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POLL: Todd Helton and the Hall of Fame

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:

I Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS TB tOPS+
Home 995 4259 3541 797 1258 288 26 207 759 .355 .452 .627 1.079 2219 120
Away 968 4099 3476 489 1014 248 9 131 498 .292 .392 .481 .873 1673 79
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/15/2011.

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.

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?


This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 17th, 2011 at 7:00 am and is filed under Hall of Fame, Polls. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

73 Responses to “POLL: Todd Helton and the Hall of Fame”

  1. Like Don Mattingly, back problems sidelined his heading to the HOF career. Looks like it's going to derail David Wright too.

  2. I think in 2025 he gets in.

  3. Dcarson10 Says:

    Helton is a hard one to judge due to the splits. While Coors field is in a league of its when it comes to other "hitters' parks", it seems the Rockies are the only ones judged for it. What about Carl Yastrzemski's splits? .904 OPS at home compared to .779 at home. I'm sure there are plenty others. If Helton had the exact same splits but didn't play in Colorado, would it even be an issue?

    And a question about his numbers as well. Doesn't OPS+ adjust for parks? If it does, Helton is still at a very impressive 137, which I would say is hall worthy. Especially considering the high OBP.

  4. I think his short peak, belief among voters that his home park was a hitters paradise, his lack of hardware and black ink will keep him out. Mattingly is an ok comparison, but Helton was good for a longer time than Mattingly, who really only gets the voting numbers he does because of the whole "Yankee Captain" thing. Will Clark is probably a better example - elite player at his peak, but with a career not long enough to put up the counting stats necessary for a 1B to be considered a Hall of Famer.

    I'd probably give Helton a vote, though. That .292/.392/.481 road line is nothing to sneeze at. Rafael Palmeiro's road numbers were .291/.366/.502. Bagwell was .291/.398/.521. Frank Thomas had .297/.414/.511. And, just to make another example of every stathead's favorite whipping boy, Jim Rice was .277/.330/.459.

    Are we still using RBI to count against him though? Aren't we past that? I mean, in 2004, Helton slugged .620 and drove in only 96 runs. Why? Because he had Aaron Miles and Royce Clayton batting in front of him.

    Also, the 46th all time in batting average is a little misleading. The only players with a higher batting average who aren't in the Hall of Fame are from pre-WW2. Players from the last 50 years who are ahead of him are Gwynn, Musial (last game in '63, so he just made the cut), Ichiro, Pujols, Boggs, Carew, Mauer. Of that group, only Mauer hasn't clinched a Hall of Fame candidacy, and it's likely that only injuries would keep him out.

  5. One damming thing about Helton is if you look at his home rate stats and imagine his career rankings if they were his overall numbers:

    BA: .355, 4th
    OBP: .452, 5th
    SLG: .627, 4th
    OPS: 1.079, 4th

    Basically, he's a tick behind Lou Gehrig and a tick head of Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols. Does anybody think Helton compares even remotely to any of those 3 players? I certainly don't.

  6. So far the results here are just about as mixed as I've ever seen on one of these polls

  7. He played half his games at Coors Field & his counting stats (although, he's not done yet) aren't that impressive. His 536 doubles may be the only exception.

    The (park-aided) rate stats are nice, but not enough for me.

    3,000 hits or "no"...

  8. Frank Clingenpeel Says:

    I rate Helton with another first baseman, Crime Dog {now there's a moniker!} McGriff. He is great, but barely shy of HOF material -- barring future accomplishments, which at this point appear unlikely.

  9. Does his ROY award, 3 gold gloves and 3 top 10 finishes in MVP voting count for nothing?

  10. @5
    But we know how to adjust for those things. Helton's got some very high "AIR" numbers for playing in a hitters park in a hitters era. If he had maintained those 160 OPS+ seasons for a few years longer, he'd be a better candidate but he'd still have crazy home/road splits (and he still wouldn't be Bonds or Pujols).

    Helton's one of those guys near enough to the border to get discussed, but I don't think you vote a simple yes/no on guys like this. You put him in if he's the best candidate available on the ballot and wait to see how far he percolates up the ballot as better players get inducted. How does he rate against John Olerud, Edgar Martinez, Will Clark... even Norm Cash?

  11. Not nothing, but there are plenty of guys who have those things and are not in the HOF.

  12. Check Helton's HR and Slugging stats before and after Wayne Hagin's steroids allegation back in 2005.

  13. Thomas Court Says:

    I say no. He put up some great numbers, but it was clearly due to park effects.

    Helton topped 400 total bases in TWO different seasons. In the American League only ONE player has topped 400 total bases since Joe DiMaggio in 1937, and that was Jim Rice in 1978. I like looking at Helton's numbers since he put up some nice ones... but you just have to remind yourself that Coors Field back then had the same effect on offensive numbers as a fun house mirror would have on your appearance.

  14. @11, Right, but they just weren't mentioned anywhere and combined with his insane 2000 season, it should count.

    I think the era and stadium he played in will ultimately keep him out. Mel Ott's H/R splits were more dramatic than Helton's and as was pointed out earlier, so was Yaz's. It's not unprecedented.

  15. Ron Santo:

    Home tOPS: 118
    Road tOPS: 82

    Pretty much the same result, pretty much the same criticisms. Of course, Santo was a 3B...

    Additionally, you noted Helton's WAR number is "only" 160th all-time. Well, there are over 200 MLB players in the Hall of Fame, so that would likely seem to be at least SOMEWHAT supportive of his claim to the Hall, rather than to detract from it. 59 is a fantastic career WAR.

    The basic difficulties, in my mind, are that people may be suffering from the belief that there are only 60 players in the Hall, in which case Helton would not be worthy. Poz's article about the Willie Mays Hall of Fame is a must-read. However, on the other side, we have the fact that Helton's a 1B, and how high, really, is the standard of the Hall for a 1B? Because comparing him to a 2B is more difficult. I didn't vote yet. I'll vote later today, after people here have had a chance to convince me.

  16. theoldgrizzlybear Says:

    Derek, although it is interesting to think about, I think the decline in stats is more due to health than what you're alluding to. Helton's back started to give out right around the same time.

  17. @14, they were mentioned...well not the ROY...but the others were. Re-read my post.

  18. Rainbow99 Says:

    My opinion is that Helton has more work to do, but if he does it in the next 3 to 5 years he would be a respectable candidate (but behind Bagwell). He's off to a nice start this year. His WAR is at 59 now. If he could put up 15 more WAR before he ends his career he would at least be in the ballpark. At 75 WAR he'd be ahead of McCovey, Cepeda, and Perez, for example. I'm not making the case that WAR is the only determining factor, but I just point it out this aspect. Also, doesn't WAR take into account park effects?

    Although being at Coors has certainly helped him, he typically doesn't get the attention of the eastern markets. As someone who has lived on the east coast, he's sort of unjustifiably under the radar. It's sad in a way, but I guess many would say that if you played at Coors during a certain period you can not be in the HOF. All these players (Walker and Helton) were doing was to play as best as they could where they signed on to play. I look at that career .423 OBP and ask myself how many players with a .423 OBP and 8400 PAs are not in the HOF. Couldn't be many.

  19. Helton didn't win ROY. He finished 2nd to Kerry Wood.

    Mel Ott's H/R splits were only severe for HR's. His OPS was split only 106/94. The Polo Grounds was actually a mild pitchers park or neutral during his stay there. The measurements down the lines were a joke but the wall quickly jutted out to create an enormous CF. Plus there was a ton of foul territory behind home plate.

  20. @5

    Even if you take only his road stats, they match up with other pretty good modern candidates. It's funny, because he was SO good at home, it makes his road stats look inconsequential. If he'd simply gone .315/.415/.540 at home, which would be totally reasonable given his road stats, he'd have a good case.

    From what you're saying, it almost makes it sound like his home stats are so good that they actually undermine his candidacy more than lesser ones would have. "We all know he wasn't as good as Lou Gehrig or Albert Pujols like his home stats say he is, so he shouldn't make the HOF." Twisted logic, don't you think?

  21. I think Todd should be in the Hall. Why should he be punished because he played for the Rockies? Should Jeter not be considered because he played his entire career with the Yankees who buy the best players they can? If Jeter was on the Royals do you think he would have nearly as many hits and runs scored as he has for the Yanks? I doubt it. I think the Coors Field arguement is Bull, this means that pretty much any player who plays for the Rox are doomed from the Hall.

    So lets see a 5 time all star, 3 time gold glove winner, winner of the Hank Aaron award, and a 4 time Silver slugger shouldnt be in the hall. here are the career numbers and ranks

    Hits - 2275 148th
    Runs - 1287 123rd
    2B - 536 31st
    HR - 339 86th
    RBI - 1258 118th
    TB - 3898 93rd
    BB - 1206 54th
    Avg - .324 46th
    OBP - .423 18th
    SLG - .555 24th

    Im sorry, but I will be super pissed if Todd does not get into the hall.

  22. John Autin Says:

    @3, Dcarson -- You highlighted one of the dilemmas in evaluating Helton for the HOF. OPS+ does (attempt to) filter out the ballpark effects. But as far as I know, it applies a single variable to every player in a given park and year.

    Does that method give a reasonable picture of Helton's offensive value? Or do his enormous home/road splits indicate that he consistently got more benefit from Coors Field than the typical hitter?

    I think it's important to grasp the historic size of Helton's split differential. His home OPS is 24% higher than his road OPS. As you noted, there are HOFers with big home/road gaps, including Yaz. But Yaz's home OPS was 16% above his road mark. Helton's gulf is half again as big as Yaz's.

    I've been hunting and pecking among HOFers whom I know had ballpark benefits, but so far I haven't found with a differential nearly as big as Helton's.

    I think it's clear that, if we evaluated Helton solely on the basis of his road stats, he would not get much HOF consideration. But I'm not sure that would be fair to him, either.

  23. @theoldgrizzlybear yeah you are right, and I still think Helton is a great player, but it's just too much of a coincidence (the drop in HRs is ludicrous), and only 5 All-Star appearances (which I think is a much of an indicator as any stat) hurts his candidacy.

  24. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    DavidRF Says "@5 But we know how to adjust for those things. Helton's got some very high "AIR" numbers for playing in a hitters park in a hitters era..."

    David RF, as for Helton's AIR - people frequently mention how pronounced a hitter's park Coors Field is, but many people do not realize how _extreme_ it is.

    Compare him to Hack Wilson and Chuck Klein, who are frequently referred to as undeserving HOfers who got a big advantqage from the home parks and eras:
    Player AIR
    Wilson 108
    Klein 110
    Helton 123
    and also...
    Hafey 108
    Combs 108

    I'd call that "extreme"...

    Here is the difference between Helton's actual and "neutralized" stats.
    Runs..Hits.....2Bs..3Bs.HRs.RBI...BBs.....BA....OBA..SA...OPS
    ACTUAL: 1287 2275 536 35 339 1258 1206 .324 .423 .555 .978
    NEUTRAL: 1052 2046 480 33 301 1024 1093 .301 .398 .514 .912

    Helton was a very good player even adjusting the raw numbers, but there's just too many other better candidates (such Keith Hernandez, Will Clark, and John Olerud), who have a better case but did not get serious consideration.

    Sorry in advance for the sloppy formatting...

  25. Richard Chester Says:

    @22

    John Autin: Have you looked at Chuck Klein's differential between his stats at Baker Bowl vs. all the other ball parks?

  26. John Autin Says:

    @25, Richard Chester -- Thanks for the pointer. Yes, I see now that Klein's OPS differential was a little bigger than Helton's, +26% at home. And Klein's 137 OPS+ is the same as Helton's. They had a similar career arc -- an early 5-year peak, then a lot of years at merely solid level.

    Is that a strong case for Helton as a HOFer? I don't think so. Klein is a fairly marginal HOFer, elected by the Veterans' Committee 30 years after he was first eligible. In his first 6 BBWAA ballots, he didn't even get 10% of the vote; in fact, by the modern rule, his first-year mark of 2.5% would have kicked him off the writers' ballot forever.

    Klein has one credential Helton lacks: the 1932 MVP Award. (He also placed 2nd in 1931 and '33.) On the other hand, Helton has had a longer career and 50% more WAR. So maybe Helton is more deserving than Klein. To me, that still doesn't put him in the HOF.

  27. John Autin Says:

    BTW, I found a HOFer with an even bigger home/road OPS differential than Helton or Klein:
    -- Bobby Doerr, +30%

    Doerr's slash splits (home / road):
    -- BA, .315 / .261
    -- OBP, .396 / .327
    -- SLG, .533 / .389
    -- OPS, .928 / .716

  28. Here are the current 1B in the HoF, in order of WAR:

    Stan Musial (127.8), Lou Gehrig (118.4), Cap Anson (99.5), Jimmie Foxx (94.1), Roger Connor (87.2), Dan Brouthers (83.7), Rod Carew (79.1), Johnny Mize (70.2), Eddie Murray (66.7), Willie McCovey (65.1), Ernie Banks (64.4), Jake Beckley (61.5), Harmon Killebrew (61.1), Willie Stargell (57.5), Hank Greenberg (56.8), Bill Terry (55.4), Tony Perez (50.5), George Sisler (50.4), Frank Chance (49.5), Orlando Cepeda (46.8), Jim Bottomley (32.4), Highpocklets Kelly (24.3)

    (Just FYI: I personally use a 60/40% max split rule for guys that played 2 positions, which is why Yastrzemski is left out - Between LF and 1B, he had a greater than 60/40 split. You have to draw the line somewhere, and that’s where I do.)

    In that group the Mean is around 69.3 and the Median around 61.5. Helton’s career WAR of 59.0 puts him below both of those, but just barely. He’s just above Stargell and Greenberg and just below Killebrew and Beckely – all bonafide HoF’ers, IMHO.) Plus 11 of the 22 listed are between 50 and 70 – so his 59.0 puts him pretty much smack in the middle of the pack. He’s definitely not dragingging the group down, overall. Especially as WAR is both park-adjusted and era-adjusted, correct?
    Also worth mentioning – his 9.2 dWAR puts him among the top defensive 1B of all time. I don’t have that exact ranking handy, but it’s pretty damned good.

    Helton didn’t have originally my vote, but looking at this? Maybe he should. (Of course… then maybe so should John Olerud (56.8), who didn’t have my vote when his poll ran either!) If we believe in the value of WAR? (violent though that may sound) then Olerud and Helton are legit candidates.
    For reference, here are the WAR’s of a few other ‘roid-era 1B (all w/ 500+ HR, I might add):

    Frank Thomas – 75.9
    Jim Thome - 70.3 (through 2010)
    Rafael Palmeiro – 66.0
    Mark McGwire – 63.1

    Every one of those guys is above the median and two are above the mean WAR for HoF 1B. Helton is behind those guys, so you could argue that he wasn’t the “best of his era” but he’s got a shot to pass at least McGwire, and that’s… no small feat. Passing Raffy seems like a stretch, but still… I don’t think I can just dismiss him outright.

  29. Helton might do well because he wasn't linked to steroids but he'll probably need to reach some kind of milestone. Maybe 600 doubles or 400 HR or 2500 hits or 1500 Rbi or 4000 times on base. He's already in the top 20 all time in on base percentage.

    Here's how he ranks all time top 40 in WAR among first basemen (+ HOF):

    1-Gehrig-118.4+
    2-Foxx-94.1+
    3-Anson-89.1+
    4-Connor-87.2+
    5-Pujols-84.1-n/e
    6-Brouthers-83.7+
    7-Bagwell-79.9
    8-Mize-70.2+ (lost time from WW2)
    9-Murray-66.7+
    10-Palmeiro-66
    11-McCovey-65.1+
    12-McGwire-63.1
    13-Beckley-61.5+
    14-Hernandez-61.0
    15-Helton-59.0-n/e
    16-W. Clark-57.6
    17-Olerud-56.8
    18-H. Greenberg-56.8+ (lost time from WW2)
    19-B. Terry-55.4+
    20-N. Cash-52.9
    21-Giambi-52.7-n/e
    22-T. Perez-50.5+
    23-F. Mcgriff-50.5
    24-G. Sisler-50.4+
    25-F. Chance-49.5+
    26-M. Grace-47.5
    27-O. Cepeda-46.8+
    28-E. Konetchy-44.9
    29-G. Hodges-44.6
    30-C. Delgado-44.2-n/e
    31-J. Judge-43.7
    32-D. Camilli-43.0
    33-F. Tenney-42.8
    34-J. Fournier-40.5
    35-D. Mattingly-39.8
    36-B. Powell-39.7
    37-H. Davis-38.5
    38-J. Daubert-38.2
    39-M. Teixeira-37.6-n/e
    40-D. Mcgann-36.2
    xxxx
    Two strange choices:
    Jim Bottemly-32.4+
    High Pockets Kelly-24.3+

    There's essentially 17 first basemen in the HOF if you leave off Bottemly and Kelly which were just horrible selections you're left with 15 HOF 1b.

    Cepeda is the minimum at 46.8 without Bottemly & Kelly.
    Beckley is the Median with 17 HOF at 61.5
    McCovey is the Median with 15 HOF at 65.1

    By their standards, a career WAR between 61-65 for a 1B should really be an automatic selection.

    Palmeiro & McGwire were linked to Steroids.
    Bagwell hasn't been linked to Steroids yet there have been a lot of rumors. Has any writer come out and stated that he was left off the ballot because of steroid use? If not, then how can they justify their HOF snub?

    Realistically, Hernandez, W. Clark and Olerud should be in the HOF.

    Why is D. Mattingly still on the HOF ballot while Hernandez, Clark and Olerud are off? That makes no sense when you look at it objectively.

  30. John Autin Says:

    Food for thought:
    Career WAR, and WAR per 162 games, for some 1Bs who are in Helton's neighborhood.
    (BTW, please don't presume my meaning here -- I don't even have one yet.)

    Player....................WAR .. WAR/162
    Eddie Murray ........ 66.7 ... 3.9
    Willie McCovey ..... 65.1 ... 4.9
    Keith Hernandez ... 61.0 ... 5.1
    Todd Helton ........... 59.0 ... 5.1
    Will Clark ............... 57.6 ... 5.0
    Hank Greenberg ... 56.8 ... 6.6
    John Olerud ........... 56.8 ... 4.6
    Bill Terry ................. 55.4 ... 5.5

  31. Dukeofflatbush Says:

    He might get in simply to represent the Rockie franchise. Having a player from a team may correlate to more visitors to the Hall from Colorado. It also would be nice to have every team have a representative.
    If we knock Helton's homefield stats, every Rockie will be judged the same and never taken seriously - but imagine if Pujols came up as a Rockie.
    One thing that I have heard, is a player changes his swing once he plays enough at Coors Field, then it affects his performance at other parks. I wonder if there were a way to check if a recent Rockie import, slowly had declining road #'s after his Coors #'s went up and his swing possibly changed to lift pitches.
    Just a thought.

  32. I've always thought of Helton as a good but not great player who's been made to look like a legend by Coors Field. I don't think he gets into the HOF with his current numbers, but if he can remain productive until he's 41 or so, then he might just make it.

    Incidentally, his 2000 season is the reason why I believe somebody will hit .400 again one day. If a hitter whose "true talent batting average" is in the .290's is capable of hitting .372 for a season when aided by Coors Field, then just imagine what kind of average could be posted if the Rockies ever get their hands on somebody like Boggs or Gwynn or Suzuki.

  33. John Autin Says:

    @31, Dukeof -- On a purely anecdotal basis, I have noticed that "Coors effect" you mention (i.e., a new import sees his home stats go up, but his road stats go way down).

    Jeff Cirillo had that pattern. An established good hitter with gap power, he joined the Rox in 2000 and hit .403 with a 1.078 OPS at home, but just .239 BA and .628 OPS on the road. In 2001, his BA split was .362/.266 and OPS was .975/.710. In the 4 full years before going to Colorado, Cirillo had a combined 118 OPS+, but in his 2 years there it was 99. He never did get back to being the hitter he had been.

  34. Richard Chester Says:

    @26

    John: When you calculated Klein's differential you ratio-ed his home OPS to his road OPS. He had only 581 of his 887 home games at Baker Bowl. If you compare just his Baker Bowl stats to the other parks the differential will be higher. I will do it later today when I have time.

  35. My list @29 is for 1b with at least 50% of their career at first base, taken from the play index.

    @28 Fourfriends,

    There's a few players on your list that really shouldn't be listed as first basemen. Musial only played about 35% of his career at first, Stargell only played 40% of his career at first. Killebrew is a tough one because he only played 40% of his games at first but he split the rest of the time at 3b/OF/Dh.

    Banks really should be listed as a SS as that is where he had his greatest success. He's about 49% for his career at first base. Carew only started 47% of his games at 1b, he probably should be listed as a 2b because that's were his greatest success cam from.

    Frank Thomas only played about 40% of his games at first and he hadn't been a full time 1B since 1997. He probably should be listed as a DH.

    Thome is at 45% of his career at First.

  36. John Autin Says:

    @34, Richard -- OK, I see Klein's mind-boggling numbers at the Baker Bowl specifically.

    But I'm missing the point of that in terms of Klein's HOF merit or the comparison to Helton. As you noted, that was not his home park for his whole career. He played about 1/3 of his career games there, or 2/3 of his home games. When the Phillies moved into Shibe Park, he hit terribly there.

    Or were you just pointing it out for general interest?

  37. @31...if that is a thought that even enters a HoF voter's head they need to have their vote revoked permanently. Really, we're now positing that letting a guy in will increase visitors from said state? Wow.

  38. @37

    I mean, I don't think that would necessarily be the intention. But here's the thing: when I think "Colorado Rockies," I think "Todd Helton." They're inextricably linked. And that kind of thing can be powerful in the voters' minds. I wouldn't be surprised (and I mentioned this on another post earlier, when this whole Helton thing came up in the first place) if he got in just because he's "Mr. Rockie." It's pretty tough for the best player in the history of a franchise not to get in at some point (the Florida teams excepted, since Arizona's best player, Randy Johnson, will undoubtedly be elected 1st ballot). The Rockies have probably been the best and most consistent of the 1993/1998 expansion franchises, and it wouldn't shock me if they were to be the first to get a career player inducted (with Randy Johnson likely going in as a D-Back, but having spent a huge chunk of his career elsewhere). Helton is a logical choice.

  39. John Autin Says:

    @38, Dr. Doom -- Minor point: The D'backs and Marlins have both been more successful than the Rockies, by most performance measures:

    Franchise W%:
    D'backs, .490
    Marlins, .480
    Rockies, .479

    # of playoff appearances:
    D'backs, 4
    Rockies, 3
    Marlins, 2

    # of championships:
    Marlins, 2
    D'backs, 1
    Rockies, 0

  40. Brian G. Says:

    @32: I would be thrilled to see another .400 hitter in my lifetime, but since they've started using the humidor, the park factor at Coors Field has come back to Earth. Around the turn of the century, it was running in the 120s, with a 125 Park Factor in 2000. The last few seasons have been in the 110-115 range.

  41. Helton is essentially John Olerud or Will Clark. He won't get anywhere close to Cooperstown.

  42. MichaelPat Says:

    @ 35 and @28

    On ranking multi-position players.

    James ranks players at the position where they had the most value, a position I find eminently sensible.

    For Banks, this clearly means as a SS.
    During the years 1954-61, when he played SS, his WAR totalled 55.5.
    For 1962-71, when he was primarily a 1B, he accumulated 8.7 WAR.
    Clearly, he is in the HoF for what he accomplished as a SS, so should be ranked among SS.
    For his career, he played 1259 games at 1B, 1125 at SS, and 115 at 3B and OF.

    Carew is a tougher case.
    As a 2B (primarily) from 1967 to 1975, he ran up 40.1 WAR.
    As a 1B, 1976-85, he scored 39 WAR, including his best single season, WAR-wise, 1977 (10.0).
    I'd rank him as a 2B, but it is close.

    He played a few more games at 1B (1184 to 1130). (He DH'd for fewer than 70 games in his career.)

  43. PhillyPhan Says:

    Career is very similar to Hal Trosky at various points.Trosky was eventually sidelined with infamous migraines.

    Helton also benefited from playing in Colorado and those numbers are a bit inflated. Like Klein in the Baker Bowl in the early 30's.

    If it was just for being a great all-around guy, then he has my vote but his career is just "not there" for HOF consideration and election.

  44. @22

    "Does that method give a reasonable picture of Helton's offensive value? Or do his enormous home/road splits indicate that he consistently got more benefit from Coors Field than the typical hitter?"

    If Helton somehow tailored his hitting style to make the most of Coors field, that is his gain that he should get credit for, just like Wade Boggs did with Fenway.

  45. As of 2:15 p.m., Helton has apparently voted 52 times in this poll.

  46. Richard Chester Says:

    @36

    It was more for general interest. I have already pointed out in prior posts that Mel Ott also had ridiculously different stats at Baker Bowl and Shibe Park.

  47. Dr. Doom Says:

    @39

    John, you are correct in those assessments of the franchises. However, it seems to me that while the Marlins and D-backs have had greater successes, their failures have also been more epic.

    Most losses:

    Diambondbacks - 111 (2004)
    Rockies - 95 (1993, 2005)
    Marlins - 108 (1998, right after a World Championship)
    Rays - 106 (2002); also 100-loss seasons in 2001 and 2006

    Most .500+ seasons
    Diambondbacks - 7
    Rockies - 6
    Marlins - 6
    Rays - 2

    Wins<70
    Diambondbacks - 3
    Rockies - 4
    Marlins - 5
    Rays - 9

    Primarily, I was trying to make the argument for being consistently good, rather than shooting-star-like (as the Marlins have been). Perhaps there's the argument that the Diamondbacks have been better. I'd be willing to cede that, perhaps; but then, they'll get a player in the Hall first. Regardless, the next most logical of the late expansion franchises to get a player in would be the Rockies, and that player, it seems, should probably be Helton. I know that, overall, perhaps, the Rockies may not have been as successful as some other franchises, but they've managed to have success without ever forcing their fanbase to experience the depths of baseball, either, and there's something to be said for that, I think.

  48. @32

    I don't see how Coors would have much effect on a Boggs/Gwynn/Suzuki. Those guys hit grounders and singles.

    Put 2001-2004 Barry Bonds in Coors though and he probably hits .400. Frank Thomas, Manny Ramirez, those guys might've done it too.

  49. veterans committee written all over this guy

  50. John Autin Says:

    @48, Jimbo --
    As a matter of fact, from 2001-04, Barry Bonds hit .427 / .565 / .981 in Coors Field, for a 1.547 OPS.

    But I do think Coors would give a substantial boost to non-HR guys like Boggs, Gwynn and Ichiro. Coors helps batting average because of its large dimensions. The outfielders tend to play deep, allowing more line drives and bloopers to fall in front them.

    The dimensions of Coors Field, according to Ballparks.com:
    Left field: 347 ft.
    Left-center: 390 ft.
    Center field: 415 ft.
    Right-center: 375 ft.
    Right field: 350 ft.

    Compare that to, say, the dimensions of Jack Murphy Stadium during the bulk of Gwynn's career:
    Left field: 327
    Left-center: 370
    Center field: 405
    Right-center: 370
    Right field: 327

    That's a pretty big difference in acreage.

  51. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Yup, even in the last few seasons BABIP at Coors Field is around .320, compared to MLB average of around .300.

    In 2000 it was .340.

  52. I said I thought he would get in in 2025. But my full vote would have been "Yes - but I don't think he deserves it".

    But that is not a poll option so I did not vote. He's been a great player but he's Will Clark-ish IMO.

  53. Chris Harman Says:

    Go ahead and look up how many guys, and which guys, managed a career line of over .300/.400./500 and then see if you think Helton belongs in the HoF. Not his fault he's played his whole career for the Rockies. Yeah, his counting stats have been hurt by late career injuries, but there are plenty of HallofFamers that don't have all-time great counting stats. Helton belongs in the Hall!

  54. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    Andy, he's 116th in WAR according to your site, not 160th.

    It's not hugely impressive, but it is enough to put him solidly into HOF range. On the career WAR list there are more guys below him already enshrined than guys ahead of him who are eligible but not in, and a decent chunk of those are guys that many of us think should be in.

    Here's the list of eligible but not in players ahead of Helton in Career WAR for position players in descending WAR order:

    Jeff Bagwell
    Lou Whitaker
    Barry Larkin
    Bobby Grich
    Larry Walker
    Edgar Martinez
    Alan Trammel
    Ron Santo
    Rafael Palmeiro
    Tim Raines

    Next is the first guy on this list that I haven't noticed any particular groundswell of support for:

    Reggie Smith

    followed by:

    Mark McGwire
    Dwight Evans
    Graig Nettles
    Dick Allen
    Keith Hernandez
    Buddy Bell
    Sal Bando
    Willie Randolph
    Jim Wynn
    Sherry McGee

    So that's 10-11 guys who some fairly large number of B-R commenters say should be in in previous polls, 6 of them by a strong majority and generally considered unfair snubs (bagwell, larkin, grich, santo, trammel, raines). 2 more who would probably have been shoo-ins with the voters if not for PED problems, and then another 9 that don't seem to have much backing from the commentariat here but who certainly had better careers than a number of actual HOF players and most of them are in typical hall of merit reconstructions.

    21 guys total, 19 if you assume McGwire and Palmeiro would be in on their record with no steroid suspicion (I think that might be assuming too much).

    There were also two guys I discounted as ineligible because they were banned as well as a bunch of current and recently retired players.

    A search of players in the hall with fewer than 59 WAR was a bit more complicated. My first search caught 161, but included a ton of pitchers and guys who got in for managing or other off-field reasons. I cut it off at 30 WAR which gets rid off most of those guys and a few really horrible choices but leaves in most everybody else, and that left me with 66 players.

    the 10 of these guys closest to his 59 are as follows (descending order of WAR)

    Richie Ashburn
    Bid McPhee
    Zack Wheat
    Willie Stargell
    Billy Williams
    Andre Dawson
    Hank Greenberg
    Elmer Flick
    Lou Boudreau
    Joe Medwick

    So not the most distinguished list, and a few guys I might not vote for, but nobody who is singled out as an obviously ridiculous pick.

    Seems to me he's got a fairly legitimate (if borderline) case.

    If he were on the ballot in 2012 with his current resume and I had a vote, he doesn't get mine, because there will be at least 10 players I have ahead of him. And given the stinginess of the voters with some of the guys I think should be in, I think it's fairly likely that I'll have 10 players ahead of him on each of the ballots he comes up for, although hard to say given that some of the guys I'd put ahead of him have dropped right off the ballot in their first year (Brown, Olerud).

    So I have to think he probably doesn't go, but if ever a time came I thought there weren't 10 guys who deserved it more, and I had a vote, I'd probably put him on rather than leave a blank space.

  55. Mark Frederick Says:

    @32 In 2000, Helton hit .353 on the road, so to say that Coors field lifted a “true lifetime .292 batter” to almost a .400 season is a little misleading. In 2000, we might say Helton was a “true .353 batter” and Coors Field lifted Helton’s overall average 19 points to .372. Using that statistic alone implies that pre-humidor Coors Field might have lifted someone with a .381 average to .400 for the season. The humidor has changed things, but even Boggs never hit .381 so even in pre-humidor days he may not have had a .400 season playing at Coors Field.
    Just for kicks I checked out Boggs home/away splits for his best two BA seasons 1985 (.368) and 1988 (.366) and his away batting average in those two season was just .322 and .351 respectively, so I looked at his career and Wade Boggs career away batting average to my amazement was only .302! Suddenly Boggs doesn’t look that great compared to Helton’s .292 away and with much less power, whether we look at home or away. I still think Boggs is a clear HOF’er and Helton seems to be undeserving, but I guess if we want to label Helton as a “true .292 hitter” we have to label Boggs as a “true .302 hitter” good, but not as great as we perceive.
    So I dug more, comparing to some post-1960 HOF 1st basemen, looking at career “away OPS”: Todd Helton .873, Eddie Murray .838, Harmon Killebrew .871, Tony Perez .788, Orlando Cepeda .856. I am beginning to wonder if these guys should have been allowed into the HOF based on their shoddy away numbers. I say we boot everyone out of the hall and re-vote based on away numbers only. Albert Pujols, you are a shoo-in, sir, with a lifetime 1.035 away OPS. Congrats. Everyone else is suspect.

  56. On the road? He's a moderately more powerful Mark Grace.

  57. John Autin Says:

    @55, Mark Frederick -- Fair point about Helton's road BA in 2000. But your last passage compared Helton to 4 other 1Bs on the basis of raw road OPS numbers. That's just not a valid comparison for guys who played in eras far different than Helton. Killebrew and Cepeda had their careers centered in the ultra-low-scoring '60s, Perez in the '70s (and he's a very marginal HOFer anyway), and even Eddie Murray's era saw much lower scoring than Helton's.

  58. Helton = HOF
    @56 Mark Grace had a beautiful swing, like a creek flowing in a meadow!

  59. Helton has to go in after Juan Pierre.

  60. @59 Great point!

  61. Rainbow99 Says:

    Most people are writing as if Helton just retired. He is signed through 2013 and is off to a good start at 1.1 WAR so far this year. Let's speculate for a moment. Let's say that during 2011, 2012, and 2013 Helton puts up numbers commensurate with a cumulative total of +7 WAR over those three years- certainly possible. That would put him at 65 WAR for his career, above Hernandez, McGwire, and into the same neighborhood as McCovey (65) and Murray (67). Then would he be a serious candidate for the HOF? or does it just come down to "he played at Coors so he can't be in the HOF."

    On the Roy Halladay HOF poll one of the choices offered was, "He has more work to do, but he could get there" or something along those lines. I realize at 37 Helton isn't going to shake the world, but he could very well hold down a regular job at 1B and play at a 2.0 WAR level through 2013 (on average), especially since he splits his value with the glove more than many. Just curious if that changes the picture for anyone.

  62. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    If he puts up another 5-7 WAR for his career, then I think he belongs. While he's off to an excellent start this year, he had .4 and .7 WAR seasons in 2008 and 2010, so it's not obvious that he will do that well.

    If he does, that would put him around #4-6 on the list of highest WAR guys eligible but not in (currently anyway, some players may become eligible and not make it by then, some of the guys currently out could get in) and right in the pack of guys that most here think belong. It would also put him ahead of a pile of guys who are in that nobody ever questions.

    In order to say he's out at that point, you'd have to believe that something is wrong with what WAR is doing, and I just don't see it. WAR is very very good at measuring offensive contributions, the only potentially suspect part is defense. So the only good argument against him at that point would be if you didn't think his TZ ratings were legit. Even then, you'd really have to think he was not just very good defensively, but below average to justify dropping him.

    You can also make arguments based on good vs. bad peaks, but those are for guys in the 50-65 WAR range. a legit 65 WAR should probably be in no matter the peak.

    Even so, Helton already has a 43.2 WAR 7 year peak, so he's well over JohnQ's threshold already:
    peak 7 (43.2) + total (59) / 2 is currently 51.1, which is "in" territory, not even borderline.

    This nonsense about looking only at his road record because he plays in Coors is abominable foolishness that should be nipped straight in the bud.

    If you are going to look only at his road numbers, then compare only against other guys road numbers. With very rare exceptions, *everybody* plays better at home.

    The only guys who don't hit better at home are guys who play in legendary pitcher's parks and even some of those still do.

    Helton is legit, even after adjusting for Coors, he was one of the best hitters in the game for 8 years, and solid for the rest of his 15 year career. He's at least borderline now, and if he's solid for another 2-3 years, he deserves to be a lock.

  63. Rainbow99 Says:

    #62

    I agree with you.

  64. A resounding no.

    Most here have posted solid reasons why not; Coors factor, home/road splits/peak vs. performance, etc and they are all dead on.

    There are steriod allegations to Helton as well, and if you question them, just look at Jeff Bagwell's vote totals from last year.

    Suspicion is good enough to keep someone out of the HOF.

    Putting up great numbers in an offensive era, in an offensive environment doesn't make you a great player.

    It just makes you a beneficiary.

  65. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    Chuck,

    I'd be interested to know who you think belongs of players who had big chunks of their peak fall into the 1997-2007 era of very high offense and steroid suspicion.

    So that will include some players who've retired, and some others who are still playing but unlikely to put up any more big years (like Helton)

    Who is in, who is out? All the power hitters out because they were probably using steroids? All the guys who tested positive, or admitted it? All the guys who anybody has ever accused of it or whispered about? all of them period?

    What about pitchers and non-power hitters? Some of these guys used steroids too.

    Do we really leave out nearly all the great power hitters of the 90s/2000s because we suspect steroid use for most of them?

    "Putting up great numbers in an offensive era, in an offensive environment doesn't make you a great player. "

    Why is it that you never hear people saying that about the guys who put up great numbers in the 1920s/30s, even though it was nearly as big an offensive era as the 90s/00s?

  66. Johnny Twisto Says:

    People say that all the time.

  67. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    sorry, why is it I never hear anti-saber guys like chuck saying that is perhaps what I meant there.

  68. I played against Helton in high school and he was the real deal. You knew he was going to be a great MLB player.

    I know some folks here won't agree with me at all but I say if you even consider Helton as a HOF member you might as well vote in Edgar Martinez this next year.

  69. John Autin Says:

    @62, Michael E. Sullivan -- "Abominable foolishness," eh?

    I take it, then, that your statement that "With very rare exceptions, *everybody* plays better at home" is supported by some hard evidence that goes far beyond the modest +.042 OPS differential (+.013 in BA) that was enjoyed by 2010 MLB batters at home?

    Because, as you know, Helton's OPS differential is five times that size; his BA differential is 50 points more than that. To compare Helton's home edge to that of "everybody" would be making a molehill out of a mountain.

  70. James Campbell Says:

    Another thing about Chuck Klein is that his cheap owner raised a wall in RF to cut down his HRs (thus any raise in his salry) and when THAT didn't work, he put up 10 feet of netting.

    Helton did not have an owner after him...so I think it is an unfair comparison. Klein was a great player who was injured as a Cub so many assume Baker Bowl made him...which is not the case

  71. James Campbell Says:

    Oh and sorry...I think Helton is a HOFer, with certain criteria especially since he has bounced back for a bit and may last a few more years.

    His double and walk totals is what puts him over the top IMHO.

    I also like McGriff, Larkin, Morris (most wins in the 80's) and Frank Thomas

  72. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    Of course Helton's edge is gigantic -- he has played his whole career in the most batter friendly parks ever. That's why all the advanced numbers account for this when comparing him to other batters. His career OPS is only 73 points shy of Barry Bonds' (.978 vs. 1.051), but his OPS+ is 137 to Bonds 181. That's your Coors effect right there -- accounted for as soon as you start looking at park adjusted stats, which include WAR.

    And yes, it is absolutely abominable foolishness to compare his road numbers to everybody else's averages and treat that as if you are actually doing something useful.

    I didn't do such a search myself, but every single sport that i have seen researched shows 90%+ of players and teams performing better at home than on the road, that's why home teams win 54-60% of games (depending on sport).

    It may be that a decent fraction of players perform just as well or better on the road, but it won't be anywhere near 50%. I stand by calling the use of unadjusted road-only numbers "abominable foolishness". It is as foolish as looking at raw numbers not adjusted for era or park. Extra Extra Real all About it: Dante Bichette 1995 as good as Maris 1961!

    The whole point of calculating OPS+ and WAR is that they account for park effects much, much more accurately than anybody's eye test can realistically do. If he got more out of Coors than other players who played there, that is a skill. A skill that helped his team win. Throwing away half of his at bats just because the field is an outlier is something you consider only when you don't have any decent way to correct for the field -- but we do!

    And even if we didn't, a non-fool would never do that without trying to make some correction for the fact that the stats you end up with are all road stats.

    Which is harder -- eyeball adjusting for 1/2 your games in coors, or eyeball adjusting for only looking at road games? I don't see a big advantage either way. But we have stats on what Coors does for hitters that are easily available on this site, so we don't need to eyeball test that, unless we are so married to the stats used 50-100 years ago that we don't trust any stoopid advanced stats.

  73. @72

    I think your argument against just using road numbers would be strengthened by mentioning that while Coors Field inflates home numbers it also deflates road numbers. It has been well-documented that the homefield advantage in all Denver sports is routinely large because of the mile-high conditions. This would indicate that Helton's true talent is even better than simply doubling his road numbers and adding the standard amount to account for the homefield advantage enjoyed by the typical player.

    @71 - throwing in HoF support for Jack Morris is always a good way to create a stir on this board. I won't bite... this time. :)