SweetSpot: Curt Schilling

Let's finish up with the 14 players I consider strong Hall of Fame candidates. Of course, if I had a ballot, I could vote for only 10 ... well, that's another essay, my friends. Here is Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.


The Hall of Famers

14. Tim Raines (69.1 career WAR, 52.2 percent of the vote last year) -- I’m a big supporter of Raines although it’s possible that the sabermetric crowd has overstated his case just a bit. Raines had a high peak from 1983 to 1987 while with the Expos -- his combined WAR ranks fourth among position players, behind Wade Boggs, Rickey Henderson and Cal Ripken, meaning he was arguably the best player in the National League over that span. He was also an outstanding player in the 1981 strike season and again in 1992 with the White Sox. Other than those seven seasons, however, he was merely good instead of great and spent his late 30s as a part-time player.

Still, as others have written, as he’s a very close statistical comp to Tony Gwynn -- Raines just happened to replace Gwynn’s hits with walks. He’s one of the best basestealers in history and the WAR is right in line with recent Hall of Fame selections. The good news is that Raines’ case is building, from 22.6 percent to 30.4 to 37.5 to 48.7 to 52.2. If he can avoid a collapse this year because of the crowded ballot, his momentum appears strong enough to eventually see election.

13. Craig Biggio (64.9 WAR, 68.2 percent) -- Results from public ballots have Biggio just crossing over the 75 percent mark. Biggio reached the magical 3,000-hit barrier, meaning the only surprise was he didn’t get elected in his first year on the ballot. In the past, 3,000 hits meant you were a mortal lock for Cooperstown. Of the 28 players to reach 3,000 hits, only Biggio, Paul Waner and Rafael Palmeiro failed to get elected on the first ballot (not including Pete Rose and Derek Jeter).

Of course, to get there, Biggio wasn’t helping his club at the end. He picked up 265 hits his final two seasons while being valued at minus-1.7 WAR. He posted poor on-base percentages and had poor range at second base, not surprising considering he played in his age-40 and age-41 seasons. That's the flaw in focusing on round numbers. Biggio only got there by hanging on.

At his peak, however, Biggio was a tremendous offensive player as a second baseman, with power, speed, on-base skills and the ability to steal bases. From 1994 to 1998 he ranked third, third, second, 12th, third and second, in the NL in offensive WAR and was right up there with the best all-around players in the game.

12. Alan Trammell (70.3 WAR, 33.6 percent) -- To me, it’s clear that the BBWAA threw its support behind the wrong Detroit Tiger. Trammell is basically the same player as Barry Larkin (70.2 WAR), except he played in the same league as Cal Ripken and Larkin played in the same league as Shawon Dunston.

The weird thing about this is that I'm pretty sure Trammell was more famous while active than Larkin, at least on a national level. Larkin did win an MVP Award but Trammell's teams were in the playoff race for most of his career while the Reds were a small-market club that was up and down during Larkin's career. I think what happened is basically this: Say the 33 percent who vote for Trammell also voted for Larkin. That leaves the other two-thirds of the voting pool. Say one-third were NL beat guys and columnists and the other third were AL beat guys and columnists. All the NL guys voted for Larkin because he was the best shortstop in his league but didn't vote for Trammell. But the AL guys didn't vote for Trammell either because he wasn't Ripken -- and then after Trammell retired, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez and Miguel Tejada and Nomar Garciaparra came along. Larkin gets the easy label -- best in his league -- that Trammell doesn't. Which is too bad. Trammell was a beautiful ballplayer who did everything well.

11. Mark McGwire (62.0 WAR, 16.9 percent) -- One of the things I’ll never forget as a baseball fan is watching McGwire take batting practice while covering a Cardinals-Tigers game at Tiger Stadium in 1999. Standing behind the batting cage as he launched ball after ball onto the roof or over the roof made me re-think the laws of physics (not that I know the laws of physics).

Why McGwire and not Sammy Sosa, when their career WAR isn't that dissimilar? Maybe it is a feel thing, a feeling that McGwire is one of the game's historic figures. I think that counts for something. He also has the best home run rate in history (higher than Babe Ruth).

10. Edgar Martinez (68.3 WAR, 35.9 percent) -- Bias alert! I wrote about Martinez back in 2009 and then again the other day. I rate him a little higher than the guys above because he had more high peak seasons -- five with 6-plus WAR, eight with 5.5-plus WAR and two more at 4.9 and 4.8. Simply, one of the best hitters the game has ever seen. Sadly, if the Mariners didn't waste three years of his career letting him unnecessarily rot in the minors, his case would be much stronger.

9. Mike Piazza (59.2 WAR, 57.8 percent) -- We'll learn a lot about Piazza's future Hall of Fame hopes this year. He achieved a strong showing in his first year. If that grows this year, it's a good sign. If it falls or remains the same, it could be that he's maxed out already due to PED concerns. About that WAR total: It's difficult for catchers to compile the same WAR as other positions, as they play fewer games and often have shortened careers. Piazza ranks sixth all time among catchers, behind Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Carlton Fisk, Ivan Rodriguez and Yogi Berra.

8. Mike Mussina (83.0 WAR, first year) -- As I wrote back in November, Mussina is eminently qualified for the Hall of Fame.

7. Frank Thomas (73.6 WAR, first year) -- I wrote about Thomas the other day. It looks like he'll get in on his first year on the ballot. Will Thomas' election help Martinez? Once Thomas is in, doesn't it mean you can't use the "but he was a DH" argument against Martinez? Probably not. That suggests a consistent and logical line of thinking from the BBWAA, which ... well, that's like expecting a Cardinals fan to be treated with kindness and respect while sitting in the Wrigley Field bleachers wearing a Matt Holliday jersey.

6. Tom Glavine (81.4 WAR, first year) -- Not much to add about Glavine that you don't already know. Durable, consistent, got the most out of his ability. Like Greg Maddux, an absolute joy to watch (unless you were a Mets fan). He owned the outside corner of the plate -- and maybe a few inches beyond -- with that changeup. I think Glavine and Maddux have a bit of an unfair reputation of not showing up in the postseason. Compare their results to those of Andy Pettitte, who does have a reputation as being extra-special clutch in October:

Glavine: 14-16, 3.30 ERA, 35 GS, 218 1/3 IP, 1.27 WHIP
Maddux: 11-14, 3.27 ERA, 30 GS, 198 IP, 1.24 WHIP
Pettitte: 19-11, 3.81 ERA, 44 GS, 276 2/3 IP, 1.30 WHIP

Their records aren't as good because they didn't get the same run support, not because they didn't pitch well.

5. Jeff Bagwell (79.5 WAR, 59.6 percent) -- Other than not playing an up-the-middle position, the perfect ballplayer: power, speed, on-base ability, terrific baserunner, durable (at least until a shoulder injury cut his career a few years short), excellent defender. Here's something I wrote on Bagwell last January.

There are those who refuse to vote for Bagwell under the assumption he used PEDs; Bagwell has strongly denied using PEDs, telling ESPN's Jerry Crasnick in 2010:

I never used [steroids], and I'll tell you exactly why: If I could hit between 30 and 40 home runs every year and drive in 120 runs, why did I need to do anything else? I was pretty happy with what I was doing, and that's the God's honest truth. All of a sudden guys were starting to hit 60 or 70 home runs and people were like, 'Dude, if you took [PEDs], you could do it too.' And I was like, 'I'm good where I'm at. I just want to do what I can do.'


There's nothing abnormal about Bagwell's career curve, other than his freakishly awesome 1994 MVP season when he hit .368. He didn't suddenly start posting career-best numbers in his mid-30s like McGwire or Barry Bonds. He was good as a rookie, got better, remained great and then slowly declined in his 30s.

4. Curt Schilling (79.7 WAR, 38.8 percent) -- Why Schilling over Glavine, even though Glavine won 305 games while Schilling won just 216 games? OK, here's why:

1. Wins are overrated.

2. More career pitching WAR (80.7 to 74.0).

3. Schilling had more high peak seasons -- eight 5-plus WAR seasons with three at 7.9 or higher compared to Glavine's four and one.

4. Postseason dominance.

In the end, I just feel Schilling had the bigger impact on the game's history -- the 2001 World Series triumph for the Diamondbacks, ending the Red Sox curse in 2004 and winning another title in 2007.

Glavine was more durable and lasted longer and maybe you prefer that type of career arc. But I'll take Schilling and his big seasons and go to war with him in October.

3. Greg Maddux (106.8, first year) -- The smartest pitcher who ever lived. At his 1994 and 1995 peak, maybe the best pitcher who ever lived.

2. Roger Clemens (140.3 WAR, 37.6 percent) -- Let's say Clemens started using PEDs in 1997, the year he went to Toronto and went 21-7 with a 2.05 ERA. The popular mythology is that Clemens was fat and washed up in Boston. Actually, he had ranked second among AL pitchers in WAR and led the league in strikeouts in 1996. But whatever. Anyway, through 1996 he was 192-111 with a 3.06 ERA, three Cy Young Awards and 81.3 career pitching WAR. That's more career WAR than Glavine or Schilling. After two big Cy Young seasons with the Blue Jays, he went to the Yankees. And you know what? He wasn't that great with them -- 77-36 but with a 3.99 ERA. He won a sixth Cy Young Award because he went 20-3, not because he was the best pitcher in the league. He won a seventh with the Astros because he went 18-4 (he was seventh among NL pitchers in WAR). Other than the 1.87 ERA in 2005 -- thanks to an absurdly low BABIP -- his late career basically matches what Nolan Ryan did in his 40s.


1. Barry Bonds (162.5 WAR, 36.2 percent) -- Somebody tweeted this on Tuesday night, Bonds hitting a mammoth home run at Yankee Stadium in 2002 -- a blast so impressive that even Yankees fans cheered in awe.

On a basic level, I understand the no votes: Cheaters shouldn't be honored. My colleague Christina Kahrl made a great point about how we view the PED guys: It's a litmus test that tells us what we want from the game. As she told me, we have to remember the past is plenty grimy, full of stories and people every bit as wonderful as we want them to be -- people who also happen to be human.

From 1988 to 1994, Bonds was second in the majors in home runs (to Fred McGriff) and first in OPS and sixth in stolen bases. His WAR was 13 wins higher than the No. 2 position player (Rickey Henderson). From 1988 to 1995, he was 14.5 wins better than the No. 2 guy (Cal Ripken). Ken Griffey Jr. joined the league in 1989. From '89 to '98, Bonds' WAR was 84.1, Griffey's 65.6 (and the No. 3 guy, Barry Larkin, way back at 51.1). Bonds was the most devastating force in the game before he allegedly started using PEDs sometime after McGwire and Sosa went all crazy in 1998.

Ray Ratto just wrote a brilliant Hall of Fame column and he had two great points about Bonds (and Clemens): "1. The player did things on the baseball field that few others did. ... 6. I DON’T WORK FOR BASEBALL, AND I DON’T CARE WHAT IT PURPORTS TO BE. I CARE WHAT IT IS, AND THIS IS PART OF IT."

Bonds is arguably the greatest player of all time, and, yes, a man with many flaws.

What do you want out of the game?
Curt Schilling appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time a year ago with overwhelmingly strong credentials for election: The 216-game winner ranks 26th all-time in wins above replacement for pitchers (17th-highest total since the live ball era began in 1920) and 15th all-time in strikeouts, including three 300-strikeout seasons; he's got the best strikeout-to-walk ratio of any pitcher ever (well, not counting a guy named Tommy Bond who was 5-foot-7, born in Ireland and began his career with the 1874 Brooklyn Atlantics) and three 20-win seasons; and he led the league twice in wins, twice in innings, three times in starts, four times in complete games (his 15 complete games in 1998 is the highest total in the majors since 1991), twice in strikeouts and five times in strikeout-walk ratio. Schilling never won a Cy Young Award but finished second in the voting three times.

Of course, Schilling was also one of the greatest postseason pitchers ever, going 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 19 starts. His October legacy includes his iconic Bloody Sock Game in Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series against the Yankees, a win in the World Series that year that helped end the long suffering of Red Sox fans, plus his dominant performance throughout the 2001 postseason when he allowed six runs in six starts as the Diamondbacks won the World Series. He helped the Red Sox win another title in 2007. His career 3.46 ERA in a hitters’ era gives him an adjusted ERA equal to Tom Seaver and Bob Gibson and higher than Hall of Famers like Jim Palmer, Juan Marichal and Bob Feller.

Schilling was great, he has the advanced metrics that scream Hall of Famer, and he was an iconic figure in the game while active. What more do you need to get elected to Cooperstown?

More than 60 percent of voters didn’t check Schilling’s name on their ballot.

Then there’s the pitcher who finished with the same career adjusted ERA as Schilling. His best ERAs, all in seasons where he pitched more than 210 innings, were 1.89, 2.38, 2.39, 2.58 and 2.69, all coming when offensive totals were exploding. The worst of those seasons had an adjusted ERA+ of 150. Since 1920, only five other starters had five or more seasons with at least 200 innings and an ERA+ of 150 or higher: Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Lefty Grove, Randy Johnson and Roy Halladay. This pitcher had another season where he went 18-9 with a 3.00 ERA and another where he went 21-11 with a 3.32 ERA while leading his league in innings pitched. He won more than 200 games. He had a 16-strikeout game in the postseason. His career pitching WAR of 68.5 is higher than Palmer, Carl Hubbell or Don Drysdale.

Kevin Brown got 12 votes in his one year on the ballot, not close to the 5 percent needed to remain on the ballot, and he was kicked to the curb alongside Raul Mondesi, Bobby Higginson and Lenny Harris. Thank you for your nice career, but your case has no merit. Heck, Willie McGee received twice as many votes. I mean, Willie McGee was a nice player, and even a great one the season he won the MVP Award, but he had about half the career value of Brown.

The Baseball Writers' Association of America treats starting pitchers like they’re infected with the plague. They’ve elected one in the past 14 years: Bert Blyleven in 2011. And Blyleven, despite winning 287 games and ranking 11th all-time in WAR among pitchers, took 14 years to finally get in. Meanwhile, the BBWAA has elected three relief pitchers in those 14 years, so it’s not an anti-pitcher bias; it’s an anti-starting pitcher bias.

What’s happened here? How come no starting pitcher who began his career after 1970 is in the Hall of Fame? Leaving aside the case of Clemens, who would have been elected if not for his ties to PEDs, there are several issues going on.

1. The 1980s were barren of strong, obvious Hall of Fame pitchers. The BBWAA ignored the cases of borderline candidates like David Cone, Dave Stieb, Bret Saberhagen and Orel Hershiser, and instead embraced Jack Morris, a lesser pitcher than those four but a guy with more career wins.

2. Comparison to the previous generation of starters. Including Blyleven, there are 10 "1970s pitchers" in the Hall of Fame. Here they are, listed in order of election year along with each pitcher's 10-year peak period:

Bert Blyleven (2011): 1971-1980
Nolan Ryan (1999): 1972-1981
Don Sutton (1998): 1971-1980
Phil Niekro (1997): 1970-1979
Steve Carlton (1994): 1972-1981
Tom Seaver (1992): 1968-1977
Fergie Jenkins (1991): 1967-1976
Gaylord Perry (1991): 1967-1976
Jim Palmer (1990): 1969-1978
Catfish Hunter (1987): 1967-1976

These pitchers aren't merely just great pitchers but products of their generation. The late '60s and early '70s produced the lowest-scoring seasons in the major leagues since the dead ball era. The average team in 1968 scored 3.42 runs per game, the lowest total since 1908. That was the notorious pitchers' year, but 1972 didn't see much more offense at 3.69 runs per game. This was also the period when pitchers were worked harder than they had been in decades, making more starts and pitching more innings. The 15-year period from 1963 to 1977 saw 62 different seasons where a pitcher threw 300 innings. The previous 15 seasons saw it happen just 13 times (six by Robin Roberts); the ensuing 15 seasons saw it happen just three times, two of those by knuckleballer Niekro.

This period was the perfect time to ferment long careers with lots of wins. More starts and more innings gave pitchers the opportunity to get more wins. It's no coincidence that the peak seasons of the above pitchers all occurred in roughly the same time span.

3. Speaking of wins ... Hall of Fame voters love wins like Yasiel Puig loves driving fast. Morris has 254, a main reason he earned 67.7 percent of the vote last year despite his 3.90 career ERA. Schilling has 216 and Brown 211. The fixation on career wins -- and 300 in particular -- is the result of a unique generation of pitchers; it's a standard previous pitchers weren't held to. Bob Gibson won 251 games, Juan Marichal 243, Whitey Ford 236, Don Drysdale 209 and Sandy Koufax 165. Focus on the entire résumé, not just the win total. Schilling didn't win 254 games, let alone 300, but he's a far superior Hall of Fame candidate to Morris.

Let's compare Tom Glavine to Mike Mussina, both appearing on the ballot for the first time. With 305 wins, Glavine appears to be the much stronger candidate than Mussina, who won 270 games. Here's what one voter, Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe, wrote:
Glavine and Maddux were 300-game winners. Those are magic plateaus ... unless you cheated.

The rest of the list of players I reject are good old-fashioned baseball arguments. (Craig) Biggio got 68.2 percent of the vote last year, but I don’t think of him as Hall-worthy (only one 200-hit season). Same for Mussina and his 270 wins (he always pitched for good teams) and (Lee) Smith and his 478 saves (saves are overrated and often artificial).


There you go. Glavine won 305 games, Mussina won 270, so Glavine is the easy choice. As an aside: I love the bit about Mussina pitching for good teams. As if Glavine didn't pitch for good teams? Since when is pitching for good teams considered a demerit? Plus, as Jason Collette pointed out, "Mussina pitched for Baltimore for 10 years -- and Baltimore had losing records in five of those ten seasons. Yet, Mussina had a .645 winning percentage and won 147 of his 270 starts with the Orioles. The Yankees never had a losing record when Mussina pitched there and he had a .631 winning percentage with them. Mussina’s .645 winning percentage as an Oriole dwarfed the team’s .510 winning percentage in that same time."

(Also, Shaughnessy is apparently voting for Morris because he won 254 games, which I believe is less than 270.)

Anyway, when you examine the numbers a little deeper, Glavine and Mussina compare favorably:

Pitching WAR
Glavine: 74.0
Mussina: 82.7

ERA+
Glavine: 118 (3.54 career ERA in the National League with great defense behind him)
Mussina: 123 (3.68 career ERA in the American League with often bad defenses behind him)

5+ WAR seasons
Glavine: 4
Mussina: 10

Postseason
Glavine: 14-16, 3.30 ERA, 1.27 WHIP
Mussina: 7-8, 3.42 ERA, 1.10 WHIP


The point here isn't to detract from Glavine, but that Mussina has every bit the case Glavine does -- or 95 percent of it, giving Glavine some extra credit if you wish for his two Cy Youngs. Glavine hung on and won 35 more games; Mussina retired after winning 20. That doesn't make Glavine a superior pitcher.

4. Stingy voters. To a certain extent, the BBWAA voters have become tough on all candidates -- not just starting pitchers and PED users. As Joe Sheehan wrote recently:
Consider the recent history of Hall voting. The average number of players named per ballot declined steadily up until just last year. In 1966, which was the first vote in the modern era of BBWAA balloting (that is, in which there have been no years in which the BBWAA did not vote), there were 7.2 names listed per ballot. Ten years later, that figure was 7.6. By 2000, a year that featured two players voted in and a ballot with five others who would eventually be voted in (plus Jack Morris, still kicking around), the number was down to 5.6. There were more baseball players than ever before becoming eligible for the Hall, but the voters were becoming much more difficult to impress. That would remain the case for most of this century:

2001: 6.3
2002: 6.0
2003: 6.6
2004: 6.6
2005: 5.6
2007: 6.6
2008: 5.4
2009: 5.4
2010: 5.7
2011: 6.0
2012: 5.1
2013: 6.6


Remember, that downward trend is occurring despite an increasingly crowded ballot due to the split opinions on what do about the PED candidates. With as many as 15 to 20 legitimate Hall of Fame candidates on this year's ballot it will be interesting to see if that 6.6 players per ballot increases further.

5. Timing. The starting pitching problem will be abated somewhat in upcoming elections. Maddux will get in this year, Glavine this year or next. Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz then join the ballot next year. Johnson is a lock, and Martinez has the Koufax-esque peak value thing going for him, although with 219 wins he's not a first-year lock. Smoltz is similar to Schilling in many ways, down to the career win total (213) and postseason heroics, so odds are he'll face the same uphill climb.

I believe most Hall of Fame voters have the same goal: Elect the best players to the Hall of Fame, or at least the best ones they believe to be clean from PEDs. That issue is still stuck in the mud, the Hall itself refusing to give guidance to the voters. But electing Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina is simply an issue of understanding their greatness. They are among the very best pitchers in the history of the game. They deserve to be elected this year, alongside Maddux and Glavine.
I wasn't around when Roy Halladay announced his retirement at the winter meetings on Dec. 9, so this piece is a little late to the game, but it's also about a few of the pitchers on this year's Hall of Fame ballot -- Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina and Tom Glavine.

Whenever a great player such as Halladay retires, the Hall of Fame discussion immediately follows. But what makes a Hall of Fame pitcher? Do you prefer Halladay's short but brilliant career or the consistency and longevity of Glavine?

Halladay finished with 203 wins -- a low total for a Hall of Fame starting pitcher. Only Sandy Koufax since World War II has been elected with fewer wins among starters. On the other hand, Halladay won two Cy Young Awards and finished second in two other votes (he probably should have won in 2011, when he had a much higher wins above replacement total than winner Clayton Kershaw). Over his 10-year peak from 2002 to 2011, he went 170-75 (a .694 winning percentage) with a 2.97 ERA while averaging 219 innings per season. He had seven top-five Cy Young finishes.

That's a remarkable run of dominance. But again: What makes a Hall of Fame pitcher?

Let's see how Halladay -- not to mention Mussina, Schilling, Glavine or also-retired Andy Pettitte -- compare with Hall of Fame pitchers and other recent starters. Warning: Big chart to follow. I've included all post-1960 Hall of Fame starters, plus a bunch of other guys of interest. The chart includes each pitcher's career WAR from Baseball-Reference.com plus his 10-year peak WAR. Since we're using Halladay as our base comparison, we're using the best 10 years in a row, not the 10 best overall seasons. I also listed each pitcher's percentage of total career value earned in that 10-year period. (WAR includes only value earned as a pitcher; Glavine, for example, also earned 7.5 WAR from his hitting in his career.)

For those looking for excellence over individual seasons, we've listed the number of 7-WAR seasons (Cy Young-type year) and 5-WAR seasons (All-Star caliber).



OK, some random comments...

Roy Halladay: As you can see, he is unique in that most of his career value is wrapped up in that 10-year stretch, with 95 percent (his career value is also hurt by his two awful seasons in 2000 and 2013, worth minus-3.9 WAR). Only Koufax had a higher percentage of his career value from his 10-year peak (of course, his peak was really only five or six seasons). The impressive thing is how high Halladay ranks: Among 31 pitchers listed in the chart, he's 10th in peak value.

I tend to weigh peak value heavily, especially when it's as high as Halladay's was ... and 10 years is a pretty long period of dominance for a pitcher. Compare Halladay with Glavine, who is new to this year's ballot. Glavine, playing most of his career for much better teams, won 305 games. He was very good -- he won two Cy Young Awards -- and durable, never missing a start for 20 years. In his 10-year peak, he earned 47.7 WAR; in his other 12 seasons, he earned 26.3 WAR, barely 2 per season ... but also earned credit for another 130 wins. You can win a lot of games simply by being average for a long period, especially when you have Andruw Jones playing center field behind you.

Does that average period of pitching make Glavine that much stronger of a Hall of Fame candidate than Halladay? History suggests it will.

As for Halladay, the most similar pitcher to him is probably Juan Marichal, who wrapped up most of his value in a 10-year stretch, as well. Marichal pitched in an era when starters made more starts and pitched more innings, so he won more games, but their careers map pretty closely. In fact, Halladay has more career WAR and the higher peak. Marichal won 243 games and was inducted in his third year on the ballot.

Curt Schilling: Based on career value, peak value and postseason results, Schilling should be a slam dunk Hall of Famer. Instead, voters looked at his 216 wins and gave him only 39 percent of the vote last year, his first time on the ballot.

Mike Mussina: Mussina is middle-of-the-pack in peak value and higher in career value. He also has 10 seasons of 5-plus WAR, topped by only six starters. The view might be that Mussina's peak wasn't good enough (he never won a Cy Young Award), but this chart says that's just not the case. If you combine career WAR and peak WAR, he should be an easy Hall of Famer. Yet I still fear he will fail to get 5 percent of the vote and will get booted from the ballot.

Andy Pettitte: Pettitte won 256 games, which might make his Hall of Fame case pick up steam, much as Jack Morris' eventually did. Factor in his World Series rings, and he might fare better than Mussina (although he also admitted to using PEDs). My view is Pettitte's case is much weaker than Halladay's or Schilling's or Mussina's, as he lacks peak value while being borderline in career value.

Don Sutton: Sutton's case was a bitter Hall of Fame dispute for several seasons, until he finally got elected in his fifth year thanks to 324 career wins. The view of the naysayers was that he was merely a compiler -- a guy who was very good and lasted a long time but was never elite. That looks like an accurate assessment. His 10-year peak is low, and he had no 7-WAR seasons. He's similar in many ways to Glavine, although Glavine was a little better. Still, 324 wins is 324 wins ...

David Cone, Dave Stieb, Bret Saberhagen, Orel Hershiser: I listed these guys, all of whom fell off the ballot right away, to see how they stack up. It's hard to argue with the Hall of Fame voters here: These guys don't quite compare to the Hall of Fame pitchers in career or peak value. Cone probably has the best case of the group, kind of a poor man's Halladay. He went 194-126 in his career, won a Cy Young and started for five World Series winners (although he was in the bullpen in the playoffs for the 2000 Yankees). Cone received 4 percent of the vote his one year on the ballot, with his case to be reviewed at some point by the veterans committee.

Jack Morris: Morris was never as good as the four pitchers above at his peak, whether it's one-year peak, three-year peak or 10-year peak. His case boils down to 254 wins, Game 7 of the 1991 World Series and a nebulous title as "Pitcher of the '80s," which is just another way of saying he won the most games in the decade. OK, you want to give credit to Morris for the postseason? Why did Hershiser and Cone and even Saberhagen -- who threw his own Game 7 shutout -- get no credit for theirs? Anyway, this is Morris' last shot. It will be interesting to see, once he clears the ballot -- in or out -- how voters will start evaluating wins. Hey, Pedro Martinez won only 219 games.

Nolan Ryan: You know what? Nolan Ryan was a compiler. He compiled strikeouts, walks and longevity. He was one-of-a-kind and I'd certainly classify him as a clear-cut Hall of Famer, but he was never the pitcher Halladay or Schilling was. (I mean, at his best, on those days he was throwing a little harder and with a little better control, sure, he was more dominant than anyone, but for one season or period of seasons, I'd take Halladay or Schilling.)

As for Halladay, I'd vote for him without a second thought. Voters need to realize that they shouldn't overemphasize wins -- plus, look at the chart. The period of the late '60s and '70s was conducive to a lot of wins for several reasons. Three of the pitchers had the exact same peak years, with others just a year or two off. Just because many from that generation won 300 games doesn't mean that should continue to be the Hall of Fame standard.

Roy Halladay, Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina and Tom Glavine are all Hall worthy.
videoAs Carlos Beltran delivers more big postseason hits this October for the St. Louis Cardinals, talk about him as a potential Hall of Famer has increased, carrying over from discussions that began in the regular season. ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick wrote about Beltran's Hall of Fame case back in August, while Dave Cameron of FanGraphs wrote about Beltran and David Ortiz the other day.

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

[+] EnlargeCarlos Beltran
Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY SportsCarlos Beltran's exceptional postseason numbers could bolster his Hall of Fame case.
After a long and heated debate, Rice finally made it on his 15th and final year on the ballot. Despite similar career value, Williams fell off the ballot after one year. Williams was a key performer on four World Series champions, hitting .275/.371/.480 in his postseason career, with 22 home runs and 80 RBIs in 122 games (he's the all-time postseason leader in RBIs). To be fair, neither are strong Hall of Fame candidates, but in Williams' case his postseason numbers clearly had no effect on the voters.

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

SportsNation

Should postseason performance factor into a player's Hall of Fame case?

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    50%
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    47%
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    3%

Discuss (Total votes: 8,640)

Hunter basically got in because he was a famous anchor of Oakland's three straight World Series champions (and a lesser part of two Yankees World Series winners). Hunter went 9-6, 3.26 in his postseason career. His regular-season numbers aren't all that impressive, especially when looking at the advanced metrics such as ERA+ and WAR. Hershiser went 8-3, 2.59 ERA in his postseason career, carried the Dodgers almost single-handedly to the 1988 World Series title (unlike Morris, his team won in five instead of seven). Hershiser fell off the ballot after two years. If only one of his Indians teams had won a championship.

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.
Throughout July, we're presenting 30 deals in 30 days: the best trade-deadline deal ever made by each team. We wrap up with the NL West.

THE TEAM: Arizona Diamondbacks

THE YEAR: 2000

THE SITUATION: The Phillies were on their way to a 65-97 record, their seventh straight losing season since reaching the 1993 World Series. Curt Schilling was tired of the losing ways and pushed for a trade to a contending team. He was still signed through 2001, but the Phillies were willing to accommodate. The Cardinals and Mariners reportedly came close to landing the 33-year-old right-hander, but the Diamondbacks made the winning offer.


THE TRADE: On July 26, Arizona acquired Schilling (6-6 with a 3.91 ERA) for Vicente Padilla, Travis Lee, Omar Daal and Nelson Figueroa. Schilling's request for a trade had made him a target of Phillies fans. "I will leave here with nothing but the best memories on and off the field," Schilling said. "I was booed so much less than I probably deserved to be booed here, which I don't think too many people leaving Philly can say."

THE AFTERMATH: The Diamondbacks were tied for first with the Giants on the day of the trade but faded down the stretch (12-17 in September) and finished 12 games back. GM Joe Garagiola Jr.'s comparison of Schilling and Randy Johnson to Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale would come true the next season, however, as the dynamic duo led the Diamondbacks to a dramatic World Series title. Schilling signed a new contract and would go 58-28 for the Diamondbacks, winning 22 games in 2001 and 23 in 2002 as the D-backs won the NL West again. He finished second in the Cy Young to Johnson both seasons.

With Schilling and Johnson both landing on the DL in 2003, the Diamondbacks fell to 84-78 and they traded Schilling to the Red Sox after the season for Casey Fossum, Brandon Lyon, Jorge De La Rosa and Michael Goss.

Similar to the Phillies' haul -- Padilla did have two 14-win seasons in Philadelphia, but Lee didn't develop into the middle-of-the-order bat projected of him -- that trade did little for the D-backs.
Sandy KoufaxFocus on Sport/Getty ImagesOver his final five seasons, Sandy Koufax went 111-34 with a 1.95 ERA and three Cy Young Awards.
This is another follow-up to a debate that arose in a recent chat session: Which pitcher had the best five-year peak?

With Sandy Koufax having spent time at Dodgers camp this spring it seems like a perfect time for a list, doesn't it?

Well, I can never make things easy, so this will be a long list. I started with pitchers since 1950, primarily because I'm not as interested in comparing the peak of dead-ball era pitchers to the more modern game. Plus, we had to make this somewhat manageable. I'm going to use Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement to rank the pitchers and we'll have a vote at the end of the story.

The rules: It has to be a five-year consecutive peak -- not necessarily the best five seasons of a pitcher's career, but the best five years in a row. A pitcher can appear only once. That's it. I didn't include postseason results, but maybe should have. I looked at all the Hall of Fame starting pitchers from this era, some current guys and some others I wanted to include. The list is 41 pitchers, but this is not the best 41 peaks. I left out some good pitchers, such as Orel Hershiser, Dwight Gooden, Roy Oswalt and others. I do think I got all the guys who accumulated at least 30 WAR, however.

Jack Morris, 1983-1987: 20.2 WAR
We have to start somewhere.

Don Sutton, 1971-1975: 21.1
Despite winning 324 games, Sutton was a controversial selection to the Hall of Fame when he made it on his fifth year on the ballot. He was viewed as a compiler -- and, well, he sort of was, as his career-high WAR was 6.3 and he topped 5.0 just three times. From '71 to '75 he went 89-53 with a 2.63 ERA and 25 shutouts. Not bad for a compiler.

Early Wynn, 1952-1956: 22.3
In 1948, Wynn went 8-19 with a 5.82 ERA for the Senators, walking 94 and striking out 49. Bill Veeck of the Indians coveted Wynn anyway because of his good fastball, they got him along with Mickey Vernon in a trade, pitching coach Mel Harder taught Wynn a curve and slider, and he went on to average 18 wins per season in his nine years in Cleveland.

Whitey Ford, 1961-1965: 22.5
Here's a fair question: Is Whitey Ford overrated? Think about it: He pitched in the old Yankee Stadium, with its mammoth left-center power alley, certainly helpful to a left-handed pitcher; he didn't have to face the best team in the league, back when there were only eight teams in the league for much of his career; he won "only" 236 games. Of course, he was the ace of many World Series winners and was certainly clutch in the postseason. Ford's best five years came after Casey Stengel was fired after the Yankees lost the 1960 World Series. Stengel was always cautious with Ford's workload, using him for more than 230 innings only once. But from '61 to '65 Ford averaged 260 innings and went 99-38, a .723 winning percentage.

John Smoltz, 1995-1999: 22.9
When Smoltz shows up on the Hall of Fame ballot, it will be interesting to see how he fares compared to Curt Schilling, two guys with similar career records (Smoltz: 213-155, 3.33; Schilling: 216-146, 3.46) and similar excellence in the postseason. The big difference between the two is Smoltz never had the string of dominant seasons like Schilling did.

Catfish Hunter, 1971-1975: 23.4
Made his mark by winning seven games in the postseason as the A's won three consecutive World Series from 1972 to 1974, but vastly overrated as a pitcher. This five-year peak accounts for two-thirds of his career WAR of 32.1

Tom Glavine, 1995-1999: 24.0
What were the odds that a 22-year-old pitcher who led the league with 17 losses and struck out only 84 batters in 195 innings would turn into a 300-game winner and future Hall of Famer? Lower than slim and none? Glavine's best season via WAR was his breakout campaign in 1991 (8.2) when he won his first Cy Young Award, but in many ways he was similar to Sutton, an amazingly durable pitcher who was very good for a long time.

Felix Hernandez, 2008-2012: 24.1
Working on four straight years of 230-plus innings and doesn't turn 27 until April. With his new contract, the Mariners are banking on many more of those 230-inning seasons in the future.

Nolan Ryan, 1973-1977: 26.0
His first big year came after the Mets traded him to the Angels in 1972 and he won 19 games with a 2.28 ERA, worth 5.8 WAR. Twenty years later he was 44 and posted a 5.0 WAR season for the Rangers. In between, he was a dynamic, often wild, always amazing, and certainly one-of-a-kind. His mid-'70s peak was dragged down by a couple mediocre seasons in '75 and '76 when he posted a 3.40 ERA, only league average for the time once you adjust for his home park.

Mike Mussina, 1999-2003: 26.7
His career WAR of 78.1 is higher than many Hall of Fame pitchers of this era. Best season came in 1992 (7.9 WAR), but he had seven seasons of 5.0 or higher, five of those coming with the Orioles.

Justin Verlander, 2008-2012: 26.7
This stretch includes Verlander's 2008 when he went 11-17 with a 4.84 ERA, worth 1.5 WAR, so the total will jump up with a big 2013. Verlander led the league in losses that year, which prompts the question: How many Hall of Fame pitchers led their league in losses? Well, Phil Niekro managed to do it four straight seasons. Bert Blyleven did it at the end of his career in 1988, and future Hall of Famer Glavine did it the same season at the beginning of his career. Steve Carlton and Robin Roberts each did it twice. Early Wynn and Hal Newhouser. A couple of others. Not necessarily that unusual.

Steve Carlton
Rich Pilling/Getty ImagesSteve Carlton won four Cy Young Awards, but only one came during his best five-year WAR peak.
Steve Carlton, 1969-1973: 27.9
Maybe the most inconsistent great pitcher ever, this period includes Carlton's all-timer season in 1972 when he went 27-10 with a 1.97 ERA for a Phillies team that won only 59 games. No other pitcher won more than seven games, and he was a reliever. But Carlton followed that up with a 13-20, 3.90 year in 1973 and had some less-than-stellar years. His best stretch of consistent excellence actually came later in his career from 1980-1983, but his 11.7 WAR in '72 helps make this his best five-year stretch.

Don Drysdale, 1960-1964: 28.0
Dodger Stadium: 65-43, 2.19 ERA
L.A. Coliseum: 36-25, 3.14 ERA
Road games: 95-92, 3.41 ERA

Cliff Lee, 2008-2012: 28.9
Sort of the anti-Nolan Ryan. Whereas Ryan would never give in to a hitter, preferring to walk a batter rather than just throw something over the middle of the plate, Lee never wants to give up a free pass. Over this five-year stretch he has walked 165 batters; Ryan walked that many in a season three times.

Bret Saberhagen, 1985-1989: 29.1
Includes his Cy Young seasons in 1985 (6.9 WAR) and 1989 (9.2 WAR), but he couldn't stay healthy after that. Remember when Dave Stewart whined about not winning the Cy Young in 1989? Yeah, let's not get into that.

Jim Palmer, 1975-1979: 29.2
Palmer won 20 games eight times in nine seasons, but went 7-12 in 1974 right in the middle of that stretch to drag down his five-year peak (we ended up using a mediocre 10-6, 3.30 partial season in 1979 to round out our five years).

Frank Tanana, 1974-1978: 29.3
One of the best young pitchers ever, but hurt his arm in 1978. Returned as a finesse guy to have a long career.

David Cone, 1993-1997: 29.4
Only averaged 184 innings per season over this span thanks to the two strike-shortened seasons and an injury in 1996 that limited him to 11 starts, but went 64-35 with a 3.17 ERA during a high-scoring era and won the Cy Young Award in 1994.

CC Sabathia, 2007-2011: 29.7
Finished in the top five of the Cy Young voting all five seasons.

Rick Reuschel, 1976-1980: 29.8
A favorite of sabermetricians because of a career WAR of 64.6 that ranks 32nd all time among pitchers -- just ahead of Palmer, Sutton and Smoltz. Hmm. Reuschel's career record of 214-191 with a 3.37 ERA doesn't blow you away, but he spent his best years with mediocre Cubs teams in a hitter's park with bad defenses behind him. In these five years, he went 77-62 with a 3.33 ERA, topped by a 1977 season (20-10, 2.79 ERA) in which Baseball-Reference rates him not only as the best pitcher in the National League (9.2 WAR), but as the most valuable player. In comparing to Palmer, Baseball-Reference estimates Palmer's defense saved him 0.33 runs per nine innings over his career but cost Reuschel 0.18 runs per nine innings (a difference of about 14 runs over 250 innings). Maybe Reuschel would have won three Cy Young Awards if he had Mark Belanger and Paul Blair behind him.

Jim Bunning, 1963-1967: 30.2
After going 12-13 with a 3.88 ERA in 1963, the Tigers traded Bunning to the Phillies (for Don Demeter and Jack Hamilton), figuring at 32 he was past his prime. He wasn't. Instead, Bunning reeled off four magnificent seasons with the Phillies, going 74-46 with a 2.48 ERA while averaging 298 innings per season.

Kevin Appier, 1992-1996: 30.9
Surprise! Went 69-43 with a 3.22 ERA, including a spectacular 9.0-WAR 1993 when he led the AL with a 2.56 ERA and allowed only eight home runs. Should have won the Cy Young Award that year.

Warren Spahn, 1949-1953: 32.2
This stretch includes four of his five highest WAR seasons, the other being his best one -- 9.1 in 1947. Two awesome Spahn stats: (1) From 1947 to 1963, the fewest innings he pitched was 245.2; (2) Led the NL in complete games seven consecutive seasons, from ages 36 to 42. Here's a third one: Led or tied for the NL lead in wins eight times.

[+] EnlargeDave Stieb
Ronald C. Modra/Getty ImagesToronto ace Dave Stieb should have won a Cy Young Award or two in the early '80s.
Dave Stieb, 1981-1985: 32.4
Underrated in his own time, Baseball-Reference rates Stieb as the first- or second-best pitcher in the AL all five seasons in this stretch, but he never finished higher than fourth in the Cy Young voting because they were giving the awards to guys like Pete Vuckovich and LaMarr Hoyt.

Roy Halladay, 2007-2011: 32.5
Went 93-44 with a 2.80 ERA.

Bert Blyleven, 1971-1975: 33.5
Blyleven's run came from ages 20 to 24 and included a 325-inning season in 1973 when he was 22. Somehow his ligaments and tendons remained attached and didn't turn into soba noodles. You'll notice that Blyleven is the third pitcher with the exact same five-year dates; to a large extent this is because innings totals increased during this period. With more innings comes a higher WAR. In the 1960s, for example, there were 25 300-inning seasons; in the first five years of the '70s, there were 27. Or, really, innings started ramping up in the late '60s, when offense declined, leading to the lowering of the mound after 1968 and the advent of the designated hitter in the American League. To put a more dramatic spin on the increase in workload, from 1955 to 1964, there were seven 300-inning seasons (three by Drysdale); in the next 10 years, there 47 300-inning seasons.

Johan Santana, 2004-2008: 34.2
Won three ERA titles and two Cy Young Awards (and probably should have won a third) in this period.

Ferguson Jenkins, 1968-1972: 34.9
Went 107-71 with a 3.02 ERA, averaging 309 innings and winning the 1971 Cy Young Award. The Cubs were still pretty good in this era, finishing over .500 all five years, so this wasn't just a pitcher excelling despite a bad team behind him.

Curt Schilling, 2000-2004: 35.0
This run includes half a season in Philly, three and a half in Arizona and his first year in Boston, a year that culminated with a bloody sock and the lifting of a curse. Five-year totals: 85-40, 3.24, three Cy Young runner-up finishes, three 20-win seasons, a 300-strikeout season (he had two more in 1997 and 1998) and two World Series championships. Schilling pounded the strike zone -- he averaged only 1.5 walks per nine innings -- and had a remarkable 316/33 strikeout/walk ratio in 2002.

Kevin Brown, 1996-2000: 35.4
Deserved to hang out on the Hall of Fame ballot longer than one year and have his case at least discussed. For a time, Brown was impressive as any pitcher of his generation, throwing that hard, mid-90s sinker. In this stretch he went 82-41 with a 2.51 ERA in the heart of the steroids era, averaging 242 innings, twice leading in ERA and pitching in two World Series. His seasonal WAR totals: 7.7, 6.7, 8.3, 5.9, 6.8.

Juan Marichal, 1962-1966: 35.4
Starting in 1963, he went 25-8, 21-8, 22-13, 25-6, 14-10, 26-9 and 21-11. You know how many Cy Young votes he received those seasons? None. His best five-year peak would be better if not for that 1967 season where he missed some time and made 26 starts. As is, he went 107-45 with a 2.37 ERA.

Wilbur Wood, 1970-1974: 36.7
Another early '70s guy, Wood's knuckleball allowed him to post some of the more freakishly awesome seasons in modern history, including 1971 when he had a 1.91 ERA in 334 innings, and 1972 when he started 49 games and pitched 376.2 innings. Those two seasons were worth 11.5 and 10.3 WAR. (He slacked off in 1973 and started only 48 games and threw 359.1 innings.)

10. Gaylord Perry, 1972-1976: 37.0
OK, we're into the top 10, so we'll start numbering the countdown. If you're getting the idea that the early '70s were to pitching what the late '90s and early aughts were to hitting, then give yourself a gold star. Perry's 1972 with Cleveland was an amazing season: 24-16, 1.92 ERA, 29 complete games, 342 innings, worth 10.4 WAR. From May 6 to Aug. 5 he started 22 games and completed 19, posting a 1.55 ERA. Here's the kicker: He averaged more than nine innings per start in that stretch (one of his non-complete games was a 13-inning scoreless effort).

Five-year totals: 97-79, 2.83 ERA, 313 innings per season.

9. Tom Seaver, 1969-1973: 37.4
Went 103-51 with a 2.35 ERA. Followed this up with another five-year stretch valued at 30.2 WAR.

8. Bob Gibson, 1966-1970: 38.0
This period includes his memorable 1968 season when he went 22-8 with a 1.12 ERA, a year that included a 47-inning scoreless streak and one period where he allowed two earned runs in 92 innings. No wonder baseball lowered the height of the mound from 15 to 10 inches for 1969. That season was worth 11.1 WAR, and he followed that up with two more pretty good ones: 10.3 WAR in 1969 and 8.4 in 1970, when he won another Cy Young Award. If not for a broken leg that forced him to miss two months in 1967, he'd be even higher on the list. (Or if we included hitting; he accumulated 3.3 WAR at the plate as well, and had 19 RBIs in 1970.) Five-year totals: 99-48, 2.30, 27 shutouts.

7. Phil Niekro, 1974-1978: 38.6
This is never mentioned as a great peak since Niekro's record was just 87-77 (pitching for bad Braves teams in the post-Aaron era) and his ERA was 3.16. He even led the league in losses in 1977 and 1978 (and would do so again in 1979 and 1980, joining Pedro Ramos as the only pitchers to do that four consecutive years). His ERA+ of 127, for example, was much lower than Gibson' five-year mark of 153. What Niekro did was throw a lot of innings -- 302.1, 275.2, 270.2, 330.1 and 334.1 -- and that workload led to WAR totals of 7.5, 6.5, 6.4, 8.6 and 9.6.

6. Sandy Koufax, 1962-1966: 39.1
Only sixth? For a pitcher who went 111-34 with a 1.95 ERA, won the NL ERA crown all five years and had seasons of 25-5, 26-8 and 27-9? He won an MVP Award and finished second in the voting two other years, while winning three Cy Young Awards (when they gave it to just one pitcher in all of baseball). So why only sixth? Well, there's no doubting Koufax's domination -- he, Gibson and Wood are the only two pitchers with two seasons of 10+ WAR during their peak runs. But a couple of things: (1) Dodger Stadium was a huge pitcher's park in those days, with a notoriously high mound (Koufax had a 1.37 ERA at home and 2.57 on the road, not that there's anything wrong with 2.57), so his numbers are knocked down a bit to adjust for that; (2) He missed time in 1962 (184 innings) and 1964 (223 innings), so that cuts into his value, at least compared to the other three seasons.

5. Greg Maddux, 1992-1996: 39.2
This is when he won his four consecutive Cy Young Awards. Five-year math: 90-40, 2.13 ERA, 191 ERA+, single-season WAR of 8.9, 5.5, 8.3, 9.5, 7.0 (followed by seasons of 7.6 and 6.3). And remember, his value was held down by the shortened seasons of 1994 and '95, when he had ERAs of 1.56 and 1.63.

[+] EnlargeRoger Clemens
Mitchell Layton/Getty ImagesThe young Roger Clemens wasn't too shabby.
4. Roger Clemens, 1986-1990: 40.1
The numbers: 100-42, 2.71 ERA, 156 ERA+, 256 innings per season, 57 complete games, 23 shutouts, two Cy Young Awards (and was robbed in 1990). Also had 33.7 WAR from 1996 to 2000 and six other seasons of 5+ WAR not included in either of those two stretches.

3. Robin Roberts, 1950-1954: 40.5
Now this is what you call a peak: 115-64, 2.87 ERA, 138 ERA+, 135 complete games, 327 innings per season, seasons of 7.0, 7.6, 7.9, 9.4 and 8.6 WAR. By the 1950s, innings pitched totals had to started to decline, especially compared to the dead-ball guys, but not for Roberts. There were 10 300-inning seasons in the decade and Roberts had six of them. From his autobiography (tip of the cap to the "Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers"): "I was mainly a one-pitch pitcher, although sometimes I mixed in a curveball when I was ahead in the count. I could put my fastball where I wanted it, but I was sometimes criticized for not pitching inside more. ... I just went after people with my best stuff and let the batters hit it if they could."

Roberts threw very hard -- Bill James says he threw about as hard or possibly harder than Bob Feller or Bob Gibson or any of those big guys. Because his control was so good, he relied primarily on that one pitch. (He did give up a lot of home runs.) Outside of this stretch, Roberts had only one more season rated above 5.0 WAR, and one other above 4.0.

2. Pedro Martinez, 1997-2001: 41.4
Let's take these seasons one-by-one:

--1997: 17-8, 1.90 ERA, 8.7 WAR, 241.1 IP, 158 H, 305 SO, won Cy Young Award. Led NL in ERA and complete games (13).
--1998: 19-7, 2.89 ERA, 6.9 WAR, second in Cy Young voting in first year with Red Sox, struck out 251 in 233.2 innings.
--1999: 23-4, 2.07 ERA, 9.5 WAR, won Cy Young, second in MVP voting, 313 SO in 213.1 innings (13.2 per nine).
--2000: 18-6, 1.74 ERA, 11.4 WAR, won Cy Young, somehow only fifth in MVP voting, 284 SO in 217 IP, opponents hit .167 off him -- .167! This isn't a closer we're talking about here. .167.
--2001: 7-3, 2.39 ERA. Injured, made only 18 starts.

It's too bad we couldn't sub in his 2002 (20-4, 2.26) or 2003 (14-4, 2.22). Great fastball, the best changeup of all time, command, varied his arm angles, mixed in a cut fastball, slider and curveball, and wasn't afraid to deliver some chin music every now and then. Only thing he lacked was the durability to rack up a lot of innings.

Five-year totals: 84-28, 2.18 ERA, 215 ERA+, 1,316 SO in 1,022 innings.

1. Randy Johnson, 1998-2002: 42.2
As awesome as Pedro was, the Unit rates even higher, which tells us something about how good he was. Five-year totals: 100-38, 2.63 ERA, 174 ERA+, four Cy Young Awards, three ERA titles, 41 complete games, 17 shutouts, five 300-strikeout seasons, 1,746 SO in 1,274 innings.

SportsNation

Which pitcher had the best five-year peak?

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    27%
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Discuss (Total votes: 3,858)

Individual seasons: 5.4, 8.8, 7.8, 9.8, 10.4. In fact, his five-year peak could have been higher had he not sulked his way through the first half of 1998 with the Mariners before finally getting traded to the Astros (where he went 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA in 11 starts).

On a rate basis, Pedro was a little better, as reflected in his better ERA+. He also had to face DH lineups for four of his five seasons. But Johnson was dominant and durable -- he pitched 252 more innings than Pedro in his five-year peak and that puts him at No. 1.

* * * *

Of course, you don't have to rely on WAR for your own personal rankings. My top five would probably go Johnson, Martinez, Koufax, Maddux, Clemens, with apologies to Bob Gibson.

In the poll, we can only include five names. I apologize to Robin Roberts fans for leaving him out despite his No. 3 ranking above. Like Phil Niekro, his value comes as much from a huge workload as being a great pitcher. But he wasn't dominant in the same sense as some of these other pitchers -- he never led his league in ERA, for example, and his ERA+ during his five-year peak was 138, well below the others. So he got the boot from the poll.

Who do you have?

Is this a sad day for baseball? Maybe not. There will be another election next year and one the year after that. I presume onward into the future players will get elected. But this year? The Baseball Writers' Association of America struck out.

Nobody can deny the current process is broken. This summer, the Hall of Fame will hold an induction ceremony that will honor three individuals who have been dead for over 70 years. Only one of those was a player, and Deacon White played so long ago he was a catcher without a glove.

The Hall of Fame is a museum, but there will be no Astros fans trekking to Cooperstown to see Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell inducted and take a tour of baseball history. There will be no Tigers and Twins fans going to see Jack Morris get in. No Expos fans cheering Tim Raines, Mariners fans driving 3,000 miles to see the great Edgar Martinez inducted or throngs of Mets fans making the short drive to see Mike Piazza's speech.

If you've never been to the Hall of Fame, maybe this summer is the time to go. The lines will be short.

Some quick thoughts:

[+] EnlargeCraig Biggio
Brian Bahr/ALLSPORTCraig Biggio's 3,060 hits -- good for 21st all-time -- were not enough to make him a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Craig Biggio (68.2 percent)
The BBWAA went against its history by not electing Biggio. Every eligible player with 3,000 hits except Paul Waner and Rafael Palmeiro was elected in his first year on the ballot (Pete Rose being ineligible). Somehow the writers didn't find room for a player who scored the 15th most runs in history. He'll get in next year.

Jack Morris (67.7 percent)
I almost feel sorry for Morris at this point. His vote total went up just 1 percentage point from last year, leaving him 42 votes short of election. He has one year left on the ballot, and while players as close as Morris often get the sympathy vote when they get this close, his candidacy will be hurt by the addition of Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine to next year's ballot, two pitchers in a higher class than Morris. I just heard Bob Costas on MLB Network mention that the sabermetric community has hurt Morris' case, unlike how it helped Bert Blyleven's case. I think Costas is 100 percent wrong with that statement. In Morris' first five years on the ballot, he received less than 30 percent of the vote. He was initially rejected because voters looked at his 3.90 career ERA as unworthy of Hall status. His totals have risen through the years despite the strong sabermetric evidence against him.

Jeff Bagwell (59.6) and Mike Piazza (57.8)
Bagwell's total increased 3.6 percentage points from last year, and Piazza fared well for a first-ballot guy. By historical measures, both are on an excellent Hall of Fame path. Barry Larkin, for example, received 51.6 percent his first year, 62.1 percent the next and was elected in his third year with 86.4 percent. Bagwell and Piazza are tied to PED rumors, so historical measures may not apply to them; Bagwell's total certainly didn't rise as rapidly as Larkin's did. Still, it's also true that Bagwell and Piazza are being viewed differently than Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

Tim Raines (52.2)
In his sixth year on the ballot, Raines' total increased from 48.7 percent. He still has nine years to get in; he'll get there.

Lee Smith (47.8)
While Smith's support isn't surprising in light of the fact that three of the past 14 members elected by the BBWAA have been relief pitchers, it continues to baffle me. Yes, he racked up a lot of saves, but I always put the Smith question this way: At any point in his career, even when he was at his scariest, most dominant peak, would he have been traded for a Dale Murphy, Larry Walker, Edgar Martinez, Curt Schilling or Alan Trammell? Of course not. Smith's general manager would have been laughed off the phone, yet he got more votes than any of those guys. His vote total did drop and it was his 11th year, so he's a guy who was affected by the crowded ballot. His chances took a big turn for the worse.

Curt Schilling (38.8)
While it's amazing that Schilling received almost 30 percentage points fewer votes than Morris, this is actually a decent vote total for a first-year candidate. It may be a slow trek for him, but I believe he's on the path to induction.

Roger Clemens(37.6) and Barry Bonds (36.2)
No surprise that these two received less than 40 percent. The most interesting fact is that Clemens received eight more votes than Bonds.

Edgar Martinez (35.9)
In his fourth year, Martinez lost a few votes. He is already fighting the bias against designated hitters, so even though he is just one of 16 players with at least 10 seasons with a .400 OBP (11 total), this wasn't a good day for him.

Alan Trammell (33.6)
Trammell also lost votes. His bandwagon didn't really begin until last year, but it's too late for him and the ballot is too crowded. He is every bit the Hall of Famer that Larkin is, but with three years left, it will be up to some future version of the Veterans Committee to put him in.

Sammy Sosa (12.5) and Rafael Palmeiro (8.8)
They stayed on the ballot, but they're not getting in, at least not through the BBWAA.

Bernie Williams (3.3) and Kenny Lofton (3.2)
Maybe the most discouraging result of the day is that Williams and Lofton -- admittedly, borderline guys -- will be booted off future ballots, their cases never given the opportunity to be argued. Whitaker'd.

* * *

So there we go. A crowded ballot gets even more crowded next year with the additions of Maddux, Glavine, Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent. Good luck, voters.
Let's play a little Hall of Fame game. I'm going to present two players with similar statistics. One is in the Hall of Fame and the other is on this year's ballot. Presented two lines of numbers, can you guess which player is the Hall of Famer? Check the numbers, vote in our poll and then check below to see who the players are. (No cheating!)

Comparison No. 1
SportsNation

Which player is the Hall of Famer?

  •  
    60%
  •  
    40%

Discuss (Total votes: 8,586)

My favorite part of this comparison are the final two stats: runs created and outs made, with the two players nearly identical over their careers.

I should note that these two are contemporaries and the Hall of Famer made it in the first year he was on the ballot.

While the Hall of Famer was never considered the best player in the game, there is an argument to be made that the non-Hall of Famer was the best player in the game at his peak.

Both were good defensive players and had speed, at least early in their careers.

Comparison No. 2
SportsNation

Which player is the Hall of Famer?

  •  
    61%
  •  
    39%

Discuss (Total votes: 7,399)

Two hard-hitting outfielders who both fell short of many of the magic Hall of Fame numbers such as 500 home runs and 3,000 hits due to relatively short careers.

Both had some monster seasons, however. The Hall of Famer led his league in several offensive categories at various times, including runs scored, home runs, RBIs, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. The non-Hall of Famer also led his league in home runs, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Both were considered good all-around players.

The Hall of Famer took a few years to get elected, but nobody ever calls him out as a poor selection.

Comparison No. 3
SportsNation

Which player is the Hall of Famer?

  •  
    56%
  •  
    44%

Discuss (Total votes: 6,739)

Let's try two starting pitchers.

I can say these two were pretty similar in many ways, both among the biggest names in the sport while active, with some legendary tales about their performances.

Both pitched for multiple World Series champions but neither came close to 300 wins. Their adjusted ERAs are pretty similar.

When elected, the Hall of Famer was viewed as a controversial selection, in large part because of his win total. The non-Hall of Famer will have to face that same bias.

Comparison No. 4
SportsNation

Which player is the Hall of Famer?

  •  
    49%
  •  
    51%

Discuss (Total votes: 6,183)

Two guys who relied on their bats to earn their paychecks. Both hit cleanup for World Series champs and were viewed as among the premier sluggers in the game at their peaks.

The Hall of Famer made it on his first year on the ballot and made seven All-Star teams. The non-Hall of Famer made five All-Star teams. Both led their league twice in home runs.

The Hall of Famer hit 30-plus home runs six times while the non-Hall of Famer hit 30-plus home runs 10 times, including six seasons in a row at one point.

According to Baseball-Reference, both players had five seasons with 4-plus WAR.

Comparison No. 5
SportsNation

Which player is the Hall of Famer?

  •  
    69%
  •  
    31%

Discuss (Total votes: 5,583)

This one is my favorite comparison on the list.

They didn't play the same position, but both did play key up-the-middle positions and were awarded multiple Gold Gloves in their careers.

One guy was part of more than one World Series champion while the other never played in a World Series. The Hall of Famer made it in on his third year on the ballot while the non-Hall of Famer has work to do.

As far as fame, both would rate very high in that category while active. Had they played longer, both would have a better chance to meet some of the automatic Hall of Fame standards.

Comparison No. 6
SportsNation

Which player is the Hall of Famer?

  •  
    69%
  •  
    31%

Discuss (Total votes: 5,125)

These two guys played the same position and had several seasons in which their careers overlapped, although they played in different leagues.

Both were arguably the best player on a World Series championship team.

While the Hall of Famer made it after a short stay on the ballot, the non-Hall of Famer has struggled to get enough support. Both players won multiple Gold Gloves. The Hall of Famer hit .300 nine times and the non-Hall of Famer hit .300 seven times.

According to Baseball-Reference, the Hall of Famer had eight four-win seasons while the non-Hall of Famer had nine. This one is close.

Answers

Comparison No. 1: Player A is Tony Gwynn and Player B is Tim Raines.

Of course, I left out Gwynn's 3,000 hits and .338 career average. But as you can see from above, the two were quite similar players: Raines drew more walks, hit a few more home runs and stole more bases at an excellent percentage, making up the advantage Gwynn had in base hits. But Gwynn won batting titles and Raines' dominant years in the '80s came in the obscurity of Montreal.

Comparison No. 2: Player A is Larry Walker and Player B is Duke Snider.

Snider's Hall of Fame case was originally hurt by the fact that he wasn't Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle. Of course, who is? But he was a key member of one of the great teams of all time, the 1950s Brooklyn Dodgers. Snider never won an MVP Award but finished as high as second; Walker won MVP in 1997. Of course, Walker is questioned because of the Coors Field numbers, but as you can see, each player's adjusted OPS is about the same. (Ebbets Field was a great hitters' park as well, and Snider's career OPS is 79 points higher at home.)

Comparison No. 3: Player A is Curt Schilling and Player B is Don Drysdale.

Two hard-throwing right-handers who racked up strikeouts. Schilling, of course, has the great postseason record (11-2, 2.23 ERA); Drysdale was 3-3, 2.95 in the postseason (all World Series games). Both pitched for three World Series champs. Drysdale has the lower career ERA -- 2.95 to 3.46 -- but once you adjust for eras and ballpark (Dodger Stadium in the '60s was a great pitchers' park), Schilling's ERA is a little better.

Comparison No. 4: Player A is Willie Stargell and Player B is Fred McGriff.

And both had cool nicknames as well -- Pops and Crime Dog. Stargell did win an MVP (shared with Keith Hernandez) but that was an award earned for leadership more than production; he did finish second twice in the voting. McGriff finished as high as fourth in the voting.

Comparison No. 5: Player A is Bernie Williams and Player B is Ryne Sandberg.

This was my favorite comparison on the list. Sandberg made it on the third ballot while Williams, despite playing center field for four World Series champs, got just under 10 percent of the vote his first year on the ballot. Shouldn't center fielders be given a similar defensive consideration as second basemen?

Comparison No. 6: Player A is Barry Larkin and Player B is Alan Trammell.

There is very little to separate these two. Larkin did win an MVP Award, but Trammell should have won in 1987, when he finished second. Larkin played until he was 40, but their career games totals are similar. I think his edge over Trammell is that once Ozzie Smith faded, Larkin was viewed as the best shortstop in the National League. Trammell was always behind somebody -- Robin Yount or Cal Ripken, and then after he retired, the AL had all the shortstops putting up the big numbers -- A-Rod, Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra and Miguel Tejada. But there's no shame in being ranked behind Yount or Ripken. Trammell deserves to join Larkin in Cooperstown.
Some stuff out there on the Internet, Hall of Fame related …

1. Joe Posnanski with a fun post on the Topps numbering system -- if you collected cards, you remember the best players would get card No. 100 or 300 or whatever, stars would get No. 250 or 450, and minor stars would get the other cards ending in 0. And Mario Mendoza would always get No. 78 or No. 253 or the like. So Joe checked all the big names -- I have no idea how long this took him -- and awarded points each time a player got a card ending in 0, with more points for a "prime" card (ending in 00 or 50). Jack Morris, as it turns out, appeared only once on a "prime" card -- No. 450 in 1982. That's it. So Topps definitely didn't view Morris as a Hall of Famer.

(Here's Joe's Hall of Fame ballot.)

2. OK, OK, maybe that's not the most scientific analysis. But it is one argument that contradicts the view that many are now holding that Morris was viewed as a huge star while active. You can argue that Morris was more widely respected by those in the game than outside, but that doesn't make him a better pitcher than he was. ESPN Insider Dan Szymborski compares Morris to first-time ballot guy Curt Schilling. The Morris-Schilling comparison is an interesting case study, because there will be many voters who will vote for Morris but not Schilling (largely because Morris had 40 more wins), but as Dan points out, Morris' "edge" in wins isn't that valuable -- Schilling would have to go 38-40 to match Morris' record. And if Morris' trump card is his Game 7 performance, Schilling can counter with the fact that he's one of the greatest postseason pitchers of all time, with an overall record far superior to Morris' (11-2, 2.23 ERA in 19 starts versus 7-4, 3.80 in 13 starts). Basically, there isn't a rational reason for voting for Morris but excluding Schilling.

3. Joe Sheehan had a strong take on the Hall of Fame in one of his recent newsletters (subscribe here):
What we've seen is that Hall voting in the modern era has moved away from the stats -- because when the voters made arguments about the stats, they got crushed by the outsiders -- and towards the narrative, because the writers could make up whatever they wanted. So Bruce Sutter wasn't a guy with five good years and just eight in which he did anything, with 23 WAR and a save total that wasn't at all impressive just a few years after he retired … no, he was a split-fingered pioneer who revolutionized the closer role and was a critical piece on a World Champion, and look at that beard!

[snip]

Now, we have Jack Morris, and once again, the statistical case for Morris was tried and found lacking a decade ago, from his postseason work to his "best pitcher of the 1980s" to "pitching to the score". The traditional voters were beaten on the stats, so they brought in the stories of him being a bulldog, of Opening Day starts (a stat that has never before and will never again be part of a Hall of Fame case), of one night in October, and they created a legend, and that legend -- that narrative -- is what will be elected to the Hall.

Joe's point is that on his first five years on the ballot, Morris never received more than 26 percent of the vote. The rejection of his 3.90 career ERA, at that time, was pretty sound. You can argue that this is why we give players 15 years on the ballot. But those 15 years also allow narratives -- like Sutter, like Morris, like Jim Rice -- to build momentum.

By the way, you knew who else was a World Series hero? Mickey Lolich, who won three games for the Tigers in 1968, beating Bob Gibson in Game 7. He was a good pitcher as well: 217 wins, 3.44 ERA, career WAR a little higher than Morris', had a season in which he started 45 games and pitched 376 innings (the first of four straight 300-inning seasons). In his fourth year on the ballot, he received -- get this -- 26 percent of the vote. But that was it. He declined thereafter, oddly falling from 26 percent to 11 percent in one year. His narrative never developed, and memories of him faded away.

4. Tim Marchman of the Wall Street Journal says it's time to give the vote to ... the fans:
The problem is simple: The elections are carried out by writers who have been members of the Baseball Writers Association of America for at least 10 years, and consequently, the debates aren't about baseball or ballplayers but about sportswriting and sportswriters -- much less interesting subjects.

An obvious solution -- one so elegant it's surprising it wasn't put in place decades ago -- is to simply strip writers of the vote and give it to the public. Writers and traditionalists would cry to the heavens, and all would fret over the perils of mass democracy, but we'd at least be rid of an inherently toxic structure.

[snip]

The worst element, though, is that the writers debating all of this have the franchise even though there's no real reason for them to have it: They have no special knowledge of the game relative to anyone else, and they've never done a good job.

I will say this: Based on voting results I've seen on the past on ESPN.com, fans would be tougher than the writers. Many think giving fans the vote (or part of it) would lead to more absurd selections or fan favorites. Actually, the opposite is true: It would lead to fewer selections. The fans, for example, certainly wouldn't have voted in Sutter or Rice. Put it this way: It's hard enough getting 75 percent consensus from 500-plus writers; it would be near impossible getting 75 percent consensus from an even larger bloc of fans, excepting only the obvious candidates.

5. Somebody has been counting published ballots, and as of Dec. 27 (and 114 ballots, or 20 percent of last year's total), NOBODY will make it in this year. That early roll call had Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza and Tim Raines all over 60 percent, but nobody at 70 percent. Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds were both at 44.7 percent. I predicted the other day that Biggio and Morris would make it, but I won't be surprised if neither does.

Giving us a Hall of Fame ceremony this summer of Jacob Ruppert (owner, died 1939), Hank O'Day (umpire, died 1935) and Deacon White (played when catchers caught the ball barehanded, died 1939).

Can't wait.

Dream teams: 1992 versus 2012

August, 13, 2012
8/13/12
5:46
PM ET
Before the Olympics began, Kobe Bryant suggested this year's Olympic basketball team would defeat the fabled 1992 Dream Team that featured Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley and Larry Bird. Bryant later adjusted his thoughts, saying the Dream Team was better but that the 2012 squad could beat them.

Bryant and company cruised throughout the tournament until Sunday's gold-medal game against Spain, prevailing 107-100 after leading by just one point heading into the fourth quarter.

Anyway, that's a lead-in to this: What would baseball's dream team from 1992 look like? Let's turn back the clock and imagine we're in the summer of 1992. Let's pick a 25-man team -- 15 position players, seven starting pitchers and three relievers. Just like the '92 hoops Dream Team, legend status should come into play a bit. Since we're imagining an Olympic-type scenario, we're going with U.S. players only.

The Starters
1. 2B Ryne Sandberg, Cubs (.304/.371/.510, 26 HR, 7.6 WAR)
Made his ninth consecutive All-Star appearance in '92.

2. CF Kirby Puckett, Twins (.329/.374/.490, 19 HR, 6.8 WAR)
Had led the Twins to a World Series title in 1991; finished second in '92 American League MVP vote.

[+] EnlargeBarry Bonds
AP Photo/John SwartBarry Bonds led the Pirates to the NLCS in 1992.
3. LF Barry Bonds, Pirates (.311/.456/.624, 34 HR, 8.9 WAR)
The best player in the game; won his second MVP award in '92.

4. DH Frank Thomas, White Sox (.323/.439/.536, 24 HR, 6.7 WAR)
In his second full season, but the most feared hitter in the AL. Led the league in OBP and OPS for the second consecutive season.

5. 1B Mark McGwire, A's (.268/.385/.585, 42 HR, 6.2 WAR)
Had rebounded from a poor 1991 to lead the AL in slugging percentage and the A's to the AL West title.

6. RF Ken Griffey Jr., Mariners (.308/.361/.535, 27 HR, 5.5 WAR)
At 22 years old, already one of the game's best all-around players. We'll move him to right field with Kirby in center.

7. 3B Terry Pendleton, Braves (.311/.345/.473, 21 HR, 4.8 WAR)
People remember his 1991 MVP season, but he finished second to Bonds in the '92 vote.

8. C Darren Daulton, Phillies (.270/.385/.524, 27 HR, 6.7 WAR)
It was a weak year for catchers, but Daulton had a monster season with the fourth-highest WAR among position players.

9. SS Cal Ripken, Orioles (.251/.323/.366, 14 HR, 3.8 WAR)
Not a good season but a baseball dream team wouldn't have been complete without Ripken.

The Bench
OF Rickey Henderson, A's (.283/.426/.457, 15 HR, 5.4 WAR)
The best leadoff hitter in the game compiled 5.4 WAR despite playing just 117 games.

OF Andy Van Slyke, Pirates (.324/.381/.505, 14 HR, 5.9 WAR)
Led the NL in doubles and hits, fourth in the MVP vote, Gold Glove center fielder. His window was small, but a terrific player for a few years.

OF Dave Winfield, Blue Jays (.290/.377/.491, 26 HR, 3.8 WAR)
Others with a higher WAR, but Winfield gets credit for legend status and helping the Blue Jays win the World Series.

SS Ozzie Smith, Cardinals (.205/.367/.342, 0 HR, 5.0 WAR)
Tough call here: Barry Larkin (.304/.377/.452, 5.5 WAR) or the 37-year-old Ozzie? The Wizard could still pick it and had 43 steals.

3B Gary Sheffield, Padres (.330/.385/.580, 33 HR, 6.0 WAR)
Challenged for the Triple Crown much of the year before finishing first in batting, third in homers and fifth in RBIs.

C Terry Steinbach, A's (.279/.345/.411, 3.8 WAR)
Gets the nod over Mickey Tettleton as the backup catcher for his good defense and leadership.

Pitching Staff
Tom Glavine, Braves (20-8, 2.76 ERA, 3.6 WAR)
The only lefty on our 10-man staff, finished second in the Cy Young vote after winning it the year before.

[+] EnlargeGreg Maddux
AP Photo/Bill WaughGreg Maddux would win four consecutive Cy Youngs beginning with the 1992 season.
Greg Maddux, Cubs (20-11, 2.18 ERA, 8.9 WAR)
Won the first of his four consecutive Cy Young Awards.

Roger Clemens, Red Sox (18-11, 2.41 ERA, 8.4 WAR)
Led the AL in ERA, shutouts, WHIP and SO/BB ratio, but finished just third in Cy Young vote.

Doug Drabek, Pirates (15-11, 2.77 ERA, 5.1 WAR)
Career went downhill after signing with the Astros in '93, but regarded as one of the toughest competitors in the game at the time.

Jack Morris, Blue Jays (21-6, 4.04 ERA, 2.5 WAR)
Morris absolutely would have been on a '92 dream team despite the high ERA. He'd just won back-to-back World Series titles and had the 21 wins.

Jack McDowell, White Sox (20-10, 3.18 ERA, 4.9 WAR)
Kevin Appier and Mike Mussina had better ERAs, but Black Jack had the image at the time. And the league-leading 13 complete games.

Nolan Ryan, Rangers (5-9, 3.72 ERA, 1.8 WAR)
The numbers don't merit inclusion, but by '92 Ryan was the biggest icon in the game, a 45-year-old flame-throwing legend. Much like Bird, you wouldn't leave him off.

Dennis Eckersley, A's (7-1, 1.91 ERA, 51 saves, 2.8 WAR)
The last AL reliever to win the Cy Young, Eck also walked away with the MVP trophy. OK, it was a bad vote, but Eck seemed unbeatable back then.

Rob Dibble, Reds (3-5, 3.07 ERA, 25 saves, 0.9 WAR)
At the time, Dibble had four of the five highest K/9 rates in major league history (minimum 50 innings).

Jeff Montgomery, Royals (1-6, 2.18 ERA, 39 saves, 3.0 WAR)
From '89 to '93, Montgomery fashioned a 2.22 ERA with 159 saves. What, you expected Mitch Williams?

So, who got Isiah'd? We mentioned Barry Larkin. Tony Gwynn was in a bit of a down spell (for him), so he loses out as well. We can't find room for NL home run leader Fred McGriff, Will Clark or Paul Molitor. For pitchers, some of the better statistical options would have included the aforementioned Mussina (7.9 WAR) and Appier (7.7 WAR) as well as Frank Viola, Sid Fernandez, Bob Tewksbury and David Cone, plus some up-and-coming guys like John Smoltz and Curt Schilling.

How does this team compare to a 2012 dream team? I'll let you debate who would be on such a 2012 team in the comments section.
I had an excellent time talking baseball with Keith Law on Thursday's Baseball Today podcast. (What, you wanted us to break down LeBron James and Kevin Durant?) The show may have run a little long, but trust me, it's worth the listen!

1. With Troy Tulowitzki undergoing groin surgery and another tough loss, we couldn't avoid the train wreck that is the Colorado Rockies. Can we just put Jim Tracy out of his misery already?

2. Mike Trout is awesome, but so is Stephen Strasburg. We talk about Strasburg's workload and how to keep him fresh for ... October. Yes, we said October.

3. I was at the Orioles-Mets game so we talk some Orioles and Mets, and dig into Ike Davis' continued struggles at the plate.

4. A user email prompts a discussion about which pitchers from the 1990s and 2000s are Hall of Famers. And, yes, Mike Mussina was better than Jack Morris.

5. We talk about some prospects -- Billy Hamilton of the Reds, Danny Hultzen and Nick Franklin of the Mariners and, of course, #freetrevorbauer.

All that, plus Jacob Turner makes his debut on Thursday, Matt Moore versus Gio Gonzalez and much more!
In my chat on Tuesday, we briefly discussed the all-time draft rosters for each team that I compiled. Somebody asked: What's the all-time roster for players drafted and traded away while still minor leaguers? Some of these deals are pretty famous -- Jeff Bagwell and John Smoltz being the two everyone remembers. There are some that fans think of but the player had received a cup of coffee before being traded: Ryne Sandberg and Kenny Lofton being two examples.

This list only includes drafted players, so Latin American free agents like Johan Santana (signed originally by the Astros) are not included. There are also a couple of U.S.-born players who weren't drafted who could have made the list, such as Toby Harrah or Tom Candiotti, but they weren't included either.

This post is longer than I intended, but I thought I'd fill in some details on why the player was traded or lost. So here's the team with Baseball-Reference's Wins Above Replacement noted. Active players who could some day make the list would include Adrian Gonzalez (drafted by the Marlins), Josh Hamilton (Rays), Austin Jackson (Yankees) and Gio Gonzalez (White Sox).

C -- Jason Varitek (career WAR: 21.3)
Drafted: Seattle Mariners, 1st round, 1994
How lost: The Red Sox acquired Varitek and Derek Lowe for Heathcliff Slocumb, July 31, 1997

One of the great deadline heists of all time. Desperate for a reliever, the Mariners gave up two of their top prospects for the mediocre Slocumb. It's difficult to understand why the Mariners were willing to deal Varitek, even though he was hitting just .254 at Triple-A Tacoma. He'd been a first-round pick and had power and solid defensive skills.

[+] EnlargeJeff Bagwell
Rich Pilling/MLB Photos/Getty ImagesJeff Bagwell played 15 seasons in the majors, all with Houston, and finished his career with 449 home runs.
1B -- Jeff Bagwell (career WAR: 76.7)
Drafted: Boston Red Sox, 4th round, 1989
How lost: Astros got Bagwell for Larry Andersen on Aug. 30, 1990

Fighting for the AL East title, the Red Sox decided they needed another reliever. Andersen did pitch well, allowing three runs in 22 innings, and the Red Sox edged the Blue Jays by two wins to take the division. But for 22 innings of Andersen they gave up one of the greatest first basemen of all time.

2B -- Tony Phillips (career WAR: 48.2)
Drafted: Montreal Expos, 1st round of January secondary draft, 1978
How lost: The Expos traded Phillips to the Padres for Willie Montanez (who hit .185 with Montreal). But the Padres traded Phillips to the A's with two others for two guys who never played for the Padres.

Phillips, of course, became a standout utility player with the A's, Tigers, Angels and White Sox, posting a .374 career OBP and scoring 1,300 runs. With the Expos in Double-A in 1980, Phillips had hit .249 with five home runs, but with 98 walks and 50 steals. Trading him for the washed-up Montanez was bad as it looks. The Padres traded Phillips late in spring training of 1981, acquiring reliever Bob Lacey (who must have gotten hurt). Billy Martin is listed as Oakland's GM at the time, but I'm not sure who actually made the deals for Oakland then -- president Roy Eisenhardt, Martin or a young lawyer named Sandy Alderson, who became the team's GM in 1983. Who knows, maybe Martin saw Phillips in a spring training game. Or the A's, early converts to the value of the walk, noticed Phillips' minor league stats.

3B -- Darrell Evans (career WAR: 55.1)
Drafted: Kansas City A's, 7th round, January secondary draft, 1967
How lost: The Braves selected Evans in the Rule 5 draft on Dec. 2, 1968

Evans had actually been drafted four times previously before finally signing with the A's. Evans had some sort of injury in 1968 and hit .241 with three home runs in Double-A in just 56 games, and considering he wasn't a high pick, probably wouldn't have been considered a top prospect in the modern style of thinking. Chalk it up to good scouting by the Braves. Evans went on to hit 414 home runs as one of the more underrated players in baseball history.

SS -- Jay Bell (career WAR: 34.1)
Drafted: Minnesota Twins, 1st round, 1984
How lost: Traded to the Indians for Bert Blyleven, Aug. 1, 1985. The were other players, but it essentially ended up Bell-for-Blyleven.

The Twins had another young shortstop in Greg Gagne, so could afford to part with Bell. The deal paid huge dividends two years later when Blyleven helped the Twins win the 1987 World Series. As for Bell, he didn't hit with the Indians, who of course gave up on him even though he was just 22 years old and traded him to Pittsburgh for somebody named Denny Gonzalez.

OF: Chet Lemon (career WAR: 52.0)
Drafted: Oakland A's, 1st round, 1972
How lost: Traded to the White Sox with Dave Hamilton for Stan Bahnsen and Skip Pitlock, June 15, 1975.

Here's a case of a player who clearly was a top prospect being dealt away. In fact, I'm sure if Keith Law and Kevin Goldstein were ranking prospects in the summer of 1975, Lemon would have been one of the best in the game, considering his age (20), production (he was hitting .307/.373/.508) in Triple-A, and speed. He was, however, fielding .858 at third base. The A's were in a pennant race (they'd win the AL West) and wanted a veteran starter. But here's what's odd: Bahnsen had a 6.06 ERA at the time of the deal. The White Sox moved Lemon to center field where he became an elite defender (though, surprisingly, never won a Gold Glove) and solid hitter.

OF -- Amos Otis (career WAR: 39.2)
Drafted: Boston Red Sox, 5th round, 1965
How lost: The Mets drafted Otis in the 1966 minor league draft

I'm not quite sure of the rules at the time, but somehow Otis was exposed in the minor league draft after the 1966 season. I assume he had to be placed on a certain roster relative to his experience, since the Mets jumped him from the New York-Penn League to Triple-A. Three years later (Otis had spent most of that time in Triple-A), the Mets traded him to the Royals for Joy Foy. Otis became a five-time All-Star while Foy played 99 games with the Mets.

OF -- Willie McGee (career WAR: 30.9)
Drafted: New York Yankees, 1st round, January secondary draft, 1977
How lost: Traded to the Cardinals for Bob Sykes, Oct. 21, 1981

If Baseball-Reference's date is correct, this trade happened on the day the Yankees played the second game of the World Series, which seems a little odd. Anyway, Sykes never pitched for the Yankees; in fact, never pitched again in the majors. But McGee wasn't even the best prospect the Yankees gave away during this era ...

DH -- Fred McGriff (career WAR: 48.2)
Drafted: New York Yankees, 9th round, 1981
How lost: Traded to the Blue Jays with Dave Collins and Mike Morgan for Dale Murray and Tom Dodd, Dec. 9, 1982

Murray posted a 4.73 ERA in 62 games with the Yankees. McGriff went on to hit 493 home runs. Would McGriff have been considered a top prospect at the time? He'd hit .272/.413/.456 in the Gulf Coast Rookie League, with nine home runs in 272 plate appearances. He struck out a ton (63 whiffs) but drew walks and the nine home runs led the league. The Yankees certainly should have realized he had big power potential. Instead, he was a throw-in for a mediocre veteran reliever. Man, I miss George Steinbrenner.

[+] EnlargeCurt Schilling
AP Photo/Kathy WillensCurt Schilling had a career postseason record of 11-2, including 4-1 in World Series games.
SP -- Curt Schilling (career WAR: 76.9)
Drafted: Boston Red Sox, 2nd round, January phase, 1986
How lost: Traded to the Orioles with Brady Anderson for Mike Boddicker, July 29, 1988

Schilling was actually traded three times before finally hitting it big with the Phillies -- the Orioles traded him to the Astros in the regrettable Glenn Davis deal and then the Astros traded him to the Phillies for (cough) Jason Grimsley. And then the Phillies traded him to the Diamondbacks and the Diamondbacks traded him to the Red Sox. The only deal where the team that traded Schilling actually got any value in return was the first one; Boddicker at least helped the Red Sox win division titles in 1988 and 1990.

SP -- John Smoltz (career WAR: 62.6)
Drafted: Detroit Tigers, 22nd round, 1985
How lost: Traded to the Braves for Doyle Alexander, Aug. 12, 1987)

Even though Smoltz had been a 22nd-round pick, I believe he was a highly rated prospect out of high school (he'd been an All-State pitcher in Michigan), but teams believed he was going to attend Michigan State. The Tigers took a flyer and signed him in September. At the time of the deal, he had a 5.68 ERA in Double-A with nearly as many walks (81) as strikeouts (86). Sometimes those hard-throwers do figure things out.

SP -- Cliff Lee (career WAR: 30.6)
Drafted: Montreal Expos, 4th round, 2000
How lost: Traded with Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips and Lee Stevens for Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew, June 27, 2002.

Forced to trade Colon the following January, that crafty Omar Minaya acquired Orlando Hernandez, Rocky Biddle and Jeff Liefer.

SP -- Kevin Tapani (career WAR: 26.6)
Drafted: Oakland A's, 2nd round, 1986
How lost: Traded to the Mets in a three-team deal, Dec. 12, 1987

The A's ended up getting Bob Welch in the deal. Tapani later became part of the Frank Viola deal with the Twins and was the best pitcher on the 1991 World Series champs. Yes, he was: Tapani had a 2.99 ERA that year, Jack Morris a 3.43.

SP -- Doug Drabek (career WAR: 25.0)
Drafted: Chicago White Sox, 11th round, 1983
How lost: Traded to the Yankees for Roy Smalley, July 19, 1984

Drabek was tearing up Double-A when the White Sox traded him for Smalley, who proceeded to hit .170 and was traded in the offseason to the Twins for Randy Johnson. Wrong Randy Johnson. Drabek pitched well as a rookie with the Yankees in 1986, but of course back then they always preferred an old guy on his last legs as opposed to a young guy with potential, so they traded Drabek to the Pirates for Rick Rhoden. Really, can't we get the Steinbrenners more involved in making trades again?

RP -- Trevor Hoffman (career WAR: 27.0)
Drafted: Cincinnati Reds, 11th round, 1989
How lost: Selected by the Marlins in the 1993 expansion draft

Hoffman had been drafted as a shortstop before converting to the bullpen. The Marlins would end up trading him, Andres Berumen and Jose Martinez to the Padres for Gary Sheffield. Somehow I doubt the Padres knew they were acquiring a reliever who would rack up 601 career saves.

Curt Schilling and 2013: The new Gibson?

January, 10, 2012
1/10/12
1:30
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AP Photo/Getty ImagesThere are many ways by which Curt Schilling's best statistical match is Bob Gibson.


Fill in the blank: Curt Schilling was to his era what _____ was to his era.

The answer that best supports Schilling’s Hall of Fame candidacy is to say “Bob Gibson.” Take a look at the chart on the right. That runs through the basic statistical gamut, when it comes to looking at the two side by side. The key stat is their ERA+.



ERA+ is a stat found on Baseball-Reference.com, designed for cross-era comparison. I feel comfortable in using these stats because I know they’re the kind that Schilling likes. He devised one similar to ERA+ on his blog and used it on Baseball Tonight.

ERA+ rates a pitcher’s ERA relative to his peers at the time, making slight adjustments based on the difficulty of pitching in the various ballparks of the era. It allows us to compare Gibson’s 2.91 to Schilling’s 3.46 on an even playing field, since Schilling pitched in an era that was more offensively friendly. Gibson is a 128 ERA+. That’s elite. It's tied for 13th-best among those who threw at least 2,000 innings since 1920 (or, the Live Ball Era).

It’s the same ERA+ as Tom Seaver. It's better than that of Jim Palmer, Juan Marichal, Warren Spahn. Bert Blyleven, and plenty of other Hall of Famers. And it’s the same ERA+ as Schilling.

In fairness, Gibson put together his ERA+ by averaging 258 innings per season over a 15-year period. Schilling reached that number of innings only three times in his career. But for those who say that Schilling was not quite the workhorse that Gibson was, consider that each was a product of the baseball environment of the times.

Again, relative to their peers, the two were virtually equal. Gibson finished in the top 10 in his league in innings pitched eight times. Schilling finished in the top 10 in his league in innings pitched seven times. There’s a similarity when it comes to awards voting as well. Each of them got Cy Young votes in four different seasons. Gibson won it twice (and won an MVP award in 1968); Schilling finished second three times.

Where the Gibson-Schilling comparison best comes across is in the postseason. In my father’s era, Gibson and Sandy Koufax were the standard-setters for postseason pitchers. In my era (the last 30 years), with apologies to John Smoltz, Schilling is the standard-setter.



Gibson was 7-2, all in the World Series, with a 1.89 ERA in nine starts. Schilling played in an era with a different postseason format, but he was 11-2 with a 2.23 postseason ERA in 19 starts. As noted in that chart, he was 4-1 with a 2.06 ERA in seven World Series starts.

Again it’s a neat comparison to look across the eras. In the stretch in which Gibson pitched in the postseason (1964 to 1968), all of the other pitchers to pitch in the World Series had an ERA of 3.43. Schilling’s World Series ERA is a little higher than Gibson’s, but again, consider the time period. From 1993 to 2007 (Schilling pitched in the World Series in 1993, 2001, 2004, and 2007), all pitchers other than Schilling combined for a World Series ERA of 4.04.

That’s not to say that Schilling was the better postseason pitcher, statistically speaking. Gibson won a pair of Game 7s and had six out of nine World Series starts that tallied an 80 or better by Bill James Game Score, including an epic 17-strikeout start in Game 1 of the 1968 World Series. Schilling has three of his seven World Series starts that rate a 74 or better, with his “epic” being the 147-pitch shutout in Game 5 of the 1993 World Series.

The point isn’t that Schilling is better than Gibson. By this standard, he isn’t. The point is that Schilling was the Gibson of his time. Since 1969 (the year after Gibson made his last World Series starts), Schilling has those three World Series starts of 74 or better. No one else has as many (for the record, Tom Glavine is the only pitcher since then with a pair of 80s or better, but this piece isn’t about him).

I’m not going to pretend that this is the perfect comparison. As my father pointed out, Gibson won with a combination of power and intimidation. Hitters feared facing him. But what Gibson had in fear factor, Schilling had in another area -- precision. He had the second-best strikeout-to walk rate in major league history.

This is not meant to be an advertisement for Schilling’s Hall of Fame candidacy. Nor is it meant to establish who was the better pitcher. We go back to the original fill-in-the-blank, and it will be interesting to see what happens when the Hall of Fame ballots are cast in 2013. Gibson was elected on the first ballot. Schilling … we’ll have to wait and see.
Ian KennedyTony Medina/Getty ImagesIan Kennedy is 19-4 with a 2.99 ERA and ranks seventh in the NL in strikeouts.
This past weekend the Arizona Diamondbacks celebrated the 10th anniversary of their 2001 World Series championship team -- a team led Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, who combined to win 43 games that season and were the only two pitchers to receive first-place votes for the National League Cy Young Award, which Johnson won with his staggering total of 372 strikeouts. Now a decade later, a new Diamondbacks Desert Duo of Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson is leading Arizona back to the postseason and Kennedy, the NL's first 19-game winner, is worthy of Cy Young consideration.

The Diamondbacks beat the Dodgers 5-4 in 10 innings Tuesday night. Kennedy's first attempt at his 20th win wound up as his first no-decision since June 27, putting his record at 19-4 with a 2.99 ERA as he looks to his next chance for win No. 20 in a home start next week against the Pirates. The 35 combined wins by Kennedy and Hudson is the most in the National League and trails only the Tigers' 37 wins from Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. Over his last 13 starts, Kennedy's record is a remarkable 11-1 with a 2.42 ERA. He's 9-0 on the season against the NL West, and the Elias Sports Bureau says, under the NL West's current configuration, only three pitchers have started 9-0 against the rest of the division -- all Diamondbacks: Schilling in 2002, Brandon Webb in 2008 and Kennedy in 2011.

Kennedy certainly isn't flashy but he can be dominant. His 182 strikeouts are seventh in the NL, despite an average fastball release velocity of 90.1 mph, which ranks just 127th among major league starting pitchers. Kennedy wins by pounding the strike zone: 1,728 times so far this season, the fourth-highest total of pitches in the strike zone in all of baseball, behind only Cliff Lee, David Price and Justin Masterson. "He's so good with his fastball that he can pitch strictly off that," his teammate Hudson told me in a text message Tuesday night. "His command to all parts of the strike zone allows him to change eye levels with hitters which then makes his other pitches, which are really good as well, that much better. He's fun to watch."

Kennedy has a good changeup, which he throws about 15 percent of the time, that arrives at an average of 81.1 mph with split-finger action for an effective out pitch. What makes him unique however, is an ability to work up in the strike zone while throwing 70 percent of his fastballs for strikes. Opponents, who hit .268 versus Kennedy's fastball last season, are hitting .231 against the pitch this season while his OPS on the fastball has dropped from .825 to .648. Why do hitters have so much trouble with a 90-mph fastball thrown consistently in the hitting zone? For the answer, I went to Schilling.

"There's a difference between command and control," Schilling said. "Control is the ability to throw strikes, which everybody in the big leagues has to have. Command is the ability to control strikes inside the strike zone and that's a different level and I think he's gotten to where his fastball is multiple pitches for him and if you throw the ball 91 to 93 miles per hour, that can be an incredibly effective pitch if you have other stuff to go with it. He's always had decent secondary stuff, but it's become above-average in my mind because of his fastball command."

Schilling was among the many 2001 Diamondbacks who returned for last weekend's 10th anniversary championship celebration and said the Kennedy/Hudson pairing has helped both pitchers, just as pairing up helped Johnson and himself a decade earlier. "I lived it," Schilling said. "I know what it did for me, it was a huge positive for me. I fed off that. The mentality is, you want the guy to go out ahead of you and throw a two-hit shutout because you're going to go out and throw a one-hit shutout. Early on, I think that they started to get a taste of that and I think as the season has gone on, now that these games are really important, the bar has raised. I think they're feeding off each other at the perfect time for Arizona."

Hudson agreed, saying about Kennedy, "His confidence this year has really rubbed off on me because I see him throw well basically every start and it gives me something to try and out-do or top. Most of the time unsuccessfully but it's still fun to have a friendly competition with him. It's made me a better pitcher." Hudson will attempt to win his 17th game Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium against Los Angeles lefty Clayton Kershaw, who is among Kennedy's chief Cy Young competitors.

Kennedy certainly shouldn't be considered the Cy Young favorite. However, with he and Hudson leading the way, Arizona has won 18 of 21 games since Aug. 23 to run away with the NL West. Now as Arizona gets ready for a postseason run, this latest Diamondbacks Desert Duo may tap into the Johnson/Schilling mojo from a decade earlier for a return engagement in the World Series.

Follow Steve Berthiaume on Twitter @SBerthiaumeESPN.

Sunday's Angels-Tigers game was one of the best of the season, with Cy Young candidates Jered Weaver and Justin Verlander facing off. Verlander flirted with a no-hitter. Weaver got upset at Magglio Ordonez staring at a home run (it appeared Ordonez wasn't sure if it going to be fair or foul). Carlos Guillen later homered off Weaver and did stare him down as he walked slowly to first base, leading to words, benches emptying and Weaver getting tossed after throwing his next pitch over the head of Alex Avila.

But that wasn't even the most interesting part of the game.

Angels shortstop Erick Aybar attempted to bunt for a base hit leading off the eighth inning against Verlander while his no-hit bid was still in progress.

THE BASEBALL CODE WAS VIOLATED! THE UNWRITTEN RULES WERE IGNORED! ERICK AYBAR IS AN EVIL PERSON WHO DESERVES THE WRATH OF THE BASEBALL GODS FOR THE REST OF ETERNITY!

Verlander wasn't too happy with the play.

"There's arguments both ways, but obviously from a pitching standpoint, we like to call it bush league," Verlander said after the game. Verlander did soften his opinion by adding, "It's a three-run game, so if you get a guy on base, you never know what can happen."

You know what I say?

Give me a break.

Aren't the Angels trying to win a game? They were down 3-0, the bunt is a big part of Aybar's game, and they're in a pennant race. It was 3-0 at the time, hardly a blowout. Aybar's job is to get on base. And it worked -- Verlander threw away the bunt attempt for an error and the Angels went on to score two runs.

The last time I remember a big uproar over such a bunt attempt was when Padres catcher Ben Davis bunted for a base hit off Arizona's Curt Schilling with one out in the eighth inning to break up Schilling's no-hit bid in 2001. The Diamondbacks basically called Davis gutless, even though the score was 2-0 at the time.

"They say every game counts, but when a guy's doing something masterful like that, if you get a hit you want to earn it in the right way," said Diamondbacks outfielder Luis Gonzalez.

Schilling admitted that maybe it wasn't the worst play.

"It was a 2-0 game. ... If it's 9-0, yeah, I think it's a horse---- thing to do. But it was a 2-0 game and the bottom line is, unwritten rules or not, you're paid to win games."

Part of the controversy with Davis was the bunt wasn't part of his normal game. Arizona manager Bob Brenly was particularly critical, saying he'd never seen him bunt before. Aybar, however, has had eight bunt hits this season and 58 in his career.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland provided a voice of reason: "It was a beautiful play. I'll be in the minority with the people that didn't like that," he said. "They've got a good team with a lot of speed and they're trying to win a pennant just like we are. I don't have any problem with that play whatsoever."

Follow David Schoenfield on Twitter @dschoenfield.

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