Will David Wright be a Hall of Famer?

David Wright 3Now that all the anger and frustration stemming from last Tuesday’s Baseball Hall of Fame vote has died down somewhat, it’s time for one last article until we pack the topic of Cooperstown away for the next six months.

The purpose of this article, as the title suggests, is not for me to express my outrage that Craig Biggio or Mike Piazza weren’t elected, but rather to review the Hall of Fame resume of Mets captain and third baseman David Wright.

To start, let’s have a look at Wright’s trophy case: In 10 seasons, Wright has seven All-Star Game appearances, MVP votes in six years (including four top-10 finishes, and got robbed in 2007), two Gold Glove Awards and two Silver Sluggers.

He also is a leader in the clubhouse who “plays the game the right way” and has stayed out of trouble to this point.  That will probably count for something with the voting body of the BBWAA.

Now for some more objective analysis: Since the start of the 2004 season, only Albert Pujols (65.0), Chase Utley (54.9) and Miguel Cabrera (54.3) have surpassed Wright’s 50.2 fWAR total.

His career .301/.382/.506 slash line is pretty darn close to the .303/.401/.529 one posted by Chipper Jones, and OPS+ puts him at the top of a category with Hall of Famers John McGraw, George Brett, and Frank “Home Run” Baker.

Jay Jaffe’s JAWS, which averages a player’s career WAR with their 7-year peak WAR (WAR7), has Wright 25th all-time among third basemen (though really 22nd since Edgar Martinez, Paul Molitor and Cabrera are considered third basemen). That places him behind non-Hall of Famers like Dick Allen and Sal Bondo, but ahead of McGraw, Deacon White, George Kell, Pie Traynor and Freddie Lindstrom, all of whom are in Cooperstown.

To better illustrate where Wright currently ranks, consider the following table, comparing Wright to other Hall of Fame third basemen, sorted by their JAWS (eliminating Molitor because he was a DH).

A note: this table uses bWAR as opposed to fWAR which I used earlier.  I did this because the JAWS rankings come from Baseball-Reference, which was giving me troubles when I tried to run the report on players from 2004-2013.  I apologize for the inconsistency.  From here on out I’ll be using bWAR.

1 Mike Schmidt 106.5 58.6 82.6 0.267 0.380 0.527 147
2 Eddie Mathews 96.2 54.2 75.2 0.271 0.376 0.509 143
3 Wade Boggs 90.9 56 73.4 0.328 0.415 0.443 131
4 George Brett 88.4 53.2 70.8 0.305 0.369 0.487 135
5 Ron Santo 70.6 53.8 62.2 0.277 0.362 0.464 125
6 Brooks Robinson 78.4 45.7 62 0.267 0.322 0.401 104
Average HOF 67.4 42.7 55
7 Home Run Baker 62.6 46.8 54.7 0.307 0.363 0.442 135
8 Jimmy Collins 53.3 38.4 45.9 0.294 0.343 0.409 113
9 David Wright 46.6 39.8 43.2 0.301 0.382 0.506 137
10 John McGraw 45.7 39.1 42.4 0.334 0.466 0.410 135
11 Deacon White 45.4 26.1 35.8 0.312 0.346 0.393 127
12 George Kell 37.5 27.8 32.7 0.306 0.367 0.414 112
13 Pie Traynor 36.2 25.6 30.9 0.320 0.362 0.435 107
14 Freddie Lindstrom 28.4 26.3 27.3 0.311 0.351 0.449 110

Of course this table is imperfect because it doesn’t include players likely to be in the Hall of Fame by the time Wright becomes eligible: Jones, Adrian Beltre and Scott Rolen all have strong arguments, and should be enshrined.  Their eventual election will bring up the average numbers a little bit, but that’s not something that we’ll concern ourselves with right now.  As things currently stand, Wright needs to produce at a high level for a few more years before he can be considered a serious candidate.

But just how much Wright will produce over the rest of his career is yet to be seen.  We can try to project that, though.

Using the 5/3/2 approach, where you weight last year’s WAR .5, the year prior .3 and two years ago .2, Wright is a true 5.4 bWAR player.  Considering the circumstances, he is probably closer to a true 6.4 bWAR player (I’ll explain how I got that in a bit).

For fun, let’s run a career progression with both of those numbers and see what we come up with.  Let’s call the 5.4 bWAR projection “Projection 1,” and the 6.4 bWAR projection “Projection 2.”

Tom Tango and Jeff Zimmerman’s research concluded that as a general rule of thumb, a player loses .5 WAR each season from ages 28-32, and .7 WAR every season thereafter.  Since that’s the standard used for an aging curve, we’ll use that.

Year Age Projection 1 Projection 2
2014 31 5.4 6.4
2015 32 4.9 5.9
2016 33 4.2 5.2
2017 34 3.5 4.5
2018 35 2.8 3.8
2019 36 2.1 3.1
2020 37 1.4 2.4
Total WAR Added   24.3 31.3
Projected career bWAR WAR7 JAWS
70.9 42.8 56.9 Projection 1
77.9 45.3 61.6 Projection 2

Comparing the final numbers shows how big the difference in Wright’s career could be, depending on what you believe his true level of play right now is.  Valuing Wright as a 6.4 bWAR player today adds an extra 7 wins onto his career totals through age 37 as opposed to the 5.4 bWAR projection.

If I were to put more stock into one of these projections, I’d trust the second one more.  Considering the nature of his injury in 2011 and how that affected his performance, 5/3/2 weighted average is not fair to Wright’s true abilities as a ballplayer.

Take what Bill Petti wrote on Fangraphs shortly after Wright was signed to his extension last fall.  Going into last season, Wright was considered a true 5.3 fWAR player (4.6 bWAR) by the 5/3/2 methodology.  Wright, of course, put up 6.0 fWAR in 112 games, indicating that his true skill level was underestimated by the 5/3/2 weight.  This is also part of why ZiPS projects Wright as a 4-win player in 2014.

That’s why I prefer the method that got me the 6.4 bWAR value. (If you’re not interested in reading about my methodology, skip the next five paragraphs.)

A fairer way to evaluate Wright’s current skill level would be to use a two year weighted average.  In this case, I used a 6/4 weight, with 2013 being weighted .6, and 2012 getting a .4 weight.  I realize that using a two-year weighted average is unorthodox, but considering the circumstances in this case, I don’t think it’s uncalled for.

This table shows players who had experienced a down year in their prime, then came back and played full time at their previous level.  The sample was taken from the 1995-2010 seasons.  I also wanted players who played a significant amount in year four, so that the projections would be match up better with the actual numbers posted. Players marked with an asterisk (*) did not play enough in year four, so their year five WAR was used instead

Player (Year 1) WAR 1 WAR 2 WAR 3 5/3/2 Model 6/4 Model Actual WAR 4 5/3/2 Difference 6/4 Difference
Jay Bell (1995) 1 2 5.4 3.5 4.04 3.4 0.1 0.64
Jhonny Peralta (2009) 1.1 4.9 2.5 2.94 3.46 3.6 0.66 0.14
Corey Hart (2009) 0.7 3.1 3.8 2.97 3.52 2.2 0.77 1.32
Jack Wilson (2006) 0.6 2.4 1 1.34 1.56 1.9 0.56 0.34
Sean Casey (2002) 0.5 1 3.5 2.15 2.5 1.8 0.35 0.7
David Bell (2000)* 0.4 3.2 3.4 2.74 3.32 3.6 0.86 0.28
Moises Alou (1996) 2 3.3 6.8 4.79 5.4 3.2 1.59 2.2
Jermaine Dye (2003) -2.1 1.9 2.3 1.3 2.14 3 1.7 0.86
Johnny Damon (2001) 1.9 4 2.3 2.73 2.98 4.3 1.57 1.32
Orlando Cabrera (2004) 0.3 3.7 2.7 2.52 3.1 4.7 2.18 1.6
Luis Gonzalez (1998) 1.7 6.6 4.7 4.67 5.46 8.9 4.23 3.44
Tim Salmon (1996)* 1.9 4.6 3.3 3.41 3.82 4.5 1.09 0.680000000000001
Andre Ethier (2010) 1.9 2.7 3 2.69 2.88 2.9 0.21 0.02
Will Clark (1996)* 1.8 3.2 2.8 2.72 2.96 3.8 1.08 0.84
Jose Valentin (1999) 0 4.5 3.3 3 3.78 3.5 0.5 0.28
Bill Mueller (2001) 1.7 2.3 4.5 3.28 3.62 1 2.28 2.62
Nick Swisher (2008) 1.2 2.9 4.2 3.21 3.68 3.4 0.19 0.28
Ray Durham (1999) 1.9 2.7 3.9 3.14 3.42 3.6 0.46 0.18
Mike Lowell (2005) 0.1 2.6 4.5 3.05 3.74 2.2 0.85 1.54
Aramis Ramirez (2002) -0.8 2.3 4.2 2.63 3.44 3.2 0.57 0.24
  Average 1.09 0.976

As we see from the sample, for players with uncharacteristically weak year one WARs, the 6/4 model is 0.12 wins more accurate than the 5/3/2 model.  There is reason to believe that the 6/4 model would be even more accurate than that for Wright because of the stark contrast of his year one WAR to his year two and three WARs.

From a pure WAR standpoint, Wright closely resembles Luis Gonzalez, but of course there’s the steroid question with him that doesn’t exist with Wright, so it’s not a perfect match.  That being said, the 6/4 was .79 wins more accurate than the 5/3/2, a significant value.

So for the rest of this article, I’ll be using the 6/4 model as the basis for my arguments.

So now that that’s out of the way, we can look at what it means.

By the time Wright finishes his age 37 season, he projects to basically have the same value numbers as Brooks Robinson (and perhaps Beltre too, who currently sits at 70.5 bWAR, 46.5 WAR7 and 58.5 JAWS).

At that point, it’s hard to imagine that Wright wouldn’t be a consensus Hall of Famer.  Taking it a step further, if Wright plays until he is 40, he projects to put up an extra 3 bWAR, which would bring his JAWS up to 63.1, a leap that would put him behind Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, Wade Boggs, George Brett and Jones all-time among third basemen.

Given the current trajectory of his career, Wright seems like a lock for the Hall of Fame, but keep in mind that projecting the future of a player is risky business.  There’s no way to tell what is in store for Wright in the future because the game is played by real people on a field, and not by numbers in a spreadsheet.

The numbers only serve as a general average for what we can expect, but some players age like Carlton Fisk, and others like Jason Bay, and there’s no way to tell which one a player will resemble until father time starts working his magic.

But for now, we can say pretty confidently that Wright does have a great chance of being enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Joe Vasile is the voice of the Fayetteville (NC) SwampDogs.  Follow him on twitter at @JoeVasilePBP.

P.S.- Thanks to Tom Tango for guiding me in devising and testing the 6/4 method.

13 comments for “Will David Wright be a Hall of Famer?

  1. eraff
    January 13, 2014 at 9:26 am

    He needs 4-5 more H.O.F. Seasons…. the accumulation stats will probably be there, but he needs some more “big years”

    • January 13, 2014 at 12:25 pm

      I think he needs two more years on a par with last year (hopefully over 150 games rather than 112) and a normal decline and he’s in. He already has five seasons with a fWAR over 5.0 and two more makes a solid 7-year peak. He’s well-liked, has the Captain America nickname and has no steroids taint. If he stays a career Met, I think he ends up being a first-ballot pick.

      • Steve Rogers
        January 15, 2014 at 12:33 pm

        “He’s well-liked, has the Captain America nickname and has no steroids taint.”

        So was Steve Garvey though.

        Right now, no. A few years, putting up stats that tend to look “magical” to voters? Hmmm…

        I’m not sure, I’m going to use the “was he ever considered the best at his position” question, and it doesn’t quite measure up the way Met fans would hope during his career. He has never really been that GUY, like a Brett, Schmidt, or Larry. Yeah he was an AS last year, but how much was that the home town edge? We shall see though.

        • January 15, 2014 at 7:30 pm

          Steve Garvey had 37.8 fWAR in a career that spanned parts of 19 years. Wright has 50.2 fWAR in 10 years so they’re not really comparable.

  2. Scott Ferguson
    January 13, 2014 at 9:33 am

    You have to put into the perspective that he’s a 3B at there aren’t many in the hall. His cumulative numbers will get him there if he stays healthy.

  3. Doug B
    January 13, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Scott Rolen has no chance. You are indicating he should be enshrined. Under that logic, yes Wright would have a great chance.

    But as Rolen is simply not going to be elected, Wright is probably a long shot. His best MVP finish ever is 4th.

    • January 13, 2014 at 12:11 pm

      Rolen won ROY, he was a 7X All-Star, he’s got 8 Gold Glove Awards and a lifetime WAR of 70. He was a two-way star at 3B and if the writers don’t vote him in, it will be a travesty.

      • blaiseda
        January 15, 2014 at 2:47 pm

        Rolen is not HOF caliber. He was a top player for some years. But he wasn’t dominating over a period of years nor almost dominating for many years. He was almost dominating for a short period of years. dont get me wrong Rolen was a great player and i wished he was on the Mets those years he was at his best, but the HOF is the top 1% of players who have played the game. The super eilte. He’s close but not quite. Sorry to say it but at this point, I think David Wright is at that level as well. He’s close, but not elite. If he continues to produce at this level for many more years he has a chance to be a longevity electee.. but it’s slim.

        Chipper Jones… he’s an HOF… I cringed when i wrote that thinking of all those homers that beat us.

        • Joe Vasile
          January 15, 2014 at 3:06 pm

          Scott Rolen is 9th all-time among third basemen in JAWS, and the only guys ahead of him not in the hall are Chipper and Adrian Beltre, neither of whom are eligible. Rolen dominated from 1997 – 2006, and likely would’ve dominated for longer if injuries didn’t catch up to him at the end. But even so, he was a productive player until he retired, and was the best defensive 3B since Brooks Robinson.

  4. Patrick Albanesius
    January 13, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    This article made my brain hurt. It puts in hard terms the fact that Wright is a fantastic player, so kudos. What hurts him is that his buddy Zimmerman snagged two Silver Slugger awards and a Gold Glove between ’09 and ’10, and Wright hasn’t won either since. Like it or not, those honors matter a whole bunch when it comes time to vote. I will now refrain from thinking about this subject until 2025.

    • Joe Vasile
      January 14, 2014 at 11:04 am

      Well who’s to say that he still won’t pick up another one or two of those awards? Also I think that as the older writers stop voting and the newer generation of writers begin casting ballots, those things will matter a little bit less, and things like Career WAR and JAWS will get more weight.

  5. Jim OMalley
    January 13, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    I think the Mets need to get into a couple of post seasons and/or have Wright win a couple of coveted season awards to be a true contender for the hall. Otherwise, he will be just another really good player but not Hall of Fame caliber.

  6. john Rooney
    January 15, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    Chipper Jones-Yes Scott Rolen-No way The vastly under-rated Adrian Beltre-On the bubble David Wright-Too early to say.

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