Bobby Abreu, Lance Berkman and the Hall of Fame

“I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night. Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’ Ah, that’s the great puzzle!”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Who are Bobby Abreu and Lance Berkman in the context of the greatest to have ever played?  Both players will likely fall short of election to the Hall of Fame when they become eligible over the next few years.  While they  enjoyed prolific careers, neither achieved any of the standard thresholds that can ensure enshrinement.  Here’s a rundown of each player’s career and why they will fall short.

Bobby Abreu amassed 2,470 hits, 288 HRs, 1,363 RBIs, 1,453  Runs, 400 SBs to go with a career BA/OBP/Slug line of .291/.395/.475.  Abreu’s strong on-base skills and decent power combined with 400 steals led to a career WAR of 59.9.

To put his numbers into perspective, he lands somewhere between the newly-minted Hall-of-Famer Tim Raines and Garret Anderson.  Raines’ numbers are quite similar to Abreu’s with the exception of twice as many steals and about 118 fewer HRs.  In fact, Raines’ career WAR of 69.1 isn’t too much higher than Abreu’s.

The other comparable, Garret Anderson, enjoyed a more modest career WAR of 25.6 by matching Abreu in most counting stats, except he had fewer runs, one-fifth of the steals and a mediocre .324 career on-base percentage.  While Anderson isn’t generally considered in the Hall of Fame discussion, he did have a lengthy and productive career that at least deserves a glance.  What is most striking about Abreu is that his career WAR more than doubles Anderson’s and is within 10 of Raines.

What keeps Abreu out of the Hall?

  • Raines wasn’t an automatic member, as he spent a decade on the ballot before finally making it.
  • While his career WAR is close to Raines’ and well above Anderson, he is close to Bernie Williams (49.4) and Luis Gonzalez (51.5), who are both not likely to be enshrined despite great careers.
  • He was really good for a long time, but was ever considered one of the best?  He never appeared in the top 10 for MVP voting and made it to 2 all-star teams.  I don’t generally value awards as a measure of hall-worthiness, but HOF voters do.

Bobby Abreu could have been part of a dynamic outfield with Lance Berkman in Houston had he not been drafted by Tampa Bay in the expansion draft and then sent to Philadelphia for Kevin Stocker.  Berkman had a more potent career than Abreu, but lacked his longevity, so his career numbers appear to be inferior.  For his career, Berkman totaled 1,905 hits, 366 HRs, 1,234 RBIs, 1,146  Runs, 86 SBs to go with a career BA/OBP/Slug line of .293/.406/.537.  The question for Berkman will be whether he did enough in his 15-year career and was he regarded as one of the best during his best days. Six top-ten finishes in MVP voting and six all-star appearances are a good indication of how he stacked up with his peers.

What keeps Berkman out of the Hall?

  • His career 51.7 WAR falls in line with the aforementioned Abreu, Gonzalez, and Williams.
  • His defense doesn’t give him any kind of boost and may even knock him down a bit.
  • His counting stats just aren’t prolific enough, even if his 162-game average is 32 HRs, 106 RBIs, 104 BBs, .293 average and .943 OPS.

Bobby Abreu and Lance Berkman (Bernie Williams, Luis Gonzalez,  and Garret Anderson too) can be proud of their careers, but they show just how tough it is (and should be) to make it to the Hall of Fame.  At least they have Hall of Fame career earnings to soften any disappointment they may feel about it.