In the wake of the Harold Baines Hall of Fame controversy, there has been ongoing discussion involving many other players who therefore should also gain entry into the Hall of Fame. It is not breaking news to anyone that there are players out there who have accumulated a higher WAR total than Baines and are not or will not ever be in the Hall of Fame. Here I want to take a look at Ryan Braun’s potential case while factoring in the next few years’ worth of projections. This is not just another, “If Harold Baines is in the Hall of Fame then (insert decent baseball players’ name here) should also be in” argument. This combines the fact that there are steroid allegations plus the borderline HOF worthy play of Ryan Braun.
Ryan Braun’s contract with the Brewers currently goes through the 2020 season with a team option for 2021. He has been the face of the franchise for the past decade and will forever be one of the Brewers’ most successful first round draft selections. In 2011 we all know the story. Braun edges out Matt Kemp for MVP and later it comes out that Braun was using banned substances. Not only that, but he continued to lie about it saying “The truth is on my side” among other lines hoping he would be let off the hook. In the end he had to come clean and his reputation would never be the same. He currently has settled into a diminished role while trying to stay healthy and give playing time to the many outfielders in the Brewers system.
To get started may as well get it out now that Ryan Braun’s current WAR is 42 and Harold Baines finished his career at 38.4 WAR. Alright this argument has been made for half of the MLB at this point so moving forward. In 2019 Braun projects to slash .260/.324/.463 with 19 home runs and 62 RBIs via Baseball Reference. I see this as being very optimistic. Something that is optimistic however, is that while he only hit .254 last season with 20 home runs and a .274 BABIP, the .274 BABIP is a career low for Braun and he was actually hitting the ball really hard. In terms of average exit velocity he ranked 15th in all of baseball out of 223 players with at least 250 results. He was only two spots behind teammate and MVP Christian Yelich. He will likely be more fortunate with balls falling to raise that BABIP. That being said, maybe Braun has more left in the tank than we think. Here is what his current numbers are and what they approximately might be after 3 more seasons:
|End of Career Approximation||0.296||0.355||0.529||367||215||132|
Again, these are simply non-scientific approximations based on a slight decline in performance and playing time. This is also assuming the brewers pick up his 2021 option to be “the clubhouse veteran” and he retires following 2021.
Getting to 400 home runs and having a career batting average over .300 would help his case. There are 55 players in the 400 home run club, and the only ones who are not in the HOF are those who have used steroids or are suspected to have used steroids. Lets say Braun somehow makes it to 400. That still makes him a long-shot at the HOF because of steroid allegations. While Braun will come up about 85 stolen bases short of the 300-300 club, he still made a run at it.
Now according to Baseball Reference, this is the list of most comparable players:
There is one Hall of Famer accompanied by many players who were/will be in consideration but never made it. In terms of Baseball Prospectus’s Hall of Fame Monitor which pretty much tells a person how likely they are to be in the Hall of Fame based on a variety of factors, Braun scores a 107. For reference 100 is the average HOFer.
His accolades include 5 consecutive Silver Slugger Awards from 2008 to 2012, an MVP Award in 2012 along with one runner up and one 3rd place finish, and Rookie of the Year in 2007.
This year seemed to be a passing of the torch from Braun to Yelich. While the prime years are behind him, Braun still showed last season that his bat is not completely cooled down. In fact he could have 3 more really good seasons for a final push in. The fact is that as long as Bonds, Clemens, and all the other steroid users remain out of the Hall, so will Braun. Even when a guy like Piazza got in there were subtle arguments about alleged substance usage. And if steroid users were to start flowing in, Braun would not be up on the list in that category either. Braun will end up a boarder-line player who’s illegal substance usage will give him no shot at making it in. His numbers are right up there with many HOFers, but just like he said in 2012, “The truth is on my side”. Well, the truth wasn’t on his side then and it wont be when its time for HOF consideration.