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Blue Jays: Are Russell Martin and Troy Tulowitzki Hall of Fame bound?

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 17: Troy Tulowitzki
OAKLAND, CA - JULY 17: Troy Tulowitzki /
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How well do Russell Martin and Troy Tulowitzki have to perform in the future to be seriously considered for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame?

Much has been written and will be written about how the Blue Jays will do in 2018. Most people would agree that, if the Blue Jays are going to contend in 2018, Russell Martin and Troy Tulowitzki need to rebound from their respective 2017 seasons. Can these players rally enough to get back onto the Hall of Fame track?

Instead of the usual forecast based on recent seasons, ZiPS and Steamer projections, and/or Ouija boards, how about something completely different? Let’s look at the next five seasons for Martin and Tulowitzki and project what bWAR they would each need to produce in order to be a serious candidate for Hall of Fame induction. Even we nattering nabobs of negativism would be happy if these bWAR projections came true. At the very least, we may come to appreciate how much these players have accomplished to date. Hey, it’s Hall-of-Fame-voting season so why not get in the spirit?

This analysis will use the JAWS methodology developed by Jay Jaffe. Martin and Tulowitzki were chosen for this exercise because they both have had very good careers to date and their track record is long enough (12 seasons each). I arbitrarily selected five more seasons on the basis that each would have had a 17-season career, which seems Hall of Fame-ish. The projections for each were manipulated to generate a career bWAR that at least equaled the average career bWAR of a Hall of Famer for their respective positions. Finally, I incorporated the FanGraphs age-decline factor for WAR projections.

The Canadian Catcher’s Cooperstown Case Calculation

Martin has compiled an impressive baseball resume to date: 4 All-Star games; 3-time, top-25 in MVP balloting; and 2-time, top-10 in league bWAR. These facts are noteworthy but do not cry out “Johnny Bench!”. His career-to-date bWAR is 36.5, which ranks 27th all-time for MLB catchers. For the 15 catchers elected to the Hall of Fame, the averages are as follows: bWAR – 53.4; WAR7 – 34.4; and JAWS – 43.9.

What does Martin have to do for Hall of Fame consideration?

The projection below is the bWAR that Martin needs to produce in 2018 through to and including 2022 if he is to match the average career bWAR of the current Hall of Fame catchers.

With this level of production, Martin’s career bWAR would be 53.4; his WAR7 would improve to 31.2 from 27.6. His JAWS figure would rise from 32.1 to 42.3.

How does future Martin compare to modern-day Hall of Fame catchers?

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Of the modern-day Hall of Fame catchers (Bench, Gary Carter, Ivan Rodriguez, Carlton Fisk, Mike Piazza, and Yogi Berra), Fisk had the highest cumulative bWAR (10.5) during his 35 to 39-age seasons. Furthermore, no other players on this list exceeded a cumulative bWAR of 6.0 during their respective 35 to 39-age seasons. Martin’s season-average bWAR over the past 3 seasons is 2.2. Therefore, based on the record of modern-day Hall of Fame catchers in their mid to late 30s, and Martin’s performance as a Blue Jay, it is not likely that he will generate enough future bWAR to be a serious candidate for the Hall of Fame.

Troy Tulowitzki’s Tally Target

Many fans were thrilled to see Tulowitzki become a Toronto Blue Jay in July 2015. First of all, Tulo had finished in the top 10 of MVP voting on 3 occasions; second, he was a 5-time all-star; and third, he had amassed a cumulative bWAR of 39.0 before the age of 31. Tulowitzki’s record was looking like that of a future Hall of Famer. Alas, in his two-plus seasons with the Blue Jays, Tulo’s cumulative bWAR is a disappointing 4.8. He currently ranks 26th in terms of all-time bWAR for MLB shortstops.

There are 21 players elected to the HOF as shortstops. Their average bWAR, WAR7, and JAWS are 66.7, 42.8, and 54.8, respectively.

What does Tulo have to do for Hall of Fame consideration?

The projection below is the bWAR that Tulo needs to generate during the next 5 seasons if he is to at least match the average career bWAR of the current Hall of Fame shortstops.

With this level of production, Tulo’s career bWAR would be 66.8; his WAR7 would improve to 42.5 from 40.0. His JAWS figure would rise from 41.9 to 54.7.

How does future Tulo compare to modern-day Hall of Fame shortstops?

Of the modern-day Hall of Fame shortstops (Cal Ripken, Robin Yount, Ernie Banks, Ozzie Smith, Alan Trammell, Barry Larkin, and Luis Aparicio), Smith had the highest cumulative bWAR (27.6) during his 33 to 37-age seasons. No other players on this list exceeded a cumulative bWAR of 17.4 during their respective 33 to 37-age seasons. Furthermore, Tulo’s season-average bWAR over the past 3 seasons is 2.1. Hence, Tulo is unlikely to create enough future bWAR to be a probable inductee into the Hall of Fame given the history of modern-day Hall of Fame shortstops in their mid-30s, and Tulo’s recent performance.

The last word

Oh well, it looks like that neither Martin nor Tulo will have Hall of Fame careers. Nevertheless, if either of these two players can produce a bWAR figure anywhere near those shown for 2018, the Blue Jays and their fans would be very happy.

It is notable that the projected five-year bWAR figures for both players are not ludicrous, albeit not probable. This demonstrates that Martin and Tulo have had careers for which they should be proud. Tulo, in particular, was more Hall of Fame-worthy than Martin when he joined the Blue Jays. For Tulo, only the noted 2018 figure would be included in is projected WAR7 figure. In other words, Tulo’s 6-best bWAR seasons occurred prior to 2018; in Martin’s case, his projected WAR7 includes 3 of the post-2017 projected seasons.

Next: Blue Jays: 12 predictions for the upcoming year

Perhaps Martin and Tulo will not be elected members of the Hall of Fame but they have been among the best at their positions during their playing days. We fans should remember that from time to time.

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