Lately we've had a lot of polls on the Hall of Fame chances for individual players. Here's a different way of looking at things. I did a couple of very simple batting season finder searches. First I listed all batting-title-qualified seasons by HOF players from 1901 to 1990, and then I listed the same for ALL players regardless of whether they are in the HOF or not.
By dividing those two numbers for each season, I found the percentage of players who had a qualified batting season who also ended up in the HOF. (Note that this study considers only batters. We'll look at pitchers separately.)
Here's the graph:
First, a few observations about the graph:
- The thing that jumps out right away is the huge dip down in 1943-1945. Obviously, this is due to the large fraction of established major-leaguers who missed time due to service in World War II. Many of the players who played MLB in those years were minor-leaguers or other players who didn't end up with long careers. Notice too the smaller dip during World War I in the mid 1910's.
- We see a big peak right around 1930. This is no doubt due to the fact that HOF voting first started in 1936 and many of the early honorees were players active in the late 1920s and early 1930s. A fairly consistent fraction of players (around 12-14%) from before the 1920s have been inducted.
- Since 1930, other than the WWII dip mentioned above, the fraction of players making the HOF has been gradually dropping. I suspect the gradual decline is due largely to the expansion of the number of teams. It's natural that as the total number of players increases, a smaller overall fraction would be considered HOF material. Also notice dips down in expansion years of 1962 and 1969. This supports my theory above--a whole bunch of qualified batting seasons were added in those years but not necessarily a proportionate number of HOFers, so the ratio drops.
I took the graph only to 1990 because there are plenty of guys who played in the early 1990s who might be in the HOF but either aren't yet eligible or haven't made it in (or dropped off the ballot) yet. A few who come to mind are Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Craig Biggio, Rafael Palmeio, and Frank Thomas. In other words, the number of active major leaguers in, say, 1992, who are HOFers is a very dubious number because the issue hasn't been settled for many of the candidates as of yet. I think this might also explain the dip in 1989-1990.
Looking at the period of 1976-1988, the percentage is pretty consistent around 12.5% Last year, 155 batters had qualified batting seasons. This suggests that 19-20 active players will be Hall of Famers one day. (Reminder: this discussion considers only hitters.)
So, who will these 19-20 players be?
I have the following nine hitters from 2009 as mortal locks for the HOF:
- Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Ken Griffey, Ivan Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Albert Pujols, Ichiro Suzuki, Chipper Jones, and Jim Thome
Then there are these 5 guys for whom legitimate HOF cases can be made based on what they have already achieved in their careers:
- Todd Helton, Miguel Tejada, Omar Vizquel, Magglio Ordonez, and Jason Kendall
I am inclined to believe that of the 14 guys who have been named already there are 10-12 HOFers among them. Incidentally, there are 6 relevant players I didn't consider because they didn't have qualified batting seasons in 2009: Vladamir Guerrero, Gary Sheffield, Carlos Delgado, Jorge Posada, Jason Giambi, and Andruw Jones.
Here are 17 veterans who almost certainly haven't done enough yet to get into the HOF but have a shot with a few more good years:
- Mike Young, Bobby Abreu, David Ortiz, Jim Edmonds, Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday, Ryan Howard, Carlos Beltran, Miguel Cabrera, Alfonso Soriano, Johnny Damon, Jimmy Rollins, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Lee, Garret Anderson, Joe Mauer, and Chase Utley
Some of these, particularly Mauer, seem like a virtual lock based on projected performance, but they still need to actually perform a bit more to get there. I'd say maybe 4-5 of these guys have a shot of getting in.
That gives us a list of 14-17 players already out of out 20. Who make up the remaining 3-6 players? Keep in mind that my original search didn't consider the age or experience of the HOFers. So those 3-6 players could be guys who were rookies in 2009 or the few years previous.
Players heading the list of young HOF potentials include:
- Hanley Ramirez, Evan Longoria, Ryan Braun, Joey Votto, Pablo Sandoval, Andrew McCutchen, Elvis Andrus, Dustin Pedroia, Prince Fielder, Robinson Cano, Carl Crawford, Jose Reyes, Adrian Gonzalez, and numerous others.
I know I have blurred the line a bit between the veterans and the young players. It's just that the really young ones are tough to guess.