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2016 Update

2016 Update, LHP

clayton-kershaw-siPitchers are creatures unlike all others when it comes to HoME induction. There are no-brainers like Pete Alexander, Bob Gibson, and Tom Glavine. Then there are those short-career studs like Sandy Koufax, or those short-ish career almost studs like Dave Stieb or Bret Saberhagen. Then there are those like Don Sutton or maybe Red Ruffing, those who were never great but were very good for so long that they’re undeniably HoMErs. In other words, we can make lots of predictions about the group below and those we discuss on Friday.

Of the guys below, a couple have already qualified. And a couple of others are close. It’s funny, I could believe that anyone on this list could make it one day, but there’s almost no shot that they all do. Things just go wrong with pitchers. Even those who are great. Even those who are close.

There are just a couple of additional updates remaining in this series. Please take a look at past updates series: 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, LF, CF, RF, C, and RP. And tune in for RHP on Friday and managers next Monday.

Left Handed Pitchers
CC Sabathia
2016 BBREF WAR:
2.9

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 62
Eric: 61

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 56
Eric: 53

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Orel Hershiser, Don Sutton, Andy Pettitte, Dave Stieb, Eddie Cicotte, Bret Saberhagen
Eric: Joe McGinnity, Kevin Appier, Red Faber, Hoss Radbourn, Rube Waddell, Johan Santana, Red Ruffing, Orel Hershiser

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Urban Shocker, Dennis Eckersley, Jim Bunning
Eric: Vic Willis, Bret Saberhagen, Urban Shocker

Current career trajectory:
The big guy will be 36 in 2017, and three of his last four seasons have been some combination of ineffective and injured. This year he was only the latter. Has Sabathia finally cleared some of the linger injuries that sapped him the last few years? Or did he have some good luck this year? His ratios don’t look any better, and they might be worse. His H/9 went down, perhaps due to a slight improvement in his BABIP against, but who knows if that’s the result of a real change in his game or a one-year blip. Perhaps the best we can say is that if healthy he can provide some average to above average innings, but he’s no longer a star. How long he’ll hold on is anyone’s guess.

HoME Outlook:
Now for the good news. He’s in. Like now. Sabathia’s been hanging around the lower reaches for a couple years, but finally getting a decent season together really cements his case. Being between Hershiser and Shocker is enough. He might well get into the low forties by the time his career is over, provided he sticks around for another 6–8 WAR.

Clayton Kershaw
2016 BBREF WAR:
5.9

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 78
Eric: 60

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 56
Eric: 45

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Dwight Gooden, Whitey Ford, George Uhle, Bucky Walters, Sandy Koufax, Chuck Finley, Frank Tanana, Kevin Appier, Ted Brietenstein, Tim Hudson, Early Wynn, Bob Caruthers, Mordecai Brown, Orel Hershiser, Don Sutton, Andy Pettitte, Dave Stieb, Eddie Cicotte, Bret Saberhagen, and CC Sabathia.
Eric: All the guys I listed for Sabathia plus Shocker, Saberhagen, Willis, Dennis Eckersley, Luis Tiant, Juan Marichal, and Ted Lyons

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Urban Shocker, Dennis Eckersley, Jim Bunning, Red Faber, Dazzy Vance, David Cone, Joe McGinnity, Old Hoss Radbourn, Luis Tiant, Rube Waddell, Clark Griffith, Stan Coveleski, Tim Keefe, Vic Willis, and Ted Lyons.
Eric: Bunning, Dave Stieb, Don Drysdale, Cone, Stan Coveleski, Rick Reuschel, Vance, Jim Palmer, Amos Rusie, Mariano Rivera, and Bob Feller

Current career trajectory:
He’s the best pitcher in the game. For my money, there’s not even a debate. Over the past five seasons, he has an ERA of 2.02 and an ERA+ of 182. Over the last seven seasons, he’s averaged over 7 WAR by my numbers. Oh, and he’s not slowing down, luckily avoiding major injury this season. We’re clearly looking at one of the best pitchers in history. Oh, and he doesn’t turn 29 until spring training next year. There’s certainly a chance he keeps up the pace of the last seven years for five more. If he did that, he’d rank #15 on my all-time list, between Bert Blyleven and Gaylord Perry. Let’s say he then drops 1.5 WAR per year for the next four, which seems entirely possible. He’d pass Blyleven, Phil Niekro, Warren Spahn, and Bob Gibson. Only ten pitchers in history would top him. And if we gave him a drop of only 1 WAR per season, he’d finish his career in front of Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux too, ninth in history.

HoME Outlook:
Watch his starts, friends. You’re watching one of the best ever. He’s already sealed his spot in the HoME. Now it’s only a question of his all-time ranking.

Cole Hamels
2016 BBREF WAR:
5.0

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 121
Eric: 105

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 88
Eric: 76

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Waite Hoyt, Jack Quinn, Tommy Bridges, Ron Guidry, Bob Lemon, Frank Viola, Eddie Rommel, Larry Jackson, Cliff Lee, Jerry Koosman, Dizzy Dean, Al Orth, Chief Bender, Noodles Hahn, Kenny Rogers, David Wells, Jesse Tannehill, Hippo Vaughn, Billy Pierce, Jim Kaat, Mark Langston, Eppa Rixey, Felix Hernandez, Mickey Lolich, Wilbur Wood, Carl Mays, Jack Powell, Roy Oswalt, Babe Adams, Dizzy Trout, Tony Mullane, and Goose Gossage
Eric: I’ll cut to the chase, among many he eclipsed 7 HoMErs (Sutton, Ford, Brown, Galvin, Walters, Griffith and Spalding—the latter two inducted as a combo player/manager/exec and a combo player/exec) plus Felix Hernandez and Roy Oswalt

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Nap Rucker, Burleigh Grimes, Jim McCormick, Pud Galvin, Mickey Welch, Zack Greinke, Wilbur Cooper, Charlie Buffington, Mark Buehrle, Tommy John, Dwight Gooden, Whitey Ford, George Uhle, Bucky Walters, Sandy Koufax, Chuck Finley, and Frank Tanana
Eric: Buffinton, Gooden, Early Wynn, Koufax, Justin Verlander, Eddie Rommell, Bob Caruthers, Buehrle, Zack Grienke, Eddie Cicotte, and Finley

Current career trajectory:
Hamels has never had a bad season, the worst was only slight above average. He’s shown no major letup in performance either. Rather he’s come down only a bit from his peak and still looks like a credible #1 or #2 MLB starter. Never trust a pitcher to stay healthy, of course, but let’s say he ages gracefully, losing about half a win a year til age 40. That leaves him with value not unlike Jim Palmer or Bob Feller, awfully good company. Even if he loses a win a year and retires after age 36, he’s got a career along the lines of Urban Shocker or Bret Saberhagen. He’s good—real, real good.

HoME Outlook:
He’s right on the borderline now, that squishy area where the likes of Dizzy Dean and Frank Tanan, and George Uhle, and Doc Gooden reside. Since I didn’t vote for those guys but did vote for guys just below and just above them, Hamels is already in great position. He only needs a season or two of career-average performance to get himself into undeniable territory.

Jon Lester
2016 BBREF WAR:
5.2

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 198
Eric: 180

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 163
Eric: 145

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Ed Reulbach, Thronton Lee, Trevor Hoffman, Jack Taylor, Dan Haren, Tom Gordon, Ellis Kinder, Dutch Leonard (the old one), Tom Zachary, Curt Davis, Joe Nathan, Mark Gubicza, John Candelaria, Sad Sam Jones, Don Newcombe, Claude Osteen, Milt Pappas, Jake Peavy, Bob Friend, Derek Lowe, Curt Simmons, Sam Leever, Al Leiter, Jim Perry, Frank Dwyer, Lefty Gomez, Jose Rijo, Jim Maloney, Larry French, Tom Candiotti, Jon Matlack, Andy Messersmith, Tommy Bond, and Adam Wainwright
Eric: A lot of guys no one calls a Hall-level player and Jack Morris as well as active pitchers Adam Wainwright, Joe Nathan, Jered Weaver, and Jake Peavy

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Schoolboy Rowe, Hoyt Welhelm, Mel Stottlemyre, Bob Welch, Fernando Valenzuela, Nig Cuppy, Smoky Joe Wood, Harry Brecheen, Al Spalding, Jack Morris, Sam McDowell, Bill Dineen, Bill Donovan, Dutch Leonard (the young one), Pink Hawley, Claude Passeau, Red Lucas, Catfish Hunter, Jack Chesbro, Murry Dickson, Camilo Pascual, Mel Harder, Jim Whitney, Steve Rogers, Addie Joss, Bob Shawkey, Brad Radke, Herb Pennock, and Vida Blue
Eric: Well, now this gets interesting. One more All-Star level year jumps Lester into the company of Tommy Bridges, Bob Lemon, and guys like that just a little below the borderline.

Current career trajectory:
Yes, he’ll be 33 next year, but his fastball hasn’t lost a tick over the last few campaigns. And he had one of the best years of his career in 2016. Plus, he’s been healthy, starting at least 31 games each of the last nine years.

HoME Outlook:
He has a real shot. With two more seasons like this one, he’s just below the borderline. If we give him a year of 5-WAR, one of 4, two of 3, and two of 2, he’d easily be over the line. It’s hard to project any pitcher until he’s 39, and I really don’t want to do that for Lester, but we can see a path for sure. And I’m not going to bet against the heart of durability of anyone who overcomes cancer.

David Price
2016 BBREF WAR:
2.9

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 240
Eric: 238

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 224
Eric: 198

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Dave Foutz, Charlie Ferguson, Bobby Mathews, Harvey Haddix, Lee Smith, Rube Marquard, Willis Hudlin, Tim Wakefield, Stu Miller, Ed Morris, Dan Quisenberry, Slim Sallee, Bob Ewing, Frank Killen, Matt Cain, Danny Darwin, and Billy Wagner
Eric: Among actives, Francisco Rodriguez, Cain, and John Lackey; also Barry Zito, which I just had to mention for some reason

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Chris Carpenter, Bob Rush, Guy Hecker, Earl Whitehill, Charlie Root, Rick Sutcliffe, Mort Cooper, Charlie Liebrandt, Rick Wise, Harry Howell, Paul Derringer, Deacon Puillipe, Burt Hooton, Jerry Reuss, Hooks Dauss, Doyle Alexander, Rick Rhoden, Sadie McMahon, Bruce Hurst, Jered Weaver, and Bill Hutchinson
Eric: Another dozen or two guys before he plunks down in front of Lefty Gomez

Current career trajectory:
Price enters his age 31 season with a bit of mystery. 2016 had that Jeckyll-and-Hyde feel from the first half to the second, and all of his peripherals went the wrong way. He pitched more like a #2 than an ace. He’s had a little bit of an up-and-down pattern to his career, so this could be normal variance. Or maybe he’s lost a little something. Or maybe he had to learn how to pitch at Fenway Park? I dunno. But if we don’t see a strong season next year, like a 5 WAR kind of year, I’m going to be skeptical. Pitchers, can’t figure ‘em.

HoME Outlook:
Not as rosy as you might think. If Price is through as an All-Star kind of pitcher, then he’s going to have a pretty hard time getting through our doors because his best seasons are not great with a capital G. I see him as topping out around 6 to 6.5 WAR, but only a couple times. That means that unless he strings together a number of high-quality years and/or maintains his value deep into his thirties, he’s swimming against the current.

Chris Sale
2016 BBREF WAR:
4.9

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 262
Eric: 255

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 225
Eric: 185

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Bruce Sutter, Ken Holtzman, Bill Hands, Keith Foulke, Jack McDowell, Jesse Haines, John Franco, Guy Weyhing, John Holler, Mike Moore, Mike Garcia, Mel Parnell, Jason Schmidt, Firpo Marberry, Freddie Fitzsimmons, Andy Benes, Dean Chance, Sal Maglie, Larry Dierker, Dave Foutz, Charlie Ferguson, Bobby Mathews, Harvey Haddix, Lee Smith, Rube Marquard, Stu Miller, Ed Morris, Dan Quisenberry, Slim Sallee, Bob Ewing, Frank Killen, Matt Cain, Danny Darwin, and Billy Wagner
Eric: Most notably, David Price

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Chris Carpenter, Bob Rush, Guy Hecker, Earl Whitehill, Charlie Root, Rick Sutcliffe, Mort Cooper, Charlie Liebrandt, Rick Wise, Harry Howell, Paul Derringer, Deacon Puillipe, Burt Hooton, Jerry Reuss, Hooks Dauss, Doyle Alexander, Rick Rhoden, Sadie McMahon, Bruce Hurst, Jered Weaver, David Price, Bill Hutchinson, Jon Papelbon, Virgil Trucks, Charlie Hough, Ed Reulbach, Thornton Lee, Trevor Hoffman, Jack Taylor, Dan Haren, Tom Gordon, and Ellis Kinder.
Eric: Notable among the dozens he could pass are several lesser Hall of Famers such as Lefty Gomez, Jack chesbro, and Herb Pennock

Current career trajectory:
Sale is a star, no doubt about that. He’s averaged a shade over 5.5 WAR per year over the last five. On the other hand, the last two haven’t been as good as the previous three. Sale is a slight guy who’s only pitched 200 innings in three of his five big seasons, and he’s never had a season where he’s taken the ball every turn through the rotation. Still, he’ll turn 28 just before opening day, so there’s potentially a lot of time left. And a guy with his pinpoint control could reinvent himself even after he loses some stuff.

HoME Outlook:
I’ll take the under, but that’s not a bold statement regarding Sale since I’d take the under with any pitcher his age. On the other hand, if he repeats his last five seasons over his next five, he’d just about qualify got HoME membership. There are too many things that can go wrong between now and then for me to predict he’ll make it, but there is a real chance.

Madison Bumgarner
2016 BBREF WAR:
5.9

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 273
Eric: 292

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 232
Eric: 243

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Johnny allen, Tim Lincecum, Sparky Lyle, Adonis Terry, Earl Moore, Dennis Leonard, Lindy McDaniel, Kerry Wood, Kevin Tapani, Lee Meadows, James Shields, Mike Cuellar, Bruce Sutter, Ken Holtzman, Bill Hands, Keith Foulke, Jack McDowell, Jesse Haines, John Franco, Gus Weyhing, John Hiller, Mike Moore, Mike Garcia, Mel Parnell, Jason Schmidt, Firpo Marberry, Freddie Fitzsimmons, Andy Benes, Dean Chance, Sal Maglie, Larry Dierker, Dave Foutz, Charlie Ferguson, Bobby Mathews, Jarvey Haddix, Lee Smith, Rube Marquard, Willis Hudlin, Tim Wakefield, Stu Miller, Ed Morris, and Dan Quisenberry.
Eric: Miller’s favorite, Tim Wakefield, plus about 50 others

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Slim Sallee, Bob Ewing, Frank Killen, Matt Cain, Danny Darwin, Billy Wagner, David Price, Chris Carpenter, Bob Rush, Guy Hecker, Earl Whitehill, Charlie Root, Rick Sutcliffe, Mort Cooper, Charlie Leibrandt, Rick Wise, Harry Howell, Paul Derringer, Deacon Philippe, Burt Hooton, Jerry Reuss, Hooks Dauss, Doyle Alexander, Rick Rhoden, Sadie McMahon, Bruce Hurst, Francisco Rodriguez, Jered Weaver, Bill Hutchinson, Jon Papelbon, Virgil Trucks, Charlie Hough, Ed Reulbach, Thornton Lee, Trevor Hoffman, Jack Taylor, Dan Haren, Tom Gordon, Ellis Kinder, Dutch Leonard (older), Tom Zachary, Curt Davis, Joe Nathan, Mark Gubicza, John Candelaria, Sad Sam Jones, Don Newcombe, and Claude Osteen.
Eric: He could pass something like 80 pitchers with the same season. That would put him right in the neighborhood of Smoky Joe Wood, Trevor Hoffman, and Don Newcombe

Current career trajectory:
Eric: The thing with pitchers is that you just don’t know. Bumgarner’s entering his age-27 season. At age 27, his former teammate Tim Lincecum had his last good year. At age 27, his current teammate Matt Cain had his last good year. Warnings aside, Bumgarner has never pitched like a dominant ace starter. More like a good #2. This was the first year he hit 5.0 pitching WAR. His bat has added a good shot of value to him overall and pushed him over 5.5 WAR three straight years. That’s good, but as we said about David Price, above, it’s not exactly Cy Young. Until Bumgarner shows he can truly dominate the league and stay healthy after a heavy workload, he’ll be on a career path more Tommy Bridges or Whitey Ford.

Miller: In 49.2 innings in the post-season aside from 2014, Bumgarner has an ERA of 3.26. That’s good, but it’s hardly otherworldly. In fact, it’s worse than his regular season ERA. What I’m trying to say here is that our perception of Bumgarner is simply wrong. Yes, he’s young. Yes, he’s durable. Yes, he’s been a plus-plus starter. And he’s also going to put up some very nice counting numbers if he remains healthy. However, as Eric said, he’s no ace. At least he hasn’t been yet. I’ll go so far to say that with the retirement of David Ortiz, there’s no further competition with Bumgarner for baseball’s most overrated player (though I like both Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg to make it into the conversation). I agree with Eric’s Whitey Ford comp. But it might be misinterpreted since Ford is overrated. Maybe Don Sutton if he pitches forever. Maybe Mark Buehrle or Jack Powell if he doesn’t. The good news for Bumgarner is that a good deal of the Hall vote is based on perception and not actual greatness. There’s already a perception that he’s one of the great pitchers in the game. But let’s be honest, in his best year on the mound, he only ranked eighth in the NL in pitcher WAR. He was sixth last year. And he’s never even been in the top-10 otherwise. Excellent pitcher? Yes. Stud? Not even close, at least to this point.

HoME Outlook:
It’s much too early to speculate, especially on a pitcher with a lot of miles on his arm already. If he goes the Bridges/Ford path (never super dominant but long-lived), he has to hang onto his stuff for a very, very long time. If he breaks out in the next couple years, he has more margin for error.

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