We are a month into the cold, empty abyss that is the baseball offseason, and already tired of staring out the window and waiting for spring. But hey, at least the Hall of Fame season is upon us. We can talk about deserving players being snubbed and lesser players getting undeserving votes all day long. Or, to rephrase, it's the time of year in which our friend Ryan Thibodaux drives you mad with every ballot he puts in on his fabulous BBHOF Tracker.
As you may already know, a player has to play a minimum of 10 years in the big leagues and have been out of the bigs for five years. So, this year's new candidates are those who last played in the majors in 2011 and meet the requirements, such as Manny Ramirez, Vladimir Guerrero, and Ivan Rodriguez, along with 16 others.
However, there is one name missing from the list of newcomers. The BBWAA unfathomably decided to omit Javier Vazquez, who pitched for 14 years in the big leagues across six franchises, from the ballot, as Jay Jaffe of Sports Illustrated mentioned last week.
Here at BtBS, I'll take my own look at Vazquez and explain why his omission can't be justified.
Sure, 14 years is not long enough for a typical Hall of Famer. Nor is it long enough for Guns N' Roses to produce a new record. But in those 14 years, the Puerto Rican righty worked his butt off. From 1998 to 2011, spanning his entire career, he threw 2,840.0 innings, which was exceeded by only Livan Hernandez, his former teammate in Montreal. During the same 14 years, he never missed the 150-innings threshold in a season, another mark matched by only, again, Hernandez. Vazquez was, by the very definition, a workhorse.
And he was more than just a innings eater. In the 2000s, Vazquez was one of the best strikeout machines in the game. His 2,122 strikeouts in the decade rank second behind just Randy Johnson.
Not only did he strike out a lot of batters, he also limited free passes, walking only 6.4 percent of the hitters he faced over the course of his career. Among pitchers with at least 2,000 career innings, Vazquez's 14.9 percent K-minus-BB rate ranks 14th all-time, ahead of Hall of Famers John Smoltz and Greg Maddux.
His blemish was long balls, as he gave up 1.18 home runs per nine innings, which is the eighth-highest mark among pitchers with, again, at least 2000 career innings. He had trouble with year-to-year consistency too, at least in terms of pure run prevention. After leaving Montreal in a trade that sent him to the Bronx following the 2003 season, Vazquez never put up consecutive campaigns in which he posted an ERA+ north of 100.
His peripherals were much better, though, as his 88 career FIP- ranks 70th all-time among those who with 2000 innings, tied with enshrined hurlers Don Drysdale, Fergie Jenkins, Jim Bunning, and Whitey Ford and ahead of Bob Feller, Curl Hubbell, and Don Sutton.
Overall, Vazquez racked up 43.3 bWAR and an even better 53.9 fWAR in his career. The latter mark exceeds that of several Hall of Famers such as Three Finger Brown and Jack Chesbro, places him 71st all-time.
Using JAWS, Jaffe's Hall of Fame rating method, Vazquez is ranked 138th among starting pitchers with 41.1, right above Addie Joss, another Hall of Famer. Of course, and thankfully, Vazquez lacks the tragic background of Joss, who died mid-career from meningitis at 30.
I'll throw another comparison: Jack Morris, whom the BBWAA gave 15 attempts to be enshrined in Cooperstown. Here are their career bWAR, seven-year peaks, and JAWS side-by-side:
As you can see, Vazquez has an edge in all three categories. Yet, the BBWAA decided he was not worth even a single shot at the Hall of Fame.
Additionally, if you believe in Deserved Run Average, Baseball Prospectus' cutting-edge new stat to measure a pitchers' true talent level, Vazquez even belongs in the inner circle among Hall of Fame pitchers.
Unlike other WAR models, DRA-based WAR, or PWARP, goes back only to 1951. But in the last 65 years, Vazquez's career mark of 64.4 ranks 29th, which puts him in bona fide Hall of Famer territory.
Obviously, DRA is still being developed and far from complete as a stat. But decades from now, when we establish better pitching stats, we may find Javier Vazquez Hall of Fame-worthy. Then the future statheads might laugh at the people who excluded one of the best pitchers of the aughts from the ballot.