Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Is Damon Cooperstown Bound?

We discussed whether the Yanks should bring Johnny Damon back yesterday, and he comes up again today because friend of the blog Josh at Jorge Says No! looked at the same article by Tyler Kepner but was inspired to write a post about a different portion of it; his potential of getting into the Hall of Fame.

Past the part we excerpted, Kepner notes that Damon has been a very well rounded player and has a chance at 3,000 hits:
Only three players have matched Damon’s career totals for hits (2,389), runs (1,459), stolen bases (370), doubles (443), homers (205), runs batted in (981) and batting average (.289). They are the Hall of Famer Paul Molitor and Roberto Alomar and Barry Bonds, who are not yet eligible for Cooperstown.

Damon has only one season with 200 hits — for Kansas City in 2000 — but he has an outside chance at 3,000 for his career. He is 10th in hits among active players, but only two players ahead of him are younger: his teammates Jeter (2,688) and Rodriguez (2,483).
Sure, it sounds pretty impressive that only three players are ahead of Damon in those seven categories, but it's a lot harder to get in the Hall for being good at a bunch of things than it is for being great at a couple. He's got a career OPS+ of 105 as a centerfielder, which tells us that he wasn't especially good at hitting for power or getting on base, and those are pretty important skills to have. Even guys like Bernie Williams and Jim Edmonds have him crushed in that category though they don't have the counting stats to go along. He wasn't any great shakes defensively, either.

Johnny needs 611 hits to get to 3,000 so it's pretty safe to assume he would need to play four more seasons to get there. Will he get that chance? I'm not so sure.

Josh conducts a Keltner List, a set of 15 qualitative questions, on Damon which is the best thing aside from a statistical analysis in terms of evaluating a player's Hall of Fame candidacy. Check out Josh's responses to the questions. I found myself agreeing with most every one.

The biggest variable here is that we don't know how writers are going to treat this era. If just 25% of writers don't vote for anyone who played in the so-called steroid era, well, no one is going to get in. Even if 10% or 15% make that decision, it's going to make it much harder to gain entry. If it was 15 years ago, this would be a much simpler question to ponder.

Chances are, Damon is going to be up for consideration shortly after Ken Griffey, Jr. and Andruw Jones (388 HR, 115 OPS+) and alongside Ichiro and Carlos Beltran and I think all four of those guys have either vastly higher peaks or much better overall careers. Perhaps if he compiles 3,000 hits writers will have a hard time turning him down, but I think Damon will ultimately end up in the Hall of Very Good.


  1. For a guy like Damon, I think it will be very simple. 3,000 hits gets him in. If he comes up short he will be left out. They will not turn away a guy like Damon if he gets 3,000.

  2. You're probably right, Gripp, and that's indicative of how poor the BBWA is at comparative analysis as a whole. There are myriad other factors, but most writers with votes are too lazy to process them and instead would rather be able to point to a big round number and say "YES!".

  3. I think Damon gets a boost also from having at least an 8 year period where he was one of the best leadoff hitters in the game. His durability helped him put be right at the top of the list of a few categories during that time. That is very significant.

  4. That's a good point and one that the Keltner List doesn't address. You couldn't do it for every line up spot, and being the best clean up or #3 hitter would mean you're just one of the best hitters, period. But being a fast guy with good OBP skills and the ability to steal bases is a valuable conbination and all those guys tend to cluster towards the leadoff spot.

  5. All of that being said, I think 3,000 hits might be a long shot for him. While he has proven to be incredibly durable over his career, it is easy to envision him losing a chunk of time over the next few years. Unless of course he puts in a lot of time at DH which is possible.

  6. It is interesting to look at things based on usual line up position. Clearly no one is going to go to the Hall based on being the best #8 hitter ever, but the role of leadoff hitter as on offensive position is just as important as catcher or shortstop or centerfield as a defensive position.

    This is exactly why it's a travesty that Tim Raines is not in the Hall, and why come next January when he's denied induction yet again, I will be authorin a lengthy, angry post here that's chock full of numbers.

  7. Tim Raines should definitely be in the Hall. 808 SBs alone should get him in, but he was consistent. As opposed to Vince Coleman who is just below him on the SB list. His problem is that he was only great for about a four or five year period a la Don Mattingly.