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January 12, 2009

Prospectus Hit and Run

The Pitchers

by Jay Jaffe

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Finally, we come to the pitchers on the BBWAA ballot for the Hall of Fame, a mercifully short list this time around, featuring four holdovers and three newcomers. Among this group, Bert Blyleven is the standout, and while he's certainly no lock to gain election this time around, he jumped to nearly 62 percent in last year's vote, suggesting that the work done by statheads here and elsewhere to boost his candidacy is finally getting through to the voters.

The basics of JAWS remain the same for the pitchers as for the hitters: we consider a player's career and peak WARP totals-the latter defined as his seven best seasons-using the all-time version of our WARP3 metric. Just as the worst elected Hall of Famer at each position was eliminated in the process of determining the JAWS benchmarks, we'll exclude a similar percentage of pitchers-four out of 62, in this case (Jess Haines, Mickey Welch, Rollie Fingers, and Rube Marquard). Fingers is among the five relievers who are also excluded for use in creating the reliever benchmark, known as RAJAWS (Reliever Adjusted JAWS); while Dennis Eckersley had a significant career as a starter, his overall numbers are so close to the JAWS benchmark for starters that including or excluding him doesn't move any measure more than a few runs. In examining these pitchers, we'll also use Pitching Runs Above Average (PRAA) as a secondary measure for "peak" in conjunction 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 performance has value, as anybody who's ever suffered through a fifth starter's pummeling knows.

Again, if you're joining us late, please read this year's introduction regarding the changes in the underlying WARP metric since last year's evaluation. The WARP totals you see here are not yet reflected in our player cards online; they measure from a higher replacement level than was previously used.

Starting Pitchers


Pitcher          W    L    IP    ERA  ERA+  AS CY 3C  HoFS  HoFM  BAL  2008%
Bert Blyleven   287  250  4970  3.31  118    2  0  0  50.0  120.5  11  61.9%
David Cone      194  126  2899  3.46  120    5  1  3  39.0  103.0   0   N/A
Tommy John      288  231  4710  3.34  111    4  0  0  44.0  111.0  14  29.10%
Jack Morris     254  186  3824  3.90  105    5  0  3  39.0  122.5   9  42.90%

Pitcher        PRAR  PRAA  Carer   Peak   JAWS
Bert Blyleven   800   172   85.4   48.0   66.7
David Cone      608   177   71.3   52.2   61.8
Tommy John      637    20   69.9   39.9   54.9
Jack Morris     378  -160   41.0   33.8   37.4
AVG HOF SP      671   201   77.0   51.9   64.4

A brief explanation for today's extra alphabet soup items: AS is All-Star and CY the number of Cy Young Awards won; 3C is a column for a pitcher's leads in any one of the triple-crown categories for pitchers (wins, ERA, or Ks); and HoFS and HoFM are the Bill James Hall of Fame Standards and Monitor, respectively.

First to the holdovers. Blyleven was a power pitcher with a devastating curveball (or two) who spent the first part of his career toiling for a mostly mediocre Minnesota club, racking up innings and decisions galore. Despite middling won-loss records, he was dominant, posting ERAs 25 to 50 percent better than league average and striking out about 230 guys a year. Under the old system, his top WARP (13.1) came in 1973, when he threw a whopping 325 innings of 2.52 ERA ball, striking out 258 and going 20-17 for his trouble. That season is now worth only 5.6 WARP, his seventh-best. Contract issues hastened his exit from the Twin Cities, as he was traded to Texas in 1976, and then dealt to the Pirates a year and a half later.

He remained a front-line starter for the Pirates, albeit with a considerably lighter workload; manager Chuck Tanner loved his deep bullpen, and Blyleven didn't. Nonetheless, his stellar 1979 postseason helped the Pirates win the title. He was traded to Cleveland following the 1980 season, 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 in 1984 put up what now rates as his most valuable season (8.1 WARP) by going 19-7 with a 2.87 ERA and 170 strikeouts in 245 innings. He put up an 8.0 WARP season in 1985 while being traded back to the Twins mid-season. It was as if he had never left: 17-16, 17-14, high strikeout totals, good ERAs, and home runs by the fistful (a record 50 in 1986). In 1987 he helped the 85-win Twins to an unlikely World Championship, again shining in the playoffs. He left 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.

In years past, JAWS rated Blyleven as the best eligible pitcher not in the Hall of Fame, and one of the top 20 pitchers of all time. The rising replacement level appears to have cost him a bit; he's been surpassed by one eligible pitcher and is now "only" among the top 30 of all time:


Pitcher            PRAR  PRAA   Career   Peak   JAWS   SUP
Walter Johnson     1414   712   169.2   87.7   128.5
Roger Clemens      1388   668   162.0   78.3   120.2
Greg Maddux        1160   385   141.6   76.7   109.2
Pete Alexander     1146   533   132.3   76.6   104.5
Cy Young           1274   600   139.4   63.1   101.3
Phil Niekro        1118   418   125.1   67.6    96.4    97
Tom Seaver         1105   494   125.2   61.1    93.2    96
Randy Johnson      1004   392   115.9   70.4    93.2
Warren Spahn       1001   298   122.3   62.7    92.5
Lefty Grove         965   450   110.5   68.7    89.6
Christy Mathewson   849   319   105.0   68.9    87.0
Tom Glavine         911   234   112.2   55.8    84.0
Robin Roberts       922   298   106.7   60.9    83.8
Steve Carlton       856   183   102.3   63.7    83.0   104
Pedro Martinez      798   367    94.1   65.8    80.0
Fergie Jenkins      906   337    99.1   58.1    78.6   101
John Smoltz         825   290    99.6   53.4    76.5
Gaylord Perry       903   249    96.1   55.5    75.8    96
Mike Mussina        803   242    93.9   57.5    75.7
Bob Gibson          732   245    86.8   60.0    73.4
Hal Newhouser       651   237    79.3   64.5    71.9
Ted Lyons           732   179    88.9   53.9    71.4
Carl Hubbell        736   270    84.9   57.4    71.2
Bob Feller          680   175    77.1   60.6    68.9
Rick Reuschel       726   242    84.1   53.2    68.7
Curt Schilling      727   224    83.2   54.1    68.7
Mariano Rivera      544   271    78.7   55.3    67.0
Bert Blyleven       800   172    85.4   48.0    66.7    97
Ed Walsh            567   239    67.5   65.4    66.5
Kevin Brown         677   200    76.9   55.8    66.4
...
Nolan Ryan          835   116    81.6   42.9    62.3    95
Jim Palmer          619   139    66.3   45.5    55.9   109
Don Sutton          721    40    73.0   35.8    54.4   105
Catfish Hunter      329   -22    38.1   33.2    35.7   112

I must admit some amount of alarm not only at this result, particularly given that Reuschel has surpassed Blyleven among the eligibles, but also that so many contemporary pitchers have scooted into the top 20, and that Phil Niekro has emerged as the top-ranking pitcher in Blyleven's peer group. But as I reminded you at the outset of this series, given that new WARP totals haven't been published on our website, we're on the bleeding edge here, and it wouldn't be at all surprising if another tweak to the system restored a bit of familiarity to these rankings. In any event, we'll work with what we have this time around, which shows Blyleven with the lowest WARP peak of any pitcher above. Among his enshrined contemporaries, in past years his PRAA ranked only behind Seaver, some 30-60 runs past Carlton, Niekro, Perry, and Jenkins, and more than 100 beyond Ryan, Palmer, Sutton, and Hunter, and he now outdistances only that latter group.

The real issue is that the BBWAA hasn't elected a starter with fewer than 300 wins since Jenkins in 1991, spoiled by the half-dozen members of that peer group-Carlton, Niekro, Perry, Ryan, Seaver, Sutton-who won 300 games from the mid-Sixties to the mid-Eighties, when the days of the four-man rotation dominated. Note the last column in the table above, which compares the run support of those contemporaries in a park- and league-adjusted index similar to ERA+, where 100 is average; Blyleven got three percent less support than the average starter during his time, comparable to many of those contemporaries but nonetheless something which kept him from attaining the 300 wins that would have virtually guaranteed him entry.

Still, his traditional credentials are solid enough that Hall of Fame voters must perform Olympic-level gymnastics to attempt justification of 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 or top 20 wins more than once-all of those related to the level of support he received from his teammates (not to mention unenlightened voters). His career totals place him in elite company: fifth all-time in strikeouts (only Ryan, Carlton, Clemens, and Randy Johnson are ahead), ninth in shutouts, 11th in games started, 14th in innings, and 27th in wins, with virtually everybody around him on those lists either in the Hall of Fame or headed there. His Davenport numbers have lost a little bit of their luster, but he's still 22nd in career WARP and 57th in peak, 20th in PRAR and 55th in PRAA. He's still solidly ahead of the average Hall of Fame pitcher according to JAWS, and that's enough for the vote here.

The first time I tackled the Hall of Fame ballot for BP, Blyleven polled at just 35.4 percent in his seventh year on the ballot. Thanks to an Internet blitz that's centered around Rich Lederer's campaign at The Baseball Analysts website (one that's even swayed actual BBWAA voters, including 2005 Spink Award recipient Tracy Ringolsby), he crossed the 50 percent threshold three years ago, attaining 53.3 percent of the vote in his ninth go-round. After falling back a bit in 2007-as did nearly every holdover candidate in the presence of Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn-he shot up to 61.9 percent last year, suggesting that his eventual enshrinement is hardly the ballot's most far-fetched proposition. Fingers crossed here.

Tommy John's candidacy, on the other hand, looks destined to expire this year. A decent finesse pitcher for nine years with the Indians and White Sox, John's modest success in his first three seasons as a Dodger lifted his career record to 124-106 before a career-threatening elbow injury prompted an unprecedented reconstructive surgery by Dr. Frank Jobe and a similarly unprecedented rehabilitation by John. Against long odds, he returned in 1976, and the following year he began a stretch which saw him win 80 games over four seasons split between the Dodgers and the Yankees, appearing in three World Series in a five-year span (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 (26th all time) and 4,710 innings (20th), virtually everybody above him is either in the Hall or will be. Had he not missed that year and a half, he might have achieved the magic 300 wins which guarantee enshrinement, but on the other hand, his career run-support level (103 SUP) suggests that he was fortunate to rank as high as he does.

Once upon a time, the JAWS system had John coming out with a score above the Hall average. That's no longer the case, as he's fallen below both the career and peak standards. WARP gives a fair chunk of the credit for his performance to the fielders behind John, as he struck relatively few hitters out; as a result John topped 5.0 WARP just five times in 26 years. Even with the previous positives, I've always been ambivalent about his candidacy given his low PRAA total. While I'm comfortable giving him a modest bonus for being a surgical pioneer (and I think Jobe shouldn't just be in the Hall but should have a Spink/Frick-level award named in his honor), he's now too far off the pace to slide through on that basis.

Jack Morris continues to poll better than John, but the merits of his candidacy have just as surely eroded with time. Like fellow candidate Alan Trammell, Morris was part of the homegrown 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 and put up some stellar performances in the postseason (7-4, 3.80 ERA), most notably an unforgettable 10-inning 1-0 shutout in Game Seven of the 1991 Series. Morris acquired a larger-than-life reputation based primarily on that performance, and for a while it seemed like it might carry him to Cooperstown. But his career ERA-which would be the highest of any enshrined pitcher-and subsequently his WARP-based totals are nothing to write home about. In fact, his PRAA total is actually in the red; aside from 1991 and 1992, he was at least 10 runs below average in six of his last seven seasons. To borrow one of Bill James' more dubiously applied phrases, if that's a Hall of Famer, I'm a lug nut.

Supporters have dismissed Morris' high ERAs with claims that he "pitched to the score." Research by Greg Spira and Joe Sheehan 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 strong run support (107 SUP) than it is of a special strategy. For all of his extra wins and post-season success, his case rests on a distortion of the value of one shining moment rather than a well-rounded career.

The sole newcomer among the starters is David Cone, one of the top strikeout pitchers of his era, a vital member of five World Champion clubs, and a mainstay of New York baseball for about a decade and a half. Whether at the top of his game or the bottom, the cerebral righty always kept things interesting. His evolution from brash young punk to mercenary marksman to sage elder statesman to grizzled vet salvaging his dignity made him a personal favorite of mine and a pleasure to behold, no matter which uniform he was wearing.

A third-round draft pick by the Royals in 1981, Cone debuted for his hometown team in 1986, but pitched just 11 times for the Royals before being traded to the Mets for Ed Hearn, Rick Anderson, and the immortal Mauro Gozzo; did John Schuerholz (the Royals' GM at the time) ever make a worse deal? Cone attained stardom in '88 during his second year with the Mets. Despite pitching out of the bullpen for all of April, he went 20-3 with a 2.22 ERA and 213 strikeouts, finishing second in the league in the latter two categories, and third in wins as well as the Cy Young voting. He made waves that fall by providing the underdog Dodgers with some bulletin-board material via a New York Daily News column in which he was quoted as saying saying, "[Orel] Hershiser was lucky" but "Doc [Dwight Gooden] was good." The Dodgers knocked him out of his Game Two start after two innings and five runs allowed, and while he would toss a complete-game victory in Game Six, the Dodgers prevailed in the series.

Pitching for a Mets club that was headed downward, Cone led the league in strikeouts in 1990 and 1991, but fell into life in the fast lane in New York and wound up being implicated in a pair of sex scandals, one punctuated by a record-tying 19-strikeout performance as the police waited to arrest him, the other featuring the immortal tabloid headline "Weird Sex Act in Bullpen." Both cases were dropped, but Cone was traded to the Blue Jays on August 27, 1992. The hired gun made seven starts for the Jays in the regular season and another four in the postseason, helping them secure their first World Championship.

A free agent that winter, Cone returned to Kansas City. He won a Cy Young for his 16-5, 2.94 ERA performance in the strike-curtailed 1994 season-good for a career-best 9.6 WARP-but gained even more attention as the AL's top representative in the Major League Baseball Players Association, serving as one of the most visible and eloquent spokesmen for the union's cause. That rabble rousing led the Royals to trade him to Toronto just as soon as the strike was over, but he didn't last the year with the Jays, instead being shipped to the Yankees on July 27. He went 9-2 for the Yanks with a 3.88 ERA in 13 starts, helping the team reach the postseason for the first time since 1981. After winning his Game Two start in the division series against the Mariners, he carried a 4-2 lead into the eighth inning of the decisive Game Five. A solo home run by Ken Griffey Jr., two walks, and a single later, he had passed 140 pitches and, remarkably, was still in the game to face pinch-hitter Doug Strange. He walked Strange, forcing in the tying run; the Mariners would prevail in 11 innings, and Yankee manager Buck Showalter would lose his job.

Cone re-signed with the Yankees that winter, but an aneurysm in his arm cost him four months and limited him to just 11 starts. He marked his return by pitching seven innings of no-hit ball, and went on to help the Yankees capture their first World Championship since 1978, winning his Game Three start in the World Series against the Braves. He pitched for the Yanks through the 2000 season, enjoying some high points (a 20-win 1998 campaign, a perfect game on July 18, 1999, and a total of four World Series rings) and some lows, most notably a brutal 4-14, 6.91 ERA campaign which was documented in excruciating detail by Roger Angell in A Pitcher's Story: Innings with David Cone. He rebounded with the Red Sox the following year, most notably winding up on the short end of Mike Mussina's near-miss of a perfect game. After sitting out the 2002 season, he made a brief comeback with the Mets, but an arthritic hip shut him down after just five starts.

On the traditional merits, Cone's failure to win 200 games, let alone 300, would seem to doom his candidacy despite the Cy Young, All-Star appearances, and black ink-accomplishments captured in the hoary Bill James Hall of Fame Monitor score, where 100 points once indicated a likely Hall of Famer. He scores surprisingly well on the JAWS scale, however, edging past the peak mark but falling about six WARP shy on the career mark. He does as well as he does because of his penchant for strikeouts. Cone ranks 22nd on the all-time list with 2,868, and while some of that is a product of historically rising strikeout rates, he actually ranks even higher in translated strikeout rate, which normalizes to a league where 6.0 per nine is average:


Rk  Player              EqK/9    IP
 1  Rube Waddell        10.37   2115.2
 2  Randy Johnson       10.36   4679.0
 3  Dazzy Vance         10.10   2868.1
 4  Sandy Koufax        10.03   2231.0
 5  Nolan Ryan           9.75   5337.2
 6  Pedro Martinez       9.47   3325.0
 7  Sam McDowell         9.07   2391.0
 8  Van Mungo            8.82   2044.0
 9  Johnny Vander Meer   8.72   2111.2
10  Roger Clemens        8.69   5548.1
11  Sid Fernandez        8.40   2111.0
12  Tommy Bridges        8.37   2825.1
13  Lefty Grove          8.34   3886.2
14  David Cone           8.29   3374.0
15  Tom Gordon           8.26   2449.1
16  Bob Feller           8.25   3851.1
17  Hal Newhouser        8.17   2994.2
18  Curt Schilling       7.98   3781.2
19  Jose Deleon          7.95   2095.0
20  Steve Carlton        7.94   5158.0

At a 2,000-inning minimum cutoff, Cone ranks 14th, at a 3,000 inning cutoff, he climbs to sixth. As discussed in the context of Tommy John, all of that is important because of the way that the Davenport system divides responsibility for run prevention between a pitcher and his defense; a strikeout pitcher shares less credit with his fielders than a pitch-to-contact type. That helps Cone maintain a robust WARP score. Under the new system, he accumulated 46.7 WARP from 1988 through 1994, an average of 6.7 per year during a period where only Clemens struck out more. It's possible to look at the pitcher JAWS chart in the Blyleven comment and draw the conclusion that the new WARP system may be giving too much credit to the high-K pitchers, and passing on too much credit to the fielders for the lower-K ones (as noted in the infielders article, with some head-scratching FRAA totals). Bleeding edge, remember? In any event, Cone's not quite worthy of a Hall of Fame vote, but he's awfully close.

Relief Pitchers


Pitcher          W   L   SV   IP    ERA  ERA+  AS CY 3C  HoFS  HoFM   BAL  2008%
Jesse Orosco    87  80  144  1295  3.16  125    2  0  0  13.0   62.0   0    N/A
Dan Plesac      65  71  158  1072  3.64  117    3  0  0   8.0   54.0   0    N/A
Lee Smith       71  92  478  1289  3.03  132    7  0  0  13.0  136.0   6  43.30%

Pitcher        PRAR  PRAA  Carer   Peak   JAWS   WXRL  RAJAWS
Jesse Orosco    288    53   35.7   26.8   31.3   33.1   47.9
Dan Plesac      183   -21   22.9   17.5   20.2   17.1   28.7
Lee Smith       287    -9   37.5   32.3   34.9   46.7   58.2
AVG HOF RP      419    77   50.8   36.4   43.6   43.0   65.1

When I first cobbled together the system that became JAWS, just two relievers were in the Hall of Fame: Hoyt Wilhelm and Rollie Fingers. Since then, that number has more than doubled with the elections of Dennis Eckersley (2004), Bruce Sutter (2006), and Rich Gossage (2008). Though there's plenty to quibble about with regards to Sutter's election in 2006, it's become easier to sketch out a standard for relievers, particularly with our own Keith Woolner's development of the Reliever Expected Wins Added (WXRL) stat.

WXRL accounts for the discovery that a reliever at the end of a ballgame has a quantitatively greater impact on winning and losing (a ratio called leverage) than a starter does. It measures that impact by comparing a team's chances of winning based on the game state (bases, outs, score differential) before he enters and after he leaves. For the purposes of measuring a pitcher's Hall-worthiness, it functions as something of a career/peak hybrid; one can accumulate a high total via performing well under high-pressure situations for shorter periods or in more moderate pressure situations for longer periods. Three years ago, I put aside an earlier kludge and began incorporating WXRL totals into a Reliever's Adjusted JAWS score via the formula RAJAWS: ((0.5 x WXRL) + JAWS).

The physically intimidating Lee Smith stepped into the large shoes vacated by Sutter in Wrigleyville and did a very credible job in six years as the Cubs' 100-inning-per-year closer. From 1983-1987, he finished in the top five in saves every season, leading the league once. He was in the top five in WXRL three times in that span, and never lower than 11th. 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 saves record and recording 160 saves in parts of four seasons-taking over the all-time lead in that category-before packing his bags again. He finally led the league in WXRL in 1991, with 5.142. Through five more stops, the innings began to take a toll, 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 set-up role, with diminishing returns, finally hanging it up in 1998.

From a traditional standpoint, Smith's case starts with his status as the third-ranked guy on the all-time saves list, 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 abbreviated final season, his ERA+ was always better than league-average, 32 percent better for his career. On the down side, his teams never went further than a LCS appearance, and he got bombed in his brief post-season appearances, blowing two ballgames in best-of-fives. His RAJAWS tops those of Sutter (54.7) and Fingers (51.9), but with the admission of Gossage (70.0) and the replacement level adjustment, he's now fallen below the Hall average, well behind Eck (75.3) and Wilhelm (73.7 and counting, since we don't have data for his 1952 and 1953 seasons) as well. The line for relievers is still fuzzy, and while the JAWS system has come down on his side up to this point, for the moment he's a no.

Dan Plesac lasted for so long as a lefty specialist that his early career excellence is often overlooked. The Brewers' first-round pick in 1983, he was a surprise addition to the 1986 Opening Day roster after just a season and a half in the minors. With outstanding control of a mid-90s fastball and a nasty slider, he quickly claimed a share of the closer duties and wound up fourth in the AL in WXRL. Amid three straight All-Star appearances, he so impressed Moss Klein that in late 1988 the Sporting News columnist declared him the pitcher he'd want on the mound if he needed to protect a one-run lead in the ninth inning of Game Seven of the World Series. Plesac's effectiveness-particularly against righties-declined over the next few years, and he lost his closer job; an experiment in the rotation didn't take, and he departed Milwaukee as a free agent after the 1992 season, destined to spend another 11 years as a journeyman LOOGY. That keeps his numbers from any shred of a hope of a chance of a shot at the Hall of Fame.

Jesse Orosco spent 24 years in the major leagues, setting the all-time record for appearances. Like Plesac, his latter days as a lefty specialist obscure his early excellence. Chosen by the Twins in the second round of the January phase of the 1978 draft, he was traded in a deal for Jerry Koosman a year later, and pitched 35 innings for a Mets team managed by Joe Torre that year. He spent all of 1980 and most of 1981 in the minors before returning to the Mets to take up residence in their bullpen in 1982. Sharing closer duties with Doug Sisk, he enjoyed an outstanding year in 1983, going 13-7 with 17 saves and a 1.47 ERA in 110 innings, good for a career-best 7.7 WARP (in fact, he never topped 3.6 besides that year) and the league WXRL lead. He saved a high of 31 games in 1984 and was a crucial part of the 1986 World Champions' bullpen, saving 21 games with a 2.33 ERA in the regular season, collecting three wins in the NLCS against the Astros, including the decisive Game Six, and closing out Game Seven of the World Series. The shot of him kneeling, arms aloft, in celebration after the final out became a Shea Stadium staple.

In December 1987, Orosco was traded to the Dodgers as part of a three-team, eight-player deal that also involved the A's, and he became the top lefty reliever on another World Championship club, though he didn't actually pitch in that year's World Series. The move began the peripatetic phase of his career, one in which he would spend more time as a lefty specialist and less as a closer. He made stops in Cleveland, Milwaukee, Baltimore, St. Louis, Los Angeles again, San Diego, the Bronx (under Torre again, 24 years later), and Minnesota, breaking Eckersley's career mark for games pitched in 1999 and lasting through his age-46 season, but pitching fewer and fewer innings; over his last five seasons, he topped 55 games three times, but totaled only 111 innings. As interesting a career as it was, he's got no real case for the Hall, though his appearance record is poised to stand for a good long time.

So, after all that, the JAWS ballot contains Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines, Alan Trammell, Mark McGwire and Bert Blyleven. We'll find out at 2 PM Eastern on Monday if any of those players besides Henderson makes the cut, or if more traditional favorites like Jim Rice and Andre Dawson, neither of whom beat the JAWS standards but both of whom are nearing the necessary 75 percent of the BBWAA tally, will get in.

Jay Jaffe is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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MORE PROSPECTUS HIT AND RUN
2009-01-29 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: Manny's Five Easy Ch...
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2009-01-12 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: The Pitchers
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2009-06-05 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: The Next 300