Motivated by the talks wondering about Roy Halladay's Hall of Fame chances, I finally decided to work on my Hall of WAR for pitchers. I was surprised at how well this worked for pitchers too. I forgot my reasoning for not doing pitchers, but the same basic idea works and when I plugged the numbers, it was surprisingly similar to hitters.
My first thought when I started was how many pitchers I wanted to make my Hall of Fame. Pitchers is a little bit different than hitters even if it has the same all-encompassing stat as WAR. For one, for most of the last century, there was no such thing as Tommy John surgery so it's a little difficult to account for, say, Dizzy Dean probably being able to have a better career in the 21st century.
I kind of wanted a baseline number for around where I wanted to finish. To do this, I went through every single Hall of Fame ballot ever and compared how many made the HOF to the ones who did not. This was particularly tedious in the first 30 or so years when the HOF didn't have their shit together. I only counted names that entered the ballot once so I didn't count players who were on the ballot for 14 years 14 times. The numbers were kind of surprising.
It turns out that 20% of the names that make it onto the Hall of Fame ballot end up getting elected. This would be even higher for recent years, because the Hall of Fame balloting had so many names for the first ten years. It kind of makes sense though since players who play 10 years need to be really good to play 10 years. (Then there's the fact that the HOF has a lot of undeserving players in there)
But that's not what I wanted so I replaced that number with the number of HOF players that my Hall of WAR had, which was 118 players. That was 16.5% of the names, which is a decent drop and I think a reasonable estimate for what I should have with pitchers. There were 365 pitchers on the HOF ballot ever (roughly; I'm sure it's not exactly accurate, but it's close enough), which means I need to aim for around 60 players. Considering there are currently 64 pitchers in the HOF, this should be interesting.
A quick primer. I used eight stats to determine this Hall, all related to WAR. There was innings pitched, WAR, and WAR/IP. I also did a WAR per 200 innings pitched to kind of give perspective on how good the WAR/IP was. Then I took a player's five best seasons, highlighted their best and worst of those seasons, and averaged them out (I'll reference this a bit so let's just call it Peak Seasons)
This doesn't have the nice convenient eight positions that my hitters post did so I'm going to do this a little bit differently instead of just naming the players that made my Hall and those that didn't. I thought about splitting it up by teams but I don't really want to have 30 separate small headlines so I'm just going to go completely random and group each player by having similar numbers.
100 WAR Club
I chronicled 94 players, the 64 who made the Hall, 29 pitchers who had were among the Top 70 in fWAR, and Jack Morris. Why Top 70? Well, when I reached David Cone, I figured I was probably safe in assuming no one else would really be deserving below him. Plus Javier Vazquez and Kevin Appier were coming up next so that seemed like a good arbitrary cutoff point.
The best pitcher of all-time is Roger Clemens. I didn't put my disclaimer that I did in my hitters WAR, but this is a good place to mention that Hall of WAR allows PED users. I've argued my position on that point on two of my posts on this very site in the past so I won't rehash it here. But Clemens has everything. He ranks 1st in WAR with 139.5 over his career, 2nd in WAR/IP, and 2nd in Peak Seasons. His WAR per 200 innings pitched was 5.7 WAR. (The average of all 94 pitchers was 3.49 for context). You can hate the guy, but there's no way you can keep this guy out of the Hall of Fame. (Well without making this whole thing a joke)
The next pitcher on this list has the most career innings pitched and most wins, Cy Young. He has a very respectable 3.7 WAR per 200 innings, which is a lot more impressive since he pitched over 7,000 innings. He also had an amazing peak with an average of 8.34 over his five best seasons. He's easily in. Then there's Walter Johnson, whose peak is the 4th best ever with five seasons between 10 and 8.5 WAR (Avg: 9.22).
Appearing on his first ballot in 2014, Greg Maddux will probably make it this year just because he looks absolutely nothing like a guy who took steroids. Well that and being one of the best pitchers of all time. He finished with 113.9 WAR over 5,000 innings. His peak was surprisingly average considering as he only places 22nd all time with five seasons between 7.4 and 8 WAR. That really doesn't do his "peak" justice though because he had TWELVE seasons with 5.0 WAR or more. I don't even know if you can call that a peak, that's just his career.
The all-time strikeout leader Nolan Ryan also lands on this list of greatness. He had 3.9 WAR per 200 innings and an average of 6.98 WAR in his peaks seasons. He's pretty easily in. Another player who is easily in is Bert Blyleven, who yes had 100+ WAR and did not make it into the Hall until his 14th ballot. That is insane. How did that happen? He had 4.2 WAR per 200 innings and 8.2 WAR per season over his five best years. Also, it's not like he was a low innings guy either as he finishes 16th among the 94 pitchers. I am just flabbergasted, but at least he did get in.
With 103.7 WAR, Gaylord Perry is another no-brainer. Then there's Steve Carlton. This is going to be painful for Cardinals fans old enough to remember, but he had a 12.1 WAR season the year after he left the Cardinals. Literally the year after. If it makes you feel any better, his fifth best season ever was 5.6, which is the lowest among the 100+ WAR starters. (He also had 10 other seasons above 4.0 WAR though - That's right 15 seasons with 4+ WAR - 4 of them were with the Cardinals though!)
Finally, there's Randy Johnson, who I skipped because he's not eligible until 2015. I'm interested to see how his vote turns out. He has the best peak of all time with five seasons between 10.4 and 9.5 WAR. To be fair, he only had five other seasons above 5.0 WAR. But he did average 5.4 WAR every 200 innings. (Quick: guess who's #1 in WAR per 200 innings as Clemens and Johnson finish 2 and 3.)
Hall of Famers - Roger Clemens, Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Greg Maddux, Nolan Ryan, Bert Blyleven, Gaylord Perry, Steve Carlton
Not Hall of Famers - Nobody. I mean look at this group.
Not Eligible Yet - Randy Johnson
Cardinals players at one point whose name is not Steve Carlton
Well, one way or the other I have to start with Bob Gibson. He doesn't have the highest WAR on this specific group, but he's probably the best. (It's pretty crazy that Bob Gibson has the third highest WAR of people who have ever played for the Cardinals, but he is). Gibson had 91.1 WAR, but he ranked 40th in innings among these 94 pitchers. Gibson ranked 8th all-time with an average of 4.7 WAR per 200 innings. His peak is the 6th highest of all-time with five seasons between 10.9 and 6.8 (Average of 8.84). Sometimes, advanced stats can make icons look even better (other times... well just don't look at Lou Brock's career)
The guy ahead of Gibson is Pete Alexander, or Grover Cleveland. Alexander was only with the Cards for three and a half years, but he helped them win a World Series in 1926 after the Cubs gave him to the Cardinals for a waiver price in the middle of 1926. His tales of alcoholism are legendary as he possibly pitched in Game 7 of '26 still feeling drunk (after celebrating winning Game 6), and you wonder if he could have been even better. He had 98 WAR over his career, including an average of 3.8 per 200 innings. (He had nine seasons with 300+ innings)
Kid Nichols played for the Cardinals for a season and a half. They actually gave up on him after he had a 5.40 ERA after just seven starts. Of course, he had 2.1 WAR the rest of the year for the Phillies, pitched 11 innings after that, and then retired. Nichols is pretty clearly below the average of the list for his career placing 62nd with 3.1 WAR per 200 innings. But he had a hell of a peak with startling consistency. He had five seasons between 6.9 and 7.2 WAR.
With 63.7 career WAR, Dazzy Vance doesn't appear to be an obvious HOF. (By the way, he's another guy who only played a season with the Cardinals) But Vance ranks 16th with 4.3 WAR per 200 innings. He also had a Peak Average of 7.1 WAR. His low-ish WAR total is due to having 1,000 less innings than the average pitcher on this list.
Then there's Larry Jackson, who I have never heard of, but who played for the Cardinals in eight of his 14 seasons. To be fair, he played from 1955-1962, which is right between the two championship runs I've read about. Jackson is also not a Hall of Famer either. Does he deserve to be? It's really close, but I think I'm letting him in it. He had a WAR per 200 innings of 3.6, right above the average, and his Peak season average is 6.5 (However, his fifth best season is only 4.8 WAR and I really prefer if each player has 5+ WAR for 5 seasons.) But he's in.
A really tough choice for me is a non-Hall of Famer, Jim Kaat. His numbers surprised me. He has 3.1 WAR per 200 innings pitched, which is below the average of this group, but it's respectable. He has six seasons above 5.0 WAR, but his highest is 6.3. I'm barely letting him, because there is not a single reason I can find to exclude him. My HOF would have to be really tough to crack with his pretty good resume.
A player who started his career with the Cardinals, but was subjected to the whims of Branch Rickey's trading philosophy (trade him a year too early than a year too late) is Paul Derringer. He has a pretty good case. I'm narrowly keeping him out though, because he had a lot of very good years. His fifth best season was 4.7 WAR and his WAR per 200 IP was 3.3, just a little below the average of this list.
Another tough choice is presented in Curt Simmons, who is also not a HOF player. I am not letting him in. His WAR per 200 innings is right on the average at 3.5, but his peak is really weak. He has five seasons between 5.5 and 4.8 WAR so he never was the best pitcher. On top of that, he had just one other season above 4.0 WAR. Gus Weyhing played for the Cardinals for half a season and provided exactly 0.0 WAR. His overall career is one of the weakest (2.6 WAR per 200 IP), but his peak is outstanding (6.74 average). Still, I can't let him in.
Another player who played a half a season for the Cardinals? Chuck Finley with 55.9 WAR. His career is average for a HOF player (3.5 per 200 IP), but his peak is virtually nonexistent with zero seasons above 5.0 WAR. Pretty easily a no.
The next player had a very odd career with the Cardinals. Burleigh Grimes came to the Cardinals in the middle of the 1930 season, becoming a vital player for the NL pennant winners. He played a full season for the world champions in 1931. He came back in 1933 only pitching 4 games for them (he played 17 for the Cubs). In 1934, he returned only to go to the Yankees and then the Pirates in the same year. I just thought it was odd he was on the team for four seasons and only played one full season. Anyway, Grimes is 81st in WAR/IP and 74th in peak so he's not even close (He did make the actual HOF via Veterans Committee)
Another kind of inexplicable HOF player who played for the Cardinals for one season is Vic Willis. He has less than 50 career WAR in about 4,000 innings. His best season is just 5.2 WAR. Easily a no. More known for playing with the Cubs, Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown is another weak HOF. His career WAR per 200 IP is less than 3 and his fifth best season is 3.8 WAR (although his best season is 6.9). Another no for me.
I'm skipping Dennis Eckersley for now, because I'll get to relievers in another post. I'll just say that his starting pitching isn't going to be the reason he will get in, if I do let him as he had zero 5+ WAR seasons. Basically a Cardinal lifer (he played one season with the Reds), Jessie Haines was elected by the Veterans Committee in 1970. He's an atrocious selection with just 35 career WAR and has the worst peak of any pitcher on this list by a lot. (He has 3.52 Peak Season, next highest is above 4.0)
I really hope this next selection isn't biased, but I'm reluctantly letting Dizzy Dean in the HOF. The only detriment to his case is a low IP total, which I can't really fault him for. His fifth best season is 4.9 WAR (though he had two of them). I wonder if I'll run into another case like him. Even when he pitched less than 100 innings due to injuries, he had 1.5 WAR so when he played, he was elite. I'm really worried I'm only letting him in because he's a Cardinal, but he does represent the most important aspect of what I'm looking for and that is peak. It's undeniable he was among the best in the league at the time.
Hall of Famers - Bob Gibson, Pete Alexander, Kid Nichols, Dazzy Vance, Larry Jackson (N), Jim Kaat (N), Dizzy Dean
Not a Hall of Famer - Paul Derringer (N), Curt Simmons (N), Chuck Finley (N), Burleigh Grimes, Mordecai Brown, Jessie Haines
To be determined - Dennis Eckersley
Players with 8+ Peak Seasons
It goes without saying, but this list excludes anybody who has already been mentioned. There are 17 players and unsurprisingly, eight of them would qualify under this list.
The fifth best peak of all-time belongs to Ferguson Jenkins. He had five seasons between 10.5 and 7.2 WAR. He had two seasons with over 10 WAR. His WAR per 200 innings is 3.9. Obviously, he's in the HOF. Who's a more obvious, better version of Dizzy Dean? Sandy Koufax, who had a 10.0 WAR season to end his career. His career is basically just six seasons of absolutely ridiculous pitching, but that's enough to get in the HOF.
Trivia question? Who has the highest single season WAR of any pitcher (and possibly batters, though I'm not checking)? Silver King. I have absolutely no idea what to do with him. If you want to see a weird career, look at his. He has three insane seasons, one great season, two above average seasons, and the rest are unimpressive. Can you let a pitcher in for essentially three seasons? The Hall of Fame didn't think so. I think I'm going to agree. His Peak Season average is 8.7 WAR, but his fifth best season is 3.8 WAR. That's because he had a 13.4 WAR season. He pitched 585.2 innings with a 45-21 record. He only allowed SIX homers that year. Six. But still, while I do value peak over career, I value a peak that is based off more than three seasons.
An easy and very well-known choice is Christy Matthewson, who has both a great peak (8.26 Peak Season Average) and a great career. (3.7 WAR per 200 IP). Tom Seaver is another really easy choice. He had five seasons between 9.7 and 6.6 WAR while having 4.1 WAR per 200 innings. Then there's Ed Walsh, who has an 8.12 Peak Season with 3.5 WAR per 200 innings. And finally, before I got to the more recent players, John Clarkson has a relatively low 2.7 WAR per 200 IP, but he had five seasons above 5.5 WAR.
Alright now to the current players, whose HOF questions are in doubt. First, a guy who has already made the ballot, Curt Schilling. Schilling was a sneaky good player. He's so easily in, it's alarming. He had 5.1 WAR per 200 innings in his career. He had 11 seasons with 4.0 WAR or greater, including five greater than 7.0 WAR.
Then there's a pitcher not yet eligible who has a good case of being the best pitcher of all-time: Pedro Martinez. There is one thing keeping him from owning that label and that is innings pitched. He has less than 3,000 of them, which is 85th on this list. Otherwise, he has 6.2 WAR per 200 IP, which is the greatest by far (next highest is 5.7). He has a Peak Season Average of 9.2 WAR. He has nine seasons with more than 5.0 WAR.
Hall of Famers - Ferguson Jenkins, Sandy Koufax, Christy Matthewson, Tom Seaver, Ed Walsh, John Clarkson, Curt Schilling (N)
Not Hall of Famers - Silver King (N)
Not Eligible - Pedro Martinez
Players on one team 90% of career - NL
As you can see, I'm really grasping at straws trying to come up with new topics, but I feel this is a pretty good one. I decided I wanted to do a section naming players with only one team, but it turns out that doesn't really happen that much with pitchers. More often, they pitched for the same team for their entire career before finishing one last season with someone else.
The Braves are ridiculously good at churning out lifelong pitchers, because they provide a few on this list. First off, Warren Spahn has really solid HOF credentials. Nothing really sticks out as being amazing, but everything is pretty clearly a reason to keep him in. He had 81.2 WAR with over 5,000 IP. His 3.1 WAR per 200 innings doesn't seem impressive, but he did himself no favors by pitching about 360 innings his last two years with just 0.7 WAR.
If you want to get technical, this next Braves pitcher was on the Braves for only 89% of his career, but that's close enough and he extended his career about 3 seasons too long anyway on teams that aren't the Braves. Niekro is very similar to Spahn in that none of his numbers are that impressive, but they easily get him in the HOF. (It's worth noting that all the numbers are impressive, I'm just speaking in comparison to other HOF players.)
Another player i technically cheated on with only 88% of his career with one team is Juan Marichal of the Giants. (Though he pitched 6 innings in his last year so I don't really think that year counts). Marichal was an amazing pitcher with 4.0 WAR per 200 innings. He had a seven season run with 6.9 WAR or more in every season but one (presumably injury-filled, although he still managed 4.6 WAR in 202.1 IP; the other seasons he had 260+ IP). As you can guess, he's in.
A player who actually started and finished his career with his original team is Don Drysdale. He had 3.9 WAR per 200 IP and finished seven seasons with 5.0+ WAR. He's another player who is a no doubt HOF player. There must be something to players who finish their careers with the same team, because here's another easy selection into the HOF, Bob Friend. He had 3.6 WAR per 200 IP and seven seasons with 5.0+ WAR as well.
Giants lifer Carl Hubbel provides the first real tough decision on this list. His Peak Season Average is just 5.22 WAR, with the highest being 5.9. His WAR per 200 IP is 3.0, which is not going to keep him out, but the combination of the peak and career will. Sorry Giants fans, although in this current HOF structure, I'd say he's in.
Lastly, a player not eligible yet who I for some reason neglected on the Cardinals section is John Smoltz. No sweat, I'd kind of rather have him here associated with the Braves than the Cardinals to be honest, out of respect. Taking out his relieving career, Smotlz has 4.4 WAR per 200 IP (which obviously rises if you include relieving duties) and five seasons above 5.0 WAR. That's in by itself, and I'll go over it in the next post, but his relief stats are also up their with the best of them. Smotlz should be a HOF player when he's eligible.
Hall of Famers - Warren Spahn, Phil Niekro, Juan Marichal, Don Drysdale, Bob Friend (N)
Not Hall of Famers - Carl Hubbel
Not eligible - John Smoltz
Players on one team in 90% of career - AL
A historical player most indicative of the Cardinals young, flame-throwing rookies is Bob Feller, who supposedly threw the fastest of any player ever. He played his entire career with the Indians. He had a pretty great career with 3.6 WAR per 200 innings pitched. He also had 7.74 Peak Season Average. What's amazing to me about Feller is that he struck out a lot of guys for his time, but he also walked a TON of batters compared to everyone else. He had 4.15 BB/9 including four seasons greater than 5.
I wonder if this is going to be an AL thing, because Ted Lyons also lasted his entire career with one team, the White Sox. Unfortunately, I'm not letting him in the HOF due to a low-ish career (3.0 per 200 IP) and a complete lack of a peak (just two seasons with 5.0+ WAR). Apparently, I want White Sox fans to kill me, because I'm going to have to leave out another pitcher who spent his entire career with them, Red Faber. He had 2.9 WAR per 200 IP, which ranks 72nd among pitchers on this list. He also had three seasons with 6.0+ WAR, but no more above 5.
Tigers pitcher Hal Newhouser is a really easy choice. He pitched less than 3,000 innings, but he made the most of them with 4.2 WAR per 200 IP (62.6 career). He also had six seasons with 6 or more WAR (7.86 Peak Season Average). Yankees pitcher Whitey Ford (yet another player who only played for one team) is a little closer, but he's still going to make it in. His 3.5 WAR per 200 IP is exactly average on this group and he had Peak Season average of 5.68. His fifth best season was 4.9, but I'm not going to keep him out because of 0.1 WAR in one season in his career.
Hey White Sox fans, don't hate me anymore, because I'm going to let in one of your pitchers! Ed Walsh had a relatively short career with less than 3,000 innings, but he had six seasons with 5+ WAR, including a 10.2 WAR season. He also had 3.5 WAR per 200 IP so he has both the career and peak necessary.
Another Yankees pitcher, Lefty Gomez, is a tough choice. However, his fifth best season was just 3.8 WAR so I can't really let him in. His 3.3 WAR per 200 IP is also slightly below average, but like I've mentioned before, I care more about peak anyway.
A player whose reputation exceeds his actual value is Jim Palmer. This one surprised me, because I thought he was going to be a no doubt guy. His WAR per 200 IP is only 2.6, which I could forgive but he only had three seasons with 5+ WAR. Overall, he's easily a no for me. Well, with a name as fantastic as Bob Lemon, you'd have to assume greatness, but no he will not make my HOF either. The Indians pitcher is a pretty inexplicable HOF pitcher considering his WAR per 200 IP (85th) and the fact that he has a peak worse than Chris Carpenter's (He has just one season over 5 WAR). Stranger still is the fact that he didn't have a long career either. However, he did have seven 20 win seasons which may answer how he made the HOF. But he's not making the Hall of WAR.
Hall of Famers - Bob Feller, Hal Newhouser, Whitey Ford, Ed Walsh
Not Hall of Famers - Ted Lyons, Red Faber, Lefty Gomez, Jim Palmer, Bob Lemon
4,500 IP Club
I've mentioned a few times where pitchers have had "short" careers. Well none of these guys have that problem. 26 players belong to this club, but as you can imagine, quite a few have already been used in previous sections. There are only 9 remaining, available members, which is really a convenient number so I can end Part 1 on this note.
The pitcher with the second most innings of all-time also happens to own a really great peak. Pud Galvin has a 7.86 Peak Average, narrowly missing the 8+ Peak Season section above. He has nine seasons with 400+ IP. It's worth mentioning that Gentle Jeems played in the 1880s. The Little Steam engine died 100 years before I was born at the young age of 35. (Those are some of his nicknames on his B-R page by the way)
The seventh highest IP leader belongs to Don Sutton, who backs it up with 85.8 career WAR. His peak narrowly fits the curve with five seasons above 5.0 WAR. His 3.2 WAR per 200 IP isn't great, but then again I wouldn't expect it to be that great when you throw over 5,000 innings. The next guy, Tim Keefe, only pitched in 14 seasons, but also played in the 1880s so of course he somehow threw over 5,000 innings. He has a really low WAR per 200 IP at 2.5, but I'm not sure i should apply that to a guy who averages 360 innings a year. He has five seasons above 5.0 WAR including a 10 WAR season so I have to let him in.
Another player who died too young (at 46) is Bobby Mathews, whose last name is spelled just wrong enough to mess up my Baseball Player Search about 15 times. Mathews by the way has an absolutely fantastic mustache, and was 5'5 and 140 pounds apparently. The list of teams he played for included the Kekiongas, the Canaries, the Mutuals, the Red Caps, and the Grays. Anyway, Mathews' career was odd as he didn't have his first 6.0 WAR season until his 11th season. Two seasons before that, he had a combined WAR of 2.8 over his last three seasons. After much deliberation, I'm letting him in, because he pitched four seasons with 5+ WAR and he pitched much more than 200 innings in an average year. (As did most pitchers on this list, however, most pitchers did not throw multiple 400+ seasons).
Stop me if you're surprised, but here's yet another 1800s pitcher in Mickey Welch. Welch had the pleasure of playing for the Gothams and Trojans. He's pretty clearly the worst pitcher in the Hall with 1.4 WAR per 200 IP and just two seasons with 5+ WAR. Next on this list is a pitcher more known as a surgery than a pitcher in Tommy John. He had a surprisingly high 3.2 WAR per 200 IP for his career, but he had zero seasons with 5+ WAR.
With 505 homers allowed in his career, Robin Roberts would appear to be a bad choice for the HOF, but he offsetted that with an extremely low 1.73 BB/9. He had a great peak with a 7.2 Peak Average season and seven seasons with 5.0+ WAR. He also had a 3.3 WAR per 200 innings, which is more than good enough with that peak.
Interestingly enough, this next pitcher pitched just his 2nd 200+ IP season when he turned 30-years-old, but he had an unnaturally successful career after that, pitching over 200 innings every year until he was 40. With that said, I can't let in Early Wynn, whose fifth best season was just 3.9 WAR. His 2.8 WAR per 200 IP wasn't very good either.
Lastly, twitter personality Old Hoss Radbourn is missing the Hall of WAR due to very weak seasons outside of his peak. He only had four 5+ WAR seasons as well. He also had a pretty short career, and three of those seasons were 1.5 WAR or less in 200+ IP.
Hall of Famers - Pud Galvin, Tim Keefe, Don Sutton, Bobby Mathews (N), Robin Roberts
Not Hall of Famers - Mickey Welch, Tommy John (N), Early Wynn, Old Hoss Radbourn
In this post, I have chronicled 56 of the 94 players (I also have 12 relievers to judge including Eckersley and Smoltz). 36 of them made the HOF, which is on pace for around 61-62 players. However, a few of these groups in this post tended towards the better players while next post's groups will probably tend toward the awful selections. I have a strong feeling I'll land under 60 players, which is fine, but I hope I'm at least close. It's also important I will probably let a few relievers in. As of now, I have no idea what I plan to do for relievers though.
(Feel free to leave in the comments any mistakes I've made; I am my own copyeditor which means there's probably a few mistakes).