4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

Several, the most notable and well-remembered example being 1993 with Atlanta. Coincidentally or not, after he arrived, the Braves went on an absolute tear, culminating in a one-game victory over the Giants.

He also played for the 1989 Blue Jays and the 1995-97 Braves: four division titles, two pennants and one World Series. In addition, the 1987 Blue Jays (2 games out), 1998 Blue Jays (2 games out), 1990 Blue Jays (2 games out), and 2001 Cubs (5 games out) were all in contention, and the 1991-92 Padres both finished over .500. In fact, one of the big "side stories" about McGriff heading to Tampa was that it would be the first time McGriff had ever played on a team that finished BELOW .500.

Whether McGriff added something extra, or whether he simply had good taste in teammates, the record of his teams is quite impressive.

5. Was he good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime?

Yes.

6. Is he the very best baseball player in history who is not in the Hall of Fame?

A McGriff partisan could make that argument. The only position players who rank ahead of him on the Hall of Fame Standards list who are eligible and have not been elected are Pete Rose, George Van Haltren, Jimmy Ryan and Bill Dahlen. In other words: three nineteenth-century guys and baseball's answer to the Scarlett Letter. This, of course, does skip over those who are not eligible yet (Bonds, Molitor, Ripken, Boggs, Piazza, Alomar, Gwynn, Henderson, Clemens, Maddux, Johnson).

7. Are most players who have comparable statistics in the Hall of Fame?

Five of McGriff's top ten comps are in the Hall of Fame (Willie Stargell, Willie McCovey, Billy Williams, Orlando Cepeda and Eddie Matthews). Another one of his comps is still active and is likely to be enshrined (Rafael Palmeiro).

8. Do the player?s numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?

The Hall of Fame Standards test shows McGriff with 47.9 points, and the average HOFer with 50.

The Hall of Fame Monitor shows McGriff with 100 points, and the likely HOFer has more than 100. McGriff's counting stats will continue to push these numbers up.

9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?

His peak seasons occurred before the offensive surge of 1993-94. Think about this in context of recent seasons: McGriff lead the league in home runs twice. With 36 and 35.

10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?

Once again, it's arguable. It's between McGriff and three contemporaries (Bagwell, Palmeiro, Thomas).

11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?

He finished in the top four once (1993) and in the top ten on five other occasions. One could make the argument for 1989 being a definite MVP-type season, with weaker arguments available for 1998 and 1990-94.

12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the players who played in this many All-Star games go into the Hall of Fame?

McGriff played in five All-Star Games, a middle-to-low number for a Hall-of Fame first baseman. On the other hand, the Big Hurt has the same number of appearances, while Raffy and Jeff only have four each.

In case anyone cares, the leaders at first base during this period were Mark McGwire (12) and Will Clark (6).

13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?

Yes.

14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?

Impact on history... Minimal, but there is some. Leading both leagues in home runs, being a part of the infamous Werner/Lucchino Fire Sale of 1993, sparking the Braves to the division title in 1993 (commencing with an actual press box fire at Fulton County Stadium the day he arrived), best player in the history of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (for what it's worth), best first baseman in the history of a franchise that dates back to 1876 (Wanna argue? Find me a better first baseman in the history of the Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves franchise. It's either McGriff, Joe Adcock, or Fred Tenney, and I'll take McGriff). His impact isn't large, historically speaking, but it's not chopped liver, either.

15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

As far as I know.

IN SUMMARY... "Yes" to questions 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 13, and 15; "Probably" to questions 6, 7, 8, 10, and 14; "Dicey" to questions 11 and 12; "No" to question 1. It looks to me like McGriff should definitely be considered a well-qualified, if not a certain lock, Hall of Fame candidate.


The only nit-picky thing in my analysis was the use of arbitrary endpoints. As was pointed out to me on the Kent thread, McGriff created 430 EQR during the years 1991-1994. During the same timespan, Frank Thomas created 597. Still...
   7. Marc Posted: February 13, 2003 at 02:31 AM (#608803)
Great article, Dan. We miss you at What If.

I always said I wished that Dave Kingman had hit 500, which would have put an end to the ridiculous notion that 500 either did or should mean automatic HoF induction. But clearly one or more on Dan's list will prove that point coming up. There are simply too many, and, hey, except for ARod they're all cornermen. Is the fifth or sixth best 1B of the '90s really a HoFer? These guys are like deadball pitchers. A 1.90 ERA didn't mean then what people thought in later years that it meant.

500 HR won't mean much in 50 years. But while someone will prove the ?Kingman Hypothesis, I am also afraid that like some deadball pitchers, some will be honored who in future years will be seen as unworthy (and who really are unworthy) before the ?Kingman Hypothesis is accepted.
   8. Gold Star for Robothal Posted: February 14, 2003 at 02:31 AM (#608805)
Garrett,

There's over a 100 point differential for Walker's SLG on the road during his time in Colorado. Take him out of Colorado and he's basically a .290-.300 hitter with about a .500-.520 SLG. A good player (certainly better than Dante Bichette during his career outside of Coors Field), but he's not even close to Mays or Aaron, not the least since Walker has only played in more than a 140 games three times during his career (although it would likely be four had the lockout not occured back in '94).

Also, Aaron played the first 12 years of his career in Milwaukee, whose home park, County Stadium, was no home run hitters haven. Excluding his last two years with the Milwaukee Brewers, Aaron hit 398 home runs while he played in Milwaukee, hitting 185 of those (46% of his total) at home. In Atlanta, he hit 335 home runs, 190 at home (57% of his total). That's a difference of -17 (185/213 home/road home run split) in Milwaukee, +45 (190/145) at home in Atlanta, which comes to +18 (it would be +16 had I included his last two seasons with Milwaukee) for any padding effect of playing 9 seasons in the Launching Pad. It helped, but didn't have that great of an effect on his career.
   9. Mom makes botox doctors furious Posted: February 14, 2003 at 02:31 AM (#608806)
What is the HOF Monitor?

It's a number derived from bonus points assigned to specific achievements in rate statistics, counting statistics, awards, all-star appearances, and position played bonuses, such as a single season batting average over .350 (5 points), a career batting average over .315 (16 points), league batting champion (6 points), a 50 homer season (10 points), league MVP (8 points) and so on. There are, however, no adjustments for era, park, or league, and as such the HOF Monitor is seriously flawed as an indicator for ANY position player who has built his numbers up as a member of the Rockies.

The HOF Standards stat is also derived from bonus points for specific achievements in rate and counting statistics, and is also a less than mediocre method to measure a Coors Field player. It, too, excludes adjustments for era, park, or league.

The Gray Ink and Black Ink tests rely on the leader boards to create a number used for player comparison purposes (ie., 4 points for leading the league in batting average, etc.). As such, no adjustments are even possible. Like the others, both have severe limitations as methods for accurately measuring any Coors player.

Larry Walker is 36 years-old. He has managed to play in 140 or more games only three times in his career, and just once over 150. He has never led his team to the World Series. It is highly unlikely he will reach 2700 hits, or 500 homeruns, or 1600 RBI.

HOF worthy? I don't see it.
   10. bob mong Posted: February 14, 2003 at 02:31 AM (#608822)
Larry Walker is 36 years-old. He has managed to play in 140 or more games only three times in his career, and just once over 150. He has never led his team to the World Series. It is highly unlikely he will reach 2700 hits, or 500 homeruns, or 1600 RBI.

HOF worthy? I don't see it.


Larry Walker has definitely benefited from Coors Field. But he still has a career OPS+ of 141, through 1663 games.

Here are a few other, somewhat comparable HOFers:
<font>Name            OPS+   Games  H     HR   RBI
Kirby Puckett   124    1783   2304  207  1085
Orlando Cepeda  133    2100   2351  379  1365
Willie Stargell 147    2360   2232  475  1540
Billy Williams  132    2488   2711  426  1475
Enos Slaughter  123    2380   2383  169  1304
Duke Snider     140    2143   2116  407  1333
Chuck Klein     137    1753   2076  300  1201
Hack Wilson     144    1348   1461  244  1063
Eddie Matthews  143    2391   2315  512  1453
Ralph Kiner     149    1472   1451  369  1015
  
Larry Walker    141    1663   1863  335  1133</font>
I don't think this really shows one way or another whether he deserves to be inducted - but I think it shows that there are a lot of guys in with similar stats and career lengths - and that, while the BBWAA may hold off for a little while out of confusion about how to interpret his statistics (i.e., confusion over the "Coors Effect"), I think they will eventually elect him.
   11. Geoff Young Posted: February 14, 2003 at 02:31 AM (#608824)
Lucchino had nothing to do with that Fire Sale. He was part of Moores's group that bought the team in '95. Joe McIlvaine was the GM who was forced to trade everyone. He did a good job on some of the salary dumps, but had no leverage when dealing McGriff; though he wanted Klesko or Lopez or Chipper, he had to settle for guys like Vince Moore and Donnie Elliott.

Vinay: You sure it was McIlvaine? I could have sworn that fire sale was administered by Randy Smith. Whoever it was did a beautiful job in getting Andy Ashby from the Rox for virtually nothing.
   12. DanG Posted: February 14, 2003 at 02:31 AM (#608826)
Paul M wrote:

"I haven't gone through the "toy" calculations, but I would think Eric Chavez has a very good chance, possibly as good as Glaus given the likelihood of a longer career (Glaus' body type will work against him at some point).

He had a 9% probability after the 2001 season. he added 34HRs in 2002-- now has 105 and has just turned 25. I assume he's probably more like 15% now."


As I wrote, I don't see much point in anointing players as candidates for a milestone until they're one-third of the way there. Still, I did figure the 500 chance for players with at least 100 homers.

Among players with 100-166 homers, besides Glaus I found seven others in double figures. Listed are their chance, career HR and established level:

19% 105 32.0 Chavez
19% 101 35.8 Berkman
18% 129 32.3 Tejada
18% 146 34.2 Sexson
15% 149 33.9 Ordonez
11% 164 27.8 Rolen
11% 156 31.2 Batista

Another poster doubted Juan Gonzalez as making the Hall. IMO,if he makes the milestones we expect him to (500 hr, 1600 rbi), there seems little doubt that his two MVPs will put him in the Hall.

Finally, I thought it might be intersting to post the projected career totals for active players. The top 17:

727 Sosa
717 Bonds
713 A.Rod
604 Griffey
578 Palmeiro
569 Thome
544 Ramirez
540 Guerrero
526 Gonzalez
525 Bagwell
509 McGriff
505 A.Jones
499 Green
498 Delgado
487 Piazza
476 Sheffield
469 Thomas
   13. Mom makes botox doctors furious Posted: February 15, 2003 at 02:31 AM (#608827)
Bob

I don't think this really shows one way or another whether he deserves to be inducted - but I think it shows that there are a lot of guys in with similar stats and career lengths - and that, while the BBWAA may hold off for a little while out of confusion about how to interpret his statistics (i.e., confusion over the "Coors Effect"), I think they will eventually elect him.

I agree.
   14. Justin Binek Posted: February 17, 2003 at 02:31 AM (#608852)
Wade and Dan,

I stand by my previous comments, as they relate to "Value Accumulated While Wearing That Particular Uniform." Yes, Wade Boggs shuffled around third for two seasons in Tampa. Yes, Dan Brouthers spent one year with Boston in 1889. Here's the problem with that approach:

All Time "Hey, This Guy Is Easily The Best (Position X) Player In Franchise History If We Disregard Playing Time And Actual Worth To The Team" Team:

C: Gary Carter, San Francisco Giants
1B: Harmon Killebrew, Kansas City Royals
2B: Joe Morgan, Oakland Athletics
3B: Eddie Matthews, Houston Astros
SS: Lou Boudreau, Boston Red Sox
LF: Rickey Henderson, Anaheim Angels
CF: Willie Mays, New York Mets
RF: Babe Ruth, Boston Braves

RHP: Cy Young, Boston Braves
RHP: Christy Mathewson, Cincinnati Reds
LHP: Warren Spahn, San Francisco Giants
LHP: Steve Carlton, Minnesota Twins
5thSP: Tom Seaver, Boston Red Sox
CL: Rich Gossage, Seattle Mariners
   15. fracas' hope springs eternal Posted: February 19, 2003 at 02:32 AM (#608865)
I don't think this really shows one way or another whether he deserves to be inducted - but I think it shows that there are a lot of guys in with similar stats and career lengths...

I respectfully disagree. First, there are not a lot of HOFers (at least on your list) with similar career lengths. Walker isn't done yet, but at this point, 8 of the 10 HOFers had longer careers, 6 of them by over 400 games, 4 of them by 697 or more. That's not similar.

Walker's OPS+ is almost 4 points higher than the average of the group. But despite that and the excellent hitting environment he plays in, Walker is currently 277 hits, 14 HR, and 150 RBI below the average of a group which includes Kirby Puckett, Enos Slaughter, and Hack Wilson, who are all (IMHO) borderline guys.

Your conclusion is correct, however. The BBWAA will probably put him in eventually.
   16. fracas' hope springs eternal Posted: February 19, 2003 at 02:32 AM (#608872)
"He's barely as good as Enos Slaughter, Kirby Puckett and other borderline HOFers."

Whoa! Stop right there.

I did not say that. And your use of quotation marks implies that you're directly quoting me. What I said was "...Walker is currently 277 hits, 14 HR, and 150 RBI below the average of a group which includes Kirby Puckett, Enos Slaughter, and Hack Wilson...." Feel free to quote me, but do it by cut-and-paste. Please don't put words in my mouth. Thanks.

On to the argument:

since when has Games Played become the penultimate statistic for evaluating greatness?

It hasn't, but barring unusual circumstances (color line, military service time) it's an extremely good indicator of longevity and a significant factor in determining someone's total career contributions to his teams. Unless you set replacement level very high, a large portion of value comes from being good enough to play a long time.

Sometime this summer, Walker will pass Joe DiMaggio for Games Played.

He probably will, but I don't understand why that would impress anybody. DiMaggio missed 3 seasons to military service and retired young. 13 seasons is extremely short for a HOF career. And Walker is still 888 plate appearances behind DiMaggio, so he's more than a year behind on what I consider a more accurate scale.

In fact, Walker's career stats stack up favorably with the Yankee Clipper's.

Actually, they don't. DiMaggio: 155 OPS+ for 7671 PAs (plus steller CF defense), Walker: 141 OPS+ for 6783 PAs (plus very good RF defense). When you adjust the numbers for context, Walker isn't just behind in career length, but substantially behind in production, too. To be fair, he does compare favorably with some guys like Earl Averill: 133 OPS+ for 7215 PAs (plus good CF defense) and Chuck Klein: 137 OPS+ for 7168 PAs (unimpressive RF defense).

Using the Bill James method for Similarity scores, Walker is the third most "similar" player in baseball history to DiMaggio; the other two, Chuck Klein and Johnnie Mize, are both in the HOF.

A) That's the wrong comparison. We're not looking to see who's similar to DiMaggio; we want to know who Walker is similar to. Look at Walker's similar batters and you'll notice DiMaggio doesn't appear. Klein and Johnny Mize do, however, along with Averill, and Hank Greenberg. B) Similarity Scores compare similarity of raw stats. They aren't context-adjusted, so the unfairly boosted numbers of Walker's 8 seasons in Colorado become the basis for comparison. Context-adjusted, Walker does not compare well with Greenberg: 158 OPS+ for 6096 PAs (with good defense at 1B) or Mize: 158 OPS+ for 7371 PAs (at 1B).

In short, Walker has indeed been a terrific player, but his playing environment means that arguments based on unadjusted stats (and scales derived from unadjustest stats, including Sim Scores, HOF Monitor and HOF Standards, and Black and Gray Ink tests) are arguments that don't hold water. Walker is just not nearly as good as his unadjusted stats suggest. His best plus as a Hall candidate is the fact he hasn't retired yet, and has time to boost his numbers through longevity if he stays healthy.
   17. DanG Posted: February 19, 2003 at 02:32 AM (#608878)
To LSR:

I kind of wondered if anyone would join in speculations regarding DiMaggio, Mize and Greenberg. My original phrase, ?sabotaged any shot? is, as the man says ?vague enough to be true?; you can disagree with it but you can?t prove it wrong.

Your analysis, while good, is missing one aspect, I think. Namely, how did their years in the service affect the end of their careers? In most cases, I think players who missed three or more years of activity had an adverse effect on their longevity. All three, DiMaggio, Mize and Greenberg, were done as regulars by age 36. We?re talking here about three GREAT hitters. Normally, players of this caliber play a bit longer. Not A LOT, maybe a year or two longer as regulars; enough to knock out another 40 HR or so.

There?s also the question that if they reached the 450+ range that you computed, would they try to extend their career and go for the milestone? I think that?s a good possibility, too. It?s at least plausible.

We don?t know. Because of their time lost to the service, they never really had a shot at 500. Which I think is what I said.

FWIW, I ran the Favorite Toy estimates for each through the 1941 season. Greenberg 36%, DiMaggio 34%, Mize 9%. They all had ?a shot? at 500 before WW2.
   18. Mom makes botox doctors furious Posted: February 20, 2003 at 02:32 AM (#608881)

." He's never won a World Series."

As with fracas, I question who it is you're quoting here. It's certainly nothing I wrote.

   19. Danny Posted: February 21, 2003 at 02:32 AM (#608889)
Paul,

I know your an A's fan, so you must have decent reasoning behind it, but I cannot understand how you could possibly rate Mulders HOF chances as being better than Hudson's. Hudson has a much better ERA and W-L and has no injury hstory, whereas Mulder has missed parts of 2 of the last 3 seasons.

Also, Piazza is a lock and Thomas is closer to a lock than A-Rod.
   20. Toby Posted: February 22, 2003 at 02:32 AM (#608894)
Dan,

nice article, good crunchy stuff. One minor thing. You wrote of Piazza: "No catcher has ever hit 400 homers, let alone 500. ... I think his chances would improve if he could move to first base or DH."

Makes it sound as if his chances of hitting 400 homers AS A CATCHER would improve if he ceased being a catcher.

I'm guessing you didn't mean it that way, but it gave me a double-take, and then a chuckle.
   21. DanG Posted: February 23, 2003 at 02:32 AM (#608899)
MikeM (e-mail) wrote:

"You clearly need more subjectivity on your years remaining figures."

I'm all for it. Give us revised numbers, if you would.


"To say Bonds chances are less than 1 in 4 is a foolish statement. Almost all truly great sluggers have played into their 40s, although granted their longevity is tied into them being in this argument in the first place so it's a bit of a misleading statement. Still, you'd have to expect Bonds to perform at a level worthy of his contract for the next couple seasons (his OBP could fall 150 points and he'd still be worth it). And that means he'll likely play at least another three years. In that period of time, his chances are 50/50, assuming immediate retirement after the 2005 season."

Your assumptions may prove to be accurate. Mainly, I rely on the fact that no player at Bonds age has ever approached 142 HR for the rest of his career. Granted, Bonds is performing like no player in history, so he may continue to do it for 3-4 more years.


"Another problem I have is with the use of your five-year weighted averages."

Look at it again. For the player in your example I would not use a five-year weighted average.


"You should use HR/AB ratios over a given period of time, and transfer the impact of missing playing time due to injury into the above-mentioned remaining years projection if you'd like to factor it in."

Again, a nice idea. Improvements on the projection method are heartily welcome.


Dan
   22. Mom makes botox doctors furious Posted: February 24, 2003 at 02:32 AM (#608902)
Mainly, I rely on the fact that no player at Bonds age has ever approached 142 HR for the rest of his career.

Darrell Evans hit 136 HR from age 38 to the end of his career, but as far as my limited research revealed, he's it.

A small list, but worth mentioning.

   23. DanG Posted: February 24, 2003 at 02:32 AM (#608910)
I wrote:
?Mainly, I rely on the fact that no player at Bonds age has ever approached 142 HR for the rest of his career.?

nathan kunkel wrote:
?Darrell Evans hit 136 HR from age 38 to the end of his career, but as far as my limited research revealed, he's it. A small list, but worth mentioning.?


No, that?s misleading. On opening day 2003, Bonds is 38.7 years old. Darrell Evans was that age in the off-season before the 1986 season. From that point on he hit 96 more homeruns.

The difference is the traditional July 1 age cutoff; Evans is just before the cutoff, Bonds is just after. So to compare them, you have to take Evans at a year older in his ?seasonal age? than Bonds.

That is, 2003 is officially Bonds? age-38 season, though he will turn 39 during the season. To compare him to Evans at approximately the same age, you have to use Evans? age-39 season, 1986. In other words, you compare them in the season that each turned 39.

Carlton Fisk probably hit more than Evans. He was 38.7 in August 1986. He probably hit a couple more that year to add to the 95 HR he hit after 1986.

Dave Winfield may have topped that. He was Bonds? age in June 1990. He probably hit about ten HR the rest of that year to add to the 87 he hit after 1990.

Ted Williams may have topped that. He was Bonds? age in May 1957. He probably hit more than 30 of his 38 after early May to add to the 65 he hit after 1957.

I don?t see any player who was Bonds? current age that ever came within 40 homers of the 142 Bonds needs to catch Aaron.

Finally, to briefly address MikeM, historical precedent shows there is almost no chance that Bonds can catch Aaron in three years. He would need to average more than 47 per year, a mark he?s achieved only twice in his career. In addition, no player his age has ever exceeded 40 homeruns in one season.

However, Jonathan's point is well taken. Bonds indeed has a chance to be one of those rare players who goes beyond normal boundaries. As the article says: "It?s easy to see what Bonds needs to do, there?s no question he?s capable of doing it, and he has four more years on his contract."


Dan
   24. Mom makes botox doctors furious Posted: February 27, 2003 at 02:34 AM (#609004)
No, that?s misleading. On opening day 2003, Bonds is 38.7 years old. Darrell Evans was that age in the off-season before the 1986 season. From that point on he hit 96 more homeruns.

That's a fair point, and I admit I didn't look closely at birthdates at baseball-reference.com. That said, however, in the interest of fairness it could be argued that you should take Bonds' age at THE END of last season, and use that as the starting point. This way Evans adds a couple of extra months playing time, and since the season in question is his 40 home run campaign .. well, you do the math. I tried to find a game log for Evans' in 1985, but came up short.

As is, you cover all the angles of Bonds approaching Aaron, leaving little to explore on that front. I have no crystal ball, but I'd sure like to see Barry crack out another 45+ in 2003.
   25. Mike Green Posted: February 27, 2003 at 02:34 AM (#609008)
Another way to look at Bonds' chances at catching Aaron is looking at "comparable" performances at age. The closest comparable to Bonds' recent performance is Ted Williams 1957 season, when he hit .388 with 38 HRs in 420 at-bats. Williams hit 26 HRs in 450 ABs in 1958 and 29HRs in 310 ABs at age 42 in 1960 (with a .316 average). He retired after the 1960 season.

Bonds' projection should be better than Williams because:
1. Bonds has been healthier generally than Williams,
2. his performance has been significantly better over a period of years than Williams, and
3. he may be able to extend his career as a DH in the AL

As you can see, Williams did not retire when he had to, but because he wanted to. His performance would certainly have merited at least another year or two.

This is likely to be the situation for Bonds. He will likely average 20 to 30 home runs for the life of his contract. If he wants to keep going, he probably will be able to (as Nolan Ryan did). If he doesn't want to keep going, then he won't.

Incidentally, saying Aaron's best HR seasons were from 35 to 37 as Bonds have been is a little deceptive. Aaron benefited from the park advantage in Atlanta in his older years and suffered from the park disadvantage in Milwaukee in his younger years. His career pattern of growth and decline was actually fairly typical Bonds on the other hand has grown dramatically at age 36 and 37 despite his park. His career pattern is completely atypical.
   26. Flynn Posted: February 28, 2003 at 02:35 AM (#609041)
Garrett: (For instance, can you name another great glove man in Left Field?)

I assume Bonds is the 'standard' here.

Ever heard of Carl Yastrzemski?
   27. Mom makes botox doctors furious Posted: March 01, 2003 at 02:35 AM (#609050)
David

Just to tidy up a bit, you wrote Yaz's '68 batting average in as his '67's. In his miracle year, he hit .326.

kind regards..

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