Hall of Fame Hopefuls-Centerfield

Centerfield is the most glorious position on the diamond, so it should have the highest standards for induction to Cooperstown.  If a player is going to be in the same group as Ty Cobb, Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle, then he better be one of the best of all-time.  That’s why the median score of 19553 seems like it’s lower than it should be, ranking between Kirby Puckett and Earl Averill.  It’s brought down quite a bit by having three players (Edd Roush, Hack Wilson and Lloyd Waner) rank in the bottom 200’s, and four additional players (Duke Snider, Max Carey, Earle Combs and Larry Doby) rank below 150.  So, it’s time to up the ante.  Snider is the worst CF that the BBWAA elected, and setting him as the bottom score resets the median to 28717, between Griffey and Hamilton.  Now, let’s see how some hopefuls do:

Should Be Definite:

1. Carlos Beltran

Score: 27091

Most similar to: Billy Hamilton

Next eligible: Still Active

Suggested Team: Mets

Synopsis: Beltran, in his prime, was an incredible base runner and fielder, but that prime was a while ago so people sometimes forget that.  However, he’s always had a great batting eye and a quick stroke to generate some power, and will likely retire with close to 450 homers (could be close to 500 if he plays two more years) along with more than 3o0 steals and probably 2700 hits.  Beltran should be a no-brainer for induction.

Close but not quite:

2. Kenny Lofton

Score: 23976

Most similar to: Hugh Duffy

Next eligible: 2019 (Veterans Committee)

Suggested Team: Indians

Synopsis: This may be a shocker to a lot of people, but Kenny Lofton was one of the best center fielders in the game during most of his career.  He was an incredibly good leadoff hitter with a .372 OBP, 622 steals and 68.5 base running runs.  He scored over 1500 runs and was as an even better fielder with well over 100 defensive runs in his career.  Like Raines, Lofton reached base more than 3000 times in his career (2400 hits, more than 1000 free passes and HBP) and was constantly overlooked because he played at the same time as Ken Griffey Jr.  Lofton was one of the most shameful one-and-dones in Hall of Fame history.  He should have been in long ago, and hopefully Raines’ eventual induction this year will open the door to Lofton.

3. Andruw Jones

Score: 23510

Most similar to: Duffy

Next eligible: 2018 (BBWAA)

Suggested Team: Braves

Synopsis: Andruw was the best defensive center fielder ever.  Combine that with 400 homers and that makes for one of the best center fielders ever.  A rocky decline phase may be more prominent in a lot of the voters’ minds, but Jones should really make it in next year or soon after.

4. Jim Edmonds

Score: 19485

Most similar to: Puckett

Next eligible: 2019 (Veterans Committee)

Suggested team: Cardinals

Synopsis: Edmonds is a tough one to judge.  He was a great defender, and center fielders with an OPS over .900 are tough to find.  Griffey and Edmonds had basically the same slash lines, and played in the same era as each other.  The difference?  Griffey had 3000 more plate appearances and took full advantage of them.  Edmonds’ downfall on the ballot (another shameful one-and-done by the BBWAA) came because he averaged only 120 or so games a season, missing copious amounts of time due to injuries.  Edmonds definitely had the talent, and put up some pretty big numbers in center field, but it’s understandable why he hasn’t been inducted yet.

Never Gonna Happen:

5. Johnny Damon

Score: 17371

Most similar to: Duke Snider

Next eligible: 2020 (BBWAA)

Synopsis: The leadoff hitter on the 2004 Red Sox, Damon was a very good hitter that nearly hung around long enough to reach 3000 hits.  But, if he had, his case for the Hall of Fame doesn’t become any stronger.  Damon was good, but not a great hitter (105 wRC+) and didn’t add any real defensive value as he was a very poor center fielder, and that really will be his downfall for induction.

6. Bernie Williams

Score: 14540

Most similar to: Carey

Next eligible: 2019 (Veterans Committee)

Synopsis: Williams was well on his way to a Hall of Fame career until 2002.  He was coming off of five straight years of 4.8 fWAR or higher, exhibiting a lot of power and good patience at the plate.  Then, in 2003, he was all of a sudden done as a good major league player.  His wRC+ fell from 146 to 108 in the span of a year.  He tore cartilige in his knee, something unfortunate for Yankee center fielders in the past, and basically couldn’t recover enough from the injury to be such a great player anymore.

7. Dale Murphy

Score: 13900

Most similar to: Combs

Next eligible: 2018 (Veterans Committee)

Synopsis: The two-time MVP for the Braves that got his own song from The Baseball Project, Murphy was one of the more feared hitters of the 1980’s.  Indeed, he had six seasons where he was worth at least 4.6 fWAR, with a couple of 6 fWAR seasons as well.  Unfortunately, almost all of Murphy’s value comes from those six seasons. Those seasons saw him put up 36 fWAR, while he had a career value of 44.3, so the remaining 12 seasons of his career saw him post 8.3 fWAR, which is a very poor ratio.  When he was good, he was one of the best, but when he wasn’t he was one of the worst, with very little middle ground.  Murphy was talented, sure, but not an all-time great player.

Stay tuned for the next update.

On deck 1/10/17: We finish up the position players with a look at right field.


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