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Who Are the Most Worthy Candidates for the Baseball Hall of Fame?

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Unlike last year when Derek Jeter was the featured candidate, this year’s ballot offers no certainties among likely Hall of Fame inductees.

There are plenty of prominent holdover candidates, most notably Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Curt Schilling, but no newcomers whose ledger suggests Hall-of-Fame worthiness.

In the 2019 Bill James Handbook, Bill James unveiled a new stat (explained here and here) to show a player’s Hall of Fame Value and set the standard for election as receiving a HOF-V score of 500 or higher (the score is based on a combination of a player’s Win Shares and four times his Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement).

There are 11 candidates on this year’s ballot who meet that threshold. We’ll get to some of them in a moment. There are five players who come within 50 points of 500, including three newcomers on the ballot. Those three are Torii Hunter (477.3), Mark Buehrle (457.3) and Tim Hudson (451.8).

Hunter hit 353 home runs, won nine Gold Gloves, and made five All-Star teams in a 19-year career. Buehrle won 214 games and posted double-digit victory totals in the last 15 seasons of a 16-year career. He also pitched two no-hitters (one was a perfect game), won four Gold Gloves, and won a World Series with the 2005 White Sox. Hudson won 222 games and had a 3.49 ERA in a 17-year career that included a World Series title with the 2014 Giants.

All three were very good players whose credentials come up just a little short when put before this evaluation tool.

Among returning candidates, putting aside those whose cases are hindered by PED-related issues or other matters, there are several worthy players. Last year, we evaluated the candidacies of Larry Walker (who was elected to the Hall of Fame), Scott Rolen, and Bobby Abreu. Let’s touch on two other candidates from that list of those who have cleared the HOF-V threshold, who warrant a closer look.

Todd Helton

Todd Helton hit .316 with a .953 OPS and 369 home runs and won three Gold Gloves in a 17-year career, all with the Rockies. Helton’s voting support jumped by nearly 13 percentage points from 2019 to 2020, but at 29% he’s got a long way to go to reach the 75% needed for election.

Helton’s best argument is that six of his eight most similar hitters by Bill James Similarity Score are Hall of Famers, including the No. 1 comp, Jeff Bagwell. The challenge Helton has is that he’s perceived to be a hitter whose stats were boosted by playing 81 games a year in Coors Field (where he hit .345 and had an OPS nearly 200 points higher than his road OPS).

Jeff Kent

Jeff Kent compiled one of the best offensive careers for a second baseman, hitting 377 home runs with an .855 OPS. He meets the Hall of Fame Value threshold. But in seven tries on the ballot, he’s never garnered more than 27.5% of the vote.

Kent’s best argument is that over an eight-year period from 1997 to 2005, he was one of the game’s best run producers, averaging 110 RBI and 94 runs scored per season with the Giants, Astros, and Dodgers.

He is hurt by his being a slow baserunner and poor defensive player, which kept his overall value down. Still, this statistical system deems him Hall-worthy.

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