Jorge Posada: Is former New York Yankees catcher Hall of Fame worthy?

Jorge Posada is most similar to Brian McCann, per Baseball-Reference.com’s similarity scores. (Wikipedia).

Always overshadowed by bigger names like Mike Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez during his career, one still has to wonder—did Jorge Posada do enough to earn eventual Hall of Fame induction? His performance on the ballot (3.8% in 2018) suggests he didn’t, but there’s always two sides to every story …

I debate myself to find out.

Yes! Posada is a Hall of Famer!

Over the course of his career, Posada hit 275 home runs, drove in 1,065 runs and made five All-Star teams. He won five Silver Sluggers and even finished in the top-ten in MVP voting twice, placing as high as third in the balloting.

His 275 home runs are eighth-most among catchers all-time, while his 1,065 RBI are 11th.

No! Posada is not a Hall of Famer!

While his home run and RBI totals are impressive, there are other catchers who had greater totals who are not yet in the Hall of Fame. Lance Parrish, for example, hit 324 home runs and had 1,070 RBI and he received only 1.7% of the vote in his only year of eligibility.

And Brian McCann, he finished with 289 home runs and only slightly fewer RBI, at 1,018. Even with his seven All-Star selections and six Silver Sluggers, is anyone clamoring for his induction?

Ted Simmons had slightly fewer home runs with 248, but he had over 300 more RBI—and he eclipsed the 2,000 hit milestone, which is something Posada never did. Yet Simmons received less than 4% of the vote in his lone year on the ballot. Though he was was eventually elected by the Veterans Committee in 2020, his long wait indicates Posada and Posada-esque backstops are pushed to the back of the line in Hall of Fame circles.

Yes! Posada is a Hall of Famer!

That may be true, but every other catcher with at least 275 career home runs is in the Hall of Fame. The club includes Ivan Rodriguez (311 home runs), Gary Carter (324), Yogi Berra (358), Carlton Fisk (376), Johnny Bench (389) and Mike Piazza (427).

And outside of Parrish and Simmons, every other catcher with at least 1,065 RBI is in the Hall, or will be heading there, too. That club includes all the aforementioned catchers, plus Gabby Hartnett (1,179 RBI) and Bill Dickey (1,209 RBI).

In addition, Posada has the accolades to his name. Five All-Star selections and five Silver Sluggers is nothing to sneeze at.

No! Posada is not a Hall of Famer!

Good point, however you might notice one thing about all those home run hitting catchers you just mentioned—they each eclipsed 300 home runs, which Posada did not do.

I know in this advanced world of sabermetrics, milestones don’t mean as much, but there are still milestone-minded voters out there and not reaching a mark like 300 home runs (or 2,000 hits) will hurt Posada’s chances of election.

To counter another point, I’m going to invoke the “if X is not in the Hall, then Posada should not be in the Hall, either” argument again.

You mentioned that Posada was an All-Star five times. That’s very good. But what if I said that Elston Howard was an All-Star 12 times and is not in the Hall? Or that Bill Freehan and Del Crandall were All-Stars 11 times each, and have yet to be enshrined?

Fellow Yankee catcher Elston Howard made 12 All-Star Games and isn’t in the Hall of Fame. (Wikipedia).

And, I might add, Lance Parrish won six Silver Sluggers, one-upping Posada.

Yes! Posada Is a Hall of Famer!

Pardon my multi-faceted response here, see if you can keep up. I recognize that Posada never reached any major milestones, however like you said—we are in a more sabermetric era, rightly or wrongly, which means milestones seem to have less and less bearing. By the time Posada is eligible for the Veterans Committee, they may be lent even less credence than they are now.

And in regards to Howard, Freehan and Crandall—while they were All-Stars frequently, they were never the offensive force Posada was. Each of them had offensive Wins Above Replacement less than Posada, per Baseball-Reference.com.

No! Posada is not a Hall of Famer!

What about the point about Lance Parrish? I’ll rebut the rest in a moment.

Yes! Posada is a Hall of Famer!

You bring up Lance Parrish again—I recognize that Parrish was a great player, but even though he had total statistics higher than Posada, does that necessarily make him better than Posada? Or did Parrish just acquire those extra counting numbers because he played longer than the Yankees catcher?

Look at their 162-game averages. Posada averaged 24 home runs and 94 RBI per 162 games, while Parrish averaged 26 home runs and 87 RBI. Plus Posada had a better batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. And OPS. And OPS+.

No! Posada is not a Hall of Famer!

All right, all right. This isn’t an argument about whether Posada is better or worse than Lance Parrish, it’s an argument about whether Posada is a Hall of Fame-caliber player.

Let’s look at Posada through a sabermetric lens, real quick, since you brought that point up earlier. You said that Posada had higher offensive WARs than Howard, Freehan and Crandall, which is true.

Posada’s total WAR, per Baseball-Reference, is 42.7—a number that is relatively low … and that is bested by fellow catcher Gene Tenace, someone I have rarely seen on anyone’s Hall of Fame radar.

Yes! Posada is a Hall of Famer!

First, Gene Tenace spent almost half his career at first base.

More to the point: Yes, his WAR would be relatively low if he hadn’t spent his career as a catcher. But among catchers, his WAR is the 14th best all-time. And once again, while he is bested by a few non-Hall of Famers, all the rest of the players than are better than him are in the Hall of Fame.

No! Posada is not a Hall of Famer!

You keep using Posada’s career statistics as the baseline, the bottom limit, that catchers have to meet to be “Hall of Fame worthy.” But unfortunately, that doesn’t necessarily mean Posada is a Hall of Famer—it just makes him the worst of the best.

Which basically means that if Posada were to be elected, he would be among the bottom-rung of Hall of Fame catchers, with guys like Rick Ferrell (who, by the way, was an All-Star two more times than Posada).

Would Posada be any better a choice than, say, Rick Ferrell—often considered the worst catcher in the Hall? (Wikipedia).

Yes! Posada is a Hall of Famer!

Going by raw counting stats that may appear to be the case, but looking at more sabermetric values like WAR and OPS+, that is clearly not so. (Plus, Posada was a better power hitter than Ferrell and also bested Ferrell in slugging percentage and OPS).

No! Posada is not a Hall of Famer!

You also mentioned earlier that Posada was a better offensive force than Freehan, Crandall and Howard, but that point can easily be countered by the fact that those three were better defensively than Posada. Combined, they won 11 Gold Gloves. Posada won zero. And catcher has historically been a defense-first position.

Yes! Posada is a Hall of Famer!

Accolades, while helpful, don’t mean everything. You must also take into consideration Posada’s postseason performance. He appeared in 125 playoff games and won four World Series rings. He hit .333 or better in five series and hit 11 home runs in his postseason career.

No! Posada is not a Hall of Famer!

World Series victories are very team-dependent—while the number of rings looks nice, it really isn’t a great way of determining someone’s Hall of Fame worthiness.

And, as a whole, Posada hit only .248 and slugged .387 in his postseason career.

Yes! Posada is a Hall of Famer!

Okay, well, Posada also has the benefit of playing for one team his entire career—and what a team it was! The New York Yankees! It’s not often a player sticks around with a single team anymore, and to play so long for the Yankees helps his case too—there is something of an allure to the “Yankees mystique.”

No! Posada is not a Hall of Famer!

Is that all? He played for a popular team? While a pro-Yankee bias might have helped players earn election into Cooperstown, it doesn’t mean they were good enough for the Hall, it’s just that the writers had an affinity for them that extended beyond those guys’ playing abilities. The voters’ inability to judge past players unobjectively shouldn’t effect whether a player should get into the Hall of Fame.

Therefore, I can say with certainty now:

NO! Posada is not a Hall of Famer!

Random notes and musings from the world of baseball, August 30, 2021.

Miguel Cabrera’s run for 3,000 has been as protracted as his run for 500 homers. (Wikipedia).

Miguel Cabrera 3,000 hit watch: With a single yesterday, the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera is just 39 hits away from 3,000 for his career. It’s not out of the question he could get there this season. Assuming he manages no more hits in August, he would need to have his best month since late 2014 to reach the milestone.

Swing and a miss: Rockies outfielder Sam Hilliard has struck out 57 times in 135 at-bats this season—that would translate to 253 in a 600 at-bat campaign. And that’s not even the worst rate among players with 100 or more ABs. Mariners outfielder Taylor Trammell has 75 Ks in 156 of them—meaning he strikes out nearly half the time.

You go, Tsutsugo: Yoshi Tsutsugo has played for three teams this season. With the Rays, he hit .167 in 78 at-bats and with the Dodgers, .120 in 25 at-bats. But things are looking up with team number three. Since joining the Pirates on August 16, he’s batted .333 with 9 hits, 6 runs and 11 RBI. Five of his nine knocks were dingers. Three of his 4 hits this past week left the yard.

The strikeout meme is getting old: Strikeout pitchers were cool once, but not anymore, now that they’re everywhere. The Indians’ Trevor Stephan, as mediocre as they come, had 9 Ks in his past 4 2/3 innings. He has a 4.50 ERA and 101 ERA+ on the year.

Hard to keep ‘em straight: There are three Luis Garcias active in the majors as we speak. The Cardinals Luis Garcia, a veteran relief pitcher, hasn’t allowed an earned run in 19 innings. The Astros Luis Garcia, a young hurler, is 10-6 with a 3.21 ERA this year.  The Nationals Luis Garcia, a top prospect infielder, is hitting .208 in 40 games. A Luis Garcia also played in 1999, and another appeared in 2002.

It seems like just yesterday we celebrated Cal McVey turning a century old. But it was actually almost a century ago. (Wikipedia).

Happy birthday, (really) old guy: Cal McVey, one of the top stars in the old National Association, turns 172 today. Happy birthday, Cal! (He was born in 1849).

A splendid day: It’s also Ted Williams’ birthday. A veritable legend, Williams made 19 All-Star Games; the last man to make that many was Cal Ripken Jr., who retired in 2001. The active player with the most is Miguel Cabrera, with 11.

THAT’S how you pronounce it? Have you ever pronounced a ballplayers surname one way your entire life, just to realize you’ve been saying it wrong the whole time? I recently found out former closer Troy Percival’s surname is pronounced PURR-siv-ull, emphasis on the Purr. I always pronounced it Purr-siv-ALL. Huh.

I’m going to be petty: The Mets have a pitcher named Tylor Megill. No, you don’t pronounce it like “Tyler,” you dummy, it’s “Ty-LOR.” Some clever parents there, weren’t they? This modern trend of slightly altering common names with ridiculous spellings or pronunciations is worse than the one of boys names all ending with “-den” (Aiden, Brayden, etc.). If you’re going to get creative, get creative. Think of something new, or at least combine some words cleverly. I’m going to name my child Albalog, after this blog.

Ramon’s rough year: In 1998, the Devil Rays let pitcher Ramon Tatis take the mound 22 times—despite his atrocious 13.89 ERA. With the fourth-best mark in the league, the club had solid pitching, and the bullpen was especially good—so they had other options. Tatis later posted a 10.72 ERA for the Triple A Columbus Clippers and a 54.00 mark for Japan’s Nippon Ham Fighters in 2000, then a 15.43 ERA for the Mexican League’s Tecolotes in 2003.

Some teams never learn: In 2002, the Devil Rays trotted Jesus Colome out there 32 times … despite his 8.27 ERA. In 2007, Jon Switzer’s 8.05 mark didn’t stop them from using him 21 times, nor did Dana Eveland’s ERA of 9.00 dissuade the Rays from giving him 33 appearances in 2016.

It still happens to this day: The 2021 Cardinals feature star pitcher Tyler Webb (22 G, 13.22 ERA) and the Rockies have Yency Almonte (39 G, 8.36 ERA).

The $64,000 question: Who holds the record for most appearances in a season with an ERA over 8? Believe it or not, it’s happened three times and twice in one year. In 1999, the Marlins Vic Darensbourg and Colorado’s Mike DeJean each pitched 56 games and had marks of 8.83 and 8.41, respectively. In 1995, Bryan Hickerson—who spent part of the year with the Rockies (there seems to be a trend here)—had an 8.57 ERA in as many games.

Tyler Olson is one of only three pitchers with 20 or more innings and a 0.00 ERA in the same year, as well. (Wikipedia).

Enough high-ERA talk: Let’s talk low ERAs. The best mark in a season among pitchers with 20-plus appearances is … 0. In 2017, the Indians’ Tyler Olson didn’t allow a single run in 30 games … then he had a 4.66 ERA in 82 appearances between 2018 and 2019 and hasn’t pitched in the majors since. Earl Moore, a solid Dead Ball Era pitcher, holds the season mark for most innings with an ERA of 0.00, tossing 26 scoreless frames for the Phillies in 1908. He was 163-154 with a 2.78 ERA overall.

The Hall hasn’t called yet, either: From 1904 to 1919 – the span of his career – outfielder Sherry Magee appeared in more games, had more plate appearances, more at-bats, more runs, more doubles, more triples, more RBI, more total bases, more extra base hits and was on base more than anyone in the National League. Second behind him in all those categories? Honus Wagner. Now THAT is impressive.

Greatest fielding pitcher ever? Per Baseball-Reference.com, reliever Luis Vizcaino, who appeared in 543 games from 1999 to 2009, is the only qualifying pitcher with a career of 10 seasons or more to never commit an error. (To qualify, a hurler needs 500+ innings pitched).

Lamenting that deal: You know, I didn’t think the Athletics’ Matt Olson would’ve kept up his hot hitting all year long. In my fantasy league, I traded him with catcher Jacob Stallings and infielder Joshua Fuentes for first baseman Pavin Smith and starting pitchers Zach Eflin and Mike Minor. I’m also 11th out of 20 teams.

He died: I’ve said I don’t want to make this a death blog, so I’m adamant about only announcing the deaths of the most famous players in the game. Also Wang Kuang-hui, who played a few years in Taiwan’s major league, died today.

Darren O’Day is the best relief pitcher of all time. (And, a bunch of other guys were really good, too).

Closers get all the love. They get all the glory. Coming in to finish out a tight game in the bottom of the ninth, all eyes on them, they’re the ones who make the headlines the next day.

But you gotta give credit to the hurlers who got them there to begin with.

That’s the relievers. The setup guys. The long men. In between the starting pitcher and the finisher is the man in the middle, for whom they bestow little recognition or accolade.

Some make All-Star Games. None have won a Cy Young Award.

And it is those pitchers that we’ll be discussing today—the best relievers in the game, not the best closers.

Technically, yes, closing pitchers are relief pitchers, but modern baseball has cast a clear delineation between the two. Nowadays calling a closer a reliever because they both pitch in relief is the same as calling a reliever a starter because they’re both pitchers.

They serve distinctly different roles.

*Even when a reliever serves as an opener, he is still largely acting in the role of a relief pitcher: Tossing one or two innings before surrendering the ball.

For the sake of this piece, to qualify as a reliever rather than a closer, no more than 10 percent of a pitcher’s appearances resulted in a save and 80 percent of his games, at least, had to be in relief. And a pitcher could not have been a team’s primary closer more than two or three seasons. To whittle it down further, I limited it to hurlers with over 500 appearances.

That leaves us with 42 guys.

Among the worst were John Grabow, Shawn Camp and Boone Logan. Grabow and Logan were lefties—ah, what a blessing it is to be sinistral in baseball. While more capable right-handed pitchers around you get cast off, you keep getting job after job after job …

John Grabow somehow lasted nearly a decade in the majors. (Wikipedia).

Grabow made 506 appearances from 2003 to 2011, posting a 4.31 ERA and 99 ERA+, while averaging more than a hit allowed per inning and more than 4 walks per 9. Camp pitched from 2004 to 2014, appearing in 541 games and posting a 4.41 mark; he averaged only 6.1 K/9 IP and allowed nearly 100 more hits than innings pitched. Logan pitched in 635 games from 2006 to 2018, finishing with a 4.50 ERA. His saving grace was his strikeout ability—he averaged nearly 10 per 9 frames, and he did have some good seasons … but a bunch of clunkers, too. Respectively, their Wins Above Replacement, per Baseball Reference, were 1.9, 2.0 and 2.3.

They don’t belong here.

But Jared Hughes, he was pretty good. The quirky hurler with all the goofy headshots spent ten seasons in the majors, until 2020, posting a 2.96 ERA and 138 ERA+ in 542 games. Between 2014 and 2018, pitching for Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and Cincinnati, he had a 2.41 mark in 345 games—and just 9 saves.

Yeah, that’s the kind of guy I’m talking about.

So is submarining Chad Bradford, who during the high-flying 1990s and 2000s, made 561 appearances and posted a 3.26 ERA and 138 ERA+. In his second-to-last campaign, his numbers were 2.12 and 211, respectively. Total saves: 11. Ooh yeah, Chad, you were better than people give you credit for. If they credit you at all.

Pedro Strop was solid, too, posting a 2.61 ERA from 2014 to 2018. From 2002 to 2005, Damaso Marte had a 2.78 ERA and 166 ERA+. Bob Howry had a good run and so did Jason Frasor.

But let’s kick it up a notch. He of the funky motion, Pat Neshek, defied the odds and made two All-Star Games in a career that spanned from 2006 to 2019. After a rocky start in which he missed all of 2009 and had an ERA of 4.40 from 2008 to 2011, he cranked it into high gear and had a 2.64 ERA the rest of the way. In 544 career games, his mark was 2.82; he had just 12 saves.

Starters get credit for the win. Closers seal the win. These are the guys who keep the games winnable.

Injuries cut Jesse Crain’s career to just ten seasons. (Wikipedia).

For 10 seasons, Jesse Crain, who spent most of his career with the Twins, was among the best at doing just that. He began his career with a 2.00 mark in 22 games in 2004 and ended it with a 0.74 ERA and an All-Star selection in 38 games in 2013; he was only getting better, too, improving his ERA each year from 2010 onward; his mark from 2011 to 2013 was 2.10 with a 205 ERA+ in 156 games. A bum shoulder ruined him. He had 4 total saves.

But those 4 saves aren’t even the fewest of the qualifying relief pitchers here. Rather, Ray King, a solid hurler from 1999 to 2008, converted only 2 in 593 games. He wasn’t bad—his career ERA+ was 126—but his services were more valuable as a left-handed specialist rather than a stopper.

We’re not talking solid here, however. We’re talking the best.

Tony Watson, currently of the Giants after beginning 2021 with the Angels, has had a fairly rough go of it this year, to the tune of a 3.77 ERA. That’s almost a full point higher than his career mark of 2.87. From 2013 to 2020, he posted a 2.65 ERA and 149 ERA+ for three teams; his performance earned him an All-Star selection in 2014 and some save opportunities in 2016 and 2017. But because he had no more than 15 in a season—and he has just 32 for his career—Watson earns a mention here.

Only four qualifying relievers have a career WAR of 13 or better—Jeff Nelson, Joe Smith and Steve Reed are three of them.

And it is hard to deny, for the roles they were called upon to fill, they were among the best.

Without Nelson, the Yankees might not have won four World Series. Without Nelson, they might not have gone deep into the playoffs, at all.

The hurler spent 15 years in the majors, five-and-a-half in New York. He made 331 appearances with the Yanks in the regular season, but it is in the postseason where he shined. In 55 October games, he had a 2.65 ERA, averaging more than a strikeout per inning. In 13 of the series he pitched for New York, he didn’t allow a single run; in the Fall Classic, his career mark was 1.69.

Mariano Rivera made the papers. Nelson made the right pitches.

Smith, technically, is still going, but he missed all of 2020 and is having a poor 2021. No matter. From 2007 to 2019, the hurler appeared in 782 games. He was the consummate middle man, finishing only 161 of them and saving just 30. But he also had a 2.98 ERA and a 136 ERA+; he and Reed are the only two pitchers with 800 or more total appearances and ERA+s of greater than 130.

And Steve Reed, he tossed 833 games in his career—more than half with the Rockies!—with marks of 3.63 and 132, respectively. The former number seems a little elevated, but recall, he pitched in the thin Denver air during the 1990s and 2000s, when balls were flying all over the place. Reed owns the most WAR among anyone on this list at 17.8.

But he took more than 830 games to get there.

Including his stunted campaigns, O’Day has had an ERA+ of 200 or more six times. (Wikipedia).

Making over 200 fewer appearances, current Yankees hurler Darren O’Day has just 0.4 less WAR at 17.4. Beginning his career in 2008, O’Day has been nothing but dominant. In his second campaign, he had a 1.84 ERA in 68 games between the Mets and Rangers, and from then until 2015, he posted a mark of 2.07 and a 206 ERA+, averaging more than a strikeout per inning and allowing just 286 hits in 400 1/3 frames. Home runs against him are a rarity, and so are walks, as he allows 0.9 and 2.5 per 9 innings, on average.   

Since 2016, health issues have hampered him, but effectiveness issues have not—he’s averaged 11.3 K/9 IP over the past six years.

He is head and shoulders above anyone else on the list. Neshek had the second-best ERA and ERA+ at 2.82 and 146, respectively. O’Day’s are 2.53 and 171. In WHIP (1.023), K/BB ratio (3.77) and, heck, wild pitches (3), no pitcher bests him.

All that, and he has just 21 saves.

If ever relief pitchers—not closers, not relievers who spent a few years closing, but relievers who spent their whole careers in a non-closing role—begin to make the Hall of Fame, O’Day better be at the front of the line.

You think I’m joking? Dennis Eckersley became a reliever in 1987 and a closer in 1988; in 695 games between those two roles, he had 16.8 WAR. That’s 0.0242 WAR per appearance. Trevor Hoffman averaged 0.0271 WAR per game. Rollie Fingers, 0.0265.

O’Day has averaged 0.0283 WAR per appearance—that’s a rate more than 15 percent higher than Eckersley; it’s better than two other Hall of Fame closers.

Few truly great pure relief pitchers exist today, and they’ve been almost just as rare throughout baseball history. Chad Bradford was good and Jesse Crain, he was great.

But Darren O’Day, well, they don’t get better than him.

Now some less poetic analysis in light of Miguel Cabrera’s 500th dinger. Who’ll be the next to get there?

Miguel Cabrera was the first person to join the 500 home run club since 2015. (Wikipedia).

Miguel Cabrera might be the last man to join the 500 home run club for a while.

Nelson Cruz is, as of this writing, just 57 away, so two Cruzian seasons should, on paper, get him there. However, he’s also 41 with no real skills outside of hitting at this point, so if he struggles, then that will be all she wrote for his chances.

It’s unlikely teams would keep signing him just so he could try to claw his way to the magic number. Should he stumble at, say, 497, someone might give him the opportunity, but outside of that—once he’s done, he’s done.

The demise and departure of another great designated hitter happened within the past year, in fact. Edwin Encarnacion was chugging toward 500 when his bat died last season to the tune of a .157 average. No team signed him and he is stuck at 424 dingers.

He’s still just 38, which for an effective hitter is about 34 in DH years, so a comeback isn’t out of the question. But for a player with a skillset that includes one severely eroded primary skill—hitting—the market is thin.

Nelson Cruz is less than 60 home runs away from 500. (Wikipedia).

Had Encarnacion maintained his pace, he would’ve reached 500 homers in late 2022 or early 2023, meaning he could have gotten there before he was even 40.

So who reaches 500 home runs next if it’s not Cruz? Who knows. No one else has over 340 and no members of the active 300 homer club are under 30 years old.

Giancarlo Stanton, despite his weak past few seasons, has the ability to get there. It’s a matter of whether his body holds up. With 332 home runs to this point, he could reasonably trudge his way to 500, since he did so much when he was young. He helped beat time by getting the bulk of the work out of the way before time could beat him.

Though he’s known as a slugger because of his 59-home run 2017 campaign, the honest reality about Stanton is that his power is very inconsistent. For every year he’s led the league in slugging, he’s posted a mark below .500. Since 2018, he’s slugged .492 and his number has been at or below .500 four of the past six seasons.

Giancarlo Stanton’s power and health have declined in recent years. (Wikipedia).

If he is in the midst of a slow-but-accelerating power decline, and in a cycle of injuries that he, because of age, will likely never fully recover from (save for a rebound season here and there), then 500 dingers might just be a dream.

But if he can find balance and average 20 per season through his early 40s, then he can get there. A move to DH will probably be necessary to facilitate his run to 500. At the earliest, Stanton would join the club in 2026 or 2027.

Robinson Cano is the next-closest batter after Cruz, but he’s 38, has just 334 homers, is out the rest of this year due to a steroid suspension and—if his past six or so seasons are any indication—is in the midst of a steady decline. He’s not reaching the mark.

Neither is Justin Upton, who, though he’s only 33, can’t hit anymore, can’t field and can’t stay healthy. Even if he maintained his pace from his earlier years, 500 home runs would still have been a challenge because, though he had good pop, he was never really a slugger.

Joey Votto, who has never hit 40 dingers in a season, is 37 and more than 170 away. He’s declining, he’s had injury issues. He’s a no.

Evan Longoria—see what I just said about Votto.

Ryan Zimmerman—see what I just said about Longoria.

Then there’s Mike Trout. I’ll be the pessimist and say he’s going to have a hard time getting to 500. If anyone has a chance, it’s him, but after averaging 158 games per year from 2013 to 2016, he hasn’t appeared in more than 140 in a season since. He averaged just 110 per year from 2017 to 2020 and is on the 60-day injured list at we speak.

Mike Trout’s path to 500 could be difficult. (Wikipedia)

He started falling apart when he was 25 and still hasn’t fully put himself back together—tick tock, tick tock, Mike, you’re 30 years old now, the end of your peak is approaching fast.

From this point forward, he could go in one of two directions. The Frank Robinson route is more optimistic. Robinson was traded from the Reds to the Orioles in December 1965 because he was considered past his prime. Reds general manager Bill DeWitt called him an “old 30.”

He went on to hit 262 home runs the rest of the way and finish with 586 dingers.

Or, he could go the Ken Griffey Jr. route. Over the final ten seasons of his career, in his 30s, Griffey averaged just 19 home runs and 57 RBI per year. Albert Pujols also fell off dramatically in his 30s. So did Frank Thomas.

But they all reached 500 home runs, didn’t they? Yes. Griffey and Pujols reached 600, in fact. Pujols, with a little luck, could get to 700.

But neither Griffey nor Pujols nor Thomas had any major issues until they were in their 30s. From age 20 to age 30, Griffey averaged 141 games per year; he averaged 99 after that. From age 23 to age 32, Thomas averaged 147 games per year; he, too, averaged 99 after that. From age 21 to age 32, Pujols averaged 155 games per year; he averaged 121 after that.

Trout, just a couple weeks past his 30th birthday, is already in the after that phase of his career. Though his production hasn’t suffered when he’s been on the field—he still owns a superhuman OPS+ of 185 since the beginning of 2017—the ravages of time will soon, inevitably, take advantage of his injuries.

Eventually the aches and pains will start to affect his play. A peak only lasts so long. The body always wears down, and injuries push that along.

With sluggers, reaching age 30, rampant health issues and a swift decline in performance often correlate. Trout has two of those three already locked in. It’s just a matter of time before they catalyze the other.

Do I think he won’t reach 500 home runs? Well, I didn’t say that. I just don’t think it will be easy. Don’t be surprised if he takes a long, discouraging, Cabrera-esque path to that number. At the earliest, I think he’ll get there in 2030 or 2031.

Moving on.

Freddie Freeman and Paul Goldschmidt are on pace for Hall of Fame careers, but they’re both likely to fall short of 500. They’re good home run hitters, but like Upton, not your prototypical sluggers. Save for Eddie Murray, each member of the 500 home run club slugged at least 40 in a season. Neither Freeman nor Goldschmidt have accomplished the feat.

Anthony Rizzo could be clumped in with those two, but it’s still too soon to say whether he’ll have a Hall of Fame career. But 400 to 450 dingers for him isn’t out of the question.

Bryce Harper is the most likely slugger to reach 500 home runs next. (Wikipedia).

The only other players one can comfortably discuss here are Bryce Harper, Nolan Arenado and Manny Machado.

Harper has the best shot at getting there. He already has a 40-home run season under his belt, has yet to have serious injury issues, isn’t yet 30 and, with 255 dingers to his name, is already halfway to the milestone. Assuming an average decline, he’ll probably make it.

Same with Arenado. He already has three 40-homer seasons, 260 dingers for his career and is just a few months past his 30th birthday—without any major injury issues yet. Even with a somewhat alarming decline in power these past couple seasons, he’s still trending toward 500, but if his power continues to decrease, he might settle somewhere in the 450 range.

Machado’s not yet had a 40-home run season, but his recent health history is top notch and his power consistency is among the best. Not even 30, he could reasonably compile his way to 500 dingers without ever having a truly standout campaign, like Eddie Murray.

More than likely, however, he’ll mirror Fred McGriff, who hit 493 home runs, and finish within sniffing distance of the mark. In fact, per Baseball Reference, one of Machado’s most similar players through age 28 is Adrian Beltre, who fell just 23 home runs shy of 500.

After nine players joined the 500 home run club in the 2000s, including three in 2007 alone, many fans lamented the elite group was no longer so elite, that it was quickly becoming watered down.

Since 2010, however, things have stabilized and just three men—Cabrera, Pujols and David Ortiz—have powered their way into the ranks. Two more players joined in the 1960s than in the 2010s and 2020s, combined.

And a strong potential exists that no new members will join for another decade, at least.

If everything goes right for him, Nelson Cruz should get there in a couple seasons. But he’s 41—one misstep, and he’s done. If his power of old returns and his health doesn’t collapse, Giancarlo Stanton could get there in less than a decade, but his present career swoon puts that into question. If he recovers from his health woes, Mike Trout could get there in five years or he could slog his way there in a decade, or he could completely fall apart. His injury history at so young an age is concerning.

The only player I can comfortably say will reach 500 home runs is Bryce Harper. He has age and health on his side, he’s a true slugger, and he’s yet to show any major decline.

But even that will is tentative. More or less, it’s shorthand for will, barring … As in, he will reach 500 home runs, barring injury (or decline, et cetera).

A few years ago, I would’ve said Stanton will get there; I would’ve said, without considering any X factors, that Mike Trout will, invariably, reach 500 homers. Because, at the time, there were no X factors to consider.

But eventually, that will became well.

Well, he’ll get there if he regains his health, if he recovers his power stroke, if he plays to 40, if he ups his batting average.

If, if, if.

Harper doesn’t have any X factors yet. Once they start cropping up, the projection becomes a little muddier. But, at its core, that’s really all this is right now. Pure projection.

He’s still 245 homers away; between now and 500, anything could happen. One freak injury might end it all. Albert Belle looked like a sure thing for 500 home runs. By 2000, he’d averaged 37 per season for a decade, and he was just 33 that year. But his hip became debilitatingly arthritic and he was forced to retire—with just 381 dingers—after that season.

With milestones, nothing is a given. With 500 home runs, that’s especially so.

So welcome to the club, Miguel Cabrera, enjoy your stay. Looks like you might be the new guy for a while.

Jacob deGrom’s downfall was predictable.

Jacob deGrom’s bout with injuries should come as no surprise. (Wikipedia)

I’m a Mets fan, so you’ll see random posts opining on various Mets minutiae.

But not minute is the ballad of Jacob deGrom. The hurler was the least known of the Big Five that was sure to lead the Mets to years of postseason appearances and World Series victories.

Among Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz, deGrom wasn’t much of a prospect, and hardly anyone predicted his eventual rise to superstardom.

Baseball works in mysterious ways, of course. Harvey crumbled and is now pitching in the baseball hinterland of Baltimore, having gone 21-36 with a 6.13 ERA since 2017. Syndergaard had one really great year, 2016, earning an All-Star selection by going 14-9, 2.60 with 218 strikeouts in 183 2/3 innings – but he’s been hurt, underwhelming or both since, and hasn’t pitched since 2019.

Wheeler wasn’t bad with New York, but he was once a 6th overall pick – yet he pitched no better than a number three starter for much of his Mets tenure. In typical Mets fashion, now that he’s with a division rival, he’s pitching like a Cy Young candidate. And Matz never quite put it all together, sometimes bubbling under greatness before pulling the rug out from underneath our expectations. His Mets career culminated in a 0-5, 9.68 ERA showing in 2020, and the club said sayonara.

Then there’s deGrom, the unassuming 9th round draft pick who didn’t reach Triple A until he was 25, who turned no heads with a middling 4.51 ERA the year before his big league debut, who was already in his age-26 season by the time he pitched for New York.

Yet, he’s the one who became a two-time Cy Young winner. He’s the one who made a bunch of All-Star teams. He’s the one who averages nearly 11 strikeouts per nine innings, who has never allowed more than 59 walks in a season, who is the envy of the league.

All that is surprising, sure. But not shocking is his sudden bout with injuries, and – I hate to say it – his impending, inglorious decline. He is a 33-year-old pitcher who throws a four-seam fastball more than any other pitch, at an average speed of nearly 99 miles per hour. The triple digit barrier doesn’t stand in his way, as 100-plus is a frequent occurrence.

All this on an elbow that already had a Tommy John surgery in 2010. All this on an arm that has been pitching professionally for more than a decade. All this on an arm – and a body – that is quickly exiting its physical peak years and entering baseball senescence.  

Jacob deGrom was 7-2 with a 1.08 ERA this season before getting hurt. (Wikipedia)

Can anyone honestly say they didn’t see this coming? Some of the greatest pitchers of our era, when their decline started, fell off rapidly. Johan Santana rattled off nearly a decade of pitching magnificence, just to get hurt, miss a year, and be out of baseball one year after that. Brandon Webb made three All-Star appearances in a row, got hurt, pitched one more game, and was done. Roy Oswalt was humming along, until he wasn’t. After his age-33 season, he was just 4-9 with a 6.80 ERA, and that was it.

Santana collapsed after his age-31 campaign; Webb after age 29, Tim Lincecum after age 27, Roy Halladay after age 33.

deGrom will be no different. His demise is forthcoming, and it won’t be pretty. It won’t be enjoyable. Mets fans will be set to wonder what could have been.

Now, he could mount a late-career comeback. That’s not an impossibility, either. Dennis Martinez had a disastrous swoon, then returned to pitch over 2,000 innings and win 134 games. Swoon, too, did Bartolo Colon, and the legend of Colon is one that will live on in baseball lore for generations. He returned from baseball’s no-man’s land to toss nearly 1,400 frames, win almost 100 more games, and endear himself to sports fans the world over. Even CC Sabathia managed the feat – saving his Hall of Fame chances by doing so – pulling himself from his career’s nadir and tossing nearly 600 more innings.

But Martinez, Colon, Sabathia – sure at points they had passable fastballs, but none of them were flamethrowers. DeGrom is. He throws – or threw, whether he’ll continue remains to be seen – smoke … and the hotter you throw, the quicker you burn out.

Therefore, a crafty deGrom redux, with his injury history, his style of pitching, his advanced age, doesn’t seem likely.*

*But there is hope, still, as Frank Tanana went from throwing fire to tossing junk. But he made the transition in his mid-20s, not his early-to-mid 30s.

What does the future hold for deGrom? We can hope for the best. But a Hall of Fame ending doesn’t seem likely – his seven-year peak from 2015 to this year pretty well mirrors Santana’s from 2002 to 2008. Assuming deGrom returns a shell of his former self, and in the long run I think he will, his fate with Cooperstown will be the same as Santana’s.

Santana received 2.4 percent of the vote in his first and only year of eligibility. A player needs 75 percent to get in.

Appreciate what you have when you have, I guess, because before you know it … it’s gone.