CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

Premium and Super Premium Subscribers Get a 20% Discount at MLB.tv!

<< Previous Article
The Week in Quotes: De... (12/20)
Next Article >>
Prospectus Triple Play... (12/21)

December 20, 2004

The Class of 2005

The Pitchers

by Jay Jaffe

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

As I wrote last year, the Baseball Writers Association of America's ideas of what constitutes a Hall of Fame pitcher are curious. A group of 300-game winners whose careers spanned the mid-'60s to the mid-'80s (Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Gaylord Perry, Don Sutton, Nolan Ryan, Phil Niekro) have all been tapped for Cooperstown, while Ferguson Jenkins remains the sole non-300-winning starter to be voted in by the writers since 1991. Perry, Sutton, and Niekro took a combined 13 ballots to reach the Hall while Ryan waltzed in with a record-setting vote total in his first ballot appearance, further muddying an issue whose rule of thumb-- "Just Wins, Baby"--already bodes ill for every pitcher this side of Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux.

The 2004 election saw the writers tab just the third reliever for induction, as Dennis Eckersley joined Hoyt Wilhelm and Rollie Fingers among the bronzed legends. While Eckersley's dominance and his usage pattern ("Just the Saves, Ma'am") contributed mightily to his election, his decade as a starter and the stats he garnered in that role mean that his ascension offers us little insight on the writers' view of what makes a Hallworthy reliever. The standards for starters may be somewhat easy to discern, if lately a bit unrealistic, but with a growing number of quality relievers on the ballot, the continuous evolution of the closer role, and the paucity of standards to measure them by, sorting out the bullpen elite poses a hefty challenge to voters.

One of the great lessons of the sabermetric revolution is the idea that the pitcher doesn't have as much control over the outcome of ballgames (as reflected in his win and loss totals) or even individual at-bats (hits on balls in play) as he's generally given credit for. Good run support and good defense can make big winners of mediocre pitchers on good teams, and .500 pitchers of good hurlers on mediocre teams. As such, it's important to examine the things over which a pitcher has control and account for those he does not.

Once again, the Davenport system rides to the rescue, as it adjusts for the same factors--park effects, league environment and era--for pitchers as for hitters. It also adjusts for the level of defense behind a pitcher, and converts to the currencies of Pitching Runs Above Replacement (PRAR) and Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP, again referring exclusively to the adjusted-for-all-time version, WARP3). In examining these pitchers, we'll also use Pitching Runs Above Average (PRAA) because it forms a reasonable secondary measure for "peak" in conjuction with PRAR's "career" proxy. A pitcher with many PRAA but fewer PRAR likely had a high peak and a short career, while one with the same number of PRAA but more PRAR likely had a longer career. Although durability should not be confused with excellence, league average has value, as anybody who's ever suffered through a fifth starter's pummeling knows. As with the the hitters, we'll see how career and peak totals shake down to JAWS with regards to the pitchers.

Eleven pitchers are on the 2004 Hall of Fame ballot, six holdovers and five newcomers. Of the holdovers, reliever Bruce Sutter (59.5 percent) has separated himself from the pack, while fellow relievers Rich Gossage (40.7 percent) and Lee Smith (36.6 percent) backslid a bit from their 2003 showings. Starter Bert Blyleven (35.4 percent) gained about six percent last year, and Jack Morris (26.3 percent) inched forward as well, while Tommy John (21.9%) continues to fade. New to the ballot are starters Mark Langston and Jim Abbott, and reliever Jeff Montgomery.

Starting Pitchers


             W    L  SV    IP   ERA  ERA+  AS  CY  3C   HOFS   HOFM
Blyleven   287  250   0  4970  3.31  118    2   0   0   50.0  120.5
John       288  231   4  4710  3.34  111    4   0   0   44.0  111.0
Morris     254  186   0  3824  3.90  105    5   0   3   39.0  122.5
Langston   179  158   0  2963  3.97  108    4   0   3   23.0   64.0
Candiotti  151  164   0  2725  3.73  109    0   0   0   17.0   11.5
McDowell   127   87   0  1889  3.85  111    3   1   1   18.0   36.5
Abbott      87  108   0  1674  4.25  100    0   0   0    3.0    6.0

           PRAA   PRAR    WARP   PEAK   JAWS
Blyleven    303   1442   139.3   45.6   92.5
John         48   1145   110.2   30.4   70.3
Morris       33    954    92.5   38.0   65.3
Langston    147    874    87.5   40.5   64.0
Candiotti    93    762    75.1   38.0   56.6
McDowell    115    591    60.8   43.0   51.9
Abbott       12    437    44.9   35.6   40.3
AVG HOF P   205    964    95.1   43.6   69.4
Abbott overcame a tremendous obstacle--being born without a right hand--to succeed in baseball. Despite the impairment, Abbott starred at the University of Michigan, became the Angels' first-round draft choice in 1988, and leapt into the big club's rotation without a day in the minors. After two years distinguished mainly by his survival in the bigs (the latter in a rotation that included fellow ballotmates Blyleven and Langston), he reeled off a stellar season in 1991, placing fourth in the AL ERA and third in the Cy Young balloting, a campaign good for 10.1 WARP. His followup season was nearly as good (8.9 WARP, fifth in ERA). Traded to the Yankees and then bouncing through four more stops, the rest of his career featured ups (a pinstriped no-hitter in 1993) and downs (a 2-18, 7.48 ERA trainwreck in 1996). His biggest victory may be in lasting the ten years required to make the Hall ballot, and while he doesn't have a case for induction, that shouldn't diminish admiration for his accomplishments.

Mere months after leading Stanford to the College World Series crown and the Birmingham Barons to a Southern League title, first-round pick Jack McDowell tantalized White Sox fans with seven shutout innings in his September 1987 debut. From 1991 to 1993, he went 59-30 while averaging 257 innings, 13 complete games and 9.4 WARP a year, earning the 1993 AL Cy Young award along the way. Problems with Sox management during the '94 season led to a trade to the Yankees. His 1995 campaign was solid overall (15-10, 3.93 ERA), but it's best remembered for a shellacking in July which led to his saluting to the Bronx boo-birds with his middle finger--perfect tabloid fodder. It was all downhill from there, as a litany of arm woes followed him to Cleveland and Anaheim. He hung up his spikes at 33 to don rock and roll shoes. While his peak (43.0 JAWS) was right around that of the average Hall of Fame pitcher, his career lasted nowhere near long enough to justify selection, except perhaps by a myopic Veterans Committee that has made numerous worse choices.

Tom Candiotti was an admirable exemplar of a vanishing breed, the knuckleball pitcher. Released by the Brewers after seven years of organizational toil, he was 28 and less than a year into experimenting with the pitch when the Cleveland Indians came calling. His arrival immediately helped the team turn its fortunes around; he went 16-12 with a 3.57 ERA and a league-leading 17 complete games as the Tribe improved by 24 games to post its only winning record in a twelve-year span. Though the team soon slouched back to mediocrity, Candiotti spent another four-and-a-half seasons as a mainstay in the rotation, averaging about six WARP per season. The Indians sent him to Toronto in a deadline deal in 1991, where he helped them win the AL East. His season was good enough to be worth 10.6 WARP, a career high. He signed with the Dodgers that winter, but the six years he spent in L.A. weren't nearly as good as in his Tribe heyday; even in a extreme pitchers' park, his ERAs were actually higher. Bouncing to Oakland and back to Cleveland, he finally knuckled under at 41. A solid inning-eater with some very good years, he nonetheless shouldn't be confused with a Hall of Famer.

Twenty-three-year-old rookie Mark Langston led the league in strikeouts on his way to a 17-10, 3.40 ERA season in 1984. He had a tough time living up to those lofty standards, but he led the league in Ks two more times, pitching as many as 272 innings and striking out up to 262 hitters. In one of the more lopsided deals ever, Langston was sent to to the Montreal Expos in 1989 for a package that included a gawky 6'10" lefty with control problems, Randy Johnson. The Expos got a stellar two-thirds of a season out of Langston, but the Mariners got a pitcher who developed into one of the finest in baseball history. After '89, Langston signed with the Angels as a free agent, reeling off three very good seasons from '91-'93, averaging 9.0 WARP, earning three All-Star appearances and finishing among the league leaders in strikeouts in each year. Elbow and knee problems took their toll, and his late career is most remembered for two negatives: losing to Johnson and the Mariners in the 1995 AL West tiebreaker, and yielding a grand slam to Tino Martinez in the 1998 World Series as a Padres reliever. All in all, Langston's JAWS score of 64.0 is below the average Hall of Fame pitcher but close to that of several who are enshrined. Pulling a few who have similar peak levels:


           PRAA   PRAR    WARP   PEAK   JAWS
Bunning     162   1044    90.1   40.3   65.2
Langston    147    874    87.5   40.5   64.0
Faber       131    924    85.7   40.0   62.9
Ford        173    939    89.1   34.5   61.8
Langston is in the same class as these three, sabermetrically speaking, which isn't to say that they're all equally qualified for Cooperstown. Whitey Ford doesn't measure up via this method in part because the Yanks often shut him down in September to prevent him from racking up gaudy win totals (lest they have to pay him more) and to preserve his arm for the World Series, where he started 22 times and still holds numerous records. Jim Bunning and Red Faber simply pitched more, logging about 800 and 1000 more innings, respectively, than Langston. The trio of Hallmates averaged 238 wins apiece, 59 more than Langston. Without those wins or a postseason resume, Langston doesn't have the credentials that would boost his candidacy enough to justify slipping in a below-average candidate, so we'll pass on him here.

Like fellow candidate Alan Trammell, Jack Morris was part of the home-grown nucleus that anchored the Tigers' fine 1984 title team, and the gritty ace on World Champions for two other clubs. He racked up some high win totals over the course of his 18 seasons, notching 20 or more victories three times, topping 17 eight times, and landing in double-digits 14 times. In addition to his high win totals, he put up some stellar performances in the postseason (7-4, 3.80 ERA), most notably a 10-inning 1-0 shutout in Game Seven of the '91 Series. Morris has acquired a larger-than-life reputation based primarily on that performance, and for a while it seemed like it might carry him to the Hall of Fame. But his career ERA and ERA+ are nothing to write home about, and they took a hit during the last two years of his career.

Supporters have dismissed the high ERAs, claiming that Morris "pitched to the score." Joe Sheehan's exhaustive research put the lie to this claim. Poring over Morris' career inning by inning via Retrosheet, Sheehan concluded: "I can find no pattern in when Jack Morris allowed runs. If he pitched to the score--and I don't doubt that he changed his approach--the practice didn't show up in his performance record." Morris' record is more a product of good run support than it is special strategy. For all of his extra wins and postseason success, Morris is really in the same boat as Langston from a JAWS standpoint, with a slightly lower peak but a longer career. Those last two years really hurt; his 33 PRAA is a dismal total for a wannabe immortal. Morris' case was once compelling, but the more it's studied, the further he gets from the ballot.

A decent finesse pitcher for nine years with the Indians and White Sox, Tommy John's modest success in his first three seasons as a Dodger lifted his career record to 124-106 before an elbow injury ended his career prematurely in 1974... Hold the phone... At the hands of Dr. Frank Jobe, John underwent an unprecedented reconstructive surgery and then a similarly unprecedented rehabilitation. Against long odds, he returned to the Dodger rotation in 1976 and the following year began a stretch which saw him win 80 games over four seasons split between the Dodgers and the Yankees and appear in three World Series over five (alas, never on the winning side). Within that streak he was a three-time All Star and the Cy Young runner-up in both leagues, and after that he still had eight seasons left as a league-average pitcher. In total, John pitched 14 seasons AFTER the surgery, retiring at age 46--long enough to put him in some very select company. With 288 wins (24th all time) and 4710 innings (18th), virtually everybody above him is either in the Hall or headed there. Had he not missed that year and a half, he might have achieved the magic 300 wins to guarantee enshrinement.

The Davenport system doesn't deal with ifs, but it gives us an interesting view of John. He's 15 WARP above the average Hall of Fame pitcher for his career, with a total that ranks 19th. But his peak is extremely low, 13 WARP below the average enshrinee. Only five--all of them Veterans Committee selections--had lower peaks, and even the three relievers are ahead of him in that department. No pitcher in the Hall or on the ballot has a lower percentage of his value from his peak than John. Furthermore, his year-by-year stats reveal a lot of seasons, such as his 17-win Dodgers campaign in 1978, which were perceived as excellent but which come out only three to five wins above replacement. Only once was he more than seven wins above replacement.

John is the strangest specimen we've encountered in this study. While they system says "IN," a closer look casts doubt that he belongs. He's just 48 runs above average for his career, about two per season. Just eight Hall of Famers are that low; five of them, including Catfish Hunter, are actually below average. Unless we grant him a special bonus for being a surgical pioneer, he doesn't quite raise the Hall's standards enough to justify a vote.

The stathead's choice among Hall-eligible starters, Bert Blyleven is quite possibly the best player not in the Hall of Fame. A power pitcher with a devastating curveball (or two), Blyleven spent most of his first tour in Minnesota toiling for mediocre clubs, racking up innings and decisions galore: 16-15, 17-17, 20-17, etc. Don't be deceived by those records; he was dominant through that stretch, posting ERAs 25 to 50 percent better than league average and striking out about 230 guys a year. Contract issues hastened his exit from the Twin Cities; he was traded to Texas, and a year and a half later, arrived in Pittsburgh.

For the Pirates he remained a front-line starter, albeit with a considerably smaller workload; Chuck Tanner loved his deep bullpen, and Blyleven didn't. Nonetheless, he sparkled in the 1979 postseason, going 2-0, with a 1.42 ERA to help the Pirates win the title. Following the 1980 season, he was traded to Cleveland, and after a good 1981, an elbow injury cost him nearly all of 1982. Upon coming back, he returned to his usual workhorse self, and was traded back to the Twins in mid-1985, where it was like he never left: 17-16, 17-14, high strikeout totals, good ERAs and homers galore (a record 50 in 1986). In 1987 he helped spark the 85-win Twins to an unlikely World Championship, shining in the playoffs (3-1, 3.42 ERA). He left Minny for California after 1988 and had one of his best seasons (17-5, 2.73 ERA), then sandwiched two mediocre years around one completely missed with rotator cuff surgery.

Hall of Fame voters perform all kinds of gymnastics in attempting to justify why Blyleven doesn't get their vote, most fixating on his relatively unimpressive winning percentage (.534), his 250 losses, a win total on the wrong side of 300, and his failure to garner a Cy Young Award. But his career totals place him in some pretty elite company: fifth all-time in strikeouts (only Ryan, Carlton, Roger Clemens, and Randy Johnson are ahead), ninth in games started, ninth in shutouts, 13th in innings, and 25th in wins, with virtually everybody around him on those lists either in the Hall of Fame or headed there. The Davenport numbers tell a similar story. Only 10 Hall of Famers have higher PRAA than Blyleven, and only seven have higher PRAR. A mere five Hall of Famers have higher career WARP totals (Walter Johnson, Cy Young, Warren Spahn, Tom Seaver and Phil Niekro). And while 27 Hall of Famers have higher peaks, only eight have higher JAWS.

One of the traditional complaints against Blyleven is that he didn't win any Cy Young awards, and that he didn't win 300 games while a whole bunch of his contemporaries did. But Bert compares favorably to his enshrined contemporaries. Ranked by JAWS:


           PRAA   PRAR    WARP   PEAK   JAWS
Seaver      442   1501   147.9   51.8   99.9
Niekro      273   1482   139.5   46.1   92.8
Blyleven    303   1442   139.3   45.6   92.5
Perry       250   1452   134.8   49.4   92.1
Carlton     250   1410   131.1   40.1   85.6
Jenkins     252   1286   120.5   47.9   84.2
Ryan        194   1436   125.6   38.7   82.2
Palmer      160   1069   102.1   48.7   75.4
Sutton      146   1331   115.3   34.3   74.8
Hunter      -47    768    68.7   38.9   53.8
One of these pitchers is not like the others, but it isn't Blyleven, it's Catfish Hunter, a pitcher who supposedly "pitched to the score" and thus had some high ERAs, not to mention a relatively short career. Blyleven is second among this group in PRAA, virtually tied for second in WARP, sixth in peak and third in weighted JAWS. He's solidly ahead of 300-game winners Carlton, Ryan and Sutton on both career and peak measures. Quite frankly, there isn't a pitcher on the 2005 Hall of Fame ballot who deserves a vote more than Blyleven.

Relievers

Despite having jobs no more difficult than those of NFL placekickers, late-model one-inning closers are exalted by the media. But their fireman predecessors, who often pitched two or three frames at a clip, get little love from the Hall of Fame voters. That contradiction is a direct response to a usage pattern geared towards limiting the team's best reliever to situations where he can receive a statistical cookie, a save, rather than in tie games, when the outcome may be on the line but the save rule doesn't apply. Thus an 80-inning/40-save closer is held in higher esteem that a 110-inning/25-save stopper.

We shouldn't be fooled by high save totals; it's the runs that matter, and due to the limited innings they throw, the Davenport numbers tell us that it's nearly impossible for the best late-model relievers to be more valuable than the best everyday players or starting pitchers. Annual WARP totals above 10.0 are common for elite players at their peaks, but the best closers top 8.0 only in a rare Mariano Rivera/Eric Gagne-caliber year.

To address this problem while still finding room to reward the bullpen's best, last year I devised a solution to address the relievers on the Hall ballot based on the concept of leverage.Research by Tangotiger using play-by-play data and a Win Expectancy Matrix has shown that good relievers have a quantifiably greater effect on the outcome of a ballgame than starters. Because of their timing late in close games, the results of the plate appearances against them are magnified by some factor, which is called the Leverage Index. A starting pitcher will have a Leverage Index very near 1.0, but an ace reliever might have one approaching 2.0, meaning that the batters he faced were twice as important to the outcome of a ballgame.

We don't have uniform play-by-play data to calculate Leverage Indexes for each reliever on the ballot and in the Hall, but we have more or less complete LIs for three of the ballot's top relievers, ranging from 1.6 to 1.9. In light of what we know and don't know about LIs, my suggestion was to examine the conclusions we came up with if we set a JAWS standard for relievers that's 70 percent that of starters--the equivalent of a 1.43 LI, by which we could theoretically multiply a player's contributions to produce a level of equivalence. We'll call this the Point Seven Solution.


           PRAA   PRAR    WARP   PEAK   JAWS
Gossage     236    781    84.4   35.0   59.7
Smith       259    734    80.0   32.6   56.3
Montgomery  183    513    57.4   34.3   45.9
Sutter      175    521    57.0   32.1   44.6
AVG HOF P   205    964    95.1   43.6   69.4
RP 70%      144    675    66.6   30.5   48.5
Bruce Sutter holds a historic spot in the evolution of the reliever, and an even more important one in the evolution of pitching in general. Sutter came up with the Cubs in 1976, and by the next season he was lights out, pitching 107 innings with a 1.34 ERA and 129 strikeouts while posting 31 saves. Credit for his success was due largely to mastery of the split-fingered fastball, a pitch unfamiliar to big-league hitters. Sutter didn't invent the splitter, but was the first successful practitioner of it. The innovations around Sutter didn't stop there. Prompted by his ace reliever's tendency to wear down as the season went on, in 1979 Cubs manager Herman Franks decided to limit Sutter's usage mainly to close games when his team was ahead--in other words, save situations. Sutter tied the National League record with 37 and won the Cy Young, thanks to a 2.22 ERA/101-inning season.

After five stellar seasons in Chicago, he was traded to the Cardinals, where he posted three strong years as well as his first subpar one. He was an instrumental piece of the 1982 World Champions, saving 36 games in another 100-inning season and notching a win and two saves in the World Series. In 1984 he set a career high of 122 2/3 innings and an NL record with 45 saves while posting a 1.54 ERA. Coincidentally or not, that was his last effective season. Lured by Ted Turner's cable riches, he left for the Braves via free agency after 1984. But in Atlanta his shoulder broke down, and he was never the same pitcher again. He pitched 152 innings of 4.55 ERA ball for Ted's $10 million, and was done at 35.

The traditional case for Sutter is that in addition to being attached to two notable innovations, he was one of the few relievers to win a Cy Young, a six-time All-Star who threw a lot more innings than today's closers. Excluding the strike year of 1981, he averaged 104 frames a year from 1977-1984. But despite three years in the vicinity of 8.0 WARP, the Davenport numbers leave him below our Point Seven standard. That's surprising given his dominance of NL hitters, but it aptly illustrates the limited impact of even a 100-inning-a-year role and the difficulty of maintaining that level. Unless he's given extra credit for the pitch he didn't invent, Sutter's claim on the Hall of Fame isn't all that strong. No vote for him here.

After breaking in as a Cincinnati Red, Jeff Montgomery spent 12 years as an institution in Kansas City, inheriting the closer role once held by the lamentably late and undeniably great Dan Quisenberry. In 1989, his second year as a Royal, Montgomery posted a microscopic 1.37 ERA in 92 innings. He was dominant over the 1989-93 span, averaging 89 innings a year with an ERA+ of 184 while striking out 8.0 batters per nine innings. As his fastball lost its zip, he became less effective, but still held the closer role for another six years, the last one marred due to a hip injury. Ultimately, his JAWS numbers are about the same as Sutter's but without the innovation. We'll be seeing a lot more of his 300-save ilk in a few years, so it's best not to marry the first one that comes along.

Physically intimidating Lee Smith stepped into the large shoes vacated by Sutter in Chicago and did a very credible job in six years as their 100-inning per year closer. From 1983-1987, he finished in the top five in saves every season, leading the league once. Traded to Boston after 1987, he continued to post high-quality seasons, though his workload and save totals dipped a bit. Traded again to the Cardinals, he flourished, topping Sutter's NL save record and recording 160 saves in parts of four seasons--taking over the all-time lead in that category--before packing his bags again. Through five more stops, the innings began to take a toll on his body, and his managers limited his usage to about 50 frames a year, one inning at a time, to keep him effective. He spent his last two seasons in a setup role, with diminishing returns, finally hanging it up in 1998.

From a traditional standpoint, Smith's case starts with his status as the all-time saves leader, his seven All-Star selections, and an amazing string of consistency which followed him to virtually every stop on his 18-year ride. Until his final 22-inning season, his ERA+ was always better than league-average--32 percent better for his career. On the down side, his teams never went farther than an LCS, and he got bombed in his brief postseason appearances, blowing two ballgames in best-of-fives. His Davenport numbers are above the Point Seven standard for relievers, particularly due to his career length, and he's well above the Hall average for PRAA without any adjustment for his low inning totals, an impressive feat. Even if we raised the relievers' standard to 80 percent, he'd still be above it. A vote under this system is quite reasonable.

If we're talking about standard-setting relievers, Rich "Goose" Gossage carried the mantle for a decade, pitched in the majors for another decade, and ten years later is still held up as a yardstick for dominant relievers. From 1975-1985, excepting a year-long failed experiment as a starter, Gossage blew hitters in both leagues away, helped his teams to three pennants, made nine All-Star squads and kept his ERA well under 3.00 every single year. He came up with the White Sox, emerging as a force in 1975 when he threw 141.2 innings with a 1.84 ERA , 130 strikeouts and a league-leading 26 saves. After a 9-17, 3.94 ERA season as a starter, the Sox traded him to Pittsburgh, where he had an even better year with a 1.62 ERA. That prompted Yankee owner George Steinbrenner to throw big bucks at him--six years, $2.75 million--despite the fact Steinbrenner already employed the reigning Cy Young winner, Sparky Lyle. But with his 100-mph heat, Gossage usurped Lyle's role as the Yankee stopper. He was brilliant in his six pinstriped seasons, posting a 2.10 ERA (a 183 ERA+), saving 25 games per year, striking out about a batter per inning, and averaging 86 innings annually despite a Bronx Zoo-brawl injury in '79 and the strike in '81.

Gossage left for San Diego via free agency after 1983, and the move paid dividends with an '84 World Series berth. He was the go-to man in the Padre pen until '87, but upon a trade to the Cubs after that season, began the familiar trudge of the past-prime reliever, not quite settling in a setup role, making five more stops (including a cameo with the Yanks) and spending 1990 in Japan. He topped 50 innings only once in that stretch, mostly due to injuries, but he held his own when he did pitch.

Gossage's case as a Hall of Famer is a reasonable one on the traditional merits; that decade of dominance resonating in the public mind thanks in part to a lot of postseason exposure (19 games, 31.1 innings, 2.87 ERA). Based on the number of innings thrown and his better-than-average ERA, a solid case can be made for him as the second-best reliever ever behind Wilhelm. His Davenport numbers are just as strong. Gossage's two best years are an off-the-charts 10 WARP; by peak, career, and JAWS numbers he's better than many starters in the Hall, and his PRAA is above the Hall average. Furthermore, he compares favorably with the two enshrined "pure" relievers, Wilhelm and Fingers, with the highest peak among them by a healthy margin:


           PRAA   PRAR    WARP   PEAK   JAWS
Wilhelm     259    900    92.6   29.5   61.1
Gossage     236    781    84.4   35.0   59.7
Fingers     137    688    75.1   31.1   53.1
Gossage would be above our standards bar even if we raised it to 85 percent. He's got the best case of any reliever on this ballot and deserves a plaque in Cooperstown.

With Bert Blyleven, Lee Smith and Rich Gossage joining Wade Boggs, Ryne Sandberg, and Alan Trammell, the JAWS method has flagged six players on the 2005 Hall of Fame ballot as meeting the standards of the enshrined. Boggs is a lock to gain election this year, and Sandberg might surge over the top, but it's likely that the worthy pitchers will be shut out. We'll know in the first week of January whether the BBWAA voters can distinguish the Hall's contenders from its pretenders.

--

The creator of the Futility Infielder web site, Jay Jaffe is a graphic designer and freelance writer living in New York City. He hasn't been above replacement level since Little League, but he can be reached here.

Jay Jaffe is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jay's other articles. You can contact Jay by clicking here

0 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
The Week in Quotes: De... (12/20)
Next Article >>
Prospectus Triple Play... (12/21)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Premium Article What You Need to Know: August 20, 2014
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Red Sox Place Their Be...
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Being Wrong About Yovani ...
Fantasy Article They Hold No Quarter: Second Basemen
The Lineup Card: Seven Epitaphs for Bud Seli...
Moonshot: The Analytic Value of the Crack of...
Pebble Hunting: You Lie!

MORE FROM DECEMBER 20, 2004
The Week in Quotes: December 13-19

MORE BY JAY JAFFE
2005-03-23 - Prospectus Triple Play: Los Angeles Dodgers,...
2005-03-21 - Premium Article Roberto Alomar Calls It Quits
2005-03-02 - Premium Article The Veterans Committee Ballot
2004-12-20 - Premium Article The Class of 2005
2004-12-16 - The Class of 2005
2004-10-04 - One Man is an Island
2004-07-29 - The Claussen Pickle
More...


INCOMING ARTICLE LINKS
2006-12-13 - Premium Article The Class of 2007
2005-12-20 - Premium Article Class of 2006
2005-12-12 - Premium Article The Class of 2006
2005-08-02 - Prospectus Hit List: Week of July 31
2005-05-12 - Prospectus Triple Play: Boston Red Sox, Cinc...
2005-03-02 - Premium Article The Veterans Committee Ballot
2005-01-06 - Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: How Do You Rate Relief?
2005-01-05 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Time For a Change