Alfonso Soriano has chance to reach Hall of Fame
BY JOHN GROCHOWSKI For Sun-Times Media July 29, 2013 9:04PM
Updated: July 29, 2013 11:39PM
In his first weekend with the Yankees after he was dealt by the Cubs, Alfonso Soriano hit his 390th career home run. And with 280 stolen bases, he has a power-speed combination that at least has raised whispers about Hall of Fame chances.
He has been a very good player by Wins Above Replacement, but he’s not Hall material. He hasn’t gotten on base enough to take full advantage of his speed, with walks raising his .272 career batting average to an on-base percentage of only .321. A second baseman early in his career and a left fielder later on, Soriano never has been a strong defender. His defensive WAR is on the negative side, at -10.3 for his career.
That has led to a career WAR of 27.0, far short of the 64.9 average for a Hall of Fame left fielder or the 69.5 average for a Hall of Fame second baseman.
But the Hall of Fame isn’t determined by WAR. Among the problems analysts have tackled is projecting how a player’s performance will resonate with voters. The sets of ‘‘best players’’ and ‘‘players elected to the Hall’’ aren’t identical. Some better players are left out, and some lesser ones are elected.
One method for evaluating how electors will treat a player is the Hall of Fame Monitor, a points system devised by Bill James and modified slightly at Baseball-Reference.com. You can find a list of point levels at http://www.baseball-reference.com/about/leader_glossary.shtml#hof_monitor.
A score of 100 indicates a likely Hall of Famer, with 130 said to be a virtual cinch. Four retired players have scores of exactly 100: Hall of Famers Pee Wee Reese and Hack Wilson and non-Hall members Harvey Kuenn and Fred McGriff, though McGriff is still on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot.
Soriano is at 88 and climbing. He has three points for 300 career homers, and that will jump to 10 when he reaches 400. He also has 1,993 hits. When he reaches 2,000, that will add another four points.
He has a reasonably broad base of accomplishments that register on the monitor. He gets points for a 200-hit season, a season with a .300 batting average, four seasons with 100 runs scored and three seasons with 100 RBI. His one 40-plus-homer season and five more with 30-plus add to his total. There are more points on his résumé for seasons of 45- and 35-plus doubles, league-leading seasons in runs scored and steals, All-Star Game appearances and being a regular on World Series teams.
If we assume Soriano reaches 400 homers and 2,000 hits, that would bring his monitor score to at least 99. There, Jim Bottomley is in and Dick Allen is out. At 98, Joe Kelley, Jackie Robinson and Zack Wheat are in, with only Tony Peña out among eligible players.
What the monitor is telling us isn’t that Soriano belongs in the Hall, but that he has done the kinds of things that catch voters’ eyes. He’s no automatic selection, but he has a chance to get there.