Brian Roberts, Doubles Machine
* Perhaps a slight exaggeration.
Brian Roberts hit his 52nd double of the season a couple days ago, setting a new Orioles' franchise record. It break the old record of 51, held by Beau Bell (in 1937 as a member of the St. Louis Browns) and... Brian Roberts (from last year). It's the third time Roberts has put up at least 50 two-baggers in a season, joining Hall of Famers Tris Speaker, Paul Waner, and Stan Musial. Not bad company, if I do say so. Roberts only has 314 double for his career, largely due to not becoming a regular until the age of 25, but if he keeps it up he may place highly on the all-time leader-board by the time he's done.
I decided to employ Bill Jame's Favorite Toy to see how many Roberts might end up with. Roberts' seasonal age this year is 31. If we assume he picks up 5 more doubles this year, that would give him 319 for his career and 57 in 2009. He had 51 last year, and 42 the year before. Punch it all in and the Favorite Toy says Roberts is projected to play 5.5 more years and average 47.5 doubles a year to finish with 580 for his career (which would be 18th all-time right now). I actually think that's a little generous, and would be willing to knock off 35 doubles or so to leave him with 545. That mark would currently place Roberts 24th in the all-time rankings, though Manny Ramirez (528), Todd Helton (506), and maybe Bobby Abreu (481) and Chipper Jones (469) could be up there as well by that time. Oh, and A-Rod (444) and Jeter (438). And Albert Pujols (381). Let's say a solid 30th place for Roberts.
[Just as a note, if Roberts plays until he's 37 - that's 6 more years - and has his doubles fall to 50, 45, 40, 35, 30, 25 in those years then he'd end up with 544 for his career. Not completely unreasonable, but I'd be happy to see him just get to 500 which the Favorite Toy says is 94% likely to happen.]
Of the top 30 guys right now who are eligible for the Hall of Fame, here's which ones aren't in:
That's right, nobody. There are a few ineligibles though. Pete Rose (746, 2nd) would have certainly gotten in if not for certain indiscretions. Craig Biggio (668, 5th) will probably get in eventually - as well he should. Barry Bonds (601, 14th) is self-explanatory. Luis Gonzalez (596, 15th) is an interesting case since he's in very iffy territory with regards to Wins Above Replacement (46.4 according to Rally's database) and has no real support in general from what I can tell (better than Jim Rice though; 41.5 WAR). Rafael Palmeiro (585, 16th) is right there with Biggio in terms of WAR (65.7), but I have a hard time thinking he'll get in soon. Finally, Jeff Kent (561, 20th) is just above Mike Piazza in WAR with 59.4 and is probably a little more likely than not to get in. Ivan Rodriguez (547, 23rd) is a virtual shoe-in. Of the guys listed in the previous section who aren't ranked that highly yet but likely will be, only Helton and Abreu aren't near locks to be enshrined, and both of them are already approaching 60 WAR for their careers and could end up deserving (which doesn't mean all that much).
Am I saying that if Brian Roberts does end up with 545 doubles he's going to get into the Hall of Fame? No. Chances are he'd be in the same boat as Gonzalez as a very good player who happened to hit lot doubles. Plus Gonzo played for 19 years, which definitely helps. (He wasn't quite as good a doubles hitter as Roberts is, I don't think).
Just for kicks (additional kicks, I guess), the Favorite Toy gives Roberts a 43% chance of reaching 600 doubles (which would now be 15th place). To move into the top 10 all-time, he'd need to pass Hank Aaron's 624 - 35% chance. Top 5 knocks out Biggio at 25%. 700 doubles (still 5th place) is 19%, and Brian Roberts apparently has a 5% chance of breaking the record for career doubles (Tris Speaker's 792). Now wouldn't that be something?
[Any more kicks after this and we're playing football (soccer); of the players who have at least 500 doubles right now - which, handily enough, is the top 50 - Todd Helton has the highest percentage of his hits go for two bases at 23.9% and Luis Gonzalez is second at 23%. For Brian Roberts, 24.9% of his hits are doubles. That seems like a pretty high mark. Roberts may just be one of the best combinations of speed, baserunning, and gap power in the history of the game.*]