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2016 Update

2016 Update, Relief Pitcher

jon-papelbon-siIt’s no secret that those of us at the HoME don’t really believe the Hall of Fame should open its doors very widely to relief pitchers. Simply, almost no matter how great, they just haven’t pitched enough innings historically to pile up the value one needs to be in the Hall or HoME. But we go over them anyway because every so often there’s a Goose Gossage who’s deserving or a Mariano Rivera who’s so clearly in.

Andrew Miller aside, the modern role of relief pitchers, where they pitch only the ninth inning, only up one to three runs, just isn’t valuable enough. It’s no wonder why Joe Torre used Mariano in the eighth inning as much as he did. One of the things that makes Terry Francona such a great manager is the way he used his relievers this October. But that usage pattern is atypical. And the typical usage pattern means that nobody on our list below is going to see the inside of the HoME anytime soon.

If you want so see some who will get to the HoME one day, take a look at our other updates in this series: 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, LF, CF, RF, and C. And please check out our updates for LHP, RHP, and MGR candidates in the next week.

Relief Pitchers
Joe Nathan
2016 BBREF WAR:
0.3

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 180
Eric: 161

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 185
Eric: 163

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Because of the way I measure reliever leverage, Nathan didn’t have a positive WAR year in 2016. He fell behind Claude Osteen, Don Newcombe, Sad Sam Jones, John Candelaria, and Mark Gubicza.
Eric: He stayed put.

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: He’d drop behind Curt Davis, Tom Zachary, the older Dutch Leonard, Ellis Kinder, and Tom Gordon
Eric: He’d fall behind the Curveless Wonder Al Orth.

Current career trajectory:
Nathan’s at or near the end of the line. He’s had injuries, and this past year was ineffective. We know with a large degree of certainty what his career looks like, and it’s very good. He’s one of the least heralded relievers that you never hear about. Nathan is the best active reliever according to this HoME voter’s  rankings, and among all of history’s career firemen, he ranks behind only Mariano, Goose, and Hoyt Wilhelm. (Eckersley ranks ahead as well if you’d like to include him.) Nathan is better than Sutter, finer than Fingers, more a whiz than Quis, slags Billy Wags, and makes Lee Arthur Smith look like Bea Arthur. Unless Jonathan Papelbon bounces back strongly, Nathan won’t be passed for a long time. Francisco Rodriguez has time but very little peak value so he needs to keep piling up 2 WAR years. Huston Street is streets behind, and Craig Kimbrel is just getting started.

HoME Outlook:
Oh, he doesn’t have one. He’s not getting anywhere near it. But he was an awfully good pitcher.

Jonathan Papelbon
2016 BBREF WAR:
0.0

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 196
Eric: 180

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 201
Eric: 181

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: My adjustments gave him a negative number this year, so he fell behind Thronton Lee, Ed Reulbach, Charlie Hough, John Lackey, and Virgil Trucks.
Eric: Mighty Max Scherzer passed him.

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Bill Hutchison, Jered Weaver, and Francisco Rodriguez would get past him too.
Eric: I can’t tell if there is a next season here.

Current career trajectory:
That was a quick fall in our national capital. Before leaving the Phillies in 2015, Papelbon had a 1.59 ERA. In Washington, it ballooned to 3.04, a higher mark than he put up in any season other than 2010. And he was worse in 2016, bad enough on the mound and in the clubhouse that he was released. His hit rate was unlucky. And while he walked to many, his K rate remained relatively steady. Let’s not forget that even last year he had a 2.56 ERA before his final 3.1 awful innings.

HoME Outlook:
I’m a Red Sox fan, and Paps helped win a title in 2007. That means I’ll always love him. He’s ninth in career saves, and it wasn’t more than a couple of years ago that I thought he had a shot at third on the list. Even if he got there, he wasn’t getting to the HoME. I thought the Hall would consider him though. Nope.

Francisco Rodriguez
2016 BBREF WAR:
1.1

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 216
Eric: 217

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 204
Eric: 205

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Charlie Leibrandt, Rick Wise, Harry Howell, Paul Derringer, Burt Hooton, Jerry Reuss, Hooks Dauss, Doyle Alexander, Rick Rhoden, Sadie McMahon, and Bruce Hurst.
Eric: Ellis Kinder, Lindy McDaniel, Jim Perry, Charlie Hough, Danny Darwin, Howard Ehmke, Matt Cain, Dutch Leonard the elder, Pat Hentgen, Charlie Leibrandt, Ed Reulbach, Bruce Hurst, Sadie McMahon, Sam Leever, and Ray Caldwell

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Jered Weaver, Bill Hutchinson, Jon Papelbon, Virgil Trucks, Charlie Hough, Ed Reulbach, Thronton Lee, Trevor Hoffman, Jack Taylor, and Dan Haren.
Eric: Barry Zito, Nig Cuppy, Thornton lee, Freddy Garcia, Wild Bill Donovan, Fritz Ostermueller, Rick Sutcliffe, Billy Wagner, Mort Cooper, Chris Carpenter, Jim Whitney, and Tom Zachary

Current career trajectory:
How can dude only be 35 next year? Been around f’evah! And his arm might be showing the signs of it too. Plunging K rate, surging walk rate. He’s had bad years before, so maybe it’s just a thing, but the erosion in the peripherals is a tad frightening. He’s a free agent, and someone will pick him up—and should—but whether that’s to close or not is an open question.

HoME Outlook:
There’s no shot. He’s too old to be this far behind the borderline.

Huston Street
2016 BBREF WAR:
-0.6

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 292
Eric: 307

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 295
Eric: 308

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: He fell behind Craig Kimbrel, Red Ames, and Jake Arrieta.
Eric: Jordan Zimmerman passed him

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: nobody
Eric: Street was hurt in 2016 and not that good either, so it’s hard to say whether there’s a next season, but he won’t be passing anyone with numbers like he had this year.

Current career trajectory:
He needs 43 saves to top Jeff Reardon and get into the category’s top-10. He’s not likely to get there.

HoME Outlook:
Um, no.

Craig Kimbrel
2016 BBREF WAR:
0.9

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 294
Eric: The 300s

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 292
Eric: The low 300s

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Huston Street and Red Ames
Eric: I’m not tracking too many pitchers this low in the rankings, but he did slip by Roy Face, J.R. Richard, Adonis Terry, Will White, Big Ben McDonald, and Elton “Icebox” Chamberlain.

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Ron Reed and Paul Splittorff
Eric: Huston Street, Bob Veale, and Mike Witt

Current career trajectory:
Kimbrel was either dominant or unwatchable this year. Fortunately for Boston it was more often the former. His K rate shot up after several years of erosion, but his walk rate doubled, leading to occasional blowups. Kimbrel might just be the most dominant reliever of this moment, but to give you a sense of what that means, he’s nonetheless 6.5 WAR behind Mariano Rivera at the same stage in their respective careers. Mariano and Goose are the only pure relievers in the Hall of Miller and Eric.

HoME Outlook:
He’s only going to be 29 next season, so time’s on his side. But it’s awfully hard for a closer to make the HoME. Good luck to him.

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