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The Hall of wWAR: Pitchers


It's here! The last installment of Hall of wWAR series. The conversion from the Hall of Fame to the Hall of wWAR involved kicking 66 of the 206 members of the Hall of Fame out and replacing them with new, more deserving players. That means 32.0% of this new Hall is not in the old one. 19 of the 66 newcomers (28.8%) are pitchers.

Who's Out?

These eighteen players are in the Hall of Fame, but did not make it into the Hall of wWAR:

  • Mickey Welch: Oh hey now. I've already bumped a 3000 hit man (Lou Brock). Am I really going to bump a 300-game winner? I sure am. 1800s pitchers are tricky. Because of their usage, they often put up obscene single-season WAR totals. As a result, their WAE and WAM totals gave them huge wWAR boosts. As a result, I had to treat 1800s pitchers differently. If Mickey Welch put up the numbers he did (56.5 WAR and 102.1 wWAR) in any other era, he'd be a slam dunk. Instead, he's the top player I bumped, by wWAR (and by a lot). He went 307-210, but as you can see by his 114 ERA+, he was a really good pitcher, but not as dominant as some other pitchers of his era. We'll see those later in this post.
  • Clark Griffith: Griffith is in as a player and going by just his playing career, he gets bumped from the Hall. Of course, he was a very important figure in baseball and should probably in inducted in some other capacity. 49.0 WAR and 70.7 wWAR while hurling 300 innings per season isn't quite enough to make the cut for an 1800s guy.
  • Red Ruffing: The first purely 20th century pitcher to miss the cut, Ruffing came pretty close to making it. Ruffing missed a couple seasons to World War II, but they were his age 38 and 39 seasons. He was already a sub-2.0 WAR pitcher by that time. However, he only missed the cut by 0.9 wWAR (he had 68.1, powered by 53.6 WAR). So, like Enos Slaughter, had he not missed time for the War, he would have made it.
  • Lefty Gomez: Worth 43.1 WAR and 65.8 wWAR through age 30, betting on Gomez making the Hall of wWAR would have seemed smart. However, he was worth –0.1 wWAR in his 30s. As a result, he falls short despite some great years pitching for the 1930s Yankees.
  • Eppa Rixey: Honestly, with a 266-251 record (.515 W-L%) and 3.15 ERA (115 ERA+), I'm not sure how Rixey got in in the first place. He had some decent years, but never hit that Wins Above MVP threshold. His raw 51.2 WAR total is pushed to 63.8 wWAR. If you're wondering how close those numbers are to the Hall, they are very close to Andy Pettitte's figures.
  • Dizzy Dean: I hear people talk about Dizzy Dean in the same breath as Sandy Koufax. In many ways, Dean is similar to Koufax in the manner that Tim Raines is similar to Rickey Henderson. Same type of career, but really one was clearly superior to the other. Where this comparison ends up hurting Dean is the fact that Raines and Henderson both played long careers, so both are Hall of Fame worthy. Koufax and Dean did not. Koufax's superior performance puts him in the Hall of wWAR (as well as the Hall of Fame, of course) while Dean falls short. Dean pitched six full seasons and was worth 35.7 WAR in those (6 WAR per year). In Koufax's final six seasons, he was worth 47.6 WAR (7.9 per year). Had Dean lasted a bit longer, he would have (obviously) made it. How many more 6-WAR seasons did he need? One. His final WAR total of 39.6 was pushed to 60.8 wWAR (the starting pitcher cutoff was 69.0).
  • Addie Joss: Joss has a somewhat similar career to Dean in that it was cut way too short. Joss' career was ended by meningitis—a disease that also took his life at 31. At what should have been the midpoint of his career, Joss had accumulated 40.9 WAR. He didn't have the concentrated brilliance of Dean or Koufax—his value was nicely spread out over his nine seasons. As a result he doesn't get quite as much of a WAE and WAM boost. His wWAR of 57.4 would have reached the cutoff if he was able to throw a couple more 4.4 WAR seasons.
  • Waite Hoyt: If Jack Morris gets a boost from that Game 7 performance in 1991, Waite Hoyt gets a boost from being the ace of the 1927 Yankees. He wasn't a bad pitcher by any means, but a 112 ERA+ over 3700+ innings in the 1920s and 30s with average defenses behind him shakes out to 47.0 WAR. He had a couple standout seasons (none above MVP-level) that bring his wWAR to 56.2.
  • Bob Lemon: Lemon got into five games apiece in 1941 and 1942 at age 20 and 21 as an infielder. Then, he missed what would have been his first three seasons to the War. Upon his return, he became a pitcher and went on to win over 200 games and compile 42.4 WAR over the next 13 seasons. Lemon's moderate peak brings him to 56.0 wWAR. Lemon raises an interesting question because of his offense. Baseball-Reference shows him with 8.6 WAR at the plate. Should this be factored in? My thinking is no. If I do that, I have to subtract 3.9 wins from Jesse Burkett for his pitching, add 2.1 wins to George Sisler for his pitching, etc. Seems to be a slippery slope. Should the fact that Sandy Koufax couldn't hit a lick alter his Hall of Fame case? Koufax would lose 5.8 wins. Pud Galvin would lose 11.8 wins. Red Ruffing, who we just bumped, would get in on the basis of his 13.7 wins as a hitter. A pitcher's offensive WAR strikes me as something worth "bonus points". But I could be swayed. Have at it.
  • Jack Chesbro: Jack Chesbro won 41 games in 1904. That got him in the Hall of Fame. WAR agrees that it was a good season, worth 8.8 WAR. But interestingly, Chesbro was inducted despite failing to reach 200 wins. He also maxed out at 33.2 WAR. His peak, particularly 1904, give him a wWAR of 49.8 and bumps him ahead of a few pitchers with a higher career WAR totals. 49.8 just doesn't cut it, though.
  • Herb Pennock: Pennock had a long career (22 seasons) but only in four of them did he record more than 3.1 WAR. He played for some good Yankee teams, and therefore posted a 241–162 record. But his 106 ERA+ is a good indicator that he probably faced some luck there. And his WAR confirms it.
  • Chief Bender: Bender won three rings with the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1910s and won 212 games overall. His 2.46 ERA is flashy, but when league-adjusted the ERA+ is a more pedestrian 112. He never had a 6-WAR season, surpassing 4.0 WAR on four occasions. His totals of 38.5 WAR and 48.0 wWAR fall quite short of the Hall of wWAR.
  • Burleigh Grimes: Ol' Stubblebeard was the last (legal) spitballer in the big leagues. He pitched for a long time and posted an ERA+ of 108. That's not too much above average, so he rates as 37.2 WAR and 47.9 wWAR. He won 270 games, but obviously that was a bit deceiving.
  • Catfish Hunter: Hunter had five straight seasons of 20 wins. He averaged 4.8 WAR in those seasons, ranging from just 1.7 WAR up to 7.6 WAR. Hunter was fortunate enough to pitch in front of some excellent defenses, so some of his wins and even ERA+ (which was just 105) value is rightfully applied to his defenders. He earned just 32.5 WAR and 46.2 wWAR.
  • Jesse Haines: There's not much to say about Haines except that he was Frankie Frisch's teammate. Frisch used his position as head of the Veteran's Committee to get "his guys" inducted, and Haines was one of them. With 210 wins, a 109 ERA+, and 33.8 WAR (38.1 wWAR), there's really nothing much to say here.
  • Rube Marquard: Another 1970s Veteran's pick, Marquard posted an ERA+ of just 103 and won 201 games with a .532 winning percentage. I am completely confused about how Marquard could have possibly been considered a Hall of Famer.
  • Bruce Sutter: Ah, relief pitchers. What to do with them? I'm not 100% sure that WAR accurately reflects relief pitcher value compared with starting pitchers. We have a pretty good idea that it reflects value against other relief pitchers. Bruce Sutter, value-wise, sits in a pack with several other relief pitchers. So, you either believe that just a couple relievers should be in the Hall, or you believe that a whole other class of relievers—which includes not only Bruce Sutter, but Trevor Hoffman, Lee Smith, Dan Quisenberry, John Hiller, Kent Tekulve, and others—should also be in. I used to believe they should all be in. Heck, I used to lobby for Tom Henke. I've since become much tougher on relievers. This is reflected in the baseline I gave relief pitchers for the Hall of wWAR (40 wWAR, 10 wWAR below the baseline for catchers). Sutter was, admittedly, one of the best relief pitchers of all time. But at 32.4 wWAR, he just doesn't approach the value level that warrants induction.
  • Rollie Fingers: Fingers was the first modern reliever to be inducted to the Hall. It makes sense, given the fact that he was the all-time saves leader when he retired. Of course, that record didn't really hold up. And it turns out Rollie wasn't worth much more than several of his contemporaries. Fingers was a good reliever. He just doesn't approach Hall-type value (he had 24.4 WAR and 26.2 wWAR).

Who's In?

These nineteen players are not in the Hall of Fame, but are now being inducted to the Hall of wWAR:

  • Jim McCormick: I recently polled a bunch of different metrics and collectively, the decided that Jim McCormick was the best pitcher not in the Hall of Fame. wWAR agrees. What's remarkable is that McCormick didn't pitch after his age 30 season. In 10 seasons, he accumulated 64.7 WAR. With four seasons of 8+ WAR, his peak boosts to 119.9 wWAR.
  • Silver King: Like McCormick, King posted four 8+ WAR seasons. Unlike McCormick, he didn't do too much else. But two of those seasons were ridiculous—16.5 WAR and 13.7 WAR. These seasons help his 53.8 WAR rise to 114.2. What does a 16.5 WAR season look like? King went 45–20 in 66 games (64 starts). In 584.2 innings (!), he allowed six home runs (ha!) and 76 walks while fanning 258. He faced 2286 batters and recorded an ERA of 1.63 (199 ERA+). That's a pretty valuable season.
  • Charlie Buffinton: Buffinton was also done early (after his age 31 season) and posted a pair of monster seasons (15.4 and 10.1 WAR). He added 9.7 and 9.3 WAR seasons as well. His 56.1 WAR total rises to 113.1 wWAR. On the list linked above, Buffinton ranked as the fifth best pitcher outside the Hall.
  • Kevin Brown: Brown, who was just dumped from the Hall of Fame ballot after one try, ranks as the top post-1900 pitcher outside of the Hall of Fame. Brown exceeded six WAR four times, and was consistently valuable over the course of his career. He ranks 34th among eligible pitchers with 94.7 wWAR (from 64.8 WAR)—right ahead of him is Jim Palmer and Jim Bunning. Right behind him is Joe McGinnity and… Rick Reuschel!
  • Rick Reuschel: I recently wrote about Baseball-Reference's WAR and how it is calculated. In that post, I used Reuschel as my pitcher example. I also wrote about how pitching WAR is a bit more of a mystery to non-mathematicians (read: me). Things I get: Reuschel's plain old ERA and ERA+ numbers (3.37 and 114) show he was pretty underrated and deserved more wins than he accrued. I also understand that he surrendered very few home runs (leading to extra balls in play, which are far better than homers) and played in front of weaker defenses (causing more of those balls in play than average to end up as runs). So, as good as his ERA was, it should have been considerably better. He seems to be the perfect example of a WAR-looks-better-than-his-ERA pitcher. Reuschel's WAR of 66.3 is actually a bit better than Brown's, but his wWAR of 91.5 trails Brown slightly (Brown had the better peak).
  • Luis Tiant: I always knew Luis Tiant was good. He won 229 games and had a 3.30 ERA, after all. Those are good numbers. But I always figured he was the next tier down after "Hall of Famer". Well, he's really not. There are enough pitchers worse than him in the Hall that he really is a no doubt Hall of Famer. This speaks to a greater realization when putting together this project—you know, there just haven't been that many great pitchers in history (compared with position players). I bumped out eighteen pitchers. Did any of them appear to be egregious omissions? To me, Ruffing, Dean, and Joss are probably the ones I feel the worst about. Then, look at this list of pitchers we're replacing them with. Not exactly huge names like Santo, Bagwell, or even Torre. The fact is, a 60.1 WAR and 83.8 wWAR pitcher like Luis Tiant absolutely should be in the Hall. And I feel dumb for not seeing it earlier.
  • David Cone: Cone is a pitcher I have always felt was underrated. His 194 career wins held him back, though. Because of the era in which he played, his 3.46 ERA is adjusted to 121 ERA+. He pitched for some some slightly below average defenses, but not as bad as Reuschel. Despite a career that featured quite a few DL trips, he accumulated 57.5 WAR and 81.6 wWAR, putting him in the same ballpark as Stan Coveleski and Rube Waddell.
  • Jerry Koosman: Turns out, there are two Hall of Fame-caliber pitchers on Nolan Ryan's rookie card. Koosman had a 110 ERA+, which doesn't seem that wonderful at first glance. But Koosman is 48th all time in innings pitched. That right there is going to get you a ton of value. When you're above average in those innings, it's worth even more. Add in a decent peak where Koosman had three 6+ WAR seasons and a couple more over five and you get a pitcher worth 58.8 WAR and 79.0 wWAR. Again, pitchers who are a "pretty darn good" for a long period time are actually quite rare.
  • Dave Stieb: You know all that junk about Jack Morris having the most wins of the 1980s? Well, Dave Stieb ranked second. The difference is Stieb was a really, really good pitcher. He just did it north of the border so many fans didn't realize it. From 1980 to 1985, Stieb averaged 6.1 WAR. Four of those seasons were 6.4 WAR or greater, giving him a really nice peak. The remarkable thing is that Stieb didn't really do anything after his age 32 season. However, he had already built the base of a Hall of Fame career. His 53.0 WAR gets a big boost to 78.4 wWAR.
  • Bret Saberhagen: If Saberhagen could have only stayed healthy, there's no telling what he could have done. Many feel he would have been a Hall of Famer without the injuries. In reality, he was Hall of Fame caliber with the injuries and would have been an all-time great had he avoided them. Saberhagen managed 200 innings just four times and produced five 5-WAR seasons. Despite just 2500 innings, he produced 54.7 WAR and 77.7 wWAR.
  • Wilbur Wood: I had a feeling Wood would climb up this list. Despite his 45.0 WAR, he is among the top 20 post-1900 pitchers in Wins Above MVP with 9.4. He had a strange career, not pitching much at all until age 25, then pitching mostly out of the bullpen, then rattling off five outstanding seasons as a starter before finishing with three mediocre seasons. His value comes from those five seasons as a starter. He averaged 7.2 WAR, posting marks of 10.7, 9.7, 7.0, 5.1, and 3.5. That stretch bumped his wWAR to 76.2.
  • Frank Tanana: 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.
  • Kevin Appier: Each pitcher on this list so far wasn't much of a surprise to me. I knew they were good and that WAR liked them. Some of the remaining pitchers—starting here with Appier—surprised me. When Appier was recently on the ballot, his final numbers were far better than I remembered. It turns out that wWAR says he was one of the sixty best pitchers ever. That, I didn't expect. From 1990 through 1997, Appier had an excellent peak where he averaged 5.5 WAR per season. I didn't know that. I don't think many did. It bumps his 50.4 WAR total to 75.2 wWAR. That's on par with Hall of Famers Ted Lyons and Red Faber.
  • Chuck Finley: Chuck Finley surprised me just as much as Appier did. His 200 wins and 115 ERA+ don't shock you, but doing what he did for 3200 innings is very valuable. While Finley did produce over 6 WAR three times, consistent solid seasons were his calling card. He totaled 55.0 WAR and saw that bumped to 74.7 wWAR after factoring adjusting for his peak. People always talk about how innings eaters are valuable. Turns out they're right.
  • Eddie Cicotte: Cicotte had just finished his age 36 season when he was banned for his involvement in the Black Sox scandal. In his final eight seasons, he averaged 5.1 WAR per year. He was still producing excellent seasons when he was banned, so his value certainly could have been higher. That said, he did reach 200 wins, 3200 innings, and 49.7 WAR (74.5 wWAR) before Commissioner Landis levied his punishment.
  • Billy Pierce: In case you haven't noticed, many of the pitchers listed here are modern pitchers who have yet to be judged by the Veteran's Committee (not that they're putting anyone in these days). Pierce pitched in the 1950s. Why was he overlooked? He was a Finley type, winning 211 games with a 119 ERA+ over 3300 innings. Three times, he exceeded 6 WAR (and two more times above five). His 53.5 WAR rises to 74.2 wWAR after adding his peak. Pierce doesn't stand out on this list, but that's the thing. He's remarkably similar to these modern pitchers who were very good for a long time. People knock that, dismissing players as belonging to "The Hall of Very Good". I believe those people have a false sense of how many Hall of Fame-type pitchers there are.
  • Larry Jackson: With all the players I've written about in this project, there is one who gets into the Hall of wWAR that I really hadn't heard of. That's Larry Jackson. He was your classic innings-eater-type you'll find on this list. In fact, you can swap out Billy Pierce's name and put Jackson's in and it's pretty much accurate. Jackson produced similar WAR (55.6) and wWAR (74.1) marks while winning 194 games with a 113 ERA+ over 3200 innings. That's basically our formula for a non-HOF-but-HOwWAR pitcher, isn't it?
  • Tommy John: In my exercise linked to above, John came out as the best modern pitcher outside of the Hall. WAR puts several pitchers ahead of him, but it's nice to see it doesn't completely dismiss him (as it does with Bobby Mathews). John earned 29.6 WAR before his injury and 29.4 WAR after it. If you're an above average pitcher (John posted an ERA+ of 111) over 4700 innings, you're going to be pretty darn valuable for your career. Understandably, John's peak value isn't that high. He had 12.5 WAE and ranks as the top pitcher by WAR to have no WAM whatsoever (Ted Lyons is right behind him). For this reason, his 59.0 WAR only boosts to 71.5 wWAR. But that still exceeds our threshold for the Hall of wWAR. Honestly, I can't believe he isn't already in the Hall of Fame. Between the longevity, the 288 wins, and the fact that he has the surgery named after him—it just all seems to add up to Hall of Fame. Heck, they put the dude in who supposedly invented the hit and run. Why not John? He was actually, you know, a good player.
  • Orel Hershiser: Once again, with 3100 innings, an ERA+ of 112, and 204 wins, Hershiser fits the profile of the type of pitcher we're inducting today. Hershiser played for some weak defenses and still put up excellent numbers. It's a shame he was injured early on (he posted 32.8 WAR through his first half dozen seasons). He slowed in his 30s, adding 18.7 WAR (but just 0.4 WAE). Overall, he finished with 51.5 WAR and 70.5 wWAR, just making it in ahead of the last two starting pitchers (Early Wynn and Whitey Ford).

Just a quick note: You'll notice that we did not add any relief pitchers. The Hall of wWAR is very hard on relievers. Finding that cutoff of who to induct was easy. After Goose Gossage and Hoyt Wilhelm, there's a huge dropoff before the next reliever (John Hiller). For that reason, we are taking just the Goose and Wilhelm. What about Eck? Yes, he stays. But it's because of his value as a starter (which far exceeded his value as a reliever).

Who's Next?

These two players are either still active or retired and not yet eligible for the Hall, but have already met the threshold to be inducted to the Hall of wWAR:

  • Roger Clemens: The only question is where among the top pitchers of all time does Rocket rank? Clemens ranks second all time in pitcher WAR (128.4), just ahead of Walter Johnson (but a good 18 wins behind Cy Young). Clemens exceeded 7 WAR on nine occasions, so his wWAR shoots all the way up to 212.2. I still don't like him.
  • Randy Johnson: In terms of raw WAR, Johnson ranks five wins behind Greg Maddux. From 1999 to 2002, Johnson won the Cy Young all four seasons and averaged 8.2 WAR. A peak like that runs his wWAR to 148.6, just ahead of Maddux (for 12th all time).
  • Greg Maddux: Maddux cleared 6 WAR in eight seasons, but his peak didn't quite match that of Johnson and Clemens. Still, his 96.8 WAR gets a boost up to 146.9 wWAR. That places him 13th, right behind Johnson.
  • Pedro Martinez: wWAR helps a guy like Pedro Martinez. While 75.9 WAR is an exceptionally high total, you'd expect more from Pedro. When his peak is factored in, he goes up to 122.7 wWAR. That places him 22nd all time. Not a bad ranking at all.
  • Mike Mussina: Mussina trailed Martinez by just 1.1 WAR (74.8), but his wWAR of 104.3 lags behind by 18.4. He was brilliant, but it was more of a steady excellence than a short burst. His wWAR ranks him 31st all time.
  • Curt Schilling: Come on, don't look so surprised. He deserves it. By a lot. With 69.7 WAR and 99.6 wWAR, he ranks right behind Ed Walsh as the 33rd pitcher of all time. Believe it.
  • Tom Glavine: Schilling ahead of Glavine? Yup. Despite Glavine's huge innings lead, the 10 points in ERA+ (Schilling at 128, Glavine at 118) go a long way to making up the gap. Also, Schilling played for some great defenses, saving him 80 runs over the course of his career. Glavine is still elite—his 67.0 WAR and 85.7 wWAR are still clearly at Hall of Fame-level.
  • Roy Halladay: Halladay doesn't need to throw another pitch—he's in already. He has 54.3 WAR, but it's his peak that really gets him in. Doc has already posted 25.0 WAE and 4.6 WAM for a wWAR of 83.9. He just finished his age 33 season where he posted a 6.9 WAR after posting 6.8 the year before and 6.5 the year before that. Let's say that he gets 6.0 this year and then drops by 1 WAR each year. That will put him at 0 WAR at age 40. That would also put him at 75.3 WAR, 31 WAE, and 4.6 WAM. That 110.9 wWAR would place him 29th.
  • John Smoltz: I'm always amazed by how low Smoltz's peak was. But then again, he was hurt for a year in his prime and then spent four seasons as one of the best closers the game has ever seen. He still produced 63.9 WAR in his career, boosting that to 80.4 wWAR.
  • Mariano Rivera: Yes, the Hall will welcome a third reliever. With 52.9 WAR and 63.2 wWAR, Mo easily clears the relief pitcher threshold. Interestingly, he does not clear the starting pitcher threshold. That's just ridiculously hard to do as a reliever.

And there you have it—the Hall of wWAR. This won't be the last you'll hear of this list. I'll have more coming soon about it (specifically, a place where you can see everyone at once, visually). I hope you enjoyed this series. I know I did!

The Hall of wWAR
Catchers | First Basemen | Second Basemen | Third Basemen | Shortstops
Left Fielders | Center Fielders | Right Fielders | Designated Hitters