WAR story: Chicago facing dearth of Hall of Fame candidates
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After Jim Thome is inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday, Chicago will be fresh out of by-the-numbers candidates who would rank in top half of the Hall in wins above replacement.
Thome, who hit 134 of his 612 home runs for the White Sox, had a 72.9 career WAR, as listed at Baseball-Reference.com. That is well above the 66.8 average for Hall first basemen.
No Chicago player on the outside looking in is above Hall average in bWAR, but several are close enough to merit a look. For now, let’s focus on position players with bWARs of 50 or higher and at least three Chicago seasons.
Minnie Minoso: Exciting to watch at the plate, on the bases and in the field, Minoso was a career .298 hitter with 186 homers and 205 stolen bases. His 50.5 bWAR, including 41.7 with the Sox, is below the 65.4 average for Hall left fielders, but there are reasons to look more closely.
He’s a historic figure as the first black Latin American to play in the major leagues, and his race probably cost him a few seasons. Minoso played briefly for the Indians in 1949, just two years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, and was 25 before coming to the big leagues to stay in 1951. In that rookie season, he hit .326 with a .922 OPS and a star-level 5.4 bWAR.
Sammy Sosa: Issues of performance-enhancing drugs have hindered Sosa’s candidacy despite 609 homers from 1989 to 2007, including 545 with the Cubs and 28 with the Sox. By bWAR, Sosa’s 58.6 is below the Hall average of 72.7 for right fielders. That’s partly because of era. Each of his homers was a smaller part of what it took to win than in lower-scoring times.
His 50.3 offensive WAR ranks below the Hall midpoint that falls between Paul Waner (60.0) and Al Kaline (54.3).
Dick Allen: Allen hit .292 with a .912 OPS and 351 homers from 1963 to 1977. His three Sox seasons featured an American League MVP award in 1972, when he hit .308 and led the league with 37 homers, 113 RBI and a 1.023 OPS.
Allen’s 70.2 offensive WAR would rank eighth among 18 Hall first basemen, between Willie McCovey’s 72.0 and Johnny Mize’s 69.3. But he was a weak defender, leaving him with a 58.7 overall bWAR that’s below the 66.8 average for Hall first basemen.
He also had a reputation as a clubhouse problem who didn’t always make baseball his top priority. Fair or not, that has cost him votes. Strictly as a hitter, however, he was Hall-caliber.
Stan Hack: Hack was a .301 hitter from 1932 to 1947 and had a career 52.6 bWAR. He was the Cubs’ top all-time third baseman until Ron Santo came around, but he falls short of the 68.6 Hall average for his position.
Some downgraded him because he played through World War II — including 1945, when he hit .323 — when rosters and the quality of baseball were diminished.