There are many players who I believe have strong Hall of Fame cases. I've been trimming that list to just the select few I feel have bulletproof cases—those I'd (figuratively) fight for. I've already named three players from the 19th century and four players returning to the next BBWAA ballot.
Today, I want to finish with the players in between those two groups—20th century players who are not currently on the BBWAA ballot. I can't do it all at once, though. It turns out that this particular group elicits quite a bit of passion from me. As a result, I'm going to post them one at a time, beginning with the most recently retired.
I wanted to start with Kevin Brown because he's a special case (at least on this list). Brown appeared on the 2011 Hall of Fame ballot and received just 2.1% of the vote. Meanwhile, we've watched Jack Morris—an inferior pitcher—climb all the way to 66.7% (and counting).
Brown was listed in the Mitchell Report for allegedly purchasing human growth hormone from Kirk Radomski several times. Brown declined comment both during and after the investigation. Because Brown's name was listed in the report, voters apparently withheld their support for his Hall of Fame case.
If only it was that easy.
Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro have been hot topics at Hall of Fame time because of their worthy credentials and dirty PED histories. Kevin Brown was never part of that discussion. Voters simply didn't see him as good enough to even be in the conversation—and that's a huge oversight.
I'm fine with dismissing Brown because of the Mitchell Report. I may not agree with that stance, but his name is on the damn thing. Basically, I'm willing to fight for Kevin Brown to be passed over for his PED history, not his playing career. His playing career was simply Hall-worthy.
I was looking at several lists of non-Hall of Fame pitchers since 1900 who have already appeared on the ballot. Specifically, I looked at these lists:
- Most seasons of 4+ WAR
- Most seasons of 6+ WAR
- Most seasons with an ERA+ of 125+
- Most seasons with an ERA+ of 150+
Kevin Brown tops every one of these lists. He ties some of them, but nobody beats him. That's pretty remarkable.
Brown had eight 4+ WAR seasons, tying him with David Cone. Brown, Cone, Frank Viola, Dave Stieb, and Nap Rucker are all tied for the most 6+ WAR seasons (four). Out of curiosity, I checked 8+ WAR seasons. Brown is one of several pitchers with one. Wilbur Wood, Sam McDowell, and Eddie Cicotte (who is not eligible) have two.
For the ERA+ lists, I only looked at seasons that qualified for the ERA title. Brown has seven seasons of 125 or better, tying him with Cone, Tommy Bridges, and Hippo Vaughn. Crank it up to 150 and Brown is all alone with five. Cicotte and Smokey Joe Wood are behind him with four. I was curious where Cone placed—he's tied for sixth with two such seasons. For fun, I kicked it up to 175. Brown has one such season. Cicotte and Wood have two each.
Among pitchers, Brown ranks 34th all time with 64.8 WAR. By wWAR, Brown ranks 41st all time (95.9), just behind Sandy Koufax, Hal Newhouser, and Jim Bunning. Eight of the pitchers ahead of him aren't even eligible for the Hall of Fame yet, so that puts him at 33rd among those eligible. 32 of them are in the Hall of Fame (Bob Caruthers is not). Brown even ranks ahead of 29 starting pitchers who are already in the Hall of Fame (including Mordecai Brown, Dazzy Vance, Don Sutton, and Whitey Ford).
Brown has "only" 211 wins, but his winning percentage is exceptional. Among eligible non-Hall of Fame starting pitchers with as many wins as Brown, only Caruthers, fellow 19th century hurler Charlie Buffinton, and Freddie Fitzsimmons have a better winning percentage than Brown.
I also wonder how much of a boost Brown would get if pitcher defense was factored into Total Zone. Brown led the league in putouts by a pitcher eight times and ranks second all time in that category. I also wonder how much that would help Jim Kaat, Greg Maddux, and others.
Don't dismiss Kevin Brown because he wasn't a good enough pitcher. If you must, dismiss him because of the PED link. His pitching career should not be what holds him back.