A few posts ago, I wondered if Pedro Alvarez was a bust yet. I looked at players who had struggled as he did last year only to rebound to a solid career. I concluded that it was too early to declare him a bust. The feedback on at least one message board unrelated to this blog was that my post was ‘absolutely horrible’. They didn’t say why, they just declared it to be horrible (my guess is that the posters involved believe that Alvarez should already be declared a bust). I’m fully in favor of constructive criticism and will readily admit (and have readily admitted) when I’m incorrect.
Regardless, I thought I’d take a look at it in a different light. My previous offering was aimed at determining if Pedro would be a solid Major League player. What about the Hall of Fame? Is that a possibility for him? Having to draw a line somewhere, I had a gander (thanks baseball-reference.com) at every Hall of Famer with a career that started (or perhaps peaked) in 1947 or later to see what age they were when they had their first season with an OPS+ of 120.
That was a total of 56 hitters (I excluded pitchers, obviously, and hitters, like Teddy Ballgame, who posted an OPS+ of 120 or greater prior to 1947). Those 56 hitters include three players who never posted a 120 OPS+ – Luis Aparicio, Bill Mazeroski and Ozzie Smith. So, their ages aren’t factored in. The average age of a future Hall of Famer posting their first 120 OPS+ season was 23.9. If you pull out the three players whose MLB debuts were delayed by the color line (Roy Campanella, Monte Irvin and Jackie Robinson), then the age drops to 23.6.
Including middle infielders that didn’t hit for much power was pulling that number upward. Pee Wee Reese’s first 120 OPS+ season was at 28. Nellie Fox had his at 29. Red Schoendienst was 30 and Phil Rizzuto was 32. Clearly our expectation of Pedro is to slug. So, taking it one step more, I pulled out all of the players who failed to club 300 dingers in their career. The average age of the initial 120 OPS+ season of a player that went on to hit 300 or more homers and make the Hall of Fame is 22.5. There were 29 such players. Pedro turned 25 in February of 2012. There were four 300 or more homer hitting, future Hall of Famers who posted their first OPS+ of 120 during their age 25 season – Yogi Berra, Andre Dawson, Tony Perez and Billy Williams.
If I back off the 300 homer requirement and make it 200 homers (moving the sample size to 38 players), then the average age is bumped up to 22.8. At the 200 round tripper threshold, a couple of more players hit their stride at age 25 or later – Roberto Clemente, Kirby Puckett (26 in his first 120 OPS+ campaign) and Brooks Robinson.
Based on my previous post, I still say it is too early for me to call him a bust since I regard the Hall of Fame to be a lofty standard. I don’t think Alvarez will put up Hall of Fame caliber numbers, but I’d be happy if he proved me wrong. Since 1947, only seven of 38 future Hall of Famers who hit 200 or more homers in their career posted their first 120 OPS+ season when they were 25 or older. Time is running out for Pedro to hit that mark.