Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Joe Mauer and the Hall of Fame Monitor

What does taking Joe Mauer out from behind the plate
do to his Hall of Fame chances?
Another post extrapolated from revisiting Bill James' 1994 book on the Hall of Fame ...

When the Twins announced this winter that Joe Mauer would no longer catch, one aspect that got a limited amount of discussion was that this was a heavy blow to his Hall of Fame prospects. My reaction was that this was nonsense: Mauer, I thought, has done the heavy lifting for the Hall. End his career now, a la Kirby Puckett, and he's in, even with just the minimum of 10 seasons.

James (of course) has an objective way to measure how an active player stands, which he calls the Hall of Fame Monitor. The player gets points for each accomplishment. A player with 100 points is likely to get in; a player with 130 or more is a lock.

Mauer tracks at 92.5 right now.

It breaks down this way:

  • 2.5 points for each season of hitting .300, 5 points for each season of .350 (100 or more games). Seasons aren't double counted. Mauer has one over .350, five others over .300, total of 17.5.
  • No points for seasons of 200 hits, 100 RBIs or 100 runs. He has none.
  • No points for 30-plus home run seasons. He has none.
  • Three points for three seasons of 35 or more doubles, running total 20.5.
  • Eight points for his 2009 MVP award, total 28.5.
  • 18 points for his six All-Star games, total 46.5.
  • Six points for his three Gold Gloves at catcher, total 52.5.
  • Six points as the regular catcher on three division-title teams, total 58.5.
  • 18 points for three batting titles, total 76.5; no other points for league-leading stats.
  • No points for career totals in hits or homers. (Those points start kicking in at 2,000 hits and 300 homers; Mauer is at 1,414 and 105 respectively.)
  • 16 points for a career batting average above .315 (.323); this obviously can change, but for now it's a total of 92.5.
  • No points for career longevity at catcher; Mauer has 920 games behind the plate, and he would need at least 1,200 to get any points here.

There is an acknowledged arbitrariness to this system, but (a) it does identify the things that the Hall has traditionally honored and (b) walks the line of acknowledging Mauer's accomplishments as a catcher without going overboard.

The position shift obviously cuts off his chances for the career longevity points at a prime defensive position. It likely hurts his chances for further points for Gold Gloves and All-Star Games. If it keeps him in the lineup 150-plus games a year — something he has never done as a primary-position catcher — he may well start getting points for 200 hits, 100 RBIs, 100 runs. (He's had three seasons in the 90s in the run and RBI categories, one season with more than 190 hits; these get him nothing in the Monitor). He's entering his 30s now, but he's doing so at a less physically demanding position.

Mauer is close already to the 100-point mark. A few more .300 seasons with his usual doubles production, and he'll be there. What he loses from not being a catcher, he can probably regain from NOT being a catcher.

He's going to the Hall.


  1. If he does not have the bad luck of an injury that limits his career.

  2. Keen analysis. I think you wanted your spot-on concluding sentence though to read...

    "What he loses from being a catcher, he can probably regain from NOT being a catcher."