Guest Post: Happy Birthday, Edgar Renteria

[Hello everybody, danup here. When our very own Hardcore Legend suggested he take a look at Edgar Renteria's Hall of Fame credentials—you've read that correctly—on this, Edgar's 34th or 33rd birthday, depending on who you ask, I could think of no better way to spend our no-baseball hangover. I'm not convinced he's anywhere near the Hall of Fame, but I am convinced that if Renteria has one renaissance left in his bat he could make the BBWAA cry sorrowful tears. Take it away, HL. My post will come on at 11 AM, Best Fans in Baseball Daylight Time.]

Happy Birthday Edgar! With Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter the only remaining players from the Cardinals' last 100 win team, it seems time to start looking back on the early aughts with nostalgia instead of holding on to them in a bitter struggle to reclaim that glory. Of those active former Cardinals there are slim HOF pickins'. Obviously Albert Pujols has arguably played himself into the HOF already. JD Drew never realized his full potential. Chris Carpenter's brilliance and dominance has been too interrupted by vacations with Dr. James Andrews to give him a shot at it. Younger guys like Dan Haren, Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina are simply too far away to make any real projections. Jim Edmonds will be a case study in defense + small window of amazing offense + steroids era.

So we are left with two: Scott Rolen and Edgar Renteria. For Edgar's birthday, we will examine him.

Edgar was blessed with the good grace of not only debuting at age 20 to the MLB, but contributing. For marginal HOF cases, racking up those counting stats helps if you get a very early start. In his days with the Cardinals, Edgar had his peak two year stretch in 2002 and 2003. During that time, Edgar Renteria was the best SS in the National League, cresting, according to fangraphs, at 4.9 in 2002 and 6.8 in 2003. (For comparisions' sake, the highest Cardinal full-time SS's have had since then was Eckstein's 3.4.) 

Edgar has been a two-time Gold Glove winner, three-time Silver Slugger and five-time All-Star, but barring an injury to Hanley Ramirez or some absurd revitalization in his mid-thirties he's never going to win those first two awards again. 

An interesting comp for Renteria is Dave Concepcion. Joe Morgan would tell you Dave belongs in the HOF. Concepcion won 5 Gold Gloves and was a 9 time All-Star in large part to playing for one of the most popular and dominate teams of the era. Another is Alan Trammel. Trammel is fiercely defended by Tigers fans as more deserving than Ozzie. They believe Trammel would be in if he did backflips.

The thing to note here is that Edgar Renteria probably has one true claim to the HOF: his bat. Alan Trammel had 2,365 hits and 1,003 RBIs. Dave Concepcion had 2,326 hits and 950 RBIs. Edgar Renteria already has 2,157 hits and 856 RBIs. In two more seasons, he's likely to pass both of those candidates.

So what are Edgar's chances? Using Bill James' Favorite Toy, Edgar Renteria has a 48% chance of reaching the magical 3,000 hit plateau. Unlike the 500 HR club, the BBWAA hasn't yet found that club to be diluted; the only 3,000 hit members not in the HOF are Raffy Palmeiro, Pete Rose and Craig Biggio. The first two will likely never get in because of character issues, and Biggio is future first ballot material. In fact, the only players with more than 2,800 hits not in the HOF are the 3 listed above, Harold Baines (DH!!!!1!), and Barry Lamar Bonds. Using BJFT, Edgar Renteria has a 78 % chance of reaching 2,800+ hits. Even if you added a year to Edgar's age, he still has a 65% chance of reaching that total.

With 2,800 hits, Edgar Renteria would have more hits than ANY HOF SS not named Cal Ripken (who moved to 3B), Honus Wagner and Robin Yount (who was a CF). That's high cotton.

What about RBIs? Using Bill James Favorite Toy again, Edgar Renteria has the highest probability available of obtaining 1,000 RBIs. That may not seem like a huge number, but looking at the HOF SS list it would put him once again ahead of Trammel (assuming he could scratch out 4 RBIs) and of those in only 9 of the current group would have more. If he could reach 1,200, only 6 would have more.

The only other number that Edgar could add to this list that would help him secure a spot in Cooperstown would be 600 career doubles. He's 192 doubles away and only has about a 15% chance of reaching that total. It would certainly help his case but I honestly don't believe it's possible unless, again, he finds the fountain of youth.

The better players he'll be going up against, like Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, shouldn't exclude Renteria. He will force the BBWA to change their approach to certain benchmarks. If getting 3,000 hits secures a guy a chance at being a HOF'er, then Edgar Renteria is likely going to get in. Otherwise, no benchmark will be safe.

A lot of people still bitterly remember Edgar for the one-two punch of making the last out of the 2004 World Series and then leaving a deal on the table to go to Boston. I don't look at him that way. I remember being bitter during August of 2003 when the Cardinals were seriously considering trading Edgar at the deadline. I'll remember Edgar taking Alfonseca deep for the walk-off vs the Cubs in 2002. Hopefully, I'll get to remember those things one day when #3 hangs on the wall at Busch Stadium.

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