SweetSpot: Hall of Fame
Personally, I think the one-to-one ratio of Hall of Famer per team sounds about right. It's fewer than the overrepresented 1920s and 1930s, about what we have for the '50s and '60s but fewer than what we have for the '70s and '80s.
So, who is missing from the '70s and '80s? Here are 10 guys I would put in. WAR totals and rankings from Baseball-Reference.com.
Tim Raines (69.1 WAR, 105th all time)
Ballot history: After starting out with just 24 percent of the vote in 2008 he's started climbing in recent years and was up to 52 percent last year.
This will be Raines' seventh year on the ballot, and while he'll probably stagnate in the next couple years with some big names on the ballot, he looks like he'll eventually get in before his 15 years is up.
Alan Trammell (70.4 WAR, 94th)
Ballot history: After 12 years on the ballot, he was at 33 percent last year. He won't get elected via the BBWAA.
I've never understood why Trammell was never able to build a case. His career numbers are very similar to Barry Larkin's, minus a few steals, and Larkin made it in on his third year. Even if you think Larkin was a little better, if Larkin's case is 100 percent then Trammell's should be about 98 percent. Two differences: Larkin won an MVP and Trammell finished second when he should have won; Larkin didn't have Cal Ripken in his league.
Lou Whitaker (74.8, 77th)
Ballot history: Got 3 percent his first year and fell off.
Whitaker's career numbers are pretty similar to Roberto Alomar's: .276/.363/.426 with a 117 OPS+ versus .300/.371/.443 with a 116 OPS+. Alomar had more steals and the better defensive reputation although Whitaker was very good and won three Gold Gloves. It's not necessarily that Whitaker was as good as Alomar but that he compares very favorably. The case against him is that his peak wasn't as high -- his five best seasons were worth 28.9 WAR compared to Alomar's five best at 33.0 -- but he was very good even up to his final season. You know what hurt him? He hit the ballot in 2001, when even middle infielders were putting up huge offensive numbers. Whitaker's good seasons looked less impressive at the time.
Dwight Evans (66.7, 125th)
Ballot history: First came on in 1997, lasted three years before getting booted.
Evans had received 10 percent his second year, which while not great at least gave him some momentum from his first year. Maybe his case would have exploded like Bert Blyleven's. But the 1999 ballot added Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount and everybody else suffered as a result. Evans, of course, is a sabermetric darling. He did things well that Jim Rice, his Hall of Fame teammate on the Red Sox, didn't: draw walks, play superb defense. The walks meant that Evans posted a higher on-base percentage even though Rice had the higher average. You'd think a guy who won eight Gold Gloves, hit 385 home runs in the pre-steroid era, drove in 1384 runs and scored 1470 would have been more appreciated. Part of his problem was that he was better in his 30s than his 20s. He wasn't a Hall of Famer for the first half his career so not enough people thought of him as one.
Bobby Grich (71.0, 90th)
Ballot history: One and done.
Yes, another sabermetric favorite. He had good power for a second baseman for his era, drew a ton of walks and won four Gold Gloves. An enormously valuable player in his time -- Baseball-Reference ranks him as one of the top seven position players in the AL in seven different seasons, including first in 1973.
Orel Hershiser (56.8, 209th)
Ballot history: Received 11 percent his first year and then fell off in his second. Odd.
Hershiser won "only" 204 games and thus his early exit from the ballot. I'm not saying he's a lock candidate, but why has Jack Morris' case taken off while Hershiser was dumped so quickly? At his peak, Hershiser was more dominant and his 1988 postseason heroics certainly are the equal of Morris' Game 7. OK, Morris won more games. Maybe a better comparison is another former Dodgers pitcher, Don Drysdale, who made it in with 209 career wins. Hershiser's career ERA isn't as good but he also had to pitch in the high-scoring late '90s during the decline phase of his career. Like Drysdale, he was famous during his peak (not mention Hershiser broke Drysdale's scoreless-inning record). Postseason career: 8-3, 2.59 ERA in 22 games (18 starts).
Keith Hernandez (60.1, 177th)
Ballot history: Stayed on for nine years, peaking at 11 percent.
As a first baseman, you make the Hall of Fame for your bat, thus Hernandez never drew much support. Still, he was a .296 career hitter, drew walks, played on two World Series champs and is regarded as maybe the best defensive first baseman ever. His career WAR is Hall of Fame borderline but Hernandez was also one of the most iconic players of the '80s, if you want to put stock into that. (And, yes, Hernandez over Don Mattingly, who simply had too short of a peak.)
Luis Tiant (66.7, 125th)
Ballot history: Stayed on for 15 years.
Here's what's interesting about Tiant: He received 30 percent of the vote his first year on the ballot, 1988. People have been elected with worse starting positions -- Rice, Blyleven, Bruce Sutter. Drysdale received just 21 percent his first year. So initially there was a strong belief in Tiant as a possible Hall of Famer, with his 229 career wins and popular personality. He to fell 11 percent his second year. What happened? Gaylord Perry and Fergie Jenkins entered the ballot in 1989. Then Jim Palmer. Then Tom Seaver in 1992, Phil Niekro in 1993, Steve Carlton in 1994. He wasn't as good as those guys so everyone forgot about him.
Ted Simmons (50.2, 289th)
Ballot history: One and done. He's on the Veterans Committee ballot this year.
I'm on the fence with Simmons, but he does rank 10th all time in catcher WAR and I'd argue that the top 10 at each position are strong Hall of Fame candidates. He wasn't Johnny Bench, but who was? From 1971 to 1980 he hit .301 and averaged 90 RBIs per season.
Pete Rose (79.4, 64th)
Ballot history: Actually received 9.5 percent of the vote in 1992.
OK, maybe including Rose is cheating a bit.
* * * *
So that's 10 players. Others you could argue for: Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Willie Randolph; Graig Nettles isn't that dissimilar from Brooks Robinson; Rick Reuschel's career WAR is higher than Palmer, Drysdale, Sutton or Juan Marichal; Lee Smith has done pretty well in the BBWAA voting and is still on the ballot. Tommy John, Dave Concepcion, Dave Parker, Steve Garvey and Dan Quisenberry are on the Veterans Committee ballot this year, which makes them all candidates, although I think only John has a strong case. (Quisenberry is no different from Sutter, however, so there's that.) Dave Stieb was dominant in the '80s; with a little more luck he could have won three Cy Young Awards and been a stronger choice.
Part of the problem voters face is that as the quality of talent improves over time it becomes harder for the great players to separate themselves. So Stieb looks like Hershiser who looks like Bret Saberhagen who looks like Dwight Gooden and none of them were Tom Seaver so nobody gets in.
I know many (most?) of you believe electing guys like those above would weaken the Hall of Fame. That's sort of my ultimate point; if your Hall of Fame is Willie Mays and Hank Aaron and Cal Ripken, then your bar is way above the established level of actual Hall of Famers. Let's just give guys from recent decades their fair due.
Joe Posnanski wrote the other day on the "Hall of Fame percentage" -- pointing out that every player except one who received 50 percent of the BBWAA vote eventually got in the Hall of Fame, either by the BBWAA or via the Veterans Commmittee (not including those still on the ballot.) That one player is former Brooklyn Dodgers first baseman Gil Hodges, who also managed the Miracle Mets to a World Series title in 1969. If history holds true, this is good news for Craig Biggio, Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza and Tim Raines, all of whom were over 50 percent in last year's vote, and for Lee Smith, who crossed 50 percent in 2012 before falling back under in 2013.
I wanted to look at something else. Following is the list of all Hall of Fame players, divided by decade (excluding Negro Leaguers, although they would all be pre-1950). Players were placed in the decade in which they accumulated the most Baseball-Reference WAR -- with one exception. I placed Dennis Eckersley in the 1990s; he actually accumulated the most WAR in the 1970s, when he was a starter for the Indians and Red Sox, but he got in the Hall of Fame primarily because of his work as a reliever, and 293 of his 390 saves came in the '90s (as well as his MVP and CY Young season of 1992). Those elected via the BBWAA are in regular type; those elected by the Veterans Committee are in italics (with players elected by the original Old-Timers Committee in the 1940s indicated by an asterisk.
Pee Wee Reese
Home Run Baker
Old Hoss Radbourn*
Here's the catch. There are almost twice as many teams now than the 16 that existed before expansion first began in 1961, so logically shouldn't there be more Hall of Famers from more recent decades? Here's a breakdown with average number of teams per decade, the numbers of Hall of Famers, and the number of Hall of Famers per team.
Decade Teams HoF HoF/team
1990s 28 3 .10
1980s 26 15 .58
1970s 24 21 .88
1960s 20 21 1.05
1950s 16 18 1.13
1940s 16 12 .75
1930s 16 30 1.88
1920s 16 27 1.69
1910s 16 12 0.75
1900s 16 20 1.25
1890s 12 16 1.33
1880s 16 13 .81
I'm not saying we need to go to the levels of the 1920s and 1930s -- many of the "worst" Hall of Famers are from this era, the result of high offense resulting in some gaudy-looking batting averages, as well as former Giants and Cardinals Hall of Famer Frankie Frisch influencing the Veterans Committee to get several of his former Giants and Cardinals teammates elected, most with dubious qualifications.
But even compared to the 1950s and 1960s, the '70s and '80s guys are getting shafted. The '50s/'60s have 39 Hall of Famers for 36 teams; the '70s/'80s have 36 Hall of Famers for 50 teams. To have the same ratio of Hall of Famers as the '50s/'60s, we'd need 18 more Hall of Famers who made their mark in the '70s and '80s. (That's assuming the same level of Hall of Fame-caliber players exists equally through time, of course. Essentially, the various Hall of Fame voters and committees have argued that's NOT the case, which I think is a pretty dubious proposition.)
An even starker contrast happens when you divide the 20th century in half. Hall of Famers from the first half of the 1900s, including Negro Leaguers: 130; Hall of Famers from the second half of the 20th century: 77.
Now, we haven't closed out the 1980s just yet. There are still five '80s guys on the ballot -- Morris, Raines, Smith, Alan Trammell and Don Mattingly. Morris might get in, but it's his final year; Raines is getting closer; Smith is falling and Trammell and Mattingly have no chance.
That leaves the Veterans Committee, but it has shown more inclination to elect managers, owners and umpires than players. That's what will happen again this year, when it examines the "Expansion Era" (for those who made their mark primarily after 1972) and Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa likely get in and the players get shut out.
So the door is closing rapidly on the 1980s candidates, at least for the foreseeable future. That gets us to all the complications of the 1990s guys. Obviously, we'll start seeing more of a trickle this year with Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, maybe Biggio and Frank Thomas. Next year gives us Randy Johnson, John Smoltz and Pedro Martinez as leading candidates (actually, Pedro would be the first 2000s guy elected). Ken Griffey Jr. hits the ballot the year after that.
Meanwhile, the steroids guys will still be out there, while other strong candidates will be ignored or even pushed off the ballot before their cases have time to build, ala Lou Whitaker and Kevin Brown.
What's it all mean? It means we're still going to be having these heated debates for years to come.
And you thought the BBWAA had tough standards.
Yes, as much as we criticize the BBWAA -- for not electing anybody last year, for electing Jim Rice, for electing relief pitchers but not starting pitchers -- your average sports fan apparently has an even more narrow view of the Hall of Fame.
They wouldn't elect Maddux this year. Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas wouldn't come close to sniffing Cooperstown this year. Mike Mussina? Not a Hall of Famer. Jeff Kent? Forget about it. You can see why it's so hard for a candidate to get the 75 percent needed for election.
As for Maddux, it appears his legacy has perhaps waned a bit. While I'm sure the BBWAA will elect him with well over 90 percent of the vote -- unfortunately, I'm guessing a few curmudgeons will refuse to vote for him out of some strange first-ballot principle or something and thus prevent him from becoming the first unanimous choice -- perhaps we need a little refresher on Maddux's dominance.
During his seven-year peak from 1992 to 1998, he went 127-53 with a 2.15 ERA, while averaging 32 starts, 239 innings, 184 strikeouts, 38 walks and just nine home runs per season. He won four straight Cy Young Awards and had back-to-back seasons in '94 and '95 with ERAs of 1.56 and 1.63, all while pitching in the heart of a high-scoring era. In '94 and '95, the average National League team scored 4.63 runs per game; compare that to 2012-2013, when the average NL team averaged 4.11 runs per game.
If you're too young to have seen Maddux pitch, go over to YouTube and check out some highlights. Here he is pitching eight shutout innings in Game 2 of the 1996 World Series. He threw a low-90s fastball with great movement, making it cut or sink, but with impeccable command and precision. In 1997, he issued just 14 unintentional walks in 232 2/3 innings; I'm sure several of those were intentionally unintentional. He varied his speed so every pitch was a different velocity from the previous one. He mixed in a changeup to further keep hitters off-balance. My old colleague Rob Neyer tabbed him The Smartest Pitcher Who Ever Lived, an apropos moniker; he was always one step ahead of the hitters, even if he didn't have the overpowering fastball of Roger Clemens or Randy Johnson.
As you can see in this video, Maddux was always a bit coy about what made him so good. It was like he had discovered this great mystery but needed to keep it to himself. Teammates often talked about his encyclopedic knowledge of opponents or his ability to read into a batter's body language, but Maddux always played this down. I remember interviewing him once and asking something along those lines and he simply joked, "Well, if I told you I'd have to kill you." He then took a baseball and showed how he would change his grip or finger pressure for different pitches, but he had such a big smirk on his face that to this day I think he was simply screwing with me.
Despite the glasses he wore when not pitching and a body that rarely -- if ever -- saw a weight room, Maddux was a good natural athlete who won 18 Gold Glove Awards. He was blessed, of course, with a rubber arm, and I believe he never missed a start in his career. (He started 33-plus games every season from 1988 until his retirement in 2008, excepting the strike-shortened seasons of '94 and '95.)
Think about that. You have a guy who had the peak of a Sandy Koufax, plus 12 more seasons where he was better than league average (and sometimes much better). You could actually extend his peak from 1992 to 2002, when he went 198-88 with a 2.47 ERA. His ERA+ -- ERA adjusted for the run-scoring environment pitched in -- over those 11 seasons was 171, a figure Koufax topped in just two individual seasons.
Maddux is 25th in career wins above replacement, making him a clear inner-circle Hall of Famer. Among pitchers, he's seventh. Among pitchers born after 1900, he's third, behind Clemens and Tom Seaver.
Maddux is an obvious first-ballot Hall of Famer. Maybe he didn't throw 95 mph.
He didn't have to.
This is Morris' final year on the BBWAA's Hall ballot. He's received 66.7 percent of the vote each of the past two elections, so in order to get to the 75 percent needed for election he'll have to pick up an additional 42 votes if the same 569 ballots are cast again. That's not unreasonable -- players often receive a spike in their final year -- but it's complicated this year by the crowded ballot and the new eligibility of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Mike Mussina, three pitchers with much stronger résumés than Morris.
Joe Posnanski is in the anti-Morris crowd. He admits he's a little obsessed by Morris (he's written many columns on Morris over the years), maybe too obsessed. He wrote the other day:
If someone wanted to make a Hall of Fame case for Jack Morris, they could say this:
1. He was an extremely durable pitcher who never missed a start and completed 175 games in his career.
2. He pitched one of the greatest World Series games.
3. He compiled borderline Hall of Fame caliber stats with his 254 wins and 2,478 strikeouts and his durability, the respect he built from teammates and opponents alike and his Game 7 push him over the border.
4. He was probably better than a handful of starters already in the Hall.
This isn't necessarily the most compelling argument, but this is what you have to work with. The trouble is, many people seem ABSOLUTELY SURE there is more to Morris' case. They just know -- absolutely know -- that Morris had to be better than that relatively tepid argument. And so they go searching.
More from the anti-Morris side. Recently on Twitter, ESPN Insider contributor Dan Szymborski compared Morris to some other pitchers via a series of tweets:
The case against Morris is simple: Relative to Hall of Famers, he wasn't very good at preventing the other team from scoring runs.— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) November 27, 2013
To match Morris's career ERA+/IP, Kevin Appier needs 1228.2 IP of 6.23 ERA. Would 6 horrific seasons make Appier better candidate?— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) November 27, 2013
To get to Jack Morris's IP/ERA+, Kevin Brown would need 567.2 IP of a 7.92 ERA.— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) November 27, 2013
By request, to match Morris's career IP/ERA+, Dave Stieb would need 928.2 IP of 8.07 ERA.— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) November 27, 2013
To catch Morris IP/ERA+, Rick Reuschel would need to come back and throw 275.2 IP of a 7.31 ERA.— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) November 27, 2013
Morris finished with a 3.90 career ERA. Over his final seven seasons, it was 4.48, despite which he managed to go 92-81.
In his piece, Posnanski cited this pro-Morris column from Joel Sherman of the New York Post:
I think there has been retroactive cherry-picking of Morris' career. In his era, he was valued as an unquestioned ace, a workhorse No. 1, the kind of starter who prided himself on working deep into games, saving bullpens, etc. My friend, Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, noted last year the righty pitched at least eight innings in 248 starts, which is the most by an AL pitcher in the DH era and represented 52 percent of his starts.
Here is one I note: Sparky Anderson, Tom Kelly and Cito Gaston combined to manage 8,146 regular-season games and each won two World Series. Every time Morris was available to start Game 1, those experienced managers started him. That was six times in seven series. The only time he didn't was the 1987 ALCS for Anderson's Tigers. He had thrown nine innings in Game 161 against Toronto to help Detroit clinch at least an AL East tie with the Blue Jays and so wasn't available until ALCS Game 2.
I guess the sabermetric crowd could know more today about Morris than those three managers knew then, but I am going with the managers.
Posnanski goes on to refute Sherman's arguments, so I won't do that here.
I do think there's something else going on that elevated Morris from a Hall of Fame afterthought -- he received less than 25 percent of the vote his first four years on the ballot -- to viable inductee.
Morris' first full season in the majors was 1979. His last good one was 1992. He's not really part of the Tom Seaver-Nolan Ryan-Steve Carlton-Phil Niekro-Don Sutton generation that pitched in the late '60s and early '70s, when offense was down, and racked up big innings, often in four-man rotations, and all won 300 games. (Bert Blyleven didn't win 300 but is part of that generation, as well.) Morris isn't really part of the Maddux-Glavine-Mussina-Randy Johnson-Pedro Martinez-Curt Schilling generation that kicked into high gear right as Morris was departing.
No, Morris is kind of a man on an island. Think of all the great pitchers who followed Morris in the '80s:
- Fernando Valenzuela: Burned out after six seasons, won 173 games.
- Dave Stieb: Developed shoulder problems, won 176 games.
- Dwight Gooden: Drug issues, but career ultimately derailed by shoulder issues. Won 194 games.
- Bret Saberhagen: Couldn't stay healthy. Won 167 games.
- Orel Hershiser: Tore his rotator cuff, although managed a comeback. Won 204 games.
- Frank Viola: Tommy John surgery. Won 176 games.
Then you have flickering rays like Mario Soto and Jose Rijo. Only Roger Clemens, who debuted in 1984, and Jamie Moyer, who debuted in 1986, began their careers in the 1980s and won more games than Morris' 254. The Hall of Fame has elected one starting pitcher since 1999 -- Blyleven in 2011, and he began his career in 1970.
Those guys above were all better than Morris at their peaks. With the exception of Valenzuela, they all had a higher career WAR. But they didn't win 254 games. They didn't win more games than Bob Gibson or Juan Marichal or Whitey Ford.
In the end, that is what Morris' case is all about -- 254 wins and that Game 7 shutout. It's not about how he was viewed as an ace or that his managers trusted him or other such arguments. It's about survival. And now Morris may have survived long enough on the Hall of Fame ballot to finally get elected to Cooperstown.
This year's ballot entrusts the 500-something voters with the monumental task of examining at least 21 legitimate Hall of Fame candidates, from Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens to Fred McGriff, Jack Morris and Lee Smith.
Last year, no player was elected. This year, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas are among the new names on the ballot, creating a logjam for those who would like to vote for more than the 10 allowed in the rules.
That's why I fear Mussina won't even get the 5 percent of the vote needed to stay on the ballot. Others assure me that won't happen, but I'm concerned that a guy with Mussina's credentials will get overlooked for a variety of reasons -- the crowded ballot, he doesn't seem like a surefire candidate at first glance, the voters who don't vote for first-time guys out of principle. All that could conspire to knock off Mussina even though he should be an automatic selection.
Mussina's case is especially intriguing because it gets to the core of these Hall of Fame debates. The sabermetrically inclined crowd -- which does include a large bloc of Hall of Fame voters, although far from a majority -- essentially believes the Hall of Fame should reward the best players and uses statistical evidence to back up its case. Most voters from the BBWAA probably believe they're voting on merit and might look at numbers, but clearly factor in other things on an ad hoc basis. If you support Jack Morris, you give huge weight to his Game 7 World Series performance; if you supported Jim Rice, maybe you considered that he was feared in his time or fared well in MVP voting; if you supported Bruce Sutter, maybe you gave him extra credit for popularizing the split-fingered fastball.
All of that doesn't even consider the different opinions on how to handle those players associated with PEDs.
Anyway, Mussina's statistical case starts with Wins Above Replacement. A lot of readers hate WAR. A made-up stat for nerds!, they like to scream; or as one person tweeted to me the other day, "No true baseball fan gives a s--- about WAR, which no one heard about until the Mike Trout fanboys wanted him MVP."
Mussina's career WAR of 83.0 is fourth highest on this year's ballot, behind Bonds, Clemens and Maddux, just ahead of Glavine, Curt Schilling and Jeff Bagwell. In general terms, this is the area of guys who go in on the first ballot. Here is the list of all 1970s-and-beyond players with between 75 and 95 career WAR and how many ballots it took them to get elected to Cooperstown. (You might not like WAR, but it's pretty hard to suggest this isn't a list of great players.)
Albert Pujols -- Still active
Wade Boggs -- First
Gaylord Perry -- Third
Steve Carlton -- First
George Brett -- First
Chipper Jones -- Not eligible yet
Fergie Jenkins -- Third
Pedro Martinez -- Not eligible yet
Ken Griffey Jr. -- Not eligible yet
MIKE MUSSINA -- TBD
Nolan Ryan -- First
Tom Glavine -- TBD
Rod Carew -- First
Curt Schilling -- One appearance
Jeff Bagwell -- Two appearances
Pete Rose -- Not eligible
Robin Yount -- First
Ozzie Smith -- First
Paul Molitor -- First
Johnny Bench -- First
You can see the uphill battle Mussina faces; the two guys not elected on the first ballot were both pitchers (Perry and Jenkins). Two other pitchers with more than 95 career WAR also didn't get in right away: Phil Niekro (fifth ballot) and Bert Blyleven (14th ballot). For some reason, Hall of Famers have been very tough on starting pitchers.
Mark Simon summed up Mussina's WAR credentials here:
Stretch our pitcher WAR list back to 1961 (the start of the expansion era), and Mussina still ranks 10th, right on par with Hall of Famers Steve Carlton (ninth), Ferguson Jenkins (T-11th), Nolan Ryan (T-11th) and Bob Gibson (14th).
Stretch it back to 1920 (the start of the live-ball era), and Mussina is in the No. 12 spot.
OK, WAR says Mussina, with his career record of 270-153 and a 3.68 ERA compiled in the heart of the high-scoring "steroid era", belongs in Cooperstown.
But maybe you think the voters will -- and should -- focus on these aspects of Mussina's career:
--Didn't win 300 games.
--That career ERA is pretty high.
--Only had one full season with an ERA under 3.00.
--Didn't win a Cy Young Award.
--Didn't win a World Series. In fact, the Yankees won in 2000, the year before Mussina joined them, and then won in 2009, the year after he retired.
--Wasn't great in the postseason. After all, he couldn't lead the Yankees to a championship!
* * * *
There are, I believe, six major components when judging a player's Hall of Fame credentials:
1. Old-school statistics.
2. New-school metrics.
3. Best player at his position arguments.
6. Signature moments.
Well, there's a seventh: character, applied primarily to PED users, but I'm going to skip that one right now.
Personally, I like to focus primarily on the first three, while also weighing the other three. (The third one is really a subset of the first two.) The sabermetric crowd, as mentioned, tends to focus almost entire on the second point, perhaps to a fault.
For those who ignore the new-school metrics -- WAR, ERA+ and so on -- then we present Mussina's old-school stats. Yes, he never won a Cy Young Award, but in various years he finished second, fourth, fourth, fifth, fifth, fifth, sixth, sixth and sixth in the voting. Nolan Ryan never won a Cy Young Award, either. And many pitchers who did win Cy Young Awards never came close to Mussina's career. Maybe he wasn't the best pitcher in any one season, but he was one of the best in the American League for many seasons.
Another way to look at that, using conventional statistics, are his ERA rankings: third, fourth, fourth, sixth, sixth, third, third, second, eighth, fourth, sixth. If you're not impressed by that, I don't know what to say. That's why his career WAR is so high when his career ERA may not impress; you have to factor in the era in which he pitched. His 3.50 ERA in 1999 was third in the AL, as was his 3.79 ERA in 2000 -- only five AL starters had an ERA under 4.00 that year. (Even more amazing, Mussina had a 3.79 ERA with an outfield of 36-year-old Brady Anderson, 35-year-old B.J. Surhoff and 33-year-old Albert Belle. His third baseman was 39, his shortstop 34 and his first baseman 36. Shockingly, the Orioles finished 12th in the league in runs allowed.)
As far as fame, legacy and signature moments, those are more subjective. I would certainly argue that Mussina was one of the more famous pitchers of his era -- maybe not quite on the level of Clemens or Maddux or Pedro Martinez, but that's a high level of fame to achieve. He pitched in nine different postseasons and played for the most famous franchise in the sport. It's hard to use the "wasn't famous" argument against him even if he didn't give us "Who's your daddy?" sound bites and eye black in playoff games.
Maybe he does fall short in the legacy department. Of course, he could have hung around to win 300 games -- he retired after going 20-9 with a 3.37 ERA -- even if hanging around wouldn't have really added any value to his career (although it certainly seemed like he had plenty left in the tank). Maybe people have difficulty assigning a label to him: He wasn't the control artist that Maddux was (although he was close: 2.0 walks per nine innings compared to Maddux's 1.8) or didn't possess the overpowering fastball of Randy Johnson. But he was more dominant than you realize (19th all time in strikeouts and eight times ranked in the top six in the AL in strikeouts per nine innings). His knuckle-curve was certainly one of the signature pitches of the past 20 years.
As for signature moments, I believe people are underrating his postseason career. Here is Mussina compared to two pitchers whose postseason results might be the reason they get into the Hall of Fame:
Mussina: 7-8, 3.42 ERA (21 starts)
Morris: 7-4, 3.80 ERA (13 starts)
Andy Pettitte: 19-11, 3.81 ERA (44 starts)
Among Mussina's postseason moments:
- Twice beat Johnson in the 1997 Division Series, holding a Seattle lineup that included Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, Alex Rodriguez and Jay Buhner to seven hits and three runs over two games.
- In the ALCS against Cleveland that year, he was dominating. In Game 3, he allowed one run, three hits and struck out 15 in seven innings. But the Orioles couldn't score and the Indians won in 12 innings. In Game 6, he allowed one hit and no runs in eight innings while striking out 10 but the Orioles couldn't score again and Tony Fernandez hit a home run off Armando Benitez in the 11th inning to win the series. Oh, that Cleveland lineup included Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, David Justice, Matt Williams, Brian Giles and Marquis Grissom. Again, facing two of the most powerful lineups of that generation, Mussina pitched four consecutive gems, allowing four runs and 11 hits in 29 innings. It deserves accolades as one of the best postseasons a pitcher has ever had.
- In Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS -- aka the Jeter Flip Game -- it was Mussina who pitched seven scoreless innings to help keep the Yankees alive in the series. But people only remember the flip.
- In Game 5 of the World Series -- aka the Scott Brosius Game -- Mussina allowed two runs in eight innings. Ignored.
- In Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS against the Red Sox, Mussina entered in relief of Roger Clemens on two days' rest and pitched three scoreless innings. The Yankees, of course, would later rally against Pedro and win on Aaron Boone's home run. Forgotten.
- That relief outing meant Mussina only got one start in the World Series, which he won, allowing one run. If the Yankees had defeated Josh Beckett in Game 6, maybe Mussina gets his signature moment in Game 7.
But that didn't happen and Mussina never did get his World Series ring.
Those are the breaks of the game, of course. Timing can be everything. Mussina pitched his career in a high-scoring era, in parks that worked against him, with a lot of bad defenses behind him. He was still one of the very best of his generation. And, yes, a should-be slam-dunk Hall of Famer. So voters, give the man a break and put him on your ballot.
By the way, one more quick note on Ortiz. Whenever I write about him, the haters always bring up PEDs. They also like to point to his rejuvenation in recent years as "proof" that he's juicing. In 2008 and 2009, Ortiz hit .250/.348/.482, and in 2009 he got off to that awful start when he'd hit one home run through May while batting under .200. Since 2010, he's hit .300/.392/.560. The haters extract this to argue that he obviously must be cheating. I mean, Hank Aaron had the two highest slugging percentages of his career at ages 37 and 39, but whatever, Ortiz must be cheating.
Of course, that narrative leaves out something important. Check out Ortiz's strikeout rates:
2009: 21.4 percent
2010: 23.9 percent
2011: 13.7 percent
2012: 13.3 percent
2013: 14.7 percent
Ortiz's line drive percentage in 2013 was 25 percent, the highest during any season of his Red Sox career. Even when he hit .332 in 2007, it was much lower, at 19 percent. It seems to me that Ortiz has simply become a better hitter, better against left-handed pitching and willing to sacrifice a few home runs to put the ball in play more often. The guy who struck out 134 and 145 times in 2009 and 2010 struck out just 88 times in 2013.
Here are four other players who most helped their Hall of Fame cases in 2013 -- I wouldn't include somebody like Mariano Rivera, who was a lock no matter what he did this year, or even Miguel Cabrera, whose Hall of Fame credentials are already firmly established.
After injury-plagued 2009 and 2010 seasons with the Mets, Beltran's career appeared in jeopardy, but he's put together three consecutive good-to-excellent seasons, hitting .288 while averaging 26 home runs and 88 RBIs. Although he wasn't quite the terror in the postseason that everyone kept mentioning, he did drive in 15 runs in 17 games. As with Ortiz, it's the perception that matters here. Beltran's career WAR of 67.5 puts him above many recent Hall of Famers -- in some cases, well above -- and though he'll turn 37 in April, he appears to have a couple more good seasons in him. With 358 home runs and 1,327 RBIs, his counting stats are starting to impress as much as the advanced metrics like him.
Beltre is similar to Beltran -- he's a good all-around player who has kind of snuck up as a Hall of Fame candidate. Beltre has now had four straight terrific seasons, averaging 6.5 WAR; according to Baseball-Reference, the only position players with more WAR since 2010 are Robinson Cano and Cabrera. Much of Beltre's chances of eventually getting in rest in how much value voters will place on his defense, but his offensive numbers are now strong enough -- and he'll be just 35 next year -- that voters will pay attention to the entire package. Factor in that he's been one of the best players in the game over a period of years (plus 2004, when he was second in the MVP voting while with the Dodgers) and his case looks better and better.
He obviously has a long way to go because he's just 25, but the important things Kershaw did were win another Cy Young Award, and do it with a high level of dominance, posting a sub-2.00 ERA. There's no doubt that his peak level of performance has made him into being the best pitcher in the game. Certainly, many other young pitchers have been at this stage in their careers -- Dwight Gooden, Bret Saberhagen -- but Kershaw's established level of performance means all he has to do is remain healthy.
Pedroia isn't a classic Hall of Fame candidate because he doesn't hit a lot of home runs or drive in 100 runs, but he's building a lot of positives on his résumé; adding a second World Series ring was a big plus. Pedroia now has four seasons of 5+ WAR, and a fifth at 4.9. Those totals are starting to line up with players like Ryne Sandberg and Roberto Alomar, both of whom had six 5+ WAR seasons. Pedroia turned 30 in August and his career WAR is 38.1, so he has a long way to go to become a Hall of Fame candidate, but if he can churn out three more peak seasons, he's going to have a strong case.
The thing to remember is that fame remains an important consideration for Hall of Fame voters. Fame is why Jim Rice is in and Tim Raines isn't. For Ortiz and Pedroia, they have that "winner" tag applied to them as well; if their cases end up borderline, they now have a check in the extra-credit column. It could make the difference.
Buster mentioned that Tyler Kepner of The New York Times is another writer with the same dilemma:
He responded that the use of 10 spots has "always seemed like an arbitrary cut-off point, and strikes me as unfair to both the voters and the candidates. It's true that only 22 percent of the voters used all 10 slots last year. But think about it -- since nobody made it last year, that means at least 22 percent of the voters will have to drop someone they deemed worthy of the Hall of Fame last year in order to accommodate any newcomers."
Those newcomers include Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent, all with solid or lock credentials, so one in five voters are going to leave a previous candidate or candidates off their ballot whom they otherwise would vote for. Consider that Hall of Fame election is often about momentum -- a player's vote usually increases through the years, often starting well under 50 percent and climbing until he reaches the 75 percent needed -- and some players might lose that crucial step forward needed to put them on a path to election.
The overcrowded ballot is just one ongoing Hall of Fame mess. Here's another one. Consider these two lists. Which one do you like better?
Hall of Famers elected since 2000
C -- Deacon White (45.4 career WAR)
1B -- Tony Perez (53.9)
2B -- Bill Mazeroski (36.1)
3B -- Ron Santo (70.6)
SS -- Barry Larkin (70.2)
OF -- Jim Rice (47.2)
OF -- Andre Dawson (64.4)
OF -- Kirby Puckett (50.8)
SP -- Bert Blyleven (96.5)
RP -- Bruce Sutter (24.5)
Not in the Hall of Fame
C -- Joe Torre (57.4 WAR)
1B -- Keith Hernandez (60.1)
2B -- Lou Whitaker (74.8)
3B -- Edgar Martinez (68.3)
SS -- Alan Trammell (70.4)
OF -- Larry Walker (72.6)
OF -- Tim Raines (69.1)
OF -- Dwight Evans (66.7)
SP -- Curt Schilling (80.7)
RP -- Dan Quisenberry (24.9)
The players on the second team have the higher combined wins above replacement, 645 to 559.6. Some of them are still on the writers' ballot (Martinez, Trammell, Walker, Raines and Schilling) and might make it someday via the BBWAA, although the crowded ballot again makes that less likely. Torre probably will get elected this year as a manager. But you get the point: From a standpoint of value, there isn't a lot to choose from between the two lists (note that the second list doesn't include players whose votes have suffered because of PED allegations or suspected use, such as Barry Bonds or Jeff Bagwell).
Now, all of the players on the first list weren't inducted by the BBWAA (White, Mazeroski and Santo were elected by the veterans committee), but the Hall of Fame doesn't distinguish between how a player was elected; BBWAA honorees don't get a bigger plaque.
That gets to the bigger mess: What is the Hall of Fame? Is it a place to honor the best players? The most famous players? Those -- players, executives, managers -- who had the biggest impact on the game's history? I suspect the BBWAA, if polled as a group, would say it's trying to elect the best players, not just the most famous ones, although in reality it's some intricate combination of the two.
With its tough threshold for election and continued division on how to handle PEDs, the BBWAA elected no players last year. It has elected one starting pitcher in the past 13 years. Some of its recent selections make sense from a nonstatistical point of view -- Rice was more "famous" than Evans, Dawson more "famous" than Raines, Puckett more "famous" than Martinez. But why Larkin and not Trammell? Sutter but not Quisenberry? Perez but not Hernandez?
So we have this weird Hall of Fame where great and deserving players aren't in but Jacob Ruppert is in, and Hank O'Day and Joe Gordon and Bill Mazeroski, not to mention the 17 players and executives from the Negro Leagues elected in an overreaching nod to political correctness in 2006.
The mess will only grow deeper this year. As Buster points out, the logjam means strong candidates might get booted off the ballot after failing to receive 5 percent of the vote. Mussina and Kent deserve to get their Hall of Fame case debated -- this year and in ensuing years -- but there's a good chance both will end up Whitaker-ed before their candidacies have time to start building momentum (as happened with Blyleven and Rice and now Jack Morris).
What to do? Expanding the ballot to allow for more than 10 selections is just the logical start.
This year, the committee is looking at what it calls the Expansion Era ballot, for candidates whose greatest contributions came in 1973 and later. The last time the VC looked at this era, in 2011, only executive Pat Gillick was elected. This year's ballot will likely produce more Hall of Famers; sadly, however, none are likely to be players. The 12 finalists who the 16-man committee (and it's all men, no women) will consider includes six players and six others. You need 12 of 16 votes to get elected. Let's take a closer look.
The managers: Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa, Billy Martin, Joe Torre
Martin is the interesting candidate, but he has no chance to get in with this group also on the ballot. Martin is 35th on the wins list and won just one title. What we do know about him, however, is that he was arguably the best turn-around artist in managerial history. Now, part of that was because nobody could stand to have him as their manager for more than five minutes, so he got a lot of opportunities. But consider:
- Took over the Twins in 1969 and they improved from 79 to 97 wins and won the AL West. (Fired after the season, in part for getting in a fight with one of his pitchers.)
- Took over the Tigers in 1971 and they improved from 79 to 91 wins. In 1972, they won the AL East. (Fired in 1973 after ordering his pitchers to throw spitballs in protest of Gaylord Perry allegedly doing so for Cleveland.)
- Took over Rangers in September of 1973. The club improved from 57-105 to 84-78 in 1974. (Fired in 1975 after some a confrontation with owner Brad Corbett.)
- Took over the Yankees late in 1975. Club improved from 83 wins to 97 in '76 and won its first pennant since 1964. In 1977, the Yankees won the World Series. (Resigned in 1978 after fighting with Reggie Jackson during a game and rumors that George Steinbrenner tried to trade Martin to the White Sox.)
- After managing the Yankees again for part of the 1979 season, he took over the A's in 1980. They had lost 108 games in 1979. They won 83 and then made the playoffs in the strike season of 1981. (Fired after losing 94 games in 1982.)
Then came all the ridiculousness with the Yankees in the '80s. Still, it's an impressive track record, although it came at a cost: Martin overworked his pitchers (most notably with a young staff in Oakland that soon fell apart) and none of the teams he managed sustained any long-term success. In the end, I can't really advocate for him for the Hall of Fame; not enough career wins, only one title and his other issues (drinking and brawling) that might have affected his teams. Plus: We have enough managers in already, with three more on the way.
The owner: George Steinbrenner
The Boss was on the last Expansion Era ballot and received fewer than eight votes. He was a bully, banned from baseball for paying a gambler to dig up dirt on Dave Winfield, and ran the franchise into the ground in the late '80s and early '90s (only to see it revived during his banishment). His team also won six World Series titles (and a seventh after he had given up day-to-day operations to his sons), and there's no denying he was one of the most famous people in the sport during his reign. I'll pass, but I suppose there's an argument to put him in.
The union guy: Marvin Miller
Miller fell one vote short of election last time around. Since then, he passed away and you almost feel as though the time to honor the man was missed. He's no doubt one of the most important figures in baseball history; the union leader who helped free the players from the reserve clause and enter the era of free agency. Does that make him a Hall of Famer? Nobody ever paid a penny to watch Marvin Miller in action. But if you can vote in Bowie Kuhn, you should put in Marvin Miller. FYI: There are four executives on the committee (Paul Beeston, Andy MacPhail, Dave Montgomery and Jerry Reinsdorf), so if they all vote against him, the other 12 (which includes six Hall of Fame players) have to vote for him.
The glove: Dave Concepcion
Concepcion received eight votes in 2010, so he is the highest returning player candidate. With a career WAR of 40.0, he doesn't have a strong statistical argument. There is also another shortstop candidate with obviously better credentials: Alan Trammell, who is still on the BBWAA ballot. Concepcion's case basically comes down to being part of the Big Red Machine, although he was a nine-time All-Star and won five Gold Gloves. The Reds already have one marginal Hall of Famer in Tony Perez; I don't think we need another.
The strong jaw: Steve Garvey
He was also on the last ballot and received fewer than eight votes. Career WAR of 37.6, only one season above 5.0. His case is that he was regarded as very valuable while active -- he won an MVP Award and finished second another year and sixth three other times. It's kind of a Jim Rice argument. Won't get in and shouldn't, as even his peak only lasted seven years. Keith Hernandez would be a better candidate to discuss at first base.
The guy they named the surgery after: Tommy John
Three pitching lines:
John: 288-231, 3.34 ERA, 111 ERA+, 62.3 WAR
Bert Blyleven: 287-250, 3.31 ERA, 118 ERA+, 96.5 WAR
Jack Morris: 254-186, 3.90 ERA, 105 ERA+, 43.8 WAR
Three pitchers with similar career win-loss records, but vastly different values by Wins Above Replacement. All three got about 20 percent of the vote their first years on the BBWAA ballot. Blyleven stayed there for a long time until the statistical argument became clear that he deserved Cooperstown; score one for the statheads. Morris has slowly climbed closer to 75 percent and may get in this year; score one for the old schoolers. John never really moved from his initial 22 percent.
By WAR, John is in the gray area; a good candidate but not a strong one. The argument against him is that he pitched forever but was never great. His peak WAR season was 5.6 and he had four years above 5.0. But just four others above 3.0. A lot of 2.4 and 1.5 kinds of seasons. Good No. 3 starter who was durable but rarely an ace. I wouldn't vote for him, although Blyleven's election in 2011 may help him.
The Cobra: Dave Parker
Is Parker the best outfielder not in the Hall of Fame? Clearly not. Even leaving off all the players still on the BBWAA ballot, there's another right fielder I would have preferred to see on this ballot: the criminally underrated Dwight Evans.
Evans is sort of the opposite of Parker. Parker had his best years in his 20s; Evans in his 30s. Parker never walked; Evans built a lot of value by walking (708 more career walks). Parker got fat; Evans stayed in tremendous shape. Parker ended up wasting a lot of his ability; Evans got the most out of his.
By career WAR, it's not close: Parker 40.0, Evans 66.7. Let's get Dewey on the ballot next time.
The submariner: Dan Quisenberry
Happy to see him get recognized. His career wasn't really so different from Bruce Sutter's, except Sutter had more facial hair and "invented" a pitch. Consider Quisenberry's run in Cy Young voting: fifth, no votes (1.73 ERA, though), third, second, second, third. He also finished in the top 10 of the MVP voting in four of those seasons. That said ... voters of that era dramatically overrated relief pitchers, even though they were pitching a lot more innings than today. But for a six-year run, he was as good as anybody.
The catcher: Ted Simmons
He's back after receiving fewer than eight votes, as well. I've always been a fan of Simmons' candidacy, which is admittedly borderline. One of the better hitting catchers, with a .285 career average (hit above .300 seven times), 248 home runs and 1,389 RBIs. He played second fiddle to Johnny Bench in the National League in the 1970s but, hey, not everybody can be Johnny Bench.
Two of the people on the committee are Paul Molitor, Simmons' teammate with the Brewers, and Whitey Herzog, who traded Simmons from the Cardinals to the Brewers after the two feuded and Simmons' defense had started declining. So I could see Molitor arguing for Simmons and Herzog against Simmons.
Either way, it probably doesn't matter, as Simmons' chances of getting in are slim.
The results will be announced at the winter meetings in December. I predict Cox, La Russa and Torre get in, with Miller, John and Concepcion falling a little short. I'd include Miller on my vote along with the three managers, while regretfully not voting for Simmons. (With Mike Piazza around, he's not the best catcher eligible for induction.)
My favorite example of this came back when he was managing the Pittsburgh Pirates and got into the infamous shouting match with Barry Bonds during spring training in 1991. Asked after the incident about what kind of example Bonds was setting, Leyland responded to the effect of "Leadership is a .300 average, 30 home runs, 30 steals."
Just the other day he was asked about what Torii Hunter brings to the Detroit Tigers and his first response was something like "Well, to begin with, he's a good player on the field."
Leyland wasn't dismissing the importance of things like veteran leadership or clubhouse chemistry, but merely stating that talent comes first. What you do between the lines is always the most important attribute for any player.
Leyland was also asked, with all his experience and multiple years of managing in the postseason, whether he had learned if there were any keys to winning in the playoffs. Not really, he said. You play the games.
In other words: Anything can happen. You can have one of the best rotations in baseball history and one of the best hitters of all time, but that's no guarantee of anything.
After eight years of managing the Tigers and 22 years of managing in the majors, Leyland has stepped down. He's 68 years old and managing in the major leagues isn't an easy life, even for a baseball lifer like him. He's undoubtedly still beating himself up over some of the moves he made with his bullpen against the Red Sox, but Leyland would also be the first to tell you: That's the playoffs. Their guys beat our guys.
While he managed the Tigers to two American League pennants, there is undoubtedly an air of disappointment over this era of the Tigers, a team stocked in top-line talent with the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Prince Fielder. In 2011, the pitching fell apart in the final two games of the ALCS against the Rangers, Verlander and Scherzer getting pounded. In 2012, the bats died in the World Series against the San Francisco Giants as the Tigers hit .159 and got shut out twice. Against the Red Sox, Cabrera wasn't 100 percent, Fielder didn't hit and the bullpen blew two leads.
Leyland will retire 15th on the all-time win list. Nine of those ahead of him are in the Hall of Fame, and Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre will get there some day, leaving Gene Mauch and Lou Piniella. However, Leyland's .506 winning percentage would rank 12th of those 15, ahead of only Bucky Harris, Connie Mack and Mauch. Ten of those 14 also won at least two World Series titles, with Cox, Piniella and Leo Durocher having won one and Mauch none.
Those numbers would seem to put Leyland right on the borderline of the Hall of Fame: his longevity working for him, his career winning percentage and one title against him. The winning percentage is clouded by a couple of things, however. When he took over the Pirates in 1986, they were coming off a 104-loss season. He lost 98 games his first season but had them in the playoffs in 1990, the first of three straight NL East titles. After Bonds, Doug Drabek and Bobby Bonilla departed as free agents, the franchise fell apart and Leyland stuck it out for four losing seasons.
He took over the Marlins in 1997 and they won the World Series. But that club had the big fire sale and the '98 club went 54-108. He managed the Rockies in 1999 but didn't return to the dugout again until his old GM in Florida, Dave Dombrowski, hired him in Detroit in 2006. The 2005 Tigers had gone 71-91. The 2006 Tigers went 95-67 and reached the World Series.
Is he a Hall of Fame manager? Certainly, one more title probably would have made him a lock. The Hall is pretty generous about electing managers, though: Whitey Herzog has just one title and 500 fewer wins than Leyland and he's in; Dick Williams has two titles, fewer wins than Leyland and a .520 winning percentage but he's in. Leyland certainly wouldn't be described as an innovator like Herzog, but he managed the talent he had and didn't try to do too much with it.
Based on historical precedent, I'd say Leyland eventually goes in. Once the big three get in, the next choice would seem to be Leyland, Piniella or maybe Davey Johnson (shorter career, better winning percentage). Leyland did reach three World Series, while Piniella and Johnson reached just one. All three certainly were "famous" managers. I say Leyland rates the slight edge over those two.
Basically, Beltran's case goes something like this: He kind of snuck up on everyone as a Hall of Fame candidate, he fares very well in advanced metrics, such as WAR, but not quite as well in more conventional measurements, such as counting stats and MVP voting results. Certainly, two more strong seasons will help his case.
Comparisons have been made to Andre Dawson, another guy who did a little of everything. In terms of career WAR, they're similar: Beltran 67.5, Dawson 64.4. One major difference: There was a time when Dawson was considered maybe the best player in the game, something that has never been said of Beltran. Dawson also won an MVP Award (though ridiculously undeserved), and that undoubtedly helped get him elected to Cooperstown.
It all means Beltran is a borderline candidate. Which gets us to this: How much should his great postseason numbers (.337 BA, 16 HR, 37 RBIs, 1.173 OPS) factor in?
Case study: Jim Rice versus Bernie Williams
Rice: 382 HR, 1451 RBIs, .298/.352/.502, 47.2 WAR
Williams: 287 HR, 1257 RBIs, .297/.381/.477, 49.5 WAR
Verdict: Postseason doesn't help.
Case study: Curt Schilling versus Kevin Brown
Schilling: 216-146, 3.46 ERA, 127 ERA+, 80.7 WAR
Brown: 211-144, 3.28 ERA, 127 ERA+, 68.5 WAR
In their raw stats, these two are nearly identical, right down to innings pitched (Schilling had five more in his career). Neither won a Cy Young Award, although Brown should have won in 1996 when he had a 1.89 ERA for the Marlins and arguably for the Padres in 1998, when he led the National League in WAR. Schilling finished second in the voting three times, twice to teammate Randy Johnson, once to Johan Santana. They're not exactly the same: Schilling does have the edge in career WAR (he spent more time in good hitter's park) and strikeouts.
The difference, of course, is Schilling was one of the great postseason pitchers ever, going 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 19 career starts, winning three rings. Brown went 5-5 with a 4.19 ERA in 13 starts and one ring. Brown fell off the ballot after one; Schilling received 39 percent of the vote last year on his first year on the ballot, actually a pretty good starting point to eventual election.
Verdict: Postseason helps.
Case study: Jack Morris versus Dennis Martinez
Morris: 254-186, 3.90 ERA, 105 ERA+, 43.8 WAR
Martinez: 245-193, 3.70 ERA, 106 ERA+, 49.5 WAR
Pretty similar numbers. Morris' win-loss record is slightly better, but he also generally pitched on much better teams. Martinez's best years came in relative obscurity with the Expos, with whom he went 100-72 with a 3.06 ERA in eight seasons. This is more like the Rice-Williams case, in that neither really has a strong Hall of Fame case.
Except that Morris has those World Series rings. Martinez pitched in two World Series, but his teams lost both times. Morris' career in the playoffs: 7-4, 3.80 ERA (13 starts). Martinez: 2-2, 3.32 ERA (seven starts). Martinez received 16 votes and was knocked off the ballot. Morris received 68 percent last year and has one year left on the ballot with a good chance of getting the final-year push like Rice did.
It should pointed out that Morris' overall postseason record isn't that special. He did win two games in the 1984 World Series, but other pitchers have had spectacular World Series and didn't get in to the Hall of Fame (Lew Burdette, Mickey Lolich). For Morris, his candidacy really comes down to voters putting a huge value on his Game 7 performance in 1991.
Verdict: Postseason helps.
Case study: Kirby Puckett versus Larry Walker
Puckett: 207 HR, 1085 RBIs, .318/.360/.477, 50.8 WAR
Walker: 383 HR, 1311 RBIs, .313/.400/.565, 72.6 WAR
This one is a little more complicated. Puckett's career was ended early by the eye injury, although an injury is an injury, no matter how freakish (voters seemed to give him a pass on his shortened career, however). Walker's numbers were inflated some by Coors Field. Still, Puckett was a Gold Glove center fielder; Walker was a Gold Glove right fielder. Puckett had some power and rarely walked; Walker had power and walked much more often. Walker won an MVP Award, Puckett didn't. Career WAR? Not close.
Puckett sailed in on the first ballot. Walker has been right around 22 percent his three years on the ballot. Puckett played in two World Series and won both; he hit .309/.361/.536 in 24 career playoff games, and had that memorable walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series. Walker played in one World Series and lost. Puckett was lovable, Walker injury-prone. That certainly influenced voters, but Puckett's postseason heroics must have helped get him elected.
Verdict: Postseason helps.
Case study: Tony Perez versus Keith Hernandez
Perez: 379 HR, 1652 RBIs, .279/.341/.463, 53.9 WAR
Hernandez: 162 HR, 1071 RBIs, .296/.384/.436, 60.1 WAR
Another interesting one in that they were completely different types of players. Perez was a power-hitting first baseman who drove in a ton of runs (it helped having Pete Rose and Joe Morgan hitting in front of him). Hernandez didn't have the same power but hit for a higher average, got on base more and is regarded as maybe the best fielding first baseman of all time.
Perez had the reputation of being a clutch hitter, and the Reds won two World Series titles with him. But Hernandez also won two titles, with the Cardinals and Mets. Here's the kicker, though: Perez was a terrible postseason player, hitting .238/.291/.378 with six home runs and 25 RBIs in 47 games. Hernandez hit .265/.370/.359 but with 21 RBIs in 30 games and was also terrific in two Game 7s (2-for-3, two walks, two RBIs in 1982; three RBIs in 1986).
Of course, in this case, voters probably didn't get past the career RBI totals.
Verdict Postseason doesn't help, unless you're part of a famous team (unless you're Bernie Williams).
OK, one more. These are kind of fun.
Catfish Hunter versus Orel Hershiser
Hunter: 224-166, 3.26 ERA, 104 ERA+, 36.6 WAR
Hershiser: 204-150, 3.48 ERA, 112 ERA+, 51.7 WAR
Verdict: Postseason helps only if the voters want it to.
In the end, you've seen what I've done: compared some of the more marginal Hall of Famers or Hall of Fame candidates to similar players. There is certainly inconsistency from the voters, except perhaps in one main narrative: fame. Rice was famous as an active player, while Williams was always overshadowed by other teammates. Schilling's fame rose with the bloody-sock game and titles in Boston. Morris was certainly more famous than Martinez, Puckett more so than Walker, Hunter probably more than Hershiser, Perez maybe more than Hernandez (although that one is more debatable).
As for Beltran, that's what will probably ultimately make his Hall of Fame case an uphill climb: He comes up a little short on the "fame" side of things (unlike, say, David Ortiz). Plus: He's about to just play in his first World Series.
There are probably more than you realize. Pujols, of course, is a slam-dunk Hall of Famer, even factoring in the somewhat disappointing results of his first two seasons with the Angels. With three MVP Awards, 492 home runs, 1,491 RBIs, a .321 average and a career WAR of 92.9 (27th all time among position players) his legacy is ensured, even if his Angels career never lives up to the expectations of his contract.
Based on historical trends, I estimate about 40 current players are future Hall of Famers -- possibly more, although Hall of Fame standards have been growing tougher in recent years, both by the Baseball Writers Association, which pitched a shutout this year, and the Veterans Committee, which has voted in just one post-1950 player since 2001. The steroids era fallout is also affecting voting results.
Anyway, if we look back at 10-year increments we can see how many Hall of Famers were active that season:
1953: 28 players
1963: 36 players
1973: 37 players
1983: 34 players
1993: 19 players
There are fewer players in 1953 because there were fewer teams, just 16 compared to 30 now. Compared to 1983, when there were 26 teams, 1953 still has a higher percentage of players inducted (1.75 per team versus 1.30). Still, 1983 already has 34 players who active that season already in the Hall of Fame, plus potential enshrinees like Jack Morris, Tim Raines, Alan Trammell, Lee Smith, Dale Murphy, Lou Whitaker, Keith Hernandez, Ted Simmons and others (some of whom are off the BBWAA ballot but could be Veterans Committee selections).
OK, to our little list. Here are 40 active players who will be Hall of Famers -- listed in order of most likely to make it. We're at a moment when there are very few sure-thing Hall of Famers -- I count only five -- so the list thus involves a lot speculation. I considered only players who have played in the majors this year, so no Andruw Jones, Manny Ramirez or Scott Rolen.
1. Derek Jeter: Would anyone find reason not to vote for Jeter? Well, he did date Mariah Carey. Jeter may seem like a lock as a unanimous selection, but keep in mind that eight voters somehow found reason not to vote for Cal Ripken Jr.
2. Mariano Rivera: No matter what you think of closers, Rivera will be a slam-dunk selection, with his "greatest closer ever" label, World Series rings, universal respect among opponents and writers, and 0.70 postseason ERA in 141 innings. While writers have generally become very generous to relievers -- Dennis Eckersley made it in his first year on the ballot -- I suspect a few won't vote for Rivera out of an anti-reliever stand.
3. Albert Pujols: If his career continues to peter out, that more recent perception may cast a shadow over his dominant run from 2001 to 2010, when he averaged 8.1 WAR per season. Many Hall of Famers never achieved that in one season.
4. Miguel Cabrera: Cabrera is now in his age-30 season, with 53.2 WAR. Through age 30, Pujols had 81.1 WAR. That's how good Pujols was -- nearly 30 wins better than a sure Hall of Famer who arrived in the majors at a younger age. Much of that advantage comes on defense and the basepaths, but Baseball-Reference estimates Pujols created 590 runs more than the average batter through 30, with Cabrera at 447 (and counting).
5. Ichiro Suzuki: He may not get to 3,000 hits in the majors -- he's at 2,706 after Sunday's four-hit game -- but with 1,278 hits in Japan, voters should factor that he didn't arrive in Seattle until he was 27. With his all-around brilliance, he should sail in on the first ballot.
6. Robinson Cano: He has done a lot of things MVP voters like -- hit for average, drive in runs, win a World Series -- and done it with exceptional durability. He's already at 42.4 WAR and needs three to four more peak seasons to ensure lock status, but he's just 30 and still at the top of his game. Considering his durability and age, 3,000 hits isn't out of the question either.
7. Clayton Kershaw: Obviously, he could get hurt, and a lot of pitchers who were dominant through age 25 couldn't carry that success into their 30s. But Kershaw has been handled carefully, is on his way to a third straight ERA title and second Cy Young Award. He's the Koufax of this decade minus the World Series heroics. But maybe he'll get that shot this year.
8. Felix Hernandez: He's 27 and has won 109 games, despite playing for some of the worst offenses in the history of the game. He has earned 38.8 WAR, which puts him about halfway to Hall of Fame lock status. As with Kershaw, barring injury he'll get there.
9. Roy Halladay: He leads all active pitchers with 65.6 WAR, a total higher than Hall of Famers Bob Feller (65.2), Eckersley (62.5), Juan Marichal (61.9), Don Drysdale (61.2) and Whitey Ford (53.2), to name a few. But what if he never pitches again? Is he in? He has 201 wins and voters still fixate on wins for pitchers. To Halladay's advantage is the general consensus that he was the best pitcher in baseball at his peak, his two Cy Young Awards and two runner-up finishes, three 20-win seasons and the second no-hitter in postseason history.
10. Adrian Beltre: Voters have never been kind to the good-glove third basemen -- excepting Brooks Robinson -- so I may be overrating Beltre's chances. But he also has the chance to reach 500 home runs and 3,000 hits. If he gets to those milestones, that combined with his defensive reputation should get him in.
11. CC Sabathia: He has 200 wins and looked like a possible 300-game winner entering this season, but that 4.65 ERA has everyone wondering how much he has left in the tank at age 33.
12. David Wright: Similar in a lot of ways to Cano -- same age, similar career WAR (Wright is actually a little higher at 45.9) -- so if he plays well into his 30s like Beltre has, he'll get in. But a lot of players have looked like Hall of Famers at 30.
13. Justin Verlander: He still has a lot of work to do, with 134 career wins and just two seasons with an ERA under 3.00.
14. Carlos Beltran: I suspect he'll have a long, slow trek to Hall of Fame status, as his all-around game may be difficult for voters to properly assess. His having just two top-10 MVP finishes will work against him, but he has eight 100-RBI seasons, should reach 400 home runs, is one of the great percentage basestealers of all time and should reach 1,500 runs and 1,500 RBIs.
15. Mike Trout: Well, of course this is premature; he's only 21. He could be Willie Mays, he could be Cesar Cedeno. I'm betting on Mays.
16. Evan Longoria" Beloved in sabermetric circles, he could use that one monster MVP season to create more of a Hall of Fame aura around him.
17. Joey Votto: Will voters appreciate the on-base percentage in 20 years?
18. Joe Mauer: Like Votto, Mauer has an MVP award that helps his case; any time you can argue "he was the best player in the game" about a guy, his candidacy shoots up in the minds of voters. He's not going to end up with the big home run and RBI totals but his .323 career average, .405 OBP and solid defense (three Gold Gloves) will garner support. He has to stay healthy and probably needs to stay behind the plate a few more years.
19. Andy Pettitte: See Jack Morris. Probably a slow crawl on the BBWAA ballot, perhaps hurt by admitting he tried PEDs (although he seems to have escaped the stain), with eventual election by the Veterans Committee. With 252 wins, five World Series rings and 19 postseason wins, it's difficult to ignore his fame and constant presence in October.
20. Bryce Harper: Most home runs before turning 21: Mel Ott 61, Tony Conigliaro 56, Ken Griffey Jr. 38, Harper 37, Mickey Mantle 36, Frank Robinson 34.
21. Buster Posey: Yadier Molina may be the most valuable catcher right now, but Posey is the better Hall of Fame candidate.
22. David Price: Pitchers become Hall of Famers in their 30s, not their 20s, but Price is already 66-36 with a Cy Young award.
23. Dustin Pedroia: I'm a little skeptical how he'll age into 30s, but Pedroia seems like the kind of player voters would love to put in if he becomes a borderline candidate. He does have an MVP award and recognition for his all-around play, but since he's not a big home run or RBI guy, he'll have to remain durability and approach 3,000 career hits.
24. Manny Machado: He's in a big slump right now but we have to remember he's still just 20 years old. But few players have shown this kind of ability at his age and his defense -- Jim Palmer said recently he makes plays at third base that Brooks Robinson could not have made -- is already Hall-of-Fame caliber.
25. Todd Helton: We can just about close the book on him. The .318/.417/.541 career line is impressive, although voters will have to adjust for Coors Field. The 361 home runs and 1,378 RBIs are short of Hall of Fame standards for recent first base inductees. Considering Larry Walker's poor support so far, Helton will probably have to get in through the back door.
26. Andrew McCutchen: How about an MVP Award for 2013?
27. Giancarlo Stanton: Injuries are an issue, but I'm still betting on him (or Harper) to be the premier power hitter of his generation.
28. Troy Tulowitzki: He has to stay healthy, of course, but he has 30.5 WAR so far, in his age-28 season. Jeter had 36.8 and Ripken 50.1 through age 28, but you don't have to be Derek Jeter or Cal Ripken to make the Hall of Fame. Recent inductee Barry Larkin had 30.9 WAR through age 28 and only played 140 games three seasons after that (although did play until he was 40).
29. Miguel Tejada: Tough one here. He has the PED rumors, but he also has six 100-RBI seasons as a shortstop, an MVP award, more than 300 home runs and he will top 2,400 hits. Perhaps a Veterans Committee choice?
30. Prince Fielder: He hasn't hit 40 home runs since 2009 and is going through the worst season of his career. Still, he's just 29 and has 277 home runs and 838 RBIs. He has been the most durable player in the game since his rookie season, but his body type certainly raises questions about how he'll do as he gets into his mid-30s. If he does remain healthy and reaches some of the big milestones he's going to be a Morris-like controversial candidate, because his career WAR (currently 22.4) isn't going to reach Hall of Fame standards.
31. Madison Bumgarner: He turns 24 on Aug. 1 and already has 46 career wins, two World Series rings and is in the midst of his best season. Check back in 10 years.
32. Yasiel Puig: Is he not in already?
33. Andrelton Simmons: We're starting to get into the area of crazy projections. Hey, a lot of Hall of Famers didn't look like Hall of Famers their first few seasons in the league. Anyway, the Braves have four young players you could reasonably project long-shot HOF status onto -- Simmons, Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman and Craig Kimbrel. I like Simmons; he'll have to have an Omar Vizquel-type career with most of his value coming from his glove, but what a glove it is.
34. Chase Utley: He basically has no chance to get in via the BBWAA because his career counting totals will be well short of Hall standards. His five-year peak from 2005 to 2009 was among the best ever for a second baseman -- in fact, since 1950, from ages 26 to 30, the only players with a higher WAR were seven guys named Mays, Pujols, Yastrzemski, Aaron, Bonds, Boggs and Schmidt. If he can stay healthy for a few more years -- a bit of a dubious proposition -- he enters Veterans Committee territory.
35. Jose Fernandez: This could be Chris Sale or Stephen Strasburg or some other hotshot young pitcher.
36. Tim Hudson: I believe pitching standards will have to change, as the idea that you need 300 wins eventually subsides in this day where starters just don't as many decisions as they once did. Hudson is out for the year after breaking his ankle and, at the age of 38, you have to worry about his future. But he does have 205 wins and one of the best winning percentages of all time at .649. He sounds like a Veterans Committee choice in 2044.
37. Nick Franklin: The point isn't that I think Franklin is a Hall of Fame player, but that somebody like Franklin will turn into a Hall of Famer. It could BE Franklin, it could be Wil Myers, it could be Marcell Ozuna, it could be Jurickson Profar. As for Franklin, he has reached the majors at 22, has flashed power (10 home runs and 12 doubles in 52 games) and shown a good approach at the plate. You never know.
38. September call-up to be named: Xander Bogaerts? Oscar Taveras? Miguel Sano?
39. David Ortiz: There's no denying the fame and the peak value -- he finished in the top five in MVP voting five consecutive seasons -- but he has several strikes against him, notably the PED allegations (Ortiz was mentioned in the Mitchell report) and the fact that he may not be the best DH eligible (that would be Edgar Martinez, with a career WAR of 68.3 to Ortiz's 42.7). Papi is at 420 home runs; if he gets to 500 (round number!), his chances go up, but like all the guys tied to steroids, he'll be a controversial candidate.
40. Alex Rodriguez: He hasn't actually suited up in the majors yet this season, but let's assume he does to be eligible for this list. I also assume, at some point in the future -- 20 years? 25 years? 75 years? -- the moral outrage against the steroids users eventually subsides. Maybe, like Deacon White, A-Rod makes it some 130 years after he plays his final game.
On June 5, 2009, David Ortiz was hitting .187 with one home run and had struck out 48 times in 46 games. Just two seasons earlier, he had hit .332 with 35 home runs in helping lead the Boston Red Sox to their second World Series title in four seasons.
Ortiz got his eyes checked that day even though he said they weren't the reason for his season-long slump. There were predictions of his imminent release. Some maintained he was older than his actual age. Bill Simmons joked that Red Sox fans needed to mail some human growth hormone to Ortiz.
Instead, the Red Sox rolled the dice. General manager Theo Epstein and consultant Bill James concluded that such slumps were normal for a player of Ortiz's age. Ortiz hit .266 with 27 home runs the rest of that season. Since 2010, he has hit .298/.390/.562. The only hitters with a higher wOBA since then are Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto, Jose Bautista and Ryan Braun.
On Tuesday night, Ortiz hit a three-home run off Matt Moore in the first inning, although Moore shut down the Sox after that in Tampa Bay's 5-3 victory. At age 37, Big Papi is still going strong, hitting .333/.370/.613. The guy who struck out in 21 percent of his plate appearances in 2009 and 24 percent in 2010 now strikes out less than 15 percent of the time and remains one of the most feared hitters in the game, not much different from his 2003-2007 peak, when he finished in the top five of the MVP voting five years in a row.
With apologies to Paul Molitor (more games in the field than at DH), Frank Thomas (best years came when he was playing first base), Jim Thome (ditto) and Harold Baines (great longevity), the greatest DH of all time is Edgar Martinez. Which I suppose some people would rank somewhere higher than greatest LOOGY of all time but below greatest utility infielder of all time.
Martinez and Ortiz were both originally signed by the Mariners and both had their breakout seasons at age 27 -- Martinez when he finally got a chance to play and Ortiz after getting released by the Twins and going to the Red Sox.
Here are their career numbers:
Martinez: .312/.418/.515, 309 HRs, 1,261 RBIs, 147 OPS+, .405 wOBA, 68.3 WAR
Ortiz: .285/.380/.549, 406 HRs, 1,346 RBIs, 138 OPS+, .392 wOBA, 40.2 WAR
That's Baseball-Reference WAR, by the way. FanGraphs has a similar difference. Why such a large split in career value? Some of that is simply career length; Martinez has about 900 more career plate appearances, so Ortiz will close the gap a bit -- but not all of it -- as he continues to play. A little bit of it is fielding -- B-R credits Edgar with plus-17 runs defensively from his days at third base and Papi at minus-13 runs. That's a 30-run difference, worth about three wins of those 28 wins. Martinez picks up a little more value in positional adjustments -- he played third base for a few years while Ortiz played first base.
But the big difference is simply that Martinez was the better hitter. Yes, Ortiz has more power, but Martinez was an on-base machine. He created runs while using up fewer outs than Ortiz, and that creates a lot of value. Martinez had 11 seasons with a .400-plus OBP, including three that led the American League and seven more that ranked in the top five. Ortiz has had only three -- including the partial season of 2012 -- and ranked in the top five only three times. On-base percentage is still king, and Baseball-Reference rates Martinez having eight seasons of 5.0 WAR or greater, Ortiz with three of 5.0 or greater.
Here's another way to look at it: Ortiz has created about 1,409 runs in his career while using up 4,970 outs; that's 7.6 runs per 27 outs. Martinez created 1,631 runs while using up 5,273 outs, or 8.3 runs per 27 outs.
Martinez was better, and it's not really a debate. I'm not arguing that just because I'm admittedly a huge Martinez fan; I'm arguing that because the numbers don't lie. And before you mention "BUT WHAT ABOUT CLUTCH! BIG PAPI IS THE CLUTCHIEST OF THE CLUTCH!" well, Ortiz has hit .264/.376/.514 in "late and close" situations; Martinez hit .312/.449/.471. Ortiz is feared; Martinez was feared, just as respected by opposing pitchers as Ortiz is now.
Ortiz did fare better in MVP voting with those five top-five finishes; Martinez had only one. But perception of value is not the same thing as real value.
That said, Ortiz may end up being a better Hall of Fame candidate, depending on how the allegations of performance-enhancing drugs play out down the road. He'll have more home runs and RBIs, and Hall of Fame voters love those home runs and RBIs. The MVP voting results will help. The clutch hitting -- especially in the postseason -- will help define memories of him. He'll earn bonus points for being arguably the best player, or at least the face of the franchise, on two World Series winners. And, importantly, Ortiz was simply more famous than Martinez, one of the most famous players of the 2000s. Ortiz played for the Red Sox; Martinez for the Mariners. Ortiz is big and jovial and owns that big left-handed uppercut; Martinez was quiet, disciplined and overshadowed by Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson and Alex Rodriguez.
Ortiz is a notch below, and even giving him credit for his postseason heroics I have trouble getting him into Hall of Fame territory. He'll have trouble cracking 50 career WAR, even with a couple more strong seasons, which would make him a weak Hall of Fame candidate by that measure. But if he pushes past 500 home runs and 1,600 RBIs, I can see Ortiz reaching Cooperstown before Martinez.
In Tim Hudson's major league debut, Tony Phillips was his second baseman, Olmedo Saenz played third base and Tim Raines played left field. Hudson doesn't seem like he's that old, but that was back in 1999 in a game at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, which means he has been doing this baseball thing for a bit of time now.
Hudson pitched five innings and struck out 11 Padres, leaving with a no-decision.
"He's got outstanding stuff," Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane said after that game. "He needs to learn the league, learn pitch selection and get better with experience. He's an athlete and has the opportunity to be an outstanding pitcher in this league for a long time."
Beane was right about that one.
He also went 1-for-1 at the plate with a walk. The man always could hit. He earned his first win five days later over the Los Angeles Dodgers, earning a beer shower from his teammates. "Who knows where Hudson goes from here? For now, he's a show worth seeing, a slender right-hander who can throw three pitches for strikes," wrote Gary Peterson in the Contra Costa Times.
Hudson beat the Nationals 8-1 on Tuesday night to earn his 200th career win and did so in style, taking a no-hitter into the fifth while pitching seven brilliant innings, doubling off the wall in left-center to start a two-run rally in the second and then hitting on opposite-field home run off Zach Duke -- and off Bryce Harper's glove -- in the fifth inning for his third career homer. That's a night worthy of another beer shower.
"It was a fun game," Hudson said. "Obviously, it's kind of surreal. No one expects to hit a home run."
For the Braves, it was their fifth victory in five games against the Nationals. For Hudson, it was one of the defining moments of his career, as he became the third active pitcher to reach 200 wins (joining Andy Pettitte and Roy Halladay) and the 110th pitcher reach 200.
As for that Hall of Fame thing, we can start here, with the highest winning percentages since 1901 for pitchers with 200 wins:
1. Whitey Ford (236-106, .690)
2. Pedro Martinez (219-100, .687)
3. Lefty Grove (300-141, .680)
4. Christy Mathewson (373-188, .665)
5. Roy Halladay (201-103, .661)
6. Roger Clemens (354-184, .658)
7. TIM HUDSON (200-105, .656)
8. Mordecai Brown (239-130, .648)
9. Randy Johnson (303-166, .646)
10. Pete Alexander (373-208, .642)
The next three guys are Mike Mussina, Jim Palmer and Andy Pettitte. OK, this is all pretty impressive company, and while winning percentage is obviously team-dependent to a certain extent and Hudson has played on two successful franchises in Oakland and Atlanta, it's certainly not insignificant. It's at least a starting point to put Hudson in a Hall of Fame discussion if he continues pitching well for another three or four years and gets into the 240-win range.
John Smoltz at 20th among the 89 pitchers since 1901 to win 200 games. That's a better adjusted ERA than Juan Marichal, Bob Feller, Don Drysdale, Warren Spahn, Bert Blyleven, Tom Glavine, Gaylord Perry and Steve Carlton, to name a few big names.
The point: The guy can pitch. Sure, the ERA will eventually rise a few ticks and the winning percentage will likely drop a few points as he ages. Some would argue that Hudson has never been the best pitcher in his league, which is a fair statement. But a lot of Hall of Fame pitchers were never the best in their league and Hudson has been one of the best -- seven times in the top 10 in ERA, seven times in the top 10 in WAR (with a best of 7.5 in 2003, ranking third among AL pitchers), seven times in wins and six times in innings. His career WAR of 54.4 is 77th all-time.
He's not there yet, which is OK. That means hopefully we'll get to continue watching the guy with the great sinker for a few more years. Have a beer with your shower, Tim.