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Rummaging through the Archives: Greatest Southpaw of All Time, Part Deux

Since Beyond the Box Score opened it's doors on May 2, 2005, it's been home to some great baseball writers. There's a lot of excellent work on this site that most people never find because it's buried in the archives.

This series is intended to change that. On a semi-regular basis I'll be highlighting an article from the archives - perhaps providing commentary, perhaps not - and trying to resurface the best of the best that Beyond the Box Score has offered over time.

My tastes tend toward the macro, so I'll probably be focusing on things like overall sabermetric concepts or historical comparisons instead of trade reactions, although I'm sure I'll pick some of those too. Please let me know by email or comment if there's certain types of articles you're interested in.

Based on some feedback that you guys have offered to Sky, I'm thinking that most of these should be FanPosts instead of front-page stories. Please vote in the poll and let me know your thoughts.

Without further adieu, here's the first stop on our journey: May 4th, 2005, where Marc Normandin revisits an earlier look at the best left-handed pitchers of all time.

Normandin presents a list of contenders for the crown and lays out the statistical case of each.

Here are some important career numbers so far (ERA is from the Davenport Translated Cards, so ERA is translated for all-time):

Randy Johnson: 129.0 WARP3, 45.3 Peak WARP, 87.15 JAWS, 1308 PRAR, 4195 K, 1308 BB, 3.01 ERA, 144 ERA+

Steve Carlton: 130.7 WARP3, 40.4 Peak WARP, 85.55 JAWS, 1403 PRAR, 4,136 K, 1833 BB, 3.45 ERA, 115 ERA+

Sandy Koufax: 68.8 WARP3, 47.8 Peak WARP, 58.3 JAWS, 785 PRAR, 2396 K, 817 BB, 2.70 ERA, 131 ERA+

Warren Spahn: 161.3 WARP3, 50.4 Peak WARP, 105.85 JAWS, 1651 PRAR, 2583 K, 1434 BB, 3.18 ERA, 118 ERA+

Lefty Grove: 127 WARP3, 49.1 Peak WARP, 88.05 JAWS, 1297 PRAR, 2266 K, 1187 BB, 2.99 ERA, 148 ERA+

Tom Glavine: 122.0 WARP3, 42.1 Peak WARP, 82.05 JAWS, 1221 PRAR, 2262 K, 1292 BB, 3.51 ERA, 121 ERA+

Carl Hubbell: 100.8 WARP3, 54.6 Peak WARP, 77.7 JAWS, 1027 PRAR, 1677 K, 725 BB, 3.37 ERA, 130 ERA+

Hal Newhouse: 102.4 WARP3, 60.6 Peak WARP, 81.5 JAWS, 1005 PRAR, 1796 K, 1249 BB, 3.08 ERA, 130 ERA+

We're able to add a new metric to the discussion now that Rally has released WAR for all of baseball history. Please note that the WAR values are through 2008, while the rest of the statistics are from the original article with data through 2004.

Career WAR
Randy Johnson 91.8
Steve Carlton 80.9
Sandy Koufax 64.5
Warren Spahn 94.0
Lefty Grove 98.3
Tom Glavine 67.0
Carl Hubbell 64.4
Hal Newhouser 56.9

And in the familiar graphical form:


I'll let Marc share his conclusion at the time:

That last season of added on numbers may very well be what Johnson needs to surpass Warren Spahn and Lefty Grove as the greatest southpaw in history. His WARP3 and JAWS scores are close enough, especially considering the massive gap in strikeouts and the 57 additional PRAR over Spahn. Will Johnson be able to get the additional 30 WARP and 400 PRAR in the next 4 years? Maybe not (he will be 45 by then after all) but that is what it may take to take the imaginary crown away from one of these pitchers as baseball's premier lefthander. It is not that out of the picture; Johnson has come on strong the older he has gotten, and Spahn retired when he was 44. He was not effective his last 3 seasons, but maybe conditioning, better health, and the fact that Johnson's dominance has not withered may help him string those extra years together.

If not, then we have two answers for the greatest lefty of all-time, depending on your preference: Spahn has more WARP and a better JAWS due to more seasons, while Grove has the greatest ERA+ of all-time among lefthanders. Maybe Johnson will continue to blow away the competition with that fastball/slider combo (and his 144 ERA+, close enough to Grove's to give it to him considering the 2,000+ K gap) and the issue will be settled once and for all.

Johnson's ERA+ has slipped to 136 since this was written; which is still great, but nowhere near as close to Grove. And although Johnson was pitching pretty well this season before he went on the DL, he's probably not going to surpass Lefty's career WAR total.

I'm of the opinion that Lefty Grove is the best left-handed pitcher of all time, and that he has a case for the best pitcher of all time (Erik's Graph of the Day notwithstanding), so I know who I'm going with here.