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Johnny Damon, Hall of Famer? You must be kidding me. John Brattain thinks he might. Our own Magpie pointed out that: "If Damon ends up with 1600 Runs Scored and 3000 hits, which he is well on The way to doing, he's a No-Doubt-About-It Hall of Famer". Not to mention that he added power in 2006, hitting .285 with 24 homers and good plate discipline. So, maybe it is not so far-fetched.

Johnny Damon was a first round pick of the Royals (32nd overall) out of high school in 1992. He reported to Rookie League that summer, and hit .350 with medium range pop and excellent strike zone control. He was promoted to the Midwest League at age 19, and held his own, hitting .290 with less, but still adequate, strike zone control. He tacked on 59 stolen bases that season. The following year in the Carolina League, he put up almost identical numbers but walked more than he struck out. In 1995, Damon broke out in double A Witchita, hitting .343 with 16 homers and walking about twice as often as he struck out. At age 21, he was a great prospect, and the Royals called him up to the Show for good in August.

He really must not have been quite ready, because he hit .270-.280 with a little pop and adequate but not great plate discipline for the remainder of 1995 and for the next 2 years. In 1998, he added more power at age 24, stroking 18 homers, and followed that up by .300 with excellent plate discipline and medium range pop for the Royals in 1999-00. After an off-year in 2001 with the Athletics, he was a free agent and signed a 4 year contract with the Red Sox. He was good each year, but starred in their championship 2004 year including a memorable grand slam in Game 7 of the Sox' comeback victory over the Yankees in the ALCS. After 2005, he moved on to the Yankees on another 4 year contract. At age 32, he hit a career high 24 homers. It was no fluke, he put the ball in the air much more than in previous seasons.

Throughout his career, he has been a good, but not great, defensive centerfielder, and has stolen on average 30 bases per year with a fairly good rate of success. So, who are Damon's comparison points? Willie Davis, Amos Otis, Richie Ashburn, Brett Butler, Jimmy Sheckard, and Max Carey. We cover most of the 20th century with these guys. Let us see how he matches up at age 32. We'll look at hits and runs, as well the other measures.

Damon 6770 1958 1188 665 789 154 306 85 .289 .353 .436 104
W. Davis 6896 1920 922 321 753 138 318 111 .278 .311 .410 106
Otis 5605 1576 873 616 736 159 295 78 .281 .351 .437 120
Ashburn 7122 2217 1114 946 455 22 199 75 .311 .394 .388 111
Butler 4379 1232 742 564 465 36 307 141 .281 .367 .378 107
Sheckard 6830 1907 1177 945 111 53 439 ---- .279 .374 .386 124
Carey 6331 1792 1026 691 568 48 532 --- .283 .359 .379 111

Davis and Otis are pretty comparable to Damon, aren't they? Better, actually. Davis had 1 more good season and then 3 average ones left after age 32. Otis' best season after age 32 was interrupted by the strike in 1982. Sheckard had one average season and one poor one left. Ashburn had 2 good seasons left, Carey three while Butler had 6 (!).

Is Damon on a likely Hall of Fame path? What would it take for him to be a Hall of Famer on merit? If Damon has 3 good seasons and 3 average seasons over the next 7, he'll end up with 3000 hits and 1700 runs scored and walk into the Hall of Fame. On merit, he really needs a Butler-like end to his career to make him a good candidate in my view. He's pretty clearly going to end up noticeably behind Lou Whitaker, and probably not much better, if at all, than Willie Davis.

Next up: Ken Griffey Jr.
Hall Watch 2006-The Outfielders-Johnny Damon | 15 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Mike D - Monday, December 18 2006 @ 10:42 AM EST (#161167) #

To me, he's a no-doubt Hall of Very Good, but that's it.  He has terrific leadoff skills but he has never been the centrepiece of a good offensive club and he has never been the premier player at his position (unlike, say, Jeff Bagwell on both counts).  Defensively, his throwing arm is such a non-deterrent that opposing third base coaches challenge him almost without exception.

He can play for me any day, but his offensive CV does not measure up to those of his more Hall-worthy peers.

Craig B - Monday, December 18 2006 @ 11:32 AM EST (#161175) #

Damon's not even Hall of Very Good in my view... just Hall of Good.  I don't think of him as even a minor star.  He puts a decent whole-package game together (except for his throwing arm) but he's a couple of notches below guys like Chet Lemon or Amos Otis or Rick Monday and a notch below a Lloyd Moseby or Jose Cardenal.  Damon will have a longer career than the Shaker because Moseby was done in early by injuries, but Damon wasn't a better player.

It's possible Damon could hang around forever and collect 3000 hits, but that wouldn't make him a Hall of Famer in my book just as it didn't for Harold Baines (who has a better case than Damon anyway).

Radster - Monday, December 18 2006 @ 02:06 PM EST (#161180) #
He's been an all-star only twice (I was a bit surprised by this), and never cracked the top 10 in MVP voting (not surprised by this).  Even if he has three more solid years and three so-so years, I don't think those numbers will change, so even with 3,000 hits, I don't think he's got enough unless he makes significant contributions to a couple of World Series rings (which I hope is not the case).
John Northey - Monday, December 18 2006 @ 05:23 PM EST (#161195) #

I could see Damon becoming the 'test case' for 3000 hits being automatic.

A few years back Don Sutton was fighting to get in the Hall with over 300 wins.  His ERA+ was just 108, had 20+ wins just once, never finished higher than 3rd in Cy Young voting (0.43 shares lifetime), came in 22nd once in MVP voting and that was it for that, 4 time all-star (Stieb was a 7 time AS for comparison purposes), black ink of just 8 (average HOF is 40).  He will probably have all HOF'ers on his most comparable list in the end (only ones not in now are Blyleven, John, and Maddux) so not a terrible selection.

Damon by comparison is a 2 time AS, 3 times had MVP votes (13-19th place), black ink of 6, just one HOF'er on most similar to age 32 although Raines and Rose are both on that top 10 as well. 

Sutton had a stronger arguement but had a heck of a fight to get in.  I doubt Damon will get in without some weird peak post 32. 

DanInToronto - Tuesday, December 19 2006 @ 08:10 AM EST (#161213) #

I am so frustrated with the HOF.  All the voters really care about are "nice round numbers".  If Damon gets 3000 hits, he's a shoe-in.  If he ends up at 2700, he won't make it.  That is why Tim Raines will have lots of trouble getting in.  He was probably the 2nd best leadoff hitter of all time, who had the misfortune of playing during the same period as the greatest, Rickey Henderson. Raines is much better than Lou Brock.  Look:

RAINES: .294 AVG, .385 OBP, .425 SLG .810 OPS 2605 H, 1330 BB, 170 HR 1571 R, 980 RBI, 808 SB, 146 CS

BROCK: .293 AVG, .343 OBP, .410 SLG, .753 OPS, 3023 H, 761 BB, 149 HR, 1610 R, 900 RBI, 938 SB, 307 CS

Comparing the two:


OBP: RAINES (wins by far, and this is one of the most important stats for a leadoff hitter)

SLG: RAINES (wins by a little)


HITS: BROCK by 400, but that is only because he didn't walk as much as Raines, and got 2 seasons more At Bats, Brock ended up +400 in hits, and RAINES ended up +600 in Walks, and they scored the same amount of runs.  It should be about even, but those singles make Brock a first-ballot HOF, and Raines will have to fight and claw to get in.

WALKS RAINES by 600 (see above)


RUNS: About a tie


STOLEN BASES: Brock was the best of his era, and ended up +130 (938 to 808), but he got caught stealing 161 more times  than Raines (307 to 146).  Tim Raines was actually a much better base stealer than Brock, but those ignorant voters could care less about CS. Heck, if someone stole 1000 bases, and got caught 700 times, they'd still probably vote the guy into the HOF. 

SUMMING UP: RAINES is better at OBP, OPS, BB, HR, RBI, and Stealing Bases.  BROCK is better an nothing except leading by 400 hits just becuase he had more At Bats (because of the fewer walks). But those hits translated into LESS RBI and the same amount of Runs.  Clearly TIM RAINES is the better player. 

Bringing us back to Johnny Damon:  None of the other stats matter to HOF voters.  He'll never put up numbers like Raines, especially if we also consider park factors etc).  But, if Damon just "hangs around" to get to 3000, he'll get in.


Chuck - Tuesday, December 19 2006 @ 09:24 AM EST (#161215) #

The Brock vs. Raines comparison serves to illustrate what I believe to be the biggest shortcoming in HoF voters: the ability to properly appreciate the walk as an offensive weapon.

Players with terrific OBP's often hurt their HoF cases by walking rather than by flailing away at crummy pitches, adding a few precious hits, HRs and RBIs, if even at an overall net loss. Clearly the counting stats matter more than a silly thing like getting on base. This is the type of thinking that makes the likes of Jeff (.408 OBP) Bagwell underrated and Joe (.306 OBP but just count those 100-RBI seasons!) overrated.

Phil - Tuesday, December 19 2006 @ 11:43 AM EST (#161227) #
" ink of just 8 (average HOF is 40)..."

Just curious, but what's black ink?

(Apologies in advance if this is in the EIK category...)
Mike Green - Tuesday, December 19 2006 @ 11:50 AM EST (#161229) #
Black Ink is used by Baseball Reference as a tool to evaluate Hall of Fame chances.  Here's the description.
AWeb - Tuesday, December 19 2006 @ 12:04 PM EST (#161230) #

The one who jumped to mind for Johnny Damon was Bernie Williams for me. CF, high profile team(s), good hitter. I've always though Bernie was a borderline case at best, and he seems pretty clearly better than Damon (future Hall Watch entry, I would assume). Like Williams, Damon will lose most of his value if he can't play a passable CF at some point. From watching Damon, it's my impression that he doesn't get great jumps on balls or take great routes, but makes up for it with speed. Obviously his arm is awful, so if he loses a bit of speed, I'm not sure if he'd even be suitable for a corner OF spot.

I'd be shocked if Damon hung on long enough to pile up 3000 hits, he's 6 full seasons with a high average away now at the age of 33, but career projections are always tricky. His career average (.289) doesn't scream HoF, and runs scored never seems to be noted as a vitally important stat like RBI are. If Damon does make it to 3000 hits in 7-8 years, dragging a .280 average and mediocre/bad defense along with him, I can't see how he will deserve induction, barring a long stretch of peak production in his mid-late 30s.

DanInToronto - Tuesday, December 19 2006 @ 12:36 PM EST (#161232) #
I agree with AWEB.  Bernie Williams is a better player than Damon (looking at their overall careers).  Damon though will get in if he manages to hang on to get to 3000 hits (I honestly don't think he will be able to, as his defence isn't good enough, as discussed above).  The other problem (facing Bernie, and others) is that the "ballot" is getting too "crowded".  Every year, there are more and more players that are really "arguably HOFers", but aren't getting enough votes becuase stupid voters only really like guys with 3000 hits, 300 wins etc.  The ballot is full of guys that I would put in the HOF, but 75% of the voters don't:  TRAMMELL, BLYLEVEN, GOSSAGE, HERSHISER, JACK MORRIS, plus "maybes" like RICE, DAWSON,  CONCEPCION, PARKER, GARVEY, DALE MURPHY, MATTINGLY, plus guys that for some crazy reason fell off the ballot  GUIDRY, TIANT, etc. 

Soon the ballot will get tons more guys that should be Shoe-Ins or at least get a lot of votes: (These are just the Outfielders)
RAINES (see above)
SHEFFIELD (HOF numbers, probably won't get in because of Steroids)
PUJOLS (now IB, future HOFer)
SAMMY SOSA (HOF numbers, probably won't get in because of Steroids)
GARRETT ANDERSON (alot like Damon, if he somehow manages to get to 3000 he's in, otherwise no way)
GRIFFEY JR: (Future HOFer)
VLADIMIR GUERRERO (probably a future HOFer)
BONDS (Future HOFer, even with Steriods, he probably deserves to get in)
ICHIRO (probably derserves it based on combined Japanese and MLB record)
CHIPPER JONES (OF/3B) I'd vote for him
ABREU: He has the Raines problem: He walks too much, and voters only care about hits
KENNY LOFTON (not as good as Raines, but a very good leadoff hitter.  He won't get some votes)
LARRY WALKER: Not quite a HOFer, but will get some votes
JUAN GONZALEZ.  I wouldn't vote for him, but he'll get some HOF votes to clog up the ballot
BERNIE and DAMON: Won't get in unless they get to 3000, but will also get some HOF votes and clog up the ballot
CARLOS BELTRAN, LANCE BERKMAN & SORIANO: it is too early to tell on these guys

I am probably forgetting a few guys, but as you can see,  there will soon be tons of players entering the "debate", and as a result, it will get harder to get in.  A player will need 3000 hits, or 500 HRs without Steroids or else he won't get in, and that is a shame.  There are lots of deserving players without those nice "round numbers".

Mike Green - Tuesday, December 19 2006 @ 02:04 PM EST (#161236) #
AWeb, I took a look at Bernie Williams a couple of years ago.  As you can see, I considered him to be a far better player than Damon, at least through age 32.  Bernie did fade fast, though.
John Northey - Tuesday, December 19 2006 @ 04:12 PM EST (#161245) #

A guy who I'm certain won't get in but should is Fred McGriff.  493 HR.  Close but no cigar even though no one has ever even suggested steroids.  He just didn't peak at the right time. 

OPS+ of 100+ in all but his first (5 PA) and last (81 PA) seasons.  Heck, it was above 100 in both stops in both the seasons he was traded during even.  His postseason line is 303/385/532, with 279/385/605 in the WS.  5 time All-Star, 8 times on the MVP ballot (1.41 shares but no award), top 5 in OPS for 7 straight years.

His top 10 comparables?  4 HOF'ers plus Bagwell, Frank Thomas, Sheffield, Griffey and 2 non-HOF'ers in Galarraga and Chili Davis.

McGriff is killed by his consistancy.  He was always one of the better hitters, but rarely viewed as the best (1 OPS title, 2 HR titles but both were sub-40 HR).  His peak for OPS+ was 165 but he also had 8 other seasons above 140 (Damon's peak is 120).  Also killed by his playing for so many teams - 6 of them, peak being 5 seasons in Toronto and 4 1/2 in Atlanta.

I would be shocked if McGriff makes it within the first 5 years, and woudn't be surprised if he even got dropped from the ballot despite being so much better than so many who are there year in year out.

Nigel - Tuesday, December 19 2006 @ 04:56 PM EST (#161246) #
I'm with Craig on this one - I don't think Damon's that close (no matter what his final counting stats say).  When you have to begin a HOF conversation with - he wasn't as good as Brett Butler - then it should be a short conversation.   Butler was a much better player than he was ever given credit for (or that people remember) but, that having been said, there is no place for Butler in the HOF.
Chuck - Tuesday, December 19 2006 @ 05:21 PM EST (#161247) #

He [McGriff] just didn't peak at the right time. 

Also, McGriff made the "mistake" of logging over a third of his career AB prior to 1993, when league-wide offensive levels started their dramatic rise (in 1989, he led the AL in HR with 36!). Because of this, if he is compared to players who's careers started after his stared, his raw numbers will no doubt not be properly normalized and won't look as good in comparison.

He also has the Palmeiro comp working against him. They have a virtually identical career OPS+ (134 for McGriff, 132 for Palmeiro), but Palmeiro has longevity on his side, having logged about 1700 more PA's. And if Palmeiro is squeezed out, even if the drug argument is used (though voters may be reluctant to do so, as is the case now with some writers somehow finding McGwire non-HoF worthy based solely on his stats), McGriff figures to surely be squeezed out as well.

Hall Watch 2006-The Outfielders-Johnny Damon | 15 comments | Create New Account
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