Hall of Fame Hopefuls-First Basemen

First basemen are typically big sluggers (ie Willie McCovey and Harmon Killebrew) that are poor to average defenders, but there will occasionally be one that hits for a high average without a ton of power (ie George Sisler) or is a good defender.  The Hall of Fame currently hosts 20 first basemen, ranging from Lou Gehrig to Frank Chance.  The median score for first basemen is 21066, which ranks between Hank Greenberg and Jake Beckley.  The best way to determine a player’s Hall of Fame candidacy would be to calculate what his score will be, then compare it within his position.  If he grades out with similar Hall of Famers, then he probably would be a good candidate.  If he grades only with low-ranking Hall of Famers, then he probably shouldn’t be inducted.  While the following list isn’t meant to be exhaustive (and isn’t for any position that will be covered here), here’s a list of former, current and future candidates for induction at first base:

Should be definites:

1. Albert Pujols

Score: 45207

Most similar Hall of Famer: Jimmie Foxx

Next Eligible: Still Active

Suggested team: Cardinals

Synopsis: Not much really needs to be said here.  Pujols is going to end his career with nearly 700 homers and over 3000 hits, but his average may fall below .300 soon and unless something changes, it’s unlikely that he tops 100 fWAR (he’s at 91.2 currently).  In his prime he was a good fielding first baseman in addition to being the best hitter on the planet, but age and leg injuries have forced him to a DH role lately and have made him merely a good hitter.  Albert should be a first ballot inductee, but let’s hope that he doesn’t embarrass himself by playing too long.

2. Pete Rose

Score: 40968

Most similar Hall of Famer: Eddie Murray

Next eligible: Never

Suggested team: Reds

Synopsis: Pete Rose does not deserve to be inducted based on his betting on the game.  Baseball has made that clear since the 1919 World Series that it is the one unforgivable act an employee can do.  Commissioner Manfred thankfully enforced the ban very early in his tenure, so that argument can be put to rest.  Yes, there is no statistical reason to not want Rose in the Hall of Fame.  However, this is one time that the character clause needs to be invoked to the highest degree.  Rose should never be inducted.

3. Jeff Bagwell

Score: 36461

Most similar Hall of Famer: Murray

Next eligible: This Year

Suggested Team: Astros

Synopsis: Jeff Bagwell was one of the greatest right handed hitters of all-time, and was hitting 25-30 or more home runs a year while playing in the cavernous Astrodome when he first came up.  A member of the .300/.400/.500 club, Bagwell had well over 400 homers and nearly 500 doubles in his career, which was cut short due to an arthritic shoulder.  The only reason Bagwell hasn’t been inducted yet is due to steroid whispers, but with no proof they shouldn’t be held against him.  It’s looking like he should be able to make it in this year after just missing out last year, but that won’t be known until January 18th.

4. Todd Helton

Score: 29576

Most similar Hall of Famer: Frank Thomas

Next eligible: 2019

Suggested Team: Rockies

Synopsis: Todd Helton was one of the best pure hitters of his time.  Like Bagwell, Helton is a member of the .300/.400/.500 club, but Helton did it more as a doubles hitter (nearly 600 in his career) than homers (369).  While Helton may lose votes due to playing half of his career games in Coors Field, Helton hit quite well on the road (an .885 OPS).  Helton deserves first ballot induction.

5. Jim Thome

Score: 27016

Most similar Hall of Famer: Roger Connor

Next eligible: 2018

Suggested Team: Indians

Synopsis: Jim Thome was a home-run hitting machine in his career.  One of only a small handful of players with 600 homers, Thome also had an OBP over .400 in his career.  Thome may lose points for being a DH and a fairly poor fielder when younger, he did manage to drive in tons of runs in his career and collected over 2300 hits.

6. David Ortiz

Score: 26269

Most similar Hall of Famer: Connor

Next eligible: 2022

Suggested Team: Red Sox

Synopsis: Even discounting the countless playoff historics, Ortiz put together a strong resume for Cooperstown.  The second greatest DH ever managed to hit over 500 homers, Ortiz carried a .931 OPS, a wRC+ of 140 and is a cultural icon of the Red Sox organization.

7. Fred McGriff

Score: 23697

Most similar Hall of Famer: Connor

Next Eligible: This Year

Suggested Team: Braves

Synopsis: Seven lousy homers are keeping McGriff out of the Hall of Fame.  The BBWAA would have swept him in on first ballot had he collected 500 homers in his career, but beyond the long-balls, McGriff is a deserving hitter.  Out of all the players in the 1990’s, the player that hit the most homers without ever having a whiff of steroid allegations was McGriff.  He also collected over 1500 RBI and a 134 wRC+.  McGriff only has 2 years remaining on the BBWAA after this one, and actually may fair better on the Veterans Committee ballots.

On the Bubble-Probably Yes

8. Mark McGwire

Score: 20700

Most similar to: Beckley

Next Eligible: 2019 (Veterans Committee)

Suggested Team: Cardinals

Synopsis: McGwire is an admitted PED user.  However, with baseball not policing it during his career, it’s hard to fault him for using them.  No one hit homers in history more frequently than McGwire, who collected 583 homers in only 6187 at bats.  McGwire is down in this section because he only played in 16 seasons, with several years worth of games being lost to injury.  Along with the homeruns, McGwire had a wRC+ of 157 and an ISO of .325.  One of the best power hitters of all-time, McGwire has the numbers of a Hall of Famer, but probably won’t make it due to the PED issue.

9. Dick Allen

Score: 19158

Most similar to: Johnny Mize

Next Eligible: 2018 (Veterans Committee)

Suggested Team: Phillies

Synopsis: Despite playing in only 14 years, Allen was one of the most dominant right handed hitters in the game.  He belted 351 homers, had a wRC+ of 155 and was worth 61.3 fWAR.  However, the short career will probably keep Allen out of the Hall of Fame.

Close, But Not Quite

10. Will Clark

Score: 17720

Most similar to: Orlando Cepeda

Next Eligible: 2019 (Veterans Committee)

Synopsis: Clark was an underrated slugger throughout his career, and was an excellent hitter, but didn’t even hit 300 homers at a time when home runs were plentiful.  Had he played another few years, it’s possible he would be higher up, but Clark also only drove in 1200 runs in his career and there are a lot of Hall of Fame first basemen that can top him.

11. John Olerud

Score: 16684

Most similar to: Bill Terry

Next Eligible: 2019 (Veterans Committee)

Synopsis: Olerud was just like Clark (hence the similar scores), an excellent hitter but not quite good enough to be a Hall of Fame first baseman.

Never Gonna Happen

12. Don Mattingly

Score: 14808

Most similar to: Jim Bottomley

Next Eligible: 2018 (Veterans Committee)

Synopsis: When he began his career, Mattingly looked like he would be a no doubt Hall of Fame player.  However, after 1989 Mattingly’s back was hurt and he was sapped of all his hitting ability.  With another few seasons like he had in the 1980’s, Mattingly would be inducted by now.  He has an outside chance as a manager and/or baseball lifer, but would need to win a couple of championships in order to aid his cause.

13. Keith Hernandez

Score: 14799

Most similar to: Bottomley

Next Eligible: 2018 (Veterans Committee)

Synopsis: Hernandez was a driving force on two World Championship teams, and a fine defender at first base, but in only 16 seasons he had fewer than 200 homers and a .140 ISO.  While those are very good numbers, like with Mattingly, they are dwarfed by others already inducted.

14. Gil Hodges

Score: 11801

Most similar to: Bottomley

Next Eligible: 2021 (Veterans Committee)

Synopsis: Hodges was a solid player in a very good Dodger lineup for a long time, collecting 370 homers and 1274 RBI in 2071 games.  However, he only slashed .273/.359/.487 which was only good enough for a wRC+ of 121, which is higher than only three Hall of Famers (Beckley, George Kelly and Tony Perez), which isn’t very impressive.  Hodges has a case as a baseball lifer, but just as a player he leaves a lot to be desired.

 

I know that was an extensive list, but I wanted to discuss a lot of players that I’ve seen be brought up in discussions for inductions and first base clearly has the most possibilities.  Next time, we’ll look at second basemen.

On deck 12/27/16: the keystone position.

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