The Hall of wWAR Inducts Frank Tanana

One of the goals of the Hall of wWAR is to show what the current Hall of Fame would look like if it were populated by a single metric. As a result, it is important to keep the Hall of Fame and the Hall of wWAR the same size. With this week's wonderful news that Ron Santo became the 207th MLB player inducted to the Hall of Fame, the Hall of wWAR also needed to expand to 207 (yesterday, I went into detail about why).

So, today the Hall of wWAR will officially induct a player for the first time. Induction is a simple process. I just need to pick the 207th best player of all time (retired for at least five years), according to wWAR. That player is Frank Tanana.

Frank Tanana
WAR/pos -0.1
WAR/p 55.1
WAR/tot 55.0
WAR/162 55.6
WAE 16.3
WAM 4.7
wWPA -0.4
wWAR 76.2

Tanana actually made the cut for the first version of the Hall of wWAR. In the updated version released in November (with more adjustments), he ended up being the player on the other side of the induction cutoff. When writing about Tanana for the first version, I wrote:

Tanana had two excellent careers. Through his age 25 season, he was basically Nolan Ryan. He compiled 32.1 WAR while piling up strikeouts for weak Angels teams. Then the overuse led to injury. He pitched 14 more seasons as a finesse pitcher. Basically, he then was Jamie Moyer. While he wasn't as effective, he still earned 23.0 more WAR to give him a total of 55.1. The early peak boosts him to 76.1 wWAR.

The table below illustrates that "first career" quite well. These pitchers had the most pitching WAR through their age 23 seasons (since 1900):

Rk Player WAR From To Age G W L IP BB SO ERA ERA+ Tm
1 Bob Feller 35.6 1936 1941 17-22 205 107 54 1448.1 815 1233 3.18 137 CLE
2 Bert Blyleven 29.3 1970 1974 19-23 181 80 75 1335.2 319 1094 2.74 134 MIN
3 Dwight Gooden 28.6 1984 1988 19-23 158 91 35 1172.2 332 1067 2.62 135 NYM
4 Frank Tanana 28.1 1973 1977 19-23 142 66 49 1082.0 292 937 2.69 131 CAL
5 Walter Johnson 25.1 1907 1911 19-23 175 82 78 1355.1 303 915 1.77 148 WSH
6 Christy Mathewson 24.5 1900 1904 19-23 174 97 62 1388.1 372 879 2.28 135 NYG
7 Larry Dierker 24.2 1964 1970 17-23 181 71 62 1250.1 353 874 3.19 108 HOU
8 Don Drysdale 24.0 1956 1960 19-23 188 66 54 1071.1 329 822 3.21 128 BRO-LAD
9 Smoky Joe Wood 20.2 1908 1913 18-23 175 92 48 1145.1 334 856 2.00 152 BOS
10 Noodles Hahn 19.6 1900 1902 21-23 117 61 51 1007.2 216 513 2.58 127 CIN
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 12/7/2011.

In Tanana's first four seasons, he posted WAR totals of 4.9 (at age 20), 7.8, 7.2, and 7.7. Then he suffered an arm injury and had to adapt. While he never approached his early career dominance (he only surpassed 3.0 WAR one more time), he still pitched 21 seasons in all. He sits at 59th all time in wWAR among starting pitchers (among those retired for 5+ years). While his numbers don't necessarily scream dominance, he also ranks 32nd among that group in innings pitched. So, his lack of dominance drops him 27 notches down the list. But he hangs on just enough to qualify for the Hall of wWAR.

There are several Hall of Fame pitchers who rate behind Tanana in wWAR. The 20th century hurlers on that list are Dizzy Dean, Lefty Gomez, Burleigh Grimes, Eppa Rixey, Waite Hoyt, Chief Bender, Herb Pennock, Addie Joss, Catfish Hunter, Jack Chesbro, Jesse Haines, and Rube Marquard. The short careers of Dean and Joss bring their totals way down. I'm not sure anyone else on that lists strikes me as better than Tanana.

Congratulations to Frank Tanana! As referenced yesterday, this induction may actually be short-lived, as the Hall of wWAR is a more "fluid" institution than the Hall of Fame. But today, right now, he is one of the 207 best players by wWAR. And that gets him in.

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