Monday, December 9, 2013

Roy Halladay's Retirement and Cooperstown

I wanted to explain my awards ballot, but a faulty computer and other commitments have eaten into my opportunities to do that. So rather than dwell on older news, I figured that I may as well move on to newer things, especially since Hall of Fame season is coming up. And so, this piece will be about the Hall of Fame.

Not the newly-elected Veterans Committee picks, though. As I wrote last time, all three were deserving, but they only represented about half (or less) of the deserving people on the ballot. Besides, I would just rehash old ground (such as, why was there a vote cap, or why were managers competing with executive and players for induction, or who exactly picked those players anyway). No, I’m going to start looking forward, to recently-retired Roy Halladay’s case. What will his debate look like come late 2018?

Let’s start like most Hall voters probably will, with pitching wins. Halladay had 203 of them, a rather low total for the traditionally wins-centric BBWAA. 203 ties him with Lew Burdette, Silver King, and Jack Stivetts, not the biggest bunch of names. Right above him are Orel Hershiser and Al Orth, right below him are Charlie Root and Hall member Rube Marquard. Marquard isn’t exactly the best Hall of Famer to stake your case on, though.

Winning Percentage paints him a lot better-Halladay is 17th all-time. Everyone above him with as many seasons pitched is in Cooperstown or will be. Pedro Martinez is the will be, in this case, and he makes for a pretty good comp, career-length-wise, and both had a similarly low amount of wins. Pedro was better, but he’ll probably serve as an indicator of how Doc’s case will fare, if nothing else.

Let’s move from the ridiculous to the only kind of dumb; every pitcher with three or more Cy Young Awards is in the Hall (or is Roger Clemens). Doc has two. What has that meant historically? His fellow two-Cy pitchers and their Hall verdict:

Bob Gibson: Yes
Tom Glavine: We’ll see, but probably
Tim Lincecum: looking doubtful
Denny McLain: No, not really deserving either (although he’s a bit of a special case)
Gaylord Perry: Yes
Bret Saberhagen: No, but he’s probably deserving
Johan Santana: ??? (plus 2005, when he was robbed)
Kershaw: Two and counting

Throwing out Santana and Kershaw, we’re at about 50-50. What’s interesting is that Glavine and Halladay have the longest gaps between their wins. Lincecum and McLain both won theirs back-to-back, which seems to indicate a shorter peak. Saberhagen is sort of in the middle, not as spread out as Glavine, Halladay, or Perry, but he’s also the closest to Hall worthy that isn’t in. Plus, his career was even shorter than Roy’s. So this method is not really clear either, although I think his four other top-five finishes help.

Let’s look at actually important stuff now. Halladay had a 3.58 K to BB ratio. That’s tied with Mike Mussina (who also should be inducted to the Hall), and behind only Curt Schilling, Pedro, Cy Young, and Saberhagen for best rate since 1901 (2500 innings). Part of that was his strikeouts (2117), but an even bigger part was his ability to limit walks. Since 1901, only seventeen pitchers with 2500 innings have had a lower walk rate, and only 33 have a lower WHIP (the three on either side of him: Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, John Smoltz, Jim Bunning, Vic Willis, and Jim Palmer).

As for limiting runs, Doc’s 3.38 ERA comes out to a 131 ERA+. From the early group, that places fourteenth. Hall members. Right below him is Hall member Hal Newhouser, who pitched only about an extra season’s worth of innings. So Halladay limited runs and baserunners with the best of them. What else could you ask for?

Both Fangraphs’s and Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement echo his value. Fangraphs puts him at 67.7, 34th all-time among pitchers. B-R has him at 65.6, 41st all-time and 24th since integration. The Hall’s already elected close to 60 pitchers, so keeping out someone who’s probably in the top 40 doesn’t make a ton of sense (plus, when you consider all the names on the ballot now and in the next four election cycles, there very well may be close to 70 pitchers in the Hall by the time Doc comes up for the 2019 Election). While my initial worries were that Roy Hallday’s career might have been too brief, he pretty easily fits in to the established boundaries of Cooperstown.

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