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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Jay Jaffe: Johan Santana faces an uphill climb to Cooperstown

If Dizzy Dean is in, then…

Thus far, Santana has thrown only 2,025 2/3 innings over the course of his 12-year major league career (2000-2010, 2012) with the Twins and Mets, with the first three of those years totaling only 238 innings. Only in seven of those seasons did he throw enough innings to qualify for the ERA title. That’s an extremely small workload for a Hall of Fame pitcher; only three of the five enshrined relievers (Bruce Sutter, Rollie Fingers and Rich Gossage) and one starter (Dizzy Dean) threw fewer total innings. Even Addie Joss and Sandy Koufax — two standouts whose careers were extinguished in their primes, the former by death due to meningitis in 1911, the latter by elbow woes in 1966 — had roughly 300 more innings pitched during their brief careers, and reliever Hoyt Wilhelm racked up about 200 more during his lengthy one.

...What if Santana had won a third Cy Young? Along with winning the trophy in both 2004 (20-6, 2.61 ERA, 265 strikeouts, 8.6 WAR) and 2006 (19-6, 2.77 ERA, 245 strikeouts, 7.5 WAR) — years in which he led the league in both ERA and K’s — he recorded a season that was nearly as strong in 2005 (16-7, 2.87 ERA, 238 strikeouts, 7.2 WAR). In terms of everything besides won-loss record, he outdid winner Bartolo Colon (21-8, 3.48 ERA, 157 strikeouts, 4.0 WAR), and he was far more valuable than runner-up Mariano Rivera (43 saves, 1.38 ERA, 4.0 WAR) as well. By the time the dust settles, none of the eight three-time Cy Young winners (Clemens, Johnson, Steve Carlton, Maddux, Koufax, Martinez, Jim Palmer and Tom Seaver) is likely to land outside the Hall; had voting justice been done in 2005, Santana would have stood out as the exception there, though if one wants to nitpick each of those winners’ cases on a pure WAR basis, the picture might change significantly.

If Santana can’t make it back from this shoulder injury, he’ll likely remain outside Cooperstown, but there’s no shame in that. He has had a great career, and he’ll be remembered as one of the dominant pitchers of a high-scoring era. His battle back from his 2010 shoulder injury, which reached its apex with his no-hitter last June, was memorable and inspiring; watching it myself, I found it impossible not to get choked up, or to enjoy the revelry in a bar full of Mets fans handing out free shots in his honor.

Repoz Posted: March 30, 2013 at 05:40 PM | 24 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hof, sabermetrics

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   1. The Yankee Clapper Posted: March 30, 2013 at 06:08 PM (#4399842)
If Santana is done, so is his Hall of Fame candidacy. Guidry didn't come close, and their careers are fairly close.

Of course, if Santana were to somehow make the Hall on his current career, he'd have to go in as a Twin.
   2. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 30, 2013 at 06:18 PM (#4399848)
He has zero chance.

Kevin Brown didn't last one ballot. Tommy John and Jim Kaat are sitting outside with 280+ wins.
   3. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: March 30, 2013 at 06:41 PM (#4399860)
I think Santana is significantly better than Guidry. More like Saberhagen or Hershiser.

What's interesting to me is that there seems to be a greater emphasis on career over peak for pitchers, and I would argue it should be the exact opposite.
   4. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: March 30, 2013 at 06:55 PM (#4399865)
All together now: "Better him than Jack Morris"
   5. Bhaakon Posted: March 30, 2013 at 07:03 PM (#4399868)

I think Santana is significantly better than Guidry. More like Saberhagen or Hershiser.

What's interesting to me is that there seems to be a greater emphasis on career over peak for pitchers, and I would argue it should be the exact opposite.


I don't know about that, because endurance seems to be the rarer quality among pitchers. There just seem to be so many guys who show up, put together a couple of great seasons, then get hurt and disappear. In short, being good for an extended period seems much rarer and special than pitching like a candle in the wind.
   6. Walt Davis Posted: March 30, 2013 at 08:59 PM (#4399919)
I'll admit that, for reasons I don't quite understand, I am more a career voter for pitchers than I am for hitters. Maybe it's what Bhaakon says. If a great peak hitter gets hurt or otherwise gets derailed, that's unusual and it's easy for us to fill in the rest of their career. But injuries are par for the course for pitchers. Also I suppose pitchers have a bit more control over the level of their performance -- e.g. Steve Stone (retrospectively) claims that he knew he was destroying his arm in his CYA season but went for it anyway. Batters can't (or don't need to) choose between quality and quantity so we know a great hitter is a great hitter while a great pitcher could be a good pitcher who's cranked it up for a year. I also wonder if teams are more willing to give faded hitters repeated chances than faded pitchers? None of those really convince me yet I still feel more comfortable closer to the career end of the spectrum for pitchers.

In reality though, for HoF purposes, we aren't faced with the choice very often in either case because the greats rarely fade away so quickly. The great peak-only hitters who are legit HoF candidates is a pretty short list: Greenberg (in), Mize (eventually in), Kiner (in), Puckett (alas, in), McGwire (woulda been in), Allen (out), DiMaggio (in), Torre (out), Pinson (out), Cedeno (out), Murphy (out). There are some other guys who could qualify but most of them either (a) went on to long careers or (b) aren't standard candidates anyway -- Grich, Randolph, Boyer.

Murphy had 42 WAR from ages 24 to 31, so 5 WAR a year. In just the last 8 seasons, there are essentially 6 players who have matched or exceeded that, including Beltre and Tex. Has anybody thought of Tex as a viable peak-only HoF candidate? Beltre's last 8 years is only about 60% of his career and it misses his huge 2004. Murphy is 4-6 wins ahead of the last 8 years of Wright, Mauer, Cano, Holliday and Beltran (missing a big chunk of his career and prime too). In the integration era, just looking at ages 24-31, Murphy's peak ranks 50th, in a very interesting group of players that largely defines the "don't get hit by a bus" category:

Grich, Trammell, Yount, Thomas (defense and we miss a couple big early seasons), Manny (defense), IRod, Rose, Rolen, Beltre, Hernandez, Doby, Lofton, Larkin, Bell, Biggio, Tex, Nettles, Bonds I, Gwynn, Kaline, Vlad, Murray, Jeter, McCovey. A lot of 2B, 3B, SS and good-fielding corner OFs (and Thomas, Manny and McCovey).

Now Saberhagen is an interesting guy and he's got 59 WAR which makes him a lot more valuable than Murphy (by WAR standards, blah blah blah). Sutton, the quintessential career candidate, beats him by only 10 WAR in twice as many innings. Santana sits at 51 WAR in about 40% of Sutton's innings. They're both better candidates than Murphy ... but then I never supported Murphy. If you look at the top WAR not in the HoF (assuming the current crop makes it), you've got Brown at 69 WAR, Reuschel 68, Halladay 67, Tiant 66, John 62, Cone 62, Saberhagen 59, Pettitte 59 (ahem), Finley 59, Tanana 58, Koosman 57, Stieb 57, Appier 55 and Hudson about to join this group. Hudson in 120 more IP is 5 wins behind Saberhagen; CC is 5 wins behind in the same number. Halladay and Appier also have about the same number of IP and Stieb and Cone are about 300 ahead, the rest have a lot more IP. If Saberhagen is in, those guys probably should be too and Pettitte is clearly at least borderline (same WAR about 500 more IP).

That's always the hard bit with these borderline guys. Nobody's willing to accept the whole lot of them but the dividing lines are always going to be pretty arbitrary. But it probably is easier to stand out as a peak pitcher than a peak hitter.

This list is dominated by modern pitchers. 9 of the 18 pitched in the 2000s (including Saberhagen). That seems rather high. Maybe it's because every half-decent starting pitcher in the pre-war era was inducted while nobody from the 80s-90s was.
   7. jdennis Posted: March 30, 2013 at 09:25 PM (#4399925)
i agree that santana basically has no shot. a shame, he was dominant for several seasons. but the thing is, i remember he was seen as the default best in the league guy in years nobody was seen as great, sort of like brandon webb was in the nl. he doesn't have the same psychology attached to him as other pitchers who had dominant stretches of four seasons or so like that.

also about peak hitters, i noticed you didn't have 19th century folks. there were a lot of careers like that in the 1800s, but i guess they don't show up in WAR evaluations because of the lack of play by play. hughie jennings i think is a great example of a peak candidate for a hitter. for those five years or so he was a top ten hitter, a leading base stealer, and by far and away the best SS. then for some reason they moved him to first where he was below avg, and he had a natural decline phase for hitting. and he was a weak hitter at the beginning of his career. and then of course there were the guys at the beginning like barnes who were peak by default because their careers were so short.
   8. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: March 30, 2013 at 09:27 PM (#4399926)
What a shame. I've enjoyed Santana's career and was delighted when the Mets got him. I've also been impressed at how well he's pitched when he's been able to since the injuries started. It's a pity he doesn't seem likely to be able to handle even a Sunday Starter role at this point.

But injuries are par for the course for pitchers.
Have there been any studies, Walt, showing pitchers are injured significantly more often than position players? I imagine it's a bear to separate out missing time due to injuries and missing time due to iffy performance for hundreds of players, but I'd be interested in what that kind of study would show.
   9. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: March 30, 2013 at 09:31 PM (#4399927)
i agree that santana basically has no shot. a shame, he was dominant for several seasons. but the thing is, i remember he was seen as the default best in the league guy in years nobody was seen as great, sort of like brandon webb was in the nl. he doesn't have the same psychology attached to him as other pitchers who had dominant stretches of four seasons or so like that.


Really? For five years Santana went 1, 3, 1, 5, 3 in the Cy voting, with excellent fielding, and could [SHOULD--no one was close to him in 2005] have picked up another Cy win, giving him three in a row. Guess my impression was just different from yours. I saw him as much more dominant at his best, over a number of years, than a guy like Webb. Santana led the league in K's and ERA+ three years running, while leading the league those years in suppressing hits. He led in WHIP four years running, too. To me, that wasn't a guy who was the best by default. That was a guy who was dominant no matter the competition.

edit: Webb's ERA+ in his run was 140 to 158. Santana's run was 155 to 182. There are a bunch of things like that in their records that separate them.
   10. Walt Davis Posted: March 30, 2013 at 11:31 PM (#4399992)
i noticed you didn't have 19th century folks

a) P-I defaults to 1901-current
b) I usually limit my searches to post-integration or post-expansion and/or ignore old guys because I don't think 100-year-old baseball has much to tell us about how guys might age, what the HoF standards are, etc.
c) I know jack about 19th century baseball so wouldn't have a clue what constitutes a "long" career or a peak-only candidate.

Have there been any studies, Walt, showing pitchers are injured significantly more often than position players?

Not a clue, seems incredibly obvious to me. Hitters almost never miss a full season or have careers ended due to injury. Certainly seems to me there are a lot more Mark Priors than Tony Olivas.

Just looking quickly at awards

Carpenter, 2005 NL CYA -- missed essentially all of 2007, 2008, 2012 and retired.
Webb, 2006 NL CYA -- hurt in 2009, never pitched again
Peavy, 2007 NL CYA -- 79 starts 2008-11
Lincecum, 2008-9 CYA -- off a cliff
Colon, 2005 AL CYA -- 47 starts over the next 5 years

All of those guys are in the Murphy/Griffey sort of bucket.

The batters don't get a free ride -- Howard, Morneau, ARod have had their issues, but there's no Webb or Colon in there. And of course CC and Halladay (between his 1st and 2nd) have maintained. And some of those pitchers were older but a number were in their mid-20s when a hitter would be peaking. Santana's post-CYA career might be one of the better ones actually.

Imagine a 26-year-old batter coming off his 2nd MVP with an OPS+ in the 170s (Lincecum equivalent). You're gonna sign that guy for 10 years if you can (ARod's first contract) and we wouldn't really be talking about IF he'd be going to the HoF. You wouldn't give a 10-yar contract to Lincecum.

Maybe that's part of it. Too many young star pitchers "disappoint" us before they even get to 30. At least young hitters wait until they're 32. Nomar and Griffey are probably the two best hitting analogies to Webb or Lincecum in recent vintage. Nomar missed almost all of his age 27 and went off a cliff at 30. Griffey's problems started at 31. Nomar's demise was nearly a decade ago now.
   11. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 30, 2013 at 11:44 PM (#4399999)
Not a clue, seems incredibly obvious to me. Hitters almost never miss a full season or have careers ended due to injury. Certainly seems to me there are a lot more Mark Priors than Tony Olivas.


Concur. Pitchers break, that's what they do.

If you're going into the HoF off 5-great seasons, they need to be Koufax/Dean gaudy.

We should also be careful with giving too much credit for gaudy ERA+. In the "silly ball" era, it has been very easy for very good pitchers to put up gaudy ERA+.

I mean, Roy Oswalt has a better career ERA+ than Tom Seaver.
   12. Bhaakon Posted: March 31, 2013 at 12:41 AM (#4400021)
I mean, Roy Oswalt has a better career ERA+ than Tom Seaver.


Seaver's ERA+ was 140 in has age 23-34 seasons. Oswalt's advantage isn't so much the era as not yet having a chance to pitch as a shadow of himself for another seven seasons (albeit a still quite valuable shadow, in Seaver's case).
   13. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: March 31, 2013 at 01:28 AM (#4400031)
@10 is extremely persuasive.

@12: yep. Oswalt is 34, with a career ERA+ of 130. Through age 34 Seaver's ERA+ was 138. From ages 35-41 Seaver's ERA+ was a respectable but merely Jack Morrisian 107. Just lose Seaver's last, age 41 season, and his career ERA+ is right there with Oswalt, meaning Roy would have to pitch the way he's pitched over his career until he's 40 to match Seaver. Then we'll cut him some slack and let him fall off the cliff. before he hangs it up.
   14. bookbook Posted: March 31, 2013 at 02:49 AM (#4400044)
I take your general point, but am not sure why Albert Belle, Bo Jackson, Eric Davis don't qualify as potential counterexamples. Hey, how about Ron Gant? Jason Kendall? Nick Johnson? There's enough coulda been offensive greats who were knocked down a few notches by injuries that it muddies the distinction a bit.

Even Edgar's in the hall if his team didn't perceive him as too fragile to stay at 3b, where he wasn't terrible, or at least stay at 1b.
   15. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: March 31, 2013 at 03:00 AM (#4400045)
@14: further in that vein, it might be more legit to include in our comparisons to pitchers who miss entire seasons, position players who stay in the lineup to some degree but whose value all but disappears.

Oh, and Mo Vaughn.

And a bunch of catchers.

And guys like Josh Thole who, despite playing 104 games last season, might as well have stayed home with his zero bWAR, though if we start including guys like Thole, we have to include equivalent pitchers, who stay on the mound but whose value vanishes.

And Jason Bay.

If Jason Kendall, then Dale Murphy?
   16. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: March 31, 2013 at 03:09 AM (#4400046)
I think Santana is significantly better than Guidry. More like Saberhagen or Hershiser.

What's interesting to me is that there seems to be a greater emphasis on career over peak for pitchers, and I would argue it should be the exact opposite.

I'm with you on the similarity to Saberhagen. I think he was better than Hershiser in the regular season but Orel had the postseason heroics. He's also sort of like Rube Waddell, except pitching in a lower IP environment. I'm not sure I agree that HOF voters prefer career over peak for pitchers, since Koufax and Dean are in and John and Kaat are not, and Blyleven and Rixey took forever to get in. HOM voters didn't take Dean but did take Sutton, Pierce and Rixey so they may have a different preference.
   17. Drexl Spivey Posted: March 31, 2013 at 04:39 AM (#4400052)
Even Addie Joss and Sandy Koufax — two standouts whose careers were extinguished in their primes, the former by death due to meningitis in 1911, the latter by elbow woes in 1966 — had roughly 300 more innings pitched during their brief careers, and reliever Hoyt Wilhelm racked up about 200 more during his lengthy one.


Didn't Joss die of tuberculosis?

EDIT: Nevermind, the full term for the illness is tuberculosis meningitis.
   18. AJMcCringleberry Posted: March 31, 2013 at 10:43 AM (#4400095)
Nevermind, the full term for the illness is tuberculosis meningitis.

Not exactly. Tuberculosis meningitis is a form of tuberculosis that spreads to the meninges.
   19. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: March 31, 2013 at 11:49 AM (#4400134)
Even Addie Joss and Sandy Koufax — two standouts whose careers were extinguished in their primes, the former by death due to meningitis in 1911, the latter by elbow woes in 1966 — had roughly 300 more innings pitched during their brief careers, and reliever Hoyt Wilhelm racked up about 200 more during his lengthy one.


Sure, but pitchers threw a lot more innings in the 1900s and 1960s than in the 2000s. Koufax was 52nd in IP 1950-1979 and Santana was 54th in IP since 1990. They're roughly similar if you account for era. Santana was also 1st or 2nd in IP 4 times. He's certainly a peak/prime candidate, but he's not a ridiculous outlier in durability.
   20. cardsfanboy Posted: March 31, 2013 at 12:20 PM (#4400143)
Sure, but pitchers threw a lot more innings in the 1900s and 1960s than in the 2000s. Koufax was 52nd in IP 1950-1979 and Santana was 54th in IP since 1990. They're roughly similar if you account for era. Santana was also 1st or 2nd in IP 4 times. He's certainly a peak/prime candidate, but he's not a ridiculous outlier in durability.


They throw more innings per season, but the reasoning is that pitchers of today can be more healthy longer by not using the arm as much, and also that the fewer innings pitched leads to higher rate numbers. If you are going by that assumption, then the pitchers need to last longer. You can't tout rate comparison numbers without also including innings.
   21. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: March 31, 2013 at 12:53 PM (#4400150)
The great peak-only hitters who are legit HoF candidates is a pretty short list:


Tony Oliva?
   22. Tubbs & Minnie Miñoso don't fear Sid Monge Posted: March 31, 2013 at 02:10 PM (#4400177)
It's hard to believe how quickly Santana & Oswalt have fallen off the HOF radar. I'd consider Oliva a much closer HOF hitter than Santana is a HOF pitcher
   23. Walt Davis Posted: March 31, 2013 at 06:21 PM (#4400305)
but am not sure why Albert Belle, Bo Jackson, Eric Davis don't qualify as potential counterexamples. Hey, how about Ron Gant? Jason Kendall? Nick Johnson?

Belle was certainly an MVP quality hitter but he didn't become a full-timer until age 25 and then played every day for 9 years. That's perhaps analogous to Carpenter. Eric Davis is an interesting case although he did last until he was 39 and didn't miss a full season until he was 33. Bo Jackson, Ron Gant, Nick Johnson and Jason Kendall don't even merit consideration in the group of players we've been discussing. That's fine if you want to expand the discussion but I ain't doing a full study here.

There's also the fact that Belle and Jackson weren't baseball injuries while most severe pitcher injuries are. Wasn't Gant's a motorcycle accident?

And we haven't even scratched the surface of pitcher injuries -- think of all the minor-leaguers whose arms crap out.

I tried to find the current 60-day DL but couldn't find it online.
   24. bobm Posted: March 31, 2013 at 07:00 PM (#4400336)
[23] I tried to find the current 60-day DL but couldn't find it online.

try http://espn.go.com/mlb/injuries

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