In the wake of no inductions in 2013, I've done some quick research for the future. In most cases, it's fairly clear cut. Only a few players fit in the "very good" category that needed only 2 more good seasons to get their numbers over the top.
Here's my list of potentials among either recently or soon to be retired players:
Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Mike Mussina, Pedro Martinez, Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, Billy Wagner.
Carlos Delgado, Ivan Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon, Frank Thomas, Ken Griffey Jr, Jim Thome, Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones, Todd Helton.
The way I see it, you have to do 1 of 2 things to make the Hall of Fame:
1) Be a dominant performer for at least 8 years before tailing off at the end due to injuries or other factors (Sandy Koufax or more recently Pedro Martinez). 5-6 years of dominance won't quite cut it (Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy). These candidates shine in metrics such as winning percentage or lifetime average but fall short of "magic" milestones such as 250 wins or 3,000 hits.
2) Be a compiler. Perform at a consistently good but not great level and last for nearly 20 years. In other words, you're good for 15ish wins per year but never 20 or hit near .300 with decent power every year. Such players were never superstars but when their careers are over, they have the milestones such as 3,000 hits, 500 HRs, 250 wins. Ex. Craig Biggio, Don Sutton.
IMO, both are equally impressive and both are HOF worthy.
How to evalute:
Use of traditional metrics such as hits, HRs, wins will help the compilers. With the advent of sabremetrics, newer methods such as OBP, slugging %, OPS and wins above replacement are now being used. These newer methods generally favor the short-termers. However, if most newer methods reveal comparable stats, the player who lasted longer and compiled the numbers is usually chosen and rightfully so. They maintained a high level for a few more years.
1st ballot no brainers:
Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Ken Griffey Jr., Derek Jeter- no discussion needed.
In but may have to wait:
John Smoltz- I don't see any doubt on this one. His win total is low but he lost about 50 wins from his 3-4 years as a closer and yes, he was dominant in that role. 200+ wins and 150 saves should be a 1st ballot HOFer in my book.
Tom Glavine- Glavine doesn't look as strong with a sabremetric mind and some argue that his win total was inflated by pitching on some great Atlanta teams. I say 300 wins especially now makes you a lock for the HOF. Glavine's ERA is skewed a bit by some mediocre years near the end and yes, he pitched for some bad teams at both the beginning and end of his career. In for sure.
Mike Mussina- not quite as strong as the previous 2 but I still vote yes by virtue of his more than 270 wins and high winning percentage. The ERA is a little high but inflated by the steroid era. If Jack Morris gets in, Mussina is a lock. YES in my book as well.
Mariano Rivera- Voters are normally tough on closers but this one should not even be up for debate. He was a lights out closer who averaged less than 1 base runner per inning with a ERA just over 2. If Eckersley got in easily, Rivera should too.
Jim Thome- 600 HRs with no links to steroids should be an easy YES even in this era. The only knock is that he was often overshadowed and a bit of a compiler. Again, YES from me.
YES vote from me, voters may not agree.-
Frank Thomas- To me, this is an pretty easy YES. True, 500 HRs may not guarantee you getting in now but Thomas was a slugger before steroid use became widespread. He also had a .300 BA, .400 OBP and .550 slugging. Those are huge numbers. IN.
Chipper Jones- fell short of the milestones but his BA is over .300 and his sabremetrics look good as well. My vote is a close yes.
Pedro Martinez- see scenario #1, fits the mold perfectly. Only just over 200 wins but won more than 2/3 of his decisions. YES.
Billy Wagner- likely to be snubbed but his WHIP is the same as Rivera and sports a 2.40 ERA. YES.
Close but no cigar
Carlos Delgado- 480 HRs would have done it in the '70s and '80s. Not so now. I vote for McGriff and against Delgado because McGriff came into the league in a much tougher era for hitters.
Johnny Damon- Compiler who fell short of magic milestones.
Todd Helton- This one is a harder no and I may change my mind. The .320 BA is impressive but I'm not sure he was dominant long enough or lasted long enough. Moreover, his numbers are inflated by hitting in Denver 81 games per year.
Trevor Hoffman- I'm not overly impressed by a closer who racks up a ton of saves while posting otherwise ordinary numbers. His candidacy is slightly better than Lee Smith. ERA near 3 and a WHIP and strikeout ratio that is good but not eye popping. Close no.
Gary Sheffield- linked to steroids and never liked him as a person because of his numerous racially charged remarks throughout his career.
Ivan Rodriguez- linked to steroids and his numbers fell off dramatically when testing began.
Manny Ramirez- Hell NO!
On the fence:
Alex Rodriguez- I lean towards NO because he is an admitted doper. However, he stepped forward and came clean on his own. If he was only dirty for 3 years, he's got the numbers even if you don't count those seasons. More deserving than Bonds or Clemens.