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Astros’ off-season: Hall of Fame talk, WAR and looking way ahead


As I sit here writing, 113 ballots have been tabulated on Baseball Think Factory’s “2015 HOF Ballot Collecting Gizmo.” That’s 19.8 percent of last year’s total number of ballots cast, a pretty good sample. I would say 20 percent, but you can’t round up that last 0.2 percent when it comes to the Hall of Fame voting.

Yeah, I went there.

Anyway, as of right now, Craig Biggio is polling at 84.1 percent of the vote. He’ll need 75 percent (not 74.8!) of the final vote to gain induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame. I was cautiously optimistic last year, but Biggio fell just short. With Jack Morris off the ballot — and a whole lot of old-school voters casting a wasted vote on Morris instead of Biggio in 2014 — I think we’re safe to assume Houston will finally have its own Hall of Famer.

After 1 p.m. on Jan. 6, I’m guessing that scrappy second baseman will forever be introduced as “Hall of Famer, Craig Biggio.” Expect Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz to be on the podium with Biggio.

Right now Jeff Bagwell is polling at 70.0 percent. Here’s hoping Bags finishes somewhere in the 60s. That will make him look better to voters, more like an eventual Hall of Famer, and I’d expect to see his total jump in 2016 and 2017 (probably enough for election to the Hall).

But I’m not here to try to convince you of Biggio or Bagwell’s candidacy. Either you think they are Hall of Famers, or you’re an idiot.

I don’t often say things like that, but unless you have a bunch of photos of the two injecting steroids in each others’ bodies, any argument that they don’t belong is just dumb. You’re entitled to your opinion, but don’t bother trying to convince me that the Earth is flat.

WAR, What Is It Good For?

So, I’ve been spending a little time at BBTF watching the vote totals change as more and more ballots have been published by the BBWAA voters. And the 800-plus comments — most of which breaks down in to categories like anger over The Big Unit not getting 100 percent, marveling at Pedro’s career, discussion of how Smoltz compares to other starters who spent time as a closer, and a whole lot of talk about steroids — are a rambling mess that have one stat that seems to run through them all like a thread: WAR.

Wins Above Replacement, whether you like the Baseball Reference version or the Fangraphs incarnation, it’s a stat that basically compares players’ over time, whether it’s a short WAR period like a single season or a long one, like a player’s peak.

If you read BR’s explanation of WAR, you’d need either a degree in advanced math or some good 80’s style hallucinogens. But basically, WAR for position players is calculated through six categories: Batting Runs, Baserunning Runs, Runs added or lost due to Grounding into Double Plays in DP situations, Fielding Runs, Positional Adjustment Runs, and Replacement level Runs (based on playing time). You can read the equation at Wikipedia, but I only had two years of college calculus, so I don’t know if I can explain it further.

That said, WAR is the go-to stat for the conversation on the Hall. After all, different players at different positions will have different expectations of home runs, batting average, etc., but WAR is WAR. And there’s some pretty basic levels that scream Hall of Fame.

For example, Bagwell has a 79.6 career WAR on BR. That ranks 63rd overall and ahead of players such as Pete Rose, Joe DiMaggio, Reggie Jackson and Frank Thomas (cough, cough). The only players with higher career WARs than Bags that are NOT in the Hall of Fame are people not yet on the ballot or ‘Roid suspects such as Bonds and Clemens.

Biggio, as a catcher and second baseman, is not expected to have quite as high a WAR because of the positions he played, but his 65.1 WAR is right there with Ryne Sandberg (67.5) and Roberto Alomar (66.8). And Biggio ranks higher than Hall of Famers such as Yogi Berra (59.3) and Harmon Killebrew (60.3).

Which Got Me Thinking …

Which all got me to wondering, if Biggio and Bagwell looked like Hall of Famers from the get-go. After all, to amass the WAR needed to get in the Hall discussion, you need to start earning WAR right away.

Well, Bagwell was earning WAR right off the bat (ha!). By the end of his third full season in the majors, Bagwell had earned 15.1 WAR total. All that by the end of his Age 25 season. Biggio had amassed 10.2 WAR by the end of his third full season, also his Age 25 year.

So, do the Astros have any future Hall of Famers on the roster right now? Well, at the end of his third full season (like Biggio, he had a partial season at the start of his career) Jose Altuve has amassed 9.4 WAR. Of course, he’s only finished his Age 24 season at this point. If he can repeat his WAR from 2014 in the upcoming season, Altuve would pass Bagwell in total WAR by the end of his Age 25 season.

Passing Biggio seems like a foregone conclusion. He needs a 0.9 WAR, which would be Altuve’s worst full season. If he can average — just average — a 4.5 WAR over the next 10 years, that’d put him right at about 55 WAR at the end of his Age 34 season. That’s probably not Hall of Fame worthy. After Age 34, Bagwell only earned another 8.1 WAR. Of course, he went nine years — 1993 through 2001 — where he only dipped below a 5.0 WAR once. Biggio earned 8.7 WAR after Age 34. That includes the -2.1 WAR his final season.

But if Altuve can throw in a few 5.5 or 8.0 WAR seasons like Biggio and Bagwell did, then he’s pushing 60 WAR by Age 34.

Other things that help in the HOF talk are things like All-Star appearances, Gold Gloves, and being considered the best at something. Altuve has a batting title. That’s huge. He’s widely considered a great contact hitter. I’ve watched a few games from last season during this long winter, and announcers for other teams can’t stop singing Altuve’s praises.

To really be considered a Hall of Fame candidate, he’d probably need to add just a touch more power — reach that 10 HR plateau a time or two — and learn to walk, which helps his WAR score. Though 225 hits a season will do wonders for your WAR. Also, it’d help if he was in the MVP talk from time to time.

Tuesday … And Beyond

So, here’s a couple of HOF questions

  1. Does Biggio finally make it this time?
  2. Right now, the three pitchers, Biggio and Mike Piazza are all polling over the magic 75 percent mark right now. I don’t feel like looking it up, but I know it’s been decades since the writers elected five people. Would you like to see a big Hall class of 2015?
  3. For 2016, the ballot will include Ken Griffey Jr., Trevor Hoffman‘s 601 career saves and a whole lot of guys who won’t poll that high. Is 2016 Bagwell’s year?
  4. Meanwhile, 2017 will bring a bunch of good candidates again. Jorge Posada will get all that Yankee (spit!) love. Vladimir Guerrero seems like a shoe-in, as does Manny Ramirez. And Ivan Rodriguez seems like a Hall of Famer. That’s a crowded ballot for Bags.
  5. Altuve put together a very special season and ONLY got a 6.0 WAR share. Unfortunately, his defensive WAR seems to drag him down. What kind of WAR average will Altuve need over the next 10 years to get in the Hall talk? Is that level of performance realistic?
  6. Will you be watching at 1 p.m. on Tuesday?

 

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About BrianT

Brian Todd is a freelance writer working and living in Rochester, Minn.

40 comments on “Astros’ off-season: Hall of Fame talk, WAR and looking way ahead

  1. BrianT
    January 3, 2015

    When it comes to Altuve, the other consideration will be his hits total. After 3-1/3 seasons, he has 630 hits. If he averages “just” 183 hits over the next 13 seasons, he’ll have 3,000. Now 183 sounds like a lot, but over the last three years he has averaged something like 189. That includes his off year in 2013 and his first full season when he seemed to be running out of gas late in the year and collected “only” 167 hits.

    Obviously it is way too early in Altuve’s career to have a serious discussion on the Hall of Fame and 3,000 hits, but if he clears the 200-hit plateau two or three times in the next five years, well then he’s well past halfway to 3,000 at the end of his Age 29 season. I think he can reach that with ease.

    Like

  2. BrianT
    January 3, 2015

    Now at 119 ballots (20.8%) and Biggio is at 84 percent while Bags has slipped to 69.7.

    Like

  3. 1oldpro
    January 3, 2015

    *Once I saw that Biggio had gotten to within two votes last year, I knew he would get in this time just because of the shame factor that some voters faced after the vote concluded.
    *I love Biggio going in with a big class because more people will be paying attention and that will help B next year.
    * I think Bagwell makes it next year. It might help him if he were to get back into baseball and help the Astros in some capacity. If he were to gather a group of investors together and buy the Astros from Crane, he might be voted in unanimously, just by getting Crane out of baseball.
    *Altuve will need to be a career long .300 hitter and play for a couple of World series champions and steal a 400 bases to make the Hall. Right now his best bet is to play for a contender in a good baseball city.
    * I’ll be watching it if I can remember. I get a little choked up thinking about it because my late father thought Biggio hung the moon. Of course, Dad was an OTBG, just like Bigs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • BrianT
      January 3, 2015

      OP, I’m guessing your dad would have approved of the way Altuve plays as well.

      Here’s hoping on Biggio. After last year, I won’t believe it until they announce his name.

      Bagwell should have been a first-ballot guy. Frankly, the whole thing is ridiculous, another line of thinking they have over at BBTF.

      Like

  4. Lester J. Gillis
    January 3, 2015

    I think Biggio does make the HOF this year. But I always have that “Astro bias” factor (which is the opposite of the “yankee bias” you alluded to) screaming in the back of my mind. Last night I watched the MLB channel’s discussion of the 2015 ballot, and all of the panelists except Ron Darling had Biggio on their ballot – which of course means nothing except I feel better about the vote. But the opinions were pretty positive and well-thought out.

    My only real cause for concern is the BBWAA doesn’t seem to like large HOF classes, and with Johnson and Martinez virtual locks to be elected, I’m hoping Biggio and Smoltz don’t pull each other down. Both are HOFers, and I think it’s ridiculous for only one or neither not to be elected this year.

    Bagwell is a HOFer as well, but I think it will take a few more years for him to overcome the PED “suspicions”. That entire argument is bogus in my opinion – either you know he’s guilty and you can’t bring yourself to vote for anyone who’s guilty, or you vote based on his on-field performance. The 2017 election promises to have the same issues.

    Altuve’s only realistic chance to be elected to the HOF will come from his offensive production. If he can put up several 200-hit seasons, he’ll make it. Like you said, he could help his WAR by walking more, just like stealing bases will help, but with little power, base hits will be the key. His hit total the next 5 or so years will decide the issue.

    Like

    • BrianT
      January 3, 2015

      I too think the next five years will determine if Altuve is in the Hall conversation or just a really good ball player. Either way, I think he’s fantastic.

      Like

  5. BrianT
    January 3, 2015

    Here’s the BBTF link:

    http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/newsstand?/newsstand/newsblog

    For those who want to watch the ballots trickle in.

    Like

    • Kevin
      January 3, 2015

      ty

      Like

    • rj
      January 3, 2015

      yes, thanks for this link.

      Like

  6. Devin_
    January 3, 2015

    I’ll be watching. I’d be happy if only Bag well, Biggio, and the Big Unit made it. I’m OK with Smoltz getting in, but don’t feel right about Pedro before Bagwell. This is especially true of Piazza…possibly the best hitting catcher who should have been a DH of my lifetime.

    Like

  7. Dan P
    January 3, 2015

    Nice job Brian T
    1. Bidge makes it. I like new stats but the problem with WAR is it does not measure how many times Bidge played the whole game with a dirty uniform because he played the game the right way – hard and straight.
    2. My eyes are getting old – but if I am reading the list right for the ones voted in – the only time 5 were voted in by the BWAA (not Veterans Committee or Negro League) was the first class in 1936 (Ruth, Mathewson, Cobb, Wagner and Walter Johnson – pretty good class – guys like Speaker, Lajoie and Cy Young complained bitterly on Twitter..). They elected 4 in 1947 and 1955 and before last year the last time they elected 3 was 1991. So I’m not betting on the 5….
    3. I think if Bags does not make it 2016 it might be a couple more years after that
    4. 2017 seems tough – would not count on Vlad G to be a shoe in or I-Rod (they probably deserve it but there are a lot of top notch guys who wait – Biggio..)
    5. I think Altuve needs to average about a 5.0 for the next 10 years and add on some additional points for a few years after
    6.I will be praying and watching….

    Like

    • BrianT
      January 3, 2015

      Thanks for the “Nice job.”

      I live only to hear your praise, Dan. ;^))

      Like

      • BrianT
        January 3, 2015

        Honestly, I didn’t know what more could be said about the Hall voting that we didn’t say last year or the year before. But I thought we needed a discussion thread on it.

        Like

  8. daveb
    January 3, 2015

    Biggio should have been a lock a couple of year ago. Had he played in NY or Fenway or Wrigley (he loved hitting in Wrigley) he’d have gone in on the first ballot.

    Not many guys peak at 24. Altuve’s best years are ahead of him. Way to early to put him in the HOF, but he’s off to a fine start.

    Liked by 1 person

    • BrianT
      January 3, 2015

      Dave, you summed up my point better than I did. At just 24, it’s likely Altuve will have 5-7 seasons of excellence from now to when he turns 34. If he averages 180 hits over the next 10 years — not a big number — he will be over 2,400 at that point. My guess is, if he doesn’t have any serious injury, we could easily be at 2,500 or more by then.

      Like

  9. daveb
    January 3, 2015

    Another thing about Biggio is that he was a catcher who went on to win four Gold Gloves at another position, one that requires mobility. How many other catchers have followed a similar path?

    Like

    • Billy Castillo
      January 3, 2015

      Hell, how many catchers change positions and become a basestealing threat for close to a decade?

      Liked by 1 person

  10. BrianT
    January 4, 2015

    With 130 ballots counted (22.8 percent of last year’s total), Biggio is at 83.1 percent and Bagwell at 70.0. It looks like Biggio makes it by 3-5 percent and Bags finishes in the mid-60s. I’d be happy with that.

    Like

  11. Steeeve
    January 4, 2015

    War. Hooooh! What is it good for? ABSOLUTELY NUTHIN!

    Thought you’d sneak that one by, eh Brian? Very clever, but there are Edwin Starr fans in the midst.

    My sense, which I’m not going to defend, is that Johnson, Piazza and Biggio are worthy of being selected in their first year of eligibility, so glad they appear to be going in. Martinez (incredible but over a relatively short period) and Smoltzie are worthy in the 2-5 year time frame so no problem with them getting in. Hoping all these folks getting in helps clear the decks for Baggie next year. Not sure why Trammel isn’t getting the love, looks like he’ll be an early vote in for the Veterans Committee.

    Like

    • Dan P
      January 4, 2015

      Springsteen did a nice live cover of War also…but Mr. Starr had the hit.

      Like

      • rj
        January 4, 2015

        well if we are gonna talk war, low ri der drives little slower. and wooo hooo cowboys

        Like

  12. BrianT
    January 4, 2015

    Thanks to some idiot voters, Bagwell is dropping into the mid-60s. Biggio is slipping closer to 80.

    Analysis from the stat-heads at BBTF indicate their poll usually runs 3-5 points higher than the final number. This could mean Bagwell falls below 60 and Biggio is in danger of finishing at 74.9.

    Be forewarned.

    Like

    • Dan P
      January 4, 2015

      That would be a ridiculous kick in the head

      Like

  13. mrgjgMrgjg
    January 4, 2015

    Manny Ramirez is not getting into the HOF. Vlad will probably get in, but I wouldn’t say he’s a shoo-in. I think he takes a few tries.

    Like

  14. BrianT
    January 4, 2015

    Another thought that struck me: Say Biggio squeaks in this year, and a Bagwell Miracle happens in 2016, then the Astros have no legit Hall candidates on the horizon other than Altuve. If we’re lucky.

    Oh, sure, maybe there’s a potential Hall of Famer among Springer and or Correa. But that’s it. Berkman won’t really be considered. Wagner might get a vote or 5 percent, but he’ll never make the Hall.

    So, enjoy this frustrating Hall of Fame talk while you can. Once Biggio and Bagwell are in (or off the ballot and snubbed by the Veteran’s Committee) then the Hall of Fame talk around here will be all about other teams’ players.

    Like

    • Devin_
      January 4, 2015

      Interesting thought there, Brian. I do wonder, however, which teams fair much better? Without conducting any thorough research, who am I missing that’s not listed who would be even in the discussion? My East Coast bias has a lot of teams left out…
      ARZ
      ATL – Andruw Jones (2018?). Chipper (2018)
      BAL
      BOS – Manny (2017), Wakefield (2017), Ortiz (???)
      CHC
      CHW
      CIN
      CLE – Omar Vizquel (2018), Sabathia (???)
      COL – Helton (2018)
      DET – Miguel Cabrera (???)
      KC
      LAA – Trout (too early ???)
      LAD
      MIA
      MIL
      MIN – Mauer (???)
      NYM – Wright (???)
      NYY – Pettite (2018), Rivera (2018), Jeter (2019), A-Rod (???), Cano (???)
      OAK – Giambi (???). Hudson (???)
      PHI – Utley (???)
      PIT – LOL
      SD – Trevor Hoffman (2016)
      SF
      STL – Pujols (???)
      SEA – Ken Griffey, Jr (2016), Ichiro (???)
      TB
      TEX – Pudge (2017), Beltre (???)
      TOR – Roy H (2018)
      WAS – Vlad G (or should he be LAA? 2017)

      Like

  15. Becky
    January 5, 2015

    As long as they let *idiots* vote…….Bagwell will be turned away. I will be VERY surprised to see Biggio get in this year……..

    Like

  16. Steven
    January 5, 2015

    Difficult practice to give consideration to a players long term potential. Lots of things look positive for Jose. He is a special player. He goes out of the strike zone often enough to scare you, but he is also country strong. I’ve never in my life seen anyone so fast and so good at getting their bat level at any point in the zone – or even out of it – maybe except Vlad Guerrero. I would say that combination of a lot at bats not given away to walks, an uncanny contact rate, and the strength he has in his hands and upper body give him as good a chance at 3000 hits as anyone else playing today, if he is willing to put the work in to keep all those factors on his side. Getting an early start to his career at a young age could help also.

    Bagwell and Biggio are a funny comparison – because Bagwell was obviously the much better hitter – and probably even better at fielding his position than Biggio was at any of his. I think Biggio’s stronger run at the HOF has been longevity based and absence of suspicion. It probably doesn’t help that Bagwell competes for votes with other “power” guys while Biggio competes with a much smaller crowd of hitters.

    The shame in it all is Biggio took this long, while Jeter will get the 99.8% vote, when they are almost the exact same player. Very similar in numbers (so similar that BP calls them the most similar careers to each other), while Jeter played SS, Biggio moved around calling 4 different positions home, one of them twice, and both were consumate professionals and leaders. Jeter deserves his accolades, and deserves the model, but Biggio deserved more than he got in that regard.

    Like

    • BrianT
      January 5, 2015

      Yeah, I basically went to the highly speculative Altuve talk just because I didn’t want to go over Biggio or Bagwell’s obvious HOF credentials again.

      While I am usually loath to praise anyone from that New York team, Jeter was a quality player who deserves to sail into the Hall. But so did Biggio … and Bagwell.

      Here’s hoping at least one of these will be fixed by 1 pm tomorrow.

      Like

  17. 1oldpro
    January 5, 2015

    So with 172 votes polled, about 30% of last year’s total, Biggio is back up to 83.1%.

    Like

    • BrianT
      January 5, 2015

      But Bagwell is down to 63%. Disgraceful.

      Like

  18. justacop108
    January 5, 2015

    I grew up idolizing Biggio. From his rookie year on. Whenever he gets elected I’m heading back to Cooperstown to see it. Been saving up money for 4 years now.

    Like

    • BrianT
      January 5, 2015

      Don’t think I’ve seen you post here before. Welcome to Chip’s blog, where we love the Astros but try to keep it real.

      Earlier we were talking about Biggio and Jeter, both great ballplayers, but even The Captain can’t measure up to the kind of man Biggio is. From the Sunshine Kids to coaching a high school team, Biggio isn’t some prima dona.

      Like

      • justacop108
        January 5, 2015

        Posted only a few times, but been reading for years and years and years. Way back in those very first Chron (spit!) days. Love the blog and the ‘Stros.

        Like

  19. Becky
    January 6, 2015

    Crossing my fingers and toes for a call to the hall for Biggio……….

    Like

  20. Dan P
    January 6, 2015

    And now with 33% of the ballots published Bidge was up to 84.6%. Looking good for him – I don’t think Bags will be with him though.

    Like

  21. Kevin
    January 6, 2015

    Bummer Bags slowly dropping was hoping he could hang ta 68%

    Like

  22. astrocolt45
    January 6, 2015

    Two different topics today: 1. How in the world can people vote for Raines who admitted to using cocaine before, after & during the games and then discount what Bagwell MAY have done. 2. I can’t figure out if Legacy Agency (getting Brett Anderson $10-14 Million) is the most brilliant agency out there or the Dodgers have more money that a Saudi Prince.

    Like

  23. Dan P
    January 6, 2015

    YESSSSSSS!!!!!!! Bidge is in!!!!

    Like

  24. rj
    January 6, 2015

    woooooooooooooohooooooooooooo!

    Like

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