The other day, I posted the top position players all time in terms of WAR per 700 plate appearances. Inevitably, in the comments I was asked to draw up a list of pitchers by WAR/200 IP. Because of the way leverage index can boost a relief pitcher's per-inning WAR (high leverage innings are worth more and starters don't get the benefit of pitching them), I decided to break this out into two lists—one for pitchers with more starts than relief appearances and one with more relief appearances than starts. The minimum for all pitchers considered is 1000 career innings. All numbers come from Rally's WAR.
First, the starters:
Persons of interets (to me):
- Pedro Martinez (ranked #1): During his days in Boston, it was often said that no pitcher was ever more dominant at any point in history. Apparently that was true.
- Johan Santana (#4): At 31, I like to think he's still going strong. His K/BB and HR/9 are essentially unchanged from last year (where he "slumped" to 3.6 WAR in just 166.2 IP). This will go down since he hasn't declined yet. But still, 4th all time? That's higher than Pujols is on the hitters list.
- Roy Halladay (#6): He's pretty badass.
- Brandon Webb (#8): He appears because of a pretty liberal innings requirement (I kept it at 1000 IP for both tables). Before last year's -0.3 WAR (in 4 IP), he posted figures of 4.9, 3.1, 4.5, 5.8, 6.1, and 5.1. If he can return to that level, he'll stay up in the leaderboards. But that's a very big "if".
- Roy Oswalt (#11): When they were just starting out, Oswalt and Tim Hudson were my picks for future Hall of Famers. The last couple seasons (3.7 and 3.1) have been decent for Roy, but if they are the start of a new performance trend, he'll slide down this list.
- Curt Schilling (#13): WAR loves Curt Schilling.
- Bret Saberhagen (#14): WAR also loves Saberhagen. This puts some oomph behind the decision to induct Saberhagen into the Hall of Merit. Odd-year Bret was a Hall of Famer.
- Mike Mussina (#15): Like Schilling, this is a modern guy who's actually pretty underrated. We're talking 24th all time in career WAR, 15th as a rate stat. He was consistently well-above-average for a long time. After his first full season (1992 with 7.4 WAR), he never passed 6.5 WAR. But he also rarely posted anything lower than 4.0.
- Teddy Higuera (#16): Ha! I loved this dude! Higuera's first four seasons were worth 3.2, 8.4, 6.1, and 7.0 WAR. After a couple average seasons, he flamed out rather quickly. Not having much of a decline kept his WAR/200 IP quite high. He ranks #254 all time in WAR.
- Harry Brecheen (#17): A while back I wrote about the non-Hall of Famers with the best career ERA+. Brecheen ranked 4th among players eligible for the Hall (behind Dan Quisenberry, Joe Wood, and John Hiller) with a 133 ERA+ (T-27th all time at that point). Brecheen didn't get a full-time shot at the rotation until age 28 and then retired at age 38 to become the pitching coach for the Orioles.
- Kevin Brown (#21): Here's another guy in the Schilling/Mussina class that WAR loves more than the general public does.
- Tim Hudson (#22): Here's another guy who started on a Hall of Fame path but has had a bumpy road recently. One thing that keeps Hudson's WAR/200 IP high is the fact that he hasn't suffered from ineffectiveness—just injury. Only 2006 (0.3 WAR in 224.1 IP) and to a lesser extent 2005 (2.9 WAR in 192 IP) did much damage to his WAR/200.
- David Cone (#24): Cone always felt underrated, and WAR agrees. HIs 57.5 WAR is 47th all time and higher than many, many Hall of Famers.
- C.C. Sabathia (#25): Sabathia actually started off by flirting with us a few years, showing talent but not always results. Then came the 4.7 and 6.8 WAR seasons in 2006 and 2007, followed by his 7.1 combined with Cleveland and Milwaukee in 2008. Last season's 4.3 was more this-worldly, but still very very good.
And the relievers:
- Bruce Sutter (#3): It all comes down to whether or not you think relievers should be allowed in the Hall of Fame. If you do, then Sutter wasn't a terrible choice (though there are still others I like more).
- Lee Smith (#4): I really feel bad for Lee Smith. His talent is actually underrated because people assume he's overrated because of all the saves. He was a damn good pitcher who threw more innings than most of these modern relievers.
- Dan Quisenberry (#5): I just don't see how Sutter can get in the Hall of Fame while Quiz didn't. There's just no explanation (that I'll accept, anyway). It's a shame this guy didn't get a longer look. I love Dan Quisenberry.
- John Hiller (#6): Undoubtedly, uncontested, the most underrated relief pitcher of all time, no matter how you look at it.
- Rich Gossage (#7): He's actually down this list a bit, but he has far more innings than anyone else on this list (and more WAR than anyone not named Rivera). He deserved his long-overdue induction.
- Doug Jones (#9): He's the first guy on this list that I don't generally consider as having a decent case for The Hall. I've always underrated him, but maybe that's my fault.
- Ellis Kinder (#10): The first guy on this list to have a substantial number of starts (about 25%). He seemed to dominate in his relief performances, but didn't have the leverage index boost that some other relievers get to their WAR. Like Wilhelm below, it seems that relievers just came in when starters were gassed and finished the game. That leads to a lower leverage index upon entry to the game. That's one reason why modern relievers rate so well.
- Hoyt Wilhelm (#11): He pitched forever and his leverage index was all over the map. Interestingly, his best season by WAR (7.4) was the only season he started (1959). Makes you wonder why the Orioles didn't stick with it.
- Dennis Eckersley (#14): Eckersley, quite famously, had two careers (one as a starter from 1975 to 1986 and one as a reliever from 1987 to 1998. As a starter, he was worth 42.1 WAR in 2496 innings (3.37 WAR/200 IP). As a reliever, he was worth 16.6 WAR in 789.2 IP (4.21 WAR/200 IP). Far more of his career value came from starting while relieving had a bit better rate.
- Kent Tekulve (#16): Another guy I really like. His career WAR was right there with Sutter and Quiz. He just had more innings.
- Wilbur Wood (#18): Had 45% of his games as starts. 36.0 of his 45.0 career WAR came from 1971 to 1975 (when he was exclusively a starter).
- Eddie Rommel (#20) and Kelvim Escobar (#22): They just made this list with 49.8% and 49.1% of their games being starts, respectively.
Whatchyoo got for me after looking at the table?