Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Who Belongs in the Hall? (Part VI--Pitchers)

Pitching is among the most glorified positions at Cooperstown. There are currently 61 hurlers in the Hall of Fame. With so many men having been honored, the bar has been raised extremely high. In today's era of pitch counts and five-man rotations, it seems likely that Cy Young's record for lifetime wins will stand forever at 511. Ed Walsh's ERA of 1.82 in 430 career appearances (mostly for the White Sox in the Deadball Era) will be hard to beat as well. Strikeouts are a category that has been challenged many times in the modern era with flamethrower Nolan Ryan leading the pack at 5,714.

You don't have to have a crystal ball to predict which pitchers are most likely to be enshrined within the next several years. They include the following:
Greg Maddux:
Maddux retired in 2008 with 335 wins, 4 Cy Young Awards and 18 Gold Gloves. He set an all-time record for most consecutive seasons by a pitcher with at least 15 victories (17) and became the all-time leader in putouts. His induction is a foregone conclusion.
Randy Johnson:
Johnson retired in 2009, finishing with 305 career wins and  5 Cy Young Awards. While playing for Arizona in 2002, he won a triple crown with a 24-5 record, 2.32 ERA and 334 strikeouts. He is second on the all-time list to Nolan Ryan with 4,875K's. In his prime, no one was more dominant on the hill.
Tom Glavine
Glavine quietly reached the 300-win threshold, winning at least 15 games ten times while notching 20 victories on five occasions. A ten-time All-Star, he garnered 2 Cy Young Awards. He helped Atlanta to the postseason a slew of times, getting his only World Series ring in 1995.
Mariano Rivera
Many people feel that Mariano Rivera is the greatest relief pitcher ever. It's hard to disagree. Currently playing in his last season, Mariano has racked up more saves than any fireman in history--650 and counting. Presently, he is in the midst of his ninth season with at least 40 saves. He excelled in the postseason over the years, saving 42 games while posting a ridiculous 0.72 ERA. He certainly has my vote for the Hall.    

After these four worthy gentlemen are enshrined, there might be room for a few more pitchers in the gallery. In my opinion, the following three deserve serious consideration:

Pedro Martinez
Martinez was a force to be reckoned with for more than a decade. He finished with a .687 winning percentage and a 2.93 ERA in 476 appearances. His 3,154 strikeouts rank 13th all-time. His strikeouts per innings pitched rank third. He won a triple  crown in '99 with a 23-4 record, 2.07 ERA and 313 strikeouts. An 8-time All-Star, he captured 3 Cy Young Awards.  
John Smoltz:
Smoltz was a Cy Young Award winner in '96 with a 24-8 mark, 2.94 ERA and 276 K's. He won at least 14 games 10 times. An arm injury in 2001 prompted him to become one of the top relievers in the majors for 3 full seasons. He bounced back to become an effective starter again. He is the only player in history with at least 200 wins and 150 saves. He is also the Braves' all-time leader in strikeouts.
Mike Mussina:
Mussina was dazzling defensively with 7 Gold Gloves to his credit. He won at least 15 games 11 times while notching a total of 270 career victories. He closed out his career with a 20-win season for the Yankees. Mussina's 2,813 strikeouts are among the top 20 totals of all-time and his sabermetric scores compare him favorably to Juan Marichal, Jim Palmer, Carl Hubbell and Jim Bunning--Hall of Famers all.    

Players from the past I feel were overlooked to an extent include:
Luis Tiant: 
"El Tiante" won 229 games between 1964 and 1982 (an average of 15 wins per year), finishing with a highly respectable 3.30 ERA. He was a colorful character on the mound and a positive presence in the clubhouse for the Indians, Red Sox and Yankees. He collected at least 20 victories 4 times. He was 3-0 for the Red Sox in the '75 postseason.
Pierce was one of the most dominant pitchers of the '50's with a lifetime record of 211-169. He won at least 14 games 10 times for White Sox teams that were often mediocre. A 7-time All-Star, he might have been Hall-worthy had he played for a powerhouse team like the Yankees instead of toiling in relative anonymity.
Jim Kaat:
 Kaat won 283 games for teams that contended only sporadically over the course of his career. He captured sixteen Gold Gloves consecutively from 1962 through 1977. His Hall of Fame support peaked in 1998 when he got more than 27% of the vote. If he gets in, it will be via the Veteran's Committee.
Tommy John
John was baseball's first bionic man, recovering from the surgery that was named after him. In 26 seasons, he racked up 288 wins (an average of 13 per year). He was a 4-time all-star who compiled a perfect fielding percentage on five occasions. He is ranked #21 on the all-time list for assists and #26 in shutouts.   

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