- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot blogger
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Watching Felix Hernandez the other night prompted me to look up the pitchers with the highest career Wins Above Replacement who never started a postseason game. Hernandez's career WAR is 36.3 and I had no idea if he would top the list or even be near the top, but it seems like most good pitchers eventually find themselves in a playoff game.
So, since 1969 and the divisional era, here are the pitchers who accumulated the most WAR but never started a playoff game:
1. Ferguson Jenkins (67.7 WAR, 16th overall)
His career WAR is actually higher, but we're only counting WAR earned from 1969 and beyond. Anyway, Jenkins played for the Cubs, Rangers and Red Sox and had 284 career wins. Those late 1960s/early 1970s Cubs teams have four Hall of Famers -- Jenkins, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Ron Santo -- and had some other good players (Bill Hands, Ken Holtzman, Milt Pappas) but never reached the postseason.
2. Mariano Rivera (54.9 WAR, 30th overall)
Well, he hasn't started a postseason game ...
3. Mark Langston (50.2 WAR, 41st overall)
Very underrated pitcher in the '80s and '90s, spending most of his career with the bad Mariners and mediocre Angels. From 1986 to 1993 he averaged 247 innings per season. Did pitch in relief for the Padres in the 1998 postseason.
4. Wilbur Wood (45.9 WAR, 47th overall)
Had 11.7 and 10.7 WAR in in 1971 and 1972 when he pitched 334 and then 376 innings for the White Sox.
5. Goose Gossage (41.9 WAR, 57th overall)
See Rivera. Pitched in four postseasons, including three World Series.
6. Danny Darwin (40.6 WAR, 48th overall)
Won 171 games and an ERA title, but never pitched in the postseason although he played for eight different franchises. He was on the '86 Astros, who made the playoffs, and went 5-2, 2.32 ERA, after they acquired him from Milwaukee, but was injured and missed the playoffs. Also pitched for the '97 Giants, who made the playoffs, but didn't appear in the postseason.
7. Charlie Hough (39.3 WAR, 61st overall)
Pitched in relief for the Dodgers in three World Series, but spent the bulk of his rotation days with the playoff-less Rangers.
8. Felix Hernandez (36.3 WAR, 71st overall)
And now we get to Hernandez, the active leader among starting pitchers in this dubious category. Is he destined to become the Fergie Jenkins of his generation?