Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Is Andruw Jones a Hall-of-Famer?

In 1996, when he set a record by being the youngest player ever to hit a home run in World Series play -- 19 -- I hated Andruw Jones.

In 1999, when the Yankees had won 8 straight World Series games against his Atlanta Braves after losing the first 2, I laughed at him. After all, he couldn't even spell "Andrew"!

In 2008, after the Braves had let him go, he batted just .158 for the Los Angeles Dodgers. His OPS+, which had been 126 just 2 years before, had crashed to 35. He looked done at 31.

In 2012, now 35, he has found the fountain of youth, and is helping the Yankees, big-time. He homered again last night, in the 6-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

Is Jones a Hall-of-Famer? Let's look at his career statistics as they currently stand, including last night's game.

Lifetime batting average: .256. Only 2 members of the Hall of Fame, who got in as players but not pitchers, have lower averages: Harmon Killebrew, whose 573 home runs are kind of an offset; and Ray Schalk, who was elected partly for his defensive prowess and partly because he was one of the clean players on the 1919 Chicago White Sox.

On-base percentage: .338. Slugging percentage: .489. OPS: .827. OPS+: 112. All decent, but not Hall of Fame numbers.

Strikeouts: 1,721. I'll bet you didn't know that Andruw Jones had more career strikeouts than Mickey Mantle. In fact, only 22 players have more, including active players Bobby Abreu, Manny Ramirez (technically still active), Adam Dunn, Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod is just 4 away from 2,000, and I had no idea) and Jim Thome (who is now at 2,523, only 74 short of Reggie Jackson's all-time record of 2,597).

Hits: 1,919. Not nearly enough. Doubles: 380. Good number, but hardly enough. Home runs: 432. That's a decent number, especially since he's not a musclebound freak and, as far as I know, has never been accused, credibly or otherwise, of using performance-enhancing drugs. He peaked in 2005, hitting 51 home runs (a Braves franchise record, surpassing the 47 done by both Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews) and 128 RBIs.

If we look only at his hitting, Andruw does not get in.

Baserunning? He stole at least 20 bases in each of his 1st 4 full seasons (1997-2000), but hasn't hit double digits since 2001. No help there.

Fielding? Now we're getting somewhere. He's won 10 Gold Gloves. The other outfielders who have won at least that many are Roberto Clemente (12), Willie Mays (also 12), Ken Griffey Jr., Al Kaline and Ichiro Suzuki.

Ichiro is still active. Griffey doesn’t become eligible for the Hall of Fame until 2016, but barring steroid revelations or a violation on the level of Pete Rose (both are unlikely), he will get in on the first ballot. Clemente, Mays and Kaline were all 1st-ballot Hall-of-Famers – though in each case, their fielding prowess was just a bonus: All 3 are in the 3,000 Hit Club, and between them they hit just under 1,300 home runs.

Other players who have won at least 10 Gold Gloves include Hall-of-Famers Brooks Robinson, Ozzie Smith, Mike Schmidt, Johnny Bench and Roberto Alomar.

Those with 10 or more who are not yet in? Greg Maddux is not yet eligible, but he will get in. Almost certainly, so will Omar Vizquel, who is retiring after this season. Jim Kaat is not in, but should be, and for his pitching, with his fielding being secondary. (Or even teriary, if you consider his broadcasting.) Keith Hernandez is not in, for reasons that only the Baseball Writers Association of America seem to know for sure., a website which is your friend whether you know it or not, has a Hall of Fame Monitor, on which a "Likely HOFer" is at 100. Andruw is at 109, which means he should be in, even if he never plays another game.  But they also have a "Hall of Fame Standards," in which the "Average HOFer" is at 50. Andruw is at 33, which means he falls well short.

They also have "Similar Batters," which is weighted toward position. So center fielders are compared with center fielders, secondarily with other outfielders, and then with all other batters. Their 10 Most Similar Batters for Andruw are Dale Murphy, Jose Canseco, Jim Edmonds, Gil Hodges, Joe Carter, George Foster, Jack Clark, Duke Snider, Paul Konerko and Ellis Burks.

Only one of these is in the Hall of Fame: Snider. But Hodges should be, Edmonds probably should be if you consider his defense, a good case can be made for Murphy, and Konerko is getting close. Canseco shouldn't make it: Even if you didn't know he cheated, I just don't think he has the numbers.

Another measure of "Does this player belong in the Hall of Fame?" is to look at players at his position who are already in, and see how he compares with them.

There are 21 center fielders currently in the Hall of Fame.  

Cool Papa Bell, Larry Doby, Turkey Stearns and Cristobal Torriente were elected on the basis of what they did in the Negro Leagues, although Doby did also play, and star, in the formerly all-white majors. So reliable statistics on them simply aren't available. And Hugh Duffy and Billy Hamilton played in the 19th Century, with enough rule differences to make it a different game, so cut them out. So now we're down to 15.

In chronological order, those 15 are: Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Edd Roush, Max Carey, Lloyd Waner, Earle Combs, Hack Wilson, Earl Averill, Joe DiMaggio, Richie Ashburn, Duke Snider, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Kirby Puckett.

Cobb, Speaker, DiMaggio, Snider, Mantle and Mays are all ahead of Andruw Jones. I think we can all agree on that.  So he's no better than 7th.

Waner, not nearly as good as his Hall of Fame brother Paul, is usually one of the 1st 5 players whose names are mentioned when a fan asks, "Who should not have gotten into the Hall of Fame?"

Wilson is in mainly due to one incredible season, 1930, in which he set a major league record that still stands with 191 RBIs and a National League record of 56 home runs that stood until 1998. If you had to cut 10 names from the Hall, his might be one; if you had to cut 20, he would definitely be out.

But even such long-ago names as Roush, Carey and Averill have stats ahead of Andruw's. And while Reggie had a point about Puckett, that his career stats don't exactly scream "Hall of Fame," he was still a better all-around player than Andruw. Same with 1920s Yankee Earle Combs, who, like Puckett, had to retire early due to injury.

So, if we don't consider other center fielders who might make the Hall of Fame (including Griffey and Jim Edmonds, I don't think Bernie Williams makes it), he's just 15th.

I'd like to say Andruw Jones belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but, unless he keeps going at this pace for another couple of years, my answer has to be No.

Winning a World Series would help: He wasn't yet on the Braves for their 1995 title, so he doesn't have a ring. Winning one as a Yankee -- in his case, two -- hasn't yet helped Tim Raines. It might help Andruw Jones.


ke' stans said...

Why isn't Ken Singleton doing Yankee Broadcasts lately?

Uncle Mike said...

His Twitter feed seems to suggest he's making the roadtrip to the Coast with the team. If anything's up between Ken and YES, or Ken and the club, I'm not aware of it.

I hope nothing's up: He was a pain in the neck as an Oriole player, but he's a fine announcer, a total professional, with none of the histrionics we get from John, Suzyn and Michael. (Or from the dearly departed Scooter.) He's very much in the Jim Kaat tradition, and doesn't presume his audience is full of dunces like Tim McCarver does.