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November 19, 2013

Pebble Hunting

The Hall of Fame 50 Percent Probability Test

by Sam Miller


I was wondering whether Andrew McCutchen, after winning his first MVP award, was on a Hall of Fame track. So I went to look at what the typical Hall of Famer had at the same age, then realized with shame that the thing I’ve been doing all these years—looking at what the typical Hall of Famer had at the same age—doesn’t make any logical sense. Yes, the average Hall of Famer might have had (X) WARP through age 26, but

  • the average Powerball winner has an IQ of 80
  • the average person with an IQ of 80 does not win Powerball

or any of billions of similar examples that make the point that my way wouldn’t have shown how many non-HOFers at the same level washed out. So if I can’t just look at what the median Hall of Famer had at McCutchen’s age, what can I do? Find the Wins/Age combination at which exactly 50 percent of players (or as close as possible) end up in the Hall of Fame. And then use that to name all the active players who are likely to make the Hall of Fame, times two.

(Definition of terms: We’re using Baseball-Reference’s WAR for this, as WARP is limited to seasons since 1950. We’re ignoring pitchers. That’ll be a post for a different day. And to account for players who are retired and, in my opinion, likely to make the Hall of Fame but ineligible or unapproved yet, I am assigning eight future Hall of Famers into the historical count: Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr, Chipper Jones, Mike Piazza, Frank Thomas, and Jim Thome. Of course, there’s a logical problem with this approach, too, which we’ll get to.)

Age 20
20 of 40 players with at least 2.1 wins through age 20 made the Hall of Fame.
Half-probably Hall of Famers
: Bryce Harper, Manny Machado

Harper’s 9.0 wins are the fourth-most in history; Mike Trout almost certainly surpassed the 2.1-win threshold in a single month at least once during his age-20 season. Machado is solidly into the likely zone, but the names immediately around him are especially distinguished:

Bob Horner marks the lowest limit of probability—that is, he had exactly 2.1 wins through age 20.

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Related Content:  Hall Of Fame,  Cooperstown,  Probability

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Minor League Update: I... (11/19)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Pebble Hunting: Reread... (11/12)
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Premium Article Pebble Hunting: Extrap... (11/26)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Prospect Debate: Meyer... (11/19)

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