Chicago Cubs: Ben Zobrist will be an interesting HOF decision

Chicago Cubs Victory Celebration
Chicago Cubs Victory Celebration / Jonathan Daniel/GettyImages

With the 2023 Baseball Hall of Fame ballots out, people are already discussing what future ballots will look like over the next few years and what Chicago Cubs may be involved. In a graphic on MLB Network, one of the names that came up for 2025 is Ben Zobrist. The former Ray, Athletic, Royal and Cub last played MLB baseball in 2019 when he finished the four-year deal he signed with the Cubs as a free agent prior to 2016.

Zobrist had an exceptional playing career, which saw him collect plenty of hardware. He won two World Series titles, World Series MVP honors in 2016, and three All-Star nods. His ability to be the "super utility" man allowed him to play all over the diamond, both infield, and outfield. Zobrist being a switch hitter also made him a threat against any type of pitcher he faced. The question is, should he be Hall of Fame worthy?

Hall of Fame eligibility evaluation at first glance tends to lead us to the traditional stats first. Stats like 500+ home runs, 3,000+ hits, and around a .300 average have been a golden standard for shoo-in Hall of Famers (outside the steroid suspects). This is of course a basic guideline for the very best, and there are plenty of players in the Hall of Fame who did not quite reach those golden marks in their careers. So let's look at Zobrist's numbers.

Zobrist's basic career offensive stats:
.266/.357/.426 slash, 1,566 hits, 167 home runs, and .783 OPS in 1,651 games

Those are some good numbers, but they do not look like typical Hall of Fame standard numbers. Not having at least 2,000 hits or even 200 homers can make the case harder for him just based on the basic stats. It is worth noting that he got his career into full gear around the age of 27-28, so he was a late bloomer. He made his debut at age 25 in 2006 but did not play in 100+ games until 2009. Had it begun a bit sooner, that hit total probably is over the 2,000 mark. With all of this said, there is still more to evaluate.

Ben Zobrist will always be remembered for his Chicago Cubs World Series run.

In 14 years, Zobrist accumulated a 42.6 fWAR. Doing that over that span is pretty impressive. From 2009-2016, he averaged roughly a 5 fWAR per season and posted an accumulative .366 OBP and OPS+ of 123 over that span. Per FanGraphs, the "sweet spot" fWAR total for a Hall of Famer is around 50-70.

A big factor in the high fWAR numbers was his defensive ability. In the field, he was a career 34 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 35.7 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) at all positions he played, which was literally everywhere but catcher. He was also a smart baserunner, posting a career 15.2 UBR (Ultimate Base Running). He did more than just hit, he did a lot of the little things well.

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The fWAR numbers make his case closer than it may seem. He was such a well-balanced player as a "professional hitter" and versatile fielder. If this was more like football where stats were valued a bit stricter by the very specific roles a player played, he could be in the Hall of Fame as a utility man. That said, if we are going by some of the more general offensive standards, Zobrist is probably a "Hall of Very Good" player. I do not think he will get the votes, but he at least deserves more consideration than people are willing to give him. Regardless, he is a Cub legend forever.