A question occurred to me the other day that prompted the writing of this article. I'll get to that later and instead just get into it: which player on each NL Central team already has (or is closest to) a Hall of Fame resume?
I'm picking one player for each team and in some cases it's a stretch to say the least. Regardless the premise is that I'm considering only those already Hall of Fame bound, not on the track. To continue the train metaphor I will present the case and whether or not I think they're in for each player I choo choo choose. I really only even looked at players who were at least 33 years old as anyone younger hasn't had enough season for a Hall of Fame career regardless.
(Speaking of which in researching this article I came across Dick Allen's career numbers which I had never looked at before. Holy crap. To admit Jim Rice and keep Allen out is asinine. All those character issues and his outspoken nature didn't endear him to reporters and really that's what the Hall should be about right?)
In the order for current standings (hahahaha this is an evil laugh):
Milwaukee Brewers - Randy Wolf
In other words no we don't have anyone who's already punched a ticket into the Hall of Fame. Really my choices were Wolf, Mark Kotsay or Craig Counssell and c'mon. I can't even be bothered to spell Craig Counsell's name right. Back to Wolferine though, he's had a nice career but nothing spectacular. Career ERA+ of 103, high of 124. Strikes out 7 per 9 but walks 3 per 9 too. He's a decent to good pitcher and I'm happy he's in our rotation but he's not a Hall of Famer. Career WAR of 20.0 in 13 seasons. So yeah we don't have anyone already in the Hall but we have a couple guys who could be on their way so no worries.
St. Louis Cardinals - Lance Berkman
This is what prompted this article: Is Lance Berkman a Hall of Famer? I was inclined to say yes and in looking at the numbers the answer is he's getting there. His resurgence this year has been incredible (although quite frankly I wish he'd stop) and it made me want to take a look at his numbers to see if he's already in. .295/.408/.548, OPS+ 146, 49.2 WAR in 13 seasons. As of right now the fact that he's only played 13 seasons is what will hurt him but frankly after this year it looks like he's got a few good years left in him without significant decline to add to his number totals (sitting at 355 HR). But the question presented is does he get in right now? I'd say he's good enough (3.78 WAR/yr is good) but I'm not convinced the BWAA will vote for him, mostly because that's the Boxing Writers Association of America and I mistyped. So he still has some work to do but he looks like he has a great case once he is finished.
Now it's easy to say "Wait what about Pujols?" Only the season thing kept me from picking him but frankly if he were hit by a bus tomorrow I'd still say he had the numbers to get in. 86.7 WAR in 11 seasons (7.88 WAR/yr) is already better than the average HoF player (70.5 WAR in 19 seasons, 3.71 WAR/yr). (I couldn't find an update to those numbers on BTB but it's from 2009 and three players can't have changed the numbers that much. Also I think that might use FanGraphs' WAR instead of B-R. I think FanGraphs gives more credit to defense. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.)
Pittsburgh Pirates - Derrek Lee
It pains me to do this to Dave but he's really the best choice on a relatively young Pirates squad. That being said no Derrek Lee is not a Hall of Famer. But he is a very good player. .281/.364/.494, OPS+122 at first base is something you'd definitely be happy to have on your team but it's not all time great level. WAR of only 30.7 in 15 seasons (2.04/yr) is lower than the HoF replacement (low) level of 53.3 in 17 (3.13/yr). (Doing all this is just making me more mad that Jim Rice got in.) So while Derrek Lee was a very good player he falls short of the Hall. (FanGraphs gives him more credit for his defense, which I always thought Lee was pretty good at. Still he only has 39.1 WAR by their metric so he's still shy.)
Cincinnati Reds - Scott Rolen
Finally I get to someone who actually has 16 seasons played and can actually measure his current numbers against the Hall. .282/.366/.494 is good not great. Same with an OPS+ of 123. Of course none of that adjusts for position and Scott Rolen was for a period of time the best third baseman in the game. He played great defense on the hot corner and his WAR total of 66.3 (4.14/yr) is enough for me to say that yes Scott Rolen is already a Hall of Famer.
Time for a mea culpa. .277/.362/.464. OPS+ 125. WAR 66.4 in 15 seasons (4.14/yr). Those are Ron Santo's numbers. For a long time I've been saying Santo was borderline and that he doesn't deserve to be in. The only reason is the number of years he played because those are Hall of Fame quality numbers without quesiton. I'm willing to admit I'm wrong and that he belongs in and that if you can generate almost the same number of wins in four fewer seasons than the average Hall of Famer then you shouldn't be penalized for a lack of longevity.
Chicago Cubs - Kerry Wood
Oh what could have been. That statement may hurt Dave more than the Derrek Lee stuff. Only 13 seasons but damn. 10.3 K/9 (balanced against 4.3 BB/9 though) is monsterous. Of course every counting stat will make his career graphs all exponential decays. The injuries all mean he'll never get the innings or strikeout totals that are enough to get elected but damn, look at those first four seasons. Not a Hall of Famer but in some alternate universe he is still a dominant starter for the Yankees. Sorry, in the alternate universe the Yankees are still the Yankees.
Houston Astros - Carlos Lee
I was actually thinking to myself the other day "What ever happened to Carlos Lee?" El Caballo put together a nice career but was always hurt by relatively low OBP totals. .286/.338/.491 is a frustrating line for a sabermetrician to look at. Career OPS+ 114 isn't going to blow anyone away either. 22.2 WAR in 13 seasons. Yeah not a Hall of Famer. Houston doesn't have much going for it. At least they have Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn entering the prime of their careers nevermind.
So what is the end result of all this? Really Rolen's the only one that I would say is already heading for the Hall but plenty of players are building their cases to be on the ballot right now. And really given that the average class size can be assumed to be 2-3 players so it's really not so surprising. Among players playing right now here's who I think are already in the Hall: Rolen, Thome, Halladay, Jones, Jeter, Rodriguez, Rivera, and Helton. There are a few other borderline cases out there (plus Ichiro will be sort of hard to predict how the writers treat him but I think he'll get in) but these guys could all be on a bus together tomorrow that drives off a cliff and I'd still say they did enough to get in and also that was really random that they were all on a bus together.