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Zack Greinke

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What I’m Watching in 2019

In a perfect world, this post would have come out a week ago, but I had that sweet and clearly very helpful Florida Spring Training post to share. I know you’ve been waiting with bated breath to know what I’m looking forward to in 2019, so without further ado, here it is!

Framing

As you are perhaps aware, the folks at Fangraphs have decided to incorporate catcher framing into their WAR numbers. Baseball Prospectus had already been doing this for some time. And while framing was on my schedule to resolve this spring/summer anyway, its inclusion over at Fangraphs has put, perhaps, a bit of pep in my timetable’s step. Catchers are the hardest players on the diamond to understand, and thus, their rankings are the ones in which I have the least confidence. Still, we can only use the information we have at our disposal, so I’m going to analyze the literature as deeply as I’m able and incorporate some level of framing into my catcher rankings this spring or summer. Word is that’s great news for Brian McCann, Russell Martin, and Yadier Molina. As an aside, I must say the Molina information delights me. When narrative and performance align, as they do for, say, Babe Ruth, Bob Feller, and Roy Campanella, our job at the HoME is easy. It’s harder when narrative and performance don’t quite align, as with Whitey Ford and Sandy Koufax. And it’s pretty much impossible when narrative and performance have little to do with each other, as for Jack Morris and Omar Vizquel. I thought Molina would might be the next Vizquel. Perhaps with the new framing information offered by Fangraphs, we won’t have to worry about that.

Baseball Reference WAR Update

A bit more under-the-radar than the framing update at Fangraphs is the annual WAR update over at Baseball Reference. They’ve made some tweaks to catcher defense prior to 1953, so that means it’s update time at the HoME, both for catchers and pitchers. In short, that means completely reworking, and maybe in a few cases reevaluating, about 200 players. As it takes me about 15 minutes to work through a player, my math says that’s about 50 hours of copying, pasting, simple math, double checking, and triple checking. The framing work is going to be fun, this quite a bit less so.

Milestones

As a Sabermetrically inclined observer of the game, you might think I don’t care too much for all-time lists. Oh, would you ever be wrong. Looking at these lists brings back the first days of my baseball fandom. I love seeing players rise through the all-time ranks. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of great, old players in the game today, so fun risers will be limited in 2019.

Albert Pujols

  • With his 90th game played this year, he passes Tris Speaker for 25th all-time. If he gets to 143, that brings him all the way up to 18th.
  • With 328 plate appearances, he passes Omar Vizquel for 20th place on the all-time list. If he gets to 564, that brings him up to 14th.
  • There’s a lot of work to be done on the all-time runs list. He’s in 22nd now and very likely to move up three spots. If things go very well, it could be six.
  • If he smacks 103 hits, he passes Ichiro, Winfield, A-Rod, Gwynn, Yount, Waner, Brett, Beltre, and Ripken to move into 15th in history.
  • You’d think 19 doubles would be easy, but his last four seasons are 22, 19, 17, and 20. If he manages another 19, that gets him past Honus, Yaz, and Nap, up to 7th all-time.
  • With 27 home runs, he catches Willie Mays with 660.
  • He’s 18 runs batted in away form 2,000, but he only needs 15 to pass both Gehrig and Bonds.
  • He’s currently second all-time in intentional walks. With 28 in 2019, his career total would exactly half of Barry Bonds’, but there’s no way he’s going to get there, not this year or ever.
  • With 0.8 WAR, he’ll pass Joe Morgan for 20th place among position players. I hope he gets there and fear he won’t.

Everyone Else

  • Robinson Cano is 30 hits shy of 2,500.
  • Miguel Cabrera needs 35 home runs for 500.
  • Edwin Encarnacion needs 20 home runs for 400.
  • You’d think it improbable for Nelson Cruz to hit the 40 he needs for 400, but he’s hit 37, 39, 43, 44, and 40 over the last five years. It’s possible.
  • With 70 runs batted in, Miguel Cabrera takes over 25th on the all-time list.
  • Cabrera can do some real damage on the GIDP list. In his last nearly complete season, he had 15, which would put him past Julio Franco and tie him with Eddie Murray and Jim Rice. With 20, he’d get past Dave Winfield, and with 24, he’d pass Carl Yastrzemski to get into 5th place in history.
  • A season of more than 5 WAR gets Justin Verlander past Walsh, Feller, Rusie, Halladay, Tiant, Coveleski, Smoltz, Lyons, Faber, Palmer, Willie, Reuschel, K. Brown, Sutton, and Hubbell. That’s pretty amazing.
  • It seems like CC Sabathia, Clayton Kershaw, and Zack Gerinke will all enter the top-50 in WAR among pitchers. An improbable 7 WAR season from Cole Hamels would get him there too. A repeat of 2018 would put Max Scherzer just a tad shy of that level.
  • CC Sabathia needs just four wins to reach 250. With ten, he ties Andy Pettitte for 42nd
  • With 13 wins, Zack Greinke gets to 200.
  • With 34 saves, Craig Kimbrel ties former all-time leader Jeff Reardon for 10th on the list.
  • Kenley Jansen needs 32 for 300.
  • Aroldis Chapman needs 14 for 250.
  • CC Sabathia will reach 3,000 strikeouts with only 14. With 132, he gets by Smoltz, Schilling, and Gibson and would retire 14th in history.
  • Justin Verlander struck out 290 last season. With 294 this year, he gets to 3,000.
  • Felix Hernandez is 33 whiffs shy of 2,500. Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke, and Cole Hamels should all get to 2,500 as well.

HoME Lists

While I love looking at the standard all-time categories, what I care about even more is how my all-time rankings shake out. With the caveat that pitching numbers will change some, there are some really cool things to look forward to this year.

  • A season of 5 WAR gets Clayton Kershaw to 25th, passing Tom Glavine and Mike Mussina.
  • With a 6 WAR season, a level he’s topped each of the last three seasons, Justin Verlander would move past seven pitchers, all the way to 28th.
  • Just 4 WAR gets Zack Gerinke past seven pitchers, including Nolan Ryan and Bob Feller, into 33rd
  • A season of 7 WAR seems reasonable for Max Scherzer. Such a campaign would bring him past 15 pitchers, all the way up to 42nd in history.
  • Cole Hamels might be in the HoME already. With 3 WAR, he’d move to 72nd, passing Orel Hershiser. While that would guarantee nothing, it would make a “no” vote tough.
  • A 7 WAR campaign would move Chris Sale up 40 spots to 83rd. Should he get there, a HoME election in his future would be possible.
  • With 2.1 WAR, Miguel Cabrera would pass Keith Hernandez for 17th. To pass Hank Greenberg, he’d need 5.5.
  • It will take Joey Votto 1.9 WAR to pass Rafael Palmeiro for 22nd With 3.1, he passes Willie McCovey too. A season of 4 WAR moves him beyond Dick Allen. With a great year of 6 WAR, Jim Thome and Keith Hernandez would also go down.
  • Robinson Cano needs 4.6 WAR to climb to 8th, ahead of Jackie Robinson.
  • With 1.6 WAR, Ian Kinsler will pass both Jeff Kent and Bobby Doerr, making it difficult to keep him out of the HoME.
  • A repeat of last season moves Mike Trout past Rickie Ashburn, Billy Hamilton, and Ken Griffey. With a more modest season of 7 WAR, he passes Hamilton; with only 3 Ashburn goes down. It’ll be nice for him only to look up at DiMaggio, Mantle, Speaker, Cobb, and Mays after the season.

Enjoy 2019, everyone!

Miller

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The Death (or not) of the 250-Game Winner

CC Sabathia, 2014We used to hear a lot about “The last 300 game winner.” With the retirement of CC Sabathia at the end of the season, we might be looking at the game’s last 250-game winner. That’s assuming starting pitcher usage continues on its current trajectory.

In this post, we’re going to look at the current crop of winners and project their chances of reaching 250, and we’re also going to dream about what might happen with pitching staffs if management continues down its current creative path.

The Contenders

Bartolo Colon (247): Word is that the rotund righty plans to pitch in 2019. I suspect major league teams will think otherwise given that he’ll be 46 and has a 6.13 ERA over the last two years. Of course, I was shocked he pitched in 2018 and won seven games. Odds of 250 wins: 5%.

CC Sabathia (246): This less rotund lefty has had a bit of a late-career renaissance the last three years after posting negative WAR each year from 2013-2015. It seems like the fifth spot in New York’s rotation is his. There’s no Justus Sheffield pushing him, and Jordan Montgomery is out for a while continuing his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Odds of 250 wins: 70%.

Justin Verlander (204): Verlander just turned 36, and he’s at least three full seasons away from 250. Yes he’s been great over the last three campaigns, but he only totaled 47 wins in those three. We have to expect that he’ll be less good and less healthy. Seasons of 14, 12, and 10 wins shouldn’t shock anyone. At that point, he’d be entering his age-39 season still needing ten more wins. Odds of 250 wins: 35%

Zack Greinke (187): With eleven straight seasons in double figures and 15+ in all but one of his last eight, Greinke’s win totals have been more consistent than his overall greatness has been. He turned 35 a bit after last season ended, so it’s possible he has a few strong years left. Of course, it’s also possible a steep decline starts now. The D’backs, who still owe him $130 million, hope it’s the former. But even if it is, four straight 15-win seasons won’t get him there. I suspect he winds up fairly short. Odds of 250 wins: 15%.

Jon Lester (177): Lester seems older than his 35 years. Right? On one hand, he’s very consistent, winning in double figures in ten of the last eleven years. And he led the NL with 18 victories in 2018. Plus, he’s started 31+ games every year since 2008. But there’s an IP trend that fits well with today’s pitcher usage. He topped 210 IP in 2013 and 2014. He was down to a bit over 200 the next two years. And in the last two, he barely eclipsed 180. He has the same number of starts, but he’s handing things over to his bullpen earlier. He’s a year younger than Verlander, not as good, and 27 wins behind. Odds of 250 wins: 10%

Felix Hernandez (168): Used and abused at a young age, he’s a shell of King Felix. He’ll still be just 32 on Opening Day, but I’m not holding my breath. Odds of 250 wins: 5%

Max Scherzer (159): Because the Nationals ace was merely good for a few years at the beginning of his career, I don’t think as many consider him the generational type of pitcher as should. On a positive note, he’s made 30 starts every year since 2009. And he’s led the league in wins in four of the last six years. A negative is that, unlike Lester, his innings aren’t decreasing. He still goes very deep into games, topping 220 innings in four of the last five years. The Nationals are paying him an insane $126+ million over the next three seasons, though a portion (hopefully for them, a lot) is deferred. But I think it’s possible he could continue to be great through his age-36 season, as his fastball velocity was better last year than any year in his career. As for another 91 wins, I really don’t think so. Even if he wins 15 games a year for the next six, he’d have to be a winner at 40. I’m not betting on it. Odds of 250 wins: 15%

Cole Hamels (156): Hamels is on this list because he’s eighth among active pitchers, not because he has much chance at 250. He’s a star starting pitcher who’s averaged fewer than 11 wins per year over the last six. If that doesn’t tell you something about the state of the game, I don’t know what does. Odds of 250 wins: 5%

Clayton Kershaw (153): On one hand, Kershaw has led the NL in wins three times. And he’s doesn’t turn 31 until next month. On the other, he’s only reached 200 innings or 30 starts once in the last five campaigns. He’s still a star, albeit a diminished one, and he’s not someone whose health can be counted on. Is it common knowledge that his WAR on the mound has dropped each of the last five years? I don’t think he’s done, just that I no longer default to him as the game’s best pitcher. Odds of 250 wins: 25%

Rick Porcello (135): The Red Sox righty makes this list because he only turned 30 just after Christmas and is more than half of the way there. He’s durable and not terrible. But he isn’t good either. In just four of his ten seasons has he been above average by ERA+. And 100% of his career WAA was compiled a year ago. My money is not on a so-so pitcher winning another 115 games. Odds of 250 wins: 10%

Chris Sale (103): The Red Sox lefty makes this list because he’s the game’s best pitcher other than Scherzer, and he’ll still be 29 for another day when he opens the 2019 season in Seattle. Yes, Sale is great, but he’s more than a little bit fragile. With 15 wins per season for the next decade, he gets there. Of course, that seems really unlikely. Odds of 250 wins: 10%.

The Pitching Staffs

It seems quite possible that CC Sabathia will be the game’s last pitcher to win 250 games. Or does it? Let’s say something really interesting happens instead. Maybe starting pitchers are asked to go 3-5 innings in a three-man or four-man rotation. Or maybe they aren’t starters, but the guy who enters after the opener? Or the bridge between openers and late-inning guys? Or just the guy who always pitches the most in a game, even if it’s not in any specific set of innings. Maybe like this:

  • “Openers”: 1 or 2 innings (Ideally: 6 outs; max: once through the order)
  • “Horses”: 3-6 innings (Ideally 15-18 outs; twice or so through the order)
  • “Protectors”: 1-3 innings, possibly more than one reliever (Whatever outs are left)

In this case, what we now call the starter is the Horse…of course. MLB scoring rules require five innings from the starter to get the win. Or you can be the pitcher at time your team assumes the lead it never relinquishes. Or, importantly, you can be awarded the win if you are the most effective pitcher. Thus, Horses would have two avenues open to win games that require neither opening nor five innings – wins that are easier to come by than those of today’s starters since they will never incur the third-time-through-the-order penalty.

Not only might 250 wins still be possible. It makes sense that 300 might still be on the table and not as difficult to achieve as it used to be.

Delving a little deeper, we’re guessing that you want to set up your pitchers like this:

  • Openers: One lefty and one righty who are capable of facing both hands once through. This sets up a platoon advantages for the Horse by pairing opposite-hand pitchers as Opener/Horse.
  • Horses: Might need only three regulars and a swing man if your horses are really durable. Four is probably more likely, at least until teams understand the rhythm. Preferably at least one lefty. Here’s the kicker: If you lower the innings threshold, you actually deepen the pool of Horses beyond that of traditional Starters! That’s because guys who lacked the durability to be successful as Starters could be successful Horses. Also, crafty pitchers may play up since they will be very different pitchers than the Openers (who are likely fast throwing, two-pitch pitchers), and they will also contrast strongly against the Protectors.
  • Swingman: If your Opener and/or Horse get clobbered, you need a swingman to bail you out.
  • Protectors: Here, a team needs at least four pitchers: A guy who can go 1-2 innings to close, two setup man who can go 1-2 innings, and a matchup lefty.

So that’s 2 Openers, 4 Horses, 1 Swingman, and 4 Protectors at minimum. Teams may possibly want a second Swingman, so we’re looking at 11-12 pitchers.

There are a myriad of major benefits to this approach:

  • Teams may not need as many RPs.
  • Which means fewer mid-inning pitching changes overall.
  • Which means a return to platooning with longer benches.
  • Which means more interesting tactical decisions in a game and more interesting strategic decisions with the potential for a wider variety of player types when constructing a roster.
  • This also has plenty of flexibility so that if the rare Verlander unicorn pops his head up, teams can hybridize their rotations easily.
  • This will likely extend careers of guys like Kershaw whose physical limitations make them five-inning pitchers though they still have good stuff.
  • Pitchers can more easily move from role to role within the pitching staff since even the longest outing will be closer in length to that of the Opener or Protector.
  • No more paint-by-numbers bullpen use by unthinking and/or uncreative managers.
  • It’ll make the heads of silly “purists” like Bob Costas and old-school curmudgeons like Murray Chass explode. Tee-hee!

And if this plan is ever adopted, we’ll suddenly become eligible for induction into the HoME.

Miller and Eric

HoME Update, Active Pitchers, 1-300

On Wednesday, we covered the active hurlers who are younger or mediocre. Today, we get to the giants of the game (also some not quite giants). To me, this is where it gets exciting. We see which pitchers have already done enough to get into the HoME and which are tantalizingly close.

Remember, Eric and I haven’t charted the same number of pitchers, so it might be until about 200 or 250 until we’re comparing apples to apples. And given my preferences for older and his for newer pitchers, there’s still some distance in many occasions.

If you’ve missed any of our active player updates, you can find them right here.

[Catcher], [First Base], [Second Base], [Third Base], [Shortstop], [Left Field], [Center Field], [Right Field], [Pitchers 301-461]

James Shields
2018 BBREF WAR:
1.4

CHEWS+ rank at the position after 2018:
234
Ahead of John Denny, Rube Walberg, and Burt Hooton
Trailing Bill Dinneen, Preacher Roe, and Bullet Joe Bush

MAPES+ rank at the position after 2018:
271 (up from 287)
Ahead of Mike Boddicker, Bill Sherdel, and Sal Maglie
Trailing Danny Darwin, Frany Lary, and Francisco Rodriguez

Current career trajectory per MAPES+:
Big Game James has been worth less than a win per year over the last four. In other words, he’s not been pitching in too many big games. If he’s good in the clubhouse, I think some rebuilding team should sign him to tutor the kids and eat some innings. If he’s not, I recommend baseball retire him. I can’t imagine the White Sox will give him $16 million to pitch for them next year.

HoME Outlook:
He had four seasons that would go toward a HoME-level career. He’d need a lot more than that, so it’s not happening.

Johnny Cueto
2018 BBREF WAR:
1.2

CHEWS+ rank at the position after 2018:
225
Ahead of Howie Pollet, Danny Darwin, and Sadie McMahon
Trailing Jack Stivetts, Ed Reulbach, and John Hiller

MAPES+ rank at the position after 2018:
266 (up from 269)
Ahead of Vern Law, Francisco Rodriguez, and Frank Lary
Trailing Sonny Siebert, Freddy Garcia, and Dan Quisenberry

Current career trajectory per MAPES+:
He hasn’t been healthy either of the last two years, and pitchers in their 30s don’t tend to improve their health and durability. He had a nice run from 2011-2016 when he was tied for sixth in the majors in pitching WAR. That’s over now.

HoME Outlook:
He’s going to fall comfortably short. It’s a no.

Madison Bumgarner
2018 BBREF WAR:
2.5

CHEWS+ rank at the position after 2018:
191
Ahead of Catfish Hunter, Ellis Kinder, and Chris Carpenter
Trailing Billy Wagner, Milt Pappas, and Jered Weaver

MAPES+ rank at the position after 2018:
222 (up from 214)
Ahead of Deacon Philippe, Tom Gordon, and Johnny Sain
Trailing Trevor Hoffman, Slim Sallee, and Johnny Antonelli

Current career trajectory per MAPES+:
Do you remember when some, um, fools, um, in the national media outright said they’d rather have Bumgarner than Clayton Kershaw? Were you one of those people? As I think Joe Sheehan has argued in the past, players who aren’t clutch enough to stand up to a big situation are out of baseball long before they hit the biggest stage. And we should never, ever, ever unnecessarily limit our samples. Focusing on just a few October starts from a couple of pitchers tells you almost nothing about who they are. A few years later, we see that MadBum is a nice pitcher, a good one, in fact. He’s no superstar though. He’s no generational pitcher like Kershaw is. His WAR has decreased three straight years. Of course, he’s young enough to turn it back around. And if he really is great, he will.

HoME Outlook:
I want to get out of the business of counting pitchers out who are young enough to have a meaningful second act. If Bumgarner matches his best season three more times, he’ll find himself in contention for a spot in the HoME.  If he doesn’t put up a 6-win campaign in 2019, I’ll feel safer counting him out. Stay healthy!

David Price
2018 BBREF WAR:
4.4

CHEWS+ rank at the position after 2018:
162
Ahead of Lefty Gomez, Curt Davis, and Trevor Hoffman
Trailing Jack Powell, Chief Bender, and Bob Welch

MAPES+ rank at the position after 2018:
183 (up from 227)
Ahead of Don Newcombe, Derek Lowe, and Corey Kluber
Trailing Bob Friend, Hoyt Wilhelm, and Al Leiter

Current career trajectory per MAPES+:
He needed this one. Just after I wrote that, I saw that he’s no longer young, 33 next year. And I don’t know that he has the time to really get back on track. He was a star in 2012 and 2015. He’ll need a few more star-like, which I don’t think he has the ability to provide at this stage. One more, maybe. Three, I’m not betting on it given that he’s four years older than Bumgarner. By the way, am I the only one who wanted him for World Series MVP?

HoME Outlook:
I’m not betting on him.

Corey Kluber
2018 BBREF WAR:
5.8

CHEWS+ rank at the position after 2018:
158
Ahead of Bob Welch, Chief Bender, and Jack Powell
Trailing Silver King, Mickey Welch, and Al Leiter

MAPES+ rank at the position after 2018:
186 (up from 270)
Ahead of Bob Welch, Bump Hadley, and Howard Ehmke
Trailing Derek Lowe, Don Newcombe, and David Price

Current career trajectory per MAPES+:
He has some claim as the game’s best pitcher over the last five year, trailing only Max Scherzer in pitching WAR, and only by 2.3. Over that period, his win totals are interesting. He’s twice led the AL in wins with 18, he’s once led on losses, and this year he won 20 but didn’t lead the league. No ALer has topped him in shutouts in any of the last three seasons. In other words, he’s looking good.

HoME Outlook:
And he’s making a real run at the HoME. There are about a dozen HoME moundsmen who have produced less value in their fourth best season than Kluber. And there’s reason to believe he can still best his fourth best, which he put up in 2018. With seasons of 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 WAR, he’d be a near lock at 100 MAPES (my in/out line on the mound is a bit south of 100, perhaps indicating that I need to fix the math a bit). Replace his theoretical 6-win season with one worth just half that, and he still passes several HoMErs. Chances look decent even though he’ll be 33 next year and still has ground to cover.

Adam Wainwright
2018 BBREF WAR:
0.0

CHEWS+ rank at the position after 2018:
152
Ahead of Fernando Valenzuela, Herb Pennock, and Al Leiter
Trailing Joe Nathan, Tom Candiotti, and Virgil Trucks

MAPES+ rank at the position after 2018:
170 (down from 169)
Ahead of Red Lucas, Al Spalding, and Fernando Valenzuela
Trailing Andy Messersmith, Jack Morris, and Murry Dickson

Current career trajectory per MAPES+:
I hope Cardinal fans absolutely worship this guy. The organization clearly loves him, as they just agreed to a contract for 2019, which I’m guessing exceeds $10 million.

HoME Outlook:
I hope he’s not done. As far as the HoME goes, however, he is. He’ll always have that run from 2009-2014 where he was the game’s eighth best pitcher in spite of missing the entire 2011 season.

Bartolo Colon
2018 BBREF WAR:
0.5

CHEWS+ rank at the position after 2018:
110
Ahead of Carlos Zambrano, Bob Lemon, and Jack Quinn
Trailing Hippo Vaughn, Waite Hoyt, and Al Spalding

MAPES+ rank at the position after 2018:
145 (up from 150)
Ahead of Silver King, Steve Rogers, and Pink Hawley
Trailing Javier Vazquez, Jon Lester, and Jim Whitney

Current career trajectory per MAPES+:
I love baseball, so I hope he’s done. Just hear me out. He’s a man who’s 61 years old and 435 pounds. What does it say about our game that he’s still able to provide some value to a team???

HoME Outlook:
He’s not very close, but he may still have a decade left. Hard to say.

Jon Lester
2018 BBREF WAR:
3.3

CHEWS+ rank at the position after 2018:
115
Ahead of Brad Radke, Larry Jackson, and Jamie Moyer
Trailing Tommy Bond, Jack Quinn, and Bob Lemon

MAPES+ rank at the position after 2018:
143 (up from 155)
Ahead of Javier Vazquez, Bartolo Colon, and Silver King
Trailing Jim Whitney, Dutch Leonard (1933-1953), and Schoolboy Rowe

Current career trajectory per MAPES+:
He’ll be 35 on Opening Day. But he just led the NL in wins. But wins don’t matter. But he just rebounded from a stinky season to put up a pretty decent one. I don’t exactly know what his trajectory is.

HoME Outlook:
What do you think, can Lester do better than 4.0, 2.5, and 1.0? Given that he has only two seasons of 4+ WAR since 2011, I don’t think he can. Getting into the top-120 in history would be a pretty neat trick. Hope he gets there.

Chris Sale
2018 BBREF WAR:
6.9

CHEWS+ rank at the position after 2018:
96
Ahead of Tommy John, Wilbur Cooper, and Kenny Rogers
Trailing Don Sutton, Billy Pierce, and Whitey Ford

MAPES+ rank at the position after 2018:
131 (up from 185)
Ahead of George Mullin, Tony Mullane, and Sam McDowell
Trailing Herb Pennock, Addie Joss, and Jack Quinn

Current career trajectory per MAPES+:
Ooh, he’s looking pretty great. Sure, he’s skinny as heck, broke down some this year, and struggles after 150ish innings. Still, April, May, June, and July are months that help build a HoME case. Since 2012, he’s the third best pitcher in the game, behind only Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw. That’s elite. And he doesn’t reach age 30 until about Opening Day.

HoME Outlook:
Health permitting, it looks very good. If he repeats 2018 in 2019 and then enters a steep decline, so steep that he’s done after his age-33 season, he’s going to make it. That other elite-level season would help quite a bit. In fact, if he repeats this year and then retires, he’ll go out ahead of some HoME pitchers. I like his odds.

Felix Hernandez
2018 BBREF WAR:
-1.3

CHEWS+ rank at the position after 2018:
82
Ahead of Mark Langston, Whitey Ford, and Billy Pierce
Trailing Roy Oswalt, Charlie Buffinton, and Frank Tanana

MAPES+ rank at the position after 2018:
110 (down from 108)
Ahead of Ron Guidry, Billy Pierce, and Cliff Lee
Trailing Jerry Koosman, Jim Kaat, and Bobo Newsom

Current career trajectory per MAPES+:
The King is a cautionary tale about not counting your chickens. Three years ago, he seemed like a lock. Since then, he’s aged, hasn’t helped the M’s, and hasn’t helped his HoME chances.

HoME Outlook:
My hope is that somehow his decreased workload the last three years (fewer than 400 total innings) might be enough to put some life back into his arm. I doubt it though. A fastball that was at 95-96 for the first six years of his career now averages 89. I don’t foresee him finding his way back or his way in. Sorry Felix.

Cole Hamels
2018 BBREF WAR:
3.8

CHEWS+ rank at the position after 2018:
73
Ahead of Eddie Cicotte, Mordecai Brown, and Dwight Gooden
Trailing Early Wynn, Chuck Finley, and Eddie Rommel

MAPES+ rank at the position after 2018:
84 (up from 94)
Ahead of Don Sutton, Goose Gossage, and Frank Tanana
Trailing Bob Caruthers, Chuck Finley, and Tim Hudson

Current career trajectory per MAPES+:
Is he a made man already? Quite possibly. He’s ahead of four HoMEr moundsmen. Further, there’s no reason to believe he’s done. If he repeats 2018 once and then goes away, he’ll pass HoMErs Chuck Finley and Early Wynn. He’ll also pass Tim Hudson and Andy Pettitte, so that’s two guys who might not be able to gum up the works. If he repeats last year twice and finished with 2 and 1 WAR, he’ll move up to 64th in history. Cole Hamels?!? Impressive.

HoME Outlook:
It’s looking very good.

CC Sabathia
2018 BBREF WAR:
2.3

CHEWS+ rank at the position after 2018:
49
Ahead of Luis Tiant, Urban Shocker, and Rube Waddell
Trailing Juan Marichal, Max Scherzer, and Jim Bunning

MAPES+ rank at the position after 2018:
64 (up from 67)
Ahead of George Uhle, Sandy Koufax, and Charlie Buffinton
Trailing Dave Stieb, Ted Breitenstein, and Bret Saberhagen

Current career trajectory per MAPES+:
He hasn’t exactly bounced back like Verlander, though it’s been a very impressive reversal of fortune nonetheless. From 2013-2015 he had a 4.81 ERA and only 0.5 WAR. Then he got pretty good again from 35-37, posting almost 8.7 WAR the last three years. He’d have been a very borderline HoMEr six years ago, and he was clearly on the outside three years ago. Today, well…

HoME Outlook:
He’s in. He has to be since he leads ten HoMErs. And there’s no way baseball will let him hang around long enough to lose that ground.

Max Scherzer
2018 BBREF WAR:
9.5

CHEWS+ rank at the position after 2018:
47
Ahead of Juan Marichal, CC Sabathia, and Luis Tiant
Trailing Jim Bunning, Don Drysdale, and David Cone

MAPES+ rank at the position after 2018:
58 (up from 104)
Ahead of red Ruffing, Tim Keefe, and Bret Saberhagen
Trailing Red Faber, Urban Shocker, and David Cone

Current career trajectory per MAPES+:
Going into 2019, I think this is the guy we need to call baseball’s best pitcher. By MAPES, he’s been worth 5.8+ WAR each of the last six seasons, 4.7+ for seven.

HoME Outlook:
He’s a decent amount like Wilbur Cooper to this point. The difference is that we trade a 5-win season from Cooper for what Scherzer did last year. That’s quite significant. Plus, there’s absolutely no reason to think Scherzer is done. Let’s say he’s worth 7, 5, 3, and 1 win the next four years before retiring. That’s a fairly steep decline. I think it’s also not unreasonable. Should that happen, he’d vault another 30 places and duck in between Tom Glavine and Wes Ferrell. Pretty amazing. He’s in.

Zack Greinke
2018 BBREF WAR:
4.8

CHEWS+ rank at the position after 2018:
35
Ahead of Kevin Brown, Mariano Rivera, and Justin Verlander
Trailing Dazzy Vance, Roy Halladay, and Nolan Ryan

MAPES+ rank at the position after 2018:
41 (up from 45)
Ahead of Kevin Brown, Dazzy Vance, and Mariano Rivera
Trailing Rube Waddell, Stan Coveleski, and Justin Verlander

Current career trajectory per MAPES+:
Even though he’s not the most consistent pitcher from year to year, Greinke has been mighty great. For the last three years, he’s been worth more than 4.6 WAR per. The D’backs have him signed for three more at over $104 million. The Snakes won’t appreciate his production, even if he’s good through age 37. Still, he should add to his career profile.

HoME Outlook:
He’s in. Let’s say we drop him to 3.6, 2.4, and 1.2. We’re then looking as someone just shy of the best 30 ever, between Hal Newhouser and Bob Feller.

Justin Verlander
2018 BBREF WAR:
6.3

CHEWS+ rank at the position after 2018:
38
Ahead of Stan Coveleski, Amos Rusie, and Jim Palmer
Trailing Mariano Rivera, Kevin Brown, and Zack Greinke

MAPES+ rank at the position after 2018:
38 (up from 55)
Ahead of Stan Coveleski, Rube Waddell, and Zack Greinke
Trailing Juan Marichal, Jim Palmer, and Vic Willis

Current career trajectory per MAPES+:
He’s great now, one of the best in the game. But we all know that. What would have happened if his 2014-2015 was equal to the average of the two years before and the two years after that? Today, we’d be looking at a pitcher roughly equivalent to Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling. So that means outside the Hall of Fame… Voters are awful!

HoME Outlook:
He’s going to the HoME, obviously. The question I have is whether or not he can somehow become the best pitcher of this generation. There’s only one guy standing in his way.

Clayton Kershaw
2018 BBREF WAR:
4.0

CHEWS+ rank at the position after 2018:
26
Ahead of Carl Hubbell, Hal Newhouser, and Tim Keefe
Trailing Fergie Jenkins, Ed Walsh, and Tom Glavine

MAPES+ rank at the position after 2018:
27 (up from 31)
Ahead of Wes Ferrell, Carl Hubbell, and Hal Newhouser
Trailing Tom Glavine, Mike Mussina, and Curt Schilling

Current career trajectory per MAPES+:
In Verlander’s profile, I speculated that he may eclipse Kershaw as the best pitcher of this generation. Sure, it could happen. Shocking things absolutely can happen. I’m here to let you know that the much-reported demise of Clayton Kershaw can only be in reference to other worldliness, not effectiveness. By pitching WAR, he was a very solid #2 in 2018. Haters gonna hate, but he had one very impressive and one incredible start the 2019 playoffs too.

HoME Outlook:
Guaranteed.

Thanks so much for sharing this series with us. On Monday, we’ll be back to talk about the ballot available for the Today’s Game Committee. Hope to see you then!

Miller

All-Time HoME Leaders, Pitcher – 41-60

We hope this series is fun for you, and by the looks of it, a great many of you are enjoying it. The best thing, I think, is to look at our rankings versus yours. See where you think we’re missing something, or perhaps learn from something we bring up.

If we’re doing the right thing, this is the type of thing that’s going on. I know it’s going on internally. This week’s lists won’t look too different from each other, but the lists next week were going to be a mess. When our rankings differ by a lot, I try to look for the reasoning. Years ago, it was sometimes something as simple as a data entry error. Today, it’s more a difference of opinion on how to rank players, which is totally fine by me. What’s less fine is when one of us is making a smart decision that the other isn’t making. That had been the case on the mound. Simply, Eric was offering leverage credit to relief pitchers in a reasonable way. I was ignoring such leverage. And as a result, my numbers for some pitchers prior to 1946 were deflated. Since, I’ve adapted by systems to be more in line with Eric’s – really, to be more in line with what I think makes sense. So before we get to today’s rankings, I want to share with you our top-40 with my adjustments. Nothing big, but we always sweat the small stuff at the HoME.

P, 1-40

Moving on. All posts in this series are here for your convenience. Enjoy our next 20 pitchers.

[MAPES+], [CHEWS+], [1B, 1-20], [1B, 21-40], [2B, 1-20], [2B, 21-40], [3B, 1-20], [3B, 21-40], [SS, 1-20], [SS, 21-40], [C, 1-20], [C, 21-40], [LF, 1-20], [LF, 21-40], [CF, 1-20], [CF, 21-40], [RF, 1-20], [RF, 21-40], [P, 1-20], [P, 21-40]

Pitcher – 41-60

P, 41-60

Where do we project the active player(s) to finish in our rankings?

Zack Grienke

Greinke is a fascinating pitcher, and historically unusual. A large portion of his pitching value is tied up in his 2009 and 2015 seasons. Also, he’s a pretty nice hitter for a pitcher. What I’m saying is that I don’t love the idea of using comparable pitchers to project him moving forward because there just aren’t many truly comparable careers. So I’ll do what any good prognosticator does, I’ll guess. Greinke is 34 this year, and he’s off to a good enough start on the mound and a very good one at the plate. Yeah, there I go again, thinking rationally about a pitcher about whom I can only guess. Giving him seasons of 5, 3, 2, and 1 WAR seems reasonable enough. And if he were to do that, he’d jump up to #30 in my rankings, between Hal Newhouser and Bob Feller. To me, he’s a Hall of Famer already. With those seasons, he’d be in the upper half of HoME pitchers. But is he seen that way? I don’t think voters are going to love him. [Looks at BBREF]. Yeah, he’s south of 180 wins as I type this. He’s going to have trouble.—Miller

Justin Verlander

I love that Verlander went from amazing to fork-tender to amazing. Miller and I came close to writing him off, wondering between ourselves whether he would wind down and never quite get back to average, let alone excellent. Well, he did. It’s not as though he’s stopped either. He’s already this year pushed past fellows on my list such as Juan Marichal, Jim Bunning, and Don Drysdale. He could even bust into the top-40 this year if he continues to pitch insanely well. Now, Verlander is 35 this year, and we thought at this age Roy Halladay would be great forever. He wasn’t, and Verlander’s career could go at any moment. It takes just a tweak of some muscle or a small drop in velocity for a career to go south in a hurry. If Verlander declines gracefully, he could make the top 30ish.—Eric

With the caveat that he’s already begun to regress some, the 2018 version of Justin Verlander may be the best one we’ve seen. This from the 2011 AL MVP and a guy who already has two 8 WAR seasons. This is amazing, not just because he’s 35 now, but because he looked like he was kind of washed up in 2014 and 2015. Like with Greinke, I don’t know quite what to do with him. Let’s give him 8 WAR this year, then a pretty steep decline to 5, 3, and 1.5. That feels reasonable enough to me. And if it happens, he shoots up to #25 all-time, right between Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina. Unlike Greinke, I think the voters will love him. Of course, I’m not sure why.—Miller

CC Sabathia

Carsten Charles has walked the tightrope for two-and-a-half seasons. His ERA has beaten his FIP by 35 points, 80 points, and 99 points from 2016 through June 19th of 2018.  There’s a little smoke and mirrors here. On the one hand, his home parks have played at about a 103 park factor in those seasons. But as a lefty, Sabathia doesn’t face the same problem that a righty would in New Yankee Stadium with its short porch in right field. CC has also benefited from average to excellent defense behind him. Overall, while his ERA this year is 3.30 at this writing, he’s only managed a single RAA above average. Also playing against the big lefty? His own durability. Injuries have cut down his ability to go deep into games. From age 20 to 32, Sabathia appeared 415 times, all starts, pitched 2775.33 innings, an average of 6.69 per start. Since then, he’s averaging about an inning less a game (5.73). Unsurprisingly, CC is striking out about one fewer batters per game than in his prime. He’s issuing about one-half a walked more per game. He’s giving up a half a homer per game more than during his peak. That’s aging for you, especially when you’re a big-bodied guy throwing all that weight around with max effort. On the other hand, he remains at least an average pitcher and sometimes a very good one. I don’t know how much further he can climb in his decline years. Probably not much. I’d be surprised if he made the top 50, especially since reports have filtered out suggesting he may retire at the expiration of his current contract.—Eric

Where do our rankings diverge the most from the conventional wisdom?

I think they diverge in a lot of places. Mariano is my top ranked reliever by far, yet he’s only 42. I suspect that most of the closer-loving world would place him in the top-20, if not the top-10. Then there’s David Cone. Just try convincing someone he was as good as John Smoltz. If he was so good, how come he didn’t win 200 games? If he was so good, why wasn’t he an elite closer for three years? Blah, blah, blah. And of course, there are those 70s pitchers, Rick Reuschel and Luis Tiant, both clearly Hall-worthy, yet one completely and the other largely ignored. Even I’ve kind of ignored Looie, and that’s a shame. At least it’s in favor of Reuschel. Tiant was the classic underrated player in my mind. Stop me if you heard these things before. He wan’t seen as great when he was young, never winning more than a dozen games until he was 27. Then he had his breakout season obscured of 1968 by Denny McLain and Bob Gibson. Subsequently, it’s been obscured by history. It’s as if 1968 is the Coors Field of seasons. Anything that happened that year can be diminished with the mere mention of some outlying numbers. He also had a mid-career dip when he went 17-30 over three years. He jumped from team to team, playing for six in his career. And he hung on too long, posting an ERA+ of just 82 over his final three campaigns. Oh, and he played at the same time as Seaver, Carlton, et al. The guy seemingly had everything going against him. On a positive note, he’s beloved in Boston and I suspect throughout the baseball world, at least among those with good memories. With the right composition, I could see an Era Committee voting him in one of these days.—Miller

Thirty years ago, when I was learning the history of our game, Bob Feller was a living legend. Only the war had stopped him from reach 300 wins and breaking Walter Johnson’s strikeout record. There was that famous old film of a motorcycle speeding by at 90 MPH while Feller threw a baseball that hit its target as the bike crossed the same plane. Appreciation of Feller had probably reached its apogee about a decade before that, but as a pup I had a clear impression of his greatness. Today I report ranking him a mere 42nd in my rankings. Hey, it’s just my opinion, but I think the war didn’t prevent him from winning 300. Instead it allowed him to win 266. Feller shouldered an incredible workload. Since the introduction of the lively ball in 1920, Bob Feller leads all pitchers during their age-seventeen season with 62 innings. He leads all eighteen-year-olds (148.67), all nineteen year-olds (277.67), all twenty-year-olds (296.67), all twenty-one- year-olds (320.33), and all twenty-tow-year-olds (343). The only reason he doesn’t lead 23 year-olds is because he was off fighting the Axis powers for most of the next four years. He returned to finish out the 1945 season then pitched a full year in 1946. That year, you guessed it, he led all twenty-seven-year-olds since 1920 in innings pitched with 371.33. In 1947, he did not lead all twenty-eight-year-olds since 1920 in innings, but he did lead all of MLB that year with 299. The next year he threw 280.33, and his ERA+ dropped from 130 to 114. He was never a great pitcher again. Overall, he went 108-79 in 266 post-age-28 starts with an ERA+ of just 106 and a strikeout rate about half of what it was through age 28. He was not a Pat Rapp innings eater, but he probably wasn’t a number two starter either, certainly not for a good team. My hypothesis: Feller’s pitching musculature was probably saved from the specific kind of wear and tear that grinds down a career. It might have had a chance to even heal just a little since he wasn’t throwing top-level, pressure-packed innings every three or four days (he threw very little in the service). But once he returned, the clock started ticking again, and all that early work caught up to him. How could it not? He had back, shoulder, and arm problems in the late 1940s and was reduced to a Sunday starter by the early 1950s. It’s pretty easy to imagine that had Feller continued throwing all those pitches at ages twenty-three, twenty-four, and twenty-five, he might have never made it to age twenty-nine. But we didn’t understand all of this thirty years ago. We could know that he had some injuries but not how badly they may have hurt his career. We could know he threw an impressive number of innings but not that they probably had residual, cumulative effects. Now we know a lot more, and the shape of his career makes a lot of sense, even if it loses a tiny bit of its sparkle.—Eric

Where do we disagree with one another the most?

Speaking of Feller, we have a pretty good gap there with Miller being the bigger fan than I. But a bigger gap exists with John Smoltz. I’ve got him at #31, Miller at #50. I suspect that the difference has to do with my compadre having a strong peak orientation to his sifting system than I do. Smoltz is many things, but a high-peak pitcher is not one of them.  While he does have five seasons above 5 WAR when I make all my little adjustments, he has but one above 6 WAR (7.5). So, I’m looking at a really solid prime and Miller’s looking at a low peak. That’s a sensible difference of opinion. That doesn’t explain why we see Red Ruffing differently. Miller’s got him ten or so slots above my ranking. But it might well explain why Miller has Charlie Buffinton 20 spots higher than I do. Well, that and I take a lot of the stuffing out of the 18th Century pitchers.—Eric

I think it’s Clark Griffith. I rank him #43, and Eric doesn’t even put him on this week’s list. Or next week’s. My ranking suggests I should have pushed hard for his HoME candidacy, while Eric’s says he should have pushed back. The truth of it is, I didn’t push for Griffith, the player, because I thought his era was already well enough represented on the mound with hurlers I preferred. Happily for me, the pitcher/manager/owner, Clark Griffith found his HoME as a combination candidate.—Miller

Are there any players who MAPES+/CHEWS+ might overrate or underrate? 

I always worry about how my system treats relievers, so maybe Mariano should rank higher. And maybe my older dudes like Griffith, should be lower. But I don’t think there are any shockers on this list. They all seem reasonable enough to me.—Miller

Actually, there is a shocker on this list: Urban Shocker. (Oh, that was amazing.)

I concur that relievers are problematic. It’s a theoretical worry, in particular. It’s amazing to me that Mariano Rivera threw 60 or 70 innings a year for twenty years and ends up among my top forty pitchers. It’s not that leverage or chaining are the issue. Instead it’s more about what we might call “degree of difficulty.” Recently Kevin Cash started Sergio Romo because the first inning is when the offense is guaranteed to have its offense set up the way it wants. Then Romo is removed after three or six outs because, wait for it, he doesn’t have a deep enough repertoire to go through a lineup twice without getting crushed the second time through. This is a fundamental concern I have with relievers from the last thirty years: We multiply run prevention due to its in-game importance, but we do not ding it for the fact a half-decent relief pitcher enters with everything in his favor. Consider:

  • He isn’t guaranteed to face the opposition’s best hitters and in many cases never does.
  • In the NL, he might face a disrupted batting order due to double switching, which also means he’ll likely face a pinch hitter, and pinch hitting carries a massive offensive penalty.
  • He is, inn 99.99% of all games, guaranteed to never face even one hitter twice.
  • He enters the game after at least one other pitcher, so his opponent has to adjust to him, not vice versa.
  • In general, opponents batters see very little of him during the year, especially because he may not see even five guys in the lineup in any given appearance, so there’s a lack of in-season familiarity as well.
  • In many cases, a reliever enters or exits when a favorable or unfavorable matchup occurs.

Mariano Rivera had a devastating cutter. Would it have been so devastating if a batter saw it twice or thrice a game? I doubt it. Especially since Rivera basically chucked his other pitches and relied almost exclusively on the cutter. If he’d been forced to mix in other pitches, could he have been effective?

The question is whether we should adjust for degree of difficulty. I suspect that the analytical community has consensus around the idea that we should not. I’m not entirely sure they are wrong, but I am also not sure that they are right. Context is everything, and the only context we are looking at currently are very specific in-game situations whose context runs far deeper for relievers than for any other player on the field. If we use a Win Probably Added approach, then relievers seem hugely productive, but we completely ignore that they are used more electively than any other kind of baseball player, and that seems like a big chunk of context that should be accounted for.—Eric

***

Next week, it’s pitchers 61-80.

 


 

All-Time HoME Leaders, Pitcher – 21-40

I don’t know what an ace is. Everyone has their own definition, most of which are just made up. However, I do know that any reasonable definition of “ace” must include the top percentage of starters, not the top number of starters, in the game. I don’t know if it’s 5%, 10%, 20%, or whatever. What I do know is that the percentage across time should remain relatively stable.

The point I’m making isn’t that every “ace” should be in the Hall or that a non-ace shouldn’t be. I’m merely making an argument that the voters once thought there were many more pitchers deserving than they do today. Check this out.

Year  Teams  SP  ERA    HoF   % in 
                 Quals        Hall
===================================
1935  16     64    67    7    10.9%
1947  16     64    58    5     7.8%
1959  16     64    58    7    10.9%
1971  24     96    83   11    11.5%
1983  26    104    88    9     8.7%
1995  28    140    75    5     3.6%

All I did was grab a year, basically at random, and run the numbers of ERA title qualifiers and then isolate Hall of Fame pitchers (with the help of the great Baseball Reference Play Index). You can see a good deal of consistency in 1935, 1959, and 1971 in terms of Hall of Famers. Maybe I should have done something differently because the late-1940s are strange years due to WWII. You can see a dip in 1983, which I don’t think is horrible since players from that era are still receiving some consideration. But look at 1995! The Hall has basically ignored recent pitchers unless they’re in/near the inner circle or they won 300 games. Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, and Pedro Martinez are among the best 15 pitchers ever. Tom Glavine won 300. And voters really seemed to love that John Smoltz was a great closer for about 230 innings. Others from that year who fall somewhere between no-brainer and deserving of major consideration are Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Kevin Brown, David Cone, Kevin Appier, Chuck Finley, Orel Hershiser, and Bret Saberhagen. I would have liked more discussion about David Wells, Dennis Martinez, Kenny Rogers and Mark Langston too.

This week, we see the first of those forgotten 1990s pitchers. There will be plenty more to come.

[MAPES+], [CHEWS+], [1B, 1-20], [1B, 21-40], [2B, 1-20], [2B, 21-40], [3B, 1-20], [3B, 21-40], [SS, 1-20], [SS, 21-40], [C, 1-20], [C, 21-40], [LF, 1-20], [LF, 21-40], [CF, 1-20], [CF, 21-40], [RF, 1-20], [RF, 21-40], [P, 1-20]

Pitcher – 21-40

P, 21-40

Where do we project the active player(s) to finish in our rankings?

Clayton Kershaw

A couple of things as we get started. First, he’s the best pitcher of this era. Second, he’s already in the HoME. As for where he projects, that’s a much more difficult question. While’s he remains great when he’s healthy, he’s only topped 27 starts once since 2013. He’s just not healthy enough to project that he moves too far up the list. I think a run-out of 7, 5, 4, 3, 3, 2, 1, 1 WAR it believable. If that’s the case, he finished 18th all-time, between Bert Blyleven and Gaylord Perry. Let’s say he goes 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 1. That gets him past Blyleven, John Clarkson, and Steve Carlton into 15th place. Yeah, he could go further than that, but I don’t expect it. In fact, I think 18th is more likely than 15th. It’s even possible he doesn’t get past this list, finishing at 21st, between Eddie Plank and Ed Walsh. Injuries, man.—Miller

I tend to be pessimistic about pitchers. I’d reckon there’s a better chance that Kershaw never moves another notch up the list than any other scenario. Every single time someone takes the mound, they risk blowing out their UCL, tearing their labrum, finally ripping apart their rotator cuff. Check in at 1:20 on this video. Or check out a few minutes of pitchers’ arms falling off…watch for the carbuncle suddenly appearing on one guy’s elbow. Also this could happen. Even I don’t have the appalling lack of taste required to link to a Dave Dravecky story. All of which is to say that with Kershaw’s spate of recent injuries, I wouldn’t put much money on his making any big gains until he can pitch another full season, fully healthy, and in command of his arsenal.—Eric

Zack Grienke

I root for Zack Grienke. His battles with depression and anxiety cost him the better part of a couple seasons. The fact that he could come back from these life-crippling diseases to pitch like a Hall of Famer impresses me to no end. If you’ve never had a depressive bout or anxiety, consider yourself fortunate. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for him given the tremendous pressure big league players, and pitchers especially, endure. But he did come back, and since those troubles, he’s earned nine or more WAR in two different seasons. As recently as last year, he earned more than six. He’s also had some real clinker seasons where he’s barely been average, but not everyone can be Walter Johnson. Grienke also swings a good bat, enhancing his overall value. While there’s some up and down, he might well be the quietest Hall of Fame candidate in recent history. As far as I’m concerned, he’s there, but he’s joined only one major-media-market team (the Dodgers for 2.5 seasons) where he played second fiddle to Kershaw anyway.—Eric

Where do our rankings diverge the most from the conventional wisdom?

It has to be Kevin Brown, who I touched on a few years ago, a no-brainer Hall of Famer who received support from only a dozen writers the one year he was on the ballot. As I recently wrote in my post on the best pitchers of the 1990s, I think three things worked against Brown, each one ridiculous in its own way. First, through his age-30 season, he seemed like he wasn’t a “winner”. With a 67-62 record outside of his win-rific 1992 campaign, he didn’t look to most like he was a big deal. Further, he’s a bit like Curt Schilling and a lot of others in that he wasn’t great from the get-go. Too many fans decided who he was and didn’t change their minds when he got better. Second, people hated the contract he signed with the Dodgers – tons of money and those private jet rides. I’ll never understand why fans hate when players are well-compensated, but it’s been the case as long as I can remember. Third, he was still very good in his final season in LA, but he appeared to fans to stink up the joint when he got to NY. In truth, his age-38 season was nice enough. And pitchers at that age aren’t supposed to be good anyway. It’s only the absolute greats and a few outliers who are.

Yeah, so it’s absolutely Kevin Brown, unless it’s Jim Palmer, a guy who might not be as good as he looked. The Oriole pitched in front of absolutely insane defenses. I’m not sure, but it’s possible that defense made him look better than he was. Let’s look at BBREF’s RA9def number for each of our fifteen shared 21-40 pitchers. RA9def is the number above or below average a pitcher’s defense is.

Jim Palmer         0.33
Carl Hubbell       0.23
Ed Walsh           0.21
Tom Glavine        0.12
Roy Halladay       0.10
Amos Rusie         0.07
Clayton Kershaw    0.03
Curt Schilling     0.00
Hal Newhouser     -0.02
Stan Coveleski    -0.03
Kevin Brown       -0.05
Wes Ferrell       -0.06
Nolan Ryan        -0.06
Fergie Jenkins    -0.06
Mike Mussina      -0.08

I’m totally with Miller on the matters of Brown and Palmer, and I’ll give you two more: Nolan Ryan and Wes Ferrell. You remember the 1990s, right? I’m going to feel so old if you don’t. There was that All-Century Team business in 1999, probably presented by MasterCharge or Viagra. I think souvenir glasses might have been issued. Nolan Ryan won the vote among pitchers by 22,000 votes. If you’ve just swallowed your tongue, you’re thinking right along with me. Nolan Ryan: 7 NO-HITTERS!; 5,000 PUNCHOUTS!!!!!!; OLD GUY PITCHER!!!!!!! Yes, and will my theoretical straw man please stop yelling in all caps! Lots of good stuff, a deserving member of the Hall of Miller and Eric. But no one with much under the hood should vote for him over the likes of Walter Johnson, Cy Young, Bob Gibson, Warren Spahn, or Christy Mathewson who were all on this ballot. Right-time, right-place for the Express. Lefty Grove finished with the lowest vote total among pitchers. Does not compute! For those born too soon, Nolan Ryan was a sensation. During his last years as a Ranger, his starts were events. You never knew when he might pop out a no-no or give Robin Ventura a noogie (you’ll have to look that one up). Listening half a continent away in the northeast, radio announcers were sure to mention when he started and how he did. The guy was so famous that Advil signed him up to lure the middle-aged, achy-back guys in the TV audience. If you were in America then, you’ll remember: “I could go another niiiiiine innings.” Ryan had earned all of this in his amazing career, but he had claim at all to any kind of “All-Century Team” or whathaveyou. But it’s pretty interesting to see how many people will ignore facts in deference to media coverage. Never mind that Ryan’s winning percentage was a mere .526, that he was also the all-time leader in walks, nor that his ERA+ of 112 (yes, we had ERA+ back then, pull out your old copy of Total Baseball) was not impressive. So I think in the sense that conventional wisdom arises from the groundlings, we’re pretty far away from the CW.

Then there’s Wes Ferrell. A decent peak/prime pitcher with a bat added to his resume that did beat all. The best hitting full-time pitcher ever. We both think the total package is top-40 material (someone better let Rick Dees know). The Hall of Merit and the Hall of Stats both agree that he’s a worthy Hall member. The Coop took his weak-hitting brother the catcher instead. (Which was kind of like how my crush took her cousin to the senior prom instead of going with me. I’m not bitter.) And basically he has no recognition in the world outside baseball’s analytics chattering classes. In fact, he’s probably more well known as a great hitting pitcher than as a great pitcher.—Eric

Where do we disagree with one another the most?

There’s quite a large difference in how we see Old Hoss Radbourne. I list the righty from before the mound moved as the 40th best ever. You won’t see him on Eric’s list even next week. And he barely makes it two weeks from today. Looked at another way, he’s an easy HoMEr for me and on Eric’s borderline. As we discussed last week, this is basically a WAR thing. I give more credit to pitchers of Radbourne’s era than Eric because they pitched so many more innings. Eric gives less, chopping down their runs above replacement. Again, as I mentioned last week, I think both directions are reasonable.—Miller

Same goes for Amos Rusie it looks like. We’re nearly twenty ranks apart. Oddly enough, however, we have the opposite situation for Tim Keefe. I’ve ranked him a dozen or more spots higher. Charlie Radbourn didn’t have as long of a career, nor did he enjoy the same degree of value above average. Clarkson and Keefe were the elite of the 1880s. Radbourn headed up the rest. Or so spake ZEricthustra.

We have a much larger difference yet over Joe McGinnity, 26 ranks of difference. I suspect that Miller’s slightly more peak-centric ratings push Iron Joe upward for him. We also have major differences over John Smoltz and the aforementioned Mr. Grienke. So while we’ve been on the same page with hitters and even with the top 20 pitchers, there’s a lot of differentiation between us here. I suspect you should trust Miller. I always did have trouble with pitchers in fantasy baseball, and he rarely seemed to.—Eric

Are there any players who MAPES+/CHEWS+ might overrate or underrate? 

We may be off on Hal Newhouser. His best years were 1944-1946, times when the level of play in the majors was somewhat lower than at other times in its history because of WWII. The War was over in ’46, of course, and almost everyone was back in ’45. But I still question Prince Hal’s numbers a little.—Miller

I buy what Miller’s selling here as well. But let’s flip back a moment to Jim Palmer. It is possible that Palmer’s defensive support might not have been as good as BBREF suggests. Its calculations are not based on game-by-game assessments of the defense behind him but rather as a function of the team defense allocated to his balls in play. Is it possible that Palmer benefitted more or less than other pitchers on his team from the specific defensive players on the field behind him? Could his style of pitching have played into the strengths of parts of his defense and away from its weaknesses? Or vice versa? Or is it possible that the defense played better or worse behind him than behind other pitchers? Obviously, BBREF answers these questions by deciding not to answer them. I would do the same thing were I them. But it’s possible that the extreme defensive support could be in some way misleading. I don’t know what direction the arrow would point. Sadly we don’t have specific ground ball/flyball/line drive info for Palmer. We have some indirect evidence of his tendencies, however. His groundout/flyout ratio was 0.80, which is 27% below MLB during his time. This despite a homerun rate that’s right around the league average. His defenses turned 10% fewer deuces behind him than the league. Sure looks to me like Palmer’s gig was to induce weak flyball contact. I wouldn’t be shocked at all to see that he frequently led the league in infield flies or pop-ups allowed, for example, nor that if we could somehow know it retroactively, that he suppressed line-drives in some manner. Palmer was smart, he knew how to exploit hitters’ weakness, and he always had a game plan and probably knew how to pitch to his defense’s strengths. Something tells me that a hyperclose reading of his defensive support might someday show the granules of that, but then again, it might not be possible to disentangle cause and effect in a case such as this.—Eric

Of course, Eric could be right here. Palmer, kind of famously, never allowed a grand slam. He certainly knew what he was doing on the mound.—Miller

***

Join us in seven days when we look at pitchers 41-60.

End of the Year HoME Roundup, Righty Starters

Stephen Strasburg, 2017Lots of interesting cases among righty starters. Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Felix Hernandez all either have or could make interesting cases. There remains hope for the likes of Johnny Cueto, Yu Darvish, Corey Kluber,and Jake Arrieta. There’s also a world, not one that I like, where Bartolo Colon goes to the Hall one day.

Check out our other post-season updates.

FIRST BASE | SECOND BASE | THIRD BASE | SHORTSTOP | LEFT FIELD |CENTER FIELD | RIGHT FIELD | CATCHERLEFT-HANDED STARTER | RIGHT-HANDED STARTER |RELIEF PITCHER |

Jake Arrieta

2017 BBREF WAR:
1.9

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 393
Ahead of Ismael Valdez, Chris Bosio, and Frank Kitson.
Trailing A.J. Burnett, Rollie Fingers, and Carl Weilman.

Eric: 307
Ahead of Tex Hughson, Charlie Ferguson, ad Jon Lieber
Trailing Johnny Allen, Lee Meadows, and Jose Quintana

Current career trajectory:
The shine’s come off Arrieta since his monster Cy Young 2015 campaign. He follow on with a fine if not amazing year, and in 2017, he looked worse for the wear. He was more hittable, his walks stayed above his peak level, and he coughed up a lot of homers. The Cubs good defense keeps his run-prevention numbers from sinking too much, but he’s just a little above average right now and certainly no longer appears to be a stud.

HoME Outlook:
At 31, with one all-time season, one All-Star year, and lots of also-ran stuff, he’s going to need Randy Johnson’s thirties to get to the HoME.
—Eric

Matt Cain

2017 BBREF WAR:
-0.5

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller:   252
Ahead of Billy Wagner, Earl Whitehill, and Bobby Mathews.
Trailing Paul Derringer, Francisco Rodriguez, and Rube Marquard.

Eric: 222
Ahead of John Hiller, George Mullin, and Howard Ehmke
Trailing Bruce Sutter, Sadie McMahon, and Bump Hadley

Current career trajectory:
I’m an AL fan who lives on the east coast. Forgive me if I forgot he was still in the game. He hasn’t pitched 200 innings since 2012, so perhaps I can be excused.

HoME Outlook:
Three All-Star Games and three World Series rings will have to be enough.
—Miller

Bartolo Colon

2017 BBREF WAR:
-2.2

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller:   137
Ahead of Camilo Pascual, Mel Harderr, Javier Vazquez.
Trailing Addie Joss, Sam McDowell, and Jack Chesbro.

Eric: 118
Ahead of Javier Vazquez, Chris Sale, and Tommy Bridges
Trailing Jamie Moyer, Larry Jackson, and Brad Radke

Current career trajectory:
It’s cute how the contending Twins picked up a 44-year-old starter who had been just awful in 13 starts with the Braves. It’s cuter that he began his Minnesota career in Rochester. Continuing with the cuteness, he was bombed in his one start there before getting called up. And it’s unbelievable that he allowed more than four runs in just two of his 15 starts with the Twins, albeit with a stinky 5.18 ERA. Let’s hope your favorite team doesn’t try to get cute in 2018.

HoME Outlook:
While I’d take him over a handful of Hall of Famers, he’s never going to get to the HoME.
—Miller

Johnny Cueto

2017 BBREF WAR:
1.7

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller:   267
Ahead of Jouett Meekin, Danny Darwin, and Sonny Siebert.
Trailing Preacher Roe, Jim Barr, and Willis Hudlin.

Eric: 231
Ahead of Ed Morris, Bullet Joe Bush, ad Dave Foutz
Trailing Danny Darwin, Dutch Leonard (the First), and Howie Pollet

Current career trajectory:
You’d think The Barry Zito Experience would have warned the Giants off of long-term deals for veteran pitchers in their thirties. They got a really good year out of him in 2016, but 2017 had a Zitoesque flavor. Cueto wasn’t sharp at all, had forearm issues, and barfed up a hairball 93 ERA+. That’s still enough to be juuuuust to come out above average once we factor in the poor defensive support from the Frisco Fumblers, but it’s far from the ace-level pitcher we’ve seen in the past. Like many of the pitchers we’re profiling, there’s not sure way to know whether Cueto is slipping or simply had a lost year.

HoME Outlook:
He’s almost halfway to a HoME career. But is he more than halfway to done?
—Eric

Yu Darvish

2017 BBREF WAR:
3.8

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 432
Ahead of Huston Street, Ron Reed, and Ben McDonald.
Trailing Paul Splittorff, Syl Johnson, and Clarence Mitchell.

Eric: 327
Ahead of Dick Radatz, Mike Flanagan, and Dick McBride
Trailing Elton “Ice Box” Chamberlain, Will White, and Roy Face

Current career trajectory:
Losing the better part of two years to surgery dialed back our expectations for Darvish. On the other hand, he doesn’t appear to have lost much after returning. Assuming that Darvish wishes to stay in the states to finish his career, he’ll have plenty of suitors this year, and as a moderately flyball-oriented pitcher, he might want to take care to sign with a team with some serious flycatchers on its team and spacious dimensions. While I don’t think that the Rays (with the amazing Kevin Kiermeier) will pony up for Darvish, the Twins would represent an intriguing landing spot with Byron Buxton in centerfield. Provided the Twins want to spend a buck. The Red Sox with Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, and Andrew Benintendi also represent a great opportunity—especially since right field and right center would play to Darvish’s handedness. We know what Darvish is, he still has good stuff as he turns 31, and he has an outside shot. He’s had his injury already and has come back just fine, so he’s kind of the opposite of some of the other guys we’ve talked about already.

HoME Outlook:
But I’d still put his chances at between zero and two percent until further notice.
—Eric

Zack Greinke

2017 BBREF WAR:
6.3

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 51
Ahead of Luis Tiant, Red Ruffing, and Ted Lyons.
Trailing David Cone, John Smoltz, and Jim Bunning.

Eric: 40
Ahead of Rick Reuschel, David Cone, and Jim Bunning
Trailing Amos Rusie, Jim Palmer, and Bob Feller

Current career trajectory:
We might think of Grienke as a right-handed Cole Hamels with a more wildly fluctuating career. Grienke has led the league twice each in winning percentage, ERA, ERA+, and WHIP. He also led the league in losses in 2005 with the lowly Royals (kill the win!—and the loss!). He’d probably have a second Cy Young if not for Jake Arrietta’s wins total. On the other hand, he’s swung between average and amazing while Hamels is just really good all the time. But the net result is pretty similar, if a slightly in Grienke’s favor. He can hit pretty good as well, which bolsters his value a little bit. But at 33, he bounced back from an injury-plagued off year to throw down a 6 WAR season, and he’s at the point where simply accumulating slightly above average seasons will move him up people’s lists and eventually earn him his 200th win—which is like 250 in the parlance of the era I grew up in.

HoME Outlook:
For me, he’s a made man. For others he may be sitting very close to if not on the borderline.
—Eric

Felix Hernandez

2017 BBREF WAR:
0.8

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 103
Ahead of Mickey Lolich, Tony Mullane, and Carl Mays.
Trailing Tommy John, Cliff Lee, and Dizzy Trout.

Eric: 84
Ahead of Nap Rucker, Kenny Rogers, and Pud Galvin
Trailing Billy Pierce, Whitey Ford, and Roy Oswalt

Current career trajectory:
Better not to ask? 2017 sucked for King Felix who has become a mere commoner. Pitching like Felix Heredia and not Felix Hernandez isn’t good for one’s longevity. Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto is saying that Hernandez will be on pitch limit next year in an effort to keep him healthy and effective. Let’s hope it works, and that Felix doesn’t end up another data point for working young pitchers too hard.

HoME Outlook:
In one sense, Hernandez’s outlook is bright. He’s very close to the in/out line, and he likely needs just one or two seasons of above-average pitching to edge over it. In another sense, his ominous three-year slide and injury issues could indicate the end is very, very close, in which case, he’s in that gray area where a player might make it or might not, and, indeed, probably won’t.
—Eric

Corey Kluber

2017 BBREF WAR:
8.1

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 272
Ahead of Eddie Lopat, Ed Brandt, and Harvey Haddix.
Trailing Vern Law, Sonny Siebert, and Danny Darwin.

Eric: 263
Ahead of Slim Sallee, Sparky Lyle, and Harvey Haddix
Trailing James Shields, Jason Schmidt, and Mike Garcia

Current career trajectory:
He’s in the conversation for the best non-Kershaw pitcher in baseball, and he seems to just keep getting better. The K rate is up, the BB rate is down, the soft contact rate is up, and there are no signs of slowing down. Except that he’ll be 32 next year.

HoME Outlook:
I want to say that pitchers like Kluber don’t make the HoME because that’s generally true. No pitcher with as little value as Kluber through age 31 is in. However, Whitey Ford, Randy Johnson, Jim Bunning, Curt Schilling, and Three Finger Brown were all within three WAR of Kluber through age 31. That’s five of the 94 guys within three WAR. So I’d say he has about a 6% chance.
—Miller

John Lackey

2017 BBREF WAR:
1.1

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 204
Ahead of Tom Zachary, Sadie McMahon, and Virgil Trucks.
Trailing Trevor Hoffman, Ellis Kinder, and Milt Pappas.

Eric: 192
Ahead of Dutch Leonard I, Chris Carpenter, and Wild Bill Donovan
Trailing Bob Friend, Milt Pappas, and Sal Maglie

Current career trajectory:
At 38, Lackey’s career is nearly in the can. Did you know he’s third in career wins among active pitchers with 188 (tied with Justin Verlander? He averages about 12 a year, so if he has enough left to take 30 turns in a rotation and spin another 95 ERA+ probably gets him there. That is if the free agent signs with a decent team.

HoME Outlook:
He can get 200 and wins if he wants, but he won’t that won’t get him a HoME plaque.
—Eric

Jake Peavy

2017 BBREF WAR:
0.0

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller:   190
Ahead of John Candelaria, Curt Simmons, and Curt Davis.
Trailing Dutch Leonard (the older), Ray Caldwell, and Mark Gubicza.

Eric: 169
Ahead of Doc White, Smoky Joe Wood, and Dan Haren
Trailing Lefty Gomez, Bob Friend, and Al Orth

Current career trajectory:
Well, he didn’t pitch in 2017, so it’s not looking great. He says he’s going to come back though, and I suppose I’ll trust him on that.

HoME Outlook:
He hasn’t topped 2 WAR since he was 31. He’ll be 36 if he chooses to play next year (or if he doesn’t). Even if he does return, he’s not going to be a HoMEr.
—Miller

Max Scherzer

2017 BBREF WAR:
7.6

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 90
Ahead of Noodles Hahn, Babe Adams, and Whitey Ford.
Trailing Roy Oswalt, Burleigh Grimes, and Don Sutton

Eric: 91
Ahead of Wilbur Cooper, Mordecai Brown, and Cliff Lee
Trailing Tommy John, George Uhle, and Don Sutton

Current career trajectory:
Up, up, and away!!!

HoME Outlook:
If he got run over by a bus tomorrow, we’d have a hard case on our hands. Just below the line, but in that gray zone where he’d be worth a long look and could still make it, the same way Bucky Walters did. Another couple average years or one nicely above average year—doesn’t even have to be yet another Cy Young kind of year—and he’ll probably be over the line. Obviously, another big one, and he’s golden.
—Eric

Ervin Santana

2017 BBREF WAR:
4.8

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 374
Ahead of Billy Rhines, Craig Kimbrel, and Kent Tekulve.
Trailing Juan Guzman, Jimmy Callahan, and Mike Morgan.

Eric: 277
Ahead of Bob Ewing, Jack McDowell, and Deacon Phillipe
Trailing Gus Wehying, Bobby Shantz, and Larry Dierker

Current career trajectory:
Santana had an outstanding campaign in 2017, the second best of his career by WAR. Of course, he’s not really that good, and he’ll be 35 next year.

HoME Outlook:
Eric and I sometimes discuss how deep into the active player pool we should go on these posts. I think this is deep enough.
—Miller

James Shields

2017 BBREF WAR:
0.2

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller:   315
Ahead of Charles Nagy, Johnny Podres, and Bill Hands.
Trailing Earl Moore, Bill Sherdel, and Ed Killian.

Eric: 260
Ahead of Jason Schmidt, Mike Garcia, and Corey Kluber
Trailing Sid Fernandez, Firpo Marberry, and John Franco

Current career trajectory:
Remember when he was Big Game James? In retrospect, I don’t get it. In eleven post-season starts, he only once pitched over six innings with fewer than three funs allowed. Over his last 501 innings, he has a 4.92 ERA. He’s toast.

HoME Outlook:
Um, no.
—Miller

Stephen Strasburg

2017 BBREF WAR: 6.5

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 384
Ahead of Ice Box Chamberlain, Bronson Arroyo, and Bob Smith.
Trailing Wilson Alvarez, Scott Erickson, and Vean Gregg.

Eric: 293
Ahead of Kerry Wood, Bill Hands, and Tim Lincecum
Trailing Harry Howell, Jesse Haines, and Rollie Fingers

Current career trajectory:
Stras has still only eclipsed 200 innings once, but in today’s game, the 175 innings he threw in 2017 feels like 200. The leader in MLB threw 214. No, I’m serious. Only fifteen pitchers in MLB cleared 200 innings, less than one per team. Strasburg just finished his age-28 season, and he’s already had major surgery, but this time the Nats will use him in the playoffs. His 6.5 WAR went a little under the radar, maybe because all the early career hype didn’t seem to pan out, but that’s a Cy Young contender, and his first big breakout year. He enters 2018 with a career .651 winning percentage and averaging about 4.3 WAR per 200 innings. If we’ve just begun to see what peak Strasburg looks like, then the Nats will be dominating the NL East for years to come.

HoME Outlook:
If Strasburg’s peak is just beginning, then we may see him rack up value fast over the next three to five years and gain a lot of momentum for a run to the HoME. Or, 2017 is his career year and he returns to previous career levels, in which case, he’s another talented pitcher who didn’t end up making it.
—Eric

Justin Verlander

2017 BBREF WAR:
6.4

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 55
Ahead of Urban Shocker, Dave Stieb, and Red Faber.
Trailing Ted Lyons, Red Ruffing, and Red Ruffing.

Eric: 52
Ahead of Dennis Ecersley, Bret Saberhagen, and Johan Santana
Trailng Luis Tiant, Dave Stieb, and Urban Shocker

Current career trajectory:
His profile, which didn’t need to be enhanced, has been enhanced after an impressive post-season run. More importantly, he’s had two straight great years after it seemed his career was in decline. I’m not sure where he goes next. However, I don’t feel great about the increase in walk rate, and I really dislike the greatest hard contact rate of his career per Fangraphs. On the other hand, his heater was faster this year than it’s been since 2010. Verlander may be one of those special, special players who ages not just with grace, but with excellence.

HoME Outlook:
I really, really disliked Verlander after what I considered a ridiculous MVP Award in 2011. It was ridiculous insomuch as I don’t think pitchers should win MVP Awards. And the discussion of his “dominance” that year was crazily overblown. To be fair though, it would have been easy enough to call him the best player in the AL that year. Still, I’m a Red Sox fan, and Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia were awesome in 2011. His HoME outlook is that he’s in. The question is just one of where he winds up. Let’s pretend he finishes this seasons of 6, 4, 2, and 1 WAR. If he’s able to do so, he’s going to finish up between Jim Palmer and Juan Marichal. Very impressive!
—Miller

Adam Wainwright

2017 BBREF WAR:
0.8

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 163
Ahead of Murry Dickson, Jim Maloney, and Andy Messersmith.
Trailing Jeff Pfeffer, Tommy Bond, and Jose Rijo.

Eric: 143
Ahead of Bobo Newsom, Jesse Tannehill, Bob Shawkey
Trailing Ned Garver, Carly Mays, and Camilo Pascual

Current career trajectory:
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Amazing young pitcher going along great until an injury in his early thirties destroys his career. Wainwright’s yet another reason why it’s foolish to predict career paths for pitchers. He’s returned from surgery with very little stuff left. His command has diminished enough that his gopherball rate has skyrocketed, which in combination with modest decreases in his strikeout rate and a sharp increase in his walk rate certainly portend doom. He’s under contract to the Cards through 2018, at which point he’ll have completed his age-36 season. If he is now what he was last year, he won’t last too much past that…unless maybe he goes Eckersley. He started out that way after all.

HoME Outlook:
It’s not like he’s not within striking distance of the borderline, but without a couple more good seasons (as in at least 3 WAR), he’s got no shot. I’m rooting for him.
—Eric

Jered Weaver

2017 BBREF WAR:
-1.3

Rank at the position after 2017:
Miller: 214
Ahead of Jon Papelbon, Madison Bumgarner, and Bruce Hurst.
Trailing Russ Ford, Mort Cooper, and Sad Sam Jones

Eric: 189
Ahead of Milt Pappas, Billy Wagner, and David Price
Trailing Andy Messersmith, Dan Quisenberry, and John Tudor

Current career trajectory:
Well, since he’s now retired he won’t lose any more ground, as he has over the last five years in total.

HoME Outlook:
No shot.
—Miller

Mid-Season Update, Battery

Clayton Kershaw, 2017Welcome to the first of a three part series updating you on the HoME status of active players I’m charting. Today it’s the battery. On Monday you’ll see the infielders, and a week from today it’ll be the outfielders. For each player I’ll list his positional rank on my charts before the season began, his actual WAR through June 30, where he would move if it were his straight WAR that I use to rank (it’s close), and some comments on his eventual HoME chances. Enjoy!

Clayton Kershaw

Preseason Rank: 56

2017 WAR: 3.6

Current Rank: 51, passing Urban Shocker, Dennis Eckersley, Jim Bunning, Red Faber, and Dazzy Vance

HoME Status: Talk of Max Scherzer being the best pitcher in baseball is premature. Kershaw is the reigning champ, and for my money you have to take the belt away from the champ. It’s not like The Claw is anything other than great again this year, on his way to another 7-win season. What’s more, he’s about to put up his eighth straight 5-win campaign. And if we imagine a second half like the first for Kershaw, he’ll have the fourth most WAR of any pitcher in the last century in his first ten seasons, trailing only Tom Seaver, Roger Clemens, and Lefty Grove. Everyone on the career list he passes now is a HoMEr, so he’s already assured of going. Watch him pitch when you can. There are few you’ve seen before or will see again who are like him.

CC Sabathia

Preseason Rank: 57

2017 WAR: 1.4

Current Rank: 55, passing Urban Shocker

HoME Status: Sabathia is now ahead of 14 pitching HoMers, and he continues to add nice value over the last year and a half. He’s punched his ticket.

Zack Greinke, 2017Zack Greinke

Preseason Rank: 77

2017 WAR: 2.7

Current Rank: passing Whitey Ford, George Uhle, Bucky Walters, Johan Santana, Sandy Koufax, Frank Tanana, and Kevin Appier

HoME Status: I tend to think of Greinke as a four-trick pony, which is a lot of tricks. First there’s the incredible 10.4 WAR season of 2009. Then there’s 9.9 WAR season of 2015. Add to those two a very impressive bat and consistency on the mound, and you have a HoMEr. For Eric, he was in before the season began. For me, it’s quite likely he’s in now, though he still trails a couple of non-HoMErs on my list. A second half like the first would push him past those guys, and make him a slam dunk for me.

Justin Verlander

Preseason Rank: 85

2017 WAR: 1.2

Current Rank: 80, passing Pud Galvin, Mickey Welch, Wilbur Cooper, Charlie Buffinton, and Mark Buehrle

HoME Status: Whether or not a Jarrod Dyson bunt is controversial doesn’t really matter around the HoME. What does matter is performance, and Verlander’s first half work elevated him past five guys even though that performance wasn’t anything special. It just goes to show how close some of these comparisons are. It’s a reminder that pulling straight from my list isn’t necessarily the right thing to do when electing to the HoME. Verlander has now passed his second HoMEr in Galvin, yet he’s not quite a sure thing at this moment. With 1.8 WAR in the second half, he’d get past Whitey Ford, Bucky Walters, and Sandy Koufax, as well as a few other excellent pitchers. Even if it’s not in 2017, he’s almost certain to get there.

Cole Hamels

Preseason Rank: 89

2017 WAR: 0.7

Current Rank: 87, passing Nap Rucker and Burleigh Grimes

HoME Status: Hamels is 33 this year and has made just five starts because of injury.  He has been building a quiet yet growing case for more than a decade. There’s little reason to believe that barring more injury woes he won’t continue to build. Even if he didn’t pitch again this year, two season of 3.0 WAR after this one puts him in a virtual tie with Early Wynn. There’s good reason to believe Hamels is a future HoMEr.

Felix Hernandez, 2017Felix Hernandez

Preseason Rank: 99

2017 WAR: 0.4

Current Rank: 98, passing Mickey Lolich

HoME Status: On one hand, King Felix is still just 31. On the other, he had a young arm that was worked hard, and he’s been hurt the last two years. It’s clear that he’s breaking down. We all do. But think about CC above. After he broke down, he still had some nice nights at the park. Hell, think about the last old car you drive. I bet you took it to the shop a couple of times, worried about putting so much money into it, and then were surprised by a sustained streak of reasonable performance. Such a streak can still certainly come from Felix. It’ll need to if he wants to get to the HoME.

Bartolo Colon

Preseason Rank: 123

2017 WAR: -2.3

Current Rank: 134, falling behind Jimmy Key, Doc White, George Mullin, Jack Stivetts, Dolf Luque, Dennis Martinez, Lon Warneke, Jamie Moyer, Silver King, and Carlos Zambrano

HoME Status: If this is the end of the road, and I think it is, Colon has had a nice career. A couple of nice careers, really. At one point, he put up -0.7 WAR over five seasons. Then he put up 9.7 in the next three. We’ll miss him, and we’ll never see him in the HoME.

Max Scherzer

Preseason Rank: 155

2017 WAR: 4.5

Current Rank: 131, passing Al Spalding, Jack Morris, Sam McDowell, Bill Dinneen, Bill Donovan, Dutch Leonard (the younger), Pink Hawley Claude Passeau, Red Lucas, Catfish Hunter, Jack Chesbro, Murry Dickson, Camilo Pascual, Mel Harder, Jim Whitney, Steve Rogers, Addie Joss, Bob Shawkey, Brade Radke, Herb Pennock, Vida Blue, Carlos Zambrano, Silver King, and Jamie Moyer

HoME Status: He’s not there yet, but with a second half like the first, he’d get past Goose Gossage, the lowest ranking HoME hurler. And if he replicated the first half for the next three half-seasons, he’d pass fifteen more HoMErs. Scherzer is 32, so it’s possible it could fall apart quickly. Plus, he’s a pitcher, so he could fall apart at any moment. On the other hand, he’s doing a great impression of the best pitcher in baseball right now. A gentle decline would get him in. A great second half and a fairly precipitous decline might get him in too. It’s pretty exciting to watch this guy work right now, and I expect it will be exciting inducting him into the HoME in a dozen or so years.

EPSON MFP imageJon Lester

Preseason Rank: 164

2017 WAR: 0.9

Current Rank: 157, passing Schoolboy Rowe, Hoyt Wilhelm, Mel Stottlemyre, Bob Welch, Fernando Valenzuela, Nig Cuppy, and Smoky Joe Wood

HoME Status: On one hand, he’s 33. On the other, he’s made at least 31 starts every year since 2008. Oh, and he overcame cancer, so I don’t put much past him. Repeating his first half and then following up with five 3-win seasons would get him really close. Like I say, I don’t put much past him.

Adam Wainwright

Preseason Rank: 165

2017 WAR: 0.4

Current Rank: 163, passing Schoolboy Rowe and Hoyt Wilhelm

HoME Status: Older and far less healthy than Lester, I don’t see him moving up the charts much more. He really hasn’t been a very good pitcher since 2014. But the guy can hit. He has 4 HR and 25 RBI in his last 100 trips to the plate.

Jake Peavy

Preseason Rank: 181

2017 WAR: 0.0

Current Rank: 181

HoME Status: Peavy isn’t retired yet, but he hasn’t pitched yet in 2017 to he could spend time with his kids after a divorce. There’s little reason to believe he’ll rebound to be a good pitcher again if he returns. His HoME case is virtually closed.

Joe Nathan

Preseason Rank: 189

2017 WAR: 0.0

Current Rank: 189

HoME Status: Nathan is likely done after requesting his release from the AAA contract he had with the Nationals. He may or may not be done in the game, but his HoME chances are zero.

John Lackey

Preseason Rank: 199

2017 WAR: -0.4

Current Rank: 199

HoME Status: He’s not going to make it. As it is, perhaps it’ll be a trick to retire inside the top-200.

Jered Weaver

Preseason Rank: 204

2017 WAR: -1.2

Current Rank: 209, falling behind Bruce Hurst, Sadie McMahon, Francisco Rodriguez, Rich Rhoden, and Chris Sale

HoME Status: No, never. And his miserable work (well, any work) with the Padres this year has taken him off the Angel Mount Rushmore.

Francisco Rodriguez, 2017, 2Francisco Rodriguez

Preseason Rank: 205

2017 WAR: -1.1

Current Rank: 208, falling behind Bruce Hurst, Sadie McMahon, Rick Rhoden, and Chris Sale; passing Jered Weaver

HoME Status: The end can come very quickly for some closer. Perhaps the end is here for K-Rod. There was once some speculation that he would retire with the all-time saves record. In a way, he got close. He’s fourth, but he’s 215 behind Mariano. Dave Smith had 216 career saves. He’s 43rd in history.

David Price

Preseason Rank: 225

2017 WAR: 0.3

Current Rank: 225, passing Chris Carpenter and falling behind Chris Sale

HoME Status: He seems generally to be righting the ship this season after early injury troubles. As for the HoME, there’s a lot of ground to make up. I’d settle for a strong post-season for a pitcher with a 2-8 career record and a 5.54 October ERA.

Chris Sale, 2017Chris Sale

Preseason Rank: 226

2017 WAR: 3.5

Current Rank: 204, passing 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 Phillipe, Burt Hooton, Jerry Reuss, Hooks Dauss, Doyle Alexander, Rick Rhoden, Sadie McMahon, Bruce Hurst, Francisco Rodriguez, Jered Weaver, and Bill Hutchinson.

HoME Status: If Max Scherzer weren’t the east coast’s answer to Clayton Kershaw, it would be Sale. He’s just so good now, and he’s only 28. A second half like the first would put him past 27 more guys, moving into 176th place in history. It’s smart money to take the under on just about every pitcher. I’m rooting for him though.

Matt Cain

Preseason Rank: 229

2017 WAR: 0.3

Current Rank: 227, passing Danny Darwin and Billy Wagner

HoME Status: If you want to know what’s wrong with signing pitchers to long-term contracts, you’re looking at him. In the first year of a six-year $125.5 million contract, he finished a run of 28.1 WAR over six years. Since then, he’s been about a win below replacement. His ERA if 5+ for the third straight year, and the Giants will be very happy to give him $7.5 million this off-season to go away. He has no shot at the HoME.

Madison Bumgarner

Preseason Rank: 233

2017 WAR: 0.9

Current Rank: 228, Slim Sallee, Bob Ewing, Frank Killen, Danny Darwin, and Billy Wagner

HoME Status: Bumgarner was off to another great start before a sprain of his throwing shoulder knocked him out. Best case scenario, he’s back for the last two months of the season. Hopefully he’ll be healthy moving forward. And hopefully he won’t be a cautionary tale about betting on pitchers to produce HoME-worthy careers when they’re still just 27. If forced to bet, I’d bet against him at this point.

Johnny Cueto

Preseason Rank: 246

2017 WAR: 1.7

Current Rank: 238, passing Larry Dierker, Dave Foutz, Charlie Ferguson, Bobby Mathews, Harvey Haddix, Lee Smith, Rube Marquard, and Willis Hudlin

HoME Status: Well, Rube Marquard made it. Let’s see if the Giants can find someone to take him and the $92+ million he’s still owed.

James Shields

Preseason Rank: 266

2017 WAR: 0.5

Current Rank: 262, passing Mike Cuellar, Bruce Sutter, Ken Holtzman, and Bill Hands

HoME Status: Um, no.

Tim Lincecum

Preseason Rank: 275

2017 WAR: 0.0

Current Rank: 275

HoME Status: Lincecum is done. That’s good news since he’s lost nearly three WAR the last four seasons. The Freak was a superstar for two years when he won his Cy Youngs, good for two more, and that’s it.

Jake Arrieta

Preseason Rank: 291

2017 WAR: -0.3

Current Rank: 295, falling behind Paul Splittorff, Ron Reed, Craig Kimbrel, and Corey Kluber

HoME Status: Arrieta is 31, had a nice run of excellence from 2014-2015, owns a Cy Young for his troubles, and will probably get to 100 wins in his career. But guys who struggle for years and then peak seldom keep it up for long. He’s no HoMEr.

Craig Kimbrel

Preseason Rank: 294

2017 WAR: 2.3

Current Rank: 286, passing Ron Reed, Paul Splittorff, Jake Arrieta, Bob Veale, Candy Cummings, Mike Will, Jon Lieber, and Jim Devlin

HoME Status: Well, Kimbrel is back. On the basis of a career high swinging strike percentage and a career low ball in play percentage and contact rate, the AL All-Stars will have a lockdown guy in the ninth should they choose to use Kimbrel in that role. Closers basically don’t get into the HoME due to low inning totals keeping their value down. Kimbrel will be no exception, but he’s certainly fun to watch.

Corey Kluber, 2017Corey Kluber

Preseason Rank: 296

2017 WAR: 2.9

Current Rank: 281, passing Red Ames, Craig Kimbrel, Ron Reed, Paul Splittorff, Jake Arrieta, Bob Veale, Candy Cummings, Mike Witt, Jon Lieber, Jim Devlin, Red Donahue, Mike Flanagan, J.R. Richard, Matt Kilroy, and Spud Chandler

HoME Status: He didn’t pitch 200 innings for the first time until he was 28. Unless he learns a knuckler, he has no chance.

Huston Street

Preseason Rank: 297

2017 WAR: 0.1

Current Rank: 297

HoME Status: It’s kind of cute that he’s even on the list.

Joe Mauer

Preseason Rank: 14

2017 WAR: 1.0

Current Rank: 14

HoME Status: While the best of Mauer is gone and isn’t returning, he’s long been a HoMEr. And with a second half just a smidge better than his first, he’ll get past Wally Schang.

Russell Martin, 2017Russell Martin

Preseason Rank: 24

2017 WAR: 1.0

Current Rank: 22, passing Jason Kendall and HoMEr Bill Freehan

HoME Status: There’s no position more difficult to judge than catcher. From framing, to handling a staff, to DRA not really improving on rfield, to countless other things, I just don’t know how much to trust my own numbers. But what else do I have to trust? Martin has just passed HoMEr Bill Freehan on my list. Of course, there are still four catchers ahead of Freehan and out of the HoME, as I trust the Tiger’s defensive reputation more than I do for most. But I don’t know that I’m being fair. I don’t know if I’m right about any of these rankings. Russell Martin in the HoME doesn’t feel quite right, but it’s certainly possible.

Buster Posey

Preseason Rank: 30

2017 WAR: 2.9

Current Rank: 28, passing Deacon McGuire and Darrell Porter

HoME Status: Now Posey feels right in the HoME. He’s already the 11th best catcher ever based on BBREF’s rbat, moving past the likes of Ted Simmons, Carlton Fisk, and Gary Carter this year. He’s 30, relatively close, and still excellent. He can be moved out from behind the plate when necessary and still have a bat that plays. He still has a bit of work to do, but I bet he’ll get there.

Yadier Molina

Preseason Rank: 34

2017 WAR: 0.9

Current Rank: 33, passing Sherm Lollar

HoME Status: In the mind of many Cardinals fans, Yadi is already a sure thing. For the Hall, maybe, not for the HoME. In some ways I think of him like Bill Mazeroski or Omar Vizquel. Then again, he’s better than those guys. But he really isn’t a hitter. And I’m not certain his overall defense is what some make it out to be. When I say that I’m not sure, I don’t mean it as a critique. I’m just not sure. Catcher defense is so hard. If you told me Molina and Martin should be flipped, I couldn’t put up a very good argument otherwise.

Victor Martinez

Preseason Rank: 43

2017 WAR: 0.0

Current Rank: 43

HoME Status: He’s not going, though with five All-Star Games has had a very nice career. Here’s hoping his health issues allow him to bow out gracefully and lead a happy and healthy existence for the next 50+ years.

Brian McCann, 2017Brian McCann

Preseason Rank: 46

2017 WAR: 1.2

Current Rank: 46

HoME Status: McCann 42 doubles in 2008, 35 the next year, 25 the year after that, and 19 in 2011. He hasn’t topped 15 since. So far this year he has 8. That’s weird. He’s a decent player who’s never getting to the HoME.

A.J. Pierzynski

Preseason Rank: 54

2017 WAR: 0.0

Current Rank: 54

HoME Status: It’s sad to see that A.J. is done. Unless you played against him.

The infield is coming on Monday.

Miller

17 I’m Watching in ’17

Mike Trout, BeckettWelcome to the 2017 baseball season at the Hall of Miller and Eric, everyone. For my money, if it’s even 80% as great as last year, we’re in for quite a bit of fun. Cubs fans are going to have to go through what I experienced in 2005, a real letdown because that thing you prayed for all of your lives finally happened. What is there to do now? Yeah, you could win again, but even if you do, it’ll be, well, different. Cubs and Sox in the Series? Could be.

Anyway, while I’m certainly hoping for my Red Sox to win their fourth Series in fifteen years, there are a bunch of players I’m looking at this year as they continue to develop their cases for the HoME. Here they are.

Joe Mauer: The Twin former backstop is at the point where he’s likely already in. And he’s still played 3+ more years at catcher than anywhere else. However, given that he no longer resembles the .320-hitting juggernaut of earlier in his career, and that there’s a shot he someday becomes a plurality first baseman, there may still be some work to do. Probably not, but maybe. Over the last two years, he averaged 2.3 WAR. Doing that again would propel him past Wally Schang into 13th place on my catcher list. However, he’d still trail John Olerud in 29th place at first base. I don’t know if Mauer should root for great success or an early retirement.

Albert Pujols: To steal from Miracle Max and the Princess Bride, Pujols is only mostly dead. He had enough in him last year to get past Jimmie Foxx as the fifth best first baseman ever. With another year like that, he’ll remain where he is. In fact, he’s going to need a season he hasn’t had since his first with the Angels to pass Roger Connor for fourth. It won’t happen in 2017, but he still has four years on his contract after that. I think he gets to fourth before he’s done. And for those interested in such things, I’d expect Sammy Sosa and Jim Thome to fall to him this year on the all-time home run chart. Seventh place on that list would be backed up by eighth place on the all-time RBI list if he puts up another year like last one. I say Pujols retires at third ever in ribbies, behind only Aaron and Ruth.

Miguel Cabrera: Playing the same position in the same era as Albert Pujols can’t be easy. And winning a couple of MVP trophies that should have gone to Mike Trout will get you talked down among folks like me. But make no mistake, Miguel Cabrera is an exceptional player, an all-time great. I currently rank the soon-to-be 34-year-old 18th in history at first base. But he’s close to doing so much more. A season just like last year moves him past Rafael Palmeiro, Jim Thome, George Sisler, Ernie Banks, Todd Helton, Johnny Mize, and Frank Thomas into 11th place. He’d put himself into a position where Pete Rose, Jeff Bagwell, and Rod Carew could all go down in the future. It’s quite possible Cabrera retires as the eighth best first baseman ever.

Joey Votto: At 33 when the season ends, Votto is a bit older than you may think. And at 36th on my career first base list, he’s also better positioned than some would guess. In fact, a season like the last one would park him right behind John Olerud, in 29th place and squarely on the borderline. One more after that, he gets past Mark McGwire and could be worthy of a vote. No, Votto isn’t a kid, but he was pretty great again last year. He’s going to need to keep going for a little while to get into the Hall, as voters really don’t like first basemen with only one 30 homer season and only two 100 RBI campaigns. But for the HoME, he just needs a couple of strong ones and a decline that’s not awful.

Robinson Cano: Cano is so clearly in the HoME already. He doesn’t need to play another game. Let’s remember, though, that he was pretty elite last year, which brought him up to 9th all-time at his position. If he repeats that campaign, he passes Jackie Robinson and Bobby Grich to become the seventh best ever. And even if you don’t think a year of almost 8-WAR is manageable, it’ll only take him 3-WAR to get past Jackie. Let’s say he loses 1-WAR per year from last year’s impressive total, until he’s below 1.0. If he does that, he’ll rank fifth ever behind Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, Nap Lajoie, and Joe Morgan. And even Joe could be had if things go well for Cano.

Ian Kinsler: I like to think I’ve been on his cause longer than most. I’m saying it now – he’s getting in (writers will forget/ignore his recent comments). His worst WAR total of the last four years has been 4.06. Doing only that propels him past Fred Dunlap and HoMErs Bobby Doerr and Jeff Kent. And why would anyone think someone averaging 5-WAR per year over their last six would be done after just one more campaign? I think Kinsler actually has a shot to finish as one of the top dozen ever at second base. But those middle guys can age fast.

Adrian Beltre: Like Cano and Cabrera, Beltre is a fully formed HoMEr. I mention him in the group I’m watching this year because repeating his 2016 season would move him past Paul Molitor, Chipper Jones, and Home Run Baker into sixth at the hot corner. I fully believe Ron Santo will be had one day as well. The interesting story is whether or not Beltre can keep producing to catch Boggs and Brett.

Evan Longoria: A classic 7-win season from him would vault the Ray from 31st at the position all the way up to 21st, ahead of HoMEr Sal Bando. I’m interested, but I’m not holding my breath.

Josh Donaldson: He’s not that young (31), and he’s not that close (53rd among 3B by my numbers). Then again, he’s working on four consecutive years of 7.3+ WAR. I’ll admit that’s a bit of an arbitrary cut-off meant to make Donaldson look good. But let’s consider his company. Only Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, George Brett, Wade Boggs, and Ron Santo can claim to have four such years in their careers. Despite the late start, that’s some elite company. If he does it again this year, it’ll make a club of two – only Donaldson and Boggs – who have accomplished that feat. Great players do great things. It’s possible we’ll see the fifth year of a very improbable Hall run in 2017.

Mike Trout: At age-25 with just five full seasons in the majors, Mike Trout isn’t a HoMEr. Yet. If he repeats his terrific 2016 season, he’ll pass Mike Griffin, Willie Davis, Max Carey, Jimmy Wynn, George Gore, Duke Snider, and Kenny Lofton. After just six full seasons, he’ll be the 13th best center fielder ever. Two more times with the same season after that, it’s just Cobb, Mays, Speaker, Mantle, and DiMaggio in front of him. Let’s hope this ride lasts a long, long time.

Andrew McCutchen: Going into last season, McCutchen looked like a Hall of Famer. Though he wasn’t an average defender, he played a critical defensive position, and he hit a bunch, even if his traditional numbers didn’t show it. Then came 2017. He was terrible, not even a replacement-level talent. He’s moving off center field this year, which should help the appearance of his defensive numbers. But the issue in reviving his Hall campaign is at the plate. Does he have the discipline and talent to go against the increasing shifts that have come his way? If he does, there’s some hope of career revitalization. If not, he’ll be in the conversation with Charlie Keller, Mark Teixeira, Wally Berger, Nomar Garciaparra, and a few others as stars with the best seven years to start a career who don’t deserve Hall inclusion.

Clayton Kershaw: Unlike Trout, I already have Kershaw in the HoME. Pitchers break down more easily than hitters, and Kershaw hasn’t yet. Also, Kershaw has eight full seasons compared to just six for Trout. I rank Kershaw #56 among pitchers, and he’s coming off his worst season since 2012, basically because of injury. Still, if he puts up that exact season again, he’d move into a virtual tie with Wes Ferrell at #40. Two more seasons at that rate, and he’d pass Ed Walsh into 25th in history. Just how far up the list Kershaw will climb, only time and health will tell.

CC Sabathia: The big guy might just have gotten himself into the HoME last year on the back of a pretty surprising season of nearly 3-WAR. I don’t think he can repeat, but if he does, Urban Shocker, Dennis Eckersley, and Jim Bunning will go down.

Zack Greinke: The Diamondback star might be one of the harder players in the game to forecast. That’s because he’s had a pair of seasons worth over 10-WAR. But he’s only had three others over 3.9. I rank him 77th all-time, which is just outside the HoME now. Should he put up a year similar to 2016, he’ll pass seven guys, probably be a shade over the line, but still make people wonder about him. On the other hand, should he replicate his amazing 2015 season, he’d leap into a virtual tie with Don Drysdale for 38th place. Giving him four wins, which I think is about reasonable, puts him just behind Orel Hershiser and in 64th place. Greinke may not be in now, but after the season I believe he will be.

Justin Verlander: I talked about the Tiger righty in October, just after he closed out his comeback season, the third best of his career, after a pair of relative clunkers. At age 33, with only 3.3 WAR the two previous years, it seemed Verlander was cooked. Not at all. He’s up to 85th on my pitcher list and getting very close to HoME territory. A repeat of last year shoots him into 62nd place, ahead of Don Sutton, and very likely to get a HoME vote. Perhaps a more realistic 3-win season moves him up ten places fewer but still gets him past Sandy Koufax. Verlander’s eventual election is looking good.

Cole Hamels: Ten months younger than Verlander, Hamels may be baseball’s greatest veteran player who is a bit off my radar. After seven straight seasons of at least 4.7 WAR, it’s time to change that for baseball’s 89th best pitcher ever. A season just like last year’s gets him to 70th all-time, just ahead of Frank Tanana and in a territory where most every pitcher makes it. Hamels has been consistent and healthy, making at least 33 starts for nine straight campaigns. There’s every reason to think he’s going to get to the HoME before it’s all said and done.

Felix Hernandez: Pitchers break down eventually, and at just age 31 when he makes his second start this season, it’s possible the King is getting to that point. After posting at least 30 starts every year for a decade, it was only 25 in 2016. Last year’s WAR total was less than half of any year since 2006. The guy ranked 99th on my list is young enough to figure it out, get himself right, and continue on his HoME build. A year like the last one only brings him to 94th. But a year like 2015 brings him to 80th, and a year like 2014 brings him to 70th. In 2017 we’re going to begin to see if Felix is going to storm his way into the HoME or take a quieter path.

Enjoy the season, everyone!

Miller

 

2016 Update, RHP

justin-verlander-si2Unlike out lefties, there’s nobody who’s already indisputably in the HoME on the list below, though Eric and I disagree on Zack Greinke’s slam-dunk status. Still, there are a bunch of guys on this list who are going to make a real run (and I have no fear that Greinke will be over my line soon enough).

On this list we have some age in Bartolo Colon. We have some late starts in Corey Kluber and Jake Arrieta. We have some who have fizzled out, perhaps, in Jered Weaver and Matt Cain. And we have some guys like Justin Verlander, those who I thought might have been dead who are very much back on track now.

This is the final in our post-season player updates. Only the managers will follow on Monday. Please check out others in this series: 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, LF, CF, RF, C, RP, and LHP.

Right Handed Pitchers
Zack Greinke
2016 BBREF WAR:
2.6

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 87
Eric: 68

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 77
Eric: 59

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Nap Rucker, Burleigh Grimes, Jim McCormick, Pud Galvin, Mickey Welch, Wilbur Cooper, Charlie Buffington, Mark Buehrle, Tommy John, Dwight Gooden, and Whitey Ford.
Eric: Eddie Cicotte, Chuck Finley, Tim Hudson, Andy Pettitte, Goose Gossage, Joe McGinnity, Kevin Appier, Red Faber

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Whitey Ford, George Uhle, Bucky Walters, Sandy Koufax, Chuck Finley, and Frank Tanana.
Eric: Hoss Radbourn, Rube Waddell, Johan Santana, Red Ruffing, Orel Hershiser, and Urban Shocker

Current career trajectory:
After an inaugural year in the desert that didn’t meet expectations, some fans are already calling on the D’Backs to deal Grienke away for salary relief. Seems a little far-fetched to me. Grienke has an up-and-down career path. He’s got two seasons above 9 WAR and zero seasons between 5.2 and 9 WAR. Similarly he has zero seasons between 3.9 and 5.0 WAR. Throw in a few below 3.0 WAR and you get the picture. He bounces like a baby boy, so the panic seems a tad premature to me. Of course, as with any pitcher, the end can come suddenly, so let’s be clear-eyed. If he hangs on for another 10 WAR or so, however, he’s going to end up ranking among pitchers such as Don Dyrsdale or Luis Tiant in the mid-low 40s all-time…

HoME Outlook:
…and if the end is here or near, he’s still making the Hall of Miller and Eric. Grienke’s done enough, for me at least, to make it. Your mileage may vary, but he’s just far enough over the line, that I have no question in my mind. His bat, by the way, has helped him a lot.

Felix Hernandez
2016 BBREF WAR:
1.5

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 110
Eric: 92

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 98
Eric: 89

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Dizzy Dean, Al Orth, Chief Bender, Noodles Hahn, Kenny Rogers, David Wells, Jesse Tannehill, Hippo Vaughn, Billy Pierce, Jim Kaat, Mark Langston, and Eppa Rixey.
Eric: Billy Pierce, Al Spalding, Don Sutton, Tommy John, and Whitey Ford…and was passed by Justin Verlander and Cole Hamels

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Mickey Lolich, Wilbur Wood, Carl Mays, and Roy Oswalt.
Eric: Miner Brown, Kenny Rogers, Mark Langston, Wilbur Cooper, George Uhel, Pud Galvin, Dizzy Dean, Frank Tanana, Jim McCormick, and Bucky Walters

Current career trajectory:
The King got started at the age of 19 and was a star almost from the beginning. For a decade he pitched 200 innings almost every year and started at least 30 games ten straight times. I remember people saying in March that Hernandez was an injury waiting to happen. And then he got hurt. At age 30, for the first time since he was 19, he didn’t make at least 30 starts. So what’s next at the age of 31? His fastball is down over five MPH from its peak and down 1.3 from its lowest point. He’s throwing his change-up more, which makes some sense, but to have an effective you need to have at least a decent heater too. At least that’s usually the case. Hernandez is transitioning into an older pitcher. If he can make a smooth transition next season, he has plenty of years left. If not…

HoME Outlook:
He’s among the best hundred pitchers ever, so he’s approaching the point where we start talking seriously about him. Another 5-WAR season his him nipping on the heels of Whitey Ford. I’m not sure he has another such season in him. But if he wants it, he’ll nearly certainly have the bulk to get to the HoME. Here’s hoping he gets healthy, slows the decline, and shows us why they call him The King.

Justin Verlander
2016 BBREF WAR:
6.6

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 126
Eric: 110

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 84
Eric: 71

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Dolf Luque, Jack Stivetts, George Mullin, Doc White, Jimmy Key, Bobo Newsom, Waite Hoyt, Jack Quinn, Tommy Bridges, Ron Guidry, Bob Lemon, Frank Viola, Eddie Rommel, Larry Jackson, Cliff Lee, Jerry Koosman, Felix Hernandez, Dizzy Dean, Al Orth, Chief Bender, Noodles Hahn, Kenny Rogers, David Wells, Jesse Tannehill, Hippo Vaughn, Billy Pierce, Jim Kaat, Mark Langston, Eppa Rixey, Mickey Lolich, Wilbur Wood, Carl Mays, Roy Oswalt, Babe Adams, Dizzy Trout, Tony Mullane, Goose Gossage, Nap Rucker, Burleigh Grimes, and Jim McCormick

Eric: Nearly 40 guys, including some interesting names such as fellow active pitchers Cole Hamels and King Felix, recent retires Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee, plus HoMErs Don Sutton, Whitey Ford, Miner Brown, Pud Galvin, Bucky Walters, Early Wynn, and Sandy Koufax

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?

Miller: 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, Frank Tanana, Kevin Appier, Ted Brietenstein, Tim Hudson, Early Wynn, Bob Caruthers, Mordecai Brown, Orel Hershiser, and Don Sutton

Eric: He’d land in roughly the 50th spot all-time on my lists, passing all the same guys I mentioned for Grienke as well as Bret SAberhaen, Vic Willis, and Dennis Eckersley

Current career trajectory:

Did anyone expect a Cy Young type season from Verlander in 2016? After two years of injuries and ineffectiveness, it seemed as though the Tigers had an innings eater on their hands, at best. But Verlander instead turned in a classic season straight out of his 2009–2012 peak. His K rate shot up, his walk rate was near his career low, and his K/BB was an outstanding 4.46/1. All he did was lead the league in Ks and WHIP while delivering his lowest ERA and highest innings total since Obama won reelection. What’s next? Who knows? But if this is Verlander’s last great season, then let’s project him at about 4.5 WAR next year and a loss of 0.75 per year. That puts him just over 60 career WAR and pushes him up into the high 30s or low 40s all-time, alongside the likes of Drysdale, Reuschel, Coveleski, and Cone.

HoME Outlook:

Verlander is this close to the HoME right now. If he were hit by a bus before the season started, I’d probably still vote for him in five years. I’ve got this little thing I call the Finley Line. That’s as in Chuck Finley. He’s the lowest ranked pitcher that I feel comfortable saying I definitively support him for the HoME. There are other HoMErs beneath Finley, but they are not guys that I’d go to the wall for. Verlander is just a smidgen below Finley after 2016. Enough that there’s a little daylight, and enough that although Verlander could pass Finley next season with a season that’s below his own career average, it won’t necessarily be easy. He needs a 3 or 4 WAR season to do that. Absent something terrible that shut his career down very soon, or a lengthy stretch of simply awful pitching, Verlander will step over the Finley line very soon anyway, so at this point, I’d call him a about 98%+ likely to make it.

Bartolo Colon
2016 BBREF WAR:
3.1

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 136
Eric: 124

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 122
Eric: 112

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Bob Shawkey, Brad Radke, Herb Pennock, Vida Blue, Carlos Zambrano, Silver King, Jamie Moyer, Lon Warneke, Dennis Martinez, Dolf Luque, Jack Stivetts, George Mullin, Doc White, and Jimmy Key.
Eric: King, Kaat, Noodles Hahn, Hoyt Wilhelm, Javier Vazquez, Brad Radke, Moyer, Tommy Bridges, Eppa Rixey, Bob Lemon, and Larry Jackson

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Bobo Newsom, Waite Hoyt, Jack Quinn, Tommy Bridges, Ron Guidry, Bob Lemon, Frank Viola, Eddie Rommel, Larry Jackson, Cliff Lee, and Jerry Koosman
Eric: Tommy Bond, Carlos Zambrano, Hippo Vaughn, Jerry Koosman, and Waite Hoyt

Current career trajectory:
He’s 43. On the other hand, only once has he had a better season in the last decade. I’d sign him for 2017.

HoME Outlook:
It’s not going to happen for the HoME. There are a bunch of worse pitchers in the Hall though.

Jake Peavy
2016 BBREF WAR:
-0.8

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 175
Eric: 163

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 178
Eric: 165

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: He actually fell behind Curt Simmons, Derek Lowe, and Bob Friend.
Eric: Passed by Max Scherzer and John Lester

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: He’d fall behind Milt Pappas and Joe Nathan too.
Eric: He drop behind Bob Friend and Don Newcombe

Current career trajectory:
He seems fork-tender to me. Some team might take a flyer on this free agent to be, however. If so, I’ve got no expectation of anything good coming of it. Maybe he’s a couple runs above replacement?

HoME Outlook:
Negatory.

John Lackey
2016 BBREF WAR:
2.2

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 210
Eric: 196

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 198
Eric: 183

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Jerry Reuss, Hooks Dauss, Doyle Alexander, Rick Rhoden, Sadie McMahon, Francisco Rodriguez, Jered Weaver, Bill Hutchison, Jon Papelbon, Virgil Trucks, and Charlie Hough
Eric: Fritz Ostermueller, Rick Sutfcliffe, Billy Wagner, Mort Cooper, Chris Carpenter, Grasshopper Jim Whitney, Tom Zachary, Dan Quisenberry, Dave Foutz, John Tudor, Catfish, Andy Messersmith, Bobby Mathews, and Milt Pappas

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Ed Reulbach, Thornton Lee, Trevor Hoffman, Jack Taylor, Dan Haren, Tom Gordon, Ellis Kinder, Dutch Leonard (the older), Tom Zachary, Curt Davis, Joe Nathan, Mark Gubicza, John Candelaria, Sad Sam Jones, and Don Newcombe
Eric: Jim Maloney, Jonathan Papelbon, John Candelaria, Jered Weaver, Curt Simmons, Smoky Joe Wood, Mark Gubicza, Jack Chesbro, Stu Miller, and Mel Stottlemyre

Current career trajectory:
A few years ago I’d have bet that Lackey’s career would have been over by now, yet he’s on a run of thirteen consecutive seasons during which he’s pitched with double figure win totals. He was excellent last year and very good again this season. But he’s 38 now, and let’s face it, must be almost done.

HoME Outlook:
I guess he could go all Bartolo Colon on the league and put up six more seasons. But even if he does that, we’re only looking at a career like Vida Blue’s. He’s not getting into the HoME.

Jered Weaver
2016 BBREF WAR:
-0.8

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 196
Eric: 175

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 203
Eric: 179

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: He fell behind Thronton Lee, Ed Reulbach, John Lackey, Charlie Hough, Virgil Trucks, Jon Papelbon, and Bill Hutchison.
Eric: John Candelaria, but going the wrong way, as well as Jon Lester, Justin Verlander, and Max Scherzer

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Francisco Rodriguez, Bruce Hurst, and Sadie McMahon would also get past him.
Eric: Will there be another season?

Current career trajectory:
Jered Weaver’s been a lot of fun to watch with an unusual dip-and-dive crossfire motion that’s unusual in today’s game. It’s kind like in the auto industry in strange way. The design of production passenger cars has tended over the past thirty years or so to converge. Distinctive designs have become fewer. Why? Because aerodynamic laws and fuel-consumption laws and regulations dictate a certain degree of air-slipperiness that can only be achieved with certain shapes. Cars that have abandoned those egg-like shapes that reduce wind resistance stand out from the pack. At least visually. The same is true for pitchers’ motions, where we replace aerodynamics with ergonomics and regulation with injury prevention. I’m saying all this because Weaver’s career feels kinda over. He fell off the proverbial cliff two years ago and dropped below replacement level this year. He’s a free agent, but who wants to bring him in on a major league deal? He might get an NRI or something. I hope he does, but you got to think that unless he can magically increase his fastball velocity it’s over. Heck, he’d have trouble injuring even Chris Snelling with that “heater.”

HoME Outlook:
I think you can tell my thoughts from the tenor of this entry.

Max Scherzer
2016 BBREF WAR:
6.3

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 209
Eric: 215

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 154
Eric: 155

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Jerry Reuss, Hooks Dauss, Doyle Alexander, Rick Rhoden, Sadie McMahon, Bruce Hurst, 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, 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, Jon Lester, Andy Messersmith, Tommy Bond, Adam Wainwright, Schoolboy Rowe, Hoyt Wilhelm, Mel Stottlemyre, Bob Welch, Fernando Valenzuela, Nig Cuppy, Smoky Joe Wood, and Harry Brecheen.
Eric: Too many to list without getting carpal tunnel.

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Al Spalding, Jack Morris, Sam McDowell, Bill Dineen, Bill Donovan, Dutch Leonard the younger, 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, Vida Blue, Carlos Zambrano, Silver King, Jamie Moyer, Lon Warneke, Dennis Martinez, Dolf Luque, Jack Stivetts, George Mullin, Doc White, Jimmy Key, Bobo Newsom, Waite Hoyt, Jack Quinn, Tommy Bridges, Ron Guidry, and Bob Lemon.
Eric: About another 50 guys, putting him into the top 110 all-time, right where Justin Verlander was at the beginning of 2016.

Current career trajectory:
Scherzer got a bit of a late start, not reaching 200 innings in a season until he was 28. On the other hand, he;s averaged nearly 7-WAR per season over his last four. Chances are he doesn’t have another four like his last four, but if he did, he’d be a no-brainer. Seriously, he’d be in the neighborhood of Bob Feller and John Smoltz. If he could only repeat the last three seasons, he’d be in league with Red Faber and Jim Bunning. Again, that’s clearly over the line. Even if he just repeats his last two, Kevin Appier, Frank Tanana, and Chuck Finley are within his sights. He continues to strike guys out at a very impressive rate, and his heat remains elite.

HoME Outlook:
It’s hard to bet against a pitcher with a K/BB rate over five, which is where Verlander has been over the last four years. On the other hand, it’s hard to bet on a pitcher. I actually think he’s going to get there. He’s been so healthy and so consistently great. Time will tell.

Adam Wainwright
2016 BBREF WAR:
1.9

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 172
Eric: 159

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 163
Eric: 151

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Jim Perry, Frank Dwyer, Lefty Gomez, Jose Rijo, Jim Maloney, Larry French, Tom Candiotti, John Matlack, Andy Messersmith, and Tommy Bond.
Eric: Red Lucas, Matlack, Murry Dickson, Virgil Trucks, Bob Welch, Candiotti, Herb Pennock, and Jack Powell

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Schoolboy Rowe, Hoyt Wilhelm, Mel Stottlemyre, Bob Welch, Fernando Valenzuela, Nig Cuppy, Smoky Joe Wood, Harry Brecheen Al Spalding, Jack Morris, and Sam McDowell
Eric: Jesse Tannehill, Fernando, Brecheen, Doc White, Jack the Jack, Addie Joss, Jose Rijo, Lon Warneke, and Chief Bender

Current career trajectory:
Waino’s had a lot of injury problems that have broken up what would otherwise be a splendid career. Well, that’s pitching. TINSTAAPP has more than one meaning. It’s always been used to represent “There Is No Such Thing as a Pitching Prospect,” but it could just as easily be “There Is No Such Thing as a Pitching Projection.” We just mentioned earlier that Jered Weaver went off the cliff out of nowhere after losing just enough off his fastball. We also mentioned how Justin Verlander went from hurt and/or ineffective to Cy Young quality overnight. Wainwright’s a guy with annual Cy Young talent who’s lost about two full years of his career to injuries. His comeback last year was, to say the least uninspiring. His K rate is going backward, his command was poor, he gave up a lot homers (for him), and he gave up 22 more hits than innings pitched. Going into his age-35 season, all hope is not lost. Look at Verlander, right? Not so fast. JV is three years younger and has had a lot less surgery. Wainwright is obviously still talented, the question is whether his body was returning to health or has settled into a new phase of health. If the former is true, maybe there’s 10 or more WAR left in that arm. If the latter is true, he’ll be filling a Cupcakes Blanton/Pat Rapp/Brett Tomko roll for the Birds until his contract runs out after 2018.

HoME Outlook:
Obviously, it’s quite mixed. To get to the HoME borderline, he probably needs to pick up 10–15 more WAR. That’s not impossible, but it does appear unlikely for the moment.

Matt Cain
2016 BBREF WAR:
-0.8

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 224
Eric: 207

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 228
Eric: 214

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: He fell behind David Price, Chris Sale, Willy Wagner, and Danny Darwin
Eric: He was passed by the first Dutch Leonard, the only Pat Hentgen, the inimitable Charlie Leibrandt, the K-Rod, the lefty David Price, the Condor (Chris Sale), and Max Scherzer

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Frank Killen, bob Ewing, and Slim Salee would pass him too.
Eric: He’s signed through next year, but will the Giants let him have another season like 2016?

Current career trajectory:
He’s only 32, and he’s back with the Giants next year. If he’s healthy, who knows? Don’t bank on health.

HoME Outlook:
It’s not going to happen, but he should be proud of his career nonetheless.

Johnny Cueto
2016 BBREF WAR:
5.4

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 276
Eric: 287

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 245
Eric: 245

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Allie Reynolds, 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, and Sal Maglie.
Eric: Far, far too many to name, but he’s now right behind Tim Wakefield and Madison Bumgarner

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Larry Dierker, Dave Foutz, Charlie Ferguson, Bobby Mathews, Jarvey 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, 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, and Rick Rhoden.
Eric: About another sixty guys, which would leave him where John Lackey and Chris Sale are right now.

Current career trajectory:
Cueto had a really good season in the first of a six-year deal with the Giants. His injury-plagued 2013 washout is behind him after three straight years of at least 210 innings. His K rate is on the way up, walk rate on the way down, and he’s giving up fewer homers to boot. He has beaten his FIP every year of his career as well. To have a shot at the HoME, he needs at least a couple more All-Star type years to level up peakwise, and he probably needs at least double up on his total WAR. Better yet, a couple Verlander-like seasons mixed in with lots of above-average pitching would do the trick.

HoME Outlook:
Cueto has plenty of time and talent. The only question is whether he can reach high enough or go long enough. Or both.

James Shields
2016 BBREF WAR:
-1.9

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 260
Eric: 255

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 265
Eric: 260

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Keith Foulke, Bill Hands, Ken Holtzman, Bruce Sutter, and Mike Cuellar all passed him.
Eric: He went retrograde with Firpo Marberry, Jason Schmidt, Chris Sale, Madison Bumgarner, and Johnny Cueto all slipping by him.

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Lee Meadows, Kevin Tapani, and Kerry Wood would all get past him too.
Eric: Amazingly he has two years left on the A.J. Preller special he signed before 2015. Still, it’s hard to imagine that the Chisox will give him much rope to hang them.

Current career trajectory:
Lots of innings on that arm. Tough innings. He wasn’t good in 2015, and he was awful in 2016. He’s 34 with control problems, and the White Sox have to pay him $44 million more.

HoME Outlook:
Not even when he was good did he have a real shot.

Jake Arrieta
2016 BBREF WAR:
4.2

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: Not on the board yet
Eric: Unranked

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 290ish
Eric: Somewhere between 300 and 350

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Lots of guys not on the board, and everyone on it up to Paul Splittorff
Eric: A whole mess of no names

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Bob Veale, Candy Cummings, Mike Witt, Jon Lieber, Jim Devlin, Red Donahue, Mike Flanagan, J.R. Richard, Matt Kilroy Spud Chandler, Scott Sanderson, Rollie Fingers, Ice Box Chamberlain, Allie Reynolds, Johnny Allen, Tim Lincecum, Sparky Lyle, Adonis Terry, and Earl Moore
Eric: He’d climb up another 30 spots

Current career trajectory:
Arrieta turned 30 during 2016, so he’s kind of the Jose Bautista of pitchers. He and the Cubs would both like him to the Randy Johnson of today’s pitchers, a dominating late bloomer. Of course, that’s far from likely, but then so was his emergence in the first place. The reality is that we have no idea what trajectory he’s on. There are very few pitchers with his career trajectory.

HoME Outlook:
He’s already bucked the odds considerably, but his HoME odds get even worse with each additional year. He’s at a place in his career where any season that’s not productive, let alone an All-Star year hurts his chances greatly. He’s only had three productive years, his last three, so we know what he can do. His arm doesn’t have a ton of MLB mileage on it either, so there’s some opportunity for him too. Just off the cuff, I’d bet he’s probably a 1000-1 shot to make it.

Corey Kluber
2016 BBREF WAR:
6.5

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: Hadn’t considered him yet, maybe about 400?
Eric: Unranked

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 295
Eric: About the same as Arrieta

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Toad Ramsey, Dick Radatz, Huston Street, and maybe a hundred other guys.
Eric: Jillions of guys we’ve never heard of

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Red Ames, Craig Kimbrel, Ron Reed, Paul Splitorff, Bob Veale, Candy Cummings, Mike Witt, Jon Lieber, Jim Devlin, Red Donahue, Mike Flanagan, J.R. Richard, Matt Kilroy Spud Chandler, Scott Sanderson, Rollie Fingers, Ice Box Chamberlain, Allie Reynolds, Johnny Allen, Tim Lincecum, Sparky Lyle, Adonis Terry, Earl Moore, Jake Arrieta, 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, and Gus Weyhing
Eric: About 50 more guys

Current career trajectory:
Kluber sort of came out of nowhere three years ago. He was a mediocre pitcher over 24 starts in 2013; then he was a stud in 2013, putting up 7.4 WAR. Since then, he’s been one of the better pitchers in the game. But he’ll be 31 about one start into next season. He’s not a kid. If you’re an Indians fan, you’re going to love him for much of the next five seasons. If you’re hoping for another decade of stardom, it’s not going to happen.

HoME Outlook:
He got too slow a start to his career. Yes, he has some gold and some Mad-Bum-like performances this fall, but he’s ranked too low now to make any real run. A great seventh game might have raised his Hall profile, but it’s going to take a lot more from him to sniff even Cooperstown.

HoME Chances, Active Battery

Jonathan Papelbon 2One of the things I’ve always loved doing is looking at all-time leaderboards. Even though I don’t care about the save statistic, it’s fun to watch Jon Papelbon pass Troy Percival for 10th place and chase down Jeff Reardon and Joe Nathan. Next year the much-maligned National will pass Dennis Eckersley. David Ortiz has a shot at Hank Aaron and 10th place on the all-time doubles list before he hangs ‘em up. And Clayton Kershaw is moving from 116th to 70th or better on the strikeout list this season.

Part of the fun of this HoME project has been creating all-time leaderboards with my JAWS-like stat called MAPES. It’s fun to say that Ron Cey ranks 24th ever among third basemen or that Billy Hamilton is the 7th best center fielder ever. I know that these are pretty debatable rankings, but they’re mine. So at least they’re fun to me.

This week we’re going to look at some of my MAPES leaderboards with active players, speculating where they might wind up. Eric and I do this every so often just because it’s fun. Hope it’s fun for you too. Today we’ll look at the battery. On Wednesday, it’ll be everyone else.

Catchers

Joe Mauer: The Twin former catcher already entered the season 15th all-time at the position. And it appears he’s in the midst of a revival of sorts. Before we speculate as to where he’ll wind up, let’s explore whether or not he’ll even be called a catcher when his career ends. He needs fewer than 600 games at first base to be categorized there, and I kind of think he’ll make it. So let’s not consider Mauer’s ranking behind the plate. Rather, let’s look at him at first. You might be surprised that his all-time ranking as a first sacker would be ahead of John Olerud, Will Clark, Mark McGwire, and Jake Beckley – #24 all-time. Assuming health and a slow decline, let’s give Mauer remaining seasons of 5, 3, 3, 2, 2, and 1 WAR. If he does that, and this season looks like five wins is entirely possible, he will dart up my first base charts. He’ll pass Hall of Famers Bill Terry, Eddie Murray, Hank Greenberg, Willie McCovey, George Sisler, Ernie Banks, and Johnny Mize. If Joe Mauer can put up these six seasons to finish off his career, he’ll just nudge past Hall of Famer Frank Thomas for tenth best ever. Of course, Miguel Cabrera might have something to say about that. And it’s not exactly a sure thing that the oft-injured Mauer will remain healthy.

Yadier Molina: My catcher numbers are pretty funky. I may apply too many adjustments to make catchers look like non-catchers. If I do, I probably overrate modern backstops. On the other hand, there was a time when Yadi was the king of framing, and my numbers don’t do much to incorporate that. Molina is “only” 33, and he’s hitting about as well this year as he has since he was 30. Still, let’s say he only plays until 2018 and puts up a 3, 2, and 1 over the next three seasons. That would be enough to put him past Jason Kendall, Jim Sundberg, HoMEr Bill Freehan, Ernie Lombardi, and Gene Tenace. He’d reach a level where everyone above is either in the HoME or not yet eligible. And it makes sense that Yadi will put up more than 6 WAR the rest of the way.

Russell Martin: Is Martin a hidden HoMEr, or is he just a function of my catcher adjustments? I don’t know. What I do know is that going into this season, he was the 28th ranked catcher in history. That’s not something we’d really seen coming, right? The other thing that snuck up on me regarding Martin is his age. He’s 33 this year. And he’s really, really struggling. On the other hand, he has four years left on his contract including this year. If he goes 3, 2, 2, and 1 he’d be just a shade in front of Bill Freehan. I don’t see Martin at Freehan’s level, but I may be missing something.

Buster Posey: For some, all Posey needs, really, is to play for ten seasons, with reasonable health in the last three. He’s played at the All-Star+ level every year he’s been healthy. If we gave him just 3, 3, and 3 he’d only move from 30th to 28th though. The good news for him is that he’s only 29 this year and signed through 2021. Let’s imagine continued stardom and a graceful decline with 7, 6, 5, 4, 4, 3, 2, and 1 WAR through age 36. That’ll be hard to do but not unimaginable, right? If he were to do that, he’d wind up as the tenth best catcher ever, right between Mickey Cochrane and Gabby Hartnett. Dare to dream.

Pitchers

CC Sabathia: I have less confidence in my pitching numbers than in my MAPES totals for hitters. With that said, I have CC in the HoME right now, just a shade behind Andy Pettitte coming into the season and just a shade ahead now. But at 35 now and with just 0.63 WAR in the last three years combined, I don’t think there’s much progress to be made. I guess it’s even possible that with some poor pitching he’d fall back some, though not enough to hurt his HoME chances. I expect that he’ll retire at right about #60 among pitchers.

Clayton Kershaw: He’s the Mike Trout of pitchers. But in some ways he’s better. Going into the season, I ranked Kershaw 70th all-time, right behind Sandy Koufax. With my playoff adjustments (something I don’t know I shouldn’t include exactly as I do, yet something I haven’t quite determined how to adjust), he’s averaged 8.5 WAR the past three years. The guy is simply amazing. He’s a pitcher though, so it could be over tomorrow, I know. Let’s say it isn’t. Let’s give him ten more years at 9, 8, 7, 6, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. That’s not ridiculous. But where he’d wind up sort of is, just ahead of Bob Gibson as the eleventh best pitcher ever.

Zack Greinke: I already have Greinke at #81. He’s struggling in Arizona early on, but he’s just 32 and signed for huge money through 2021. Post-season work got him over 10 WAR twice by my numbers. Other than that, he has three All-Star type seasons and a couple of other good ones, but a ton of his case is on those two years. Let’s say he finishes his contract with something like 5, 3, 3, 2, 1, 1. Such a run would put him in the HoME with room to spare. He’d wind up between Don Drysdale and Wes Ferrell.

Felix Hernandez: As I watch Felix pitch this year, I worry that all of the innings may be catching up with him. He’s just 30, but he’s made 30+ starts every year since 2006. Let’s give him eight more years at 5, 4, 4, 3, 3, 2, 2, and 1. That would put him in league with Bob Feller, Rick Reuschel, Red Ruffing, and Juan Marichal. But maybe his arm will fall off. Maybe he only goes 5, 3, 2, 1, 1, 1. Even so, he’d be where CC Sabathia is now, ahead of eight HoMErs, including Sandy and Whitey.

Justin Verlander: He’s only 33, but he might be done. If we give him 2, 2, 1, 1, and 1 he almost gets into the conversation. But guys behind Tommy John, Dwight Gooden, and Mark Buehrle have a hard time making a real argument.

Cole Hamels: Being more of an AL guy than an NL guy, Hamels has sort of snuck up on me. Opening the season, he stood at #118 among pitchers, one slot behind Verlander. Unlike Verlander, I don’t think he’s done at all. He’s just 32, so let’s give him six more seasons through the age of 37. He hasn’t been below 4.7 WAR with my adjustments since 2009. Let’s make those six seasons 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and 1. I think he’ll perform better than that, but even if he doesn’t, he’ll get into the HoME with career MAPES between Jim Bunning and Bret Saberhagen.

Max Scherzer: I don’t think I realized that Scherzer is already 31. He has three straight years of 6+ WAR though. Let’s give him 6, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 2, 2, and 1 until he’s 39. Wow! That wouldn’t just barely get him over the line; it would get him past 17 HoMErs. What if he’s less good, something like 6, 5, 4, 4, 3, 2, 2, 1, and 1? He’d still be in, right between Dave Stieb and Orel Hershiser. I don’t know that Scherzer can hold up until he’s 39, but I do think that getting into the HoME is quite reasonable if he does.

Jonathan Papelbon: Sure, I could write about David Price or Chris Sale to end this post. But I choose Paps. I know nobody likes him, but he closed for the Sox in the 2007 World Series, did the whole Riverdance goggles thing, and never kicked my dog (confession, I don’t have a dog), so I’m a fan. He’s not getting into the HoME because he’s no Goose Gossage. And he’s not getting into the Hall because he presents himself even less well than Goose does these days. But he can finish as high fourth on the all-time saves list. He has a ring, which neither Smith nor Trevor Hoffman has. And the Nats are good enough that he could find his way to a second one this year. He’s not going to deserve it, he’s not going to make it, but he’s certainly going to make for some interesting arguments eight or ten years from now. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Miller

Institutional History

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