Babe Ruth’s Hall Rating of 400 is fun to look at. It basically means that he packed four Hall of Fame careers into one. So, at what point in his career did he actually become Hall-worthy?
We can answer this by seeing when he passed a Hall Rating of 100. He did that in 1920, his first season in New York. That was his age 25 season. Yikes.
In Albert Pujols’s younger days, people used to ask all the time, “if he got hurt today and could never play again, would he be a Hall of Famer?” According to the Hall of Stats, the answer to that question changed from “No” to “Yes” at the very end of 2006. He was 26.
Let’s look at the top 50 players by Hall Rating and see when they cleared the 100 mark.
|Name||Hall Rating||Hall-worthy Year||Hall-worthy Age|
Hall-worthy at age…
The only player from the Top 50 who became Hall-worthy at a younger age than Ruth is Ty Cobb. In 1911, Cobb had a monster season, leading the league in batting average, slugging, OPS, OPS+, total bases, runs, runs batted in, doubles, and triples. He also led the league in WAR with 10.7. For comparison’s sake, Mike Trout was worth 10.9 WAR last year.
Tris Speaker, Mel Ott, Jimmie Foxx, and Johnny Bench round out the Age 26 group. Ott became a full-time player at age 19 while Speaker’s first full season was at age 21. Foxx and Bench were full-timers at 20.
Age 27 is the oft-accepted peak age for hitters. It seems to be supported here, as well. All players on this list have a Hall Rating of at least 172. That puts 100 relatively close to the middle of the career for a good percentage of the list. And we do indeed see our largest list of players here.
Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Henry Aaron, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, and Eddie Collins all had Hall Ratings of 250 or better. Bonds actually became a Hall of Famer while still with Pittsburgh, so everything he did with the Giants was just icing on the cake.
And that’s a lot of icing.
Mays missed most of two seasons to war while Stan Musial missed a season as well. Ted Williams, of course, missed four seasons, reaching Hall-worthiness in 1946, his first year back from World War II.
Lou Gehrig, Rickey Henderson, Frank Robinson, and Christy Mathewson all had Hall Ratings of 200 or better. Eddie Mathews and Al Kaline are all time greats, though you don’t hear them discussed nearly as often as the others.
Then there’s Bert Blyleven, here to make the non-stat geeks cringe. Yup, Blyleven was Hall-worthy in 1978. Thirty-four years later, he was finally inducted.
Pete Alexander, Nap Lajoie, Mike Schmidt, and Greg Maddux all had long, relatively consistent careers. They didn’t have individual seasons quite like Ruth or Mays (usually), but they just had great numbers, year after year.
Honus Wagner surprised me a bit. He was incredibly valuable in his 30s, though. He ended up with a 283 Hall Rating—a full 80 points ahead of Joe Morgan (who I always considered a bit of a late-blooming All Time Great). Wade Boggs, of course, was blocked at third base early in his career, but more than made up for it. Roger Connor and Dan Brouthers are 19th Century stars, so it makes sense that they reached Hall-worthiness later (as the season schedules began to expand).
Lefty Grove received his late start after winning 108 games for the famous minor league Baltimore Orioles—all by the age of 24. Then he was finally sold to the A’s and started his big league career. Cap Anson, like Connor and Brouthers, was slowed by short seasons. Both just missed being Hall-worthy in their age 31 season. Grove finished 1931 with a Hall Rating of 99.967989 (sorry, but it’s not quite 100!) while Anson finished 1883 with 99.5559.
Roberto Clemente’s WAR totals from age 30 to 34 were 7.1, 8.2, 8.9, 8.1, and 7.5. He was a defensive force in the first half of his career. His offense caught up in the second half.
Warren Spahn got his start later because he missed three year very early in his career to World War II. I’m not sure I even knew that until now.
It took Randy Johnson many years to harness his extraordinary arsenal. He became Hall-worthy in Arizona as well. In fact, it was during his first season there.
Phil Niekro is the oldest player on the list. He reached a 100 Hall Rating at age 37, yet still finished with a Hall Rating of 188. Amazing.
Just remember, this is not a list of the youngest ages that a player reached Hall-worthiness. Sandy Koufax, for example, reached his 100 Hall Rating at age 30. But he did it in his final season, so he didn’t make the list of the top 50 players of all time. Likewise, Miguel Cabrera will be reaching Hall-worthiness this season. He’s also 30.