Thursday, June 5, 2008

Hall Of Fame: Pitchers

There have been hints that the Hall of Fame will be coming to HBD sometime in the near future, so I figured this seemed like as good a time as any to take a look at who among Ryan World's current and former players might be among the inductees.

First of all, it's worth noting that while baseball's real-life Hall of Fame opened 70 years after the first professional team took the field (1936), the Ryan World Hall will likely open roughly 10 years after the World was born. Even so, that first HOF class in Cooperstown comprised only six players. Hopefully the HBD hall (whether selected by owners or by the game itself) will be similarly choosy.

I don't think anyone really wants to see someone elected to the Hall solely because they made an All-Star team once and won a batting title, or because they hit a lot of triples during the years that that triples were out of control or because they stole a ton of bases during the wacky stolen base seasons (read: now).

There are also questions about whether the candidates' resume should include "projected" stats. For example, Lenny Sabathia played only two seasons after the start of Ryan World, including a world-best 21 wins in season one. However, his player card lists 11 ML seasons, meaning he played 9 before the world started. Should we attempt to estimate his stats during those years (figure 15 wins per season?) and decide his Hall-worthiness based on those possibly inaccurate measures?

Count me among those who votes no.

Just for fun, let's limit the discussion to guys who are in the top 5 of at least two major career statistical categories or are #1 in any one category. I'm not saying that the guys below are the only ones worth consideration-- it's just a jumping-off point for the discussion.

I'll count these categories as "major" stats. The guys whose names follow are the career top 5.

Wins: Timothy Garcia, Gus Tabaka, Philip Baxter, Louie Suarez, John Overbay
ERA: Timothy Garcia, David Parker, Shawn Cust, Michael Foster, Doug Perry
WHIP: Timothy Garcia, Shawn Cust, David Parker, Lyle Becker, Matthew Pride
Strikeouts: Timothy Garcia, Philip Baxter, Gus Tabaka, Scooter Huskey, Omar Segui
Saves: Chris Sears, Jose Chavez, Hong-Gu Kobayashi, Darryl Sexton, Jose Jose

So according to the criteria (#1 in anything, top-5 in two categories) that leaves these guys in the running.
Timothy Garcia, Shawn Cust, David Parker, Philip Baxter, Chris Sears

And then there's someone who's young, but already starting to look like he'll be a very good candidate in five or six seasons.
Michael Foster

Let's take a look at them case-by-case

The case for induction: #1 all-time in career wins, strikeouts, ERA and WHIP. He's likely to also take over the #1 spot in shutouts as well. He's #2 in opponent batting average. He's #1 in quality starts. He has three Cy Youngs and four All-Star appearances to his credit. By the way, those numbers don't include this season, in which he's on pace to set the single-season record for wins, has earned a spot on the all-Star team and is a virtual lock for the Cy Young. Career post-season ERA of 1.35, career post-season WHIP of 1.32.
The case against him: Hasn't won a World Series title. At 35, and with less than 150 career wins, he's not likely to reach 200.
The verdict: With all due respect to Vic Mullins, this is the biggest no-brainer in the world. Garcia is #1 all-time in every significant statistical category, has the most Cy Youngs of anyone, and is now in the middle of what could be the most dominant single pitching season in Ryan World history. He's the benchmark against which all other starting pitchers will be measured for the foreseeable future.

The case for induction: Absolutely dominant in the first three seasons of the world with a combined 53-13 record. He was never the same after a serious injury in the middle of season 4. One Cy Young and three all-star appearances to his credit. Posted an 0.95 ERA in three postseason starts. Two postseason appearances (both in relief) with a 2.57 ERA during KC's championship in season 6.
The case against him: Only three of his six Ryan World seasons were dominant. He was 13-7 with a 4.32 ERA in seasons 4 and 5, and then was shifted to a relief role in his final season. Was injured and missed the chance to contribute to KC's championship in season 4 because of injury.
The verdict: Cust will be the trial balloon for the Hall of Fame. He put up very good career, but one that was cut short by injury. Even more so, he was hampered by the uncertainty of what he accomplished before the world "went live." He played eight years before season 1. Even if you assigned him only decent numbers (16 wins per year, 3.80 ERA) his career win total moves to 197 and he definitely shifts into HOF consideration. If you assume the standard 5-year wait from the end of a player's career, Cust will be eligible for induction at the start of season 11. If they're counting pre-Ryan stat estimates, he's probably in. If not, he's not even close.

The case for induction: #3 in career WHIP, #2 in career ERA. A major contributor to two Burros' championships (2-0 record in 4 postseason starts in season 1, 4-1 record in five postseason starts in season 5). He's also likely to play a significant role for Oklahoma City, the likely favorite in this year's AL playoffs. Overall, a 9-3 postseason record and 3.51 career postseason ERA are plusses for him. He's got a career winning percentage of .722.
The case against him: Significant lack of stamina has prevented him from ever throwing a complete game and has also cost him wins. His total of 92 wins is substantially lower than most other guys being considered. At 32, he's likely to get shifted to a relief role in the next couple seasons and will probably not reach anything approaching 150 wins. He has likely hit the down-side of his career and was not even considered a Type B free agent after last season.
The verdict: A very, very, very good pitcher whose bullpens may have cost him a shot at the Hall. Unfortunately, as good as he was, a lot of his career numbers just don't stack up to the other candidates. Barring a late-career renaissance as a closer (a la Dennis Eckersley), he's probably a "no."

The case for induction: #3 in wins, #2 in strikeouts. Has only gotten better with age, posting a 107-35 record since the start of season 3. May continue to bolster his case, as he is 14-2 with a 1.09 WHIP on a so-so Chicago team this season at the age of 33. Owns two of the five best single-season win totals (22 in season 7 and 21 in season 3). Owns three of the top four single-season strikeout totals, including an AL record 259 in season 7. He is on pace to break that record again this year. Over his career, he has posted a 6-0 postseason record with an ERA of 3.75. Went 4-0 during Bearcubs' run to Game 7 of the ALCS in season 3. Career WHIP of 1.40 was badly inflated during seasons 1 and 2 (1.89 and 1.94). Has posted WHIPs of 1.20 or less in four of the past six seasons. Three Cy Youngs (with a fourth certainly possible this year) and seven all-star appearances (including this season).
The case against him: Not #1 in any career category (shares #1 spot on season win record). No rings.
The verdict: His career numbers are good, and are even better when you consider he's been working in the AL and in a hitters' park every time he pitches at home. Provided he puts up another couple seasons like this one, there's no reason he won't make it.

The case for induction: Career leader in saves. Career postseason ERA of 2.57. Went 5-for-5 in saves in Pittsburgh's run to Game 7 of the NLCS in season 2. Went 4-for-5 in saves in Pittsburgh's run to the NLCS in season 4.
The case against him: Lacks the one spectacular season when he was clearly the best reliever in the world. He has never posted a season ERA under 2, a WHIP under 1.15 or more than 35 saves. No rings.
The verdict: Probably not. It has been notoriously difficult for closers to crack into Cooperstown, and it will likely prove to be the same in Ryan World. Sears has numbers that are very similar to Jose Chavez, but without the signature season (Chavez saved 42 games with a 2.10 ERA and WHIP of 0.93 in season 4) and without a ring. It will probably be somewhat dicey for Chavez to get in, even with a World Series title (7 postseason saves, 1.93 ERA in season 1) to his name. It would seem that Sears faces an even tougher fight.

The case for induction: Foster is #4 in career ERA right now, but doesn't place in the top 5 on any other major category lists. Why is he here? He's only 28. With 99 career wins to his name, he will certainly be up around 150 (and possibly 170) by the time he reaches his mid-30s, and he has a decent shot at 200 if he can stay healthy. He has been remarkably consistent since joining San Diego, posting ERAs between 2.98 and 3.66 in each of five seasons. Playing on a consistently good team in a pitchers' park, that's not likely to change. Career postseason record of 4-2 with an ERA of 3.57.
The case against him: The career totals obviously aren't what they need to be right now. He needs to continue throwing well deep into his mid-30s to merit serious consideration. No ring.
The verdict: Definitely not yet, but if he can get to 200 wins with a career ERA in the 3s and maybe win a ring, he's got a good shot.

The case for induction: He has put up solid numbers while throwing half of his games in an absolute pitchers' nightmare. The 109-53 record is solid, and he has had some truly excellent seasons. Going 20-3 with a 3.92 ERA (season 6) is pretty good no matter where you're pitching, but doing it with half your games in Coors Field is really remarkable. He was 18-4 with an ERA of 3.70 in season 3 as well. He made three all-star teams and won a World Series ring in season 3 (4 starts, 2-0 record, 5.25 ERA)
The case against him: Career postseason ERA of 6.05. Multiple bad seasons sprinkled throughout his career. Season 1: 12-10, 5.84 ERA. Season 4: 11-10, 6.82 ERA. Season 8: 5-10, 7.10 ERA. May have seen the last of his dominant years (Overall rating slid 8 points in the last two seasons), and is signed for three more seasons after this one. His numbers could get ugly and stay that way, leading to a "Dale Murphy effect."
The verdict: A very good career, especially considering the circumstances, but almost certainly not a Hall of Fame career. It would have been interesting to see what kind of numbers he could have posted in a more neutral park.

Have someone you think ought to be considered? Let me know by leaving a comment here or sending a trade chat. I'll put together an update in the future.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice job, Fredo. I agree that only stats attained during league play should count. There are enough good and worthy players that we don't need to be projecting stats.