Posted by Andy on May 17, 2011
Todd Helton has played his entire career for the Colorado Rockies, first filling in the outfield in 1997 and eventually taking over at 1B for Andres Galarraga. That makes him only the second full-time first-baseman in Rockies history, and he's held down that position for 14 years.
Helton was overshadowed for a number of years by Larry Walker, another Rockie with an interesting resume worthy of HOF debate. But Helton put up a ton of good numbers in his own right, and his career is definitely worth a long look too.
Some career highlights:
- Five-time All-Star (in 5 straight years from 2000 to 2004)
- 3 top-10 MVP finishes
- Won a batting title in 2000 with a .372 mark
- Won 3 gold gloves at first base
Jumping in, I want to try to list some pros and cons of Helton's Hall of Fame case, but I'd like to try to avoid numbers that inflated by Coors Field. Here's why:
There's no doubt that Helton's raw numbers have benefited tremendously from playing for the Rockies. Look at the last column above, tOPS, which is a breakout of his overall offensive performance split by home vs. away. That number of 120 has got to be one of the highest all-time for a long-time player like Helton. It's incredible. It's led to 58% more home runs, 52% more RBI, and a whopping 63% more runs scored.
I didn't include the data in the above chart, but here's another interesting thing about Helton's H/A splits. At home, he has 640 walks and 420 strikeouts, a fantastic margin. On the road? He has exactly 566 walks AND strikeouts each (through Saturday's games.) So his big advantage at home in walking over striking out disappears on the road.
For Todd Helton in the Hall of Fame
As I said above, trying to avoid arguments based on Coors-inflated stats.
- Since 1901, only 12 first basemen have at least 4 qualifying seasons with an OPS+ of at least 160:
Rk Yrs From To Age 1 Lou Gehrig 11 1927 1937 24-34 Ind. Seasons 2 Jimmie Foxx 8 1929 1939 21-31 Ind. Seasons 3 Johnny Mize 7 1936 1947 23-34 Ind. Seasons 4 Albert Pujols 6 2004 2010 24-30 Ind. Seasons 5 Mark McGwire 6 1987 1999 23-35 Ind. Seasons 6 Frank Thomas 6 1992 1997 24-29 Ind. Seasons 7 Jason Giambi 4 2000 2005 29-34 Ind. Seasons 8 Todd Helton 4 2000 2004 26-30 Ind. Seasons 9 Jeff Bagwell 4 1994 1999 26-31 Ind. Seasons 10 Willie McCovey 4 1966 1970 28-32 Ind. Seasons 11 Hank Greenberg 4 1935 1946 24-35 Ind. Seasons 12 Jack Fournier 4 1915 1925 25-35 Ind. Seasons
- He's 54th all-time in walks and only 252nd in strikeouts. Although Coors has certainly helped him to walk some, the ratio is still impressive.
- His WPA is 34th career since 1950.
Man, I am having trouble coming up with much else. But as for the negatives:
Against Todd Helton in the Hall of Fame
- Despite playing in Coors and his reputation as a great hitter, other than his insane season in 2000, Helton has only one other bit of black ink on his page: he led MLB with a .445 OBP in 2005.
- Again, despite playing in Coors, he topped 100 RBI only 5 times. He gets a lot of credit for his two back-to-back 140+ RBI seasons, but had no other seasons with as many as 120.
- His career RBI total is 118th all-time. Can this guy really be one of the best run-producers ever?
- His career batting average, again despite Coors inflation, is only 46th all-time. Now, top 50 is pretty damn good, but again he's benefited from both the era and park in which he has played, and even with 4 full seasons where he was over .336 and 9 full seasons where he was over .320, that's only good enough for 46th.
- His post-season performances, while few, have been pretty bad.
- He's got a lot of altogether unimpressive career rankings: 160th in WAR, 148th in hits, 124th in runs scored...of course a few more years will help him add to the counting stat totals, but it's not like he's going to be cracking the top 50 in any of these stats. The one where he does rank in the top 50 (doubles, 31st) is Coors inflated.
- He had a short peak as a top player.
Anyway, I don't think Helton has a prayer at the Hall of Fame, and as someone else wrote on another thread, Jeff Bagwell is way more deserving and didn't do all that well in the voting so far.
What do you think?