Dividing up the next groups of pitchers is a challenge. None of them are in the Hall of Fame, but some still have a realistic shot of getting there. Once you drop off the Hall of Fame ballot for the BBWAA you have to rely on the Veterans Committee. As we have seen, their selections sometimes make a lot of sense (Alan Trammel) and sometimes don’t make any sense whatsoever (Harold Baines). So, predicting the outcome based on those findings is a lot like throwing darts blindfolded.
I thought of numerous ways to divide 15 pitchers into two groups. I thought about going with who is eligible and who isn’t. I thought about going with some level of perception based on wins or similar metric. In this case though, we will be using the index to create our groups. As will become readily apparent when both articles are taken in concert, we will have seven pitchers in our first group and eight pitchers in the second group. Just for fun, in the column next to the career index tab we will include the highest percentage they received from the BBWAA. Asterisks will indicate the player is still eligible for enshrinement. I “NE” will indicate that the player is not yet eligible.
If you have some time to kill, go in to baseball-reference’s awards voting page and check out the Hall of Fame ballots at any point in time. The names you see on the bottom will startle you. Some of them are guys like the one’s above where you wonder how they didn’t get more support. Others are players no one in their right mind would consider for the Hall of Fame. How in the hell did they get on the ballot in the first place?
Of course, that is a rhetorical question. There is a committee that chooses who gets to be on the ballot. The question comes down to the fact that you have a limit of ten players to vote for. Seeing a ballot of 30 or 40 guys is daunting. I mean no disrespect to the Aaron Sele’s of the world, but let’s be realistic.
We show these percentages to show the huge discrepancy between performance and perceived performance. Is Schilling that much better than Brown? I suppose we will find out, but odds are really good Schilling will get in. The odds on Brown or Pettitte are not that good. As was said with the curious case of Lance Berkman, it isn’t so much that I would argue that either of those guys are Hall of Famers necessarily. The point is in figuring out why there is such a huge gap in the voting.
Peak value was its own category for a very important reason. Often when we think of guys long after they are retired, we think of them when they were at their best. Sometimes there’s a singular moment that comes to mind, but often it is just a signature season or a group of seasons. Pettitte has moments, but he doesn’t have that cache of putting up monster seasons at any point in his career.
As we will see, all of these pitchers have points in their favor and points that detract from their particular cases. This is the main reason why I don’t set any firm cutoff points for someone to get the nod. The gaps we see between Schilling, Brown, and the rest probably do that for us. Yet, if someone wants to order a beer at the bar and argue the case for Pettitte, Cone, or anyone else is free to do so.
When we look at conventional numbers, we have to take each one with a grain of salt. They can help explain the index numbers, but they can also subtract from their overall point. ERA+ is a particularly good statistic, but the rest serve as background evidence or an explanation for what we see in the index and not anything that provides further evidence on its own.
It’s readily apparent that the BBWAA loves round numbers. In the case of pitchers it is wins. If you get to 300 you are automatically in. If you get to 250 you are most likely in. If you can’t find your way to 200 then you might as well stay home. Is David Cone a demonstrably worse pitcher than Chuck Finley? Most people would say he was better. Yet, that didn’t make a lick of difference at the ballot box.
Is Schilling that much superior to Brown? They have a similar number of victories, a similar winning percentage, and the exact same ERA+. I don’t need the index to tell me they were similar pitchers. Their values at least are similar. With the exception of victories, Pettitte is similar to the rest of the pitchers on the list. He had the fortune of pitching for the Yankees and Astros when they were good. Of course, that feeds into our next test.
Police experts often talk about how unreliable eyewitness testimony. Our minds often play tricks on us. Kevin Brown was the guy that dominated in the 1997 and 1998 playoff runs for the Marlins and Padres. It got him his 100 million dollar contract with the Dodgers. Overall, he wasn’t a brilliant playoff performer. Go figure. Then, you get the difference between won-loss records and other performance. Pettitte is the all-time leader in the playoff victories. That likely is the main reason why he is still on the ballot. However, the other numbers seem to indicate that he wasn’t that special.
On the other hand, Schilling was special. We all remember the bloody sock in Boston, but he was money when the Diamondbacks won their World Series title as well. How much credit you get for playoff performance is up for grabs. You can see the difference between Schilling and Brown’s numbers. Is that enough to explain why Schilling will likely get in and Brown was one and done? Did one bad game affect Brown’s numbers? He was a disaster in the 2004 NLCS and also struggled in the World Series in 1997. That’s four games.
Surprisingly, Cone did not get more support on the ballot after his playoff performance. He played key roles on those late 1990s Yankees teams that dominated in the playoffs. This is the problem when one fails to get to 200 victories. Suffice it to say, no one really tanked in the playoffs. That won’t always be the case.
Cy Young Points
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BWAR Cy Young Points
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The Cy Young tests and the MVP tests are dreadfully important because it demonstrates what the BBWAA thought of the player while he was playing. With the exception of Pettitte, all six players were undervalued during their career. As we move further back in time, we notice that the BBWAA zeroes in on wins with more regularity. The guy that wins the most games is not always the best pitcher. It means he probably pitched on the best team.
The tests also serve as a quick comparison tool to pair with the index. The top three are separated in the index and BWAR points. The lone hold-out is Pettitte. This combination of playoff performance and Cy Young performance make his case fascinating. Which do you pay more attention to? Is his lack of single season dominance more of a detractor than his 19 playoff victories?
At any rate, we can see when comparing these pitchers to the list before that Curt Schilling and Kevin Brown are clear fits for the Hall of Fame. Brown is already off the list and Schilling looks to clear the threshold within the next two seasons. As mentioned before, the tiers test makes Brown a clear candidate for the Veterans Committee vote.