It seems like longevity gets overlooked when it comes to the Hall of Fame. Many guys who play for years past their peaks are dismissively referred to as compilers, especially if their best years were less impressive than those of players with high peaks but shorter careers. That’s the case for many of the players who got votes in this year’s BBWAA Hall of Fame election.
However, I like to look at these so-called compilers in another light. They were very good players for a long period of time. Let’s consider these players as gradual spikes.
By my count, there are nine gradual spikes on this year’s ballot:
1. Bobby Abreu
2. Carlos Beltran
5. Torii hunter
9. Jimmy Rollins
None of these players are consensus Hall of Famers. With the exception of perhaps Beltrán, none of them was considered the best player at their position during his career. Only two of them, Kent and Rollins, have won an MVP award, and they weren’t Really the best players in their leagues that season.
Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll see that while they didn’t have the strongest spikes, they held their spikes for quite some time. For this exercise, you’ll need to know two definitions that, to my knowledge, I’m making up right now.
steep peak: The period of a player’s career that begins with their first 5 WAR season and ends with their last 5 WAR season.
gradual peak: The period of a player’s career that begins with their first 3 WAR season and ends with their last 3 WAR season.
For sharp spikes and gradual spikes, the statistics listed are yearly averages. All WAR is the Baseball Reference version, and the WAR listed for pitchers does not include their offensive WAR.
Career: 18 years old, 60.2 WAR, .291/.395/.475 slash, 288 HR, 1,363 RBIs, 400 SB, 128 OPS+
Steep peak: 7 years old, 5.9 WAR, .308/.416/.525 slash, 23 HR, 92 RBI, 29 SB, 143 OPS+
Gradual Peak: 12 years old, 4.8 WAR, .301/.406/.497 slash, 21 HR, 97 RBI, 28 SB, 133 OPS+
Career: 20 years, 70.1 WAR, .279/.350/.486 slash, 435 HR, 1,587 RBIs, 312 SB, 119 OPS+
Steep peak: 8 years old, 5.9 WAR, .282/.364/.513 slash, 29 HR, 104 RBI, 29 SB, 125 OPS+
Gradient Peak: 14 years old, 4.7 WAR, .282/.360/.497 slash, 24 HR, 88 RBI, 22 SB, 122 OPS+
Career: 16 years, 60.0 WAR, 214–160, 3.81 ERA, 1,281 WHIP, 1,870 K, 3,283 ⅓ IP, 117 ERA+
Steep peak: 9 years, 4.5 WAR, 15–11, 3.79 ERA, 1,263 WHIP, 128 K, 223 IP, 122 ERA+
Gradual Peak: 14 years old, 4.2 WAR, 14–11, 3.81 ERA, 1.281 WHIP, 124K, 217 IP, 117 ERA+
Career: 17 years, 61.8 WAR, .316/.414/.539 slash, 369 HR, 1,406 RBIs, 133 OPS+
Steep peak: 5 years, 7.5 WAR, .349/.450/.643 slash, 37 HR, 123 RBI, 160 OPS+
Gradient peak: 12 years, 4.9 WAR, .329/.429/.568 slash, 27 HR, 99 RBI, 141 OPS+
Career: 19 years, 50.7 WAR, .277/.331/.461 slash, 353 HR, 1,391 RBIs, 195 SB, 110 OPS+
Steep peak: 4 years old, 4.3 WAR, .288/.354/.461 slash, 21 HR, 88 RBI, 10 SB, 125 OPS+
Gradual Peak: 12 years old, 3.9 WAR, .278/.337/.475 slash, 24 HR, 88 RBI, 14 SB, 115 OPS+
Career: 17 years, 55.4 WAR, .290/.356/.500 slash, 377 HR, 1,518 RBIs, 123 OPS+
Steep peak: 3-year-old, 6.5 WAR, .315/.387/.556 slash, 31 HR, 113 RBI, 147 OPS+
Gradual peak: 11 years, 4.3 WAR, .293/.360/.516 slash, 26 HR, 101 RBI, 128 OPS+
Career: 18 years old, 60.7 WAR, 256–153, 3.85 ERA, 1,351 WHIP, 2,448 K, 3,316 IP, 117 ERA+
Steep peak: 10 years, 4.0 WAR, 16–8, 3.74 ERA, 1.334 WHIP, 141 K, 192 IP, 122 ERA+
Gradual Peak: 14 years old, 3.6 WAR, 16–9, 3.89 ERA, 1.358 WHIP, 145 K, 197 IP, 117 ERA+
Career: 17 years, 70.1 WAR, .281/.364/.490 slash, 316 HR, 1,287 RBIs, 118 SB, 122 OPS+
Steep peak: 12 years old, 5.0 WAR, .284/.370/.503 slash, 22 HR, 85 RBI, 8 SB, 125 OPS+
Gradient Peak: 14 years old, 4.9 WAR, .284/.370/.500 slash, 21 HR, 85 RBI, 8 SB, 125 OPS+
Career: 17 years, 47.6 WAR, .264/.324/.418 slash, 231 HR, 1,421 runs, 470 SB, 95 OPS+
Steep peak: 2-years, 5.8 WAR, .288/.346/.490 slash, 20 HR, 108 runs, 44 SB, 112 OPS+
Gradient peak: 11 years, 3.6 WAR, .269/.330/.432 slash, 17 HR, 96 runs, 32 SB, 99 OPS+
Hall of Fame cases shouldn’t be reduced to just these numbers. Rollins has the shortest steep peak and gradual peak of the previous nine players, but I would vote him into the Hall of Fame ahead of Hunter, Buehrle and Pettitte because of how he compares to his contemporaries in his position. . Helton had the best steep peak of the group, but his gradual peak was as long as Rolen’s steep peak.
We typically measure players’ peak performance as their best seven seasons per WAR, and they don’t have to come in back-to-back years. Jay Jaffe’s JAWS system takes the average of a player’s WAR and WAR7 to account for both peak and longevity. But, if there is one thing to take away from this exercise today, it is that not all peaks are the same, not only in productivity, but also in length.
The ways in which we evaluate players are constantly evolving. The next step for the steep peak and gradual peak metrics is to do what Jaffe does with WAR and WAR7 and take the average of steep peak, gradual peak and career WAR. Here’s what that would look like for Helton.
Steep Peak WAR: 37.5
Gradual Peak WAR: 59.2
Career WAR: 61.8
Average = 52.8 WAR
I haven’t done this for other players yet, but now I’m curious to see where that would rank among all-time first basemen. That, however, is a longer-term project. I will provide an update in next week’s issue of the Five-Tool Newsletter.
Until then, I leave you with some breaking news this afternoon.. He Twins have traded reigning American League batting champion Luis Arraez to marlins by right-hander Pablo López and prospects José Salas, infielder, and Byron Chourio, outfielder. This is an intriguing trade that addresses a key need for every team. Minnesota desperately needed to add another starting pitcher, as I wrote about last week. Meanwhile, Miami needed to improve its weak lineup this offseason, and it has a surplus of young starting pitchers.
As I write this, Emma Baccellieri is working on a column on today’s trading, which will be online later today. So head over to si.com/mlb later tonight to check it out.
Do you have any questions or comments for our team? Send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. THE OPENER
Typically in this section, we highlight one of our most recent stories from Thursday or Friday. Instead, today, let’s take a look at a two-part project that Will Laws wrote this week. He went through all the age groups of active players and chose the player most likely to make the Hall of Fame. On Wednesday we published the under 30 group and yesterday the over 30 group. You should definitely check them both out.
The Most Likely Members of the Baseball Hall of Fame at Each Age Under 30 by Will Laws
The most likely members of the Baseball Hall of Fame at age 30 and older according to Will Laws
Over the past month, we’ve been breaking down the Hall of Fame cases of some of the players on this year’s BBWAA ballot. Here they are in case you missed them the first time around:
Torii Hunter’s Hall of Fame Case Is Stronger Than You Think by Nick Selbe
Six Questions That Will Decide Billy Wagner’s Hall of Fate Fate by Tom Verducci
Scott Rolen is on his way to making Hall of Fame history for Tom Verducci
Francisco Rodríguez and the curious case of the Closers Hall of Fame by Nick Selbe
Andruw Jones Hall of Fame case reaches all-time high by Will Laws
Jimmy Rollins has a long way to go before reaching the Hall of Fame for Matt Martell
Bobby Abreu’s Hall of Fame case is gathering steam, slowly but surely by Nick Selbe
Jeff Kent is in danger of being snubbed from the Hall of Fame by Will Laws
3. NOTICEABLE by Nick Selbe
At a time when listing activity has slowed, the royalty added a close yesterday with the signing of Aroldis Chapman to a one-year deal. The reasoning behind the move, at least for this writer, is hard to fathom. The lefty certainly won’t close out for Kansas City, with Scott Barlow back in the mix after a productive 2022 season. Chapman is coming off the worst season of his career: strikeouts are down, walks are up and his one-eyed fastball was slower than ever. For a young team trying to post its first winning season in eight years, it’s hard to see the rationale behind adding a player who was left off his previous club’s postseason roster after failing to show up for a mandatory workout (not to mention his much more egregious past transgressions off the field).
4. TRIVIA by Matt Martell
Previous question: Carlos Santana is the active home run leader among switch-hitters, with 278. Who ranks second?
Reply: Jose Ramirez, 192
Question: In 2018, the year he won AL MVP, Mookie Betts hit 32 home runs, stole 30 bases and won the batting title with a .346 average. Who is the only player with a higher average in a 30/30 season?
5. THE CLOSURE by Emma Baccellieri
To continue the Hall of Fame theme, let’s end with a player who may or may not return to the ballot next year: Francisco Rodríguez. (What better way to close this off?) There are plenty of other first-time candidates who are going down — think of those who have yet to receive a single public vote, like Matt Cain, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Houston Street — and there are others who have handily passed the 5% threshold to return to the ballot without being a lock for the 75% induction mark. But Rodríguez is in a category of his own at the moment: he has been on 8.9% of the public ballots. (The number comes from Ryan Thibodaux’s amazing ballot tracker.) That gives him a decent chance of moving on to next year, if he stays in roughly the same ratio of private to public ballots, but that’s not certain. I don’t think K-Rod is a Hall of Famer. But I do think he’s a really interesting case study for the role of relievers in Cooperstown, and for that reason, at least, I’m hopeful we get another year to discuss his case.
That’s all of us today. We’ll be back in your inbox next week. In the meantime, please share this newsletter with your friends and family and tell them to sign up at SI.com/newsletters. If you have any questions or comments, please email us at email@example.com.