Are Bobby Abreu and Scott Rolen Hall of Famers?

At Baseball Nation, Grant Brisbee searched for the next Lou Whitaker — as he put it, “the player that seems like a no-doubt Hall of Famer to us nerds right now, but who will fade from the collective memory of voters during the five-year grace period, possibly dropping off the ballot in the first year.”

Brisbee cites several examples, two of which are former Phillies: third baseman Scott Rolen, and right fielder Bobby Abreu.

At Adam Darowski’s Hall of Stats, which ranks Hall of Fame players, Rolen comes in as the seventh-best third baseman behind Brooks Robinson and ahead of Ron Santo, both Hall of Famers. As Brisbee notes, Rolen’s case is hurt from being hurt. From 2005 to 2012, Rolen’s last season, he accrued 500 or more plate appearances in a season once. Among the 11 third basemen in the Hall of Fame, Rolen’s 8,518 PA would rank seventh, so it isn’t as if there is no precedent for player’s with comparatively smaller amounts of playing time getting inducted. Rolen’s 70.0 WAR, per Baseball Reference, would also rank seventh of the 11 Hall of Fame third basemen.

Rolen only had one elite season, a 9.1 WAR output with the Cardinals in 2004. He crossed 5 WAR only three other times. However, Rolen played in 17 seasons and was above average in 11 of them. Hall of Fame candidates usually get in on the merits of peak (a la Sandy Koufax) or longevity; for Rolen, his case is clearly dependent on the latter.

As for Abreu, playing time was never an issue. He retired just 74 PA shy of 10,000, playing in at least 150 games and logging 650 PA per season well into his mid-30′s. Darowski’s Hall of States rates him as the 21st-best right fielder, behind Bobby Bonds and ahead of Ichiro Suzuki. Of note, he is also ever so slightly behind Vladimir Guerrero, Dave Winfield, Gary Sheffield, and Sammy Sosa.

Unlike Rolen, Abreu never had an elite season, peaking at 6.6 WAR in 2004. However, he was incredibly consistent, crossing 6 WAR four times and finishing between 5-6 an additional three times. He graded out as an average defender overall, per B-R, but was saved by playing in the American League for the final 5.5 years of his career, looking past a short stint with the Dodgers before he faded out of baseball.

Brisbee suggests Rolen could fall off the ballot in his first year of eligibility, which would happen if he receives less than five percent of the vote. He expects Abreu to linger around for at least a few years before eventually falling off. It’s hard to disagree with that forecast. Despite as many as four or five players getting elected into the Hall of Fame this year — with the 133 ballots publicly released as of this writing, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, and Craig Biggio would get in while Mike Piazza is on the fringe — the Baseball Writers Association of America has typically been stingy about inducting players. No one was elected last year; only Barry Larkin made it in 2012; Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven got the nod in 2011; Andre Dawson made it in 2010; and Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice were enshrined in 2009, just to name some examples.

The current ballot is jam-packed with worthy candidates. Aside from those already named, there’s Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina, and Alan Trammell, among others. Tons of big names will join the ballot in the coming years, such as Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz in 2015, and Ken Griffey, Jr. and Jim Edmonds in 2016. It will be very easy to come up with ten candidates and everyone’s ballot will have at least a few honorable mentions. As a result, it is difficult to see either Rolen or Abreu getting the requisite 75 percent of the vote to earn induction into the Hall of Fame.

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21 comments

  1. LTG

    January 06, 2014 03:40 PM

    What counts as an elite season? I would have thought Rolen’s 1998 season would be one.

  2. keep on rolen

    January 06, 2014 04:16 PM

    the article mentions abreus average defense but doesn’t mention rolens (i assume) elite defense. I would like to see his offensive stats compared to the other 3b inductees as well as how he ranked defensively against the brooks robinsons, Bretts, and Schmidts.

  3. SteveH

    January 06, 2014 04:52 PM

    Without looking at stats I’d say Rolen should be in and Abreu no.

  4. Dsceee

    January 06, 2014 06:45 PM

    Rolen’s strong defence will help him, but all those injuries will hurt, as will no stretch of outstanding seasons at the plate. Not slugger, not a hitter, not an OBP guy even. I expect him to make it one year, gone year 3 likely. Abreau I’d expect to fall off in year one, as he was a decent player but no more. He had no outstanding qualities; OK power, OK average, OK OBP, OK defence, one GG, one SS, no top 10 MVP, WAR is nice to him but he was average, solid, never great. A solid but never great player. What makes him famous, great? Nothing. He wasn’t a guy who drew fans to the park, even, while Rolen did sometimes. A Hall of fame candidate needs to be great for at least a few years, draw in fans, be outstanding at his position. Rolen at least had defence. It’s not the Usefull hall of fame, after all.

  5. Dsceee

    January 06, 2014 06:48 PM

    To add, maybe if Rolen gets a push for his D he could stay on for more years. 25 HR and 102 RBI’s per 162 aren’t bad. Not great, but not bad.

  6. jerome

    January 06, 2014 07:37 PM

    I think Rolen will get in, but it will be a slow climb. Abreu probably won’t, as his case is largely built on OBP (only 287 HR and under 2500 hits). See Edgar Martinez for a good comparison. Martinez was better with OBP but is hurt by being a DH.

  7. Pat

    January 06, 2014 10:44 PM

    Bill – Assuming you’re using rWAR, Rolen should have credit for a 6.5 and a 5.2 WAR season that I think you’re missing. Baseball reference splits up his 2002 and 2009 season between multiple teams. That does help him a bit in the analysis of his peak. One elite year, two more seasons with 6+ WAR, and an additional three years topping 5 WAR probably makes his peak high enough to deserve to get in (not that I think he’ll be voted in anytime soon.

  8. sweatingisnormal

    January 07, 2014 02:14 AM

    Rolen & Abreu? I remember when the HOF meant something. Damn you Jim Rice & Andre Dawson…

  9. edwin

    January 07, 2014 07:11 AM

    Well there you have it. Both these guys were good and sometimes really good players, but were they exceptional? I think we know the answer to that one.

  10. Scott G

    January 07, 2014 08:48 AM

    Dsceee,

    Not making a case for Abreu for HOF, but “OK OBP”? I went on fangraphs and sorted all plays from 1950-2013, and of the 2233 results, Abreu ranked 35th.

    Narrowing further, if you remove players from that time frame with fewer than 6000 PA, he ranks 23rd of 386. I’d say he’s more than an “OK OBP” guy.

    As a side note, Ozzie Guillen was permitted to have 7133 PA with a triple slash of .264/.287/.338. He accumulated a total of 13.1 career fWAR.

  11. KH

    January 07, 2014 12:46 PM

    Both guys are just out as far as I am concerned. I personally believe Rolen, when healthy, was a HoF caliber player, so maybe as time goes by I could be persuaded he was a HoF. 70 is a lot of WAR for a third baseman. Abreu is close but not cigar. A couple more big seasons might have put him in. 60 WAR is right at the borderline for the HOF imo and he only has about 50 bWAR although I believe Baseball Reference over-states how bad he was on defense imo I don’t believe he was a -10 WAR player on defense for his career I feel he was about a washout on defense.

  12. Ryan

    January 07, 2014 12:58 PM

    Abreu’s a player who statheads love (king of OBP!!), but traditionalists hate due to his laid back attitude and supposed lack of hustle or willingness to impale himself on the outfield wall Aaron Rowand-style.

    He’s definitely borderline–even statheads have to admit this. I doubt that he’ll get in unless a lot of the voters die though, because they’re traditionalists for sure.

  13. Phillie697

    January 07, 2014 02:04 PM

    @Dsceee,

    ” Abreau I’d expect to fall off in year one, as he was a decent player but no more. He had no outstanding qualities; OK power, OK average, OK OBP, OK defence, one GG, one SS, no top 10 MVP, WAR is nice to him but he was average, solid, never great.”

    A career .396 OBP is just OK in your book? With that kind of a “standard,” why should Rolens make it past year 1?

  14. Dsceee

    January 07, 2014 06:17 PM

    Was Abreau a leadoff hiter? No. His OBP has to be taken in context. Having one decent stat (OBP) without great run scoring is pretty much saying he was, at best, a one trick pony. Still, to be a HoF player don’t you think you have to play some great ball, not just decent? And Abreau didn’t play great, just decent. Statheads overrate him.

  15. Phillie697

    January 07, 2014 06:36 PM

    @Dsceee,

    No one is disputing that he isn’t a HoFer; I agree with you there. I’m just saying to try to make yourself sound more convincing by saying he had just an “OK” OBP is misrepresentation.

  16. MikeA

    January 07, 2014 08:49 PM

    Abreu and Rolen were solid players, but hardly HOF worthy. That shrine should be reserved for standouts who exhibited greatness.

    This isn’t the Rock N Roll HOF where everyone gets in at some point because they’re running out of options. It’s the BASEBALL HOF and there’s a new crop of qualified players on the ballot every year.

    Rolen and Abrue were both “plus” players, but hardly exceptional icons.

  17. Christian Camlin

    January 08, 2014 01:06 PM

    Funny thing as a fan I have always considered milestones like 100 RBI’s or 100 runs scored important.Bobby Abreu at his peak was a machine of production.The Guy drove in 100 runs 8 times including a 7 Straight seasons.He also scored 100 runs 8 times.But he actually had a period where he scored 98 or more runs in 10 straight seasons.Abreu drove in 1,349 runs and scored an astonishing 1,441 runs.Yeah his 287 homers won’t ring anyones bell but he has 565 doubles and 59 triples to go with it.There are quite a few guys in the Hall of Fame who were less skilled than Abreu.Bobby never looked like a million dollars.His talent was getting runs across the plate.Which is why it is ridiculous to me that all these arm chair managers who go by their gut feeling instead analyzing and comparing his numbers think Abreu is not a Hall of Famer.Abreu was definitely a jack of all trades but he did almost everything well.And some things like getting on base and driving in & Scoring runs way above average.

  18. Dsceee

    January 08, 2014 07:06 PM

    That’s OK, Phillie697. No harm, no foul. Frank Thomas, that’s an exceptional OBP. And Edgar Martinez too. My opinion, of course, nothing more.

    As to the HoF ballot, if I had votes this year, Raines, Mussina, Bagwell, Biggio would be in besides the three that got in. Maybe even Walker, but I’d vote for him; insane that Raines doesn’t get the love. E. Martinez and Schilling I’d likely vote for, Lee Smith too, but not expecting them to get in.

  19. GB

    January 10, 2014 01:19 AM

    Abreu (at least spell his name right if you’re going to insult him) was FAR from a one trick pony…his great plate discipline and OBP was definitely his calling card, but he had alot of tools…was a good base stealer and runner, had a very strong/accurate arm, could hit for power, always had a good number of RBI and was a team guy despite all the bs some fans/media members ripped him for…he played the game very well and even more importantly was healthy consistently and thus productive for his team consistently…is he or Rolen a HOF player? I say no, they fall just short, but both should be on the Phillies WOF and are among the best Phillies of the last quarter century easily. Watching the current and recent past Phillies flail away at the plate and get themselves out made me yearn for Abreu & Rolen many a game…

  20. Eric DeBoskey

    January 13, 2014 11:18 AM

    Abreu has an AMAZING career. I often talk baseball with friends and co workers thru texts and one thing is like to do is talk about Abreu and the numbers he’s put up. Looks at these numbers:

    He’s hit over .300 6x in his career (.314, .335, .316, .308, .300, .301) hitting over .285 5 other times (Not counting the seasons over .300)

    OBP’ed over .400 8x, with a career OBP of .396.

    Hit 30 plus doubles in 12x (career total 565)

    He’s scored 100 runs or more 8x (and 2 seasons of 98 and 99)

    Hit 20 plus HRs 9x (287 career)

    8x over 100 RBI’s

    20 plus SBs 13x (399 career)

    8x over 100 BBs

    OPS over .850 12x, over .900 6x (.873 career)

    Someone said “was he a leadoff hitter” well obviously he wasn’t but he should have been.

    I don’t care that this is the PED era . . . look at the seasons he’s put up . . he puts up numbers across the board; Average, Power, Speed. I actually think he is the most underrated player in the past 20 years.

  21. KING

    July 19, 2014 08:34 PM

    I think Abreu & Rolen will both make the Hall of Fame. Rolen was regarded as one of the best all around 3B men for a good 5 year stretch. Abreu reminds me of Carlos Delgado. Just beautiful career numbers across the board. Not far from 2500 hits.

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