Andruw Jones And The Hall Of Fame


Greetings from Southeast Michigan where the denizens are all licking their wounds from the vicious beatings that the two marquee college football teams in the state (The University of Michigan and Michigan State University) took on New Year’s Day. As a U of M alum, all l can say is that I am closely monitoring the wire services and Twitter for mentions of Jim Harbaugh and Rich Rodriguez.

But on to the topic at hand: former Brave Andruw Jones and the Hall Of Fame. In case you missed it, their is a bit of a firestorm brewing, started by this article that basically states that Andruw and Derek Jeter are very comparable candidates for induction based on the currently “Hot” advanced metric of WAR (Wins Above Replacement). In truth, I think the author (Dave Cameron) sought out this case as an example of how divergent some of these new metrics are from “conventional wisdom”. He further states that he doesn’t think Andruw will even get the 5% of votes cast needed to stay on the HOF ballot. This prodded me to take a look at Andruw’s case for induction.

I guess WAR is as good a place to start as any. Andruw currently stands at 70.5 WAR for his career (for reference, Jeter is at 70.4 for his career). For those of you not familiar with the metric, it basically attempts to quantify the total value a player contributes to his team, both offensively and defensively, in comparison to the fictional “replacement” player, basically a “scrap heap” guy that can be found anywhere for the league minimum salary. A more in-depth discussion, if you’re interested, can be found here. Despite rumors to the contrary, Andruw’s career is not over, either. Even in part time roles, he has continued to post positive WAR numbers the past two seasons. And he’s still only 33 years old. With another 5 or 6 seasons to play, he’ll likely rack up another 5-10 wins on this metric. At that point you’re in pretty rarified air.

Where to look next? I guess spending a moment on defense is appropriate. Lest we forget, Andruw won 10 straight Gold Gloves. I don’t know how many center fielders have done this, but I strongly suspect I could count them on one hand. Shoot, I’m not sure I’d have to take off my shoes to be able to count the players at all positions who have accomplished this “feat” (couldn’t resist the pun; sorry!). When both the players and the stat-heads put a player’s defense at an elite level, I think you have to take notice.

Going back to the offensive side for a moment, how many of you realize that Andruw has hit 407 home runs? Even in part-time roles he’s hit 36 dingers in the past two years. That’s a HR every 16 AB’s, which is better than his career rate. That’s also better than Eddie Murray’s career rate. Or Stan Musial’s. Or Mel Ott’s. It’s better than many Hall-Of-Famers. Do you realize that, barring major injury, Andruw has a good chance of hitting 500 homers? And that he’s done it without the benefit of steroids?

He also has other singular accomplishments. He has a 50 HR season to his credit. He hit 2 homers in his first World Series game — at age 19, no less! He was the second-youngest player to reach 300 home runs. He has made 5 All-Star teams. He’s been runner up to the MVP. He’s had 5 seasons of 100+ RBI’s as a center fielder (and 9 seasons of 90+, eight of them in a row). He’s a member of the 20-20 club. He has made a career of highlight reel catches. He was durable, playing at least 153 games nine straight seasons.

On the not-so-positive side, he’s seldom hit for average. He’s perfected the art of swinging at breaking stuff in the dirt. And he’ll forever be marked by his epic meltdown in LA (he might have earned about $500,000 a hit for the Dodgers!). Even with all this, though, he’s still put up an OBP of .338, an OPS of .826, and an OPS+ of 111 for his career. And Baseball-Reference shows Dale Murphy and Reggie Jackson as his most similar players.

So, what do you think: will Andruw be the only non-steroid-tainted player to hit 500 home runs and not be elected to the hall? Will he be able to exceed the 5% of the votes needed to stay on the ballot? What’ll he need to do (if there’s anything he can do) over the rest of his career to make the Hall? Can his combination of power and defense make up for his shortcomings? I personally think that he’ll get the same credit for his defense as Dale Murphy gets for character, and will probably get about the same vote totals.