With the 2023 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, people are already debating what future ballots will look like over the next few years and what the Chicago Cubs might be involved in. In a graphic on MLB Network, one of the names featured for 2025 is Ben Zobrist. Ray, Athletic, Royal and Chub last played MLB baseball in 2019 when he completed a four-year deal he signed with the Cubs as a free agent prior to 2016.
Zobrist has had an exceptional playing career, amassing a lot of equipment. He has won two World Series titles, the World Series Most Valuable Player award in 2016, and three All-Star nods. His ability to be the “super utility” man allowed him to play all over the Diamonds, both on the field and on the court. Zobrist being a switch hitter also made him a threat against any type of pitcher he faced. The question is does he deserve the Hall of Fame?
Assessing Hall of Fame eligibility at first glance tends to point us to traditional stats first. Stats like 500+ home runs, 3,000+ hits, and a . 300 average were gold standard for shoo-in Hall of Famers (outside of the steroid suspects). This is of course a basic guide to the best, and there are plenty of players in the Hall of Fame who haven’t reached those golden marks in their careers. So let’s take a look at Zobrist’s numbers.
Zobrist’s basic attack stats:
.266/.357/.426 slash, 1,566 hits, 167 home runs, .783 OPS in 1,651 games
Those are some good numbers, but they don’t look like typical Hall of Fame records. Not having at least 2,000 visits or even 200 homeowners can make it more difficult for him based on just basic stats. It is worth noting that he started his full career around the age of 27-28, so he was late. He debuted at the age of 25 in 2006 but didn’t play in more than 100 games until 2009. Had he started a little earlier, his strikeout total would probably be over 2,000. With all of this, there’s still more to evaluate.
In 14 years, the Zobrist has accumulated 42.6 fWAR. Doing so during that period is pretty impressive. From 2009 to 2016, he averaged nearly 5 fWAR per season and recorded 366 OBP and OPS+123 over that period. According to FanGraphs, the fWAR “sweet spot” total for a Hall of Famer is around 50-70.
One of the big factors in FWAR’s high numbers was his defensive ability. In the field, he had a career-high 34 DRS (saves in defensive runs) and a 35.7 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) in all positions he played, which was literally everywhere but catcher. He was also an intelligent runner, posting a 15.2 UBR (Ultimate Base Running). He did more than just hit, he did a lot of little things well.
The fWAR numbers make his case closer than it might seem. He was a balanced bowler like a “professional batsman” and a versatile fielder. If this were more like football where stats were judged more strictly by the very specific roles a player played, he might be in the Hall of Fame as a utility man. However, if we’re following some general offensive criteria, Zobrist could potentially be a “Hall of Very Good” player. I don’t think he’s going to get the votes, but at least he deserves more attention than people are willing to give him. Regardless, he is a forever cub legend.