Breaking the Milestone Trend

For years now an automatic rubric of sorts has been in place to determine the Hall of Fame eligibility for hitters: launch 500+ home runs or amass 3,000+ hits. If either of these milestones are reached, the player has been more than likely to eventually find himself enshrined in Cooperstown. With the recent influx of power, however, several players with questionable credentials have either surpassed the 500 HR benchmark or have at least put themselves in solid position to do so in the next year or two. Players like Gary Sheffield and Carlos Delgado will finish their careers with more than 500 longballs and Jim Thome may very well reach 600, yet none of these three are considered Hall of Fame locks. And if Sheffield finishes at 518 HR, is he that much more worthy than Fred McGriff and his 493 gopherballs?

The 3,000 hit plateau has not been put under as much scrutiny because producing such a total is not necessarily considered as tainted. In a few years, however, a 20% chance exists that this milestone may no longer signal an automatic berth into baseball’s hallowed hall. Why 20%? Well, because Garret Anderson, he of the 2,368 hits, has a 20% chance of reaching 3000. Using Bill James’ Favorite Toy, Anderson is expected to play for another three seasons at an average of 148 hits/season, thus ending his career at 2,812. The 20% shot at 3,000 in no way locks him in but does acknowledge the definite possibility of such an event occurring.

If he reaches 3,000 hits, which I hope happens, the benchmark will lose its credibility because Garret Anderson is not a Hall of Fame player. Granted, my view of the HOF as an historical document of sorts designed to showcase the can’t-miss players of a certain era may differ from that of others, but regardless of our views I am extremely confident that everyone would agree Anderson is not of the HOF-ilk. Why do I hope he gets to the aforementioned milestone? Because if the credibility of the milestone is weakened with regards to the Hall of Fame, perhaps situations wherein aging players hurt their team’s production in order to reach the milestone will be lessened, if not eradicated.

Did Craig Biggio really need 3,000 hits to earn his way into the Hall of Fame? Not in my eyes. Did he hurt the Astros in the process of reaching the milestone? Yes, because he prevented more productive players from accruing playing time at the expense of a milestone relatively meaningless to his HOF chances. This is what bugs me about the milestones: if you need a specific number for everyone to believe you belong, chances are you do not belong.

The Hall of Fame is certainly about numbers but it is also about impact. Sandy Koufax came nowhere near 300 wins, and was only effective in 6 of his 12 seasons, yet he was a no-doubter. Garret Anderson is 36 yrs old, somewhere between a +0.7 and +1.0 win player this season, and will be pretty lucky to find work next season barring an abnormally strong 2009 campaign. Still, I’m holding out hope that he lasts for another few seasons, gets his 3,000th hit, effectively destroying the credibility of the milestone in the process. 3,000 hits is a tremendous feat for any hitter to accomplish, but it should in no way signal an automatic berth into the Hall of Fame without the impact of the player taken into context as well.

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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

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Mark R
Mark R

Anderson’s candidacy is a joke. 3,000 hits can’t possibly mask a .296/.327/.469 career line. 397 walks against 1117 strikeouts is just abysmal for a corner outfielder. Those inclined to make such arguments would have a hard time saying he played in an era when walks weren’t emphasized. And as a final nail in a well-sealed coffin, Rally has Anderson at 30.6 wins above replacement for his career. Andre Dawson, in comparison, was worth 55 wins. Granted, using total zone for the fielding runs is a little suspect, but these values seem to pass the smell test with flying colors.

I think Sheffield and Thome (64.5 and 67.4 wins, respectively) should go in and Delgado (46.9) will warrant some careful consideration if he produces for a few more years.