In Part 4 of our Hall of Fame series, we examine the case for and against Carlos Delgado. You can read the first three installments here:
The Mets traded for Delgado before the 2006 season, and the first baseman had a strong three-plus-year run in New York. From 2006 to 2008, Delgado hit .265/.349/.505 (117 wRC+), and averaged 33 home runs, 105 RBIs, 85 runs scored, 31 doubles, and 1.9 fWAR per year. He got off to a fast start in 2009 before a hip injury ended his season—and ultimately his career—after just 26 games. Delgado was also a big part of the Mets’ 2006 playoff run, hitting .265/.361/.548 (128 wRC+) during the regular season and even better in the playoffs.
The case for
Delgado was one of the best power hitters of his generation. In his 17 seasons in the big leagues, the first baseman hit an excellent .280/.383/.546 (135 wRC+), with 473 home runs, 1,512 RBIs, 2,038 hits, 1,241 runs scored, and 44.2 fWAR. Only 31 players in the history of the game hit more home runs than Delgado, and of those 31, 30 are either Hall of Famers, future Hall of Famers, or would have been Hall of Famers were it not for suspected PED use. Delgado also ranks 29th all time in slugging percentage and is in similarly elite company there. Among first basemen only, Delgado ranks 11th in slugging percentage, 15th in home runs, and 18th in RBIs.
Delgado’s peak lasted from 1998 to 2006, when he played for the Blue Jays, Marlins, and Mets. During that time, he hit .290/.402/.576 (146 wRC+), and averaged 38 homers, 119 RBIs, 99 runs scored, 38 doubles, and 4.3 fWAR per year. Delgado's best season came in 2000, when he hit a tremendous .344/.470/.664 (179 wRC+)—all career highs—with 41 home runs, 137 RBIs, 115 runs scored, a league-leading 57 doubles, and 7.4 fWAR.
In 2006, Delgado became one of just six players in the history of the game to hit at least 30 homers in 10 consecutive seasons. In 2003, he became one of just 16 players to homer four times in a single game, which you can watch below. Delgado had another brilliant performance in a game against the Yankees in 2008, when he drove in nine runs to set the Mets’ franchise record. Only 13 players in baseball history have driven in more runs in a single game. You can watch highlights of Delgado’s nine-RBI day below.
Delgado’s spectacular play earned him three Silver Slugger Awards, two All-Star Game appearances, and four top-10 finishes in MVP voting. He led his league in RBI, OPS, wRC+, total bases, and doubles one time each, confirming that he was indeed a dominant offensive player during his prime.
Moreover, although he only played in one postseason, he made it count when he finally got there in 2006. In his 10 playoff games with the Mets, Delgado raked to a .351/.442/.757 batting line, with four home runs, 11 RBIs, eight runs scored, three doubles, and six walks.
As for Delgado’s place in baseball history, JAWS ranks him as the 37th-best first baseman to ever play the game. His JAWS is better than those of two Hall of Fame first basemen—Jim Bottomley and High Pockets Kelly—as well as great non-Hall-of-Famers like Don Mattingly, Mark Grace, Boog Powell, and Steve Garvey. While Delgado was sometimes overshadowed by superstars on better teams and in bigger markets during his playing days, he finished his career as one of the best power hitters at the game’s elite power position. The fact that, unlike many of the other power hitters of his era, Delgado was never implicated for PED use makes his Hall of Fame case even stronger.
The case against
Like the other two first basemen we profiled, Delgado’s biggest weakness was his lack of longevity. Delgado played just 13 full seasons in the major leagues and, like Hernandez, played his last game at the age of 36. Although the 500-home-run club doesn’t have the same cachet as it used to, it certainly would have helped Delgado’s cause had he been able to stick around to reach that milestone.
Unlike Keith Hernandez and John Olerud, Delgado was not helped by his defense. His -34 total zone runs (TZ) were the 18th lowest among all first basemen in the history of the game. He had two seasons—2001 and 2005—of double-digit negative TZ totals. Delgado’s -15 TZ in 2005 actually made it the 17th-worst defensive season by a first baseman in baseball history.
Delgado’s poor defense took a toll on his WAR totals. His defensive metrics were so poor that, despite having 11 full seasons of a 120 wRC+ or better, he only had seven seasons of three or more fWAR. Delgado’s defense also hurt his JAWS, which, at 39.4, is far lower than the average Hall of Fame first baseman’s score of 54.2. In fact, by JAWS, Delgado ranks lower than 17 of the 19 first basemen in the Hall of Fame, including Orlando Cepeda, Tony Perez, and Harmon Killebrew, who all rank lower than the average Hall of Famer at their position. Delgado also ranks behind several non-Hall-of-Famers like Gil Hodges, Fred McGriff, Will Clark, Olerud, and Hernandez.
It also didn’t help that Delgado played in an era in which power hitters—especially those who played first base—were not hard to come by. The fact that Delgado only made two All-Star Teams and won three Silver Sluggers speaks to the fact that he was rarely regarded as the best at his position among his contemporaries.
Finally, for borderline Hall of Fame candidates like Delgado, postseason play can be a tiebreaker for some voters. Unfortunately for Delgado, he only played in one postseason, and it came near the end of his career. As a result, he didn’t have many opportunities for signature moments on the mediocre Toronto teams on which he played.
Prospects for induction
Delgado’s first year of Hall of Fame eligibility was in 2015. Somewhat surprisingly, he was voted off the ballot after just one year by failing to garner the requisite 5.0% support. He received just 3.8% of the baseball writers’ vote on a crowded ballot that included four Hall of Famers.
Delgado’s next opportunity for consideration will be in 2026 by the Expansion Era Committee, and he will be eligible for its consideration every third year after that. Perhaps more time and a less competitive ballot could help momentum build in Delgado’s favor until then.