Is Todd Helton a Hall of Famer?

I was listening to Grant Paulsen on MLB’s Home Plate satellite radio station on the way to the office this morning – and while Grant was rattling off the highlights of the previous night’s games, he threw out there an interesting question.  Is Todd Helton a Hall 0f Fame candidate?

In discussing his merits, perhaps the largest part of the discussion will be how much discounting will we have to do to his statistical accomplishments based on the fact that he spent his career playing in the offensive haven that is Coors Field.  Then I remembered that I had created this spreadsheet to deal with just those sorts of things in a seasonal context and thought I would check it out.

First – here’s what Todd Helton has hit in his prime ten consecutive seasons (1998 to 2007):

Year G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI AVG BB K SB CS
1998 152 530 78 167 37 1 25 97 .315 53 54 3 3
1999 159 578 114 185 39 5 35 113 .320 68 77 7 6
2000 160 580 138 216 59 2 42 147 .372 103 61 5 3
2001 159 587 132 197 54 2 49 146 .336 98 104 7 5
2002 156 553 107 182 39 4 30 109 .329 99 91 5 1
2003 160 583 135 209 49 5 33 117 .358 111 72 0 4
2004 154 547 115 190 49 2 32 96 .347 127 72 3 0
2005 144 509 92 163 45 2 20 79 .320 106 80 3 0
2006 145 546 94 165 40 5 15 81 .302 91 64 3 2
2007 154 557 86 178 42 2 17 91 .320 116 74 0 1
Totals 1543 5570 1091 1852 453 30 298 1076 .332 972 749 36 25
                           
Seasonal 154 557 109 185 45 3 30 108 .332 97 75 4 3

 

Pretty impressive stuff.

Except, of course, that players playing in Coors field have been hitting at an extreme advantage – even in the last three years where a humidor has reduced the home field offensive advantage.  The table below shows the number of games played at home and on the road, the number of homers hit at home vs. the road, and the number of runs scored at home and on the road.

G/Home G/Road HR/Home HR/Road R/Home R/Road
81 81 212 145 1031 650
81 81 303 157 1198 736
81 81 245 137 1164 701
81 81 268 184 1085 744
81 81 232 145 989 687
81 81 230 168 967 778
81 81 221 179 1028 728
81 81 170 155 898 704
81 81 168 144 869 756
82 81 185 150 874 744

 

Using three things – a Pete Palmer valuation, Bill James’ basic Runs Created formulas, and a quadratic equation, we can take a look at what Helton would have hit without the Coors Field advantage.  First – Pete Palmer once calculated that over the course of history, a home run is actually worth about 1.4 runs.  So, what I do is reduce (or increase) the number of runs scored at home by the number of homers hit at home compared to the road.  The reason for this is because sometimes the increased run production is tied to the ease with which homers are hit at the park, and sometimes it’s something else – hitting backgrounds, foul territory, or proximity to jet streams or wind shear off the ocean.  Then, based on the modified home/road advantage in runs scored, I reduce (or increase) the basic Runs Created by the batter.

Once, I have the change in runs created, I can apply that number to a quadratic equation, which ultimately says, “Given the structure of hits and total bases, what changes would be required to one’s seasonal stats so that instead of creating X number of runs, he now creates Y number of runs?”  I came up with this while trying to create a system to level player stats for a board game.

When those calculations are applied, here’s what Todd Helton’s stats would look like had he played in a league average park:

After Modifications:                      
Year G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI AVG BB K SB CS
1998 152 530 57 145 32 1 18 71 .273 53 54 3 3
1999 159 578 78 158 33 4 20 78 .274 68 77 7 6
2000 160 580 93 181 49 2 25 99 .312 103 61 5 3
2001 159 587 98 173 47 2 35 109 .294 98 104 7 5
2002 156 553 83 162 35 4 21 84 .293 99 91 5 1
2003 160 583 116 196 46 5 26 100 .336 111 72 0 4
2004 154 547 93 169 44 2 26 77 .310 127 72 3 0
2005 144 509 80 151 42 2 18 69 .296 106 80 3 0
2006 145 546 87 159 38 5 13 75 .291 91 64 3 2
2007 154 557 79 171 40 2 15 83 .307 116 74 0 1
Totals 1543 5570 864 1665 407 27 216 845 .299 972 749 36 25
                           
Seasonal 154 557 86 166 41 3 22 85 0.299 97 75 4 3

 

Ultimately, Todd Helton goes from creating about 140 runs per season to about 111.5 runs per season.  Instead of a .330 hitter with 30 homers each season, Helton suddenly looks like Lyle Overbay in 2006.  Okay – to be fair, he’s really Mark Grace with a little more power.  The batting average is about .300 with some power (22 homers).  Helton is still a valuable player – but would you put Mark Grace in the Hall of Fame if he finished with 325 homers in his career?

My take on it is that people are going to have a hard time quantifying that benefit, and will be too busy looking at the gawdy stats on the back of his baseball card.  This means he still has a shot over time at joining the immortals, but ultimately I think he’s falling just a little short.

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3 Comments

Filed under Baseball History, Todd Helton

3 responses to “Is Todd Helton a Hall of Famer?

  1. Pingback: Top NL First Basemen in 2009 « Mighty Casey Baseball

  2. Randy Cox

    In short, you’re right. He falls short.

  3. Thanks for reading, Randy! I don’t write as much as I used to, but stop by from time to time and say hello.

    Paul

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