The Astros recently revealed their plans to create their own Hall of Fame to honor past members of the club, which was long overdue.
Let’s be honest for a moment: The Astros had an issue with retiring numbers throughout their history. I’m not going to debate the merits behind why the numbers were retired, but some were obvious while others were less apparent. But the last number retired by Houston was No. 7 in 2008, which was Craig Biggio‘s primary number during his Hall of Fame career. Current ownership led by Jim Crane hasn’t retired a number since he purchased the club earlier this decade.
That said, it was becoming increasingly apparent the Astros would implement their own Hall of Fame or something similar in the future. Well, the future is here now, or specifically in 2020.
Houston’s own baseball Hall of Fame will eventually carry a large swath of club members between players, coaches, management, and broadcasters. The purpose of this post is to solely analyze the players and who may be on the list for eventual induction. And I will be using rWAR (Wins Above Replacement) from Baseball-Reference. The reason: I prefer DRS over UZR used by Baseball-Reference’s WAR calculation and Runs Allowed instead of Fielding Independent Pitching for pitcher WAR. There isn’t much difference between Baseball-Reference, FanGraphs, and Baseball Prospectus’ WAR, or VORP, calculations, but the two reasons above are just personal preferences.
As noted in Brian McTaggart’s article for MLB.com, the Astros will automatically induct every player who has their respective number retired by the club (minus Jackie Robinson), and honored on the Walk of Fame on Texas Avenue.
First, let’s analyze by Baseball-Reference’s version of WAR for position players and pitchers. Please note that I will cut off position players with less than 20 rWAR and pitchers with less than 15 rWAR for their respective Astros careers.
Top position players by rWAR (Baseball-Reference WAR)
Inaugural induction class – *
Italics – Active players
Jeff Bagwell – 79.9 rWAR*
Craig Biggio – 66.5 rWAR*
Jose Cruz – 51.4 rWAR*
Cesar Cedeno – 49.6 rWAR
Lance Berkman – 48.2 rWAR
Jimmy Wynn – 41.6 rWAR*
Jose Altuve – 35.1 rWAR
Joe Morgan – 30.7 rWAR*
Bill Doran – 30.5 rWAR
Terry Puhl – 28.5 rWAR
Bob Watson – 23.6 rWAR
Top pitchers by rWAR (Baseball-Reference WAR)
Inaugural induction class – *
Italics – Active players
Roy Oswalt – 45.8 rWAR
Larry Dierker – 34.4 rWAR*
Don Wilson – 27.6 rWAR*
Nolan Ryan – 25.5 rWAR*
Mike Scott – 24.9 rWAR*
Joe Niekro – 23.1 rWAR*
J.R. Richard – 21.6 rWAR*
Shane Reynolds – 19.1 rWAR*
Ken Forsch – 19.0 rWAR
Dallas Keuchel – 18.2 rWAR
Roger Clemens – 16.7 rWAR
Turk Farrell – 16.7 rWAR
Billy Wagner – 16.1 rWAR
As one could gather from the two lists above, five position players (Bagwell, Biggio, Cruz, Wynn, and Morgan) and seven pitchers (Dierker, Wilson, Ryan, Scott, Niekro, Richard, and Reynolds) will be included in the club’s inaugural Hall of Fame class. All twelve are strong candidates by rWAR, so I don’t have a dispute with their inclusion. Jim Umbricht‘s inclusion, despite a 4.5 career rWAR with Houston, is due to the circumstances surrounding his cancer battle, return to baseball, and, untimely death.
Now, it is the subsequent classes that’ll take some time to sort out. Although Cedeno, by rWAR, is one of the best position players in Astros’ history, there is the off-the-field history to consider. I’d highly recommend reading The Ghosts of Cesar Cedeno by Astros County for the specifics, but induction for Cedeno, especially in today’s culture, wouldn’t, and shouldn’t, go happen.
The next obvious selection on the position player side would be Berkman, part of the club’s infamous Killer B’s. The former Rice Owl not only formed the heart of the Astros’ lineup for years, he came through in clutch moments in the postseason. His grand slam against the Braves in Game 4 of the 2005 NLDS is one of the most memorable hits in club history as it set the stage for an eventual 18-inning marathon win to send Houston to the NLCS.
Altuve will one day enter the Astros’ Hall of Fame, but it’ll take some time as he is an active player. George Springer, Carlos Correa, and Alex Bregman are all potential candidates, but it is too early to state with the same confidence as Altuve’s case.
Eventually, I’d like to see the likes of Doran, Puhl, Watson, and Glenn Davis receive their fair share of attention. All were key players throughout club history, but it isn’t possible to retire everyone’s number.
On the pitching side, the Astros are well-covered in the inaugural class. However, Oswalt is listed as the club’s best pitcher by rWAR, but he doesn’t have his No. 44 retired by the club. In fact, six different players have worn No. 44 with the Astros since Oswalt’s departure during the 2010 season. But it is painfully obvious that Oswalt should be included in any future additions to the club’s new Hall of Fame.
Like Altuve, Keuchel has an excellent case for eventual induction, but he is also an active player. Clemens would be another popular choice along with Farrell and Wagner. Dave Smith would be another choice to eventually consider. There are various pitchers throughout the club’s history to consider, but the inaugural class does a good job of covering most of the obvious candidates.
All in all, I am quite glad to see the Astros put a club-only Hall of Fame into place. It is a terrific way to honor the club’s past without retiring numbers in every case. More numbers will be retired eventually, but the new Hall of Fame now supersedes the practice as the highest honor for a member of the Astros. For the players that I didn’t mention, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some receive the honor one day. Specifically, I could see the club honoring different eras such as the 2017 World Series team, 2005 NL Champions, and notable rosters of the previous century.